Regular exercise will help you become a better business owner.

3 Ways Exercise Can Make You a Better Business Owner

As a business owner, you are in charge of everything from ordering custom business cards for your employees to marketing to new customers. All of those responsibilities will definitely keep you busy and may leave little time for anything else, including exercise. However, it's still important to make time for working out. Physical activity will not just keep you in good health – it is also beneficial for your business. Here are three ways exercise can make you a better business owner:

1. It Reduces Stress
There's no denying that running a business can get stressful at times. If you experience too much anxiety, however, it can have a negative effect on your company. If you squeeze in a workout in the morning, you will have a calmer mindset at work. According to the Mayo Clinic, physical activity decreases stress by increasing the endorphins in your brain and helping you forget about your worries. 

2. It Increases Energy Levels
Instead of relying on that morning cup of coffee to give you an energy boost for the work day, try exercising. A 2008 study published in the journal Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics found that inactive people who complained about being tired all the time increased their energy levels by 20 percent and decreased their fatigue by 65 percent by regularly engaging in low-impact workouts. If you go for a 20-minute jog or practice yoga before you head to the office, you should have more energy to complete your tasks.

3. It Can Boost Creativity
In order to put yourself ahead of the competition, it's important to come up with new ideas often. However, sometimes your creativity levels can take a hit and you can't think of anything original. That's when you should turn to exercise. A 2014 Stanford University study concluded walking increased a person's creative output by 60 percent. The actual act of walking, not the environment, was the main element in boosting creativity levels. 

"Many people anecdotally claim they do their best thinking when walking. We finally may be taking a step, or two, toward discovering why," study authors Marily Oppezzo and Daniel Schwartz explained. 

Whether you go for a walk before you leave for the office or take aerobic classes at your gym, regular exercise will have a positive effect on your organization. 

Multiple choice questions don't always offer the insight you're looking for. Include a comment box for your customers extra thoughts.

How to Craft the Perfect Customer Survey

Customer surveys are a valuable part of improving your business. They allow you to learn what you're doing well (and not-so-well) so you can make changes for the better. It is necessary to spend some time creating your survey in order to be sure you are asking the right questions and are working toward a goal. Here are some tips for crafting the perfect customer survey:

Establish a Goal
What do you want to learn from your survey? Have you implemented a new billing system that you want customer feedback on? Maybe you're more interested in learning what your customers want so you can better understand your target market. Establish a goal in order to help you decide what questions to ask in the survey. 

Decide on Distribution
Many companies opt to conduct online surveys because they are easy to send out and survey systems (like Survey Monkey) collect the data and turn them{according to AP, data takes plural verbs and pro-nouns – if it seems odd maybe you could change "data" to "answers" or "responses"?} into an easily readable format. You can send your customers a link and all they have to do is click it to get started. You could send a paper version, but know that many customers won't take the time to fill it out – your best best is to send it online.

Pick Key Questions
We've all done surveys that started out fine but eventually we realized there were just too many questions. When this happens, most people stop taking the survey. Keep this in mind while crafting your own questionnaire. Ask direct questions like, "On a scale of one to five, five being the easiest, how difficult did you find our new billing system?" Get straight to the point and ask exactly what you want to know.

Use Comments
When you only offer multiple choice questions, your customers likely won't be able to say all that they want to share. They may have comments that are much more valuable than simple scale or yes-or-no questions. This is why it's important to offer a comment box. Here your customers can add any last thoughts that were not covered on the survey or go more in depth on an answer they've given.

Don't Forget the Reward
People are more likely to participate in your survey if they will gain something from it. Consider offering a discount or special deal to those who complete the questions. Advertise for the survey on business flyers posted up in your office, or send out postcards ahead of time. Include information on the deal to entice people to get involved. 

Pay attention to your customers. They can offer helpful insight into what you can do to improve your business.

4 Lessons You’ll Learn From Your First 100 Customers

Starting a new business is often a big game of trial and error. Everything from creating custom business cards to getting your staff to fully understand your invoicing system is likely to involve some triumphs and a few mistakes. The good news is you'll learn a lot, especially while working toward obtaining your first 100 customers. Here are some things you'll learn during this exciting time:

1. Set Reasonable Goals
In your first few months of business, you will come to realize whether or not the goals you set for yourself, your company and staff are reasonable. For instance, you may have hoped to make $50,000 in your first two months. When you were just starting out, it's possible you thought this was attainable. Now that you've been handling operating costs and seeing how your customer base grows, you can better adjust this goal to fit what you're capable of at this point in your business. That doesn't mean you should make every dream smaller or less substantial. Just be sure to create reasonable goals – you can always make them higher or bigger as you progress.

2. Whether or Not Your Webpage is Helpful
One of the most important things that you can learn during the beginning stages of a business is whether or not your webpage is on par. The Internet is a very vital space to new companies, as many people will visit a company's website before they consider using its services or purchasing its goods. You'll hear from customers in person or on the phone if they have had a positive or negative experience with your page. They may mention important issues like the phone number is incorrect on your site or maybe they had a hard time navigating from page to page. Make note of all these statements and be sure to update the website to better represent your company and be more user friendly.

3. How Well Your Staff Works Together
So you hired a couple of  people to help you run your new business. While you can have a good feeling about them and even base your thoughts on interviews and checking out their resumes, you never really know how well they can work together until they are actually doing so. Monitor your employees to see how they are communicating both in person and via email. They should be doing the necessary tasks in their job position while also asking for help and collaborating when necessary. Having a positive work environment makes not just everyone who works at your new company happy – your customers will also take note. 

4. Who Your Target Market Is
So you've created a stellar product and you've opened shop to sell it to the masses. You probably have a target market in mind, like busy moms or tech geeks. You may think you know who will be interested in your new invention, but your first 100 customers will really show you just who is interested and will actually purchase the product. This understanding of your real market should help you to produce better packaging and find the right advertising avenues to get these individuals' attention. 

There are certain types of candidates you should avoid hiring.

4 Job Candidates You Should Never Hire

Making a bad hire is a serious matter in the business world. When you choose the wrong person for the job, it can affect productivity and cost your company money. It's important to interview every applicant closely and check references to avoid employing someone who's not right for your company. Here are four job candidates you should never hire:

1. The Know-It All
It is never a good idea to hire candidates who seem to think they know it all. Nancy Collamer, a career coach and author of "Second-Act Careers: 50+ Ways to Profit From Your Passions During Semi-Retirement," said in Forbes that these types of workers ignore everyone else's opinions, take over conversations and make decisions without thoroughly thinking things through.

"A 'my way or the highway' attitude often leads to unhappy co-workers, disgruntled clients and an unhappy work environment.," Collamer explained to Forbes.

2. The Complainer
Constant complainers are not something you want to deal with as a business owner. These types of workers whine about everything from not getting enough vacation time to working too many hours. They will put everyone in the office in a terrible mood and bring morale down. During interviews, listen carefully to what candidates say about their previous jobs. If applicants just talk about how bad they had it and don't bring up anything positive, they probably aren't worth hiring.

3. The YesMan
Hiring people who always nod their head in agreement and never argue might seem like a great idea, but it can actually hinder your business. Barry Moltz, motivational speaker and author of "How To Get Unstuck: 25 Ways to Get Your Business Growing Again," said in Open Forum that yes​-men don't tell the truth and never take responsibility for their actions.

"Since they never risk their own original ideas for fear of looking bad, they always place blame in the event of failure on others," Moltz explained in Open Forum. "They point fingers at everyone around them, blaming someone's bad idea or poor execution."

4. The Minimalist
While you don't want job candidates to go off on tangents and talk forever during interviews, you want them to give you more than one-word answers. If an applicant answers each question with as few words as possible, it could indicate he or she didn't do much research on your company and may do the bare minimum to get by if hired.

Encourage your employees to voice their ideas and opinions.

Encouraging Your Employees to Speak Up More

When employees are vocal and share their ideas often, they can help your company prosper. However, some team members may be afraid to speak up and give their opinions on important organization matters. It's up to you as a business owner to create an environment that supports open communication. Here is some advice on encouraging your employees to speak up more:

Provide Incentives
People tend to respond well to incentives, so consider rewarding your employees when they provide honest and helpful feedback. For example, if a staff member gives you a great idea on how to cut overhead costs, give that person a gift card or more responsibilities at work. If you reward your team members for speaking up, they will know you value their ideas.

Foster Team Communication
Peter Economy, author of "Managing for Dummies," said in Inc. Magazine that organizing your employees by project will encourage more communication.

"When a new project begins, kick things off with a team-building exercise, providing employees with positive, personal interactions and opportunities to build relationships before the project even begins," Economy explained. "By physically intermingling departments, you create an environment that encourages open communication while uniting your people in a common goal – the success of your company."

Give Them More Ways to Speak Up
Some employees might not feel comfortable sharing their ideas during company meetings, so give them more ways to voice their opinions. For example, at the end of every meeting, encourage staff members to swing by your office if they have any new ideas they'd like to share. You could also tell your staff members to write down their ideas on personalized notepads and put them in an anonymous suggestion box outside your door.

Find Out Why Employees Are Silent
If you notice that your staff members are silent during meetings, Joseph Grenny, the co-author of "Crucial Conversations" and the co-founder of VitalSmarts, suggests in Harvard Business Review to find out the reasons behind it. Grenny said it's helpful to come up with a code word to let your employees know they can be honest with you. He explained the phrase helps "frame the issue so that your team knows they have permission to be honest and open."

Have a financial plan ready to introduce to investors so they know you've really thought out your business.

Helpful Advice For Starting a Small Business

Have you been tossing around an idea in your head for starting a small business? Once you get that itch it can be all-consuming as you think of the many aspects of potentially running your own company. Don't fret, you don't need to figure everything out at once. Much of being an entrepreneur involves learning things on the fly and adapting as you go. Here is some helpful advice for people considering starting their own small businesses:

Thoroughly Develop Your Idea
The catalyst for many small businesses is a realization that something needs to be fixed. Perhaps you noticed you can never get all the ketchup out of the bottle or that it's difficult to find pro-bono work as a veterinarian. You saw an issue and thought, "Huh. Maybe I could help!" Now, this first kernel of an idea is very important, but you really need to develop your idea in order to gauge whether or not it would be a viable business opportunity. Develop a business plan establishing what your company will offer, how it will do so, where your production will occur and also covering any finances involved. This will help you think critically about whether or not your idea is good enough to see it through.

Locate and Involve Investors
Many small-business owners start their companies using only their personal money. This can be a very scary way to go, especially if you do not have many personal funds to start with. Instead of breaking the bank to go all out on your new company, opt to get investors involved. We don't mean you have to approach major corporations and ask for sponsorships. Instead, start a little close to home. Ask family members and people in your community if they would want to become financial backers for your new endeavor. Don't just ask for money, have a payment plan in mind. Know how much money you need to run your business and ask for a certain amount. This way people's imaginations won't run off with them, scaring them away from getting involved. Also, know what percent you plan to give back to investors once your business becomes profitable. This allows funders to see how well you've thought the company through and that you are prepared to return their money as soon as possible. 

Make it Legal
So you've realized you have a great idea and it could well change your business life. Now you need a name. Once you've decided on this very important manner, make it legal. Register you name with the local county clerk and apply for a trademark status. Also procure the domain name so you can easily direct customers to your website. Work with a graphic designer to create a logo that reflects what your company does and includes the business name. Once all this legal paperwork and important stuff is done, order custom business cards to share your big idea with the world. 

When you see an employee struggling, do everything you can to help the person.

4 Ways to Help Struggling Employees Succeed

Whether they have trouble finishing deadlines on time or are regularly disappointing clients, it's never easy to see employees struggle. However, instead of just standing by and watching your staff members have a difficult time, help them overcome their struggles and become more successful in their careers. If you take interest in your underperforming employees, they will thank you for it. Here are four ways to help struggling employees succeed:

1. Determine What's Causing the Struggle
The first thing you have to do is find out exactly why a team member is struggling at work. According to Tanveer Naseer, leadership coach and author of "Leadership Vertigo," there may have been changes in the staff member's environment that have affected his or her productivity.

"Perhaps there's been a change in the team's makeup that has altered the team's dynamics," Naseer said in his blog. "Or maybe this employee no longer feels challenged in their role or believes that their work matters less to your organization's shared goal. Whatever the case, the only way to know for sure is to take the time to talk with your employee and examine the situation in order to figure out what has changed and how you can help them get back on track."

2. Show Examples of Good Work
If you expect an employee to improve the quality of his or her work, you have to show the person examples of what good quality work looks like. For example, if your public relations assistant is struggling to write press releases the clients like, show him or her quality press releases that other employees have written. Once the staff member knows what you expect, he or she will be more likely to produce quality work.

3. Develop Performance Goals Together
During a one-on-one meeting, ask a struggling employee how he or she would like to improve. Then, help him or her create a plan to achieve those goals. For instance, if a staff member wants to improve his or her project management skills, have the person work with a fellow employee whose project management skills are up to par. According to Entrepreneur, doing this will motivate an underperforming employee to work harder and strive for greatness.

4. Recognize Improvement
If you see an employee putting in a lot of effort to improve his or her performance, you should let that person know you are proud of the progress. If the staff member knows that his or her improvements are recognized, it will increase the person's confidence and motivate him or her to keep working hard.

If you do everything you can to help a struggling employee and he or she still doesn't turn in quality work, it may be time to cut ties with the person. Letting an employee go is never easy, but it is sometimes the necessary thing to do for your business.

When a customer is angry, it's important to stay calm and come up with a solution.

Dealing With Disgruntled Customers

No matter how hard you try, it isn't possible to please your customers all the time. Whether they are dissatisfied with the quality of your product or the service they received, dealing with unhappy clients can definitely be stressful. However, instead of letting yourself get all worked up, it's important to stay calm and face every customer complaint head-on. Here is some helpful advice for dealing with disgruntled customers:

Don't Immediately Jump to a Resolution
When a customer complains about something, it's natural to want to come up with a solution right away. However, doing this may backfire and anger the customer even more, according to Kissmetrics. Before you attempt to fix the problem, take time to actually listen to the client's complaint so that he or she feels like you truly understand the issue. In addition to acknowledging the facts the customer presents to you, recognize how the situation made the person feel. For example, you could say something like, "I understand how frustrated you must have felt after finding out our product didn't meet your needs."

Admit There Has Been Miscommunication
If you know a customer is wrong, you should never try to convince the person that he or she made a mistake. According to Customer Experience Insight, a better approach to this situation is to suggest there has been miscommunication. If you do this, you avoid placing blame on the customer. You could tell the client, "I believe we have miscommunicated in some way. I'd like to sit down with you and talk about it." If you think you will have trouble remembering everything, write down the information your customer tells you on Post-It notes.

Speak Softly
Even if a customer is shouting, you should never raise your voice. According to John Mehrmann, president of Executive Blueprints Inc., trying to yell over the client may provoke a verbal battle

"If you want your message to be heard, wait for a pause in the customer tirade," Mehrmann said in Business Know-How. "Silence is your golden cue that it is time to speak your important message in a soft voice. Eventually the customer will have to lower his or her voice to hear what you are saying."

Fix the Problem
Once you've heard everything the customer has had to say, do your best to correct the issue. Inform the client that your company will take steps to make sure the same issue doesn't arise in the future. If the customer sees that you are making an effort to fix things, he or she will be more likely to continue doing business with you in the future. 

It's important to be as specific as possible when delivering negative feedback.

Delivering Negative Feedback to Employees

Although you'd probably like to give your employees positive feedback every time, it isn't always possible. When a staff member makes a major mistake or isn't keeping up with his or her workload, it's necessary to provide the person with constructive criticism. The good news? It's possible to give tough feedback without scaring your staff members. Here is some helpful advice on delivering negative feedback to your employees:

Listen First
According to Erika Andersen, it can be helpful to listen to an employee's point of view first. For instance, if a staff member is having problems keeping up with a project, you could ask the person something like, "I'd like to discuss the project you're currently working on. How do you think it's going?" This will let the employee talk honestly about the project and may give you insight on why it's been a struggle.

"Quite often, the other person will see part of the problem, and then you can pick up on and clarify what he or she has said," Anderson explained in Forbes. "And even if the other person is completely oblivious to the situation, just listening first will make the conversation much less adversarial, and will generally make him or her much better able to listen to you when you respond."

Be As Specific As Possible
If you have to give negative feedback, it's best to avoid generalities like, "You need to deliver better quality work," or, "You have to get along better with your team members." Delivering general criticism like that won't accomplish anything and may frustrate your employees even more. Helen Jane, vice president of digital strategy at Wine Spoken Here, said in Open Forum that it's best to tell a staff member exactly what he or she needs to improve.

"Feeling personally attacked or not understanding what exactly the issue is puts people on the defensive," Jane explained. "Correction can be difficult when working with a defensive attitude."

Don't Make it Personal
When delivering negative feedback, make sure it's about the behavior and not the person. For example, if an employee constantly misses deadlines, don't tell the person he or she is forgetful or careless. Making the criticism personal will likely embarrass the staff member and make him or her feel more self-conscious at work. A better approach is to tell the employee how being late on deadlines upsets clients and forces everyone else in the office to work harder.

Offer Solutions on How to Improve
Negative feedback is pretty pointless if you don't offer to help the employee improve his or her performance. After you tell the staff member where he or she needs to make improvements, explain how he or she can make those changes. For example, if a staff member is having issues with remembering all of his or her tasks, encourage the person to write a to-do list on personalized notepads

Everyone needs a break from work now and then, that's why vacation is an important part of your benefits package.

Vacation and the Workplace

As the owner of a small company, you are in charge of making a lot of decisions, including ones that can greatly affect your employees opinions on the business. You have to choose what health care providers to offer along with other important benefits like how much vacation time each person can take. 

A recent study from a staffing firm called The Creative Group found that offering employees the chance to take time off whenever they liked would likely increase productivity. This would only be allowed so long as the staff members' work did not suffer, and may prove to be a major draw to get new employees to join your company. Here are some other things to consider when choosing vacation benefits:

Think of Your Staffs' Ages
Different generations of people look for varying benefits when it comes to choosing a new place of employment. As the head of a small company, it's important to take this into consideration when figuring out what vacation time to offer. Millenials tend to accept employment offers with businesses that offer more time off and opportunities to work from home. If you hope to employ individuals from the younger generations, you'll need to factor this in to your benefits packages.

Consider Paid Holidays
Does your company plan to close on a holiday that falls on a weekday? Not paying your employees for that day off is a bummer, as their paycheck will be smaller than usual. Instead, consider opting to offer paid holidays. You may be thinking, "But how? I don't have the finances!" Don't panic. By holidays we don't mean obscure celebrations like Groundhog Day or Bastille Day. Entrepreneur suggests offering payment for the six major holidays: New Year's Day, Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving (and the following Friday) and Christmas. If your staff wants to take time off around other holidays like Easter, that is up to them. They can choose to use paid time off or even break into their sick time if necessary. If possible, you may consider adding Presidents Day, Good Friday, Veterans Day and Martin Luther King Day to your list of paid holidays. Entrepreneur even mentions that many companies allow their employees to take time off on their birthdays.

What About Workplace Satisfaction?
Everyone needs a break now and then, even the boss (you!). Spending 40 hours a week, every week at any job is likely to cause burnout. That's why vacations were invented. It's important to offer your employees enough vacation time so that they can get away from the job and relax. Then they will return feeling refreshed and ready to be productive. Your staffers may even like their jobs so much they'll show their appreciation by sending fun custom postcards from their destination. Offering quality vacation time will help you retain employees, avoid burnout and even entice new staff members to join the team. Plus, everyone will be a little bit happier when they return from their well-deserved time off.