Small Businesses Need A Corporate Social Responsibility Plan

If you are a small-business owner, you may think that Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is something that only large corporations have to worry about. While it is true that major multinationals are putting increasing focus on this due to issues such as the escalating global focus on sustainability, CSR is not something that small companies can afford to ignore.

There are a number of reasons for this. Perhaps the most compelling is that as large companies implement their own CSR policies, they need their suppliers to have similar CSR initiatives in place – otherwise these multinational brands cannot claim to be socially responsible. This extends into many different areas, ranging from community engagement through to sustainability – for a broad range of insights, find out more on francescocoralloitalia.wordpress.com.

SME need corporate social responsibilityThe sooner that you start to create a CSR policy, the sooner you can start to lay a foundation to grow your business. This is not just about making it onto the approved supplier lists of big companies – although that is an important aspect. It is also about being able to attract business partners and other customers who view corporate responsibility as an essential criterion when establishing business relationships. It can also help you to attract employees who think that CSR is important – which you want to do, since these employees are typically more dedicated and diligent than those in the general labor pool. In fact, a study by the Center for Creative Leadership concluded that, “employees’ perceptions of their organizations concern for community and environment is linked to their level of organizational commitment … that is, the higher an employee rates their organization’s corporate citizenship, the more committed they are to the organization.”

Before you embark on putting a CSR program in place, you need to make sure that you are genuinely committed to the principle. Implementing an effective CSR initiative can be a significant effort as it needs to be embedded into the essential DNA of your company. In addition, unless you can demonstrate this genuine commitment, you are not going to see the benefits of your investment – customers, partners and employees will find it easy to pick up on any insincerity.

small business social responsibilityThere are a number of things that you need to keep in mind when implementing your CSR program. First of all, you need results to be measurable, and the yardstick needs to be something that everyone recognizes. Look for an internationally recognized standard that is relevant to your business, and make sure that certification is available. This could cover any one of a number of metrics – including sustainable sourcing, carbon footprint, waste recycling or community engagement. Next, look at your company’s culture and skills, and determine how you can lead in unique ways – this will make your CSR programs stand out, as well as making it easier to implement. Remember that imposing a top down CSR program rarely works – instead, you need to get the buy in and support all of your employees. Finally, only start to reach out once your baseline is in place – this will let you demonstrate to stakeholders that you have already made progress on your own.

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Outsourcing Business Processes Overseas

In times gone by, businesses were confined to a labor pool close to their base of operations. In some industries more than others, the need to find suitably qualified, competent, local staff continues to pose real challenges for business and other organizations. Particularly in more specialized areas, this can prove to be a considerable challenge. At the same time, domestic labor costs are traditionally high, relative to other countries worldwide. This means that employers have to be more certain of the staff they hire, and ensure sufficient productivity to make the hire worthwhile.

Bangalore outsourcing IndiaOutsourcing has grown over the last decade or so, becoming an increasingly accessible option for small businesses. Rather than handling every business process and operation in-house, businesses of all sizes can now take advantage of lower-cost expertise internationally to get the job done. But the process of outsourcing is far from simple, and businesses will still encounter similar staff management issues with the contractors they hire.

Outsourcing elements of your business function can be an effective way to save costs and improve efficiency. But there are often challenges posed, especially when outsourcing overseas. For example, in tech functions, many businesses choose to outsource to highly qualified professionals worldwide. Eastern Europe, Asia and South America have traditionally been the main sources of securing international help. The first problem this raises is a language barrier, and businesses need to find pragmatic ways to overcome these issues in order to communicate and work effectively.

When working through a language barrier, it is helpful to tightly define the scope and expectations of the work concerned. English is generally considered to be the operational language for overseas arrangements. The majority of international service providers have a working knowledge of English, but it remains important to outline exactly what you are looking for. Bulleted lists or numbered points of a process are helpful so this information is easy to digest, and so you can measure performance against set criteria. This will help ensure both parties know what is expected of them, preventing disputes and ensuring the smooth provision of the services required.

Friday dressingPayments are another issue for outsourcers to think about. Foreign employees, freelancers and contractors cannot go on the payroll, and domestic transfers will not be possible for foreign-based workers. There are options to get around this, but it is important to bear in mind the costs associated with sending money through different channels. For example, international bank transfers will attract fees at the point of sending. There are other services available, like Transfast.com, that can alleviate this burden and ensure the money required to keep these processes moving can be transported cheaply and quickly.

Outsourcing overseas can be an effective way to save money for your business. While it is not an easy way out, it can be used to improve the efficiency of your operations. By outsourcing particular skilled tasks or unskilled jobs to take advantage of lower cost labor, you can save on your business overheads while achieving similar, if not better, results as before.

 

Saving Money On Printing With Coupons

 

Printing is an essential element of the marketing strategy for many businesses, regardless of their sector or size. Printed materials help promote your brand, or carry your business messages. In some cases, it might be printing flyers, business cards or letterheads, or even promotional merchandise for particular campaigns and events.

Save money on printing coupons South AfricaEach of these printed items in their own right has the ability to promote your business to new prospects, making it worthy of your marketing spend. But regardless of effectiveness, it is still crucial to ensure your campaigns come in on budget. Saving anything extra on the costs of printing will help you do just that.


Coupons are one of the primary ways businesses save money on the costs of their printing services. These coupons work for both printers and their customers, providing a means of saving money on the direct costs of your promotions.


Coupon codes are published by printing sites looking to find new customers, and used by those who are searching for new ways to grow their businesses. The example set by Vistaprint coupons, which helped propel the printer to the international profile it enjoys today, serves as motivation for marketers. From the point of view of the customer, coupons provide a specified discount and simplify the process of selecting a supplier.

Coupons are an easy way to save money on the costs of different kinds of printing solutions, and simply plugging in the code as you checkout is enough to earn you the noted discount. But there are also other ways of saving money on printing beyond coupons and promotions. The most obvious, perhaps, is specification, and in printing it is always possible to shed some of the costs of your printing campaigns. Size, colors, paper weight, clarity and print quality – they all factor in to determining the costs you will pay for your project. Depending on your business needs, it may be possible to compromise and save money in the process.

Sisaving-money-on-printing-with-coupons2milarly, buying in bulk can achieve savings on your project. Buying 1 print will always be more expensive per sheet than buying 1 million, and this bulk savings effect allows for larger orders to become much more cost-effective on an individual basis. The economies of scale that come from buying larger volumes of printed materials make this a cheaper way to buy.

 


Both of these means of saving on the costs of printing do not come at the exclusion of coupon codes, and it is possible to combine several of these saving techniques to obtain the best possible price on your materials. Keep in mind, even saving a small percentage can affect profitability and ROI in a low-margin, high-volume industry.

No matter what your business is trying to print, finding coupon codes can help save on the excess costs of the print run. These freely available coupon codes provide the perfect platform for businesses to save money while trying a new service.

 

 

Banner Stands For Engaging Traffic

Banner standIn high traffic areas, presenting your business message can help fish out more customers and prospects. This is the basic premise that underpins advertising, but is also a concept that can be taken a stage further with promotion through banner stands. Whether in your office, on the road or at events and trade shows, banner stands can pop up in an instant to tell the world who you are and what you do. With the right design, your banner stands can even start the conversion process for you, piquing interest in what you have to offer and helping start conversations that might result in sales later down the line.

It is not enough to simply have a banner stand in place at Cape Town or Sandton Convention Centre. Too many businesses simply order a standard display and hope for the best. This approach misses the point of effective, conversion-optimized design, and there are real ways in which you can make your displays and your graphics work more effectively for your business aims. Bold, eye-catching designs that present the right information for your prospects will work most successfully. But how can you secure these, and what are the best ways of ensuring their effectiveness?

Banner stands can be found easily online – check out bannerstandpros.com as one example. The quality of the stand matters, and you should strive for a design that makes your stand look visually impressive and as classy as possible. Even for brands that are targeting more price-sensitive ends of the market, investing in the quality of the display is essential for giving off the right impression at the first chance of asking.

banner-stands-for-engaging-traffic2The actual content of the design of your stand will have a big impact on how successfully you perform on the day. Engagement is the key word, and you need to captivate the interest of potential prospects at a glance. This means that visually arresting design that is bold, clear and pronounced in its messaging tends to work best. You need a graphic that informs and encourages further discussion – this will give you the best chance of opening channels of communication with those who might eventually buy from you.

While banner stands can make a big difference to the effectiveness of your marketing, it is in sales where the results will crystallize. The banner stand needs to attract attention and start conversations, while your approach and techniques for selling should help close out the deal. This means engaging prospects in conversation, and discussing how you can be of assistance to them. The combination of eye-catching graphics and a solid sales approach can lead to much more significant results from high-traffic events.

Banner stands can help generate the interest that ultimately leads to sales. While banner stands alone cannot deliver results, they are a crucial part of a wider events marketing approach. Securing the right banner stand with the right design is the first step, but from there it is up to you to make sure you are using the most effective sales techniques to close potential prospects and build profitable relationships for your business.

 

Share books with a child on World Book Day

World Book Day South AfricaThis World Book Day SA, try these tips to get your children reading at home – a great way to influence your child’s educational success!

Get reading with your children this World Book Day SA

“Read this to me, please!” are the words we all love to hear from our children because they mean that they are interested in stories and books, and are on their way to becoming independent readers. But do you often wonder whether there are ways that you could improve your reading-to times with your children? There are no correct or incorrect ways to share books with a child, but here are some ideas you might like to try from the Nal’ibali reading-for-enjoyment campaign:

Choosing books. If you have lots of books to choose from or are at the library, let your children choose which books they want you to read. If you are helping them to choose books, suggest ones that suit their interests.

Timing is everything. Find a time when your children find it easy to settle. This might be after bath time or just before they go to sleep at nap time and/or at night.

Read together in bite-size chunks. Younger children find it difficult to concentrate for long periods of time or when they are tired. If your children become restless or lose interest, stop reading and try again later or the next day. Remember you want to encourage them to develop an interest in stories and books, so don’t make it a chore!

Babies and books. Children under a year old explore their environment using their senses. They will enjoy story times where they are give opportunities to touch the pages of the book, watch you point to specific things in the simple pictures, hear you sing or say rhymes… and even pat and chew the book a bit!

Don’t skip the cover. Read the title of the book and the name of the author and illustrator each time you read a book to your children. This helps them to realise that real people create stories. If it is the first time you are reading the book with your children, ask them if they can guess what it might be about from listening to the title and looking at the illustration on the cover.

Ask questions. As you read the story, ask your children questions about it. ‘What do you think will happen next?’ is a great question to develop children’s prediction skills, which are very important literacy skills. After you have read each page, ask your child to find different things in the picture.

Read it again! If your children ask you to read a story again… and again and again, do it! This shows them that you respect the choices they make for themselves and it allows them to discover new things about the story each time you read it.

Reading the words together. As your children become more familiar with a story or as older children are learning to read, ask them to help you read the story. Younger children are often able to recite parts of familiar stories – especially if the words rhyme or a phrase is repeated. Let them do this while you point to the words. Read along with older children as they attempt to read the words on the page with you, pointing to the words as you go.

Reading together is for older children too. Once children can read, don’t stop reading to them! Choose books that are more difficult than the ones your children can read on their own. Or, ask your child what has happened in the book she is reading at the moment and then take turns in reading a chapter to each other.

For more reading and storytelling tips, plus free stories to share with your children, visit www.nalibali.mobi or www.nalibali.org

source: Sowetan

 

Not All Thieves Are Stupid

Ramon Thomas Motivational Speaker South AfricaThis gives us something to think about with all our new electronic technology.

GPS

A couple of weeks ago a friend told me that someone she knew had their car broken into while they were at a football game. Their car was parked on the green which was adjacent to the football stadium and specially allotted to football fans. Things stolen from the car included a garage door remote control, some money and a GPS which had been prominently mounted on the dashboard.

When the victims got home, they found that their house had been ransacked and just about everything worth anything had been stolen. The thieves had used the GPS to guide them to the house. They then used the garage remote control to open the garage door and gain entry to the house. The thieves knew the owners were at the football game, they knew what time the game was scheduled to finish and so they knew how much time they had to clean out the house. It would appear that they had brought a truck to empty the house of its contents.

Something to consider if you have a GPS – don’t put your home address in it.. Put a nearby address (like a store or gas station) so you can still find your way home if you need to, but no one else would know where you live if your GPS were stolen.

MOBILE PHONES

I never thought of this…….

This lady has now changed her habit of how she lists her names on her mobile phone after her handbag was stolen. Her handbag, which contained her cell phone, credit card, wallet… Etc…was stolen.

20 minutes later when she called her hubby, from a pay phone telling him what had happened, hubby says ‘I received your text asking about our Pin number and I’ve replied a little while ago.’ When they rushed down to the bank, the bank staff told them all the money was already withdrawn. The thief had actually used the stolen cell phone to text ‘hubby’ in the contact list and got hold of the pin number. Within 20 minutes he had withdrawn all the money from their bank account.

Moral of the Story

  • Do not disclose the relationship between you and the people in your contact list.
  • Avoid using names like Home, Honey, Hubby, Sweetheart, Dad, Mom, etc….
  • And very importantly, when sensitive info is being asked through texts, CONFIRM by calling back
  • Also, when you’re being texted by friends or family to meet them somewhere, be sure to call back to confirm that the message came from them. If you don’t reach them, be very careful about going places to meet ‘family and friends’ who text you.
 

Oscar Pistorius website undergoes PR makeover

Oscar Pistorius websiteOscar Pistorius’s official website, oscarpistorius.com, has had a massive revamp in recent days. This is thanks to a PR drive his team launched after he was accused of killing Reeva Steenkamp.

Pistorius’s family have decided to devote his official website to the latest news about developments as well as messages of support they are constantly receiving.

The website is also open to Pistorius’s fans from all over the world, who have been posting messages of support on the website and Bible verses, wishing him luck and praying for him. It also contains a copy of the affidavit that was read by his lawyer in court on Tuesday, explaining events that he said had led to the shooting of his girlfriend.

What is missing, however, are all the logos of his sponsors. A week ago, when one clicked on the logos of his sponsors, such as Nike, on his website, the page would open to an article. Now, those logos have been removed, after his sponsors dropped him.

The website has, among others, a picture gallery, media articles and messages of support. Despite huge interest in the Pistorius story worldwide, there were only four listed under “media articles” on Thursday afternoon.

Two were from last year, informing his fans that the athlete would be appearing on Piers Morgan Tonight on CNN as well as on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. The other two articles are recent opinion pieces written by people blasting Pistorius’s critics and those “that have already judged him”.

One of the opinion pieces is from Duncan Reyburn, who claims he went to school with Pistorius and happens to work “at the university that Oscar used to go to, on a campus just one block away from the prison where he has been held”.

In his article, Reyburn, a lecturer at the University of Pretoria, makes that South Africa is to blame for Pistorius’s actions.

“I know that Oscar, whether he is guilty of murder or not, would have benefited from being the product of a culture that promotes thought over action. But, sadly, Oscar is the product of our culture. He is, whether we like it or not, a product of us – we’re reactive, terrified, wounded people.

“I have no judgement yet on Oscar’s guilt. Having been the victim a few years ago of a violent attack in my own home, I completely and fully understand the possibility that Oscar could have acted the way he did because he was afraid, because he wanted to protect his girlfriend,” Reyburn says in the article.

Matthew Syed, who writes another opinion piece that appears in The Times of London, blasts Pistorius’s critics, saying that what was happening was “quantity of cod psychology (fake psychology) that has been unleashed” since his arrest. There’s also a statement from Pistorius’s uncle Arnold on behalf of the family.

“We believe that this (the website) is an appropriate way to deal with the expressions of support we have received as well as keeping the media informed about any key developments in the case. We have every confidence as a family that when the world has heard the full evidence, this will prove to be a terrible and tragic accident which has changed many lives forever. We are praying for everyone touched by this tragedy.”

source: The Star / Botho Molosankwe

 

MTN to ditch BIS

Surely after this becomes the norm there is no good reason to own a BlackBerry device in South Africa. Since BlackBerry 10 will not support BIS or unlimited Internet for a fixed monthly cost, now is the time to look for alternatives. We recommend moving to 8ta who offers the best pre-paid data bundles.

Here’s the report…

Mobile giant MTN is reportedly planning to ditch the popular BlackBerry Internet Service (BIS).

The network looks set to adopt a range of what is dubbed “BlackBerry Absolute” packages instead, MyBroadband exclusively reported. According to the website, the top-end BlackBerry Absolute package is at the same price-point as the existing BIS service (R59), while also featuring a 200MB “fair use limit”.

Once users have exceeded the 200MB limit, an out-of-bundle rate of R0.65/MB will come into effect. The new range apparently includes three more packages, ranging in price from R14.95 to R29.95

The R14.95 deal looks to offer BlackBerry Messenger connectivity, as well as web-based email access. This deal comes with a 10MB “fair use limit”.

The R19.95 package includes BlackBerry Messenger, BlackBerry Email, web-surfing, App World access and social networks. This also has a 10MB limit, however. The R29.95 deal has the same benefits as the R19.95 package, but includes web-based email access and a 25MB limit.

“MTN will issue an official statement to media should there be any changes to BlackBerry pricing,” the network told iafrica.com.

source: iAfrica.com

 

5 Reasons Why SMS Is Here To Stay

SMS remains the most popular two-way communications platform on the planet. In most cases, it’s inexpensive, casual, and discreet for users. It also represents one of the more profitable features offered by mobile network operators. And while SMS does face an increasingly fractured market, largely from the growth of messaging apps, it’s not going anywhere any time soon. Here are five reasons why:

1. SMS is growing, not shrinking

texting.jpgIndeed, SMS is continuing to grow at an incredible rate globally. In 2011, more than 7.8 trillion SMS were sent worldwide. That vastly outpaces every other messaging platform combined. Over-the-top (OTT) messaging (instant messaging platforms like WhatsApp, iMessenger, BlackBerry Messenger, etc., also known as application-to-person) represent 3.5 trillion messages, combined. Multimedia messaging service (MMS) adds another 200 billion. The rate at which SMS are sent is increasing, and is expected to increase each year at least through 2016, according to several research firms.

2. SMS is a major revenue driver for mobile network operators worldwide

SMS represents 63.5% of mobile messaging revenue globally. And it represents somewhere around 10% of an average operator’s revenue streams. I have a hard time believing MNOs won’t think of ways to add value to SMS, or reduce the cost enough that it still makes sense for consumers.

In fact, there are multiple examples of them taking this step. For instance, SMS sent via first delivery attempt mechanism can potentially save money on 80%-90% of text messages. Clever bundling can also drive revenue: Here in the United States, we bundle SMS with our calling plans, meaning there’s no ceiling to how many messages a given subscriber sends in a month on his or her plan. What’s the disincentive to use SMS?

3. SMS is platform agnostic and highly reliable

I can (and do) use iMessage with friends who also have iPhones. But what about friends who have Android-based mobiles? Colleagues whose businesses use BlackBerry devices? My mother, who uses a feature phone? To reach them, SMS is the most reliable option. This is due to the simple reason that it’s hard-coded into the global mobile infrastructure, requiring distribution across all phones and carriers.

What’s more is that I find iMessage and other chat applications to be unreliable. SMS, on the other hand, works even in extremely resource-limited conditions, including lack of Internet access and even moments of cell tower traffic congestion. For example, in emergencies, texts have a higher chance of reaching people than other forms of communication. This level of low-resource ubiquity is unmatched in the global communications infrastructure.

4. Increasing use in business, government and non-profit sectors

SMS is seeing a dramatic increase as a tool for businesses, governments and non-profits to interact with large populations. For example, Detroit recently introduced a Text-My-Bus program that allows people using public transport to learn when the next bus is arriving at a given stop. Businesses are increasingly looking to SMS as an opportunity for advertising special prices or events to clients. UPS, for example, uses SMS to notify clients as to the progress of their package deliveries. And non-profits are increasingly participating in text-to-donate programs, where donors can send a brief message to a short phone number and a small donation is added to a cell phone bill. Most famously, the American Red Cross raised more than $43 million with its text-to-donate campaign following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.

I suspect they choose SMS over a messaging service largely because user adoption rates are so high — see my previous point about SMS being platform agnostic. With so many mobile phones in circulation, there’s only one global messaging platform at the moment. For people wanting to reach a large audience via a convenient messaging feature, SMS is the only real option. As these services gain more traction, people will continue to interact with them via SMS.

5. Chat Is Attempting To Emulate SMS Success

Many analysts see built-in messenger apps, such as iMessage, WhatsApp, Mxit and others as a threat to SMS. These apps operate on a user’s data plan, rather than through the SMS protocol. The argument follows that in cases where data plans are cheaper than SMS plans, users will choose the least cost route, thus supplanting SMS as the most popular platform. To be fair, we’ve seen this happen in a few places. Hong Kong, Australia, and Finland have seen drops in SMS usage. In the U.S., SMS usage leveled off in 2011 for the first time. But a dip in usage does not translate to an evaporation of an entire platform. Indeed, SMS is still the most popular platform in the U.S., despite the relative ubiquity of iMessage, Blackberry Messenger, and Facebook chat.

Portio Research takes this argument a step further, suggesting that messaging apps may only be an addition to an increasingly fragmented market, rather than being an SMS killer:

Does a boost to one messaging type have to equate to a usage drop in another? Does it have to mean cannibalization of SMS? What about synergy? Side by side traffic growth? And what of the other messaging mediums of MMS, mobile e-mail, and mobile IM? After all, while messaging users love to communicate seamlessly, popular modes of communications do vary – and maybe OTT isn’t a replacement, but rather just one more segment of the messaging mix.

At FrontlineSMS, we’d agree — multi-channel engagement doesn’t mean the end of SMS. It means a boom in mobile messaging across the board, including for SMS.

In an increasingly device-rich society, with wild differences in access to infrastructure and technologies of all kinds between the very poor and even the moderately well-off, multi-channel communications are critical if service providers and businesses are to engage effectively with everyone in a community, all of the time. Each platform and channel of communication has trade-offs, and as we’ve argued elsewhere, your choice of platform not only presents opportunities — to sharing video, or messaging more cheaply across cell data — but can close doors to those without the kit or the credit to access them. Multi-channel approaches, such as the Praekelt Foundation’s Young Africa Live, which combines SMS with feature- and smartphone apps and a website, offer the broadest possible number of options for individuals to engage with its message. Despite the brevity of the format, SMS has a valuable place in this spectrum, both as a lowest common-denominator technology, and as a communications platform that often works when all others fail.

In a multi-channel world, where successful engagement and data capture are increasingly critical, and as businesses focus more and more on reaching previously difficult markets in low- and middle-income countries, who can afford to discount the world’s most accessible, most widespread, digital communications medium?

Trevor Knoblich works as Project Manager for FrontlineSMS, a 2011 Knight News Challenge winner. He began his career as a federal policy reporter in Washington, DC, then spent 5 years working as a humanitarian specialist. He currently works on issues at the intersection of journalism, technology and developing countries. At FrontlineSMS, he is building tools to help journalists and media outlets around the world improve their ability to gather, track and share news.

Image courtesy of Flickr user YayAdrian.

This post originally appeared on the FrontlineSMS blog.