Available support for businesses during Covid19

Uncategorized

COVID19 Business Continuity Plan

COVID19 Business Continuity Plan

COVID19 Business Continuity Plan

Available support for businesses during Covid19

Learn More

Clients

1300 668088

These are unprecedented times for businesses and their people.

We’ve developed a Business Continuity Planning service to help you identify the actions you need to take to prepare your business for the impact of Covid-19. We can help you maximise your Government entitlements and other support to minimise the downstream impact of a downturn in business.

We understand business owners are feeling overwhelmed at the moment, so we’re offering the following service options to support our clients to develop their Business Continuity Plan:

  1. We can meet with you online to create your Business Continuity Plan in a collaborative approach, bringing together your operational knowledge and our financial acumen.
  2. You can draft your Business Continuity Plan and we can meet online to review and finalise your plan
  3. You can use our Template and Guide to create your Business Continuity Plan yourself.

You must take steps NOW to prepare for the impact the Covid-19 pandemic will have on your business. Doing nothing is simply not an option.

15 Types of Posts That Do Extremely Well on Instagram

15 Types of Posts That Do Extremely Well on Instagram

Retailers in various industries—be it fashion, homeware, or food—are reaping the benefits of Instagram.

With over 800 million monthly active users, 500 million daily actives, and billions of likes per day, it’s evident that people aren’t just using Instagram, they’re also coming back and engaging with the content on a regular basis. This makes it a fantastic tool for retailers who want to connect with their audience.

Of course, your success on Instagram largely hinges on the content you put out there. You can’t just post promotional or low-quality images or Stories, then expect engagement and followers to pour in.

To get a good ROI from your Instagram efforts, you need to invest the time and resources into regularly publishing engaging content.

What exactly are the content types that you should be posting? That’s what this post aims to answer. Below are examples of posts that typically do well on Instagram. Go through them and see if you can incorporate them into your Instagram posts or Stories.

1. Actionable or practical ideas

Give your followers ideas that they can apply to their wardrobe, home, or even kitchen (depending on what type of store you have).

For instance, if you sell apparel, why not post outfit inspirations featuring your very own products? And be sure to tag them with the hashtag #OOTD to get more traction.

Fashion and beauty store ASOS does this all the time and gets great results.

Remember, you can apply this tip even if you’re not in the fashion industry. Homeware stores, gift shops, and food retailers can also publish these types of posts and tailor them for their industries.

West Elm, for instance, constantly posts images of home furnishings to give people decorating ideas, while Whole Foods publishes scrumptious food photos with recipes.

2. Motivational and inspiring posts

Don’t just utilize Instagram to post product images, use it to spread motivational and inspirational messages as well. These types of posts are bound to put a smile on your followers’ faces and get them to genuinely *like* you.

Check out Vend customer Glamour Boutique, which regularly posts feel-good messages such as the one below.

3. Photos of people your customers admire

Do a bit of research on who your customers’ role models are. Who do they look up to? Who are they constantly talking about? Figure out the answers to these questions, then find images that you can post.

Nike does a really good job at this. The brand often puts out images of great athletes, and they always get a lot of engagement from doing so.

4. Behind the scenes photos

Give your audience a peek at what’s going on behind the scenes. In addition to adding variety to your Instagram profile, these types of posts offer your followers a look at a different side of your company. This could strengthen their connection with your brand.

Consider T-We Tea in San Francisco. On top of posting photos of their amazing products and fun staff, they also throw in images of their teas being made.

5. Posts that empower and promote good causes

Does your business stand for a good cause? Are you running any philanthropic initiatives?  Spread the word through Instagram. This will enrich your followers’ feeds, and it could even help your bottom line.

A study by Cone Communications and Echo Research found that 87% of consumers factor in corporate social responsibility in their purchase decisions and that “given similar price and quality, consumers [91%] are likely to switch brands to one that is associated with a good cause.”

Take a leaf out of Raven + Lily’s playbook. An ethical fashion and lifestyle brand, Raven + Lily constantly publishes uplifting posts on women empowerment and thoughtful living.

09-Feb-2016-Image6

6. Shoppable posts

Showcase some of your best merchandise on Instagram and give your followers opportunities to buy right from the app. Look into Instagram selling solutions such as Soldsie and Like2Buy to power this type of post.

TopShelf Style does a killer job at this. Owner Christina Ruiz uses Soldsie to sell merchandise through the app. All she has to do is post a great-looking photo of what she’s selling, then invites followers to comment “sold” if they want to purchase it. TopShelf will then generate an invoice to move forward with the transaction.

7. Crowdsourced images

You don’t have to be the only one doing taking pictures. If you have active customers who like to show off how they use your products, why not ask their permission to repost?

Invite people to tag images with your store-specific hashtag, then see if you can post those same images on your account. Just be sure to ask permission and give credit to the owner.

Have a look at what GoPro does. The company frequently posts “Photos of the Day” from their users who take great-looking shots using their products.

8. Ask the audience

Here’s another way to connect with your Instagram followers: Why not ask them questions through posts? Doing so will not only generate engagement, but you’ll get to know your followers better.

Check out this example from Nasty Gal:

Screen Shot 2016-01-07 at 11.05.31 AM

9. Offers and Promotions

It’s ok to publish promotional posts on Instagram, just as long as you don’t do it very often. The number of non-promotional images should outweigh your promotional ones, so your audience doesn’t feel like you’re only using the platform to push your products.

That said, the occasional promotional image—such as the one by Bundle Boutique below—could help generate awareness for any offers that you’re running.

10. Giveaways

Giveaways are hugely popular on Instagram simply because people love free stuff. If you’re running a contest in your store, give your Instagram followers a heads up by posting an image or Story on the app. Be sure to provide details on the prize as well as how to enter.

Here’s a great example by Filson, an outdoor clothing and accessories retailer:

09-Feb-2016-Image11

11. “We’re hiring”

Looking for new employees? Your next great hire just might be on Instagram. Most of the people who follow you on the app are likely those are already familiar — even enthusiastic —  about your brand. These are the best to people to hire because you won’t have to orient or convince them to be brand ambassadors.

Pana Chocolate is one example of a shop using Instagram as a hiring tool. Take a look at their post below and notice how well-received it is.

09-Feb-2016-Image12

12. Throwback posts

Throwback photos are also quite popular. If you’be been in business for a while, consider posting an image of early versions of your products. Another option is to post an old photo of your founder or a key employee.

People who’ve been shopping at your store for a while will get a chance to take a trip down memory lane, while your newer customers will have the opportunity to glimpse what your business (or your people) looked like years past.

One brand that does this well is BMW. The automaker regular posts photos of its classic models on Instagram, and people love it.

13. Funny posts or jokes

If it makes sense for your brand, consider showing your sense of humor by posting a hilarious photo or joke. It’ll help you stand out from accounts that are always posting product photos or “me too” types of posts. Plus, it’s a great way to get laughs — and shares!

Here’s a cool example from Mint Boutique in Australia:

14. Beautiful spaces

Images of great-looking places are a huge hit on Instagram. That’s why if you have a gorgeous store or if you’re running an event or popup in an amazing location, don’t forget to snap tons of photos that you can publish on Instagram. In doing so, you’ll not only generate likes and engagement, but you’ll even encourage your followers to pay you a visit!

Take a look at this example from Empire Homewares:

15. Timely Instagram posts

See to it that your Instagram feed keeps up with the times. If there’s a special holiday or if it’s a particular time of year, be sure to acknowledge it with a relevant Instagram post.

Kate Spade does a good job at this. Whenever there’s a significant holiday or event, you can bet that the retailer has a timely Instagram post to go with it. Here’s what Kate Spade posted on July 4th:

Additional Instagram tips

The above-mentioned posts are pretty great on their own, but if you want to increase their effectiveness, consider implementing the following tips:

Incorporate these themes in your Stories – The suggestions above make for great Instagram posts, but don’t forget that you can also use them in your Instagram Stories. There are now more than 250 million people using Stories daily so this tool can offer tremendous opportunity to reach your audiences.

As Y&R’s creative technologist Gracie Page puts it, Stories can “supplement the always-on social media approach that is expected of consumer-facing brands today. Where a fashion or candle brand with an Instagram presence is now expected to post a static image once per day, a Story can then breathe life into the otherwise extremely styled and curated profile that brands seek to cultivate on the platform.”

How can brands leverage Stories? According to Page, you “can use Stories as a way to show what goes into the making of the product, behind the scenes at special events in the year such as launch parties or photo shoots, or even give over the account to employees on a day to day basis to let their personality shine through.”

“Of course, the product can be put front and center of the Story too,” she adds. A product-centric Instagram Story “acts as another way to entice customers with moving images of the product in action.” As an example, Page mentions Stephanie Gottlieb, a private jeweler in NYC, who shows off her jewelry’s glittering diamonds through Instagram Stories.

Use hashtags – Tag your posts with the appropriate hashtags to increase their findability. Look for common tags in your industry, and see if you can incorporate them into your content. For instance, in fashion, many retailers tag their posts with popular #OOTD hashtag. You could also explore trending hashtags on Instagram to find popular ones that you can leverage. Just make sure that you’re only using relevant and appropriate hashtags in your posts.

How many hashtags should you include? According to a study by Buffer, there doesn’t seem to be a saturation point for hashtag use on Instagram. Their research shows that “interactions are highest on Instagram posts with 11+ hashtags.”

Combine post types – For best results, consider combining the post types above. For example, if you’re posting a photo of someone your customers admire, why not include an inspirational quote from them?  

Bottom line

The Instagram posts above obviously worked well for the brands that posted them. However, before you start posting the same types of images or videos, be sure to do your research to see if they would resonate with your audience.

Also, don’t be discouraged if you don’t get immediate traction. Keep posting, do a bit of trial and error, then take note of what works and what doesn’t.

Good luck!


5 Subtle Signs That Your Retail Store Is in Trouble (and What to Do About Them)

5 Subtle Signs That Your Retail Store Is in Trouble (and What to Do About Them)

Have you ever heard about the parable of the boiling frog?

According to the tale, “if a frog is put suddenly into boiling water, it will jump out. But if the frog is put in tepid water which is then brought to a boil slowly, it will not perceive the danger and will be cooked to death.” While we don’t know if this is scientifically correct, the “boiling frog story” does teach retailers a valuable lesson about the importance of being vigilant and proactive.

See, problems within a business rarely show up of nowhere. Signs of trouble often come up months, even years in advance, but they don’t always manifest in big, obvious ways. That’s why it’s critical that you stay on top of every component of your business, from sales and inventory to staffing and customer service. You should be aware of possible warning signs, so you can catch them early and take action before issues escalate.

Read on to learn about the subtle warning signs of a retail store in trouble. If you spot any of these happening in your business, take action ASAP.

1. Your daily foot traffic declines by more than 5%

“First sign of retail store trouble is when you notice a drop off in daily foot traffic of more than 5%,” says Jim Angleton President at AEGIS FinServ Corp™.

While the occasional or seasonal drop in foot traffic is normal, a consistent decline in store visits could spell disaster. 

What to do about it. Listen to your customers.

Customer feedback is incredibly valuable. Make sure you and your team are always listening to what they’re saying both in-store and online.

“Pay attention to customer discussions while in your store,” says Angleton “Are they saying ‘Wow, this is expensive?’ or ‘I saw this at XYZ for less?’ And don’t be afraid to ask questions: ‘is this your first time in our store?’ ‘How do you like our store and products?’ Just ask.”

And pay attention to what consumers are saying on social media and review websites. Angleton continues, “Do you look at your profile in consumer rating magazines and online comments? If not, we urge you to do this.”

Ensure that your store looks attractive from the outside

As much as we love the adage “It’s what on the inside that counts,” this doesn’t apply to retail. The outside appearance of your store counts a whole lot if you want to entice people to walk inside. Do this by:

Keeping your window displays updated – Always give people something new to look at. Shoppers won’t walk into your store if they keep seeing that same old tired displays. Switch your displays at least once a month, and do it more often during busy seasons such as the holidays.

Instructing employees to look busy inside the shop – Bored-looking employees are a turn-off. See to it that your staff are mindful of how they look and behave even when there aren’t any customers around. Make sure they look busy and cordial, as this will help entice more people to come inside.

Keeping your curbside well-maintained – Never underestimate the value of curb appeal. In addition to your window displays, little things such as the cleanliness of your storefront and the paint job you have outside can make or break people’s decision to walk into your store. Trust us, it pays to stay on top of maintenance.

Go online

Whether the internet drives traffic away or towards your brick-and-mortar store is up to you. While some people are complaining about how ecommerce is grabbing market share from brick-and-mortar, smart retailers are busy leveraging the web to increase their foot traffic.

You can, too. Here’s how:

Offer in-store pickup – Got an online shop? Give people the option to pick up their purchases in-store. Doing so not only saves them money (who wants to pay for shipping these days?), but it brings people to your location. This, in turn, opens up sales and engagement opportunities.

Improve your Google presence – Can people find you on Google? If not, you’re missing out on search and physical traffic. With more than two trillion searches happening on Google every year, you can bet your customers are using the site.

So, how can you beef up your search engine presence? Start by maintaining updated listings on Google and across the web. In doing so, you’re enabling your business to show up when people conduct local searches.

Use social media – Maintain an active social media presence. Do a bit of research on the social media habits of your customers. What networks or apps are they using? How are they engaging with brands on those networks? Find the answer to these questions and use the insights you gather to craft a retail social media strategy.

Touch base with shoppers via email – Email has been here for a while, and it will continue to be a major communication channel for years to come. If you don’t have one yet, set up an email list so you can keep in touch with your customers.

Use email to give people a heads up whenever you’re having an event or a sale, so they know when to stop by. Want to boost your campaign performance? Tailor your emails based on people’s demographic info and purchase histories.

2. You’re unable to stay on top of stock control

“In stock inventory on the shelf for immediate purchase is still the lifeblood of retail stores,” says Chris H. Petersen, CEO at IMS Results Count. According to him, when popular items are out of stock or when vendors start curtailing shipments and evaluating a retailer’s credit, there’s a good chance that business is in trouble.

It’s not just about out of stocks, though. Poor handling of inventory, in general, is a sign of trouble brewing at the retail store.

According to Lloyd Vliet, the Marketing Manager at Datacolor, a clear sign of retail store in trouble is when it “begins making noticeable, negative shifts of inventory levels. You will begin to see fewer SKUs and best sellers not replenished. Slow moving merchandise becomes abundant and the center of attention (dumping). Clearance sections grow bigger and bigger.”

Poor stock control also manifests in failure to keep up with a category’s life cycle. As Shannon Bedore Managing Director at Sightline Retail notes, “some of the early signs that a buyer or category are in trouble, is when buyers push out meetings and don’t bring in new products according to the category life cycle.”

“So think of tank tops and when these should set on the retail floor — usually March — so the retailer begins to capture the early summer selling first, and the customer stocks up there. However, if the retailer is in trouble they may push out the set until May or June to stretch out their cash requirements necessary to pay for the inventory.”

What to do about it. Keep your metrics in check

Optimizing your stock starts with knowing your numbers. Questions like what to stock up on or what to put on sale can only be answered if you’re monitoring the right inventory metrics. Not sure what to track? Start with the following:

  • GMROI
  • Lost sales
  • Shrinkage
  • Sell-through
  • Stock turn

Improve cash flow

Is tight cash flow preventing you from stocking up on the right merchandise? Get more funds flowing by:

Liquidating excess inventory – If having too much stock is tying up your capital, find ways to move that inventory.

For starters, you could refresh your merchandising and displays to make products look more attractive. You could also bundle slow-movers with top sellers. Want to entice people to buy? Offer slow movers as freebies. And if those tactics don’t work, see if you can return or exchange those items. Another option is to sell them to liquidation companies.

Collecting unpaid invoices – Not collecting what’s due can keep much needed (and well-deserved) cash tied up, so if you have customers paying in installments, make it a priority to top of their accounts. Keep shopper records up to date, monitor outstanding invoices and send reminders when necessary.

Maximize revenue – Another way to improve cash flow? Sell more. Brainstorm ways to increase sales and revenue in your business. Is it a matter of improving your product offerings? Do you need to make your promotions more enticing? What can you do to get your existing customers to buy more?

Answering these questions can give you new ideas or shed light on opportunities you haven’t taken advantage of.

3. Decline in basket size or average order value

“Too many businesses (both online and brick-and-mortar) are tempted to focus on bounce rate and conversion rate; i.e., they focus on people who didn’t buy. These metrics are important, but they may be keeping your focus from customers who bought but didn’t buy enough,” says Steve Merrill, CEO at Bella Ella Boutique.

According to him, “Low AOV may indicate that your brand is failing to resonate with customers. Rather than being motivated to purchase by affinity for your brand, they’re motivated only by certain products or prices. They’re consumer mercenaries, ready to bolt to a competitor the second they don’t see a product or price that they like, only willing to buy one or two items at a time.”

“There may also exist unnecessary obstacles for high order value purchases, e.g., not offering a volume discount (ex. “buy 3 get the 4th free”), not showing customers related or synergistic products, or not selling high-margin, inexpensive add-on items like accessories, jewelry, stickers, or prints.”

What to do about it. Learn the art of suggestive selling

A good way to add value to each customer interaction is through suggestive selling. By recommending related products or upgrades, you could increase basket size while helping customers discover products they want and need.

Just be sure to practice ethical tactics. Don’t be the sleazy salesperson who’s only after the sale. Aim to genuinely help customers and add value to their lives.


Optimize your prices and offerings

You could be leaving a lot of money on the table by failing to price your products correctly. So, revisit your pricing strategy. Do the math, factor in shopper psychology, and explore tactics such as dynamic pricing or bundling to see what works for you.

If you’re running promotions, optimize them for different customer segments. For example, is a BOGO promo really the best way to go, or should you try a discount instead? Speaking of which, are you offering too big of a discount to shoppers who would convert at a lower threshold?

Ask yourself these questions then optimize your prices and offers accordingly. If everything goes well, you’ll start seeing an increase in your AOV.

Improve your branding and loyalty efforts

As Merrill puts it, low order values could be a sign of low brand affinity. Address this by forging stronger customer relationships and by making sure that they can relate and connect with your brand.

Be human. Tell stories. Have some personality and interact with your customers in genuine ways. Do these things consistently, and you’ll start attracting the right people into your store. The ones who will buy from you not because you have the lowest prices, but because they truly love your brand.

4. You see a breakdown of the culture that makes your company great

Angela Smith, the general manager at Lush Cosmetics, says that “a breakdown of the culture that started the brand will surely be the downfall in the end.”

The culture in your company — i.e., your way of life and shared beliefs — can influence every aspect of your business. When the culture deteriorates, the business itself suffers. Employees become less engaged, and in turn, the customer experience takes a hit.

It’s easy to let culture fall to the wayside when you’re busy growing and increasing profits. But letting that happen is a huge mistake. As Derek Sivers, Founder of CD Baby said on the Buffer blog, you should “Protect your internal culture, no matter what. Once it turns nasty, it never goes back. Fire a rotten apple immediately.”

What to do about it. Hire the right people

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: when bringing in new people, hire for attitude and train for skill. If you’re given a choice between aptitude and attitude, go with the latter every time. Remember, skills can be taught, and qualifications can be earned. But someone’s natural disposition and attitude cannot be changed so easily.

You want to hire individuals who are a natural fit with your company culture and who effectively embody your brand.

Live and breathe your values

A while back, we interviewed Retail Culture Consultant Beth Boyd and asked her to share her thoughts on how retailers can create a strong company culture. One of her key pieces of advice? Solidify your mission, vision, and values, and see to it that your team is living up to those standards.

“Mission statements and values need to be real things that organizations speak to and hire to. They are not — nor will they ever be — lived or ever even referenced to if they are simply a poster on the wall or a page in a manual/handbook,” she said.

“People who share a passion for the vision and values of the organization and who are compelled by its purpose… will make a tremendous difference,” she adds. 

This is especially true when it comes to leadership positions.

“Executives who live and work with the organization’s vision & values and who make decisions are aligned with those things are easy and inspiring to follow,” shares Beth. “When there is a disconnect between the actions and words of a retail organization, that’s when things start to crumble.”

5. Employee morale is suffering

“Employee morale says it all,” says Meredith Lawler, Campus Visit Program Coordinator at the University of Denver.  “If your people are not happy it is a very clear indication that things behind the scenes are not running smoothly.”

Jon Winsell, Senior Director of Customer Experience Strategy at XperienceLab echoes this. When asked about the subtle signs of a retail business in trouble, he said, “Critical mass: employees don’t care. Not about customers or the retail environment. They are not engaged with customers. Customers are an interruption. Leaders either know morale is down and choose not to fix it or don’t know it’s down at all. Either way, there’s a going out of business sale on the horizon.”

What to do about it. Treat and pay employees fairly

This may sound like a no-brainer (and it should be) but plenty of companies still try to stiff their employees. Don’t be one of them.

Employees who are treated and compensated well perform better and are much more loyal. Ultimately, these things will lead to happier customers and a healthier bottom line.

Recognize great work

Never underestimate the power of staff recognition. If your employees are doing great, see to it that they know just how much you value them.

It also helps to encourage peer-to-peer recognition. As Rachel Cooper, a marketing specialist at Perks.com puts it, “Not only is it important that managers recognize employees for a job well done, it is equally important that there is some sort of peer-to-peer recognition going on at work.”

“Think about it. People you work with have a large impact on your self-esteem and ability to succeed. These are people you see on a day-to-day basis. Even if you don’t want to admit it, their opinions matter.”

Your turn

Did we miss anything? What are the other signs of a retail business in trouble? Share your thoughts in the comments.

3 Forecasts Your Business Needs To Succeed

3 Forecasts Your Business Needs To Succeed

Forecasting is the process of estimating the effects trends, costs and external factors will have on your business in order to give yourself time to prepare.

This is integral to business planning and the more accurate your forecasts are the better you know your business.

There are many different forecasts you can create for your business but here we are going to focus on the 3 key forecasts your business needs to succeed and how to start creating each of them.

Sales forecast

A sales forecast is an approximation of the monthly sales expectations of your business. This is usually drawn up once a year and helps you to set targets and keep your business on track for success. This is one of the most important forecasts your business can create as it helps you manage production, staffing, finance and cash flow. It is important to note that a sales forecast is only useful for your business if it is realistic.

The easiest way to start creating your sales forecast is to look at last year’s sales, this will give you a good starting off point. The next step is to add in your assumptions for this year. How many customers do you hope to add? What do you expect your average sales price to be? Are there any changes in the market you need to be aware of? By asking yourself these questions and answering them honestly instead of optimistically you can start to craft a solid sales plan that should be reflective of what’s to come.

Cash flow forecast

A cash flow forecast is a crucial component of planning for the future of your business. It takes all of your known cash inflows and outflows in a given time period and couples them with your expected income and expenses to create a picture of how your businesses finances will look in the coming weeks, months and years.

Your cash flow forecast is an indicator of the financial health of your business and will alert you to any cash shortages or surpluses well in advance, giving you time to seek finance to bridge your cash gap or reinvest excess cash into your business for growth. You can also use your forecast to measure the effects of different decisions on your business’s cash flow through scenario planning.

There are 2 ways to create your cash flow forecast. The first of which is the indirect method, which involves using the figures from your P&L and balance sheet to derive your forecast. This is most accurate for long term planning but can be unreliable in the short term. The second way of generating a cash flow forecast is the direct method which takes all known cash inflows and outflows (and their timings) and uses them to build a forecast based on actuals, which is highly accurate in the short to medium term. This method can take hours to do manually every month due to the sheer number of transactions that need to be tallied – that’s why we built Float. Float connects to your accounting software to automatically read all of your bills and invoices (both paid and unpaid) to give you a powerful forecast at the click of a button.

Balance sheet forecast

A balance sheet forecast is an important document that lays out account balances for assets, liabilities and equity in a specified period of time (usually the end of the accounting year). Businesses use this forecast to measure working capital and assess the need for additional financing. Bank managers use this to determine a business’s likelihood to pay back a loan and trade suppliers can use this document to help decide if credit is given.

The balance sheet forecast is also referred to as the statement of financial position. To create your forecast you should start by consulting your sales forecast as your projections of other balance sheet items such as inventory, accounts receivable and accounts payable will be highly dependent on sales. From this you can then start to add in projected asset, liability and equity items, after these have been added you should include in any financing you expect to receive.

There we have it, by producing these 3 vital forecasts you can measure success, anticipate and give yourself time to prepare for any changes and plan for business growth. The most important thing to remember when creating business forecasts is to be realistic, as the more honest you are with yourself the more accurate and useful your forecasts will be.

How Elon Musk’s neural lace could change your business

How Elon Musk’s neural lace could change your business

In April this year, Elon Musk (CEO of Tesla and SpaceX) publicly announced that his company, a startup in California, Neuralink, is developing a neural lace technology that will enable human beings to communicate with devices through their thoughts alone.

Neural lace is a wireless EEG device (electroencephalography) which tracks and records brain wave patterns. Traditional EEG devices are sensors that are placed onto the scalp with a whole lot of wires, or involve highly invasive surgery – something normally reserved for medical science and labs.  

The difference with neural lace is that it’s to be surgically implanted into a human brain, and then will grow as the brain does. It will allow the brain to interface wirelessly with computers, to read and receive input to and from your very thoughts and senses.

With the rapidly advancing field of artificial intelligence (AI), this technology could allow people to become an “AI-Human symbiote” by enhancing our own cognition, where we are the AI.

EEG’s are nothing new; in fact, they were first researched in the 70s and are today used quite frequently. Research in the field has been rapid, going from theoretical to practical quickly, decoding people’s thoughts and allowing for some pretty astonishing accomplishments.

“Brain computers” already exist, and can mitigate some brain conditions like Parkinson’s or depression, can overcome sensory impairments like blindness and deafness, or control remote mechanical limbs (also the most likely near-term future for neural lace tech). Emotiv, as an example, uses the wearer’s thoughts to control video games.

Extending and enhancing ourselves through technology, machines and devices isn’t really anything new. Philosophers and futurists will argue that we’ve been doing it for hundreds of years, with devices to enhance our eyesight, extend our communication, improve our hearing, and store and retrieve our memories…

Though, until recently, we’ve had to physically interact with these devices. Perhaps the time is coming where we merely need to think to interact?

So how could neural lace technology affect you and your business?  

Is it that big of a stretch to see Elon’s neural lace allowing people to drive their cars or control other devices just with their thoughts? Straight off the bat I can see four different aspects of field service that neural lace could influence.

1. Communications

With neural lace, you could “talk” to everyone in your network with your thoughts alone. You could send instructions, ask for help, or get other people’s perspectives on a problem you’re right in front of.

2. Syncing with a system

Think about it: data entry, looking up information, planning – these all rely on a person knowing how to use a system, to type and enter information.  

Imagine if you could instead give the system natural language commands: “Hey simPRO, where is John right now?” or, “simPRO, could you please organise the materials for that job?”

Instead of just thinking about it, writing it down, or remembering to ask somebody else to look into it, you could just think about it and the system would go ahead and do it!

Better yet, what about having a conversation with the system to allow for refinement? Like, “Hey simPRO, could you please schedule in all the field techs for tomorrow’s runs?”, “Sure, though you have three techs on that project at the airport, would you like me to exclude them?”, “Yep, good idea!”

3. Interaction within your ecosystem

This means analysing the requirements from your customer, pushing that through your system, then communicating and checking in with your suppliers to ensure that it’s all possible – all through thought.

You wouldn’t have to read lengthy documents, interpret or best guess anything, or go to five different suppliers for project pricing manually.

4. Technical information at your fingertips, Matrix-style.  

Remember that scene in The Matrix where Trinity makes a quick call to acquire the skills required to fly a helicopter?

Imagine you were in front of a piece of equipment you’d never seen before, and all you needed was to think about it to access the tech specs to know what it is, how it works and how to fix it.

Neural lace, for now, is shaping up to be a wireless device that will require a nearby computer to communicate with and reach the outside world, say, for example, a PC in your wristwatch.  

But how long before it can become standalone, freeing your thoughts into the digital universe?

No doubt there will be plenty more applications for neural lace technology, both exciting and frightening in nature, though one thing is for sure, the future will be very different!  

Though it’s not possible with current technology, with the focus and funding the field is receiving, it won’t be too long until it is. This is one of those inevitabilities, and even if Elon doesn’t succeed, someone will.

We need to think and talk about the possibilities now so we make the right decisions for our future.

Small-Man-Syndrome: How SMEs can be successful on a global stage

Small-Man-Syndrome: How SMEs can be successful on a global stage

Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SME) are companies that are independently owned and managed with less than 250 employees in their ranks and bringing in less than 50 million euros per year.

The fact is, these companies make up 95% of the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) and in most countries, they provide 60-70% of jobs for the working population. These stats are impressive and as such, the place SMEs hold in the global economy should be revered.

Being an SME can be daunting when dealing with the big boys in the global market, however no matter what the risk is, the influence they have globally cannot be underestimated. Here are some points to consider when considering how SMEs can increase their reach on a global scale.

Online Presence

Globalization is increasing more everyday as the far flung corners of the globe are connected by the internet. In fact, never has the world seemed so small, and as it ‘shrinks’ its connectivity grows. A key component of having a global presence is to establish an online portfolio, be it simply a blog, information page or shop, or all three wrapped up into one captivating and tidy website. Often, the first place potential clients or consumers will go is the internet to research the service or product they are after. Therefore, investing in a good website that is updated regularly and ensuring that all your software programs are integrated to support it, is essential to being ‘seen’ and taken seriously.

Remote accessibility

Remote accessibility is also a key component to global growth as it quite literally allows accessibility of the company’s systems remotely. So, for example, management staff could be at a conference or setting up a new branch in another location, yet they are still able to have access to the company and keep a finger on the pulse so-to-speak. Essentially it allows staff to be in several places at once so that more is achieved in a shorter time. This is made possible through use of the cloud, which can store all company data in a common digital location, accessible from anywhere with an internet connection. Doing business in this manner also promotes transparency, which is fundamental to the smooth running of a company.

Global branches

It is self-explanatory but one method of global growth is to introduce branches in multiple countries. This not only is the epitome of global growth but also means perhaps if one branch was to suffer from an unstable economy, then other branches, which may be thriving in prosperous economies, can help shoulder some of the financial load. Essentially, the company’s eggs are not only in one basket.

Now, these three aspects described are rather difficult to achieve without some sort of management system that has remote accessibility and is capable of recording multiple things from multiple locations simultaneously. This is where a stellar inventory management software system will be of huge benefit. They can be custom-designed to accommodate for all your company’s inventory needs and significantly reduce confusion and errors arising from poor inventory management. Their complete remote accessibility allows for accurate reporting and buying of stock even if no physical count is possible at the given time.

Inventory management software is not the only solution out there that will make global growth, despite more competition than ever before, a distinct possibility. There are several other packages available for different aspects of a company’s operations, and it is essential to do due diligence in researching them and take advantage of every opportunity as an SME.