GREAT IDEAS IN ACTION, Where: Petro Travel Store #353

GREAT IDEA: HOLIDAY STAFFING

The trucking business never sleeps, which means truckstops and travel plazas have to keep their doors open around the clock. That can create a challenge when scheduling employ­ees, particularly around the holidays.

Travel center operators have the challenge of balancing a schedule to handle the holiday workload and granting time off for team players to be with their families. At the Petro Travel Store #353 in Portage, Wisconsin, each team player chooses to work three of the five holidays—Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas, New Years Eve and New Years Day.

This gives the team players the chance to plan for holiday traditions and events as they know when exactly they will work during the holidays. The three of five days strikes a fair balance between work and personal time and boosts morale for employees while they are working the holidays. Plus, the team players appreciate having some time off with their families.

 

HAVE A GREAT IDEA YOU WANT TO SUBMIT?

Send a high-resolution picture of your location’s great idea and the story behind it to Amy Toner, NATSO's vice president of publishing and digital content, at atoner@natso.com.



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SILVER'S TRAVEL CENTER HITS THE MARK WITH A RE-BRANDING

When Silver’s Travel Cen­ter rebranded its c-store location by franchising with On The Run by Circle K, it brought a new atmosphere to the store and led to a 15 percent increase in sales, which is particularly impres­sive because it is a down market.

Ron Hicks, general manager of Sil­ver's Travel Center, Henderson Trav­el Center and Frog City Travel Plaza, attributes the boost to the remodel and the improved merchandising mix that he can take advantage of as a franchisee. Because Circle K has more than 7,500 stores worldwide, the company knows what sells and has buying power Silver’s couldn’t have achieved on its own.

As part of the rebranding, the location underwent architectural changes and repositioned the point-of-sale. It also took down the cen­ter island and segregated the c-store from the trucker store. Hicks said it is more open now and is designed to flow with the customer, which makes shoppers notice products more than they have in the past.

Before the remodel, the roller grill at the location didn’t have much success. But as part of the remodel, the loca­tion created a food area and depart­mentalized it. It makes a huge differ­ence when like products are grouped together. With the new positioning of the roller grill, Hicks said he can’t keep it full. Plus, the roller grill program is about much more than throwing hot dogs on the grill. It has procedures and policies to ensure the products are always fresh, and they have par­ticular types of condiments, which all lead to a robust program.

Silvers also offers a variety of hot foods and cold foods, all single serve. They’ve added fresh sandwiches and an open cooler, which has been a success. Fresh fruit and cheese snacks are also selling well and appealing to those that want a healthier option. Even though they have a restaurant in that location, they realize it is a different customer base stopping for grab-and-go foods.

The location has also placed dif­ferent grab-and-go items around the counter because that appeals to a different customer base. The truck driver may not go over to the hot­dog program, so they have pizza and chicken waiting right on the counter.

Their grab-and-go food program is supported by a robust coffee, iced tea and fountain program. The cof­fee program has really taken off, and the location has done a phenomenal job positioning the coffee. They put a banner in the back that allows the sun to come through it. When the sun is rising, it is spectacular and makes for a powerful impact.

The cooler space has stayed the same, but it seems much larger. They added LED lighting and cat­egorized the coolers, putting like products together. If you go into that store and you want to get an orange juice, you know where it is.

Hicks said the remodel hasn’t tak­en away sales in other areas of the location and has created a boost in local traffic.

What’s more, since the remodel, all of the employees and custom­ers seem happier. The changes have added so much to the overall atmo­sphere of the store, adding to its overall success.

 

Darren Schulte, NATSO vice president of membership, frequently visits NATSO members to review their locations and offers impactful merchandising and operations improvements. Contact Schulte at dschulte@natso.com or (915) 526-5820 to learn more about the costs and details of this service. 



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NEW OVERTIME REGULATIONS TAKE EFFECT IN DECEMBER

New rules from the Department of Labor that govern which em­ployees are eligible for overtime pay take effect on Dec. 1, and truck­stop and travel plaza operators are working to understand how the rules will affect their operations and how they will comply.

“For us out here in the real world it is very difficult to deal with,” said Dan Alsaker, president of Broadway Flying J.

The rules double the minimum salary threshold that employees must earn in order to be exempt from overtime pay, increasing the fig­ure to $47,476 per year ($913 per week), up from the previous salary of $23,660 per year ($455 per week).

“All of our assistant managers fall be­low that threshold, so we have to go back in and rework how we address them. Some of our managers fall be­low that criteria as well, so we’re hav­ing to go back and restructure what we do with their pay,” Alsaker said, add­ing that one of the challenges with the change is it doesn’t take into account the cost of living in certain areas, such as rural towns where many truckstop and travel plaza locations operate.

Under the new rules, employees earning under the threshold are eli­gible for overtime pay of at least 1.5 times their normal salary for all hours worked per week over 40. The salary threshold will be automatically up­dated every three years based on wage inflation, and the change could pres­ent considerable challenges to em­ployees and employers alike.

Those who earn more than this sal­ary threshold are also entitled to over­time pay unless they qualify as “white collar” employees under the Depart­ment of Labor’s “duties test.” NATSO had urged the Department of Labor not make any changes to the “duties test,” which provides sufficient flex­ibility to enable managers and assistant managers to perform ministerial work as needed without forfeiting their exemption from overtime pay.

The distinction between whether an employee’s primary duty is exempt work or non-exempt work is particularly blurry in the truckstop and travel plaza industry, where an outlet manager’s ability to pitch in and help line employees when needed is a key part of the industry’s management culture and necessary to enhance the customer experience. 

Employers will have six options for responding to the new overtime rules. NATSO has outlined each option in an in-depth toolkit on its website.

Options include:

  • Increase the employees’ salaries by the amount necessary to reach the new salary threshold.
  • Limit employees to 40 hours per week and assign additional work to other employees, including potentially hiring more employees.
  • Simply pay time-and-a-half overtime pay for all hours above 40 hours per week.
  • Increase the number of hours to which a salary is tied.

  • Decrease employees’ pay
 so their new payments with overtime match their previous salary.
  • Utilize a fluctuating workweek method
 in which the employee’s rate of pay will vary based on the number of hours worked. 

Alsaker is concerned that several of the options will have a deflation effect among employees who were salaried and are moved to hourly. “Salaries are how we build on our careers and how we advance. Now we’re yanking the salary away and making them hourly,” he said.

Bob Wollenman, owner of Deluxe Truck Stop, said most of his employees are hourly, so the change will have little effect on his location, but he noted that “the people writing the rules have no first-hand experience with what is going on out in the world.”

Alsaker said complying with the shift is creating a difficult, internal struggle for the location, but he will find a solution. “We will be creative. We will rebound, figure it out and make it work,” he said.

Learn more!  NATSO’s Vice President, Government Relations, Legislative and Regulatory Counsel David Fialkov has written a regulatory toolkit on this issue. Download NATSO’s full guide to the overtime rules at http://ift.tt/2fzkDmP;



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SEVEN TIPS FOR SELLING AT YOUR TRUCKSTOP'S TRANSACTION COUNTER

Your transaction counter is one of the most important touch points that you have in your operation.

It is frequently the first and last thing your customers see upon entering and leaving your operation. It is valuable and every single truckstop and travel plaza should treat it as premium space.

Here are seven thoughts to consider when choosing what to put in that space:

  1. What are you trying to convey to customers when choosing items for the transaction counter?
  2. Think about the product mix on and around the transaction coun­ter. Is it the right mix?
  3. Most transaction counters have candy placed on them. Con­sider focusing on large bars vs. small bars on the counter so that the customer cannot make a trade down.
  4. High-margin items with a solid gross margin return-on-investment should be a driving force in decid­ing what products are placed on and around the transaction coun­ter. How does yours compare?
  5. Be wary of too much product. It sends the wrong message to your customers. Trying to use every available open space can create clutter and customer con­fusion. Are there items you can clear from your space that would make it more effective?
  6. Are there products placed on/ around the counter that hold an interest to the four-wheel cus­tomer but are out of sight lines? An example is a universal USB 12-volt plug-in adapter.
  7. Members often ask me ‘What is the maximum number of pro­grams/products a transaction counter should have?’ I’d recom­mend no more than six programs. Here is a sample product mix I’d recommend: lighter program, uni­versal USB 2 SKU on two-tiered display, 5-Hour Energy Drink, four SKU on two-tiered display, fresh fruit in basket (preferably oranges, green apples or banan­as), e-cig and vapor, and large candy bar or multi-pack gum for suggestive selling. 


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Seven Ways to Support the Homeless in Your Community

Nearly 1 million people experience homelessness on any given night in the United States. As business­es that cater to the traveling public and support local communities, truckstops and travel plazas are in a unique posi­tion to help those who may be experi­encing homelessness.

The primary causes of homeless­ness in the U.S. include the lack of affordable housing, poverty or a lack of employment opportuni­ties. Often times, the idea of what homelessness looks like does not match the reality, and truckstop and travel plaza employees may be interacting with homeless persons and not even know it. Truckstop employees might also periodically encounter requests for food, shelter, transportation or money.

Whether it is providing food, con­necting someone in need with the appropriate agency or advocating for better resources for the homeless, truckstops have an important role to play. Here are seven ways truckstop and travel plaza operators can support the homeless in their communities.

1 ESTABLISH RELATIONSHIPS WITH LOCAL SHELTERS, CHARITIES OR FOOD BANKS: Know where to call and who to speak with at these organiza­tions before someone asks for help. Create a list with contact information for the appropriate person, so you have resources available when needed.

2 CONSIDER SPECIFIC WAYS TO HELP: Given the resources at truckstops and travel plazas, operators can be in a unique position to offer help. Can you provide someone with a shower, an opportunity to wash clothes or a meal? Locations may also be able to offer the opportunity for employment.

3 CREATE A POLICY FOR EMPLOYEE PROTOCOL: The policy should clearly define the types of help em­ployees may provide. The location can then train employees on how to offer assistance.

4DETERMINE NEED: There are sev­eral ways operators and em­ployees can determine need if they suspect someone might be homeless­ness. Megan Hustings, interim direc­tor of the National Coalition for the Homeless, suggests operators simply ask the person if he or she needs help. Employees could also ask if the person is aware of the local homeless agencies, how long it has been since the person has eaten and how long they’ve been in the area.

5 KNOW YOUR LOCAL LAWS: Some cities have adopted laws that prohibit food sharing with the home­less, sleeping in cars and begging. It is important for operators to know their local laws to ensure they’re not violating any restrictions when help­ing the homeless.

6ADVOCATE FOR CHANGES IN HOME­LESS POLICIES: By getting in­volved at the local and state levels, operators can make their concerns about homelessness heard.

7PUT EMPLOYEE SAFETY FIRST: While it is important to offer help to the homeless, it is critical to put employees’ safety first and there are several things employees should never do, including never give some­one a ride to a different location, never dismiss someone who needs help or speak rudely to them, and never put themselves, a co-worker or customer in any sort of risk.

 

THREE TYPES OF HOMELESSNESS

People often have an image of homelessness in their mind, but there are three types of homelessness. They are:

1 Chronic: The chronically homeless are typically entrenched in the shelter system. They tend to be older and consist of the hard-core unemployed. They make up the smallest proportion of the homeless population.

2 Transitional: The transitionally homeless generally enter the shelter system for a short period of time before transitioning into more stable housing. They are likely to be younger and are probably homeless due to some catastrophic event. They make up the majority of the homeless.

3 Episodic: Those who frequently shuttle in and out of homelessness are known as episodically homeless. They tend to be young and are often chronically unemployed and experience medical, mental health and substance abuse problems.

Nov. 12–20, 2016, marks National Hunger and
Homelessness Awareness Week. Train your staff
to help the homeless today.

HOW TRUCKSTOPS HELP THE HOMELESS: AN ONLINE GUIDE

The NATSO Foundation has developed the e-learning course “How Truckstops Help the Homeless” to help truckstop owners, operators and their employees understand homelessness in their communities and how they can best help someone who comes into their location who may be experiencing homelessness or without resources. It is the second course in a four-part series focused on "How Truckstops Help People." It is available online at http://ift.tt/20PXF7k. 



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The Season of Giving

As we enter the Christmas season, I think we’re all filled with a spirit of giving. I know there are so many ways in which each of us, both personally and through our businesses, support those around us. Wheth­er it is offering additional support to one of our employees who need it or giving to one of the many different national, regional or local philanthropic organizations, there are a num­ber of ways to show we care.

At Sapp Bros., we have always started by focusing on our employees. In addition to offering a 401(k), profit sharing and tuition assistance, we try to help when we hear of a need. It might be something as simple as helping someone with payroll during a dif­ficult time, which can mean the world to an employee who is struggling. Nothing shows them that you care like when you stop to help one who is in need.

Several years ago, the great Missouri River flooded and we had to close one of our loca­tions for almost 120 days. We still managed to pay our employees a percentage of what they would have earned and they were also able to collect unemployment. It wasn’t a cheap endeavor, but we knew we had to do it to keep our people. No one said it bet­ter than Andrew Carnegie, “Take away my people but leave my factories and soon grass will grow on the factory floors . . . Take away my factories and leave my people, soon we will have new and better factories.”

We also take time to evaluate every request we receive from organizations within the community, and we give the local managers some latitude up to a certain amount. There are so many good causes, and each of us has to decide for ourselves which ones to support.

Sometimes, the difficult piece is knowing how to help someone in the most appropri­ate way. Working with a structured charity can provide a way to support causes that are important to you. This year, Sapp Bros. worked with the Wounded Warriors Family Support, raising $30,000 for those that were injured while serving our country. We have also been able to support the St. Christopher Fund by raising funds that help drivers and their families.

I’d like to encourage all operators to con­sider a year-end gift to the NATSO Foun­dation, which provides the industry with safety initiatives, including a partnership with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children to offer Amber Alerts and the How Truckstops Help People on­line learning initiative. The NATSO Foun­dation also provides programs and products aimed at strengthening travel plazas’ ability to meet the needs of the traveling public through improved operational performance and business planning.

The Bill Moon Scholarship program is also a wonderful charity that provides scholar­ships to truckstop and travel plaza employ­ees and their dependents. For nearly 20 years the Bill Moon Scholarship Program has been changing lives and has awarded more than $300,000 in scholarships.

No matter how you give, I agree with Tom Heinz, past chairman of NATSO, who en­couraged operators to tell others about the good they are doing. During The NATSO Show 2015, Heinz challenged members to enhance the image of our industry by spread­ing the word about all of the good that we do. Let’s continue that this year as we bring 2016 to an end. We shouldn’t be shy about telling others how we help those around us.

I’d love to hear your stories about how you support your communities. Share what you’re doing on NATSO’s Facebook page or post a comment on the blog.

Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your chairman! 



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7 WAYS TO IMPROVE GRAB-AND-GO FOOD SAFETY

Sales of grab-and-go foods are on the rise. In response, truckstop and travel plazas are increasing their hot and cold quick-serve items. To maintain safety, it is important for locations to choose the right items to add to their cases and follow certain han­dling procedures for preparing and holding food.

“The potential for food-borne illnesses increases dramatically if you’re not paying attention,” said Darren Schulte, vice president of membership for NATSO. Here are seven ways NATSO members can improve grab-and-go food safety.

1 SELECT THE RIGHT ITEMS

Some items need more time and attention than others, which is why Michael Ouimet, president of Oui­met Resources, which operates travel center restaurants in 11 states and provides consulting work, said it is important for operators to consider what items make sense for them, particularly in the open, refrigerated deli cases.

“There are some things that are harder to maintain quality on than others, so you have to be selective with what you put in there,” Ouimet said, adding that quality as well as safety is a concern.

Schulte said an egg salad sand­wich, for example, has stricter food safety parameters than a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Ouimet said salads as well as the bread on sandwiches need more moni­toring to maintain quality. “We try to put the lettuce and tomato separate so the bread doesn’t get soggy,” he said.

Overall, Ouimet said grab-and-go customers are looking for more flavorful products and wider variety. Many are also after protein. “Hard boiled eggs are the No. 1 SKU in grab-and-go,” he said.

2 ROTATE FOOD PROPERLY

Food safety depends on a good dating, rotation and tracking sys­tem. Ouimet said on cold foods, operators can typically get three-to-five days of shelf life on products. “Even though we have a three-to-five day useful life, we still want to turn it every 48 hours. If you’re not changing those every two days, you’re preparing too much,” he said. “That comes down to the discipline of process.” 

For hot foods, it is equally im­portant to pull foods after a certain amount of time, which is often dic­tated by the manufacturer’s direc­tions (see more below). 

“The breakfast sandwiches that you’re putting on the hot hold are the hardest to maintain quality on. You put a sausage egg and cheese biscuit out at 6 a.m., those need to be pulled every two hours,” Ouimet said.

That means locations need to ad­just the amount they prepare based on the day of the week or the time of the day. Knowing what to prepare and when comes down to knowing your customer, Schulte said.

3 WATCH THE TIME AND TEMPERATURE

It is critical to think about time and temperatures, Schulte said. He recommends locations make notes about how often employees need to be checking items to ensure they’re holding their heat and also write down when items have been put out and when they need to be re­moved. “Time and temperature is critical not only for food safety, but for quality,” he said.

Broadway Flying J takes hourly temperatures for all hot food to make sure that the proper tempera­tures are maintained and checks the cold case temperatures daily. When it comes to hold times, the location follows the manufacturers suggestions as well as its own ex­perience. “The manufacturer may state that you can hold something for three hours, but we may go to only two because the product quality will degrade before the three hours, said Damon Borden, truckstop operations manager for the company.

4 FOLLOW DIRECTIONS

Vendors can provide detailed in­formation on how products should be thawed, prepared and held. “Fol­low the directions on the package,” Schulte said. “When the directions say, ‘do not put it in the refrigera­tor, keep frozen,’ do it. When it says ‘thaw for eight hours before serv­ing,’ follow that,” he said. “Are you following the instructions for that specific situation?”

5 IDENTIFY CROSS CONTAMINATION RISKS

As programs grow, the risk of cross contamination increases. “If you’ve gone from hot dogs to chicken, vegetables and hard boiled eggs, you have multiple foods and have to watch for cross contamination,” Schulte said. “If today you’re not making chicken salad sandwiches and you start selling them, now it could be a bigger issue.”

6 WASH HANDS

A lot of food safety comes down to following simple best practices, such as washing hands and/or using gloves. For those locations that use gloves, Schulte said it is important that employees change them fre­quently. “You can’t have those on and touch chicken and then touch something else,” he said. “Just be­cause they have gloves on doesn’t mean they’re safe.”

Operators should monitor employ­ees to ensure they’re following proce­dures, Schulte said. He asked, “Are employees wiping their hands on their apron and then making a sandwich?”

7 GET TRAINED

Schulte recommends locations expanding their food service offerings start by sending employees to food safety handling classes. “Make that part of your program,” Schulte said.

All employees who handle food at Broadway Flying J have to obtain a state food handler’s card, and the lo­cation has cooks and prep cooks com­plete ServSafe training. “This is a very detailed program about the safe han­dling of food,” Borden said. 



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Making Change Part of Your Culture

The ability to evolve and change can strengthen a business and contribute to long-term success. Within the truckstop and travel plaza industry, shifts in consumer behavior coupled with increasing competition are driving the need for operators to explore and adopt new service offer­ings in order to stay competitive.

“You have to clarify how the fu­ture is going to be different than the past and how your team can make the future a reality,” said Darren Schulte, vice president of member­ship at NATSO.

Recently, Dollar General added fuel, Purple has started offering home delivery of fuel in certain ar­eas and big box retailers are offering grab-and-go food.

“We need to get into other peo­ple’s business because they are get­ting into ours all of the time,” Schulte said. “We are truckstops, but we have to be thinking of how we get to other pieces of the busi­ness,” Schulte said. “We have to use what we have and the weapon we have is fuel. We have to figure out ways to maximize that.”

Don Quinn, president of Sapp Bros., said change has always been necessary for success. “We have understood the opportunity that comes with change,” he said.

Quinn said Sapp Bros. has pur­sued change when it has found ways to improve the customer experience with faster, better or less expensive offerings. The company also looks at opportunities that make the employ­ees’ jobs easier. “The other factor is the bottom line,” he said. “What are the economics of it? What is the cost benefit of the opportunity?”

While there is no reason to change for change’s sake, the successful com­panies are ones that start changing before something dramatic happens, Schulte said. “They are the ones that start doing something before change has to happen,” he said.

For example, companies that are reacting now to upcoming CAFÉ standards and the improved fuel mile­age vehicles are going to get are the ones that are going to be successful, Schulte said. “They recognize that both trucks and cars will get better fuel mileage and that means less and less stops. There are doing things to make different types of customers shop with them,” he said.

SEEKING GROWTH OPPORTUNITIES 

Keith Wade, manager at Dodge City Petro, said the location is constantly looking for opportunities to grow. “We can never stop thinking about our next growth opportunity. I’ve been here for five years and we have not stopped adding to the business,” he said.

In the past five years, Dodge City Petro has added 200 more parking spaces, a six-bay truck service cen­ter and a Popeye’s Chicken, and it is preparing to add a Dunkin Do­nuts. “We’ve taken the store from 2,300 square feet to 7,000 square feet,” he said.

Each addition has provided an overall boost. “Every option you add is just another draw off the in­terstate,” Wade said.

Initially Wade was concerned add­ing a quick-service restaurant would hurt sales in the sit-down restaurant, but that hasn’t been the case. “When we added the Popeye’s, Iron Skillet sales went up 6 percent and gas went up 30 percent,” Wade said. “Every time we add an additional piece to our property or another profit center, we’ll have double-digit growth. “

That growth lasts for a few years then levels back out, Wade said. That is when they decide it is time to “go at it again.”

IMPLEMENTING CHANGES

Managing change requires a strategy to move forward. “When it comes to change, you have to set the stage,” Schulte said. “As the leader, you have to guide that change.”

Quinn agrees that change begins with the leadership. “You have to iden­tify the change you want to pursue or affect within your organization,” he said. “At that point you need to identi­fy the steps involved and what the end result is or that you desire.”

Identifying the steps is similar to setting any goal or objective. “You set it and map out the plan to get there,” Quinn said, adding that the end goal can sometimes be a moving target. “Plan A might turn into Plan B before you’re finished. Someone might come up with a better idea.”

For Schulte, managing change is a team effort. True, powerful change comes when the group is acting to­gether and guiding the change. “It can start with the CEO or owner hav­ing a vision, but you build a team to move change,” Schulte said, adding that the team leaders need to identify team members who will support the project and help it move forward.

“You’ve got to communicate so ev­eryone understands it and has buy in. The more people that understand the program and buy into it, the quicker change will happen and the more suc­cessful it will be,” Schulte said. 

To make change successful, Schul­te said leaders have to empower other people. “Have faith in them. Remove as many barriers as possible to make success possible,” he said. “There can be a vision, but then there is red tape. You have to remove that.”

Quinn said it is important to give employees the opportunity to tack­le projects. “By relying on them, you’ll discover that those people can probably do it better and fast­er and more effectively than you can,” he said. “Give them a chance and look back and thank God that someone gave you a chance. There are employees that work for you that are chomping at the bit to get that same chance.”

Once the plan is in place and team members have been identified, the key is to act. “Create a sense of urgency. Help others try to under­stand why the change has to hap­pen, why it is important and why you have to act,” Schulte said. 

MANAGING EMPLOYEE EXPECTATIONS

Change can sometimes bring un­certainty, which makes communi­cation paramount. “As you com­municate the change with your staff and employees, it is important that you identify the benefits knowing that their job may change or will change but they are still a valuable employee and that they will remain on staff even though their job may look different,” Quinn said.

To get employees onboard, Quinn explains the benefits and then leads the way. “You can’t just talk. You have to show the way,” he said.

When Bobby Berkstresser, owner of White’s Travel Plaza, purchased the location, he implemented a number of changes, which he said many employees welcomed. “There were a lot of people that wanted to see the place do good. They’d in­vested years of their time and they were anxious to see someone come in and start remodeling,” he said [learn more about the changes at White’s Travel Plaza on page 8].

The catalyst for change can some­times be a dip in sales or a failure of some sort. “When things are bro­ken, things aren’t working or there has been a disaster or an epic fail­ure, that is when change happens,” Schulte said. “From every disaster comes the power to re-shape a stag­nant organization.”

“When you change, you’re refus­ing to be defeated,” Schulte said.

MARKING THE MILESTONES

Celebrating the wins and successes, even when they’re small, can help keep momentum. “Celebrate the success and the change when you get there,” Quinn said.

Schulte said, “When you have a long-term strategy, it can take a long time to reach it. You have to produce some early wins and things you can celebrate.”

Short-term wins should be visible. “If the goal is to increase the average ticket 30 cents and it has moved up a nickel after a month, that is visible and tangible,” Schulte said.

It is important not to let up af­ter some initial victories. “After you’ve started to see some successes or improvements, that is when you should try even harder,” Schulte said. “Pressing harder and faster after the first success is critical and you have to continue to be relent­less in initiating change.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SEEKING GROWTH OPPORTUNITIES

Keith Wade, manager at Dodge City Petro, said the location is constantly looking for opportunities to grow. “We can never stop thinking about our next growth opportunity. I’ve been here for five years and we have not stopped adding to the business,” he said.

 

In the past five years, Dodge City Petro has added 200 more parking spaces, a six-bay truck service cen­ter and a Popeye’s Chicken, and it is preparing to add a Dunkin Do­nuts. “We’ve taken the store from 2,300 square feet to 7,000 square feet,” he said.

 

Each addition has provided an overall boost. “Every option you add is just another draw off the in­terstate,” Wade said.

 

Initially Wade was concerned add­ing a quick-service restaurant would hurt sales in the sit-down restaurant, but that hasn’t been the case. “When we added the Popeye’s, Iron Skillet sales went up 6 percent and gas went up 30 percent,” Wade said. “Every time we add an additional piece to our property or another profit center, we’ll have double-digit growth. “

 

That growth lasts for a few years then levels back out, Wade said. That is when they decide it is time to “go at it again.”

IMPLEMENTING CHANGES

Managing change requires a strategy to move forward. “When it comes to change, you have to set the stage,” Schulte said. “As the leader, you have to guide that change.”

Quinn agrees that change begins with the leadership. “You have to iden­tify the change you want to pursue or affect within your organization,” he said. “At that point you need to identi­fy the steps involved and what the end result is or that you desire.”

Identifying the steps is similar to setting any goal or objective. “You set it and map out the plan to get there,” Quinn said, adding that the end goal can sometimes be a moving target. “Plan A might turn into Plan B before you’re finished. Someone might come up with a better idea.”

For Schulte, managing change is a team effort. True, powerful change comes when the group is acting to­gether and guiding the change. “It can start with the CEO or owner hav­ing a vision, but you build a team to move change,” Schulte said, adding that the team leaders need to identify team members who will support the project and help it move forward.

“You’ve got to communicate so ev­eryone understands it and has buy in. The more people that understand the program and buy into it, the quicker change will happen and the more suc­cessful it will be,” Schulte said.

To make change successful, Schul­te said leaders have to empower other people. “Have faith in them. Remove as many barriers as possible to make success possible,” he said. “There can be a vision, but then there is red tape. You have to remove that.”

Quinn said it is important to give employees the opportunity to tack­le projects. “By relying on them, you’ll discover that those people can probably do it better and fast­er and more effectively than you can,” he said. “Give them a chance and look back and thank God that someone gave you a chance. There are employees that work for you that are chomping at the bit to get that same chance.”

Once the plan is in place and team members have been identified, the key is to act. “Create a sense of urgency. Help others try to under­stand why the change has to hap­pen, why it is important and why you have to act,” Schulte said.

MANAGING EMPLOYEE EXPECTATIONS

Change can sometimes bring un­certainty, which makes communi­cation paramount. “As you com­municate the change with your staff and employees, it is important that you identify the benefits knowing that their job may change or will change but they are still a valuable employee and that they will remain on staff even though their job may look different,” Quinn said.

To get employees onboard, Quinn explains the benefits and then leads the way. “You can’t just talk. You have to show the way,” he said.

When Bobby Berkstresser, owner of White’s Travel Plaza, purchased the location, he implemented a number of changes, which he said many employees welcomed. “There were a lot of people that wanted to see the place do good. They’d in­vested years of their time and they were anxious to see someone come in and start remodeling,” he said [learn more about the changes at White’s Travel Plaza on page 8].

The catalyst for change can some­times be a dip in sales or a failure of some sort. “When things are bro­ken, things aren’t working or there has been a disaster or an epic fail­ure, that is when change happens,” Schulte said. “From every disaster comes the power to re-shape a stag­nant organization.”

“When you change, you’re refus­ing to be defeated,” Schulte said.

MARKING THE MILESTONES

Celebrating the wins and successes, even when they’re small, can help keep momentum. “Celebrate the success and the change when you get there,” Quinn said.

Schulte said, “When you have a long-term strategy, it can take a long time to reach it. You have to produce some early wins and things you can celebrate.”

Short-term wins should be visible. “If the goal is to increase the average ticket 30 cents and it has moved up a nickel after a month, that is visible and tangible,” Schulte said.

It is important not to let up af­ter some initial victories. “After you’ve started to see some successes or improvements, that is when you should try even harder,” Schulte said. “Pressing harder and faster after the first success is critical and you have to continue to be relent­less in initiating change.”



via Business Feeds

Attract New Customers to Boost Sales

In today’s market, truckstops and travel plazas are facing increased competition on several fronts. Restaurants and retailers are adding fuel as well and charging stations for electric vehicles, and convenience stores are rolling out amazing grab-and-go food programs. At the same time, improved fuel mileage on ve­hicles means customers don’t have to stop as often for fuel. In response, operators are stepping up their ef­forts to attract new customers while also increasing the conversion rate of fuel customers, getting them to come into the store.

ADDING OFFERINGS

Just over one year ago, Bobby Berkstresser, owner of White’s Travel Plaza, launched Destination Station at the location, which has brought in more customers. Destination Sta­tion features a Caribou Coffee, Sub­way and Popeye's Chicken as well as a made-in-Virginia store, pet wash, movie theater, barber shop and the country's first pharmacy at a travel center. The location also features live music once a month.

Since Destination Station opened, Berkstresser has seen Friday, Satur­day and Sunday become the busiest days of the week. “Traffic and sales are increasing every month,” he said.

More importantly, customers’ mentality is shifting, Berkstresser said. Instead of seeing the location as a place to stop and get fuel, people are truly seeing it as a destination.

“We have drivers who are planning their 30-hour break with us. They get a haircut, they watch TV, they go to the theater and watch mov­ies and they get their prescriptions here,” he said.

The number of drivers filling their prescriptions at the truckstop is in­creasing. Recently a professional driver came in on a Sunday in crisis because he had run out of medica­tion without realizing it. “The phar­macist emailed the doctor and got a prescription sent in and was able to get it filled. The driver couldn’t believe it. He said, ‘I just got my prescription filled at a truckstop,’” Berkstresser said.

Berkstresser said adding music per­formances, which feature local blue grass and country bands, has boosted sales as well. “The drivers like it but the local crowds love it. Our restau­rant business is incredible on the nights we have music,” he said.

The performances are also boost­ing the sense of community. After a performance one week, Berkstresser received an email from a customer saying it was one of the nicest com­munity get-togethers she could re­member. “She said, ‘I’m having a blast. I’m seeing people out that I haven’t seen in years.’”

Cindy Knight, human resources manager at Rochelle Travel Plaza, said adding events for the commu­nity has helped her attract locals and drivers alike. Petro Rochelle hosts an annual car show, which is help­ing bring in customers. “Because we’re located right off of Interstate 39, I get cars from all over the place, Knight said. “It is free and we do trophies for the top 10 cars. Hope­fully we can get people out here and get them in the building so they can see what we have,” she said.

STOCKING UNIQUE ITEMS

Knight is also focusing on add­ing items her customers can’t get any­where else. Dot’s Pretzels, which are made by a small company in North Dakota, are a popular item that brings in customers. “We’re the only ones in the state of Illinois who sell them. We have a rack of them and we have Face­book fans who will post if the rack was empty,” she said. “We’re trying to find those niche products people can’t get anywhere else to try and get the locals to come out.”

She has worked with a local ven­dor to carry Woody’s Caramel Corn, which is popular in the area. “There are certain stores around Northwest­ern Illinois that have it and we can tout that we are one of them,” she said.

Petro Rochelle has added Strom­boli—a type of turnover filled with cheeses, meats and vegetables—to its grab-and-go deli because it isn’t available anywhere else in town. “Usually you see the traditional piz­za ingredients, which we do, but we also do pulled pork, Italian sausages and peppers and chicken broccoli,” Knight said.

Knight said gaining local custom­ers is a priority. “You have the ups and the downs with the over-the-road traffic. If you can get the loy­alty of the local customers, that can prop you up through those ups and downs,” she said.

Jim Goetz, vice president of Goetz Co., which operates the Petro Travel Plaza in Portage, Wisconsin, has in­creased sales by focusing on locals as well as tourists heading to their cab­ins. The location added liquor and mixers. “Years ago we never would have thought of it,” Goetz said.

Petro Rochelle also reaches out to travelers. The location has added ser­vices and fuel specifically for RV traf­fic. “We carry a line of RV-specific items in the trucker store and we have the pull-through parking for them and a pump that is off to the side to make it easy for them,” Knight said.

Knight advertises the RV services at the five major campgrounds within an hour-and-a-half of the location. “I ad­vertise in the map that they give every camper. I highlight our full RV services so they can hit here on the way home or on their way next year,” she said.

WORKING WITH SCHOOLS

Supporting local schools and sports teams can also attract new cus­tomers. Knight said she offers free ice cream cones to teams, and Berkstresser has offered a portion of sales to local elementary schools.

“It is nice to do things for the com­munity and make a difference, and it might bring in people who wouldn’t come in. If they come in one time, they are more likely to come back,” Berkstresser said.

GET SOCIAL

To spread the word about its products and specials, Tristen Griffith, general manager at Sacra­mento 49er, said the location has turned to Instagram to connect with both existing and potential custom­ers. The store manager posts photos of the location as well as items that are on special.

Both Berkstresser and Knight use Facebook to attract customers. In addition to sharing on the loca­tion’s Facebook page, Knight shares on pages for local groups, posting information about jobs and local products the location has available.

OFFERING SAMPLES

To spur sales of existing prod­ucts within the store, some locations are offering samples of products. During the Great Ideas! Session at The NATSO Show 2016, one in­dependent operator told attendees that the location had boosted sales of peanut brittle by setting up a table to offer samples and then suggestive sell­ing the candy.

Dan Alsaker, president of Broad­way Flying J, said the location saw sales of Tropiceel muscle ointment increase when he offered samples to drivers with each shower.

Tropiceel provides unlimited sam­pling so its customers can provide samples of the muscle relief rub to drivers who have purchased a show­er. “It makes drivers feel special at that stop,” said Becky Jean Horrace, a spokeswoman for the company.

Horrace said the samples help boost sales of the products and spur word-of-mouth marketing among drivers. The company also provides sample packs to locations’ employees. “We want to build champions. Employees who have had a positive experience with our products and might be inclined to enthusiastically share the benefits they received,” said Patrick Jovin, director of marketing for Tropiceel.

ENGAGING EMPLOYEES

Employees play a crucial role in attracting and retaining custom­ers, Berkstresser said, adding that he is increasing wages and is hiring better and nicer employees all of the time. “A few years ago at The NATSO Show, a lady from JetBlue spoke and gave hints on the quality of help and past and future behavior and what you can expect,” Berkstresser said, referring to Ann Rhodes, JetBlue founding execu­tive and author of Built on Values: Creating an Enviable Culture that Outperforms the Competition.

Creating a customer-service focused culture is dependent on managers and the human resources department, Berkstresser said. “Once you start that culture, then those are the people that come and put in applications. We had a lady from the community come in last week. Her family had sold their bed and breakfast. She said she’d seen what we’d been doing and wanted to be a part of it,” he said. “When you start attracting those types of people and good people want to come to work for you, it has a trickle effect.”

CULTIVATING LOYALTY

Attracting customers is just part of the equation. Converting them to loyal repeat customers is the next step. Berkstresser said his offer­ings as well as employees are bringing customers back.

One of Berkstresser’s local, elderly customers moved all of her prescrip­tions to the location once the pharma­cy opened and came in daily for a meal or to purchase something. “Coming to the truckstop gave her a reason to get dressed each day,” Berkstresser said.

When the woman passed away re­cently, her husband brought Berk­stresser a gift and told him that the night before his wife died, she told him she was sorry she didn’t get to the truckstop one last time to say good­bye. “He said she loved getting out every day and saying hi to everyone. That isn’t a story that most people in the truckstop business would tell you,” Berkstresser said. “That ultimately is what you’re here for. What you can do for people and how you make them feel is why we’re in business.” 



via Business Feeds

CHANGES TO LABOR RULES WILL AFFECT NATSO MEMBERS

The National Labor Relations Board has revised the so-called “joint employer” standard significantly to expand the scope of determining “co-employment” under the National Labor Relations Act. Specifically, the NLRB decided that a company of an employee could be considered a “joint employer” if it possesses the right to control various terms and conditions of employment, regardless of whether that company actually exercises such control. Previously, employers had to actually exercise control to be considered a joint employer. This will have serious consequences with respect to unionization and employers’ oversight of their employees and contractors, particularly in the franchisor-franchisee environment. 

In addition, the Department of Labor has released “guidance” that has the effect of limiting employers’ ability to classify workers as “independent contractors” rather than employees. Both moves will have a direct affect on NATSO mem­bers as the franchisor-franchisee busi­ness model is ubiquitous throughout the truckstop and travel plaza industry and many NATSO members utilize in­dependent contractors.

THE JOINT EMPLOYER STANDARD

Broadening the joint employer stan­dard will expose more companies to legal liability for how their subcon­tractors, staffing agencies and fran­chisees treat their employees. The ruling also makes businesses more susceptible to workforce unionization and will have serious consequences related to employers’ oversight of their employees and contractors, particularly in the franchisor-franchi­see environment.

The new joint employer standard also means that more employers can be held liable for unfair labor practices.

Businesses should give greater scrutiny to the employment practices of subcon­tractors, franchisees and staffing agen­cies. NATSO members are advised to closely scrutinize existing relationships with contract workers, such as equip­ment inspectors, delivery personnel and maintenance staff, to determine whether there is a vulnerability to findings of joint employer status.

NATSO members that are franchisees are advised to contact their franchi­sor to discuss the new joint employer standard’s implications for their ar­rangements. NATSO members that are franchisors are advised to closely audit their franchise agreements to ensure they appropriately allocate de­cision-making authority in light of the evolving nature of the NLRB’s joint employment regime.

INDEPENDENT CONTRACTORS

The DOL’s guidance on independent contractors is a potentially critical development in labor law. The rules remain largely ambiguous, but the guidance delineates six factors that should be used to make independent contractor assessments:

They are:

  • Are the worker’s contributions an “integral part” of the employer’s business?
  • Is the worker’s opportunity for profit or loss based on or affected by the worker’s managerial skill?
  • How do the relative investments of the employer and the worker in the worker’s business compare?
  • Do the worker’s job duties require advanced skills?
  • What is the degree of permanency in the work relationship?
  • What is the nature and degree of control exercised and retained by the employer?

The DOL’s guidance indicates that the federal government is likely to increase its independent contractor enforce­ment efforts. It also means that plain­tiffs’ lawyers can be more aggressive in asserting claims against employers when purported independent contrac­tors suffer labor grievances. The status of a worker as an employee vs. an inde­pendent contractor can have implica­tions in a variety of areas, such as an employer’s obligations to pay overtime benefits, offer healthcare coverage un­der the Affordable Care Act and be li­able for workplace injuries.

As a best practice, NATSO members should audit their independent con­tractor relationships to ensure that they comport with the DOL’s guidance. 

GET THE FULL ANALYSIS

NATSO prepared a full analysis of the NLRB’s effort to revise the joint employer standard and the Department of Labor’s guidance on independent contractors, including more detail on the potential affect this could have on NATSO members.

The full document is available only to NATSO members at http:// http://ift.tt/2fzn0Gt articles/view/-joint-employer-standardunionization-summary-and-compliance-guide-for-truckstops-and-travel-plazas.



via Business Feeds

A Guide to Local Content Marketing for Small Businesses

Close to Home: A Guide to Local Content Marketing for Small Businesses

A significant portion of Google searches relate to a specific location. People search for things like “pizza New York City” or “spa Daytona Beach” millions of times per day. That’s because location is just as important for your website as it is for real estate. Tagging your content with relevant local information can draw in a sea of new visitors and keep your page relevant longer.

The Unique Situation of Being Local

Building an online presence for a local company can be a bit challenging. The strategies are different for content creation. Since being local ties your company to a specific market, you’ll often see a smaller selection of topics and options.

A website’s bounce rate is a measure of how many people viewed only one page without clicking another link. Some companies will naturally have higher bounce rates, like news stations. Others struggle to keep them as low as possible. The more your website demonstrates local personalization combined with beautiful design, the more likely you’ll get your ratings where they need to be.

The Steps to Crafting Unique, Local Content Marketing for Small Businesses

Tailoring your subject matter doesn’t have to be difficult. In fact, if you do some research ahead of time, you might find the entire process easier than you anticipated.

1. Identify the local audience. If you stay local, then you’re already narrowing the scope of your content and making it easier to find your audience. However, you should fine-tune it for consistency and relatability. Think about crafting buyer personas. These simple profiles offer imaginary people for whom to write. The result feels like very personalized content for anyone who meets the target audience requirements.

TOOLS: Try Facebook Audience Insights or Neilson Prizm to see specific information about your local demographics.

2. Examine the competition and your existing content. Another great way to find useful content types is to look at successful businesses. You can peruse their articles to see if any particular topics are popular. Likewise, you’ll get a good idea about what should be avoided to keep your audience happy.

Take the time to compare the content you already have. Look for things such as shares, comments and likes, which are easy indicators of the post’s exposure. If you seem to be doing better, great! If not, give your content another look. You also can take advantage of analytics to see which of your topics are performing the best.

TOOLS: For analytics, Buzzsumo and Google Analytics transform page views and interactions into usable information and statistics.

3. Redefine broad tactics to make them local. Just because you’re targeting a smaller audience doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of broad content strategies. In fact, adding a local twist to these proven methods is one of the easiest and most effective ways to create engaging local subject matter.

One simple way to accomplish this is by crafting unique headlines. Some formats are simply more successful than others and have proven themselves over and over. Use numbers or a “how-to” approach followed by a geographical keyword. For example, “7 Fun Things to Do During a Daytona Beach Vacation” or “5 Dates You Should Avoid Las Vegas.”

TOOLS: This style of heading is wildly popular among big-name entertainment sites like Buzzfeed and Upworthy. Looking to them for inspiration can be incredibly helpful.

4. Look to the past for inspiration. If you’re really running low on ideas, check out past infographics from the town in question. In many cases, you can find data that’s already been fully researched. All you need to do is make sure it’s up-to-date and expand into the story to craft something interesting.

TOOLS: A Google image search, of course, yields high-volume infographic results.

Once you figure out what works in your local area, it will be easier than ever to add your personal touch and creative spin to the information. Do your research when choosing topics and titles — and you’re bound to see interest from your local patrons.

Local Shop Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "A Guide to Local Content Marketing for Small Businesses" was first published on Small Business Trends



via Small Business Trends Business Feeds

A Guide to Local Content Marketing for Small Businesses

Close to Home: A Guide to Local Content Marketing for Small Businesses

A significant portion of Google searches relate to a specific location. People search for things like “pizza New York City” or “spa Daytona Beach” millions of times per day. That’s because location is just as important for your website as it is for real estate. Tagging your content with relevant local information can draw in a sea of new visitors and keep your page relevant longer.

The Unique Situation of Being Local

Building an online presence for a local company can be a bit challenging. The strategies are different for content creation. Since being local ties your company to a specific market, you’ll often see a smaller selection of topics and options.

A website’s bounce rate is a measure of how many people viewed only one page without clicking another link. Some companies will naturally have higher bounce rates, like news stations. Others struggle to keep them as low as possible. The more your website demonstrates local personalization combined with beautiful design, the more likely you’ll get your ratings where they need to be.

The Steps to Crafting Unique, Local Content Marketing for Small Businesses

Tailoring your subject matter doesn’t have to be difficult. In fact, if you do some research ahead of time, you might find the entire process easier than you anticipated.

1. Identify the local audience. If you stay local, then you’re already narrowing the scope of your content and making it easier to find your audience. However, you should fine-tune it for consistency and relatability. Think about crafting buyer personas. These simple profiles offer imaginary people for whom to write. The result feels like very personalized content for anyone who meets the target audience requirements.

TOOLS: Try Facebook Audience Insights or Neilson Prizm to see specific information about your local demographics.

2. Examine the competition and your existing content. Another great way to find useful content types is to look at successful businesses. You can peruse their articles to see if any particular topics are popular. Likewise, you’ll get a good idea about what should be avoided to keep your audience happy.

Take the time to compare the content you already have. Look for things such as shares, comments and likes, which are easy indicators of the post’s exposure. If you seem to be doing better, great! If not, give your content another look. You also can take advantage of analytics to see which of your topics are performing the best.

TOOLS: For analytics, Buzzsumo and Google Analytics transform page views and interactions into usable information and statistics.

3. Redefine broad tactics to make them local. Just because you’re targeting a smaller audience doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of broad content strategies. In fact, adding a local twist to these proven methods is one of the easiest and most effective ways to create engaging local subject matter.

One simple way to accomplish this is by crafting unique headlines. Some formats are simply more successful than others and have proven themselves over and over. Use numbers or a “how-to” approach followed by a geographical keyword. For example, “7 Fun Things to Do During a Daytona Beach Vacation” or “5 Dates You Should Avoid Las Vegas.”

TOOLS: This style of heading is wildly popular among big-name entertainment sites like Buzzfeed and Upworthy. Looking to them for inspiration can be incredibly helpful.

4. Look to the past for inspiration. If you’re really running low on ideas, check out past infographics from the town in question. In many cases, you can find data that’s already been fully researched. All you need to do is make sure it’s up-to-date and expand into the story to craft something interesting.

TOOLS: A Google image search, of course, yields high-volume infographic results.

Once you figure out what works in your local area, it will be easier than ever to add your personal touch and creative spin to the information. Do your research when choosing topics and titles — and you’re bound to see interest from your local patrons.

Local Shop Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "A Guide to Local Content Marketing for Small Businesses" was first published on Small Business Trends



RSS Business Feeds

How One Successful Digital Entrepreneur Stays Entertained by Her Business

de-sarah-morgan

Sarah Morgan may rub some people the wrong way with her dedication to naps, her casual approach to online interaction, and the occasional curse word in an email. But make no mistake: she’s serious, works hard, and has found a way to create a lucrative digital business that keeps her, above all, entertained.

In this 30-minute episode, Sarah and I discuss:

  • How she went from corporate job and circus performer to thriving digital entrepreneur
  • Why she won’t apologize for cursing, naps, or walking her dear old dog
  • The joy she felt in the moment when she realized she was making more as a digital entrepreneur than she had been at her corporate job
  • The work habits and discipline that help her get work done and keep moving forward
  • Her failed Photoshop course — and what she learned from the experience
  • Why hanging out in her communities (on her couch) fuels her why

And much more — including my rapid-fire questions at the end, in which Sarah shares how Simon Sinek, The Real Housewives, and the opera have influenced her career.

Listen to this Episode Now

The post How One Successful Digital Entrepreneur Stays Entertained by Her Business appeared first on Copyblogger.



RSS Business Feeds

Does Clothing at Work and Employee Productivity?

The clothing you wear at work may have an impact on your daily productivity levels. If you want to do well on the job, you have to plan your outfits out in a meticulous and careful manner. Failing to do so can often lead to results that are less than desirable.

Businessman wearing business suit

It doesn’t matter if you’re a fan of classic mens business suits or more casual and easygoing attire. You have to make sure to dress for success every morning.

Attire impacts productivity

Attire can often influence peoples’ alertness levels. Studies indicate that people may be more alert and vigilant when they’re dressed in less casual manners.…



RSS Business Feeds

How the Election is Impacting Halloween Spending (Watch)

People are spending more money on Halloween this year than they ever have before. And you might have Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump to thank for that.

Before this year, 2012 held the record for highest amount spent on Halloween. And there was even an uptick in 2008 even though the country was in the middle of a recession. So it stands to reason that people tend to spend a bit more on Halloween during election years.

That could be because of all those Trump and Clinton Masks you’ve likely seen around Halloween stores. But it could also be because people simply need a release from the stress caused by a long election season.

Whatever the reason, trends like this are important for companies to note. If you have a store that sells any Halloween supplies, you should be aware of people’s spending habits so that you can create messaging that’s most likely to get them to buy.

What You Can Learn From This Halloween Business Trend?

Halloween and the election might not seem like they have a lot in common on the surface. But tons of industries experience changes like this based on factors that aren’t directly related. So it’s important that businesses pay attention to trends in various areas to stay ahead in their market.

Image: Newsy

This article, "How the Election is Impacting Halloween Spending (Watch)" was first published on Small Business Trends



via Small Business Trends Business Feeds

How the Election is Impacting Halloween Spending (Watch)

People are spending more money on Halloween this year than they ever have before. And you might have Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump to thank for that.

Before this year, 2012 held the record for highest amount spent on Halloween. And there was even an uptick in 2008 even though the country was in the middle of a recession. So it stands to reason that people tend to spend a bit more on Halloween during election years.

That could be because of all those Trump and Clinton Masks you’ve likely seen around Halloween stores. But it could also be because people simply need a release from the stress caused by a long election season.

Whatever the reason, trends like this are important for companies to note. If you have a store that sells any Halloween supplies, you should be aware of people’s spending habits so that you can create messaging that’s most likely to get them to buy.

What You Can Learn From This Halloween Business Trend?

Halloween and the election might not seem like they have a lot in common on the surface. But tons of industries experience changes like this based on factors that aren’t directly related. So it’s important that businesses pay attention to trends in various areas to stay ahead in their market.

Image: Newsy

This article, "How the Election is Impacting Halloween Spending (Watch)" was first published on Small Business Trends



RSS Business Feeds

The Brilliant Strategy and Backstory Behind Zero to Book

sr-zero-to-book

Pamela Wilson just launched a book — Master Content Marketing — and a podcast played a key role in the project from idea inception to launch. She dishes on the details in this episode of The Showrunner.

In this lesson, Pamela describes how she:

  • “Showed her work” every step of the way with ZeroToBook.fm
  • Developed a community around the show, which informed the production of her book
  • Is considering using the audio asset once it’s complete

You’ll learn a lot from this episode, even if you’re not planning to write a book.

Listen, learn, enjoy …

Listen to this Episode Now

The post The Brilliant Strategy and Backstory Behind Zero to Book appeared first on Copyblogger.



RSS Business Feeds

How to Be a Great Community Leader, with Chris Lema

sp-chris-lema-5

This week we’re joined by Chris Lema. Chris is a Product Strategist, a people manager, a speaker, and a blogger. He also works with companies to help them build better software products, run better software development teams, improve their marketing messages, and bring their products to market.

In this episode Brian Gardner, Lauren Mancke, and Chris Lema discuss:

  • Aligning your work with your areas of expertise
  • Making a course correction in your career
  • Defining leadership by difficult decisions
  • Leveraging WordPress in your business
  • Leadership that requires a move beyond good
  • Taking the leap to achieving success
  • Being sold on yourself to become the leader you were meant to be
Listen to this Episode Now

The post How to Be a Great Community Leader, with Chris Lema appeared first on Copyblogger.



RSS Business Feeds

Airstory Gets Your Team Collaborating on Content — From Anywhere

Airstory Writing Software Gets Your Team Collaborating on Content -- From Anywhere

There are many small businesses that specialize in creating content for websites, and when Airstory becomes available by the end of the month, it could make it much easier to do so.

Airstory is a collaborative cloud-based content creation platform for planning, writing, editing and kicking ideas around with your team. It works no matter where they are or what device you are using.

The Airstory software brings all of the research, data points, images, graphs, notes and any other material into an outline or a doc with drag-and-drop functionality. This information can be accessed by anyone with a simple invitation to bring the entire team to collaborate on the current draft.

The software saves research as cards so they can be easily accessed by the team. Once the cards are saved in the Airstory library, they can be searched and amended as needed by adding new information.

As the team continues to research, Airstory lets everyone comment like they are chatting. The in-line commenting doesn’t require any additional functions. Start typing your comments, answer previous concerns and even add an emoji.

While the collaborative process is great, keeping it under control is important. User permission in Airstory lets you designate who can comment, and who has access when you are not working on a document.

When you are ready to write, outline your content by adding headings, subheads, bullets and more, and drag the notes to adjust your story. The importance of quality content can’t be understated, especially with the increasing capability of Google’s algorithm for detecting bad or clickbait content. As these algorithms get smarter, quality will be emphasized and it will place sites that have it on top of search queries.

So this is important for any business that stresses content creation — which is most companies these days! Airstory is scheduled for launch today and you can get an invite by visiting the site and signing up.

Image: Airstory.co

This article, "Airstory Gets Your Team Collaborating on Content — From Anywhere" was first published on Small Business Trends



via Small Business Trends Business Feeds

Airstory Gets Your Team Collaborating on Content — From Anywhere

Airstory Writing Software Gets Your Team Collaborating on Content -- From Anywhere

There are many small businesses that specialize in creating content for websites, and when Airstory becomes available by the end of the month, it could make it much easier to do so.

Airstory is a collaborative cloud-based content creation platform for planning, writing, editing and kicking ideas around with your team. It works no matter where they are or what device you are using.

The Airstory software brings all of the research, data points, images, graphs, notes and any other material into an outline or a doc with drag-and-drop functionality. This information can be accessed by anyone with a simple invitation to bring the entire team to collaborate on the current draft.

The software saves research as cards so they can be easily accessed by the team. Once the cards are saved in the Airstory library, they can be searched and amended as needed by adding new information.

As the team continues to research, Airstory lets everyone comment like they are chatting. The in-line commenting doesn’t require any additional functions. Start typing your comments, answer previous concerns and even add an emoji.

While the collaborative process is great, keeping it under control is important. User permission in Airstory lets you designate who can comment, and who has access when you are not working on a document.

When you are ready to write, outline your content by adding headings, subheads, bullets and more, and drag the notes to adjust your story. The importance of quality content can’t be understated, especially with the increasing capability of Google’s algorithm for detecting bad or clickbait content. As these algorithms get smarter, quality will be emphasized and it will place sites that have it on top of search queries.

So this is important for any business that stresses content creation — which is most companies these days! Airstory is scheduled for launch today and you can get an invite by visiting the site and signing up.

Image: Airstory.co

This article, "Airstory Gets Your Team Collaborating on Content — From Anywhere" was first published on Small Business Trends



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How to Enhance Your Membership Site With Live Events

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Live events are a great way to amplify your authority and enhance your membership site, if you know the right way to produce them.

Membership sites are about community — creating an online environment for those who share similar interests and passions.

But for all their strengths, there’s a layer of abstraction that lacks the personal and emotional engagement found when people are in physical proximity to each other.

Live events allow you to extend your authority within your community, while providing a unique platform to fundamentally help your members enrich their lives.

That is … if you know how to do live events right.

In this episode, Jessica Frick shares her knowledge and insight on creating live events for membership communities …

  • Why live events are extremely helpful in building your community
  • How to start small and build an event with momentum
  • Ways to finance your event without breaking the bank
  • The single most important ingredient to a successful event
Listen to this Episode Now

The post How to Enhance Your Membership Site With Live Events appeared first on Copyblogger.



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Social collaboration improves an organization’s ability to react quickly to new data and information

The social and collaborative tools built into Office 2016 and Windows 10 allow you to take your teamwork to the next level.

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An online immersion session is not your typical online event. Each 90-minute interactive session starts with an online roundtable discussing your business challenges and then launches you into a live environment in the cloud. A skilled facilitator will guide you through simulated business scenarios that are customized to your interests.

We will send you a link to connect your own device to a remote desktop loaded with our latest and greatest technology, so you can experience first-hand how Microsoft tools can solve your biggest challenges in a collaborative, fun environment.

Online immersion sessions help you discover how to:

  • Keep information secure while being productive—Make it easier to work securely and maintain compliance without inhibiting your workflow.
  • Capture, review and share notes from anywhere—Boost your team’s productivity by sharing documents and collaborating in real time.
  • Use social tools to find experts and answers—Break down barriers between departments to share knowledge quickly.
  • Quickly visualize and analyze complex data—Zero in on the data and insights you need without having to involve a BI expert.
  • Co-author and share content quickly—Access and edit documents even while others are editing and reviewing them—all at the same time.

Expect to leave the session with enough time-saving skills to more than offset your time investment within a few short days.

Each session is only open to 20 participants. Reserve your seat now and learn how you can be more productive anywhere, anytime with Office 365.

Sessions are held at 10 a.m. PT and 12 p.m. PT every Wednesday. Register now!

The post Social collaboration improves an organization’s ability to react quickly to new data and information appeared first on Office Blogs.



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What’s new in Office 365 administration—October update

The new admin center reached general availability one month ago. This was a big milestone in our mission to provide you with a first-class admin experience, with tools that enable you to efficiently manage all aspects of the service. We continue to evolve the admin center. This month, we focused on providing you with additional usage insights, including new usage reports, the preview of the Office 365 adoption content pack in Power BI and more role-based permissions through a new Power BI admin role.

Here’s a summary of the October updates:

New usage reports starting to roll out today

In March, we launched the new reporting dashboard in the Office 365 admin center that makes it easier for you to efficiently monitor your service, identify issues, plan training and report back on the investment to your management. Today, we are happy to announce four new usage reports for active users, Email clients, Skype for Business clients and Office 365 Groups, that provide you with additional insights about how users in your organization are using and adopting Office 365.

Here’s a look at each report:

  • Active Users report—Lets you see which of your users actively use one or more of the different Office 365 services. This report is especially helpful for admins to identify users for whom they might want to plan some additional training and communication. Often, after being assigned an Office 365 license, users need a helping hand to get started with the different services. They might not know how to activate the product or how the product can help them to be more productive.

The image below shows all users that are licensed for one or more products and the last date they used any of those products. By clicking the Column icon, admins can modify the table to see which license has been assigned to a user, as well as when the license was assigned to the user.

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  • Skype for Business clients used report—Shows the devices on which users have installed the Skype for Business app and whether they are using those apps for instant messaging or meetings. The report includes both Windows devices and mobile devices and makes it easy for you to see which device types are most commonly used by your users to connect to Skype for Business.

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  • Email clients used report—Provides information about which apps are used to connect to Exchange, including information about the specific Outlook version.
  • Office 365 Groups activity reportOffice 365 Groups is a service that provides a single identity for teams in Office 365 and equips them with a set of group collaboration assets, such as a shared calendar, notebook, project planning tool, as well as conversations powered by Outlook or Yammer. The Office 365 Groups activity report helps you understand how groups facilitate collaboration across your organization by surfacing information about which groups are active, how many members and guests they have, and how they are being used. The report is currently based on email activity and will be enhanced by other group activities in the future, including SharePoint Group Sites and Yammer Groups.

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Management enhancements—Power BI interactive reporting and Power BI admin role

To provide you with richer and more personalized usage insights, we’re combining the intelligence of the usage reports with the interactive reporting capabilities of Power BI. The new Office 365 adoption content pack lets you visualize and analyze Office 365 usage data, create custom reports to share the insights within your organization and pivot by attributes such as location and department. The adoption content pack will become available for all customers to opt-in in the coming months.

The new Power BI Service Administrator role can be assigned to users who should have access to the Power BI Admin Portal without also granting them other Office 365 administrative access. The Power BI Service Administrator role can currently be assigned through PowerShell and will come to the Office 365 admin center by the end of the year.

More to come

In the coming months, we will add more reports focused on Yammer Groups and clients used to access SharePoint, OneDrive for Business and Yammer.

We are also working on providing new public APIs that will enable you to programmatically access the usage data and integrate it into custom applications, like a company reporting portal.

The new service health dashboard—announced at Ignite—will start to roll out to First Release customers mid-November.

Let us know what you think!

Try the new features and provide feedback using the feedback link in the lower right corner of the admin center. And don’t be surprised if we respond to your feedback. We truly read every piece of feedback that we receive to make sure the Office 365 administration experience meets your needs.

—Anne Michels, @Anne_Michels, senior product marketing manager for the Office 365 Marketing team

Please note: the features mentioned in this blog post have started to roll out. If they are not available yet in your region, for your subscription, or for your organization, please check back in a few weeks!

The post What’s new in Office 365 administration—October update appeared first on Office Blogs.



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October Office 365 security and compliance update

Over the last month, the Office 365 team has continued to introduce new security features and capabilities.

Here is a roundup of some key security and compliance news from the last month:

Applying intelligence to security and compliance in Office 365—To stay ahead of the evolving threat landscape, companies need the ability to analyze and learn from that data to identify, intercept and respond to threats. Office 365 provides unmatched security intelligence to help customers protect, detect and respond to threats. Read about the new security and compliance capabilities of Office 365 that were announced at the Microsoft Ignite conference.

Security engineering evolution in Office 2016 for Mac—Security is a critical component in all our products at Microsoft. To help you get a better idea of how we build security into Office 2016 for Mac, the engineering team discusses how we think about it from a development and testing perspective, including the latest updates.

Get updates on Office 365 Security & Compliance Center—The Microsoft Office 365 Security & Compliance Center is the central place to view and manage your data. Find out how the experience is improved by centralized security controls, including the ability to view and manage security and compliance for your cloud services.

Accelerate your eDiscovery analysis workflow with one click—Does your legal department often complain about how long it takes to run an analysis for eDiscovery investigations? We released two new features for Office 365 Advanced eDiscovery—Express Analysis and Export with analytics to Excel—to make it easier and faster for organizations to quickly find, analyze and review relevant information related to investigations, legal matters and regulatory requests.

How can my organization achieve intelligent compliance with Office 365?—Organizations are facing significant data overload with the amount of electronic data not only exploding but also getting more complex. Office 365 will intelligently bring this information overload under control and support our customers’ ability to achieve organizational compliance. Check out this video to learn more.

The post October Office 365 security and compliance update appeared first on Office Blogs.



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