Thursday, July 24, 2014

Protecting Your Online Reputation

Rapidly developing tech trends have made it increasingly more important for business owners to maintain a presence online. From engaging with customers on Facebook to rewarding your most loyal patrons with specials on Foursquare; your online reputation can often make or break your business. Engaging with customers online requires the same calculated planning execution as every other part of managing your business. Corporations often hire communications firms often look at case studies and develop strategies for crisis management, but it can be somewhat expensive and is often not an option for small business. 

 Here are some tips for managing the online presence for your small business:

  1. Planning- It is very important to have very clear goals for engagement with your customers.  Look over your mission statement and make sure all media messages fall in line with it. Remember to always have the customer in mind when present on any social media outlet!
  2. Use listening tools- Most major social media outlets have made it very easy to monitor what your customers are saying online. This is a critical part of protecting your online reputation because it gives you the opportunity to address comments and concerns before they are no longer relevant. It can also helps you identify the most valuable parts of your brand for each potential customer. If you are opening a bakery in a new neighborhood, it might be beneficial to know that the local food blogger is gluten-free before you send her a dozen of your new triple chocolate cupcakes.
  3. Engage with all feedback (even the negative stuff)- taking control of your online reputation means highlighting the positive comments and reviews, and taking responsibility for every negative experience a customer may have with your business. This can be a daunting task, but there are ways to make resolving these kinds of issues without it being a major blow to your reputation. Working ahead of time to have a few prepared responses can be a tremendous help to engaging with customers in a timely manner.
What suggestions do you have to protect your small business online?

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Benefits of Crowdsourcing to Help Build Your Brand

What is Crowdsourcing?

Crowdsourcing is the use of social media outlets to identify what channels are best to target your content. If your business finds itself having to tighten its belt when it comes to spending, crowdsourcing can be a great tool. Here are a few benefits of using crowdsourcing to create content for your business:

1. Speeds up the process of content creation- Writing all the content for a business can be exhausting, inviting consumers the chance to do it every once in a while gives you free time to do other things.

2. Gets your customers and potential customers involved- Social media outlets are thriving because people are always willing to give their opinion. Let your consumers do some of the sales work for you by offering reviews of your product or service. Be sure to use a social media monitoring tool to help filter out spam!

3. Helps you narrow down your target demographic, and gets them involved- Giving potential customers the opportunity to voice their opinion gives them fifteen minutes of fame, and gives you the leverage of a newly invested customer. 

4. Helps shine light on a target audience you haven’t considered- Crowdsourcing gives you the opportunity to explore multiple target audiences without much consequence. The feedback is almost instantaneous and it might give you ideas about approaching markets you haven’t thought about!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Body Language in Business

Proper nonverbal communication is just as important as verbal etiquette when it comes to business. Your body language determines how people perceive you, and learning to fine tune these skills communicate confidence and honestly. Your nonverbal communication can determine how well you develop relationships and have an influence on your success. Here are the three body language traits that you should be aware of:

Posture- The way you stand has a direct affect on how your feel. Standing tall with your neck elongated and shoulders back helps to make you feel more confident.This stance also gives an outward appearance of strength and poise and can help set you apart from fellow employees. 

Eye Contact- Avoiding eye contact sends a message of presence and authority and in some cultures it can be perceived as disrespectful. Remember to keep your gaze when making presentations or speaking with your peers, as lack of confidence can communicate deception and looking down might suggest insecurity. During presentations, it might be easier to imagine the room in thirds. Devote an equal amount of time to each part and make eye contact with at least one person on each side.

Hand movements- Fidgeting with your hands or cell phone often communicates vulnerability. Keeping hands still and only making small gestures (when appropriate) sends a message of authority to your peers. It is important to keep these gestures below your shoulders.

What body language practices help you feel the most confident? Comment below!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Boosting your Productivity with iCloud

If you are one of the 85 million people in the US who owns an iPhone, then you know that iCloud is great for syncing between devices and storing backups of records kept on your device. If your office uses apple products for business, the cloud can do much more than hang on to that important presentation. Check out these ways the cloud can make your office more productive:

1. Share documents and files across Macs with iClouDrive
Apple has made it even more simple for you to get share files with its free iClouDrive app. This application makes it easy by creating a folder that syncs with the iCloud in your office. It then makes a copy of this folder on your desktop and continuously pushes information to that folder. As long as you are signed into the iCloud account, the data shows up in both places.

2. Integrate with compatible iOS and Mac apps
It can be somewhat time consuming to try and access information from a work desktop when you're on the go. Some applications solve this problem by allowing you to store your projects on the cloud to make it accessible from multiple devices. In some applications you can even stop working a specific spot and move to a different device and it will pick up right where you left off!

3. Collaborate using iWork and iCloud 
iWork for iCloud makes it possible to collaborate on a project by allowing its users to create, edit and save updates by simply logging in to their iCloud accounts. Apple is now offering their iWork suite for free, making it even easier to collaborate with multiple employees or at multiple locations.

Do you use iCloud for your office? Leave your tips in the comments section!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Guest Blog: 5 Simple Steps to Saving Money and Getting Financially Healthy

We all want financial health but achieving it can sometimes be daunting to get started. But, pushing yourself to move forward with a plan can pay off big. There are many things you can do, but keeping it simple can help jump start the process and give you some definite objectives that are both reachable and easy to put in motion. Because financial health has such a positive impact on our daily lives taking the steps towards your goals should be a very important priority. 

To help, here are five easy steps to get you going: 

Begin with a Budget
Budgets get you thinking about your money and help you take control of spending. First, identify how you’re spending your money now. You might be surprised to see that morning cup of coffee is costing you over a $1,000 a year when it would cost pennies to make it at home. Second, decide what you could live just fine without, and what is necessary like your mortgage payment and groceries. Use available websites or apps to help. Set a goal to spend no more than 80-90% of your total income with 10-20% left to save. 

Pay Off Credit-Card Debts
Tackling your credit-card bills can be daunting, but it’s necessary for financial health. Begin by making a list of your credit cards as an extension of your budgeting process above. Then, set a plan to pay off the one with the highest interest rate first, regardless of the amount owed on the card. Once done, move onto the second card and so on, but continue making at least the minimum payment on the other cards as well. If you are able, try to transfer balances from high interest rate cards to lower rated ones.

You should also be checking your credit report at least once a year and checking for any inaccuracies, identity theft, etc. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you are entitled to a free credit report every year at If there are inaccurate items on your credit report, you can use our Free Credit Report Dispute Kit to make sure you get them items corrected and protect your rights.

Build Your Emergency Savings Fund
Because you never know what the future holds, it is important to build a financial cushion or emergency savings fund in cased you lose your income or have an unforeseen expenditure. Credit cards should not be the fall-back since using them for life expenses can end up costing you much more in the long run. Begin by saving 5 – 10% of your income until you have at least 3 – 6 months’ worth of basic living expenses set aside. A low impact way to get there is by saving a tax refund, a bonus, or the difference in income from a recent raise.

Target Your Savings 
A great way to help you save is to take the thinking about it out of it. Have a portion of your paycheck direct deposited into your savings account each pay period. You are less likely to spend it if you never see it in your regular account. Instead of having your entire paycheck deposited to your checking account, have 5-10% put directly into your savings account.

Save for Retirement
It is never too early to start saving for retirement and permanent financial health. If you have access to a 401K plan with a company match, it’s an easy choice to participate and make sure you are getting the full benefit. Start by setting aside 3% of your salary to the 401K. This deduction is pre-tax so you will hardly notice, plus, it will reduce the amount of taxable income you are bringing home. Increase your savings by just one percentage point a year until you get to 10% and you’ll hardly feel a pinch. It’s also good to start saving your emergency fund before your retirement fund because if you get stuck and need to use some of the money, you will be taxed on the withdrawals and may even be hit with penalties. If you’re self-employed or your company does not provide retirement benefits, opt for an individual retirement account (IRA). For specific advise on your particular financial situation, you should consult with a reputable financial planning professional to help you make the most of your money.

Start moving towards financial health using these steps and an overall savings plan that works for you. As with any positive step forward, soon you will begin to feel the benefits and greater peace of mind. 

Culik Law is a Massachusetts Attorney / Law Firm. The post is not intended as legal advice.

Culik Law is a BBB Accredited Business located in Woburn, MA. They have been Accredited since 2010.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Guest Blog: Can A Creditor Take My Social Security Benefits?

If you receive Social Security Benefits, in almost all instances creditors are not allowed to take these funds to pay a past-due debt. Under federal law, Social Security benefits may only be garnished in order to collect debts owed to the federal government (like taxes or student loans) or past due alimony/child support. No other creditors can force you to pay them directly from your benefits.

The protected status of Social Security benefits also extends to your bank account, but you must be able to prove that they money in your account came from Social Security. This is referred to as “tracing.” If you can “trace” your money back to your Social Security benefits, then those funds are also exempt from collection.

The intent of these federal rights is to protect elderly individuals from overzealous creditors. Actively defending collection lawsuits in state court is often the best way to assert these rights. 

However, debt collectors are aware of these rights, and their business models often seem to rely on default judgments. Because they cannot collect from your Social Security benefits directly, they often convince people establish monthly payment plans with them. These payment plans often allow creditors to receive more than they would otherwise be allowed to collect under law.

Even if you are fully judgment-proof, a bankruptcy filing may be also desired in order to ensure a stop to all collection calls, letters, lawsuits, etc.

In bankruptcy, the protected status of your Social Security benefits remains intact. Income from Social Security is not counted for purposes of determining Chapter 7 eligibility. Similarly, in a Chapter 13 context, Social Security benefits need not be counted in the calculation of your monthly plan payment. And courts have made clear that the exercise of these federal rights does not create any good faith issues.

If you receive Social Security and have debt collectors contacting you for payment, please contact us today for a free consultation. You may be able to fully protect your income. 

Culik Law is a Massachusetts Attorney / Law Firm. The post is not intended as legal advice.

Culik Law is a BBB Accredited Business located in Woburn, MA. They have been Accredited since 2010.