It is far better to foresee even without certainty than not to foresee at all.

Henri Poincare The Foundations of Science
Look to the Future Now so that in the Future you Succeed

Look to the Future Now so that in the Future you Succeed

Posted by martin.parnell |

It’s that time of year when many people are making predictions about the future and several business websites have made their own, with regards to what trends to look out for, in 2020. In a post for FORBES, one of their council members, Marc Emmer, President of Optimize Inc., talks about of Top 12 Business Trends For 2020, including: 

“Streaming Wars. 

What happens when four S&P 500 companies launch a product into a crowded sector at the same time? A streaming war. According to Bloomberg Businessweek, the average consumer will subscribe to three to five streaming services. From my perspective, this could be bad news for Netflix, which had the first-mover advantage but is now subject to new competition from Disney+, Apple, Amazon and others.

Tech under Attack

Once the darlings of Wall Street, tech stocks are under fire. In Europe, Facebook, Apple, Netflix and Google are under attack by EU regulators over privacy, and here, we're seeing some politicians propose antitrust action. In 2020, the California Consumer Privacy Act will come into play, which I believe could be a preview for what is to come at the federal level. Look for more breakup talk during the presidential election. 

AI Protects the Universe

Adversarial machine learning is being used to combat cybercrime. According to a Capgemeni Research Institute study, 61% of enterprises said they are unable to detect breaches without using AI. In 2020, AI’s most important application will be to protect us from hacks. Given its extremely high cost, I predict that AI as a service will emerge as a product used by smaller companies that can’t afford it.”

 Businesses’ Role in Social Change

Perhaps at no time in history have businesses been more in tune with their responsibility to protect the environment, ensure equality and advocate for social issues. While many start-ups and social enterprises have long sought out double and triple bottom-line results, there is a sea change underfoot where more traditional businesses are seeking out their purpose beyond making a profit.”

Now these, along with his other 8 predictions, Emmer sees as being of significance during the coming year and they certainly make interesting reading. 

However, if yours is a small business, you may ask how they will apply to you.

Therefore, you might want to consider what Kalin Kassabov,CEO of ProTexting.com, has to say, in the post entitled 5 Small Business Trends to Leverage in 2020, in the Inc. This Morning newsletter, published on 27th. December 2019. Kassabov makes the point that, although every small business may be unique, “If you have a small business, it's essential to keep up with the latest trends in technology, marketing, customer service and other areas that affect your business.” This will enable you to live up to customer expectations.

Kassabov reminds us that “A customer in 2020 is likely to be someone who uses mobile devices, orders many products online, is environmentally aware, enjoys social media and reads customer reviews before making decisions. If you want these customers to choose your business, you have to understand how they think.”

So, here are his list of trends that may affect your small business, in 2020:

1. Customers prefer businesses that are green and socially responsible.

Customers are increasingly looking to patronize businesses that follow sustainable, green and socially responsible practices. As Gallup reported earlier this year, younger customers of the millennial and Gen Z generations are especially concerned about such values.

Some of the ways you can demonstrate your commitment in these areas include:

  • Use local products as much as possible. For example, restaurants and food-based businesses can source foods from local farms.
  • Minimize packaging. Stores should encourage customers to use their own bags. Use recyclable materials for packaging.
  • Use green cleaning products.
  • Patronize green vendors and services.

2. Customer reviews will be more important than ever.

Online reviews are not a new trend, but they are becoming more crucial all the time. Customers trust reviews over ads or any other content businesses create themselves. It's absolutely essential to have your business listed on sites such as Google My Business, Yelp and others that are relevant to your business.

The best way to get positive reviews is to provide great products and customer service. Beyond that, it helps to nudge your customers and gently remind them to leave reviews -- whether you do this in person or via email or social media.

3. Traditional businesses are learning to leverage e-commerce.

When you think of e-commerce, you probably think of Amazon and other online retailers. The fact is, however, that many brick-and-mortar businesses are learning to profit from the e-commerce revolution. This can be a way to expand your business without the need for more physical space. Here are a few examples of how traditional businesses can expand online.

If you have a restaurant, you might bottle your signature salsa, curry sauce or salad dressing. You could write an e-book of recipes or the history of a certain type of food. Salons can sell beauty and haircare products. A gym might sell supplements and workout gear. 

If you don't create your own product, you could sell your favorite products as an affiliate. Affiliate marketing is an option for many businesses. No matter what type of business you have, you can either sell your own products or find products on Amazon (or another platform) to sell to your customers.

4. Businesses will use mobile marketing in several creative ways.

Mobile is one trend that will surely grow in 2020 and well into the future. Small businesses can take advantage of the popularity of mobile in a number of ways. For example:

  • Use geo-targeting to provide targeted ads to customers who are close to your business. 
  • Create an app for your business. You can then send out promotions and the latest news to everyone who has the app.
  • Leverage SMS or text message marketing to stay in touch with customers. With permission, you can send texts with your latest offers.
  • Accept mobile payments. Many customers appreciate the convenience of being able to pay via mobile using platforms such as Google Wallet, Apple Pay, Visa Checkout and others. 

5. Stories and livestream will dominate social media.

If you haven't been using Facebook or Instagram stories and livestream video, you're missing a couple of the major social media trends of the last few years. On sites such as Facebook, the main challenge is getting seen by your audience.

Rather than simply posting on your news feed, share stories on Facebook and Instagram. Livestreaming on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube is a powerful tactic for more visibility and engagement. When you post this type of ephemeral content, you can connect with your audience in a spontaneous and authentic manner.

You don't need to create long presentations. The best strategy is to check in frequently and provide the latest news so you consistently touch base with your customers.”

None of us can know, with certainty which particular trends will affect us, but it’s good to have some ideas to ponder over as we enter the next decade. I hope this blog has given you something to think about. As the old saying goes, “Forewarned is forearmed”.

Wishing you all continued success in the years ahead. 

About the Author

Martin Parnell is the Best-Selling author of MARATHON QUEST and RUNNING TO THE EDGE and his final book in the Marathon Trilogy, THE SECRET MARATHON-Empowering women and girls in Afghanistan through sport, was released on October 30th 2018. He speaks on having a “Finish the Race Attitude – Overcoming Obstacles to Achieve Your Full Potential” and has written for, or been covered by CNNBBCCBCThe Huffington Post, The Globe and Mail, The National Post, Runners World, Men’s Journal, Canadian Business, and Maclean’s.

In a five year period, from 2010 to 2014, Martin completed 10 extreme endurance “Quests” including running 250 marathons in one year and raising $1.3m for the humanitarian organization Right To Play. In 2016 he ran the Marathon of Afghanistan in support of Afghan women and girls running for equality and his film “The Secret Marathon” will be out in late 2019. Find out more about Martin at www.martinparnell.com  and see what he can do for you in the long run.

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Retire from work, but not from life.

M.K Soni My Gems
How to Embrace Retirement with a New Sense of Purpose

How to Embrace Retirement with a New Sense of Purpose

Posted by martin.parnell |

The New Year is a time to look to the future and many of us will be setting new goals, personally or professionally. We will look forward to the challenges they will bring, despite the trepidation we may feel. For others, it may be the year when they are looking to leave the workplace and face another kind of challenge, the one of being a retiree.

To call it a challenge, may seem like an odd turn of phrase.  To some, not having to go to work every day may have the appeal of an extended vacation, all the time in the world to do exactly as you please, not be accountable to anyone, not to have to face that daily commute.

Of course, that’s all true, but there are other aspects to retirement that should be planned for, if you want it to be beneficial to both your physical and mental well-being.

It may sound great to have all that time to do as you please and you may see it as gaining your freedom. But what about when the “holiday” feeling has passed and your days stretch before you, waiting to be filled?

What about the things you lose? You will no longer have a schedule, no colleagues to bounce ideas off, perhaps your social life is diminished or you have less money to do the things you’d like to do.

Preparing for retirement is not an easy thing to do. None of us knows how it’s going to affect us, but it is something we should all consider before that “last day” arrives.

One thing you can do is to carry on a practice you will have used in the workplace i.e. set yourself goals. This will entail using strategies such as scheduling, budgeting and time management.

Even if you have a partner, you can feel somewhat isolated, especially if they are still working or have pre-established routines, some of which may not include you.  Of course this is an opportunity to share activities, but your partner may feel this is something of an intrusion. These are things worth discussing.

If your partner is still working, his can be a bone of contention. They will still be carrying on as usual, whilst you now have your freedom from work. Be supportive, look for opportunities to help them in as many ways as you can. Are there chores you can take over? Can you help them with their work. If your partner is running a business offer to do some volunteering in that business to help out when the pressure’s on.

Speaking of volunteering. Look for ways to support your community. Volunteer for the local food bank, see if your local senior’s home could do with some help.

 I  heard a wonderful story, on CBC radio, just thetheir day, about Betty Wilson, who goes into Belvedere Park School, Calgary, every Thursday, to read with the children. Betty will be 101, next month.

Retirees can often experience a feeling of loneliness and isolation, which is not good for their mental health. Volunteering, or finding a part time job, has the added benefit of being connected to other people. 

Volunteering will provide sense of purpose a person can feel by committing to charitable causes. It’s not only going to boost your psychological well-being, but it could improve your cardiovascular health and lower the risk of hypertension, too.

Studies show that seniors who incorporate a low to medium level of volunteering in their life report more satisfaction with life and fewer symptoms of depression than those who didn’t volunteer.

There are also organisations, such as Rotary, that offer friendship, connections and the chance to get involved in projects that benefit your community.

If you have an existing hobby or find you now have the time to start one, why not look for local groups that focus on that activity. Join a class and try something new, most community libraries can tell you where to find out about these things and many will provide workshops, talks, book readings etc. and are sometimes free to attend, especially helpful if your budget is now somewhat limited.

It’s also important to keep active. Look at the opportunities around you. Explore your local area by taking walks; join your local sports center or YMCA. Dig out your swimming gear or invest in a pair of snowshoes. Look for activities that are free or inexpensive, so that you do them more regularly.

Retirement can be a challenge, if you’re not prepared. You may feel a loss of identity or self-worth. But, perhaps if you consider some of the things I’ve mentioned, it may not seem so daunting and will provide you with the opportunity to experience new thing, find a purpose and lead to many years, feeling fulfilled and happy in this new phase of your life.

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Give a girl the right shoes and she can conquer the world.

Marilyn Monroe
Running Shoes are like a Business - They have to be the Right Fit

Running Shoes are like a Business - They have to be the Right Fit

Posted by martin.parnell |

Being known as someone who does a lot of running, I am occasionally asked to review running shoes, before they hit the stores. Such was the case, last week. The editor of a Calgary-based fitness magazine sent me a pair of shoes, asked me to try them out and write a review. 

After I had given them a good workout and was making notes about what I would write about them, it struck me that the points I look at, when writing a review of running shoes, could also apply to what one might consider, when setting up a business: 

  1. Are they the right size?   - I am a size 11 neutral. 

Deciding on the size to which you wish to grow your business may seem a no brainer. Doesn’t everyone want their business to grow as large as possible? Isn’t that a sign of success? Well, that may certainly be your goal, but it’s not necessarily right for everyone. The size of your business could influence many things. Ask yourself: Do you want to have the responsibility of a large premises, bigger staff/ workforce. Do you want to have to deal with the demands of a great range of customers? Maybe you would prefer to have a smaller operation, work for yourself, work from home or not want to have to deal with a number of staff. 

  1. Are they comfortable?  - When I first hold the shoes, I feel inside for ridges or rough spots in the stitching. Then I put them on and see if they are wide enough in the toe box and make sure the laces are not rubbing. 

When you are setting up a business, you need to feel comfortable in what you are offering. Do you have the right skills to cover all aspects of the business? If not, do you have the right staff to provide those skills? Do you know enough about the way to run a successful business? Have you set achievable goals? Have you secured enough funding to see you through the initial set-up period? 

  1. Is there enough support?  - Once the shoes are on my feet, I look for a certain amount of cushioning in the shoe, they need to be not too sloppy, but not too tight. What I call the Cinderella effect! 

When establishing a business, it’s a good idea to put some support mechanisms in place. These can be in various forms. For example, look at businesses similar to yours. Are they flourishing or failing and why?  Do you have a good team to cover marketing and promotion, who can deal with social media? Do you have all the equipment you need and someone to service it, if it fails? Do you have someone to help with technology, keeping it relevant and of value? Is your website current and informative? There are numerous websites that give constructive advice on setting up a business. Also, look for local business groups and attend their meetings. 

  1. Are there hot spots? - When running in new shoes, I’m always aware of any hot spots that may occur, places on the shoes that cause irritation or discomfort. 

When starting a business, it’s not always easy to foresee problems, but it’s a good idea to consider what could go wrong. One idea to help you with this is to talk to people, let them share their experiences. Ask about issues that may have arisen when they first started in business. Do they have any advice to give? Be prepared. If I have an issues with the shoes, I either pause or deal with it (maybe my socks have wrinkled or a lace has come untied) or stop altogether (nobody wants a blister form new shoes!). I’m not suggesting you give up on your idea for a business, but you may want to rethink your approach and take more time before launching yourself in to the business world. 

  1. Do they feel right? - The shoes have not only to fit well, but they have to feel right. They have to give me confidence when I’m running, put a spring in my step, not feel like a dead weight, and be right for my running gait. 

When a client considers using your business, they may be looking for a range of requirements. You have to be able to reassure them that you are “the right fit” for them. If that’s not the case, be honest. Don’t make promises you can’t keep, as that will be your downfall. Have confidence in what you have to offer. Be well prepared to deal with their enquiries. If you don’t know the answer to something, make sure you find out and get back to them straight away. Make them fully aware that you are prepared to work hard for them and have a professional approach. 

All of the above apply, not only when I’m reviewing a new make of running shoe, but also if I’m in a store buying a pair. At these times, there are two other aspects I consider. 

Price – For me, the comfort and support I get from a pair of running shoes is of utmost importance, but I also have to consider value for money. There are some pretty pricey shoes out there, but they’re not necessarily the ones for me. 

Don’t overprice the product or service you have to offer. Be prepared to be flexible if a client has budget restrictions, maybe you could offer them a repayment option or offer a consultation rather than the whole service. At the same time, don’t sell yourself short. If you value your worth, others will, too. 

Looks – What the shoes look like isn’t of great importance to me, but there’s no doubt that, when I initially approach those rows of shoes, in the sports shop, some have greater appeal than others.

Obviously you want to make your business appeal to new clients. Make sure your product or service is packaged in a way that makes it stand out. This is where social media and your website can boost your business. Ask satisfied customers to post a review. Keep current and use tools to advertise your business that provide clear, precise information on what you have to offer. 

Whether I’m out for a 10km training run or racing in the Boston Marathon, the shoes have to be right. 

It’s not the size of your business that matters, so long as it’s the right fit for the clients you wish to attract and the level of growth and success you wish to achieve.

About the Author

Martin Parnell is the Best-Selling author of MARATHON QUEST and RUNNING TO THE EDGE and his final book in the Marathon Trilogy, THE SECRET MARATHON-Empowering women and girls in Afghanistan through sport, was released on October 30th 2018. He speaks on having a “Finish the Race Attitude – Overcoming Obstacles to Achieve Your Full Potential” and has written for, or been covered by CNNBBCCBCThe Huffington Post, The Globe and Mail, The National Post, Runners World, Men’s Journal, Canadian Business, and Maclean’s.

In a five year period, from 2010 to 2014, Martin completed 10 extreme endurance “Quests” including running 250 marathons in one year and raising $1.3m for the humanitarian organization Right To Play. In 2016 he ran the Marathon of Afghanistan in support of Afghan women and girls running for equality and his film “The Secret Marathon” will be out in late 2019. Find out more about Martin at www.martinparnell.com  and see what he can do for you in the long run.

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Health is not valued ‘til sickness comes.

Thomas Fuller - English churchman and historian.
How to Deal with Sickness in the Workplace

How to Deal with Sickness in the Workplace

Posted by martin.parnell |

Recent news headlines are focussing on the corona virus, which originated in the Wuhan China. At the time of writing, 132 people are dead and more than 6,152 cases have been confirmed in mainland China and there are more than 90 confirmed cases in 19 places outside of mainland China. The World Health Organisation is monitoring the spread and we all hope that a cure can be found and, with proper action, its spread can be contained. 

In Canada, this time of year is called “flu season.” Influenza activity often begins to increase in October and November. Most of the time flu activity peaks between December and February, and it can last as late as May. 

Now, the prospect you, or one of your workforce, being infected with the corona virus is probably pretty remote. On the other hand, many people may be susceptible to contracting flu and should take time, at home, to recover, in order to prevent the risk of contaminating colleagues. 

Unfortunately, most of us will get sick, at some time or another, whether it be due to the flu, a common cold, something more serious or we may need to take time off due to an injury. Most companies will have a sick leave policy, so that employees know what procedures to enact when they need to take sick leave. Employers should be supportive and enquire as to any support they may be able to give to a sick employee. 

So, how do you deal with the issues of sickness in the workplace? 

It’s a tricky subject, but I found a post by Gabrielle Lis, on the Return To Work Matters website entitled Top ten ways to reduce sick leave, she includes advice and provides some food for thought. Her “top ten” are as follows:

Have clear policies and procedures regarding work absence. Employees should know who to contact, how contact should be made (for example, whether text messaging, emailing or calling is appropriate) and when notification of absence must be made (for example, by 930am on the day of absence). There should also be clarity regarding requirements for medical certificates and methods for dealing with habitual absenteeism. Fairness and consistency are important. If you want people to respect the system, it has to be worthy of their respect.

Offer tangible support to those with an injury or illnessthat requires more than a day or two off work. Send a card from the whole team. Make a phone call and ask if there’s anything the organisation can do to help. Let the person know that they’re missed and appreciated. Most people feel vulnerable when they’re sick or sore and a kind word can do a world of good. Pragmatically, it is also likely to increase the person’s desire to return to work.

Switch on supervisors and managers to the most effective ways of managing and reducing sick leave. Help them understand that focusing on LTIs (lost time injury) alone will not achieve the results they want. Supervisors and managers who extend empathy, support and trust to workers tend to see better outcomes than those focused on meeting their KPIs (key performance indicators) at all costs. 

Make allowance for non-medical leave and flexible working arrangements, to enable people to balance their personal life and work without resorting to “sickies”. For example, studies have shown that sick leave rises during school holidays, when parental responsibilities compete with work responsibilities. Where appropriate, allowing parents to work from home as required during these periods can assist them to keep an eye on their kids while also ensuring the job gets done.

Have a positive working environment. People are much more likely to take a “mental health day” if they dread going to work. Happy workplaces are ones in which employees are listened to, workloads are achievable and fair, and social support is encouraged. When the workplace is a happy place, workers will want to be in it!

Address any concerns regarding job security. Workers who feel that their job is not secure tend to take more sick days than those who believe themselves to be in stable employment. Dealing with issues around job security in an honest and supportive way is the best option if their concerns are justified. If not, make sure they know it. A sense of security reduces sick leave.

Don’t let conflict fester in the workplace. Workplace conflict, including personality clashes, bullying and conflict between supervisors / managers and workers can be harmful if it is not dealt with quickly and effectively. Not only can festering conflict lead to short term absences. It can also contribute to stress claims and other psychological injuries, which tend to be complex, long-term and expensive. Actively manage conflict, and offer mediation where appropriate.

Acknowledge good work with verbal praise and / or financial rewards. No one likes to feel unappreciated. When people perform well, let them know. A person who feels engaged with their work, a person who knows them self to be valued, is less likely to take time off unless they really need it. 

Be accommodating. Sick leave karma can work for you or against you. On one hand, making modified duties available to someone temporarily unable to perform their regular duties reduces their need to take time off work. On the other hand, making a fuss about allowing someone two hours away from their desk to attend a psychologist’s appointment increases the chance that they’ll take the day off work next time rather than broach the subject again. When it comes to sick leave, you get what you give.

Don’t let breaches of your policies and procedures slide. People also need to understand that there are consequences associated with taking advantage of the system. Habitual absenteeism and other breaches should be dealt with swiftly, predictably and fairly. “

So, the most important action to take would be to have a policy in place so that all employees are aware of your company regulations with regard to sick leave and to ensure that every employee is made aware of its contents.

It’s also important to remember that, although you don’t want employees calling in sick when they are not, you don’t want them coming into work if they are genuinely ill.

Chris Fields,  an HR professional, with more than 13 years of experience as a former practitioner and current HR consultant, who has been listed by the Huffington Post as one of the “Top 100 Most Social Human Resources Experts to Follow on Twitter”,  addresses this in his article Sick but still at work? – The real cost of “Presenteesism”, on the eSkill website, March 2014. 

He writes that “Presenteeism” is when sick employees come to work: the act of being present when you probably shouldn’t be. He states that “Presenteeism may not be as honorable as you think—it has its costs.”

He goes on to write: If you search the Internet for “sick at work” or “presenteeism” you will find several articles saying that as many as 90% of employees go to work that they are sick or even contagious. Employees who are present while sick risk infecting other employees and their families, which only continues the cycle of illness and lost production. In short, presenteeism ends up costing the company more money in lost productivity than absenteeism.

So why does this really happen?

There is plenty of research reflecting the fact that sick employees cost millions in lost productivity annually. Absenteeism is such a concern that many employers do not offer leave-of-absence or time-off benefits, which means that if an employee does not show up for work, he or she will not be compensated and/or could be reprimanded. Financial statistics claim that most workers only have enough in savings to last one month. So missing work is not an option without paid leave. Other companies offer paid time off, yet their employees feel the need to show up when they’re sick anyway. All of these factors lead to presenteeism.

Articles like "Why Your Sick Co-worker Insists on Coming to Work" on CBS News suggest that the reason is two-fold. On the one hand, companies do not offer paid time off to cover illness or the amount offered does not cover the amount of time needed to recover, so employees come to work when they’re sick. The second point the article makes is that many sick employees practice presenteeism because they have deadlines that no one else in the company can handle.”

In conclusion, he suggests “Companies need to do a better job of educating their employees about the cost of presenteeism, and letting them know that it’s best to take the time they need to get better, rather than come to work and risk the health of their fellow co-workers. Ideally your employees should be able to take time off without fear of losing their job, being excluded from major projects, disciplinary action, or losing out on pay.”

Inevitably, employees will get sick or injured, from time to time, but one thing businesses can do is to promote a healthy lifestyle and mental well-being. Also, be prepared. Just because one employee is off sick, you should have ways to deal with their workload, in their absence. For further information see my blog “Flu Season – How to Sub for an Absent Employee” posted October 2016.

About the Author

Martin Parnell is the Best-Selling author of MARATHON QUEST and RUNNING TO THE EDGE and his final book in the Marathon Trilogy, THE SECRET MARATHON-Empowering women and girls in Afghanistan through sport, was released on October 30th 2018. He speaks on having a “Finish the Race Attitude – Overcoming Obstacles to Achieve Your Full Potential” and has written for, or been covered by CNNBBCCBCThe Huffington Post, The Globe and Mail, The National Post, Runners World, Men’s Journal, Canadian Business, and Maclean’s.

In a five year period, from 2010 to 2014, Martin completed 10 extreme endurance “Quests” including running 250 marathons in one year and raising $1.3m for the humanitarian organization Right To Play. In 2016 he ran the Marathon of Afghanistan in support of Afghan women and girls running for equality and his film “The Secret Marathon” will be out in late 2019. Find out more about Martin at www.martinparnell.com  and see what he can do for you in the long run.

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