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The Gay Veteran Entrepreneur Behind LinkedIn’s Largest LGBT Professional Group

By Andy Smith – Updated May 14, 2019, for current accuracy by Dennis Velco.

First appearing on Edge Media Network

Since 2008, Dennis Velco founded and has nurtured  LinkedIn’s largest LGBTQ networking group from a concept to an international networking resource with over 46,000 global members – that grows daily.  Velco is a social entrepreneur with a passion for the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer community. OutBuro on LinkedIn 46000 global members- Largest LGBT Professional Entrepreneur Networking Community Group Gay Lesbian Bisexual Queer Transgender Network

It was the driving force for Velco to launch the LGBT media crowd-sourced corporate social justice tech startup OutBüro.  Additionally, OutBüro is a growing site of LGBT related business news, information, resources, and stories of careers and business owners.

Velco continues to moderate and grow the LinkedIn group yet now branded as and supported as a service of OutBüro.

For Dennis, creating, cultivating and growing the OutBüro on LinkedIn group has been a persistent and passionate endeavor.

OutBüro on LinkedIn welcomes gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender (GLBT), queer, intersex and questioning professionals and entrepreneurs, along with friends, allies, recruiters and diversity professionals seeking to connect, network and communicate to advance their careers.

A Persistent Pioneer – How it began

“I’ve been on LinkedIn since way before people knew what it was, when I was living in New York City 16 years ago,” says Velco, now based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. “Back then it wasn’t as prominent as it is today. I put it on the backburner for a couple of years. As more clients began to mention it in casual conversation in late in 2007, I got more involved and did what most people do-I filled it out like a resume and began to prospect on it.”

As he became more involved, Velco began noticing other features of the networking service, especially the preponderance of collegiate alumni association groups listed on people’s profiles.

“I scoured LinkedIn searching for an LGBT Group and looking up very prominent LGBT community members to see if their profiles had any LGBT group listed. I found nothing,” he says. After several patient inquiries and a few months of back and forth, it turned out the site wasn’t hosting an LGBTQ networking group.

Velco contacted LinkedIn providing a strong case for an LGBT group on the site. Eventually, LinkedIn gave the green light, and Velco agreed to be the group’s owner and moderator voluntarily donating his time and resources.

He approached the project with fervor and a sense of mission. “I felt and continue to feel it is vital to have a strong open and out LGBT presence on the world’s largest professional networking site,” he says. “People are much more likely to be out on Facebook yet still hesitant to be out on LinkedIn.” At Velco’s request, all groups on LinkedIn offer the option to hide a group’s membership on public profiles.

Adding Members & Content 

Once LinkedIn signed off, Velco jumped in with both feet, embracing the project, donating hours of time each day – including weekends – to building the group, taking a labor-intensive, trial-and-error approach.

“I would search LinkedIn and find profiles of people that had ‘LGBT, GLBT, Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Queer and so forth’ in their listing and send them invitations to join the group. I’d have to be careful to weed out people who have ‘Gay’ in their names,” he says. “I then would send each person a personalized invitation to join the group.”

Building and maintaining this group has been a labor of love. “My past life partner thought I was crazy in the beginning of building it due to the amount of time and personal money I was investing in the group. The first several years I would spend anywhere from two to six hours a day combing the Internet for pertinent content to post,” Velco recalls.

“March 2018 will mark ten years that I’ve done this voluntarily,” he says.

In addition to writing pieces for the group, Velco searched international news sites to curate LGBTQ-focused, business-oriented pieces. “I would strive to stay non-political and avoid content that would alienate members,” he says. “I’d try to get global content because I didn’t want it to just be an echo chamber of U.S. and Canadian content. I can’t wait until LinkedIn gets automatic translations because I would like all members to be able to contribute, view and participate in their native language. I believe that being an English only site is a deterrent to many. Having such a feature I believe would increase member active participation.”

Nixing NSFW Content

Despite what a handful of aspiring members might think, LinkedIn is not an adjunct to Grindr or a Circuit Party Facebook page. Deflecting accusations of being sex-negative, Velco has spent a fair amount of time screening out applicants who submit genital images as their profile photos. As a business-oriented (rather than social) site, even shirtless pictures are typically verboten.

“Policing the group is important because while Facebook is typically banned at most businesses via the company internet, LinkedIn is not,” he emphasizes.  I want OutBüro main site and our channels such as OutBüro on LinkedIn to remain Fortune 1000 level office friendly.

“I hold to LinkedIn’s terms of service. I’ve had to moderate and get involved with spats and even had a stalker who ended up banned from LinkedIn for life. I’ve had blatant anti-LGBT content in profiles. Every single person’s profile in the group must be reviewed by me to a degree.”

Worthy Endeavors 

Today he’s exploring his new home town of Wilton Manors and the Fort Lauderdale, Florida area.

The group has from high school students through White House staff of both the Obama and Trump administration and every role in between. “Knowing that people at that level value the group enough to have an open LGBT or they are friendly representatives present makes me feel great.  My effort to date has been well spent.”

Nevertheless, Dennis and his passionate quest continue with OutBüro being part of the evolution.  He states, “I feel good because OutBüro is about helping people and companies/organization be better and make good decisions be being a resource and a tool of communication, growth, and change.”

Directly connect with Dennis Velco on LinkedIn.  Use the contact form to send a message or request a 30-minute phone or skype introduction call with him.

Join the LinkedIn LGBT group here.

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LGBT Entrepreneurs Lead with Content – Contribute Articles to OutBüro

Content is King – Leverage OutBüro’s LGBT entrepreneur, business and professional community to get your message out there.

As an OutBüro Premium Member, you have the ability to microblog directly from your community profile.  This is sometimes called Guest Blogging and the benefits to you and/or your company may include:

  1. Gaining blogging experience
  2. Improving your SEO of your primary website as you backlink to it in your articles on OutBüro’ LGBT Entrepreneur and Professional Community
  3. Establishing and increasing your business/industry authority
  4. Developing relationships as you connect and interact with other LGBT business owners and professionals
  5. Allowing the opportunity to share perspective
  6. Improving blog writing skills
  7. Learning online rules and practices through feedback and participating with other LGBT bloggers
  8. Reaching a new or expanded audience
  9. Increasing industry or brand building awareness of self or your company and it’s products or services

If you’re passionate about what you’re doing, business will be much more fun. Connect with other LGBT entrepreneurs, startups, business leaders and professionals here on OutBüro – the LGBT business, entrepreneur, and professional global community.

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Accessing Your OutBüro Articles via your Profile

From your OutBüro Premium member profile, choose “Articles“.

If you don’t see the Article option select the “…” and then “Articles”.  Note that if you have a Free membership account the Articles option will not be visible.

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On your profile’s Articles tab you’ll see past articles submitted.  These will either be Published or in Draft mode.  You may edit and delete your articles at any time.  Here you’ll also see the “New Article link.

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Start a New Article

From the Articles tab, choose “New Article”.

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From this simple article submission form provide a title, the article text, choose your category and tags.  Be sure to upload a featured image that is at least 1800 pixels in width that you have the rights to provide.

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Save button – Saves the article as a Draft.

Save and publish button – Saves and immediately publishes your article to the site.

You may view all articles you’ve saved, published and draft as well as delete articles as noted above.

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How LGBT Entrepreneurs Use OutBüro to Increase Online Trust Authority and Page Ranking

Have you searched for your business on Google, Bing or Yahoo and wonder how your competitors are ranking higher than your business?  There are many factors that come into play such as:

Get Focused to Improve Your LGBT Business Search Rankings

Today LGBT Entrepreneurs must focus on gaining high-quality backlinks surrounded by topically focused keywords from domain authority sites.  OutBüro is laser-focused on being a niche domain authority for LGBT business owners and professionals in it’s growing community.

Marketing today is part science and part art.  For the LGBT entrepreneur and businesses desiring to target the GBLT community OutBüro provides an opportunity to focus on results.  Your results will improve the more you leverage the many features and benefits it currently provides and as new features roll out.

If you’re passionate about what you’re doing, business will be much more fun. Connect with other LGBT entrepreneurs, startups, business leaders and professionals here on OutBüro – the LGBT business, entrepreneur, and professional global community.

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Building LGBT Business Online Trust Authority

OutBuro - LGBT Entrepreneur Business Online Trust Authority Page Ranking Startup Community Gay Lesbian Transgender Queer ProfessionalsOutBüro should be a part of your business online trust authority strategy.  Your profile provides the opportunity to tout your skills in a description.  Additionally as described below it provides a place to link your profile from 30 high ranking domain authority websites and an open text area to associate an unlimited number of other social media and industry-specific profiles.   As OutBüro continues to grow in size and business-related content your profile and business listing on OutBüro will continue to grow in value to your overall online marketing presence, trust, and website ranking.

When building online trust Google, Bing, and Yahoo want to see more than a profile listing.  To supercharge your online trust rating you must choose the platforms that are meaningful for you and your brand.  Then take the time to really engage with others users of the sites.  This means connecting with others via “friending”, following, getting followers, and commenting in a meaning manner on what others post.  This activity creates content-rich link juice that drips to your site.  I recommend scheduling time on your work calendar at leaset weekly to visit each site, post, like, connect and comment.

Completing an OutBüro profile requires only a Free level site membership.  However, a Premium Member level will provide even more features and capabilities.

When backlinking from OutBüro or any other site, be sure to mix it up.  Don’t only point to your main site’s URL home page.  Also, link to your inner pages.  Those inner pages might be your about us page, a contact us page, an FAQ page, a services page,  and your cornerstone key content.  Cornerstone pages are those pages and blog postings that really get to the heart of what your business is about, the ones you are most proud of and the ones you internally link to most often from other pages or postings.

To further juice it up, consider stacking your linking.  From your LinkedIn profile provide links to your Behance and OutBüro profiles in addition to your primary website.  From YouTube link to your LinkedIn and OutBüro profiles and so forth.  This stacking supercharges your interconnected whole internet presence taking increasing your authority.  As the saying goes, a rising tide raises all boats.

Add Your Other Social Media Profiles to Your OutBüro Profile

After you have created your OutBüro account, log into OutBüro and access your profile from the top menu.

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Next select Profile.

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On your OutBuro profile, only fields that have been populated will be displayed based on our privacy settings.

Select, Edit.

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Edit any and all Profile content you like.  Here we are focusing on your Social Media links so choose “My Social Media Links”.

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On this page, you are provided fields for 30 high domain authority social media sites for you to provide your profile URL link on those sites.  Links to the sites are provided to create accounts if not already there.  If you have social media accounts on other sites simply add them to the text box at the bottom.  We recommend providing the site name and then the URL.

Be sure to scroll down to the bottom and to hit SAVE before leaving this page.

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High Doman Authority Sites to Consider

In addition to creating your profile on OutBüro, below a 12 high ranking domain authorities, to get you started on the right track:

Facebook - OutBuro - LGBT Entrepreneur Business owner professional startup community gay lesbian bisexual transgender queer affiliate program marketing social networking  1) Facebook.com (DA 100) This is kind of a “duh factor”.  A must have.  It is one of the most trusted and used websites in the world.
Twitter - OutBuro - LGBT Entrepreneur Business owner professional startup community gay lesbian bisexual transgender queer affiliate program marketing social networking 2) Twitter.com (DA 100) Recently this has come into great focus with the current US President using it as a communication platform.  Like him or not, this is a highly used site that has super credibility and trust.
YouTube - OutBuro - LGBT Entrepreneur Business owner professional startup community gay lesbian bisexual transgender queer affiliate program marketing social networking 3) YouTube.com (DA 100) Owned by Google, a YouTube channel allows you up to 5 links in the profile along not to mention all the opportunity on each video posting you upload but also when commenting on other videos.
Google Business - OutBuro - LGBT Entrepreneur Business owner professional startup community gay lesbian bisexual transgender queer affiliate program marketing social networking 4) Google.com/business (DA 100) For local SEO, every business needs a Google Business page.
LinkedIn - OutBuro - LGBT Entrepreneur Business owner professional startup community gay lesbian bisexual transgender queer affiliate program marketing social networking 5) LinkedIn.com (DA 100) The most popular general business networking website.  It’s a must and you Pinshould also join OutBüro on LinkedIn – it’s first and largest LGBT professional networking group.
Pintrest - OutBuro - LGBT Entrepreneur Business owner professional startup community gay lesbian bisexual transgender queer affiliate program marketing social networking 6) Pinterest.com (DA 100) This is not for every business, but if it is for you, it’s been a powerhouse ever since it launched.
Reddit - OutBuro - LGBT Entrepreneur Business owner professional startup community gay lesbian bisexual transgender queer affiliate program marketing social networking
7) Reddit.com (DA 99) As the most popular social booking marking sites, Reddit is a wonderful tool to leverage.
StumbleUpon - OutBuro - LGBT Entrepreneur Business owner professional startup community gay lesbian bisexual transgender queer affiliate program marketing social networking
8) Stumbleupon.com (DA 98) A great social bookmarking websites that is popular and commands a very high authority.
Vimeo - OutBuro - LGBT Entrepreneur Business owner professional startup community gay lesbian bisexual transgender queer affiliate program marketing social networking 9) Vimeo.com (DA 98) One of the most popular video-sharing websites just behind YouTube, Vimeo is awesome because it allows you to add lots of backlinks to your profile.
AboutMe - OutBuro - LGBT Entrepreneur Business owner professional startup community gay lesbian bisexual transgender queer affiliate program marketing social networking 10) About.me (DA 90)  Here you can display your talents and link back to your many other social properties.
SoundCloud - OutBuro - LGBT Entrepreneur Business owner professional startup community gay lesbian bisexual transgender queer affiliate program marketing social networking 11) Soundcloud.com (DA 93) If you have audio to share or just want to listen to some independent tunes, this is a great website to have in your tool chest.  From your profile, you can set up lots of backlinks too.
Scribd - OutBuro - LGBT Entrepreneur Business owner professional startup community gay lesbian bisexual transgender queer affiliate program marketing social networking 12) Scribd.com (DA 92) This super popular book reading website offers a powerful high domain authority link to point back to your main site, or another social profile site for that matter.

 

 

LGBT Entrepreneurs Focus on SEO to grow business

As a business owner, it’s important you understand that ranking highly in search engines is vital for your website. In fact, it could be your golden ticket to immense profits. But how? The answer is search engine optimisation (or SEO).

As an LGBT entrepreneur SEO improves website’s visibility

SEO is the process of making your website visible in search engine results pages (or ‘SERPs’ as they’re often called). And what a process it is. The Google algorithm considers over 200 factors when determining what websites to show for a certain search term.

It all starts with your website. Google sends out automated ‘robots’ (also called ‘spiders’ or ‘crawlers’) to visit every accessible page on every website across the internet. These robots gather information on each webpage and store it all on the many Google servers located around the world. This way when someone searches for a term related to your site, the Google algorithm goes to work, processing all the information that has been collected from your site and similar sites. It then determines which sites are most authoritative and relevant to query. The results are presented in the form of an ordered list, with the best options at the top.

If you’re passionate about what you’re doing, business will be much more fun. Connect with other LGBT entrepreneurs, startups, business leaders and professionals here on OutBüro – the LGBT business, entrepreneur, and professional global community.

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To simplify things, think of the web like your local library. Your site is a new book that has just arrived and the librarian is the Google robot. She gets familiar with your book and determines the most logical section to display it in. A visitor comes to the library and they aren’t aware your book exists but they’re interested in the genre or topic. So they head to the relevant section, explore the different titles and eventually decide to check out your book because it’s just what they’re looking for. Success!

 

SEO is constantly evolving as an LGBT Entrepreneur – Keep Up!

Website owners have been thinking about how to make their sites rank in search engines since the rise of the internet in the 1990s. Along the way, some SEO practitioners figured out ways to trick the algorithm into thinking their site was more relevant and authoritative than it actually was. This type of optimization was coined ‘black hat SEO’. It quickly became frowned upon due to the negative experience it created for web users. Some SEO techniques were originally acceptable (known as ‘white hat’) but moved into the black hat category as they became overused or as the web matured.

Search engine algorithms are consistently updated to make black hat techniques less effective. SEO is always in a state of evolution – so it’s important to remember that what mattered a few years ago could now be less effective or completely discouraged. If the Google crawlers identify black hat SEO on your website, your site could be penalized and drastically drop in search engine rankings. The best way to avoid black hat SEO is to always ask yourself if you are improving the experience on your site or providing valuable and original information. If the answer is ‘yes’, you can feel confident that your website is search-engine friendly.

Seven ways to optimize your LGBT Business website for search engines

If you ever tried to learn about SEO, you’ve likely heard dozens of different things you should do. It can be overwhelming trying to figure out where to start.

The best place to begin is with the list below:

  1. Keywords
    These are the queries that your prospects would likely search for when looking your type of business. Start by coming up with the obvious ones and then use a keyword research tool to identify other terms that could direct people to your site. You can get an idea of how competitive terms are and how often they’re searched for and go from there. Once you have your keyword list determined, you need to make sure these terms exist throughout your site.It’s important not to overuse keywords – search engines will penalise any content that looks spammy. Aim for roughly 2 percent keyword density.
  2. Page copy
    It should contain your keywords but be sure not to overdo it. The Google crawlers read text just like us humans do, so it’s more important that copy is readable and well-written. Many people use their keywords too much in their website copy, thinking they are really letting Google know what terms they want to rank for. In reality, they are writing poor copy which makes for a bad experience on their website and can actually hurt their site’s ranking. Before you publish a new page, double-check your copy. If your grammar school English teacher wouldn’t like it, neither will search engine crawlers. See our article on Content Marketing.
  3. Title tags
    This is the copy the appears as the clickable link in SERPs and in the tab of most web browsers. It acts as the title for each individual page so it carries a lot of weight with search engines. You’ll need to make sure each title tag is unique, contains relevant keywords and follows a consistent format across your site. It’s best practice to include a keyword specific to the page. If you have space you should also include your brand name. It’s best to use a hyphen (-) or a vertical bar (|) to separate keywords from your brand name. Keep copy to under 55 characters to make sure it’s not too long to display.
  4. Heading tags
    There are six different heading tags you can use (from H1 to H6). H1 is the most important heading tag to search engines and should be applied to the page headline. It’s important not to use the H1 tag more than once per page, as it could result in an over-optimization penalty with Google. The other title tags can be used multiple times on a single page. On a page that contains a lot of copy, the H1 tag can act as the headline and H2s can be applied to each sub headline. This format sends signals to the search engine crawlers, while also making for a strong user experience by breaking text into separate sections.
  5. URL structure
    URLs present another opportunity to showcase your keywords to search engines. Be sure they’re included in the resource path – or the part of the URL that comes after the domain name or /. It’s best practice to use all lowercases and hyphens to separate words when optimizing URLs. Here’s a good example: rockyardshoes.com/running-shoes.
  6. Images
    Search engine crawlers can’t see images like humans so they rely on the code behind the image to understand what it is being displayed. They gather information from the alt tag, image title and filename.

    • Alt tag text is the copy shown in place of an image when it can’t be displayed – perhaps it failed to load, or the user is visually impaired and uses a screen reader. You should provide a brief explanation of the image for alt tag text. For example, ‘Woman wearing running shoes’.
    • Image title is the copy that appears when you hover the mouse over an image. The copy should build on the description the alt tag text provides. Think of it like an image caption. For example, ‘Orange running shoes for women’.
    • Filename is the name applied to an image when it’s saved. For example image337.png isn’t great. But running-shoes-women.png is. Take a moment to make sure it is descriptive and only use lowercase text and separate words using hyphens.
  7. Meta descriptions
    A meta description may seem daunting – but it’s just a name for the two lines of text that appear in search engine result pages under the clickable link and URL. If you don’t provide Google with a meta description, then it will display random text from your page that may mean nothing to a user. Meta descriptions no longer factor into search engine rankings, but they can help encourage searchers to visit your site by providing a preview of what’s in store. It’s best to keep the copy under 150-155 characters and to include a call to action. For example, ‘Start your free trial today’.

Updating your website usually requires editing HTML code. However, many modern content management systems, like Squarespace or WordPress, enable you to build and edit a website with no coding knowledge.

Commit to SEO for the long haul

Once your website is optimized for search engines, you’ll need to form an on-going SEO strategy. This is the hard part of SEO but it’s what will separate you from your competitors. Think of it like going to the gym. You need to devote time and energy, stick to a plan and patiently wait for results.

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Three ways to provide visitors with great content

For the people at Google, the internet is all about the exchange of information. This means that the Google algorithm places a lot of weight on the quality of the content on your site how often you publish it.  See our article on Content Marketing

Content is a blanket term that refers to the descriptive copy on your webpages, in addition to blog posts, articles, case studies, videos, infographics, slideshows and so on. Anything that provides valuable information and is accessible to search engine crawlers is considered content.

The key to producing great content for SEO purposes is to make it fresh, relevant and unique.

  1. Publish fresh new content frequently
    This shows Google that your website is still active. Old content quickly goes stale if it’s in a prominent area of your site.
  2. Keep content relevant
    Your content should be related to your website and what your business offers. Don’t stray off topic. It could confuse search engine crawlers, as well as visitors to your site.
  3. Always be unique
    You should present information that is not available on other websites or at least in a different form than it exists on other websites. Never copy and paste content from other sites onto yours. It will do more harm than good.

The importance of inbound links

Links on other websites that point back to yours are known as ‘inbound links’ and play a huge role in obtaining favorable search engine rankings. If the web is all about exchanging information, then inbound links are essentially other sites endorsing what your site has to say.

Not all inbound links are created equal in the eyes of Google though. A single link from a major website like nytimes.com or bbc.co.uk can provide value equivalent to a dozen links from average websites.

Creating great content and obtaining inbound links go hand and hand. When you write a great blog post or guide, it’s going to influence Google crawlers. It’s also going to impress visitors to your site, who will want to share it on social media and link to it on their own websites.

Be visible to local searchers

If you run a brick-and-mortar business, you want your website to convince people in your community to visit in person. Optimizing your site to appeal to people close to you is known as local SEO.

Be sure to include your location in your main keywords. If you run a seafood restaurant in Boston, you’ll want to be sure that your website is visible to local searchers seeking a seafood restaurant. You’ll want to optimize around the term ‘seafood restaurant Boston’ in order to let Google know where your restaurant is located.

It’s also important to sign up for a Google My Business account. This ensures that your business contact information is consistent across Google search, Maps and Google +. It also gives your business a greater presence in search results. Your customers can leave reviews, which naturally attracts new customers.

SEO will help your website succeed

As you can see, putting in place a strategy is essential if you want your business to succeed online. If you constantly improve your website and publish great content then you will have a better search engine ranking than your competitors. It’s that simple.

LGBT Home-based Business Startup Productivity Tips

Some LGBT Entrepreneurs running a home-based business are skilled at juggling social life, dating, family life (life-partner, children, extended family) with work life all while finding time for fitness. How do they do it? Dedication, structure and a little self-forgiveness goes a long way.

Understand the challenge

It’s no easy task to juggle all facets of a modern LGBT active life with the time and effort required to run a business.  That’s particularly true if you have had a lot of demands, unexpected life hiccups and believe you have to be perfect in all things and to everyone at all times.  LGBT people are so used to being judged that we tend to be over tax ourselves.

If you want your startup home-based business to succeed, it takes communication, planning, hard work, compromises and the right attitude.

Get the timing right

OutBuro - Home Office Productivity LGBT Entrepreneurs Startup GLBT Professional Networking Community Careers Job Postings Gay Lesbian Transgender Bisexual StorageThe demands of work are very different to those of social and family.  Add children to the family makeup and they naturally require a tremendous amount of time and attention. All can be exhausting but in different ways.

Your startup business requires a keen focus on analytical behavior, thinking strategically and logically.  Looking after children also requires some strategy, of course. But it’s usually more free-form behavior, with less emphasis on deadlines and detailed schedules.  Add extended family and perhaps caring for an ill or disabled family member or other such family requirements needing your time and attention and it can be all to easy to get sidetracked tending to the home and the needs of others.  If no family members are in your mix, maybe it’s your life partner or your active dating habits and mingling strategy that turns you from a business laser to non-business fidgety.

Switching between these two modes of thinking can be tiring, stressful, and extremely unproductive.

The key is to be realistic with yourself and others.  Set house rules that include your workspace and privacy while still allowing you to be accessible in emergencies.  Be sure to define what an emergency is as well.

Starting a business typically requires much more effort, energy and hours to get started and run in the early period than going to a job 30 – 40 hours a week working for someone else.  Does your life and extended relationship circumstances allow you the time right now in your life dedicated to a new home-base startup business?  Be realistic while still stretching yourself to reach your goals.

Are young children in your life?  Many successful entrepreneurs take time off to concentrate on their young children for the first few years. Then they return to the world of work – refreshed and ready to succeed.

If you find yourself under-stimulated and desperate to get back to work, then that might be the right thing for you. And if your kids are happy to be left in the care of others, then this is less likely to cause them stress.

If you’re not sure, start small until you’re confident you can balance the demands of a home-based business with your children’s needs.

2. Deal with distractions

OutBuro - Home Office Productivity LGBT Entrepreneurs Startup GLBT Professional Networking Community Careers Job Postings Gay Lesbian Transgender Bisexual Video ProductionYou will be distracted when you work from home. You may be putting the finishing touches to a business proposal when your daughter bursts in with a grazed knee. Or you’ll be updating your accounts when your son opens the door and asks you to help color in a picture.

Knowing that this is likely to happen can help you prepare for it:

  • Block out times in your work schedule when your kids aren’t around. Use this time for detailed work that requires concentration.
  • Have a list of short, easy, admin jobs that can be done while your children are around. This should be work that doesn’t require a lot of thought.
  • Get some shared office space if your budget and time allow it. If nothing else, getting out of the house and going to an office can make you feel more professional and help you focus. And there’s the added bonus of making new contacts.

3. Divide your hours fairly

OutBuro - Home Office Productivity LGBT Entrepreneurs Startup GLBT Professional Networking Community Careers Job Postings Gay Lesbian Transgender Bisexual Mid Century Modern With Sitting AreaThere will be times when your business needs you, and times when your children do. It can be tempting to think that your business is more important, but that’s rarely true. Emails may be marked “Urgent!!!” but in the long run they aren’t as important as your children’s development.

So be fair. Separate work time and family time, and stick to this rigidly. The actual division will depend on your goals, but here are some suggestions:

  • Work from the morning school drop-off until the afternoon pick-up, then stop.
  • Don’t work on weekends.
  • Maybe work an extra hour once your kids are in bed – but don’t make a habit of it.
  • Remember to take proper lunch breaks.
  • Don’t forget to make time for family holidays.

This may seem like a restriction on your business. But it’s vital to create rules of separation and stick to them. Otherwise it’s too easy for your business to suck up all your time.

Running your business isn’t the same as building it.

Act like a project manager

You can get a lot done in a short amount of time. It all depends on how well you manage it:

  • Don’t use your email inbox as a way to manage your tasks with clients. That’s not what it was designed for – there are better tools for the job.
  • Use a project management tool such as Basecamp to simplify client management. This can help you reduce the overwhelming flow of information and make it more manageable.
  • Set timers for individual tasks and take a break when the timer ends. For most types of work, it’s hard to maintain solid concentration for more than about 35 minutes at a time. Taking short, regular breaks will help you be more productive.
  • Keep everything client-related in one place, separate from other tasks. This will help you create a clear, uncluttered environment.

5. Develop a consistent schedule for your home-based business

OutBuro - Home Office Productivity LGBT Entrepreneurs Startup GLBT Professional Networking Community Careers Job Postings Gay Lesbian Transgender BisexualRunning your business isn’t the same as building it. Both are important, but once you’ve reached a certain workload it’s easy to ignore business development.

So pick one day a week for working on (not in) your business. In other words, you might spend that day:

  • planning social media marketing
  • writing blogs
  • following up sales leads
  • networking with potential new customers.

6. Automate wherever possible!

Computers were designed to make working life easier. With the right software you can automate some of the work of running your business.

  • Standard email responses will let you respond quickly to customers while you think about a more detailed reply. A simple “Thank you for your enquiry, we will get back to you in the next 48 hours” will make potential new customers feel valued.
  • Use cloud-based software to save time and effort. If you make use of software that stores data online securely, you’ll make life easier for yourself. Lower IT costs, automated upgrades, data backups that are done for you – it all helps save you time.
  • Automate admin tasks. There are some things that all businesses need to do, including handling payroll and accounting for taxes. Get the right accounting software and you’ll be able to automate much of this work. That will leave you more free time to concentrate on building your business.

Learn from others

If you want to make the most of your situation, it helps to learn from people who have been there before. Luckily, there are plenty of stay-at-home parents who have written about their experiences.

You can learn from them. Find out what they did right, what they did wrong, and what they recommend for other entrepreneurs.

A simple web search will bring up plenty of examples. Many of them are women, since mothers are still more likely to be stay-at-home parents than men.

Always remember that you’re not alone. If you get stuck with any aspect of running your home-based business, it’s easy to reach out for advice. Make the most of all the resources available – then you’re much more likely to succeed.

The LGBT Entrepreneur 10 Steps To The Perfect Business Plan

Every business needs a plan. Your business plan will keep you focused and help convince investors to lend you money. But what needs to go into the perfect business plan? Here are 10 steps to help you get it right.

Why do you need a business plan?

OutBuro - 10 Tips - Business Plan LGBT Entrepreneurs Startup Business GBLT Professionals Gay Lesbian Transgender Bisexual Community Job Postings News Information JourneyYou may be wondering why you need a plan in the first place. After all, you have a clear idea in your mind about what you want to achieve. You know the market, you have the necessary skills. So why do you need a plan?

There are many good reasons. Here are just a few of them:

  • To clarify your ideas
    Writing something down gives it structure and substance. Your ideas will be clearer on paper than in your head.
  • To discover and solve problems
    The business idea you have in mind may have some holes – you might not have covered everything. This will become much more apparent when your words are on the page.
  • To get feedback from others
    A properly written business plan can be shared with trusted people to get their advice.
  • As a formal document
    Banks, investors, accountants and lawyers will want proof that you’re serious about your business. A written plan will provide that proof.
  • To guide you as your business grows
    A good business plan will keep you on track and focused, even as day-to-day work becomes a distraction.

If you’ve never written a business plan before, it can be a daunting prospect. But these 10 steps will help you create the perfect business plan.

1. The executive summary

This is where you describe your company and the product or service that it will sell. This must be brief, to catch and hold people’s attention.

Try to describe the goal and mission of your business in just a couple of sentences. Work hard at this and try to make it memorable.

Treat this section as an ‘elevator pitch’ document – it should be short, concise and easy to remember.

2. Who are your customers?

Do you have a clear idea of the type of people (or businesses) who will buy your product or service? If not, think carefully until you do.  Understand who is your target audience.

OutBuro - Target Market Infographic LGBT Entrepreneurs Startup Business GBLT Professionals Gay Lesbian Transgender Bisexual Community Job Postings News Information Journey

This is one of the first questions any investor will ask you about your business plan. Have your answers ready:

  • Know whether your customers will be consumers or businesses. If they are businesses, who will you target within those companies? Maybe it’s the salesperson, or perhaps it’s the CEO?
  • Determine whether you’ll have regular clients or one-off buyers.
  • Make sure you’ve actually spoken to some of your potential customers.

3. Evaluate the target audience

There’s no room for guessing here. You need to identify the people who will buy from you. Think about the following:

  • Demographics – such as age, gender and social status.
  • Firmographics – this applies when selling to businesses. Firmographics includes size of the company, revenue of the company and services or products of the company.
  • Location – perhaps a specific area, town, or even country.
  • Profession – maybe you’re targeting accountants, police or lawyers, for example.
  • Groups – such as people with shared interests or habits.

The better you evaluate your target audience, the more comprehensive your business plan will be.

4. What are your opportunities?

Successful businesses think big. You might be starting small, but you don’t have to stay that way. So write down the possible opportunities for your business as it grows.  Check out our article turning your hobby into a business.

For example, perhaps you’re planning to start by selling over the internet. That’s great, but how will you get traffic to your site? How will people find you online? Will you need salespeople? If not, how will you convince people to buy from you?

As the business grows, is there scope for a bricks-and-mortar retail outlet? What other opportunities will you have if your business grows as planned?

Understand the competition

Every business has competition. If you don’t mention yours, investors will think you’re unprofessional – or just plain naive. You must understand your competitors. Be thorough, and list all your existing and potential competitors:

  • Who are your direct competitors – those selling the same products or offering the similiar services as you?
  • Who are your indirect competitors – those whose market overlaps yours?
  • What will prevent other companies competing with you – what are the barriers to entry?
  • What is your USP (unique selling proposition)? In other words, what’s your point of difference that makes you different from your competitors?

That last point is important. You need to explain how your business will differentiate itself from all the others. That might be based on price, service, quality, range or value. Make sure you spell it out.

OutBuro - LGBT Entrepreneurs and Startup Business Information GLBT Professionals Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Resources

6. Build a simple financial plan

All business plans should contain some financial information. This should include the overall costs of setting up your business. For example:

  • Cost to make or buy products.
  • Costs for labor and manufacture, including raw materials.
  • Staff costs, especially for service businesses.
  • Distribution and marketing costs.
  • Fixed and variable overheads.

Good accounting software will help you create a draft financial model. We’ll look into this in more detail in a future guide. For now, talk to your accountant or bookkeeper for help and advice.

7. Include an outline marketing plan

Every business must do some level of marketing.  For this section of your business plan, you need to think about the five ‘Ps’:

  • Pricing – how will you price the end product?
  • Positioning – how does your product or service fit into the market?
  • Promotion – what channels will you use to attract and communicate with customers?
  • Profit – how much do you expect to make per item sold?
  • Place – what are your sales channels?

8. Plan your operations

Put your vision to one side for a moment. What are the daily tasks that need to be done when running the business? Include all business processes such as manufacture and packaging. Try to cover all departments too, including sales and customer service.

9. Get the right people

This is one of the most important factors. Think about who you want to hire. How will you find people whose skills complement yours? And how will you convince them to work for you?

Also think about who you want as your business advisors. You’ll need people you can trust, to guide and mentor you at times when you need it.

10. Simplicity is the key

Keep it simple. Complex and long documents won’t be read – either by you or by potential investors. A business plan should be brief, relevant and focused.

If you find yourself getting carried away while writing, stop and take a break. Then go back and edit what you’ve written. Shorter is better. The core of a good business plan should be just a few pages long.

Plan your business around your strengths

As you write your business plan, keep in mind your strengths – and also any areas for improvement. This will help you construct a plan that makes the most of your abilities, while still being realistic. That’s more likely to convince investors that you’re serious.

Your business plan is a roadmap for your business – but it’s not set in stone. Review it at least once a year and make changes if necessary.

Above all, keep getting feedback from your advisors – official and unofficial ones. With their help, you’ll create the perfect business plan that takes you where you want to go.

LGBT Business Owner How Much Should You Pay Yourself?

You are an LGBT Entrepreneur and started your own business to do something you love and make money.

You rock.

      You are AWESOME.

                Likely little nuts like most risk-taking entrepreneurs, but we LOVE YA. 

But how much should you pay yourself? Too little and you may struggle to survive. Too much and your business might be at risk. So how do you strike the right balance?

Take the guesswork out of your salary

For many, the chance to set your own salary sounds like a dream come true. But small business owners know the reality is a little more complicated.

You should only pay yourself out of your profits – not your revenue. When you see money coming into your business, don’t assume you can pay yourself a big slice of that. Before you take your cut, you also need to take account of things like taxes, payroll, fixed costs and overheads.

Good accounting software will really help you work out how much you can afford to pay yourself. It will let you keep track of all expenses and calculate profit rather than revenue or turnover. It will also help identify areas you can make tax deductions.

Setting your own salary will depend on your location, your industry, your profits, and how much you want to earn. But there are a few things to think about that can help you land on a reasonable figure.

Don’t undervalue yourself

If your business is still in its startup phase, you might not turn a profit during your first year. Of course, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pay yourself.

There’s no point in being a complete miser with your company’s money if it causes you financial and emotional problems. Personal money issues are a big cause of stress, and if you’re stressed then you won’t make good business decisions.

Undervaluing your time and the work you’re doing can harm your productivity and your business, so you should pay yourself enough to live comfortably without worrying. Take out what you need to avoid causing problems for your business and your personal life.

Add yourself to the payroll and pay yourself regularly

OutBuro - Company Owner Paying Yourself herself himself Payroll LGBT Entrepreneurs Startup Business GBLT Professionals Gay Lesbian Transgender Bisexual Community Job Postings News InformationDon’t just dip into your business funds as and when you need to. Set up payments for you and your employees (it may be weekly or monthly) in your payroll software, and stick to them.

Build that into your business plan right from the start, perhaps with a rising salary as your business grows. That way you’ll get used to the amount of money you receive and won’t have to worry about taking out occasional large lump sums.

This will also look better to your employees. Regular small payments will be more acceptable to them than random large lump-sum withdrawals from the business. They will also look more acceptable to the government, too. If you take out big sums of money at irregular times, it may raise eyebrows at the tax office or lead to an audit of your company.

Take out ‘reasonable compensation’

Depending on where you live in the world, ‘reasonable compensation’ or a similar term may apply to you. This is known as the amount of money that the government expects you to take from your business. It depends on the size of the business, the market sector and level of turnover and profit.

Here are some pointers for what’s a ‘reasonable’ amount:

  • How much would a similar business pay for the work you do in your role?
  • What do recruitment ads and agencies offer to pay for someone in your position?
  • Are your wages equal to your duties and are those duties being performed?
  • Do your wages seem reasonable when you take into account of your level of responsibility and the amount of business you handle?
  • Is your pay directly related to the amount of time you spend working?
  • Does your pay seem reasonable when compared with your employees’ wages?

You can also talk to founders of other, similar businesses and try to find out roughly what they pay themselves. This is a good way to start networking, though you might have to be tactful about it. And take a look at your government’s tax websites for further guidelines.

Consider the legal structure of your business

How much you can pay yourself, and when, might be restricted by the legal structure of the business you run.

For example, if you’re a sole proprietor you’re usually free to pay yourself whatever and whenever you like. That’s partly because you’re not accountable to shareholders or stockholders.

But other types of business, like incorporated businesses, usually have the business owner on the payroll. They would receive wages on a regular basis, just like any other employee.

However, the rules do vary from country to country, so check with your accountant before you decide anything. Be sure to record all transactions in your accounting software so you have an audit trail too. Do this just in case the tax office decides to investigate your payments to yourself.

Be tax efficient: Five pointers

Now you’ve decided how much is a fair salary for you, what’s the best way to withdraw that money from your business while remaining as tax efficient as possible?

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach because tax laws vary from one jurisdiction to another. Tax rates and allowances will also vary depending on how your business is legally structured. Here are some ideas to consider:

  1. Take a straight salary
    It’s simple, easy to manage and account for, and is unlikely to raise any eyebrows. It’s not always the most tax-efficient option, though.
  2. Balance salary with dividend payments
    If, as the business owner, you also own stock or shares in your company, you could take a minimal salary and then pay the remainder out of dividend payments. This can be more tax efficient (since dividends are usually taxed less than salary). Make sure you check the legality with your tax office first.
  3. Take payment in stock or stock options
    This can be a useful way of paying yourself in a tax-efficient manner.
  4. Take a combination of salary plus annual bonus
    This arrangement isn’t just the preserve of the banking industry and it can be tax efficient in certain circumstances.
  5. Create a business agreement to pay yourself later
    If you’re not desperate for money right now, you could create a written business agreement to pay yourself later, deferring payment to yourself. But this becomes a liability for the company and would need to be accounted for.

Don’t forget deductions, expenses and benefits

Leaving aside wages, there are some great financial benefits to running your own business. Medical insurance and 401(k) contributions are just two types of benefits to consider. They can make a big difference to your personal financial situation and they’re legitimate business benefits.

Here are some examples of expenses that can be offset against the tax your company pays:

  • Car expenses (business mileage of your car)
  • Mortgage interest payments (if you work from your home)
  • Capital equipment expenditure (such as new computers).

You’re not usually allowed to claim expenses in the “personal, living or family expense” category. But you can claim for the business use portion of an item. This might mean you get to drive a new car in your personal life at a reduced overall cost. When in doubt, check with your accountant to find out what will work for you.

Invest money for growth

Money you take out of the company (that doesn’t relate to your business) is money that can’t be used for investment and business growth. You’re likely to be taxed on money you take out, so the real value of the money you keep in the company is even greater. That’s because it will be untaxed or offset against tax, depending on how it’s used.

If you think your business is going to grow in the future, it makes sense to use some of your profits to help fund that growth. The more money you invest sensibly into your business, the more likely it is that your company will grow. And that means you should be able to pay yourself more at a later date.

When not to pay yourself

If your business is going through a tough time financially, it’s usually not a good idea to take any money out of your business for personal use.

You should avoid taking any money if your employees haven’t been paid. It looks bad, and would seriously affect their morale if you did.

When you owe a lot of money it’s also wise to refrain from paying yourself a large amount. Creditors are unlikely to be impressed if you’re still taking home a large pay packet while their invoices or loans remain unpaid.

Pay yourself what you deserve

Ultimately the amount you pay yourself will depend on the success of your business. The more money your business brings in, the higher the salary you could reasonably be expected to draw from it.

It makes sense not to get carried away and pay yourself too much, for reasons described. But if your company is profitable, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t reward yourself for that success.

Market Research for LGBT Business Startups

Ever thought that market research is just for big businesses? Well, small businesses can benefit from it too. We spoke to Keen as Mustard Marketing to find out how you can learn more about your target markets.

How market research can help small businesses

Knowledge is power. And whether you’re selling coffee, computers or conferences, it pays to know and understand your target market.

Big businesses do this using market research that’s usually quite costly. They have teams dedicated to interviewing customers, carrying out surveys, arranging focus groups and analyzing buying patterns.

While much of that work does require a big budget, it’s still possible for small businesses to carry out lean and effective market research – and there are good reasons for doing so.

When should you use market research?

OutBuro - Market Research - LGBT Entrepreneurs Startup Business GBLT Professionals Lesbian Owned Company Gay Transgender Bisexual Community Job Postings News Information JourneyThere are certain times in a company’s life-cycle when market research can be particularly useful. For example:

  • To see whether a new business idea is viable
    You have an idea for a new business. Is there a market for it? Don’t just guess – use market research to find out.
  • When moving into new markets
    This is especially true when selling abroad. Different countries and cultures have different markets. What works in one might not work in another. Research will help you uncover the differences and adapt to them.
  • Before launching a new product or service
    You might think you have the perfect new product or service – your customers may think otherwise. It pays to get feedback before you launch, so you can make any necessary changes quickly.
  • When applying for funding
    Show potential investors that there’s a gap in the market – and that your company is the one to fill it.

Stay focused

If you’re planning to carry out market research, keep it tightly controlled. Concentrate on the key questions that matter to your business, then work out what information you need in order to answer those questions.

With that knowledge you can decide how best to obtain the answers – with a focus group, online research or survey.

Don’t be tempted to ask all sorts of additional questions. Stay on topic and you’ll get useful answers that will help you shape your business strategy.

Effective market research for small business – five top tips

If you want to make the best use of market research, here are five key points to bear in mind:

  1. Start researching early
    Whether you’re selling locally, nationally or globally, it pays to know the potential size of your slice of the pie. Do your research before you start trying to sell in a new market.
  2. Don’t waste money
    Small businesses can’t afford to splash out on expensive research – and luckily they don’t have to. Small focus groups and surveys of your existing customers can be effective and inexpensive.
  3. Use existing research
    Someone may have done the hard work for you already. Check out online reports, field reviews and magazine articles.
  4. Find out what your customers are saying
    The internet makes it easy to find out what your potential customers think. Read consumers’ blogs, watch their YouTube videos and vlogs (video blogs), and check out discussion forums and social media.
  5. Use the cloud and big data
    Companies such as Google spend vast amounts of money collecting research. Take a look at Google Trends and Google consumer surveys. Google Trends will let you see what people are searching for. For example, if there’s a large volume of people searching for glow-in-the-dark cat collars and no one is selling them, then there may be gap in the market. Google’s findings are often free so make use of them.

Know the limits of market research

Market research will give you some information about your target market, but it can’t predict the future of your business with perfect accuracy. That’s because:

  • a small sample of your potential customers might not be representative of the whole market.
  • people don’t always say what they truly believe in surveys.
  • the research might not take new trends into account.
  • the way your business acts in the market will change the outcome.

That doesn’t mean market research for small business isn’t useful – far from it. But you should take the findings with a grain of salt and consider other factors too.

In particular, trust your gut instincts, because they are often based on the experience you’ve gained working in the field.

Market research is a useful tool

Doing some low-cost market research can really help you learn more about the market demand for your products or services. And while it’s not always a sure-fire way to predict whether your business will succeed, it’s a great way to get new insights and opportunities.

When you have a combined strategy that includes your own intuition and customer feedback, market research can help your business perform better and enter new markets successfully.

Going Paperless In Your Small LGBT Owned Business

Busy offices can generate a lot of paperwork. But too much paper can reduce the efficiency of your business – and cost you money. So what steps can you take to cut the amount of paper your business uses?

Do better business with less paper

Paper is everywhere. We hardly think about it, but businesses spend a lot of time and money moving paperwork around. Analysts have been predicting the arrival of the paperless office for more than two decades, yet more paper is produced every year.

It doesn’t have to be this way. In almost all areas of business, it’s now possible to get rid of paper entirely. Digital documents are simpler, easier to store and send, more searchable and more versatile than paper.

But many businesses have a long way to go before they become paperless. In this guide we’ll look at the benefits of digital documents, and how you can reduce your paperwork to help you run your business more efficiently.

Why do we still use paper?

Before we look at the benefits of going paperless, it’s worth understanding why paper is still so common. Here are some of the reasons why businesses still use paper:OutBuro - Going Paperless Physical verses Digital - LGBT Entrepreneurs Startup Business GBLT Professionals Gay Owned Company Lesbian Transgender Bisexual Community Job Postings News Information

  • Government requirements
    If the government tells you that you must keep paper records, you don’t have much choice. But it doesn’t happen often these days. Most government departments understand that digital documents are just as good.
  • Legal necessity
    If you’re applying for a loan or selling your business, signed paperwork is often a necessity. But lawyers are increasingly going paperless, so this practice is dying out.
  • Permanence and convenience
    Some paper documents have been around for centuries and can still be read today. By contrast, some computer records from 20 years ago can’t be accessed at all. So for a long life, paper can still seem like a good choice. But digital storage methods are stabilizing and improving. Formats like PDF and JPEG will outlast many of the businesses that use them.
  • The way it feels
    People like the way paper feels (psychologists call this ‘haptic perception’) and the fact that it’s a real, physical item. Sometimes information inside a computer or the cloud doesn’t seem so real. But this is changing as people grow up with computers being part of their lives.
  • Cost
    Paper is cheap and easy to distribute. However, that’s only part of the story. Once you start paying for printers, toner, servicing, maintenance, connectivity, cabling, user support and all the other associated costs, paper starts to look more expensive. And that’s before you consider the cost of document storage.

So at least some of the reasons why we still use paper are historical and personal – not logical.

The benefits of a paperless office

OutBuro - Going Paperless Cloud Storage - LGBT Entrepreneurs Startup Business GBLT Professionals Gay Owned Company Lesbian Transgender Bisexual Community Job Postings News Information JourneyGoing paperless is more beneficial than it might first appear. Here’s what can happen when a business starts to cut back on paper.

  • Reduced clutter
    Paperwork on desks and shelves is not only untidy, it’s inefficient too. Organization of digital files is simpler, and your office will look much neater. That will help you clear your mind and focus on your business.
  • Fast access to information
    Your digital documents can be stored, retrieved, indexed and searched much faster than paper ones.
  • Simpler disaster recovery
    An entire company’s documents could be stored on a single laptop instead of rooms of shelving. If there’s a fire or flood, recovery from a backup is much easier with digital storage than with paper.
  • Cost reduction
    You will save money on printing, postage and associated costs. You could even pay less rent – because you won’t need all that space for your files.
  • Easier growth
    Moving from an old office to a new one is much easier if you don’t have to carry several filing cabinets with you.
  • It’s environmentally friendly
    Less printing means fewer trees cut down for pulp, and less energy used to make and transport paper.
  • Faster communication
    Paper mail takes a day to arrive – if you’re lucky. Emailed documents arrive within seconds. At a time when businesses need to move swiftly, getting rid of paper can give you a helpful burst of speed.

10 steps to a paperless office

Going paperless doesn’t happen overnight, so you should plan your strategy for reducing paper use. Here are some steps to consider.

  1. Find out what you print now
    Even in a business it can be difficult to keep track of who’s printing what, and when. Consider using print audit software so you can track where all the print jobs are coming from.
  2. Calculate potential cost savings
    Use quality accounting software to track all your print-related expenses. Include printers, ink or toner, paper, service contracts, storage and technical support. Deduct any revenues you receive from using paper, unless they would be matched by using digital documents instead. For example, printed newsletters might be replaced by emails, with no loss of sales revenue.
  3. Move to online applications
    Cloud-based applications let you share data easily with clients and suppliers. There’s no need to worry about different file formats. So discuss some key applications with the companies you work with – see if they’re willing to use the cloud too. Some useful cloud-based applications include:

    • Google Docs to collaborate on documents
    • Dropbox or Box to share files
    • Basecamp for simple project management
    • Evernote to take digital notes
    • PayPal to transfer funds

    The more areas of business you can move to the cloud, including accounts and payroll, the less you’ll have to worry about technical support and file format issues.

  4. Don’t forget training
    Work with your staff to ensure they can handle and process electronic documents, such as invoices.
  5. incentivize your employees
    Give your staff a printing budget and reward them for printing fewer documents.
  6. Scan any paperwork you receive from other people
    Document scanners are reasonably cheap and can store paperwork in PDF format. If there’s too much to handle, get a secure scanning company to do the work.
  7. Sign documents digitally
    Most countries now have laws that make electronically-signed contracts as legally valid as those signed with pen on paper.
  8. Use online banking
    Request paperless statements from banks and other financial institutions. If you’re worried about missing anything, set up alerts in your accounting software to warn you in advance of when a bill is due. Pay your bills and your suppliers online.
  9. Update your office
    With less space being taken up with document storage, you can make your office a better place to work. Consider buying larger monitors, or a dual-monitor setup, so your staff can view more than one document at a time.
  10. Phase out old technology
    Some companies still send and receive faxes. But even here you can reduce paper use. Fax software lets you send and receive faxes as electronic documents – meaning less paperwork and lower costs.

Making the transition – fast or slow?

Once you’ve made the decision to reduce paper use, how long will it take? The choice is really up to you.

You could try going ‘cold turkey’ – dramatically cutting down on all paperwork immediately. That would mean shifting to the cloud for all your business operations, clamping down on office printing, and storing all documents electronically.

But that could put a lot of stress on you and your staff, especially if you’re already busy. It makes more sense to focus on one area or department at a time. You will learn a lot from the first attempt, which will make it easier the next time.

Lighten the load

Depending on how comfortable you are with technology, it may be difficult to change to a paperless office. Here are a few tips to make the journey easier:

  • Keep your documents secure
    Use encryption to keep your documents safe from prying eyes.
  • Backup everything, regularly
    Electronic documents are easier to store than paper – and easier to delete. Make sure you have backups online, using services such as backblaze.com or carbonite.com, and also offline. USB memory sticks, external hard drives, CDs and DVDs can all be used for offline storage.
  • Index everything
    Electronic documents are more useful if they are fully indexed, so you can easily search and find what you’re looking for. When scanning documents, make sure they are searchable by using OCR (optical character recognition) software. Scanning service companies can do this for you.
  • Be realistic
    Going paperless is a goal, but it might be difficult or even impossible to eliminate all paper. If you’re involved in real estate transactions, for example, there will still be a lot of paperwork involved.
  • Take small steps
    Do whatever you can to reduce paper use. For example, if you have to print a document, use both sides of the sheet of paper. And if you print out a PowerPoint presentation, include two or four slides to a page. Even these small steps can make a big difference.

Paper belongs in the past

People have been talking about the paperless office for years. With new technology, especially easy-to-use cloud-based applications, we are closer to reaching this goal.

Going paperless can have many advantages for you, your employees and your business partners. Aside from the cost savings, it gives you more flexibility to run your business from anywhere, and get what you need whenever you need it.

It also removes the hassle of having to physically store paperwork – and that can save you money at times when office space isn’t cheap. Now you can store all your business documents safely and securely in the cloud, taking up no physical space at all.

Piles of office paperwork belong in the past. The future is definitely digital.

How to Hire the Right Employees for Your LGBT Owned Business

Your business has the best chance of success if you hire the right people to work for you. Skilled, enthusiastic and flexible staff will help your business run and grow smoothly. But how do you hire the right employees?

Hiring is part of your job

As a business owner or founder, your vision for your company affects everything. It’s part of your job to find and hire employees who will share that vision and take your business forward.

Even if you intend to outsource to contractors and freelancers, this is still important. Whether you’re hiring a permanent staff member or trying to find someone to do short-term contract work for you, it pays to get the right person.

With a little thought and planning you’ll be able to clearly determine your requirements, find candidates and narrow down your choices. Eventually you should find the right employee for the role you’re offering. Here are some useful tips to help you make that decision.

Plan your hiring strategy

This should be part of your business plan. Think about where you expect your business to be at various stages over the next year, and how many employees you’ll need in order to get there. For each new vacancy, consider the following points:

  • Prioritise what you or your team actually need
    Make lists of the tasks you want each new employee to take on.
  • Hire people with complementary skills
    Think about operational versus ideas people and sales skills versus creative ability.
  • Be clear about what you can afford
    Look into market rates and offer a suitably competitive salary within your budget.
  • Decide if you want a part-time or full-time employee
    There are pros and cons to both, so research this before deciding.
  • Is your business at the growth stage?
    Small, growing businesses can benefit from hiring flexible people able to take on multiple roles in the company.
  • Is experience important to you?
    Larger companies tend to require deeper, specific expertise and experience, though flexibility is still useful.

Small businesses have to budget carefully, which is why good quality cloud accounting software is so helpful. Use it to plan your budget and see if you can afford to hire someone new for a particular role. Balance the cost of employing them with the increased revenue they should bring to your business.

Consider your culture

Your company has a culture: a way of approaching business, a way of thinking and operating that’s unique. This affects the way your business operates and the way it’s seen by customers.

You, as business owner or founder, have a big influence on your company’s culture, but so do the people you hire. So consider these points before you start hiring:

  • What is your company culture now?
    Ask your employees (perhaps anonymously) or customers how they view your business.
  • What do you want your culture to be?
    Think about successful companies and how they do business. Try to copy their good points.
  • Do you want to hire someone who will fit into your company culture?
    If your team is running smoothly you might want someone who will fit in perfectly.
  • Would you consider hiring someone who might challenge your company culture in a positive way?
    Group-think and confirmation bias can hold your business back. Someone who can challenge your business culture might get you out of a rut.
  • How will you define your culture in words when you’re recruiting?
    It can be difficult to explain your culture to someone new, so take the time to prepare.
  • How will you evaluate an individual’s suitability to your company culture?
    Think about the interview questions you might ask.

Good culture is more than just putting pool tables or a ‘relaxation zone’ in your business premises, especially if your employees are too stressed or overworked to use them! It involves helping your staff develop as individuals and also as part of their team.

Find candidates: Six recruitment agency alternatives

You could use a recruitment agency to try to find candidates for you. With their wide reach they can locate people who might not otherwise hear about the role, but they usually charge quite a lot. For an important management-level position this might be worthwhile, but there are other options:

  1. Use your LinkedIn account
    Search for people in your location and field with the right skills. Update your profile to let people know you’re hiring.
  2. Talk to local business agencies
    Make sure you network socially in the real world. You may find yourself introduced to the ideal candidate.
  3. Add a We’re hiring! link to your website and email signatures
    Ensure it links to a page with up-to-date job vacancies and contact details.
  4. Advertise on job websites.
    These will charge, but usually not as much as recruitment agencies. You may receive some unsuitable applications from job-seekers taking the ‘scatter-gun’ approach, though.
  5. Ask your business partners and clients
    Tell them the type of person you’re looking for and see if they can refer anyone to you.
  6. Use your social media accounts to announce that you’re hiring
    The more places you advertise your requirements, the more likely you are to find candidates.

The amount you spend on advertising the role will depend on your budget. Keep track of costs in your accounting software, to make sure you don’t over-spend.

Make a short-list of applicants

Filtering applicants into a short-list can be time-consuming and requires a lot of thought. Look through each application and think about whether the person fits the criteria you’ve specified.

  • Consider their qualifications
    Are they relevant to the role? Are they up to date?
  • Look at their work experience
    Have they moved around a lot? That’s not necessarily a cause for concern but it might indicate potential problems.
  • What’s their background in your specific field?
    How much time have they spent working in environments that are similar to the role you’re offering? What relevant knowledge do they have?
  • Check their posts and behavior on social networks
    You’ll probably learn more about their background, maturity and life skills. Don’t be too harsh here, because everyone needs to let off steam occasionally, but any recurring issues might need to be taken into account.

It’s also a good idea to check references before the interview stage, as it might save you time if something negative turns up.

Questions to ask when you interview candidates

Draw up a range of questions about each candidate’s career and skills. Include some open-ended questions so the candidates have the opportunity to talk about themselves and their goals. For example:

  • Ask them about their successes
    Encourage them to talk about their achievements, even those outside work. A well-rounded individual should be a useful addition to your team.
  • What do they think about your company?
    See if they’ve done their research about your business, as it’ll give you an idea of their commitment.
  • Enquire about hobbies and interests
    Employees with good work-life balance tend to be more productive and creative than those who are fixated on their careers. Find out what they read, what they watch, how they learn new skills.
  • Go for a walk with them
    Perhaps give them a tour of your premises or take them out for a coffee – and talk while you walk. You’ll get a better idea of their personality than you will in a formal interview environment.

Make sure you follow all legal requirements regarding privacy, discrimination and fairness during the interview and recruitment process. Check local legislation to ensure you don’t make any costly mistakes.

What to look for so you can hire the right person

Hiring the wrong person can be expensive in terms of money and emotional stress, especially if you have to fire them soon afterwards. So take the time to get it right. Some more things to consider include:

  • Personality
    Is this person going to fit into your existing team or will there be a personality clash? In a small business this can be a critical issue.
  • Flexibility
    The ability to adapt to new and different tasks is a valuable skill.
  • Problem-solving ability
    Look for someone who uses logic and lateral thinking to overcome challenges.
  • Communication skills
    Knowledge is of little use unless it’s communicated. You need someone who’s approachable and easy to talk to.

As well as these points, try to hire someone who fits in with your strategy and core business values. And make sure it’s someone you can trust.

Above all, use your instincts

As a business owner you sometimes have to go with what feels right, because that feeling is the reasoning of your unconscious mind.

The right person will almost certainly feel right to you, as well as ticking all the boxes for experience, qualifications, skills and personality. If you have doubts about someone’s suitability to the role you’re offering, it’s probably best not to hire them.

Once you’ve hired the right people you can start to build them into a working team that will function efficiently and take your business forward.