Creating a Strong Online Presence for Marketing Success

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According to Google, 97% of consumers use the web to search for local businesses – and if the vast majority of your potential customers are online, you should be, too. Having a strong online presence is a crucial component of your marketing strategy, no matter what size your business is or what industry it belongs to.

An online presence is important for outbound marketing because it reinforces your brand and what you offer to your target market. Once you’ve communicated with your audience, you’ll need to have a web presence that helps portray why your product or service is so great – because that’s the next stop for the majority of your potential customers.

It’s also vital for inbound marketing, because quality online content will help attract customers even if they haven’t heard of your brand.

So here are three of the first things you need to look at when building your online marketing efforts.

  1. Your website

All businesses, no matter how small, should have a website. It can be extremely basic, but it should contain the fundamental information customers – both existing and potential – need. For example, one frustration I encounter far too often is restaurants that don’t have a website with a current menu, opening hours, location and contact information. I know I’m not alone in that if I can’t find these details, I’m less likely to visit the restaurant – but there’s no reason a business should lose potential customers over something that’s so easy to remedy and costs very little.

A basic website is pretty easy to set up using an application like WordPress. WordPress is a free blogging tool and content management system that gives users the option to pay a little more for the premium version. If it’s relevant to your business, you can even add an online shop – after all, in 2013, 70 percent of consumers preferred to do their retail shopping online.

If you’re not sure where to start, there’s a great guide to WordPress for small businesses on Social Media today. It’s easy to understand and runs through the factors you need to consider and steps you need to take when setting up your small business website.

If you’re starting from scratch and not sure what your website should include, survey your existing customers. Whether you send out an email asking for their input, or mention it casually while making their coffee, it’s the best way to get the insight you need – people love to be involved and share their opinions.

  1. Search engine optimization

Once you have a website, it’s vital that it can actually be found by search engines. After all, 89 percent of consumers use search engines to research a product, service or business before making a decision. To take advantage of this, you need to make sure to look at search engine optimization (SEO) for your website.

In case you’re not completely sure what SEO means, how it works, or why it’s important, here’s a quick rundown:

What: The purpose of SEO is to make it easy for search engines to find your website and list it in their ‘organic’ (as opposed to ‘paid’) results.

Why: People tend to trust search engines, so websites that appear high in results pages are more likely to receive traffic.

How: Using search-engine friendly methods to improve your website.

Who: Everyone – anyone who has information that people want to find on the internet should be using SEO techniques.

When: All the time – SEO is an ongoing process. It’s important to monitor the information on your website and make sure it’s current and correct. Search engines also love new content, which is why starting a blog can do wonders for your SEO.

Where: Major search engines include Google, Yahoo and Bing. They connect people all over the world to the content they desire, from products to services to information.

The Beginner’s Guide to SEO by Moz and Google’s Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide both give a fantastic overview of the basics and will help you optimize your website.

  1. Social media

Social media is an important part of your online presence that improves your chances of generating additional revenue and building customer loyalty. It allows customers, potential customers and other interested parties to engage easily via a channel that plays an important role in their everyday lives.

Although not every social media channel will be relevant to each business, it’s definitely worth looking into your options. For example, Facebook and Twitter will serve a purpose for almost any business – it’s a great place to post news, tips, photos and videos and ask and answer questions.

In addition to Facebook and Twitter, you might find Instagram, Google+, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest, Tumblr, FourSquare helpful. Make sure to research available channels and find out if they will work for you. Instagram, for example, is a photo-sharing network, so it works wonderfully for businesses selling ‘beautiful’ products such as jewelry, food or housewares. It’s important to consider your target demographic – Instagram has around 130–150 million users, over two-thirds of which are women between the ages of 18 and 35. With Instagram, you’ll also need to keep a smartphone handy to properly access your account and engage with your audience.

Once you’ve decided which social media channels to use, get a clear idea of the kind of content you can share. The more compelling and engaging your material is, the more likely your followers will like, comment and share your posts. Engagement is key to promoting your brand – not only will it make you more appealing to existing customers, the more positive social activity that goes on, the higher the chance is that their friends will be exposed to your brand and intrigued by what you have to offer.

When they do this, they’re engaging with your brand and their networks (friends, family, colleagues) are seeing that engagement and may be prompted to check you out for their own needs.

 

Source: written by Lucy Godwin for Duct Tape Marketing

The Basics of Branding

Branding is one of the most important aspects of any business, large or small, retail or B2B. An effective brand strategy gives you a major edge in increasingly competitive markets. But what exactly does “branding” mean? How does it affect a small business like yours?

branding

Simply put, your brand is your promise to your customer. It tells them what they can expect from your products and services, and it differentiates your offering from your competitors’. Your brand is derived from who you are, who you want to be and who people perceive you to be.

Are you the innovative maverick in your industry? Or the experienced, reliable one? Is your product the high-cost, high-quality option, or the low-cost, high-value option? You can’t be both, and you can’t be all things to all people. Who you are should be based to some extent on who your target customers want and need you to be.

The foundation of your brand is your logo. Your website, packaging and promotional materials–all of which should integrate your logo–communicate your brand.

Brand Strategy & Equity

Your brand strategy is how, what, where, when and to whom you plan on communicating and delivering on your brand messages. Where you advertise is part of your brand strategy. Your distribution channels are also part of your brand strategy. And what you communicate visually and verbally are part of your brand strategy, too.

Consistent, strategic branding leads to a strong brand equity, which means the added value brought to your company’s products or services that allows you to charge more for your brand than what identical, unbranded products command. The most obvious example of this is Coke vs. a generic soda. Because Coca-Cola has built a powerful brand equity, it can charge more for its product–and customers will pay that higher price.

The added value intrinsic to brand equity frequently comes in the form of perceived quality or emotional attachment. For example, Nike associates its products with star athletes, hoping customers will transfer their emotional attachment from the athlete to the product. For Nike, it’s not just the shoe’s features that sell the shoe.

Defining Your Brand

Defining your brand is like a journey of business self-discovery. It can be difficult, time-consuming and uncomfortable. It requires, at the very least, that you answer the questions below:

  • What is your company’s mission?
  • What are the benefits and features of your products or services?
  • What do your customers and prospects already think of your company?
  • What qualities do you want them to associate with your company?

Do your research. Learn the needs, habits and desires of your current and prospective customers. And don’t rely on what you think they think. Know what they think.

Because defining your brand and developing a brand strategy can be complex, consider leveraging the expertise of a nonprofit small-business advisory group or a Small Business Development Center .

Once you’ve defined your brand, how do you get the word out? Here are a few simple, time-tested tips:

  • Get a great logo. Place it everywhere.
  • Write down your brand messaging. What are the key messages you want to communicate about your brand? Every employee should be aware of your brand attributes.
  • Integrate your brand. Branding extends to every aspect of your business–how you answer your phones, what you or your salespeople wear on sales calls, your e-mail signature, everything.
  • Create a “voice” for your company that reflects your brand. This voice should be applied to all written communication and incorporated in the visual imagery of all materials, online and off. Is your brand friendly? Be conversational. Is it ritzy? Be more formal. You get the gist.
  • Develop a tagline. Write a memorable, meaningful and concise statement that captures the essence of your brand.
  • Design templates and create brand standards for your marketing materials. Use the same color scheme, logo placement, look and feel throughout. You don’t need to be fancy, just consistent.
  • Be true to your brand. Customers won’t return to you–or refer you to someone else–if you don’t deliver on your brand promise.
  • Be consistent. I placed this point last only because it involves all of the above and is the most important tip I can give you. If you can’t do this, your attempts at establishing a brand will fail.

By John Williams for Entrepreneur.com

Staying healthy at work

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Work can be a place where healthy habits fly out the window. Despite the daunting task of making time to take care of yourself, you’ll find yourself happier and more productive if you do.

Consider these five tips for staying healthy at work.

Hydrate

There’s a decent chance you don’t get enough water either because you don’t take in enough liquid daily or because you substitute water with carbonated beverages and other sugary drinks.

“Drinking lots of water is a secret weapon that helps you avoid adding calories throughout the day, says Jacqueline Twillie, author of “Navigating the Career Jungle.” “Not to mention the extra trips to the restroom from all of the water will help you to take mini breaks from your desk, so that you can recharge and go back to being productive in the office.”

Give yourself a break

Just because your schedule makes you feel like you should jump robotically from one task to the next without so much as a bathroom break doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.

“Set a timer to force yourself to STOP! -every 30-45 minutes, the alarm (could be kitchen egg timer or an app) reminds you to stop, stretch, and take a break…walk the dog if you work from home, leave the office for a quick walk, or meditate with an app like Calm (on the app store)…allow yourself to refocus,” suggests Stacy Lindenberg, chief change agent and owner of Talent Seed Consulting.

Meditate

Whether you’re closing your eyes to pick a mantra, an intention, or giving yourself a moment of silence, you’re helping yourself. “This practice speaks to mental health,” says Maren Showkeir, and author and a certified yoga instructor.

“Meditation, even for short periods, has many benefits, including increasing the ability to stay focused, calm and non-reactive. It can lower heart rates and blood pressure. It can increase lung capacity. And it’s backed by research.”

Work together

“We like to encourage collaboration in our office, so we meet monthly to discuss new ways for our office to remain in a healthy state (physically and mentally),” shares CEO Tony Sorensen of Versique Search and Consulting. “One of our employees teaches yoga, and offers a class free to co-workers during lunch hour. We also have friendly office competitions like ‘The Biggest Loser’ to those willing to participate and join the movement.”

Put down the sugar

Eating healthy food instead of sugary snacks keeps you from hunger pangs and overeating, says speaker and fitness professional Lorraine Bossé-Smith. “Sugar is an immune suppressor, so you are more likely to get sick when you partake in too many sweets. Lastly, add glutamine to your routine by drinking a glass of water with one teaspoon of the powder mixed in once a day.” Getting older means a significant decrease in our production of glutamine, which boosts the immune system, so consider adding this supplement to your daily routine, advises Bossé-Smith.

 

By Hannah Hamilton for Monster.com

 

 

 

10 Tips to Improve Your Health at Work

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Image thanks to Fit for Work

Eight hours in a chair in front of a computer, five days a week can take a toll on your body. From avoiding eye strain and tension neck syndrome to passing on those extra calories that co-workers leave invitingly on their desks, experts give WebMD 10 tips that will help you stay healthy and in shape at work.

1. The snacks that your co-workers so nicely place on their desk can add a few hundred calories to your daily diet if you’re not careful, and they can leave you with unwanted pounds if you help yourself day after day.

“If it’s out of sight, it’s out of mind, so if you know someone has a candy dish on their desk, walk around his or her desk so you don’t feel the temptation,” says Dawn Jackson, a registered dietitian and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. “Take a break, get a breath of fresh air, and skip the candy. Or, if you are hungry, have fruit at your desk, like cherries or grapes.”

Three out of five Americans are overweight, explains Jackson, which means there is likely more than one person in your office who is dieting.

“In most offices, people are trying to lose weight, so go in with people and get fruit bowls instead of candy bowls,” says Jackson. “And see if you can get people to replace their candy bowls with something healthier.”

2. Drinking an adequate amount of water — eight to 10 glasses every day — can help keep you hydrated. Many foods are also good sources of water; fruits like oranges, grapefruit, grapes, watermelon, and apples can help keep you healthy and hydrated.

“The 3 o’clock lull that many people feel at work can be due to dehydration, so drink lots of water,” Jackson tells WebMD. “Set goals: Bring a 16 ounce bottle of water to work and try to finish it by lunch, and then fill it up again and finish that by 3 p.m. By 5 p.m., finish a third bottle.”

Another tip from Jackson: Set your computer alarm to go off so you remember it’s time to refill.

3. One of the most important things you can do during the day to stay healthy and in shape is to exercise.

“Walking during lunch is a great idea,” says Jackson. “Not only are you burning calories, but you’re de-stressing and refreshing.”

Jackson recommends you find a walking partner whom you can depend on for a daily walk –someone who will drag you out even if you claim you’re too busy. If you really can’t get out during lunch, park farther away than you normally do so you have a short walk to work in the morning and evening, or make it a habit to take the stairs instead of the elevator.

4. Eating a healthy lunch is an important part of a balanced diet. But eating reasonable portions is an important part of your health.

“Eat a healthy lunch at work, but also practice portion control so you aren’t consuming too many calories and then sitting in a chair all afternoon,” says Jackson. “Many times, it’s not that you are eating unhealthy food, it’s just that you are eating too much.”

For instance, Jackson explains that pizza isn’t inherently bad, it’s just that a person will eat three or four slices too many, and that’s where the problem lies. Instead, share a large slice of piece of pizza with a co-worker, and then eat a salad that’s packed with veggies.

5. Tension neck syndrome (TNS) can occur when the neck and upper shoulders are held in a fixed, awkward position for long periods of time, according to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. It can happen to people in the workplace who talk on the phone for a most of the day or type a lot.

“You want to make sure your neck isn’t bent to the side for long periods of time, ” says Alan Hedge, professor of ergonomics at Cornell University. “Tension neck syndrome can cause neck and shoulder pain, muscle tightness, and tenderness. So use a speakerphone, a shoulder cradle, or use a headset at work when you’re on the phone.”

 

6. Eyestrain is another problem that can be encountered in front of a computer. It can cause headaches, difficulty focusing, and increased sensitivity to light, according to the University of California at Davis.

To prevent eyestrain, Hedge tells WebMD, “The distance to the screen from your eyes should be about an arms length away. You should also be able to comfortably read what’s on your screen at that distance, without having to squint.”

If you can’t read your screen from an arm’s length away, simply increase the font size on your computer.

7. A healthy tip that all of us want to hear is that vacations are an important part of staying healthy at work.

“It’s very beneficial to get away for a long vacation that will help you recharge your ‘batteries,'” says Jonathan Kramer, a clinical psychologist and president of Business Psychology Consulting. “Vacations help reduce stress and get your mind off work, especially if you’re having a conflict, such as a problem with your boss, a co-worker, or a project.”

Stress can impair your immune system, increasing the risk of illness, explains Kramer, so minimizing it is essential — and fortunately, vacations are just the way to do that.

8. Another way to stay healthy at work is to avoid long stretches of long days.

“Occasionally, people focus on the task at hand and getting a project done, and they aren’t aware of the impact it’s having on their health,” says Kramer. “They may not be aware of it until the stress is at a really high level, and it’s affecting their relationships and their moods.”

This, explains Kramer, is another type of stress, commonly referred to as burnout. Burnout can also impair a person’s immune system, as well as interfere with sleep and his or her ability to concentrate.

9. Your keyboard, mouse, and phone can harbor thousands of germs that are just waiting to make you sick. So get out the disinfectant.

According to Science Daily, researchers at the 100th General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology reported, “We know that viruses can survive (remain infectious) for hours to days on a hard surface … if a virus such as the rotavirus (a diarrheal virus) were on the surface of a telephone receiver, infectious doses could easily be transferred to persons using the telephone.”

To clean these objects, the National Consumers League recommends using a disinfectant cleaner or spray that is registered with the Environmental Protection Agency and proven effective against a wide variety of viruses.

10. What’s the most important thing you can do to stay healthy at work? Kramer sums it up for WebMD.

“The most important way to stay healthy at work starts with self-awareness,” says Kramer. “Know yourself and know your limits and do the best you can to stay within those limits given your job. Know when to take breaks and know when to take a vacation. And get plenty of exercise, which helps you both physically and mentally, both at work and at home.”

Source: WebMD

7 Tips On Creating Workplace Motivation

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Workplace motivation is one of those interesting things. We think it should just drop out of the sky like magic but it never really does. We also don’t really think about how to create motivation for ourselves. However, we really can create it with the right tools.  Let’s get on the same page about what motivation is. Motivation is what causes you to take action. Clearly, you’re at work so you do have some motivation because your action is going to work and performing your job. What we are talking about is feeling engaged and inspired about the actions you do take. Let’s look at some of the tools you can use to get fully engaged and motivated in the workplace:

1. Change

There’s nothing like changing things to really get the juices going. You don’t want to change things just for the sake of changing; however, you want to change things that don’t work well. With that, you must have a vision of what the right outcome would be and then you apply your steps to create the action for change.

2. Goals

Many times, the lack of motivation is due to a lack of direction or goals. Sit down and figure out what would really get you up in the morning and make that your goal. Having a goal isn’t enough, though. It has to be a goal that you yearn for or have some emotions about. Once established, put together a plan for how you will achieve your goals. If you really are going to shoot for something worth having, keep in mind SMART for goals = Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Resonate, and Time.

3. Be Accountable

The vast majority of us want to do things but we’re really lazy about doing them. It’s often easier to diet or workout with someone because we have a person that is looking for us to perform. Find someone to hold you accountable to yourself and be willing to trade off the favor.

4. Clean Up Your Own Internal Litter

We all have baggage, but sometimes we have so much of it cluttering up our life that it bogs us down and we fail to see what’s possible.

5. Surround Yourself With The Right People

Yes, your mother was right… it is important to hang out with the right people. In this case, hang out with people who are inspired and motivated as it will be contagious.

6. Research The Issue

Find out from others what motivates them. In the process, you may hear something that would really be great for you. Don’t be afraid to copy what works.

7. Cop An Attitude

Motivation creates more motivation. Look for it and it will be there. We often get hung up about our ability to control things in the workplace. The one thing we can control is our attitude and approach to various workplace challenges. These tools for workplace motivation are simple to do which means there is nothing but you holding you up from trying them.

By Dorothy Tannahill-Moran Work it Daily

 

4 Ways To Find Your Motivation At Work

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The other day I had a client come to me with an all-too familiar dilemma: she had lost motivation at work, and in turn her happiness. Studies show employee motivation and happiness are inherently linked, so it was no surprise this client, Amanda, was so affected by her lack of motivation.

The less happy you are at work, the less productive, and your motivation can plummet even further. It’s a terrible cycle that so many people find themselves stuck in.

Lack of motivation at work is a problem for the economy, as well. One study revealed that only 13% of the workforce is actively engaged in their job. That’s one out of eight employees. It’s not the type of data employers want to see, and not good for employee morale, either. Happy employees are good employees, and the effects of going to a job every day that you dislike are crushing.

So how can you regain your motivation, your happiness, and your overall satisfaction? Try these four tips.

1. Ask for feedback.

Sometimes, you can get so focused on your work you can lose sight of the little ways you can improve, or even where you’re adding value. Not knowing how you can do better or what you’re contributing can absolutely lead to a lack of motivation.

One way to remedy this is ask your coworkers or leaders for feedback. There’s always room to learn and grow in any professional role, and there’s no one better to help you target specific areas of growth than the people you interact with daily, and who know your work.

2. Celebrate others.

If you’re feeling uninspired and stuck, a great way to get yourself out of your rut is to take the focus off yourself and start celebrating others around you. This kind of positive thinking leads to stronger friendships and even improved satisfaction and income.

In fact, studies show employees who have more positive interactions with their coworkers are more productive and engaged with their work. So it’s worth it to take a bit of time to congratulate people on a promotion or completed project, or even just compliment them on a job well done.

3. Start saying ‘no.’

It can be so tempting to say yes to everything, especially if you’re feeling unmotivated. After all, wouldn’t it make sense that the more projects you take on or the more events you attend, the more likely you are to find your motivation again?

Unfortunately, saying yes to everything can actually burn you out. Fast. Science shows that saying no can improve productivity and mental health.

If you feel torn between wanting to make someone else happy and wanting to make yourself happy, remember: Saying no to whatever they are asking of you is just another way of saying yes to what you truly want to commit yourself to.

4. Take a break!

It can be tempting to want to work through the rut, but this might not be the best course of action. Did you know that Americans leave an average of 3.2 vacation days unused. This habit of not taking a vacation has to stop! Taking that break from work can leave you refreshed and rejuvenated.

In fact, a study by Harvard College showed that 94% of workers who took a vacation stated that they had as much—if not more—energy after coming back from a good trip. 55% confirmed that they returned to work with higher levels of energy than before the trip.

We all fall into motivation slumps in our careers at some point or another.

I’ve been there. I get it.

But knowing how to respond to that lack of motivation is the difference between breaking out of your rut or staying lost. Follow these tips and you might just find your motivation flooding back!

By Ashley Stahl for Forber.com

What People Want From Work: Motivation

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Every individual person has different motivations for working at a job. The reasons for working are as individual as the person. But, all people work because the workplace provides something that you need from work. The something that you obtain from your work impacts your morale, your motivation, and the quality of your life.

Here are thoughts about employee motivation, what people want from work, and how you can help employees attain what they need for their work motivation.

Work is About the Money

Some people work for their love of the work; others work for personal and professional fulfillment. Other people like to accomplish goals and feel as if they are contributing to something larger than themselves, something important, an overarching vision for what they can create. Some people have personal missionsthey accomplish through meaningful work.

Others truly love what they do or the clients they serve. Some like the camaraderie and interaction with customers and coworkers. Other people like to fill their time with activity. Some workers like change, challenge, and diverse problems to solve. As you can see, employee motivation is individual and diverse.

Whatever your personal reasons for working, the bottom line, however, is that almost everyone works for money. Whatever you call it: compensationsalarybonusesbenefits or remuneration, money pays the bills. Money provides housing, gives children clothing and food, sends teens to college, and allows leisure activities, and eventually, retirement. Unless you are independently wealthy, you need to work to collect a paycheck.

To underplay the importance of money and benefits as motivation for people who work is a mistake. It may not be their most significant motivator or even the motivational factor they’d first mention in a conversation but earning a living is a factor in any discussion about employee motivation.

Fair benefits and pay are the cornerstones of a successful company that recruits and retains committed workers. If you provide a living wage for your employees, you can then work on additional motivation issues. Without the fair, living wage, however, you risk losing your best people to a better-paying employer.

In fact, research from Watson Wyatt Worldwide in “The Human Capital Edge: 21 People Management Practices Your Company Must Implement (or Avoid) to Maximize Shareholder Value,” recommends, that to attract the best employees, you need to pay more than your average-paying counterparts in the marketplace. Money provides basic motivation.

Got Money? What’s Next for Motivation?

Surveys and studies dating back to the early 1980s demonstrate that people want more from work than money. An early study of thousands of workers and managers by the American Psychological Association clearly demonstrated this.

Managers predicted that the most important motivational aspect of work for people they employed would be money. Instead, it turned out that personal time and attention from the manager or supervisor was cited by workers as the most rewarding and motivational for them at work.

In a “Workforce” article, “The Ten Ironies of Motivation,” reward and recognition guru, Bob Nelson, says, “More than anything else, employees want to be valued for a job well done by those they hold in high esteem.” He adds that people want to be treated as if they are adult human beings who think, makes decisions, tries to do the right thing, and don’t need a caretaker watching over their shoulders.

While what people want from work is situational, depending on the person, his needs and the rewards that are meaningful to him, giving people what they want from work is really quite straightforward. The basics are:

  • Control of their work inspires motivation: including such components as the ability to have an impact on decisions; setting clear and measurable goals; clear responsibility for a complete, or at least defined, task; job enrichment; tasks performed in the work itself; and recognition for achievement.
  • To belong to the in-crowd creates motivation: including items such as receiving timely information and communication; understanding management’s formulas for decision making; team and meeting participation opportunities; and visual documentation and posting of work progress and accomplishments.
  • The opportunity for growth and development is motivational: and includes education and training; career paths; team participation; succession planning; cross-training; and field trips to successful workplaces.
  • Leadership is key in motivation. People want clear expectations that provide a picture of the outcomes desired with goal setting and feedback and an appropriate structure or framework.

Recognition for Performance Creates Motivation

In “The Human Capital Edge,” authors Bruce Pfau and Ira Kay say that people want recognition for their individual performance with pay tied to their performance.

Employees want people who don’t perform fired; in fact, failure to discipline and fire non-performers is one of the most demotivating actions an organization can take—or fail to take. It ranks on the top of the list next to paying poor performers the same wage as non-performers in deflating motivation.

Additionally, the authors found that a disconnect continues to exist between what employers think people want at work and what people say they want for motivation.

People want employers to pay them above market rates. They seek flexible work schedules. They want stock options, a chance to learn, and the increased sharing of the rationale behind management decisions and direction.

What You Can Do for Motivation and Positive Morale

You have much information about what people want from work. Key to creating a work environment that fosters motivation are the wants and needs of the individual employees. The most significant recommendation for your takeaway is that you need to start asking your employees what they want from work and whether they are getting it.

With this information in hand, you’ll be surprised at how many simple and inexpensive opportunities you have to create a motivational, desirable work environment. Pay attention to what is important to the people you employ for high motivation and positive morale. When you foster these for people, you’ll achieve awesome business success.

 

Source: BY SUSAN M. HEATHFIELD for The Balance Careers