Corporate social responsibility programs are essential to businesses not only from the perspective of their customers but also because of today’s workers. Workers are pushing multi-national corporations and smaller mom and pop shops toward CSR. One of the best things you can do for your team is to create an employee volunteer program, which will help you hire and retain the best talent. It’s also a way to demonstrate that your business understands how it’s vital for all types of organizations to be involved in making a social impact. In turn, this will enhance morale within your company and broaden your brand and the base of people and groups that interact with it.

Many years ago, I had dinner with a high-powered and wealthy finance professional. The financier told me that after spending a weekend painting a hospital wing with his corporate team in a facility that operated in an area that was less affluent than where he lived, he understood the value of “rolling up your sleeves” in the community.

In other words, what he was telling me was that he was used to writing the big checks, which was great for the organizations he supported. But it was in spending a weekend at the hospital doing the painting with his work team that he also understood the importance of getting involved in the community at a more fundamental level.

First Question for a Volunteer Program

When you consider creating a volunteer program within your business, the first thing you want to do is to check the pulse of your team. By including them in your thought process early, you’re empowering them to become part of the creation of something from which they will benefit. Speaking soon is an opportunity to obtain critical engagement and support for your idea from the outset.

When you’re talking to your team about creating a volunteer program, you want to ask them if anyone has experience and background with these types of programs. Don’t be surprised if one or two people on your team tell you that they’ve participated in a volunteer effort. This type of discovery aims to have the chance to frame the ideas in ways that resonate with them, perhaps because of past successes or interests.

Think About Company Culture

When you’ve started the conversation with your team about developing a volunteer program, you also want to take company culture into account. You have to make sure that the program aligns with your company’s culture. For instance, if some of the values of your company include being fun and cutting edge, you will like to mirror that in whatever volunteer program you begin to create.

Another element that you want to take into account is structure. If you’re a hierarchical organization, as you embark on this journey, you’ll probably want to recruit a person or two to spearhead the effort. However, if your business structure is flat and the decision-making process is more collaborative, then you might want to get several team leaders involved to move the process forward. Regardless of the approach, you’ll want to have updates and ways include the rest of the team, so there’s full buy-in and to build momentum and excitement.

Obtaining Buy-In from Everyone

As mentioned earlier, when you’re looking to implement a volunteer program you want to get buy-in from your team, and one of the best ways to do this is to start the discussions early. Get them involved from the beginning of the process. Be transparent about how everything will evolve and how decisions will be made. For instance, will it be made by you as the business leader, or collectively?

And, depending on who is leading the charge, make it a point to provide your team with updates and milestones as things progress. As you set up your program goals, communicate them and make it a point to ask for feedback from the broader group. Don’t forget that your team members, with their different responsibilities, know your business and how the program might impact the company from marketing, operational or even business development perspectives.

Critical aspects of creating a volunteer program are to build morale, increase productivity, enhance your brand within the community and support teamwork. Ask for their input into how your volunteer program will also achieve overall business objectives.

Once you’ve created a program and have it running, you’ll want to measure and see the positive impact it has on your community, but also within your company.

 

Most of us have an inherent distaste for conflict. And somewhere along the way, society has reached a conclusion that disagreement is a bad thing. When it comes to business advice and decisions, that conclusion can be deadly.

I see two factors that have contributed to the current state of disagreement. One is the national political climate, which is the most polarized I can remember since my father was snarling about those damned hippies. The other is social media, which seems to exist largely as an arena for vicious arguments on virtually every subject, fueled by a complete absence of accountability and a belief that having read a Facebook post on a subject qualifies as expertise.

I mention those factors because I’ve seen them seep into the way businesspeople think and operate. I encounter it most often when I’m working with a client and counsel a course of action that doesn’t match their plans, or find them objecting to the way I’ve written something on their behalf. Instead of healthy, productive conversations, the conversations often devolve into defensive reactions focused on guarding turf. And the emotion shifts from tension about the suggestion to personal anger directed at the person who made it.

Now, the easiest thing for me to do in those situations is to simply smile, nod my head, and go along with whatever they think or want me to do. After all, they’re paying the bills. But what’s easiest isn’t always ethically appropriate, and if someone is paying for my expertise, I’m foolish enough to assume that they want (and even need) it.

Those of us who counsel clients, whether we’re talking about attorneys, accountants, agents, or even lowly writers, have an ethical (and often legal) obligation to act in the best interests of those we serve. Sometimes that means advising them on the most prudent course of action. Sometimes, it involves protecting them from themselves. No matter what we’re doing, we’re expected to offer advice that best serves their needs, even if they don’t like what we have to say. It isn’t argument for argument’s sake.

If you want to sue a competitor, and your attorney advises that you’re only going to sink a small fortune into a case in which you’re not likely to prevail, she’s not being argumentative. She’s using her knowledge of the law, the legal arena, and the facts of the case to assess your situation and counsel you on the best course of action.

If you want to write off that personal vacation to Cabo San Lucas as a business tax deduction, and your CPA suggests that’s a bad idea, he’s not criticizing you. He knows from experience what’s likely to pass muster with the fine folks at the IRS and what’s likely to earn a rejection and penalties.

And when you tell someone like me about the idea you have for your new ad or the copy for your website update, and I point out that you may not have noticed the negative message it inadvertently creates, I’m not trying to pick a fight. I’m seeing it through more objective eyes, particularly those of your potential audience.

In other words, disagreement is not inherently argumentative. It’s not creating conflict for the sake of creating conflict. If you’re turning to professionals for their expertise and regarding their disagreements with you as questioning your worth or trying to start a fight, why are you paying for their help in the first place?

Do the professionals advising you always get it right? Much as we’d like to believe we always do, I know that isn’t the case. But when those professionals speak based upon their education, experience, and even occasional bits of wisdom they’ve acquired across their careers, we get it right far more often than not.

The experts who challenge you and your way of thinking aren’t trying to diminish you. Their goal is to improve your lot in life, whether that involves protecting you from an unfriendly letter from the IRS or making sure your website is as communicative and persuasive as possible. Yes, you’re an expert in your field who deserves respect. Grant them the same respect, and you’ll find that your own expertise will continue to deepen and expand.

 

There is a common saying about the devastating loss that strikes when an idea dies in the mind before its actual fruition. It is, therefore, largely advocated that all ideas must be put into action and with the help of product design and development firms, individuals have been able to realize their dreams.

Who are these product design and development firms? These are designed to help turn ideas into tangible products. Many brilliant minds choke with ideas that they cannot bring to reality simply because they lack the manpower, the resources and the maybe lack some few essential basics. Product design firms help you design the product to meet the taste of the consumers as well as compete well market wise.

Benefits of hiring a product design and manufacturing agencies

Some of the innovators as discussed above lack some key essential requirements to manufacture their products. These firms take away these troubles and guide you all the way to the end to see your brilliance in action.

For a new product to succeed in this competitive market certain factors must be considered and this requires professionals to conduct market research and other studies. Product design and manufacturing companies carry out these market studies and provide strategies that help the product do well and be as profitable as possible.

In the manufacturing process, certain requirements must be met such as engineering and prototyping the product before the actual final product. This is one of the key roles played by these firms.

With the right firm, certain future problems may be avoided as they help with projections and prediction of the market and will help in redesigning the product to suit the market at all times.

Lastly, these firms help you deal with patent issues and offer guidelines pertaining to the set regulations on your product. This can save the innovator from a lot of legal issues that may arise along the way.

What to look for in a great product design and development company

Their client base, this helps you to know a lot about their level of professionalism and how great they are. The testimonies and reviews can help you make an easy judgment.

The number of years that the firm has been in operation, this helps you to understand its ability to give right market projections.

The company workforce, they should comprise of all the necessary minds such as market researcher, engineers, and all the right professionals. The right firm will always have the right people for you with experience and workmanship that complements your ambitions.

 

“A man without a smiling face must never open a shop” or so the Chinese proverb goes. Truly, smiling goes a long way to lighting up the mood for a friendlier, more understanding conversation. This is true in business as well, especially when trying to make a business partnership. However, there are more business etiquettes beyond smiling and demonstrating these will show others that your customers and your business are worth respecting.

* Introduce everyone, even when in doubt – There is a proper way to introduce people to each other. First, introduce the person who is the most senior, using their full name and their job title or responsibility. Next introduce that person to the person who has lower authority. Make sure to also mention his or her full name. To end, you may mention some details about each other as a topic of common interest. When being introduced to someone, always stand up if you are sitting.

* A firm handshake – The way businessmen shake hands more often than not sets the tone between them. Giving a good, firm handshake will set a good first impression as it may eventually end up in a successful business partnership. If you are the host or the senior member, you should be the one initiating the handshake.

* Admit if you forget their names – Forgetting the names of people you were recently introduced to is not uncommon. If it happens, admit it and ask for it again as this shows that you give them importance.

* Sitting down for a meeting – Whether the meeting is in a restaurant or in an office, in a group or a one-on-one, it is best not to pull out the chair for anyone. In a business setting, everyone should dismiss social gender rules and treat everyone equally. When seated, never cross your legs as it may be distracting and disrespectful.

* Meeting in a restaurant – Contrary to business instincts, do not use your knife to break bread. Tear it off with your bare hands as this signifies your openness to your potential business partner. When finished with the meal, never push your plate away nor stack the plates. Try not to have any left overs as well. If your guest orders appetizers or dessert, you should be ordering as well. This avoids the potential awkwardness of having other people in your party eating and you have nothing on your plate. If you are the host, you should pay for your guest unless he or she insists otherwise or is against their company’s gifting policy.

* Dress properly – The way someone dresses is a form of nonverbal communication. Dressing appropriately for a meeting shows an automatic sign of respect for either the guests or for the host. Additionally, always check the dress code for an event as some events may require either more or less formal attire.

* Keep cellphones in your pockets – Never place phones on the meeting table and don’t use them during the meeting. Only answer calls that are urgent and excuse yourself from the meeting and take your call outside so you don’t interrupt the meeting.

* “Please” and “Thank You” – These two phrases show politeness in any conversation and it is all the more important in a professional setting. Saying “please” can be used as much as needed. “Thank you”, however, should be used once or twice as saying it too many times may lower its impact. As much as possible, give thanks to everyone individually after a meeting.

* Stay sober – Businessmen have lost reputations and careers because drunken behavior. Although none of the things said or done while drunk were meant, it is a clear sign of disrespect towards either the host or guests. Don’t embarrass yourself or your business. Know your limits and control your pace.

* Be genuinely interested – Always make eye contact in a conversation and make sure to pay attention to every detail the guest says. Take the time to ask questions as this shows that you were listening and interested.

* Double check emails – Simple mistakes can be made to derail a meeting or blow a deal. You may have date and time wrong for a meeting, left out some paperwork to be signed, or worse, your emails were sent to the wrong person and may potentially endanger the company.

* Use professional photos – When using your or anyone’s photos for business matters, always use a proper headshot. Businesses would need to look credible to other businesses.

* Greet everyone anywhere – Regardless of seniority, always greet people. You may never know that he may actually be your next business partner. When people greet you, it is imperative that you greet back.

* Don’t forget to smile – Just like the Chinese proverb, smiling works wonders in any occasion, whether in a meeting, during introductions, or in a business social gathering.

End on a polite note – When you need to leave, make sure you exit politely with either, “It was nice to meet you” or “See you at the next meeting”.