How to Build Trust and Unity Through a Strong Company Culture

When it comes to company culture, Zoom is off the charts.

Zoom is a California communications company that provides remote conferencing services for online video meetings, chat, and mobile collaboration.

Zoom’s mission is to develop a people-centric cloud service that unifies meeting experiences while improving the quality of communications forever. Zoom is passionate about connecting not only customers but employees.

The company sports its own “happiness crew,” a team committed to maintaining company values through wacky celebrations, community involvement, and volunteering. Happiness crews coordinate team serving opportunities like Habitat for Humanity, Special Olympics, and more, allowing employees to give back, to enjoy co-workers from other teams, and to make a difference for causes they care about.

Whether it’s arranging a “Bring Your Parent to Work Day” or decorating desks with rubber ducks, this passionate team culture has helped Zoom to grow and thrive.

Company Culture is Beyond “Perks”

Company culture is more than just great coffee or vacation incentives; it goes to the heart of how people treat one another and the values of the company itself.

Deliberately defining and communicating your culture makes it easier to determine who you’re looking for and why certain individuals are a fit for your team. It defines success for employees and encourages people to practice values that are important for your business. And deeper than just perks or parties, company culture unifies people and makes work more meaningful and enjoyable. As you design company culture today, you build trust, responsibility, and vulnerability for tomorrow.

5 Keys to An Enhanced Company Culture

What might an enhanced culture look like for your business? Here are a few keys.

1. Build From the Bottom

Start by defining your mission, vision, and values.

Create language or catchphrases that celebrate a “win,” so values come off the wall and into everyday life. When you center your culture around how you want people to be treated, company culture will fall into place.

2. Identify Cultural Ambassadors

Every company has team members who are passionate about company identity.

These people love the organization and serve as cheerleaders who breathe life into the workplace. Once you identify ambassadors, ask them what they like or dislike about the current atmosphere and what improvements they would suggest.

Ambassadors offer a buffer between the boss and the team and have immense power to sway opinion. Lean on them and be open to change!

3. “Mandate” Fun

A strong work culture requires that everyone gets together, whether it’s a mid-day splurge or an after-work activity.

Offer timed conversation prompts or get people competing to fuel momentum. Looking for ideas? From breakroom cooking competitions to a hilarious round of “Eat Poop, You Cat,” online hacks are endless.

4. Assign Culture Captains

Maybe you can’t afford a happiness crew, but every employee can assist you in connecting with changing personalities.

Involve employees by selecting rotating “Culture Captains” who are in charge of shaping ideas for the month. From Funky Friday costume days to a buffet of the month (with a merit-based giveaway item), getting people involved in planning means everyone will have more fun!

5. Encourage Anonymous Feedback

No one likes criticism, but if you don’t welcome feedback, culture “cancers” can grow.

Send a yearly survey to all employees so everyone can share how they’re feeling and provide anonymous feedback. Allowing an avenue for processing can prompt a wealth of new ideas. Sometimes your team has the solutions you need, and you don’t even know it!

Your Greatest Asset

In a world where great employees are like gold, treating your work atmosphere as an afterthought is a huge missed opportunity. Wise entrepreneurs will design company culture as intentionally as they design the products they sell.

 

Spark Creative Solutions with Four Ideation Strategies

Creativity.

It’s something we long to unleash. Some seem to do this effortlessly, with work that carries a distinct, resounding voice. Others labor tirelessly and produce merely a weak echo. Where some of us once flourished, now we flounder.

The good news?

It doesn’t have to be that way.

What does it take to beat back the ordinary and to release fresh, gripping, or exciting ideas continually?

4 Ideation Strategies to Spark Creativity

When you want to break out of creative ruts, ideation strategies offer a useful tool for challenging your habitual (a.k.a. BORING) ways of thinking.

Want to give it a try? Here are four exercises to enhance imagination for yourself or your team.

1. Green Lighting

Green lighting (or free-flow brainstorming) is often used in creative strategy sessions because the lack of censorship allows participants to generate a high quantity of ideas in a short, synergized session.

During a green light session, any wild or wacky ideas are welcome to be jotted on a group think board. Participants restrain from analyzing or critiquing options and instead try to build momentum by generating a large quantity of ideas or by collectively building on others’ ideas.  Green-light thinking sparks solutions you might otherwise overlook, releasing your team to much higher levels of creativity and productivity.

2. Mind Mapping

Mind mapping is a graphical technique used to build a web of relationships.

Begin by writing a problem statement or a key phrase in the center of the page. Now encourage people to say solutions or ideas that come to their minds next. As new ideas are put on the board, participants connect their keyword “branches” by curves, lines, or vectors. Mind mapping transforms dull or tedious information into colorful, memorable patterns that can help flush out ideas, articulate hidden options, or generate collective solutions.

3. The “Anti-Problem” Exercise

Sometimes looking directly at a problem makes it harder to solve.

This ideation strategy encourages teams to turn the tables by defining an “anti-problem,” or a challenge that is the opposite of the real problem at hand. After articulating this concept, teams work together for a set amount of time to solve the anti-problem. Here teams may find inspiration by generating ideas still relating to the problem space, solutions than can then be “re-flipped” to bring them back into the realm of the true problem.

4. Mindset Spacing

Sometimes using physical space to reflect different thinking methods can propel your team to breakthrough.

For example, Disney’s creative team used to label four parts of a room for separate mindsets: imagining, planning, critiquing, and stepping outside a concept. Teams then gathered in each space with one target objective: perhaps an innovation to brainstorm or a process to improve. While dreamers practiced green-light thinking, planners tried to define the specs, timeline, etc. Meanwhile, critics and concept overseers analyzed weaknesses, defined missing elements, or addressed obstacles.

Challenge your team members to physically rotate between these “mindset” spaces and see if it brings new ideas to light!

Collectively We are Genius

Time to teach an old dog new tricks? They say that “collectively, we are genius,” so try out ideation techniques with your team and awaken imagination today!

Ideation strategies allow you to flow in a life-giving, streamlined environment, releasing ideas that are imaginative, strategy-driven, and smart. Need help with coming up with your next great idea in print? Reach out to us today.

Gain Momentum with a Strong Visual Identity

When Ruben Dario Villa started his car air freshener company, Fúchila Fresheners, he had a clear idea of who he was and how he wanted to communicate.

As a Mexican American, Villa wanted his Chicano heritage to be instantly recognizable to people from his community:

“Fúchila in Spanish is slang for when something smells bad,” Villa said. “So calling [our brand] Fúchila Fresheners is ironic, and people thought it was funny.”

Fúchila’s products aren’t your typical tree-shaped fresheners. Instead, they include pop-art images of the late singer Selena Quintanilla-Pérez and renowned Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. The fresheners use simple, punchy colors that reflect Chicano heritage, and it works. While Villa started Fúchila from the trunk of his car, now the fresheners are carried in over 100 stores from coast to coast.

 “The [visual] identity has been crucial to Fúchila’s growth,” said Villa. “It has a graphical element. It’s been attractive to people; I use very bright colors. It really is being authentic to me—it’s what I like to see and what I feel my community likes to see, so that’s what I gravitated towards.”

Why Consistency Counts

If you put five pieces of your marketing materials in front of you, what would you see?

Would you find a streamlined, consistent theme? Or would you see a confusing jumble of chaotic imagery, colors, and text?

In today’s visually-focused age, a strong visual brand identity is crucial. Visual identities offer a framework for clients to connect with companies in a reassuring, cohesive way, so when you engage prospects across different platforms, they know who you are and the personality you represent.

Visual branding includes logos, colors, typography, imagery, composition styles, photography, videos, and more. Just as Villa chose images relevant to Chicanos, your target audience should shape the theme of your brand. When you resonate with the desires of your audience, it will be easier to attract people.

3 Keys to Sharpen Your Visual Identity

Looking to sharpen your visual identity? Here are three keys.

1. Define Your Audience

Defining your audience can influence the tone you use.

Outline your target markets using demographics (age, gender, income, etc.) and psychographics (personality, interests, lifestyles, or desired solutions). Once you identify their values or concerns, you can appeal to their needs and wants.

2. Outline Your Mission and Voice

Your business probably has a clear vision, but can you communicate this to your audience?

Why do you provide your products or services? How do you hope to change your clients or bring benefit to their lives? Once you clarify your mission, identify the voice that matches this position. Whether this voice is authoritative, rebellious, or compassionate, seek to communicate in a consistent tone. 

3. Use a Cohesive Style Guide

To build a strong visual identity, maintain a style guide to keep visuals cohesive across mediums.

Use color psychology to pick shades that match your voice. Define imagery that complements your message: is it pastel landscapes? Bright animations? Personable faces? Even shapes communicate: round and organic forms signal warmth and softness, while geometric or angular shapes signal innovation, prestige, or power.

According to John Du, a Los Angeles-based designer and art director, even typography is significant:

“Typography is just as emotional as anything else—when you look at different fonts, they have different personalities,” Du said. “If you want to showcase your business as something very traditional or respectable, you might consider a serif typeface. If you want people to see your business as something more modern, something more grounded, maybe you’ll choose a sans serif typeface.”

It’s All About the Image

Studies show that visuals increase a desire to read content by 80 percent.

When you create articulate, strong visuals, your business will gain momentum and grow strong relationships with customers and clients.

Embrace Originality with 4 Unique Marketing Options

Want to sculpt an eye-catching identity and bring your print projects to life?

You dream it; we’ll print it! With today’s technology, you can print concepts as varied as your ideas and as rich as your imagination. Ready to toss the template and try something a little different? Here are a few ideas to push the boundaries in your next design.

Foil Postcards

Time to rise and sparkle!

Raised gold or silver foil will take any printing to the next level. With a tactile, metallic shine, foil postcards bring a “wow” factor that can’t be matched. Foil can be added to logos, lettering, die-cut shapes, outlines, borders, and more. You can foil on one of both sides of your postcard, or combine your foil with velvety coated paper to make your product shine.

Whether you want eye-grabbing handouts or incredible invitations, foil postcards are guaranteed to make a stunning impression.

Pearlescent Flyers

Looking for a quality that suits your style?

Add an extravagant touch with metallic, pearlized, and pearlescent papers for your next flyer. With a smooth feel and a glittery finish, pearlescent print pieces bring a modern, pristine look your customers can’t miss. Thick, shiny, and metallic, these paper stocks offer a gorgeous option for announcements, service menus, invites, and more.

For a rich, warm finish, go for antique gold, champagne cream, copper, or flaming reds and oranges. Or, for a refreshing and royal tone, try aqua tropics, blue vistas, botanical greens, and deep violets. And remember, pearlescent and metallic coatings require larger fonts and extra white space in your design.

Super Business Cards

Looking for something super impressive and super fun?

Super business cards are for you! Cut from premium paper that’s durable (yet lightweight), these non-bendy business cards bring a bold impression that LASTS. Customize them to your preferences, with round corners, shiny finishes, raised spot gloss lettering, and more.

Whether you want a muted matte feel or a sleek sparkly vibe, super business cards are guaranteed to be as unique as you.

Creative Rip Cards

Want to keep them thinking of you after they walk away?

With posters or publicly displayed marketing materials, prospects may quickly see you . . . and forget you. Rip card printing offers an effective tool for marketing that sticks.

Did you know you can attach rip cards to posters, flyers, and mounted displays? Like a long-lasting calling card, rip cards offer your clients a point of contact they can follow up with later. Many businesses combine rip cards with discounts and incentives, whether it’s a “Buy One Get One” offer or a 10 percent discount on an upcoming service or treatment.

Whether you attach rip cards to rack cards, displays, or door hangers, this creative option ensures you’ll be seen, remembered, and contacted.

The One and Only You

You’re not like anyone else, so brand yourself with a unique voice and creative marketing options.

When you print locally, design and print come to life in ways that can’t be matched elsewhere. Ready to own YOUR niche through our collaborative design process? Visit our website to get started today!

Reduce Financial Risk by Conducting a Stress Test for Your Small Business

How will the economy affect your business this year?

Economic conditions impact all businesses, but small businesses often feel the effect of changes sooner. Upswings in the economy mean more disposable income, which can provide a rush of new or expanded business opportunities for your firm. But dips in the economy may make it harder for you to break even, to cover payroll, or to qualify for loans that will increase your growth opportunities.

While you can’t control the economy, you can take steps to ready your small business for unexpected changes. One simple tool to consider is a stress test.

Ways to Stress Test Your Business

A stress test is a simulation to gauge your financial risk under different economic scenarios. The results can aid your financial planning and let you know where your business is at the greatest risk in the event of economic hard times.

Here are three ways to stress-test your business to stabilize it during unwanted slowdowns.

1. Solicit advice from others

Do you have an advisory board or a brain trust of reliable partners? 

SCORE, a nonprofit that is a resource partner of the U.S. Small Business Administration, offers a network of volunteers, including retired C-suite executives, who can help mentor. You can search for a SCORE mentor online or through a local chapter.

2. Plan for worst-case scenarios

One of the more effective ways to prepare for change is to make projections.

Look at what a dramatic budget crunch might do to your business or what would happen if you lost a major client or product. Evaluate how this loss would affect your business and decide how you could trim expenses or diversify your client base before this happens.

3. Review your financial cushioning

What kind of cash cushion does your business have?

While experts recommend a six-month reserve, you can probably be more specific. Look at your net “burn rate” on expenditures to identify the rate at which you spend cash holdings. Then look at your monthly budget and estimate how much money you plan to use over the next 12-15 months.

From here, you can project what kind of cushion is necessary and how long it might take you to obtain a loan or solicit an investor if money was extremely tight. Even in a worst-case scenario, having a plan in place can alleviate fear.

A Road Map For the Future

While it is wise to conduct a stress test at any time, analysts say the best seasons are typically the spring and summer because larger market crashes tend to occur in the fall.

By planning ahead now, you can make informed decisions about decreasing inventory, consolidating debt, cutting payroll, or connecting with new investors. By stress testing your business’s finances and proactively plan, you can mitigate future problems and sleep better each night.

4 Irresistible Hooks for Your Next Ad

Want to catch a fish?

Then use the right bait!

If landing a sale is your ultimate goal, first, you must entice people to take a closer look. Effective marketing strategies often involve a “hook,” which is a short phrase, jingle, or attention-grabbing device.

Sales hooks bridge the gap between prospects and customers as they focus people’s attention on your message, set the tone of your presentation, and provide something of value. Whether it’s a special offer or an amusing tagline, hooks should arouse interest in your product or service while encouraging further interaction between the customer and the company.  

Looking to start your presentation on a strong note? Here are four ingredients you might add to your next ad:

1. Paint an Incredible Vision

Human beings are selfish, and they are never satisfied with their present situation.

Anything that offers people an appealing future is intriguing and attractive. When you want them to give your product a second look, paint a vision of how it can change their experience for the better.

Here are a few samples:

  •    Save $500 a month and buy your next car with cash
  •    Own your own little piece of paradise
  •    Rock that bikini this July

2. Press the Pain Point

It’s true. People make buying decisions based on emotions.

Whether you elicit alarm or compassion, appealing to people’s fears, insecurities, or guilt is a great way to pique interest.

How do these examples impact you?

  •    Three million children die of hunger each year. Be part of a simple solution.
  •    You can never outrun your fork. We have a better way.
  •    Put a stop to this before it puts a stop to YOU.

3. Demand a Response

Sometimes the best approach in sales is an aggressive stance.

Short, clear commands can allow you to be blunt, relay a benefit, or convey an authoritative tone. This dictatorial tone helps resolve urgent situations or address a problem that needs immediate attention. Here are a few bossy lines to consider:

  •    Hackers steal 75 records every second. Build a security wall around your future!
  •    Stop wasting money on hearing aids that STINK.
  •    Recycle. Because there is no “Planet B.”

4. Let Others Brag About You

A testimonial headline is one of the best ways to grab attention.

Testimonials are appealing because people connect through stories, and they trust the opinions of others. Pictures of real people are irresistible, so a great photo combined with a stellar review is a surefire win.

Here are some easy taglines to plug into your print and photo testimonials:

   My money’s on _______________

   My ________________ guarantee

   I was there when ____________

   I’m obsessed with my new ________________

   I chose _____________ because _____________

   I discovered _____________ that _______________

   I made an extra _________________ because _______________

   Here’s how I ______________ in just ________________

   They laughed when ________________. Until I _______________

   Here’s what it feels like to __________________

   Here’s how I beat _______________ by _____________

Appeal to Their Unique Interests

When you want to connect with your target audience, appealing to their unique interests is key.

Formats give your ad a structure, but a hook gives it character! Bring your ads to life with emotions, commands, testimonials, or a compelling vision, and you will arouse interest and drive demand.

Avoid “Grammatical Embarrassment” by Sidestepping 3 Common Errors

Can you spot the mistakes in this paragraph?

Melissa was excited about her son’s swimming ability. This fall, she asked, “Would you like to join the swim team”? Sammy was thrilled about the idea, accept for one thing: the tight swimsuits. “Why do I have to wear spandex”, he complained, “I’m all ready the fastest swimmer in the pool”!

Grammar can be painful.

Make A Fresh Start

Even after years of writing, there are grammatical errors that impede us all. For some, it’s punctuation. For others, it’s word selection. And when you repeat the same mistakes, bad habits get harder to break.

This year, make a mental note to dodge those potholes! Here are three mistakes to avoid in your writing:

1. Incorrect Apostrophes

Apostrophes indicate possession for nouns and letter omissions in contractions.

Generally, singular possessive apostrophes come before the ‘s’ and plural possessives apostrophes come afterward, like this:

Singular Possessive: Jim’s hat or Mike’s coat

Plural Possessive: Several years’ work or many students’ books

Apostrophes do not indicate possession for personal pronouns, so it is incorrect to add an apostrophe to “it” or “who” when designating ownership.

  • Incorrect: Who’s bike is this?
  • Correct: Whose bike is this?
  • Incorrect: The flower lost it’s petals
  • Correct: The flower lost its petals

When contractions are used, apostrophes replace the missing letters. For example:

  • Correct: “It’s looking like great weather for planting flowers.”
  • Incorrect: “Its looking like great weather for planting flowers.”
  • Correct: “Who’s going to help me prep the soil?”
  • Incorrect: “Whose going to help me prep the soil?”

Punctuation and Quotation Marks

Do punctuation marks go inside or outside quotation marks?

This one can be tricky because British and American English have different rules (which is why you sometimes see discrepancies). Here are two basic American guidelines:

1. Sentence-ending commas and periods always go inside quotation marks.

Remember, if you are INSIDE the U.S., commas and periods go INSIDE the quotation marks. Like this:

  •  “I fell asleep,” Paul said.
  • Paul awoke and complained, “I had a bad dream.”

2. Question marks and exclamation marks can vary.

If they apply to the quoted material, these marks belong inside the quotation marks. If they apply to the whole sentence, they go outside.

Each of these sentences is correct:

  • Mary asked them, “Where should we eat?”
  • Do you think Mary is hungry enough for the “Impossible Whopper”?
  • Chandra texted Michael, “Should I bring dinner?”
  • Chandra looked in her purse and exclaimed, “I have a $50 gift card!”
  • The dog leaped off the couch when he heard Chandra say, “I’m bringing pizza”!

Words That Are Easily Confused

Words that are commonly misused include these pairs:

Affect/Effect

Rule of Thumb: “Effect” is usually a noun, while “affect” is typically a verb.

  • Incorrect: The text had a negative affect on my mood.
  • Correct: The test had a positive effect on my grade. This positively affected my mood!

They/Their

Rule of Thumb: “There” refers to a place, while “their” indicates possession.

Example: We’re going to love it there—I heard their breadsticks are the best!

Accept/Except

Rule of Thumb: “Accept” typically includes, while “except” usually excludes.

Example: I was proud to accept an award (though everyone except the dog received one).

Assure/Ensure

Rule of Thumb: To “assure” is to make someone confident of something; to “ensure” is to guarantee that something actually happens.

Example: Though Mike assured me that the dog would not escape, I locked Scout’s kennel to ensure he stayed put.

Farther/Further

Rule of Thumb: “Farther” refers to physical distance and “further” denotes metaphorical (or figurative) lengths or advancement.

Example: I want to run farther next time, but need to progress further in my training to grow my endurance.

While grammar debates can make your head spin, hopefully, these tips can alleviate confusion. Do small things with excellence, and you’ll make big strides!