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Retain Your Employees Through Company Culture

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company culture

Strong company culture is one of the best strategies to building a good solid team. No company can survive without good talent behind it. When employees want to bring their talent elsewhere the considerations are usually company culture and work environment. To address these problems, employers need to create a culture that nips these issues in the bud. Employees that feel more deeply for their employers are more committed to the company.

Communication

All employees want to think that they are being heard by the higher ups. By fostering a culture of great communication, employers can address any dissatisfaction. Taking feedback, maintaining open lines of communication, and holding regular meetings can shed light on possible reasons why employees consider leaving. By interviewing dissatisfied employees, companies can improve problematic areas or address issues. Taking time to listen builds a culture of loyalty which can reduce the risk of turnovers.

Job Satisfaction

Job satisfaction is not simply about keeping employees content. It is also about relationships, particularly between managers or supervisors. Companies should not only focus on rewards and motivation because it will cause them to miss relationships that are going sour. Businesses should always monitor internal temperature to avoid losing top talent.

Work-Life Balance not Work-Life Integration

Forget about work-life integration and focus on work-life balance. Thanks to technology, work has shifted from the usual 9-5 routine to the “always connected” schedule. Employers must change this to keep employees happy. Creating an environment where employers trust their employees to allow them to have flexible schedule shows that the company fosters a culture of mutual respect.

Hire Slow Fire Fast

One of the best ways to destroy company culture is by hiring the wrong kind of people and letting them stay long. Luckily, it is clear early on when somebody is a wrong fit for the team. Managers can always “fire fast” when this becomes obvious. However, it is always more important to spend time on hiring people who are the best fit for the team rather than firing them. This ensures that the culture your company has cultivated is a good fit to the new team member.

Trust and Ownership

Once employees feel that they are trusted, they begin to exhibit ownership behavior. Displaying proper levels of “hands-off management” will create opportunities for your employees to become more engaged and exhibit leadership behavior. Employees who feel this way work harder and exhibit your company culture better.

Reinforce Culture

The best way to retain employees is to constantly reinforce culture. This has to be driven by top management and reinforced by the way employees behave, communicate and interact. It is not enough that you have culture because employees are not stupid and know when something is just for window dressing. If your company values open communication then this should be reinforced and implemented so that employees can see and benefit from it.

Strong culture is the best way to build a strong team. Part of building a strong company culture is understanding how employees work on a daily basis, learning from them, and understanding their needs and attitudes.

Business

Review: The Truth About 99Designs

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Getting graphic design work done can often be a challenge. Where do you even start? Hiring a full-time graphic designer is expensive and risky. Hiring a freelancer online can take a bit of time. And often times, your designer works in a completely different timezone, making collaboration near impossible.

That’s where 99Designs come in. The company offers a talent-sourcing platform where you can create a design contest and have designers from all over the world submit their entry. You pay 1 flat fee for the contest and guaranteed many drafts. Sounds too good to be true? Let’s find out!

99designs Review

In order to review 99designs accurately, we prepared several projects to submit on the platform. These projects are things that we actually have a need for and may use if the design results returned are good enough.

We’ll go through the entire process that 99designs laid out and follow all rules and instructions given to us. Upon receiving the design work, we’ll pass it around internally to 10 people in our office and simply give a yay or nay. Whatever the results are, will be the numerical grade given. Let’s begin!

What 99designs can do?

In short, just about anything but they’re limited to just graphic design. In our quick 99designs analysis, they offer the following design services:

  • Logo & identity
  • Web & app design
  • Business & advertising
  • Clothing/Merch
  • Illustrations
  • Packaging
  • Books & magazines
  • And more…(the remaining categories are a bit obscured or too niche to list)

It’s a fairly extensive list and seems like if you’re a new startup or business, they’ll cover most of your initial design needs.

What 99designs CANNOT do

As the name implied, 99designs only offers graphic design. They can design a website or app for you, but you will need an independent development team to code it. 99designs also currently don’t offer content support, which isn’t that unusual. Whatever you want designed, you’ll need to provide all of the content before hand.

And that also means you need to do all the proofreading as well. Whatever you submit to be designed, will be designed. The designers usually won’t comment or question your grammar mistakes. So be sure to double and triple check all your content before submitting it to be designed.

Another thing to note, 99designs cannot deliver on time. The delivery runs on a rather flexible schedule that can take up to 2 weeks or longer. So if you need something done fast, 99designs may not be the best solution, even with the expedited delivery add-on purchase.

99designs’ ACTUAL pricing

When we audit 99designs’ pricing structure, we found a few of their categories to be confusing. Categories such as Logos, Web & app design, and Business Advertising can be misleading or vague. For example, when choosing a logo design, you might think you have to buy one of their packages that starts at $349. But with a bit of patience and knowing where to navigate, you can actually just buy a single logo design without any add-ons.

To avoid confusion, I’m going to break down a few of the categories below just so you know exactly how things are priced.

4 Different Tiers

After you fill out the first page of the project brief, 99designs will ask you to pick a tier. The lowest tier will give you the fewest number of design submissions and will usually be assigned to junior artists. Meanwhile the more expensive tiers get more design submissions and often given to more experienced designers.

The price breakdown below assumes you’re going with the lower price tiers, since that’s what most people tend to choose.

Logo & identity prices

Logo alone: $299
Packages: 5 packages offered between $349 – $599

Web design, Website Re-design, and WordPress Theme design prices

The $599 promotional price is NOT for an entire website design or re-design. This is just for ONE page. If you want multiple pages to be designed, 99designs will charge you PER PAGE. The more pages you want designed, the most it will cost. However, you’ll get a steeper discount per page if you request multiple pages at once.

As of now, 99designs only offer up to 5 pages designed initially. If you need more than 5 pages designed, you’ll likely need to hire a designer from 99designs afterward to continue working on the project.

1 page = $599.
2 pages = $749.
3 pages = $899.
4 pages = $1049
5 pages = $1199

Landing page design prices

Landing pages are charged at a flat rate of $349 since it’s just 1 page. There are no options for multiple pages. If you want additional pages to be designed afterward, you’ll have to create another $349 landing page contest, and that’s not cost-effective. If you have a landing page with multiple pages, you’ll have to cough $599 for the web design package.

App design prices

For the advertised price of $599, you are NOT getting an entire app designed. You’re paying PER page of the app to be designed. The more pages you want done, the more it’ll cost. But it’s the initial page design that will cost the most. The more pages you need done, the cheaper it is per page to be designed.

1 screen = $599
2 screens = $699
3 screens = $799
4 screens = $899
5 screens = $999

Business & advertising

The prices for Business & advertising are all over the place and might not make any sense. For example, why does it cost $299 for an Album cover design…when it costs only $199 for a Podcast cover? They’re both square dimension graphics with basically the same requirements. If you need an Album cover design, you can just request a “Podcast cover” to save money.

Anyway, here’s a breakdown of what you can get at each different price points.

Starting at $149: Billboard, Tradeshow banner, Banner,

Starting at $199: Postcard, Flyer, Leaflet, Direct Mail, Poster, Podcast cover, Signage, Menu, Website header, Resume, Word Template, Tradeshow Booth, Other business advertising

Starting at $299: Album cover, Brochure, Booklet, Pamphlet, Email, Email newsletter, Powerpoint template,

Starting at $349: Car/truck/van wrap

Starting at $599: Infographic

Extra Add-ons

In addition to the base cost of the project, you can pay for additional add-ons.

Dedicated support: For a price of $129 extra, you can have access to dedicated customer support should you run into any problems.

Guaranteed: This doesn’t cost anything, but it basically negates your 100% money-back guarantee with 99designs. The reason they offer this is because how designers are paid. Often times, they’re paid pennies for participating in your design contest. Out of possible 20 – 30 design submissions, they will only get paid a reasonable fee IF you choose their design.

If you request a refund, no one gets paid. Therefore, if you choose this option, designers have more confidence that there’s a stronger chance you’ll commit.

Here’s what 99designs promises if you choose to negate your guarantee.

  • Have more designers participating
  • Receive 50% more designs on average
  • Get a wider range of creativity

Private contest: This $59 add-on gives you the assurance that your design/intellectual property won’t be leaked onto Google or used by designer. Designer will sign an NDA to ensure they protect your privacy. You can even use your own NDA.

Duration: Typical turnaround for 1st draft is 4 days. Need the design in a hurry? Pay a small fee for expedited delivery.

99designs pricing review

Overall, the prices can fluctuate quite a bit depending on which tier you select and how many add-ons you buy. I wouldn’t say 99designs prices are cheap, because they’re fairly expensive for just 1 design. They are cheaper than hiring an in-house designer or a design agency, but there are definitely much cheaper options. The one benefit of 99designs’ model is that you get a lot of drafts for that price, so you have much more to choose from during each round of revisions.

How long it REALLY takes to get your designs

There’s 5 rounds total that you need to go through before you can get your design files. Each round can take anywhere from 1-2 days up to 14 days to complete. Most of that does depend on you. If you give feedback quickly, you’ll get your design files much faster. Here’s a breakdown of the 5 rounds.

Round 1: Qualifying round (4-5 days)
In this round, 99design sends your project out to all qualified designers in their talent pool. Designers can choose to accept or ignore your contest. Once enough designers have accepted your contest and submitted their design work, you move onto Round 2.

Round 2: Select finalists (4 days)
It’s probably 4-5 days now since you started the contest and your designs are finally in. You’ll have a lot of designs to choose from. Now you have 4 days to review the designs and select up to 6 designs that you like. Any designs you don’t select will be rejected. Designs you select gets to move onto the next round.

During this round, there’s a 99designs review feature that lets you share the submissions with others via a shareable link. You have 4 days to select your finalists! Once chosen, the contest will be moved to the 3rd round.

Round 3: Final round (3 days)
In this round, you’ll need to leave revisions for the selected finalists. Your finalists will work on as much revisions as you give them in this round. If you don’t like something, you can request more revisions and they’ll keep submitting. Keep in mind you only have 3 days for this round.

Round 4: Choose a winner
Contest is now officially over and a winner must be selected. In this round, you can create and send a poll to everyone you want feedback from to see which design is the best. You can only select 1 winner.

Round 5: Handover (5 days?!)
Your designer now has up to 5 days to hand over all of the design files and any copyright materials to you. Yes, you read that right. 5 days.

So…how long does it really take?

Let’s assume that you’re super responsive and you complete YOUR part the same day 99designs notify you…

Round 1: 4 days for all initial designs to come in
Round 2: 1 day to select finalists (because you’re responsive)
Round 3: 3 days for final round of revisions
Round 4: 1 day to pick a winner (because you want the files fast!)
Round 5: 1-5 days to get files

So you’re looking at between 10 – 14 days to complete a single design project. If you’re a new startup or business that doesn’t have strict deadlines to meet, this delivery window is perfectly fine. If you’re more established and looking for someone to help you meet an aggressive marketing schedule, 99designs may not work for you.

How to get QUALITY designs from 99designs?

If you’re coming to 99designs with a limited budget for graphic design, then chances are your results will vary. From my experience, the lower tier designers often just use templated graphics from Freepik or Envato.

If you want high quality designs from 99designs, here’s what you’ll need to do.

  1. Sign up for higher tier: Choose Gold or Platinum plans. They’re significantly more expensive, but that’s what you need to get experienced designer’s attention.
  2. Fill EVERYTHING out: When creating your project brief, do not skip any steps. Fill out as much information as you can and spend time creating a solid brief.
  3. Give additional examples: The last field on most form will ask “Is there anything else you would like to communicate to the designers?”. Use this opportunity to give more information. Also include even more examples of what you like and don’t like. This helps the designer narrow down your preferences.

Pros & Cons of 99designs

We’ll start with the PROS

  • Affordable compared to hiring an inhouse designer
  • No hiring or managing of designers. They do all of that for you.
  • Lots of designs to choose from for each round
  • One platform can cover most of your design needs
  • Easy to use platform
  • Clear indicator of how far along your design is
  • Offers a 100% money back guarantee

Now for the CONS

Who is 99designs really for?

99designs is best suited for startups, small businesses, entrepreneurs, and anyone just starting out. The prices are affordable and you get a lot of selections. Having 20+ drafts submitted to you is a great benefit, especially if you’re starting out and have no idea exactly how you want to brand yourself.

For larger businesses, marketing teams, and agencies, 99designs may not be the best fit given how expensive the bill will eventually be if you need 10+ designs per month. The 10 – 14 day delivery window can also be a major setback if you’re trying to meet deadlines.

  • Can get expensive if you have consistent design needs
  • 10 – 14 day delivery
  • Design quality is mediocre unless you’re willing to pay a premium
  • No real way to interact with designer except through feedback
  • Customer support is a paid add-on

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Strategies and Tools for a Growing a Pandemic-Proof Business

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founders in masks

For the past year, businesses have been met with unrelenting challenges. Because of this, founders are more careful about where to put their time and funds. Longevity in business is desired, so thinking critically about the strategic principles of business is a must. Growing a pandemic-proof business is possible. But how are you going to make it happen? We took our questions to Facebook groups Tech Ladies and Societygal to ask women in the industry about their input on how to grow a business successfully and efficiently.

1. How important is getting your business assets right? (logo, website, branding guidelines, etc)

When it comes to the creative aspect of building a business, there was a split in what is necessary. Recently, founders and business owners have been turning to creative services like Penji for increased design output. While there are still repercussions from the pandemic, businesses are learning to adapt by discovering these new innovative solutions.

Some of our friends at Tech Ladies and Societygal believe that it is crucial, especially when it comes to setting yourself apart from competition. Others choose to focus on other aspects of the business. Here’s what they had to say:

“Hi. I think that for number 1-It doesn’t really matter. I think what people want is results. Connect with them, and show them what your products or service can do for them. How does it solve the problem that they have.” – Prerika Agarwal, Tech Ladies

“I think that these branding pieces really matter as a way that establishes how your company will move and grow. I’ve seen a lot of small businesses that kind of wing it and I think that especially in terms of social media and web, a cohesive brand can really make a business stand out.” – Charlotte Clark, Tech Ladies

“I think it’s less about getting it right and more about being consistent and looking professional. A business that visually appears fractured hurts its own credibility.” Natalie Sharma, Tech Ladies

“The first 1-2 years, really not important! I see so many starters get lost in this search for the perfect font-pairing, the perfect logo blah blah – and what they REALLY need to be focusing on is nailing down their product suite and getting good at copy. Most of us leave corporate and can’t write a blog post or sales post for shit because we sound so wooden and stuffy! 😂 You need a website to get your message out – but honestly? Nobody cares about your logo. Would you stop buying Nike/McDonalds/Pepsi tomorrow because they switched up their logo and it sucked? No, you stay because you like the product.” – Alex Sheach, Societygal

What is a common mistake that businesses make when trying to grow?

Growing a business is not easy, especially now. With the increased number of businesses shuttering their doors because of COVID, one can only benefit from avoiding common mistakes.

“I think that one mistake is that businesses don’t take advantage of how research can validate and verify your ideas going forward. There should be a certain level of confidence in what your next steps are and how they’ll fair.” – Charlotte Clark, Tech Ladies

“The main pain point of scaling I’ve seen is failure to document and inform. If one hand doesn’t know what the other is doing then you aren’t on the same page and you can’t help each other when things go wrong.” – Natalie Sharma, Tech Ladies

“Getting sucked into downloading YET ANOTHER (usually very disappointing freebie) which moves them no closer to their goals. Get your UNSUBSCRIBE vibe switched ON, tune out all that low-level noise and commit to your OWN ideas and vision.” – Alex Sheach, Societygal

What can people take advantage of now that is often overlooked?

Innovation and creative thinking is key to a pandemic-proof business. As we adapt to the current lifestyle of consumers, founders are taking advantage of what is in front of them. Here’s what members suggested.

“What’s overlooked is the human aspect of things not being perfect and just going with inspired action once you have some clarity about your business.” – Prerika Agarwal, Tech Ladies

“With staying at home still being a large part of life, I think people should take advantage of having more people online and the ability to do webinars, virtual networking, and doing research directly with your specific users or customers.” – Charlotte Clark, Tech Ladies

“Digital businesses should take this opportunity to rise to the occasion to help their local communities. As a digital business owner I can confirm we spend a lot of time virtually hustling. Show the world around you that you exist and that you care. It pays dividends for both of you.” – Natalie Sharma, Tech Ladies

“Not enough people are stepping up to lead with vision. They’re waiting for permission to release, launch & grow. JFDI!” – Alex Sheach, Societygal

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Is Coworking Dead?

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Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has changed the way we live, and that includes how and where we work. And even after initial lockdowns eased, many still prefer to work from home due to fears of getting infected.

Which leads us to the question: is coworking dead? We once witnessed how coworking spaces started sprouting left and right. Amid the pandemic, will we see them all pack up in one fell swoop?

The Appeal of Coworking Spaces

Answering the question, “Is coworking dead?” requires an analysis of the industry and the factors that made it a huge success in the first place. 

Here are some of the factors that contributed to the coworking boom over the past decade:

Practicality

From startups to industry giants, many ventures opt for flexible coworking space because of the practicality it offers. With shared offices, they no longer need to pay for an office’s upkeep or hire concierge staff. They can come and go as they please and settle a fixed amount for the services and amenities they need.

Flexibility

Because a coworking office doesn’t come with a long-term lease, it allows businesses to be agile. For instance, tenants who are expanding the team can easily buy more seats or do the opposite when downgrading. Because there’s no long-term commitment, the team can also transfer to another location easily should they need to.  

Company Culture Adaptability

Thanks to the information superhighway, you can pretty much do most business tasks online these days. That said, startups today have adopted a work culture that’s centered on output quality and not necessarily on hours rendered. Coworking spaces have allowed ventures to have a space to meet and use when they need it, without the responsibility of having to maintain it. 

Collaboration

Working with other teams in one space lets you make friends and collaborate with other like-minded individuals. For instance, if you’re an events planner, being in a flexible workspace allows you to network with potential suppliers. It may even open doors for business partnerships in the future. 

If we look closely, the same benefits above can also work against coworking spaces. Let’s take flexibility, for instance. Because there’s no long-term lease contract, clients can easily bolt out in case of an unpredictable situation such as a pandemic. 

For ventures whose company culture allows for flexible working, the team probably has work-from-home allowances already.  And from a financial standpoint, working from home can be more practical than spending on coworking seats. After all, almost everyone already has an internet connection at home.

As for collaboration, the pandemic has left us with no other choice but to learn to collaborate through online channels. Virtual meetings have become the norm, while webinars have quickly replaced forums and conventions.

So, Is Coworking Dead?

Now let’s go back to the initial query. Is coworking dead? The quick answer is no. 

Here’s the long answer: the global coworking industry has suffered a huge blow due to the pandemic. Despite this setback, however, industry players are confident that they could bounce back from the crisis. 

In fact, the 2020 Global Coworking Growth Study says that despite the economic setback in 2020, the industry is expected to pick up in 2021 with an annual growth rate of 21.3 percent.

The pros must outweigh the cons for the coworking option to look as attractive as it once had been. And from what we’re seeing from most flexible workspace providers, they’re working hard to make benefits worth it.

Here are some of the revamps coworking spaces are implementing to give their ventures a shot in the arm.

Paused Membership and Rent Breaks

To retain clients amid the crisis, some coworking spaces offered membership pauses. Aside from not charging clients during the lockdown, some also offered rent breaks. This step is a huge help for small ventures which may have suffered financially during the lockdown.

Virtual Office Plans

Even if many ventures may opt to implement a work-from-home policy post-crisis, they’d still need a virtual office. Many coworking spaces offer this service in their subscription plans, including mail services, business curation, and IT support.

Strict Protocols

At present, the main disadvantage of renting a coworking space is the risk of infection. Going to a common location to work would likely expose you to other people. As a solution, coworking spaces implemented a new floor layout that adhered to social distancing protocols. Most players also invested in plexiglass dividers that provide a barrier between workers.

Despite more people getting a taste of what it’s like to work from home, it doesn’t guarantee a general shift. For one, those who find it difficult to separate personal from professional prefer to go back to their traditional routine. Employers will also pivot back to their pre-COVID setup if employees are less productive than they used to be.  

Given the measures mentioned above, the global coworking industry could survive the crisis. The recovery may be slow, but the way things are looking, it would be steady.

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