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Dane Leeson answered a question

Do open plan offices really increase productivity?

Open plan offices have been promoted for years, saying it increases collaboration and job satisfaction as well as removing the perceived hierarchies within an organisation. But an interesting article has surfaced about open plan offices actually increasing sick leave, decreasing productivity, decreasing motivation, creating more problems between team members due to noise and distractions.

How do you organise your office? Do you prefer to work in an open plan environment or have some segregation.

Dane Leeson

Dane Leeson,

I like this question Wendy, thanks for posting it.  Having worked in both isolated and open office set ups I have been able to observe the differences and the strengths and weaknesses of both set ups to a small extent.  Like most personnel related business topics there are so many dependencies on the type of company and type of business conducted.  It works for some but not so much for others.  In reference to open plan offices removing the perceived hierarchies in an organisation, this needs to be explained in more detail.  It doesn’t remove the sense of hierarchy per se it more eliminates the faction between managers/supervisors and their subordinates as well as creating a better understanding and connectivity for leaders to their team and greater accessibility from team members to the leader/mentor.  Take the latest CEO of the National Australia Bank Cameron Clyne, giving up the traditional 35th story CEO’s office to a 3rd story at another location to sit amongst the domestic operations executives to be closer to the front line of the business.

If the notion of reconnecting with the needs of the customer is considered in this instance, consideration of the work duties will assist in determining the affectivity of an open office plan.  While the above example at the NAB might not be moving from an isolated CEO’s office to an open plan set up it does show that moving closer to your front line or working amongst the team shows a more relevant sense of customer needs and an opportunity for influential leadership.  From the article that Wendy referenced in her question, the Hong Kong Polytechnic University study concluded that irritating noise came from ringing phones, conversations and machines.  Headsets, compartmentalising positions that require autonomous duties and a machine room (assuming this relates to printers, photocopiers etc.).  It is easy to come up with problems but these studies should identify a problem and then pursue outcomes or problem reduction plans, after all these articles often come from researchers not political parties trying to persuade a point of view.

We enhance technology by developing user friendly interface, so this in collaboration with the open plan office concept can be tailored to the requirements of the customer, the employee.  Find an acoustician or better yet a student studying acoustics and sound design and invite them to utilise your workplace for a study.  Have them identify the acoustics of the office and identify cost effective ways the office can be modified to absorb the spoken voice in individual cubicles and isolated in team/conference rooms.  This reduces the disruption of voice pollution while maintaining the sense of team environment, connectivity and lower set up costs.  Many of the researchers against the open plan office case talk about the poor consideration of office set up.

Open plan offices are fine and have many positive attributes.  Do they need more planning and consideration, yes.  Creative business administration is on the rise and this topic can be tackled with the right mix of ingredients of research, planning and design.

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Steve Osborne answered a question

What tools can I use to create a quick campaign landing page?

We are setting up an addwords campaign and want to create a quick html landing page to test a specific market niche.   

What tool (online or local App) would you recommend to quickly create a page without being a HTML expert? 

Are any of the specialty online landing page providers that offers page editor, tracking, interface to CRM, databases etc. any good??   

Steve Osborne

Steve Osborne, director at Steve Osborne / Smarthinking

Listed by Brent hall above, I use: Lander

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Brent Hall

Brent Hall, CEO at HelloMedical

Henrik Larsen

Henrik Larsen , Director at IePlus Pty Ltd

Hi Brent, I have been looking through the sites some really good sites.. Thanks for sharing
Henrik Larsen

Henrik Larsen , Director at IePlus Pty Ltd

Sorry forgot to ask... Which one do you find best? and why?
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Tracey Loubser#QueenOfCashflow answered a question

Do I need to hire an accountant with a CPA?

Do I need to hire an accountant with a CPA? What difference does it make and what other benefits do they offer?  

Tracey Loubser#QueenOfCashflow

Tracey Loubser#QueenOfCashflow, Owner at Confident Cashflows

Hi there, It really depends on what you are looking for and how complex your structure of your business is setup.  I am making the presumption that you are looking to have an accountant wrap up your year end and tax on an annual basis.

I would always strongly suggest a CA/CPA qualified accountant if your business is setup in a "series of structures".  If you run a busiess which has one structure and your accounts are not that complicated, it may not be necessary.  Remember the IPA is an institute which focuses on small and medium businesses. 

Many accountants specialize in the tax and compliance world.  If you are looking for more support to grow your business, you need to look for an accountant that regularily works in this area - not just says it on their website. 

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Pam Pitt

Pam Pitt, Partner at Bookkeepers 4 u

I would say that it very much depends on the role that the client is looking to fill and the size and budget of the client's business.  What does "anonymous" want the accountant to do?  Is it a matter of a small business hiring someone to do bank reconciliations and run reports?  Or is it a large business requiring budgets and board reporting?  Or is it a matter of finding an external accountant to provide advice and tax reporting?

CPAs and CAs usually are expensive to hire, so you would want them to be filling a role that their qualifications justify.  You wouldn't want them in a role that a bookkeeper could perform.

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Jacqui Pryor answered a question

How do I apply for a trademark?

Would a trademark lawyer please walk through the steps for trademark application in Australia?

Jacqui Pryor

Jacqui Pryor, Director at Mark My Words Trademark Services Pty Ltd

I'd firstly like to clarify that you don't have to use a trademark lawyer in relation to your trademark matters; you can "DIY" (although not always recommended) or a specialist/consultant.

The first step I encourage clients take is having a trademark search conducted. This can rule out and/or advise on possible problems early on. (The registration process is lengthy so this can help avoid wasting time...) Some companies, including my own, will offer a basic search at no cost. Alternatively, more comprehensive searches are available for a fee.

If the search is clear, an application is filed with the trademarks office in Australia. At this time you must nominate goods/services of interest to you that your trademark will be used to identify. The filing of an application is your way of telling the government that you believe you are within your right to apply, and that you have an honest intent to use your trademark.

The government department must then examine the application and issue their results. A standard application will take around 4 months to be examined. If no problems are found the mark is accepted for registration. If problems are found a report is issued providing you a chance to address those issues.

After acceptance, the mark goes through a 3-month opposition period, where other people may object to the registration. Assuming no objections are filed in this time then the mark can be registered upon receipt of final fees.

Registration is valid for 10 years in Australia and can be renewed each 10 years.

Wendy Huang

Wendy Huang , Full Time Blogger and YouTuber at A Custom Blog in 4 Minutes

Thanks for the lovely answer Jacqui!
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David Trounce answered a question

How are you using digital marketing to increase your branding?

If you have a newer/smaller business, with well established and well known competitors, how are you able to bite a chunk into their market share and get your name out there?

I'm having trouble with a few larger companies dominating the market share and no-one else really gets a look-in, because no-one knows about us/can find us.

David Trounce

David Trounce, Co-Founder at Mallee Blue Media

Marketing Ninja put out a simple Branding Strategy Guide that includes some good stuff on user-centric branding, social and content marketing here.

It gives brands some practical tips to improve small business reputation and reach online. Redbull is a particularly good example of user-centric branding.

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James Norquay

James Norquay, Consulting Director at Prosperity Media

I take it you are in the SEO space, to be honest you have to make a name for your self by going to events and building up contacts. I have found to do well or to event get a look in for big projects you need to have the right contacts.  The problem with SEO is that their is so much competition, every one is doing it now, each week their seems to be 50 new companies a week with people setting them up the thing is you need to push a message of QUALITY services. Most of the clients we work with have worked with 2 or 3 other SEO companies before they come to us so they know what we want and these are usually the best clients because we have to fix all the crappy work prior companies have done.   Here are a few ideas: 1. Network and answer questions on sites like this also try forums. 2. Social media get involved on Twitter/ Facebook ect ect 3. Go to industry events and conferences. 4. Create great content that stands out (not easy) 5. Advertise and spend money, to be honesty you may need to pay a few grand to get your name out their but it will be worth it. I will admit things are hard in the market at the moment, but if you have a big network of contacts I have like 1,500+ people on LinkedIn and run some big events 99% of our business is referrals, we do not even advertise because we get referrals. We are slightly smaller compared to big companies in the space but they want to talk to us because they have seen us at events, they have seen our posts and most of the time they know the big company will give a poor level of service where we will give top notch service.   That been said I have been working in the space for 8+ years so I have many contacts from old and new business who want to work with my business. Just have to keep on the hustle and work hard is my advice. 
Vahe Arabian

Vahe Arabian , SEO Consultant at Online Marketing Works

I would also say that you need to specialise in a particular niche. That way when you do your networking to a particular group and become well known for your services, you would get quality leads as a result.
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Jef Lippiatt answered a question

What is your backup plan for income?

No job is safe these days, no matter how important you are or how secure you feel. Even the Prime Minister wasn't safe. Business, can be very risky, things can happen and it could all be taken away tomorrow. What is your backup plan for income?

Jef Lippiatt

Jef Lippiatt, Owner at Startup Chucktown

Risk can not be completely eliminated. It can only be mitigated. As entrepreneurs we should be hyper-aware that risk is a constant as well as a variable. Consider that without risk there is no need to be an entrepreneur, but being an entrepreneur carries its own risks.

This is truly a loaded question. Steven diversification above and he is correct, but that needs to be seen in more detail (I'll circle back on this below).

Richard you have made some interesting suggestions, but they have risk as well. Take Intellectual Property, sure there is a reasonable expectation on return, but consider the cost to achieve the IP, just because you've secured IP doesn't mean it creates a product people want or need. Even if it leads to a product people want, it won't last indefinitely. The same is true of writing and selling a book. What if you spend all that time and money creating the book and no one buys it? What if the book sells well for a while, is that rate of sales sustainable? There is still risk involved.

Diversification is the only way to truly minimize risk. I speak of true diversification, not in the sense of a Monetary Portfolio. This is what successful diversification looks like to me:

The primary job is consulting. This leads to an offshoot of paid speaking engagements. The added visibility leads to writing and selling a book (while still consulting and doing speaking engagements). The book surfaces the opportunity to do training workshops (helping others gain your skills not applying your skills to clients, but still doing all of the above). The added projects have brought additional revenue. You decide to invest your extra revenue. You split your investments across Stocks, Bonds and Cash. You continue doing all of the above and decide you want to buy part or all of a related business but leave them to operate on your own. Now that you have all that going you realize you don't have as much time to do all of the above, so you cut back on training and open up an e-commerce store to sell whitepapers, training guides (CDs/DVDs) and other related material.

This could continue on and on. The idea is that you are truly diversified. Sell services, digital products, physical products and be in different industries and verticals so that lows in one market are offset by another.

I will say it again, risk can not be eliminated. It can only be minimized. The biggest risk is not taking any. Life is always changing so you must plan to adapt constantly.

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Iain Dooley

Iain Dooley, Owner at The Procedure People

The dole? Bar work?

I think my backup plan for income is living very frugally. The amount my family and I live on at the moment means I could do just about any job in the world and we'd still be able to manage!

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Marcus Tjen answered a question

What's the best accounting software for a sole trader without employees?

This is mainly for freelancers, the self employed and 1-person small businesses. Which accounting software, whether desktop or cloud, is the best?

Marcus Tjen

Marcus Tjen, Owner at Rugged Computing

If you're sole trading or freelancing without employee, you don't have to use accounting software.   You can consider using Excel spreadsheet for your accounting record.  Unless you have a lot of inventory, most of the things you are going to record are purchase orders and invoices and Excel can do all that easily.  You can record your expenses as well.  Any accountant can work with Excel spreadsheet, convert it to financial statements and work out your tax.

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Jef Lippiatt answered a question

What Are Some Factors To Consider For A Brand Strategy?

I'm setting up a brand strategy for my cupcake business. What are some of those factors I should take into consideration?

Jef Lippiatt

Jef Lippiatt, Owner at Startup Chucktown

I definitely agree with Hamish, but I want to push it even more. When you think of your business as a person, is it friendly or a rebel? Does it show up early, on time or make an entrance? Does it celebrate its own creativity or confrom to norms? These things Swill tell you a lot about your audience and how to interact with them.Please see my simple examples below:Normal: Chocolate cupcake with Chocolate frosting vsSnobby: Swiss Chocolate cupake with Dark Chocolate Ganache--Ordinary: Chocolate filled Vanilla cupcakevs.Playful: Vanilla chocolate bomb cupcakePlay to your audience. Have personality that blends with your audience. Use that personality to set yourself apart from the competition.

Phil Khor

Phil Khor , Founder at SavvySME

Wow, never of thought of cupcakes in this way - it's a refreshing perspective!
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Hamish Anderson

Hamish Anderson, Founder and Director at Mesh Consulting

I agree with Lauren and would add one more point - Give your brand an identity. To succeed your brand must be seen as a sentient being. It must evolve, remain true to itself and engage with people. To this end, you need to know who the brand is - or create its identity. Consider what it stands for (point 1 above), what makes it unique (point 2) and what the tone of voice is. This tone then influences everything you do, keeping the brand consistent and authentic - and ultimately this is what people will relate to. Happy to discuss this further if you want clarification.

Otherwise, good luck.

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Jef Lippiatt answered a question

What Are The Key Questions You Have When Starting A Business?

What key things do you think a start up needs to learn? I am putting together a workshop specifically for business start ups and was hoping to get a few who have just started or looking at starting share some of their concerns/questions with me.

Jef Lippiatt

Jef Lippiatt, Owner at Startup Chucktown

As Kristy mentioned business (entity) structure and bookkeeping / accounting are super important, however, I think there are some other key aspects to consider.

  • What type of business are you "really" trying to start?
    • Meaning, are you trying to just make some money or are you launching in an area of expertise or passion? It will make a difference.
  • Have you validated that there is a market for your business product / service?
    • Make sure you are launching something that people want before spinning up a business (I've wasted time and money getting a business legal that never panned out). Validate before you become a legal business if possible.
  • Are you taking this leap alone or are you building a team?
    • This impacts everything from legal structure to necessary office size. You need to plan for resources and benefits accordingly.
  • Do you have all the necessary skills to get your business off the ground?
    • If not, you need to determine if hiring employees or using external consultants makes the most sense for your needs.
  • Do you have a mentor or advisor?
    • Get serious about getting your business in gear. An advisor or mentor can give you valuable insight and help keep you on the right course. Leverage their experience and wisdom.
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Kirsty Fox

Kirsty Fox, Principal at Spitfire Accounting Solutions

Getting your structure right. It's really important from a tax and asset protection perspective. You also need to know your books - talk to an accountant first.

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Deborah Vella answered a question

Is "No Buyer's Remorse" scalable ?

Vinomofo promises "If you’re not 100% happy, you can return your order to us ANY TIME for a replacement, credit or refund - you pick. We’ll even pick it up and cover the return shipping cost" Really ? Would Like to hear your thoughts on this:Is that something that can be scalable across your own businessn Vinomofo as it grows across the world? Wonder if that is something sellers / producers can pick up regardless of the industry?

Deborah Vella

Deborah Vella, Owner at Support Legal

I would like to see the concept in place, but perhaps without the physical shipping of the return items. It seems to be a waste of time, cost and resources to return the goods when other options are more economical, for example a limit to the number of returns per year per customer or photographic evidence that an item is not useable.

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