The Engenius Blog

Ideas & tips on business, marketing, and using the Internet effectively.

9 Infrequently Asked Questions When Hiring a Web Design Company

If you’re in the market for a new website you’ve probably realized there are a lot of options when it comes to selecting a vendor. These days it seems like everyone knows someone that can build a website. So how will you decide who’s the right fit for the project?

Responsive Web Design

Of course you’re going to do your homework; make some phone calls, probably have a few meetings with potential vendors. Throughout this process you will be asking a lot of questions and gathering information on pricing, timeline, and previous work. Unfortunately, many people fail to ask the questions that will allow them to uncover those crucial details that can make or break your web design project.

Below are the 9 most infrequently asked questions that you must ask any company you’re considering working with on a new website.

1) What content management system (CMS) do you use?

Unless you have someone on your team that is proficient in web development, you will want a CMS that is easy to operate and preferably functions on an open-source platform. Having the ability to easily update the content on your website will save you lots of time and money; two resources we all need more of!

2) Do you design with mobile in mind?

If you don’t already know the VITAL importance of having a mobile-friendly website, you may want to take a minute to get caught up. With more than half of all web searches taking place on smartphones, you simply can’t afford to overlook this item.

3) How will my website perform on search engines?

What good is having a fantastic new website if no one is finding it? The most successful approaches to Search Engine Optimization (SEO) include monthly recurring work, but there are some basic techniques that ensure your website will rank optimally in searches right from the start. Make sure your web development company employs those techniques!

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Ensure your team employs strategies that will get your site found!

4) What happens when something breaks?

Notice I did not say “if” something breaks. Your website lives on the internet. The internet is ever-evolving and new challenges enter the scene constantly. From browser updates to software bugs, it is impossible to predict when most issues will arise. It is important that you know how your vendor of choice handles these issues, if at all.

5) What is your client retention rate?

Just because someone has worked on high-profile projects does not mean the project went well. Find out how many clients the company has and how long they’ve maintained those relationships. Have they ever done repeat business for a client? Can they offer you some references to contact? Building a website is a commitment, and you want to be sure you choose a partner that can maintain a long-term relationship.

6) How big is your team?

When it comes to the number of people working on your project, there’s no magic number. If you’re interested in a partnership-style relationship, I would suggest staying away from the 50+ person, full-service ad agency. Alternatively, if you want your project to continue moving forward when a team member is out for a week on vacation, you may not want the 2-4 person boutique design shop.

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Choose a team that is the right size and properly caffeinated.

7) How quickly can I expect to hear a response?

Few things are more frustrating than experiencing a technical issue and waiting days (and in some cases weeks) to find out if your email was even received. Figure out what the process is for submitting a website support request and ask what the average time to resolve an issue is.

8) What happens after my new website is launched?

Many consider a project to be “finished” when the website is launched. Truth be told, that’s when the real work begins. Keeping a website well-maintained, up-to-date, and secure takes a lot of time and experience. Here are just a few things you’ll want to plan for:

  • Personalized training so you know how to login to your website and make changes
  • Regularly scheduled software and plugin updates
  • Secure website hosting and annual domain registration
  • Backing up website content
  • Website analytics and usage reports
  • Additional services like lead capturing, search engine marketing, etc.

9) What is most important to your company and your people?

One of the most important factors involved in finding the right fit for the job happens to be one of the most difficult. A company may have an impressive portfolio, but what about their culture? Are their priorities the same as yours? Are they more concerned with designing a beautiful website than in creating something that is functional? Do they care more about having everything their way rather than doing what’s best for your business? You’ll be spending a lot of time together, so make sure you find a group that you enjoy working with!

Did we miss anything? If you have any questions you think are important when deciding on a web development company, leave it in a comment below. And if you want to learn more about our own services, reach out to me at [email protected].

3 Small Business Ailments and Their Remedies

As a preface to this piece, I want to say that working at a small business is a fantastic experience. It gives you the opportunity to work in a tight-knit group of unique individuals, who ideally strive towards the same goal. It allows you to see the impact your work has on a day-to-day basis, acting as validation and a reminder of why you do what you do. It provides numerous opportunities to connect with your community in an intimate way, and ultimately better it as a whole. Yes, working at a small business is great. Except… when it’s not.

So without further ado, here are 3 small business ailments and some suggested remedies.

1. Growing Pains

If you work at a small business, you probably juggle a million different tasks and wear four different titles.

DJ Dolla Billz

Yes, my business card does say I’m the Finance Managing Sales Lead Office Disk Jockey. They call me DJ Dolla Billz. Pleasure to meet you.

While you may expect this as a small business, it illustrates a problem we’ve all faced: having too much work and not enough people to do it. It’s difficult to maintain healthy growth. You want to increase sales and do more for your clients, but your employees are already stretched thin. Or you have a product that is in extremely high demand, and you can’t satisfy all your customers. And you STILL don’t have enough revenue to bring on another team member, or increase manufacturing, so you’re stuck in a negative feedback loop; a problem that’s even more pronounced when you have limited access to investment capital.

This is one of the main reasons so many small businesses fail — they can’t find that happy balance. They either don’t prepare for their business taking off, leaving them unable to supply an increasingly high demand, or they invest too much money on a product or service that doesn’t find success.

The Solution

Our CEO Chris Manley has some tips for this particularly difficult challenge: “There are two options if you find yourself in this situation: engage in serious strategic planning or consider whether your business model is sustainable. Success should not be limited to ‘if my business stays open’. Success can also be found when you learn a particular business model does not work. You gain valuable knowledge and skills, and you can apply what you’ve learned to your next venture.”

“Identifying and bringing on board business advisers is also a strong next step. Find business leaders you respect — they may be related to your industry or something totally different. However, find people who fit your need. If you just can’t get your sales off the ground, then seek out a mentor in someone who has successfully grown sales in another company. If your problem is outlining operational procedures and production guidelines, ask around to identify someone who has a corresponding background. If you have no network of existing business leaders to lean on for recommendations, check out SCORE, a group of retired executives devoted to helping entrepreneurs find success.”

Finding The Right Employees

A study by the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) reported that 27% of small business owners identified lack of skilled labor as a major impediment to business growth. Why is it such a struggle to find good help? One reason is that these businesses cannot or will not pay skilled workers enough to hire them.

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Um….. where is everyone?!?

Another is that a business growing too quickly may rush the hiring process, not properly train new hires, and provide customers with inconsistent and often insufficient services. Or, they may take a risk on promising candidates, choosing to provide substantial training in-house, only for the employee to leave after receiving the training.

Solution

Spend a significant amount of time during the hiring process! Don’t rush to fill a position just so you can meet demand and lighten the load on your current employees. This decision will ultimately come back to haunt you, costing even more time and money. If you hire an employee that sticks around, even for only a year, investing enough time into making the right decision will have an incredibly positive ROI. You’ll find someone who fits your company culture, has the right skills, or is receptive and skilled at learning.

Also, let employees go if you have to, even if they are hard-working and amiable. If you have an employee that doesn’t meet your standards and isn’t contributing to your profit — including those that mean well and do everything they can — it’s best to let them go. This can also be said of employees that don’t fit in with the company culture, or buy in to the values of the business.

3. You Don’t Have a Website

Stop what you’re doing. Are you sitting down? If not, you probably should. We’ll wait….

Alright, now that you have yourself securely planted in a chair, get this: only 51% of small businesses have websites.

Wait, did you read that correctly? Do you need to change your screen resolution or something? Maybe you’re just light-headed and need to lie down.

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This fox gets it

Nope. You read that right and don’t have an excuse to nap. Nearly HALF of all small businesses don’t have a website. And if you’ve followed our blog within the past year, you’ll know that’s a bad idea. Without a website, you lack digital representation of your brand and allow yourself to be defined by whatever is floating around on the interwebs. Instead of YOU having control over how people perceive you online, you allow others to determine your identity. This is the case even if the majority of your leads come from word-of-mouth marketing.

The Solution

Get a website!!! Although it takes time and money, a quality website is not something you can afford to do business without. People think less of businesses that lack a responsive and up-to-date website, and if you don’t have one you could be missing out on a ton of potential business.

YOUR WEBSITE HERE

That’s not what I was looking for…

And if you’re not wanting more business, a website is a great resource for maintaining positive customer relationships. If you need some help deciding on what you can do to make a great website, check out our free eBook “25 Website Must-Haves”.

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4 Tools For A More Efficient Business

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Are you a part of a small business? Then kudos to you my friend, because I feel your pain.I understand the tension of keeping all the details organized, all the bills paid, and communication flowing smoothly. It’s definitely a challenge, but it’s never boring!

In the spirit of being open, here are four tools we use to wrangle details and maintain our sanity. The best tool is the one you’ll actually use, so take these as inspiration and find what works best for your team.

Keep it All Organized with Google Apps

Engenius *hearts* Google Apps. Gmail and Google Calendar keep us communicating with clients well via branded email addresses, and allow us to manage shared calendars (is the conference room booked?) Google Drive gives us the ability manage a virtual filing cabinet and collaborate on documents (a blog post draft, for example), spreadsheets, presentations, etc. One of my favorite features is the ability to manage permissions. No filing cabinet keys required.

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A few of the Google apps we love

Google Apps are accessible anywhere — computer, phone, tablet, you name it — Which is great when I need to upload a picture of that lunch receipt to my finance folders beforeit gets lost in the abyss of my car’s center console.

Talk it Out with Slack

The amount of internal emails flying back and forth has decreased significantly (praise!) since we started using Slack 6 months ago. Instead, we keep the communication lines open and focused – even sharing that adorable puppy photo without triggering the dreaded reply-all email thread. Woof.

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We’re all about some cats on the Engenius random channel

Slack works by using “channels” to guide topics. Each user can customize their notifications as well – so while I’ll get a pop up on my phone if my boss messages me, I’ll wait to check the #random channel over my lunch break to see the YouTube video that has the production office giggling.

Slack has changed the game for team brainstorming. Instead of having a long meeting where our team members may feel on the spot, we created a channel where everyone can chime in on topics as they have thoughts. It’s been a huge win, allowing everyone to contribute in a collaborative way without having to clear their schedules for a team wide meeting.

Get Stuff Done with Teamwork

Teamwork is how we build out project expectations – assigning tasks and managing deadlines to keep things moving forward. As a service-based company, it’s key that our staff can track their time against each task and client, so we know if we’re hitting our goals and staying profitable.

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We’d agree with that statement

Teamwork keeps project templates on hand, which ensures that every step in the system is followed. Ultimately this makes it easier for us to deliver great work that brings success to our clients. We can also manage staff workloads to avoid bottlenecks at various stages of the project. For example, if our content writers are all slammed but the designers are twiddling their thumbs, that’s no bueno, so our project managers arrange meetings and deadlines appropriately to keep everyone chugging along with clear expectations. Ahhh, the sweet sound of progress.

Get Paid with Bill.com

Bill.com is incredibly useful for both our Accounts Receivables and Accounts Payable  procedures. Small businesses work hard to serve clients well and provide awesome jobs for employees. To do that, you’ve got to make a profit and stay financially sound. While working with over 160 clients is a huge honor, it takes a high level of organization to ensure each account is invoiced when appropriate, our vendors are paid on time, and our books are kept up to date.

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Don’t struggle so much to get paid!

Some of my favorite features include the ability to set up recurring invoices and auto-pay for our clients, which helps lighten their load as they manage their own small businesses. If someone ever needs to track when we paid that one specific vendor, or how much a client owes, Bill.com makes it easy to search for that info or build reports to track progress. Our accountants love how it syncs with Quickbooks Online, and I love being able to assure our clients that we’re using a safe and reliable platform to complete each transaction.

Those are just a few of the ways that we keep things moving at Engenius – hopefully this will inspire you to find the best tools for your team and keep an eye on new tools that are constantly being developed. Cheers to you, small businesses, and I wish you happy administrating!

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