Thursday, January 8, 2015

Tips for Working in a Family Business (When you're not Family)

It can be challenging coming into a family business as a new employee. Alex Bouri has worked as part of his family's business Seament for most of his life. During that time he has seen the dynamics of a growing family business and how they affected the role of new, non-family employees. Here are Alex Bouri's tips for succeeding in a family business—when you're not family:

  • Take the time to understand the company culture – Every family-owned business tends to have a strong company culture all its own. As the business is closely tied to the family, some of their personality will color every part of the company culture. This can give a family business a much stronger sense of cohesion than other businesses, but it can also be harder for an outsider to get into. As a new employee, it's important to put in the time and effort to understand the company culture. By starting to share in that culture, you will, in effect, make yourself part of the family. You'll not only fit in better, you'll also find it easier to communicate with others in the business and to have your views and ideas heard. You'll also be able to understand the reasons that things work the way they do.

  • Don't take part in family disputes – Ideally, family members employed in a business together draw a careful line between work issues and family disputes, but this isn't always the case. There may be complicated politics between different family members or others may simply not get along, and it can spill over into the workplace. It's important to respect and understand these differences without getting drawn into them. You are not part of the family and their disputes, if any, are not part of your job description. Plus, it's impossible to get involved in a family dispute without taking sides, which is dangerous for your career. Politely keep quiet when family members disagree with each other unless the dispute is specific to your job or role and your opinion is requested – and even then, keep your response professional.

  • Let your work ethic speak for itself – It can be hard for a newcomer to find their place in a family business. Be aware, however, that to the family members who run the business, the business is everything—not just their job but the future of their children. That means they will respect and appreciate those employees who show a strong work ethic and competence. If you feel a little bit like an outsider at first, work hard and know that your efforts will not go unrecognized.

What else would you do to succeed at a family business?

Monday, July 14, 2014

3 Tips on Going Green in the Office

If you own an office, you probably already know how important it is to follow wise practices such as going green. Taking on green initiatives will not only make your business stand out from competition, but will prove to be a wonderful way to help the environment.  Take it from Seament, a company who Maurice Bouri is affiliated with; their green efforts have truly expanded over the years thanks to this caring company and the measures that they take to ensure a healthy and clean environment for their employees.

Alexander Bouri started Seament about four decades ago. Ever since he began to operate this company, he was always concerned with staying mindful to the environment. In fact, it was one of his biggest priorities. That is why Seament has sponsored various projects to help incorporate environmental management systems into their very own business plan. If your company is looking for ways to introduce environmentally-friendly measures into your business, here are just a few tips:

1. Encourage your employees to take public transportation rather than to take their own vehicles to work. If it is at all possible, please tell your coworkers about the importance of going green by asking them to take public transportation. If your employees can carpool, then that will also help the environment. If your employees can arrive at the job by bike, then that is also encouraged.

2. Make sure to take advantage of technology by digitalizing your office. By having everything accessible through a digital device, you can cut down on your paper usage. This means that you will not have to rely on printing on items; instead, you can access them through your computer at a time that is convenient for you and your employees.

3. Have your employees work from home more often. This will eliminate the need for your employees to drive, which ultimately benefits the environment. Luckily, instant messaging, video conferencing, and other workflow tools make working from home easier.

Both Alex and Maurice Bouri believe that going green is a wonderful way to help your office and the environment. If going green is on your agenda, then make sure to follow these tips; they can help you out tremendously in your journey to go green and help the environment. 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

3 Mistakes Rookie Businessmen Make

Mistakes are an unpleasant, but ultimately unavoidable part of life. That truth can be applied to anything, but it's especially true of people that have started their own businesses. Businessmen like Alexander F. Bouri know about the unique situations that can arise in these situations, but when you're new to the business world, everything can feel like one long series of trial and error. You will make some unavoidable mistakes, but there are some more troublesome problems you can avoid if you're prepared. When starting your new business, try to avoid these common errors:

Taking on too much work

The first few years of your business may have you doing a lot more "behind the scenes" work than you anticipated, and on the surface there's nothing wrong with that. You should be involved with your business, but you shouldn't feel like you have to do everything to get anything done. People hire employees and managers for a reason – if you feel like you have to do all the work because the people you have on staff won't be able to, you need re-evaluate your employees. In fact, that brings us to another common mistake…

Not letting go of bad employees

Like we've said before, it's natural to make mistakes at work. A few mistakes are nothing to worry about, but continuous screw ups are something that can't be tolerated. Some people are reluctant to fire an employee that isn't working out because they feel like they've sunk too many hours into training them, and hope that they'll eventually improve. Others don't want to have to deal with the hassle of finding another employee to fill their shoes. While both are valid points, dealing with an employee's mistakes will end up being much more troublesome than having to get rid of them.

Not getting customer feedback

The only way to run a successful business is to satisfy customers, and you won't be able to know that you are achieving that goal unless you take time to see if they're happy with your services or goods. Most people just assume their new business is doing well naturally because they believe in it, but if you don't have paying customers that share your vision, your business days will be over. Always ask new and returning customers how they feel about your services. You can do this personally, or via online surveys and in-house questionnaires.

Monday, June 2, 2014

International Bulk Shipping Options

Thanks to the Internet, many companies need to know their international shipping options. Alexander F. Bouri, CEO of the global company Seament, feels that choosing the best mode of transportation is crucial to export success. Consider the below options when choosing to ship internationally.
  • Shipping by Sea - It is important to note that most international bulk transport is done by sea. This is also your most economical option, but it will likely be the slowest mode of transportation. For example, a typical shipment from a port in Europe to the United States takes approximately twelve days. There are currently an array of ships that specialize in shipping bulk items such as dry goods, liquids, and perishable items. 
  • Shipping by Train This is a common shipping method when transporting bulk goods, especially when bringing them to an international export destination. When using rail, you may have to pay a transshipment cost because the freight often has to be transferred to another mode of delivery. You can reduce these costs by choosing shipping containers that can be easily moved from one mode of transportation to another.
  • Shipping by Truck - This is one of the most popular methods of freight transportation because it is easily accessible, regardless of where a company is located. Further, it is typically a truck that takes bulk items to their final destination. When working with a trucking company, you will need to know whether your shipment is considered less-than-truckload (LTL) or truckload (TL). When shipping LTL, you're typically dealing with cargo that weighs less than or equal to about 15,430 pounds; anything weighing over that is considered a TL and will most likely be charged a per mile rate. 
  • Shipping by Plane  - If what you're trying to ship needs to reach its final destination quickly, then this is the best option. When shipping by air, the cost is typically determined by weight, so transporting in bulk can get very expensive, very fast. Often, this is worth the price because these shipments can be easily tracked and monitored.
Obviously, each mode of transportation has its own pros and cons. In most cases, shipments will require several different modes of transportation to reach their final destination, so it's just a matter of choosing the ones that make the most sense for your company. In order to select the best method, Alexander F. Bourisuggests that you consider your budget and your clients' needs.  

Monday, March 31, 2014

Spring Cleaning your Business

When March and April roll around, a lot of people start getting rid of those dust bunnies, taking clothes to the donation center, and letting in the fresh air. Have you ever considered doing the same with your business? Every aspect of your life can use a little refresher every now and then, and your business is no exception. Now's a good time to apply that renewed energy to your biggest asset.

You could start by de-cluttering. Switch from paper files to technology and begin scanning things into the system. Look for a cloud-based storage solution to ensure that all your files are backed-up. Then, get rid of those filing cabinets. The more open and airy your office feels, the more clear-headed you'll be when you go to tackle a task.

Meanwhile, start updating your business's technological wardrobe. Is all your technology up-to-date? Maybe it's time to get some new cash registers, get faster computer software, or find a more organized communication tool for everyone to use. You could even benefit from replacing that old, leaky fridge. New things make everyone feel better and give the physical feeling of a fresh start, which is great for your attitude.

Start organizing your customers and your leads for some more de-cluttering. Even large-scale entrepreneurs like Alexander Bouri have to prioritize their customers every once in a while, and when you can delineate your higher-spenders and ready-and-willing from those who aren't so interested, you can then begin to get back in touch with them. Send them an e-mail or give them a phone call to see if there's anything you can do for them as a great business refresher.

Now might also be a good time to think about re-branding. Even if it's a slight simplification of your logo, a new slogan, or a new pricing model, doing something new not only makes you feel like you have a new start, it makes your customers re-evaluate how they see you as a brand.

Remember, spring cleaning isn't just for your house or your wardrobe. Refreshing your appearance, your car, your computer, or even something as large as your business can be beneficial.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Emotional Appeal: Sharing the Story of your Small Business

Perhaps you've been invited to a conference or are simply trying to pitch yourself as a partner to another company. At some point or another, as a startup or a small business, you're going to have to use emotional appeal to gain customers and network. Whether we want to admit it or not, as small businesses, we often have to prove why people would shop with us.

Take it from Maurice Bouri and his family. They're a large-scale company now, but it took a lot of talking and networking to get to where they are. That's why they're offering tips on sharing your business's story in an effective way.

Most importantly, be authentic, says Maurice. Don't go digging for whatever you think will sell – tell the truth and let the emotion shine through. No one wants to feel as though they're being lied to in order for someone to sell a product, so make it clear that what you see is what you get when telling your story.

Be concise. Just as much as you don't want to stretch to make your point, you also don't want to talk anyone's ear off. Your audience is going to get bored with a long-winded story. They want to know the point of what you're saying, so be sure to make it quickly – but thoroughly – and leave room for any questions.

Don't be too humble. Don't be afraid to compare yourself to larger industries – for example, "we're the Starbucks of the software industry" or "like GrubHub for repairmen." It helps customers to draw a familiar connection and also makes you seem credible.

Get personal if possible. If you've got a real-life experience that can help get your point across, use it. If you've got an extremely happy customer, see if they'll write a testimonial. People don't like to be sold with claims – they like to see how these things apply to their lives.

Conduct trial and error with small groups. Not sure about a new product? Offer free samples and have passerbys fill out a survey – it's that simple. Some things are going to work, and some aren't, but you'd rather lose out on a small project than a big one.

Monday, March 3, 2014

How to Run a Family Business

Maurice Bouri, his brothers, and father all know what it’s like to be in business with family.  Being a part of a family business has many positives, but there are also some negatives.  Family members involved in business together love the opportunity to be surrounded by their loved ones and enjoy building a profound venture that will last for generations.  For many people it’s difficult to find the right balance of work and family priorities. If you’re planning on starting a family business, keep the following tips in mind.

§  Consider Leadership Training – Leadership skills do not come naturally to most people and those who do demonstrate leadership skills sometimes aren’t aware of how to use them to the best of their ability. There are many leadership professional development opportunities available for companies that are looking to operate in a proficient way. 
§  Open Up the Communication – Some people assume that family businesses have the best communication because they’re working with the people closest to them.  In reality, this is actually far from the truth.  Families usually have a hard time communicating with one another because they usually don’t end up discussing important or difficult issues related to the business because of conflicts that are unrelated to the business. To make sure that your family business doesn’t fall into the trap, make it a point to hold weekly or bi-weekly meetings with a clear agenda. Make it clear to everyone that this meeting time is for business related topics only. 
§  Get Everyone Involved – Many companies devalue younger family members because they make the assumption that they’re disinterested or not old enough to contribute.  As soon as children are old enough to work get them involved because the company will hopefully be a big part of their future. Teach them young what it means to be a hard worker and how to be an effective player that’s part of a team.
§  Enjoy Yourselves – All work and no play can make every member of your family burn out quickly. To keep your family motivated and energized about the business you have to allow for time to unwind and enjoy one another outside of work. Stepping away from the family business to appreciate one another will only make your company more successful because you will strengthen your bond as a unit.

Maurice Bouri feels that all successful family businesses need to keep the above tips in mind.