Ask Dr. Job’s chief contributor, Sandra Pesmen, is a member of the Chicago Journalism Hall of Fame and author of “DR. JOB’s Complete Career Guide.”

Winner of several journalism awards, Pesmen is a graduate of the University of Illinois Media College at Urbana, and is listed in several Who’s Who editions. She also has been Corporate Features Editor of Crain Communications Inc., founding Features Editor of Crain’s Chicago Business and a reporter/features writer for The Chicago Daily News.

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'Cloud' Helps Small Biz Navigate Holidays

The holiday season brings special opportunities for small business retailers if they're ready for them.

That's the view of Margaret Lyons, customer success manager for InfoStreet, makers of SkyDesktop, a free Cloud-based desktop.

 Unfortunately, the season arrives so quickly and suddenly (this year at Halloween) that many of them feel overwhelmed and aren't prepared adequately. But she also believes her company can help them compete with larger competitors through use of  "the cloud" with its innovative apps. Here are some common small business seasonal needs, and a few cloud solutions for each:

You Need to Increase the Size of Your Team for Increased Traffic: The cloud makes the hunt for your next employee(s) straightforward and successful, and helps you manage your new team with ease. An example is Cangrade, a cloud app that automatically organizes and evaluates job candidates. Cangrade allows you to evaluate applicant resumes, and provides you with an unlimited number of psychologist-produced tests that can be used to assess the candidate's fit with an existing team as well as the likelihood of employee success. Once your team has been selected and hired, several cloud apps exist that will help you manage your employees. WhenIWork is a collaborative employee scheduling cloud app that sends employee schedules directly to their phones. ShiftPlanning is an employee scheduling software that additionally offers time-clocking and payroll functions. CakeHR allows employees to request time off via the cloud and keeps a running record of used and available employee PTO. All of these apps can be used to help you find the right people, put the right people to work, and ensure their time is spent on expanding your business and not mundane HR paperwork.  And, the best thing about the cloud is that your apps are scalable, growing with you when you need additional help, and scaling back when you do. With the cloud, you never pay for more than what you need.
You Need Innovative Marketing Ideas: How do you find them? Social media has created a strong reputation for growing your brand recognition, which may lead to a surge in sales. Interactwive lets you run Twitter contests by encouraging your followers to tweet messages relevant to your business. With Interactwive, you collect tweets, check for links or followers, summarize statistics, and choose winners, all in one web-based tool. Set the parameters of the contest by determining which links, phrases, or hashtags to require, and watch your social media funnel - and your sales - light up!
You Need A Better POS System: The days of expensive point-of-sale systems are over, now that POS is in the cloud. Many of us have become familiar with Square, a cloud POS system that allows companies to collect payment from anywhere, at any time, no matter where they may be. The Square card reader attached to a cell phone has become a familiar sight, and Square can be used inside of a business as well as in the field. Square is a wonderful POS for small businesses that do not spend all day in an office, or have agents working from different locations. Conversely, Posterita is designed for small businesses with one or more on-site locations. Posterita's cloud POS system boasts an easy-to-use interface that connects all of your data, from anywhere, across any computer or device that you use for purchase transactions, solving the age-old problem of synchronizing data from multiple locations. Moving your POS to the cloud will streamline your holiday sales process without breaking the bank.

And those are just a few of the new innovations.

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