author

About Danica Jovic

Danica’s greatest passion is writing. From small businesses, tech, and digital marketing, to academic folklore analysis, movie reviews, and anthropology — she’s done it all. A literature major with a passion for business, software, and fun new gadgets, she has turned her writing craft into a profitable blogging business. When she’s not writing for SmallBizGenius, Danica enjoys hiking, trying to perfect her burger-making skills, and dreaming about vacations in Greece.

Blog posts

An employee handbook is perhaps the single most important document in any company. In addition to communicating your company’s policies, it’s an essential part of onboarding new employees and conveying the core values of your business.   But in spite of its importance, many small business owners don’t actually have a company handbook. Others don’t recognize its value until something goes wrong. That’s why it’s always better to have one as soon as you start your business. This is the best way to set clear expectations for your employees and outline your legal obligations and their rights. Our guide will tell you what should be included in an employee handbook and how to create one. What Is an Employee Handbook?An employee handbook is also referred to as an employee or company policy manual or a staff handbook. It outlines your company’s mission and culture while informing employees of the legal framework governing their employment. The handbook also includes various other components such as your company’s background information, procedures and policies, working conditions, and employee rights.This document should be made available to each employee as soon as they are hired. The new employees should also be asked to provide a written acknowledgment that they received the handbook.  What Topics Should Be Included in an Employee Handbook?As an employer, you aren’t legally required to provide employees with a policy manual or a handbook. However, this is a highly beneficial communication resource between you and your employees, which is why many small business owners choose to create one. While insurance policies for small businesses protect you from professional mistakes, a written format of the company rules and policies can go a long way in shielding you from discrimination and harassment claims. But an employee handbook is not only about the rules and policies. It should also set the tone of the company’s culture and help create a healthy and positive work environment. This is why you should finish writing an employee handbook before you turn to job posting sites and begin the onboarding process. This approach informs employees about everything that’s expected of them before they start working. An employee policy handbook should cover several topics, including information about your company (history, values, mission), in-house rules (mobile phone use, for example), mandatory policies (equal employment opportunity and PTO), and human resources information.The Main Components of an Employee Handbook for Small BusinessThere is no shortage of templates and employee handbook examples online. Most include the aforementioned key components and additional policies for different business organizations. Below is a list of the most common features in every company policy handbook, including some of the most important small business policies and procedures.IntroductionStart by introducing employees to your company history and background information. This section can have a welcome note from the CEO, which introduces the company’s team and explains its mission and core values. This is the most flexible part of a handbook and can include everything from the purpose of the handbook to a contractual disclaimer. A widely accepted employee handbook definition requires the introduction to explain how your business is organized, who are the owners/CEOs, and where the business is incorporated. These sorts of details are useful to have on hand as most companies that provide business incorporation services, like Northwest Registered Agent, require you to provide this information. Onboarding Once you’ve outlined your company’s mission and vision, it’s time to explain how your company works. Start with the hiring and onboarding section, where your employees can get informed about the company’s structure, confidentiality agreement (nondisclosure agreement or NDA), and conflict of interest procedures. The most basic employee handbook information should also assure your staff that the company guarantees equal employment opportunities for all candidates. EEOC protects candidates against age, race, gender, or any other form of discrimination. Code of conductThis section tells employees how the management expects them to behave, as well as the measures taken by the company against those who violate the rules. It’s one of the most important components on the long list of employment policies and procedures that protect both the company and its workers. Even the most flexible companies have boundaries, and it’s important that these are clearly outlined for everyone’s sake. The code of conduct section can include policies regulated by law, like the anti-harassment policy, but it can also outline other small business rules and regulations for employees, like the dress code. Payment and compensation For employees, this section will probably be among the most important ones, so you should make it clear and comprehensive. This part of an employee manual includes information about the payroll schedule, salary, and bonuses. It should also provide a simple explanation regarding taxes and deductions. While you can use software for calculating and filing taxes, the employee handbook should explain the main payroll deductions (federal, state, and local taxes, for example). Benefits When creating an employee manual, make sure you include all the perks. The section consists of the various benefits that the company offers to its employees - from sick leave and vacation time to health insurance, retirement plans, and career development. It goes without saying that this is a crucial section of your company’s employee handbook for every member of your team. In addition to the most common benefits such as paid time off and health care plans, some businesses include free courses, team-building exercises, office meals, and even unemployment insurance. Your workers will want to see their list of benefits spelled out, and they’ll carefully review these employee handbook contents. Employee termination procedure If your employee finds a new job or you need to lay someone off, there are procedures the company needs to follow. You should also inform your employees what happens when someone has to leave the team. The standard offboarding procedures include information about the last paycheck delivery and unemployment insurance. The policy can also explain how the last conversation with the company’s HR looks like. Employee acknowledgment This page should be signed by your employee after reading the handbook. It confirms that the employee understands your company’s rules and policies. How to make an employee handbook?By now, we’ve established that an employee handbook is an important ingredient in any business organization. Yet many businesses decide to bypass this step when setting up their operation. Some business owners find it too difficult and time-consuming.Here’s the good news. If creating a handbook for your small business is not your cup of tea, you can always outsource this task. Just like there are companies that provide bookkeeping services, there are those that can help you create your handbook from scratch.Both professional HR consulting companies and law firms offer this type of service. With professional services, you’ll get something that’s customized to fit your business needs, but you don’t need to know how to write an employee handbook. These professionals will take care of everything, from incorporating the federal, state, and local policies into the handbook to writing sections that reflect your company’s culture in the best way possible. If you decide to go at it alone, you’ll need to conduct thorough research to identify the policies that need to be included. But this option gives you a chance to be creative. No one knows what kind of atmosphere you want to create in your company better than you. Think about the values you wish to promote and write them down. Alternatively, you can use online templates and forms for free to create a small business handbook. Adjust them to fit your needs, check if all mandatory policies are included, and write your expectations and rules. When you’re done, make sure the document is reviewed by legal counsel. Tips and tricks for writing an employee handbook:If you decide to author a handbook on your own, here are some useful tricks that will help you along the way. Set the tone Make sure that you use a friendly voice when writing a handbook. Of course, you want to be sure that your employees will take it seriously, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to come off as authoritative. You can make an employee handbook by using encouraging and affirmative tones that are as effective as those written from the “don’t perspective.”Design your handbookThe way you present your handbook is also important. Whether you create an online handbook or a paper copy, make sure it introduces new employees to your company’s colors and logo.Include imagesYou can take things a step further when personalizing your handbook. Include photos of your office and team members to give off a more positive and friendly vibe.What not to include in an employee handbook?An employee handbook should have all “boring” mandatory policies, but you shouldn’t go into too much detail. A handbook should offer explanations that your employees can understand. This is especially important when it comes to things like health insurance and other benefits. However, for detailed information, there should be links to government websites where your staff can find additional information. It’s also important not to confuse an employee handbook with other manuals. While trying to figure out what to include in an employee handbook, some company owners arrive at the conclusion that it’s the same thing as an HR manual. This is incorrect. These are two completely separate documents. A handbook is a document for your employees that should be given to them when they start working for your company. Its purpose is to set expectations and communicate policies. An HR manual is for you and your human resources team. Its purpose is to explain the process behind your company’s policies. If someone violates any of the policies, your HR will know how to deal with it, thanks to the HR manual.

By Danica Jovic May 28,2021

Silicon Valley startup, Gatik, secured $85 million in its latest funding round. The investment cycle was led by Koch Industries, and this cash infusion will play a vital role in the startup's expansion. The money will go towards expanding its operations, hiring new staff, and increasing its truck fleet. Since its founding in 2017, Gatik has raised $114.5 million. The startup already has well-developed robotic truck operations for hauling consumer goods and groceries for Walmart in Arkansas and Louisiana and Loblaw supermarkets in Toronto. The company suggested that it will be spreading its network to include Texas. Gautam Narang, CEO and co-founder of Gatik, says that the new financing enables better scaling for the company: “The way we look at the business, the technology, the companies we work with, we have all the key components in place.” The funding will be giving this company “a runway of at least two and a half, three years," Narang added. Gatik's revenue is also on the rise, so it seems like there is no pressure on the team to pursue any alternative investment sources, bigger rounds, or to go public.  “We have meaningful revenue coming in. Last year we did revenue in the millions, and this year, we are projecting to increase that by 400% year over year,” Narang disclosed.  Koch Disruptive Technologies - the venture branch of Koch Industries - was accompanied in the funding round by existing investors, such as Innovation Endeavors, FM Capital, Dynamo Ventures, and Intact Ventures. Trucking and delivery services, one of the fastest-developing areas of the autonomous driving industry, are on track to generate their highest revenue in the next couple of years. Gatik's delivery method relies on repetitive routes, and minimizing variables allows for its success. Other companies, such as TuSimple, that focus on longer routes, still have ways to go in terms of testing and further improvement. Since the company has already made some of its trucks in Arkansas fully driverless, Gatik plans to expand its fleet five times by 2023. “These are not one-off demos or one-time runs. We are doing these runs repeatedly on public roads,” Narang said. “On the technology front, we are at a point where we have validated the technology in one market, and now the focus is to scale from here.”

By Danica Jovic September 03,2021

Both demand generation and lead generation are highly valuable marketing strategies that businesses need to employ in order to generate new leads and boost their customer base. In other words, a lead generation effort cannot be effective without a demand generation component.   As such, the demand generation vs. lead generation comparison can sometimes get a little confusing. But even though these two strategies work towards the same goal, they are fundamentally different. In a nutshell, demand generation involves activities that build awareness about your service or product, whereas its counterpart is tasked with turning that interest into leads.  In an effort to dispel some of the confusion, our guide delves deeper into the main characteristics of both strategies.   What Is Demand Generation? Demand generation or demand gen is the process of getting the public interested in your company’s products and/or services. The idea is to develop a targeted marketing program that drives awareness of what your business is offering and draws visitors to your website. Most people think that this comes down solely to improving the visibility of your content on different social media channels. However, a big part of demand generation is helping your target audience identify problems and then offering your service as the solution. For example, a demand generation strategy targeting small business owners who are uncomfortable with the idea of being their own bookkeeper will highlight the importance of focusing on growing one’s business while passing off this ‘confusing’ and ‘overwhelming’ task to bookkeeping service providers.   Demand generation, or rather awareness, is on top of every sales funnel, followed by lead generation strategies. Think about it as the starting point of a consumer’s journey through the sales funnel. Demand generation content comes in a variety of forms, including influencer posts that show how effective your services are or sharing free tools and articles. It’s important to note that B2B demand generation content is non-gated, meaning that your audience doesn’t need to provide personal information in order to engage with it.   What Is Lead Generation?  Unlike demand gen, which focuses on calling attention to the need for your product/service,  lead generation activities seek to convert your audience into leads. If implemented properly, the combination of lead generation and demand generation will bring in new clients and boost your consumer base.  Lead generation is built on demand gen marketing strategies. If your company has a successful demand generation program, the big pool of potential prospects is then directed to the lead generation team that will nurture them into leads. Lead generation relies on strategies that include collecting names and contact details from the audience that show some interest in the company’s services.  The contact creation process in the case of lead generation marketing involves free webinars and tutorials, product guides, whitepapers, ebooks, free trials, and other content that visitors can get access to if they disclose their personal details.  The Difference Between Demand Gen vs. Lead Gen  A B2B marketing strategy that blends demand gen and lead gen components enables the company’s sales team to convert more leads into prospective buyers and thus increase revenue. But if your business uses both strategies without knowing the purpose of each, you’ll probably end up with a poor audience pool. Even though demand gen and lead gen are similar processes and work hand in hand, businesses must acknowledge the clear distinction between the two in order to implement a successful funnel strategy.   In the lead generation vs demand generation comparison, the key difference comes down to the content being used. When it comes to demand generation, the purpose of the content is to generate brand awareness and capture an audience interested in the company’s products and services. The content created for lead generation is lead-oriented, and its purpose is to turn the audience into leads.  Simply put, demand generation produces content that is focused on demand, while lead generation produces content that’s focused on collecting information about leads.  Another key difference between demand generation vs lead generation is the marketing funnel and the way targeting is used in both cases. The most important thing to identify is the distinction between people who don’t know about your products or services and those familiar with your brand.   Demand generation is not about creating content that will reach as many people as possible but creating brand awareness and reaching those who actually might be interested in your products and services, and thus, most likely to become leads.  In the demand creation vs lead generation comparison, content promotion is also different. Demand generation programs don’t pay for sharing content with people who are familiar with the brand. Once you have a base of people who know about your products and services, lead generation programs enter the fray.  Bottom Line  If you want to run a successful marketing campaign, both demand gen and lead gen strategies must be incorporated. It’s pointless to drive the right traffic to your site if you don’t have the necessary tools for lead conversions and following up with prospective clients. And although these two components work towards the same objective, it’s important to remember that they play uniquely distinct roles in the sales process.

By Danica Jovic September 23,2021

Writing press releases is not as easy as you might think, especially if you want to do it while following the Associated Press (AP) guidelines. There are lots of things to be aware of, from punctuation to the text formatting and creating a short “about you” paragraph (boilerplate). You also need to think about your audience - not only journalists and editors but also people interested in your company’s services or products. Therefore, before you even start writing the news about your company, be sure to know how to do it properly. We are here to help you write a press release format in AP style, but before we do that, here’s a short introduction to the AP writing style.  What is AP Style Writing? AP style is a writing style for journalists, magazines, and news set by the Associated Press news agency. Although some magazines (like New York Times) have their own publishing styles, AP style is considered an essential guide for journalists and editors or anyone else who wants to publish news. Like other style guidelines, AP style ensures that articles are formatted uniformly, regardless of who writes them. AP style writing rules are published in the AP stylebook. In this book, you can see the standards for text presentation, including news and press releases.  A press release using AP style includes numerous rules, and we are going to explain the most important ones here:  Serial Comma  Unlike Oxford style, AP style doesn’t allow the use of the serial comma. That means that the comma in AP style doesn't go after the last item in a list. The usage of commas is often a matter of style, but if you write magazine articles and news, AP style requires you to follow this rule.  Punctuation Don’t use a double space after a period if you write following the Associated Press writing style. The style requires a one-space rule after a period.  Numbers It might be easy to forget, so always check how you write numbers in articles formatted using the AP style. According to the Associated Press style guide, numbers between one and nine must be spelled, and you can use numerals past the number ten (10). By following the AP style, time should be written in numbers instead of words. For example, you should write “3 p.m.” instead of “three o’clock in the afternoon.” Dates When it comes to dates, there are a few rules to memorize. Firstly, you should use numbers to write dates. Secondly, the abbreviation applies only for months that are more than five letters long.  Fonts We know that there are a lot of attractive fonts to use but stick to standard ones. Editors will not be impressed with this type of experiment, especially if they follow standard AP style rules. Times New Roman is the standard font that you should use. AP style press release format sets the rules for font size too. The font size is also standardized and can be one point apart in size. If your headline is 14, the subheadings should be 13. The body of your text would then be size 12. Perspective Never use a first-person perspective in your article; you are a journalist, not a bard. AP style requires news and articles written in third-person only.  Capitalization AP style headline capitalization means that all headlines and subheadings have to be written in the title case.  How to write an AP style press release Before starting to write a press release, make sure that you know five W’s or five questions all journalists must be able to answer. These questions are the core of any news piece, and if you know how to ask and answer them, you may rest assured that you are providing adequate information to your audience. The answers to these questions summarize what your piece is about, and you should answer them in the first paragraph of the text. After that, you can add details to flesh out your press release.  These are the questions to answer:  Who is involved?  The answer should include information about the topic of the article. When writing news, writers should establish the subject (individual, company), and if it’s a press release, it should be about the company doing the press release. What happened? Explain what the piece is about briefly. For example, if your business is launching a new product, write about it.  When did it happen? AP press news should provide information about the timing of the event - when did the event you are writing about happen, or when will it happen? Where did it happen? As with time, readers should be told where the event that’s talked about is happening/has happened/will happen. Why did it happen? It is a straightforward question, but sometimes it can be challenging to answer. You need to explain why your news is important for your readers.  Answer these questions briefly but accurately so your audience will get all the necessary information in the first paragraph. It is important to be short and direct in this first paragraph because many readers won’t read the rest of the article.  Identify Your Audience  Another thing you need to do is identify who your AP press release readers are. Once you find out who your target audience is (that means not only editors and journalists but your customers or followers), you need to find a way to grab their attention. See what your readers are interested in, what their values are, what businesses they trust. You also need to research the demographic of your audience, including their age, gender, location, etc.  As you can see, creating a press release involves more than just getting the press release formatting right. For this reason, many businesses use press release distribution services. Aside from disseminating your news through the most popular media outlets, press release distribution companies will create and edit your press release, too. Provide Press Release Instructions  Your AP style news release should include the time and date when you want your news to be published. If your story is ready for publishing, type the words “FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE.” On the other hand, if you have an embargoed press release (a release that is not ready for immediate publishing),  write  “EMBARGOED FOR RELEASE UNTIL,” followed by the time and date when you want it published. Include Contact Information  When it comes to formatting a press release, don’t forget to include the contact details (name, phone number, email address) of the person who can provide more information about the press release content. Write your AP style press release dateline in the top left corner of the press release.  Write the Press Release Headline The next thing you need to do is to write a headline. The press release headline is positioned at the top center of the page, and it shouldn't be more than 80 characters long. It has to be eye-catchy to grab the readers’ attention. The subhead is located below the headline. It can be longer than the headline and may include up to 120 characters that explain the content in your headline. Both the AP headline and subhead should include keywords that boost the visibility of your press release. There are also other things that you can do when writing an Associated Press style press release headline. For example, you can search for a story already in the news and connect it with your piece somehow. This practice is also called “newsjacking.” Our advice is to use the present tense when you write the headline. It will attract your readers if the headline is exciting and catchy-sounding.    The Lead  The lead has to be short and to the point but still interesting. It’s the first paragraph of your press release, and it should be at least 60 characters long. You should also add the date when you want your press release to go live and the location your release originates from. This is an example of the date and location information for the press release (format AP):  Phoenix, Ariz. (October 20, 2021)  The date and location have to be bolded, and you need to use AP style for the state abbreviation.  The lead is the first thing journalists will read, so it has to summarize the most important things about the news you want to share. In this part of your press release, you need to answer the five W’s. Write Your Boilerplate The boilerplate or the “about” section is another important part of the standard press release format. It’s placed at the bottom of the statement and includes information about your business, such as your company history and values, awards, further plans, and anything else that is relevant for your audience. If you follow the AP format for the press release, this section shouldn’t be longer than 100 words. For example, if your business offers legal services, the boilerplate should talk about your company’s years in business, awards, and any of the company’s accomplishments.     Choose the Media Outlets That You Want to Send Your Press Release  After you finish your press release creation, you need to decide where you want to send it. You will be in a position to choose among hundreds of media outlets, and sometimes it can be really difficult to decide where to publish the press release in AP style. You should choose wisely because media outlets receive hundreds of press releases daily, and not all of them will publish yours. Also, pick those media outlets that target your audience. For example, if you’re opening a pet-friendly restaurant, send your press release to food and beverage and pet magazines.  Choose How You Want to Distribute Your Press Release  The distribution of your press releases is the next step after you format them in accordance with the AP style. There are several ways to spread the AP press release. For example, you can send the press release to journalists, bloggers, and influencers with whom you are already connected. Aside from the direct outreach, you can send the news to numerous media outlets to get wider media exposure. To do this, you will need to use press release distribution services. Alternatively, you can try to send your press release to journals and magazines on your own, but there’s no guarantee that they will publish it. It’s always a good idea to publish your press release on your website. This will increase the overall visibility of your company. Some website creators offer the option to add the press release page and publish the AP press release format with a few simple clicks. Also, don’t forget to share your media statement on social media channels so your followers can see it.

By Danica Jovic September 30,2021