Minimum wage increases by $21.60 a week

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The Fair Work Commission has decided on a three per cent increase in the national minimum wage from July 1.

Australia’s lowest paid workers will get a smaller pay rise this year of three per cent, but the industrial umpire says it will help improve their living standards.

The national minimum wage will rise by $21.60 to $740.80 a week from July 1, the Fair Work Commission announced on Thursday.

President Justice Iain Ross said the commission decided to award a lower increase than last year due to changes in the economic environment, including the recent fall in economic growth and drop in inflation as well as tax-transfer changes.

He said the prevailing economic circumstances provided an opportunity to improve the relative living standards of the low paid, and to enable them to better meet their needs.

“We are satisfied that the level of increase we have decided upon will not lead to any adverse inflationary outcome and nor will it have any measurable negative impact on employment,” he said.

“However, such an increase will mean an improvement in real wages for those employees who are reliant on the NMW and modern award minimum wages and an improvement in their living standards.”

The commission’s decision directly affects 2.2 million low-paid workers and indirectly affects many more.

Justice Ross said the relative living standards of minimum wage and award-reliant employees had improved over recent years.
“Some low-paid households are plainly experiencing significant disadvantage,” he added.

Unions called for a six per cent rise this year or about $43 a week, while business groups wanted it an increase of less than two per cent.
Despite only getting half of what unions sought, ACTU assistant secretary Liam O’Brien said the three per cent increase was significant in terms of closing the gap to the median wage.

“In real terms we are still seeing a significant increase,” he told reporters.

The ACTU still believed the minimum wage should be higher.

“It is not acceptable that workers in this country who work full-time hours are on less than the poverty line.”

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry said it was concerned the increase would put jobs in danger and risk the viability of some small businesses.

ACCI CEO James Pearson said the wage rise would cost employers an additional $3.1 billion a year.

“Australia already has one of the highest minimum wages in the world, and continuously increasing minimum wages by significantly more than inflation has consequences,” he said.

“A third straight increase well in excess of Inflation will be difficult for businesses, particularly small businesses, to absorb.”
Federal Industrial Relations Minister Christian Porter said the FWC decision reflected a real increase above the 1.3 per cent inflation rate and higher than economy-wide wages growth of 2.3 per cent.

“The real increase in minimum wages, combined with the government’s plan to lower taxes for working families, will ease cost of living pressures and lift the living standards of all low-paid workers in Australia,” Mr Porter said.

The three per cent increase is lower than last year’s 3.5 per cent rise and 2017’s 3.3 per cent.

By: Megan Neil Source: AAP

Why do major companies keep getting caught in employee underpayment scandals?

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Every few months sees a major employee underpayment scandal – companies announcing that they have made payroll errors that have impacted thousands of employees – go public. Examples are the $43 million error by Rebel Sport this year, the $2 million error by Lush Cosmetics last year, the $1 million in underpayments by Maurice Blackburn and more than $1 million in underpayments by Rockpool.

These types of errors are often identified and corrected by payroll expert Tracy Angwin at Australian Payroll Association, an industry network that has helped hundreds of organisations over 25 years ensure their payroll meets their legal requirements.

Tracy says underpayments are more common than one might think: “The various clauses across the 122 employee awards in Australia, as well as Federal- and State-based legislation, are extremely complex. At times, even the relevant Government bodies have not been able to answer our questions when we ask for clarification. In addition, legislative changes occur weekly.

“The errors behind the scandals are often a result of inadequate training given to payroll managers. The Australian Payroll Association’s 2019 Benchmarking Report reveals that the average payroll manager has just 2.6 days of training a year. Yet they are responsible for millions of dollars in payments and ensuring those payments meet the law.”

Tracy reveals the most common payroll mistakes and oversights that usually lead to such scandals.

The 7 mistakes that lead to major employee underpayments:

  1. Incorrect calculations in overtime provisions. Mistakes are made when organisations do not ensure every ruling on overtime has been considered for employees. Many employee awards have numerous sections on overtime – for instance in the ‘overtime’, ‘breaks’ and ‘part-time work’ sections. One often overlooked ruling is overtime. Employees must receive a minimum of 10-hour breaks between shifts. If their break is fewer than 10 hours, under some awards – such as those governing hospitality, aged care and social service employees – they must be paid overtime rates thereafter, until they receive their full 10-hour break.
  2. Underpayment on termination. The most common error here is payroll managers failing to refer to the Fair Work Act, in addition to the relevant employee award. The Act entitles employees over age 45 who have had at least two years of service with the company to receive one additional week of notice upon termination.
  3. Failing to pay overtime penalty rates to part-time employees. Many organisations erroneously place the same rules on overtime payments to part-time employees as to full-time employees. However, some common employee awards – such as the retail award and clerks award – require overtime penalty rates to be paid to part timers when they work more than their contracted hours. This is where underpayment mistakes are commonly made.
  4. Superannuation underpayments. Many employers fail to pay superannuation on employee payments on top of regular wages or salary. Super should be paid on any employee payment that is regarded as ordinary time earnings – this includes bonuses, leave loading, payment in lieu of notice of termination, and cashed-out annual leave.
  5. Only paying the base rate on annual leave payments. This is an error that Australian Payroll Association has identified across multiple organisations in the health support services and manufacturing sectors. The awards governing employees in these sectors require that annual leave payments should include the full payments owed to the employee if they had worked. This includes penalties and allowances, not just the base rate of pay.
  6. Excluding commissions and bonuses from long service leave. Many employers do not include commissions, incentives and bonuses when they calculate the value of long service leave. These payments should be included when long service leave is paid.
  7. Lack of payroll reviews and outdated systems. A major oversight that contributes to all of the above errors are failing to review the accuracy of payroll systems alongside legislative changes – therefore new regulations that benefit employees are not implemented.

The new Federal Budget: Promised policies for tradies

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The Coalition’s federal election win prompts us to reflect on their FY20 Federal Budget promises that piqued our interest. With Australian households spending over $73 billion each year on tradespeople and 250,000 trade businesses operating around the country, the sector represents an important economic contributor that deserves nurturing for continued prosperity and growth.

So if you own a business in the trades sector, or are a sole trader looking to grow, what are the incoming policies you should be capitalising on and planning for, next financial year?

Tax benefits for small business owners

The Coalition’s Federal Budget promises the lowest tax rate in 50 years for small and medium-sized businesses with a turnover of less than $50 million, moving the needle from 30 per cent to 27.5 per cent. This will be further reduced to 25 per cent by 2021-22 – meaning more cash in the pockets of our hardworking tradies and other small business owners spanning any sector. While, unincorporated businesses with a turnover of less than $5 million will have a tax discount of 8 per cent (capped at $1000), that’s set to increase twofold to 16 per cent.

Adding to these tax benefits, the instant asset write-off threshold will inflate from $25,000 to $30,000 and expand to include medium-sized businesses with annual turnover of less than $50 million. This is aimed at helping small businesses such as tradespeople, invest in the tools, equipment and machinery they need to grow.

For those seeking more seamless and faster lending access, small businesses are due to be offered more competitive finance through the $2 billion Australian Business Securitisation Fund, which will help smaller banks and non-bank lenders increase their lending to those in this sector.

Further, the Coalition pledged to establish the Australian Business Growth Fund ($100 million), which will partner with financial institutions to provide equity funding to small business. The initiative is designed to assist small and family businesses in funding access to help them reach their full potential.

New tools for apprenticeships and training

The Coalition has also made commitments to boost apprenticeship levels and inject capital into vocational training. A key plank in the Coalition’s Delivering Skills for Today and Tomorrow policy is a $525 million investment in the vocational education and training sector.

It will support 80,000 new apprenticeships in areas deemed to be suffering skills shortages over the next five years and offer incentive payments to employers will be doubled from $4,000 to $8,000 per placement.

New apprentices will also receive incentive payments of $2,000 and industry training hubs are set to be established to address the challenge of high youth unemployment in regional areas.

Impact on homeowners and trade job climate

In contrast to the ALP’s proposed Federal Budget, the Coalition’s budget policies relevant to homeowners pledged to retain the status quo, with no change to negative gearing or capital gains tax.

Despite house prices falling and credits being frozen, there are low concerns about a reduction of the number of home renovations within the industry. In fact, according to the HIA National Outlook Report (Autumn 2019), more homeowners have opted to undertake renovations in order to improve the amenity of their existing property, instead of transacting in the market. Tougher credit application criteria have only impacted a small segment of the renovations market, with those larger jobs requiring financial support.

Overall, the HIA Report showed the market has experienced an increase of 4.2 per cent in the total investments in home renovations in FY19 and stable, comparable levels are expected for FY20, with further growth forecast for FY21.

Working smarter in the on-demand tradie economy

Despite some variability in the real estate and property sector, the home improvement and maintenance market in Australia remains stable. In addition to benefiting from the new FY20 government policies relevant to their success and growth, tradies should also seek out cost-effective solutions that help them work smarter.

Our recent research with EY Sweeney and LEK showed that tradie work is increasingly being channelled through online platforms, revealing the deep value in digitising tradie-consumer engagements as the on-demand tradie economy grows. In fact, 70 per cent of tradies agree that technological assistance can free up their work time, including assisting with schedule management and reducing travel time between jobs (60 per cent). Our research also revealed that tradies spend an average 14 hours per week on quoting and general admin, having to pass up approximately six figures per year in potential work.

Drawing on easy to use digital and automated solutions for job coordination, communication through to administration, will help tradies operate in smarter ways so they can focus on what they do best – their trade and craft. Coupled with embracing the new policies promised in the FY20 Federal Budget, Australian tradespeople should be well equipped to succeed in the year ahead.

Roby Sharon-Zipser is the CEO & Co-Founder of hipages.

How to Keep Your Workspace Organized

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Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9pm ET.  This is excerpted from my recent interview with Janet M. Taylor, @OrganizerJanet. In 1994 Janet took her natural ability and started Totally Organized. For 3 consecutive years Totally Organized, LLC was recognized as one of the top minority firms by the Philadelphia Business Journal.  Janet appeared on the Rachael Ray Show where she was crowned the Clutter-Free Queen. For more information, visit:

SmallBizLady: Janet, could you please give us some information on your background such as previous work history and where you grew up?

Janet M. Taylor: I was born and raised in Philadelphia, PA, the city of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection, Cheesesteaks and Rocky.  After college, I worked in retail with a degree in Fashion Merchandising. From there I worked in banking, and my last job before I started my business was in transportation, working in the customer service department.  All of these jobs have helped me in my career as a professional organizer.

SmallBizLady: How did you get into the world of organizationWhat drives you to work in this area?

Janet M. Taylor: I started in the business because I was laid off from the last full-time job I worked.  I wanted to have control over my future and finances. Someone mentioned how organized I was, and I started doing research and discovered the National Association of Professional Organizers, and then connected with the local chapter.  I love helping people create space to attract more money, love, and happiness.

SmallBizLady: The National Association of Professional Organizers records at its website that, on average, American executives waste as much as six weeks of time searching for important documents. What keeps executives from being more organized?

Janet M. Taylor: Today executives and other workers are balancing various daily tasks, meetings, voicemail, and emails. Furthermore, some executives don’t have an assistant to help them with day-to-day administrative tasks, like maintaining their files and paperwork. Executives who do have an assistant may have to share their assistant with one or more other managers. I’m often called in to help executives see the top of their desk.  Many clients I work with have spent over 50 percent of the day searching for documents, etc.

SmallBizLady: Outside of money, what key disadvantages do being disorganized cost individuals and businesses every day?

Janet M. Taylor: Being disorganized is a big time waster.  Looking for documents that are buried beneath piles of paperwork wastes time. Disorganization also creates stress, especially when it causes workers to miss deadlines. You could also find yourself buying things you already have, wasting gas, wasting time and wasting more money as you travel to stores and fill up more space with things you don’t need, adding more clutter to your office.

SmallBizLady: Give us a few signs that reveal we’re disorganized.

Janet M. Taylor: The signs to know you are disorganized are:

  1. Missed deadlines
  2. Bills are paid late simply because you misplaced them
  3. You buy additional office supplies ( i.e., batteries, ink) needlessly because you can’t find what you already own

SmallBizLady: Have you seen an increased interest in your services since Marie Kondo’s show about Tidying Up?

Janet M. Taylor: Yes, I have seen an increase in the requests for my services.  Her show is bringing awareness to the benefits organization gives a person in their home and space.

SmallBizLady: To date, what’s the most challenging organizing job you’ve taken on?

Janet M. Taylor: The most challenging job I’ve taken so far was when I worked for a client who showed me to a room that had boxes and boxes of paperwork and documents dumped on the floor.  There were enough boxes of documents to fill an average-size living room. This was before scanners become popular and people could create electronic files. I was given the task of categorizing and organizing the documents but was not given direction as to what was in the files, how to organize the files, etc. When I finished the job nearly two weeks later, six departments at the firm had organized and labeled archive files.

SmallBizLady: My listeners typically work in small offices and cubicles. Do you have any tips for people who occupy small offices in their homes or at work?

Janet M. Taylor: The challenge for some people who work in small offices can be paper piles.  I believe we can do simple things to conquer them, and the following are a few ways to tackle those piles:

  1. Unsubscribe to publications you don’t have time to read.
  2. Create an archive of old financial, contract and client documents—scan them.
  3. Establish a retention schedule to yearly purge documents.
  4. Schedule time weekly to maintain order.
  5. Clear your workspace at the end of the day and week.

SmallBizLady: What solutions do you provide for someone that has an office in their home?

Janet M. Taylor: Establish a designated space in the home, whether it is a room or a corner of a room. The set-up should look and feel like an office with a desk, chair, etc.

SmallBizLady: How do you incorporate equipment and technology into staying organized?

Janet M. Taylor: Use a scanner to reduce the need for filing cabinets or at least the amount you have, and use a shredder to protect your identity.  New mousepads are created to extend the life of the wireless mouse, which means fewer batteries to purchase.

SmallBizLady: How do you stay organized?

Janet M. Taylor: I toss junk mail. I take something out, I put it back.  I establish a time weekly to clear off my desk so that each day and week I start off with a clear desk. Clutter is distracting.

SmallBizLady: In closing is there anything you would like to add?

Janet M. Taylor: 80 percent of the stuff we keep, we never reference again.

If you enjoyed this interview, please join us live on Twitter every Wednesday from 8-9 pm ET. Just follow the hashtag #Smallbizchat, and don’t forget to follow @SmallBizChat on Twitter.

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How To Deal With Unexpected Expenses When You’re Self-Employed

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Self-employment is rarely easy, but it can be rewarding and has obvious benefits, such as being able to pick the jobs you want to work on and the hours you want to work. In fact, more and more of us are choosing this way of working — there were 4.8 million self-employed Brits in 2017, according to figures by the Office for National Statistics.

However, one of the main drawbacks of self-employment is that it can make financial planning tricky. Unlike being employed, you’re unlikely to be paid regularly. And what you do get paid can vary from month to month. People who are self-employed either have to wait for invoices to be paid, or what they can take as a salary depends on how well their business is doing.

Consequently, if a surprise expense crops up, you might not have the funds to pay for it. So, to make sure you stay financially organised, follow our guide to dealing with unexpected expenses when you’re self-employed.

Save while you can.

If you don’t have an emergency fund, you should start building one now. True, this will mean that you sacrifice some of your disposable income. But the sooner you start to save, the less you’ll need to regularly put aside.

You could decide on a fixed amount each month. This will help you with your financial planning for your business going forward.

Reduce company spending.

Very often, there’s a simple way to respond to surprise costs: reduce company spending.

Try starting with your suppliers. You might be able to negotiate a fairer deal on items you buy from them regularly. You’ll be more likely to achieve this if you speak directly with them. Phone conversations can be very effective. Even if you don’t plan to, saying that you’re going to cancel your contract can be a good negotiating tool and can encourage your provider to offer you a better, cheaper deal.

Put your savings into your emergency expenses fund.

Borrow from family or friends.

When a surprise bill or expense appears that your bank account can’t cover, it can be tempting to go to a lender. But, especially if you’re a young business, you may not be able to get a loan or overdraft facility.

As a last resort, you could consider asking family or friends for help. They’re likely to be more lenient with payback periods than a creditor. This could be particularly useful if your enterprise is still young and in its early days of profit turnover.

Before you approach them, you should work out exactly how much you need to borrow and when you will be able to pay them back. You could even offer to pay them back a low rate of interest as an incentive.

Surprise costs needn’t leave your business struggling. But once you know how, you’ll be able to deal with any unexpected expense effectively. You’ve no doubt worked hard to build your own business. With these tips, you can protect it.


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How An Email Verification Service Works

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Email verification has gotten lots of attention in the past few years. As email is becoming an increasingly prominent marketing channel, organizations need to ensure they use accurate email lists. So, they turn to an email verification service to clean up bad signups and maintain regular email hygiene.

But what exactly does an email verifier do? We’ll discuss this below and outline the importance of keeping a clean list as an email marketer.

Syntax Check.

An email verification system checks whether an email address is correctly spelled and has a proper structure. It verifies that there are no spaces, commas, restricted characters, and the domain extensions are correct. As a user, you’ll be notified if by mistake you have incorrectly spelled the email address and prompted with a suggestion to correct it. Otherwise, you may miss major updates or it might be sent to someone else, which would result in leakage of user’s data.

MX Records Checking.

After the syntax check, this function verifies if the domain name with the stated email address actually exists and functions properly. It’s an extra-step that ensures you are dealing with a valid contact, so you can send your emails to a real inbox.

Mailbox Validation.

This step ensures that the email address is actually the correct one and is capable to receive messages. That means that at the receiving end, there is a real human being who will get and open your emails.

These are the three simple and major steps which are beneficial to both, users and website owners to keep their data safe and restricted.

Email verification helps remove other risky email addresses.

For marketers, misspelled and fake email addresses are not the only concern. There are other types of risky email addresses that can end up on a mailing list and spoil it. For example:

  • Spam traps: they don’t belong to real humans and their only purpose is to lure in and block spammers.
  • Abuse emails: these are known email complainers who have a history of marking emails as spam.
  • Catch-all emails: their mission is to receive all email sent to a certain domain, even when the ID is incorrect.
  • Temporary emails: they autodestruct after a short period of time and are useless in email marketing

All of these addresses may bounce and ruin your sender reputation. That will cause more of your emails to bounce or land in the spam folder, where people won’t see them.

Why email verification is important.

Email verification helps you stay free of fake and spam users and maintain good data quality. Also, it tells you who your inactive users are. An email verifier will remove dormant accounts or users who aren’t engaging with your emails. As a result, your open and click-through rates will increase, which will encourage more conversions.

Email verification also doesn’t allow people to create multiple accounts by using the same email address. It’s a very efficient filter on your website and helps you engage in genuine, transparent communication with your customers.

Choosing the right email verifier isn’t hard – there are plenty of options on the market and the cost is insignificant compared to the benefits you get.


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Top Tips For Staff Retention

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When you’ve invested considerable time, effort, and money into recruiting, training, and paying staff, it can be immensely frustrating to see them quit for a better offer elsewhere. Staff retention is the art and science of holding onto your valuable team and avoiding the cost of rehiring, which doesn’t just consist of the immediate cost implications.

Why is staff retention so important?

When staff leaves your business, you have a whole raft of costs affecting your bottom line, and some of the most significant may not be easily quantifiable. There are the costs of advertising for, interviewing and training new members of staff, which aren’t simply expenses like placing a job ad in your trade publication, but the impact on your existing staff of having to spend time training and assisting new recruits.

You could well lose sales if your new hire doesn’t know enough or hasn’t developed the skills to close a deal, and if you lose a productive member of staff, they’re taking with them all the knowledge and skills that would have brought increased profitability to the business in both the short and long term. It’s not easy to put a figure on such losses, but they could be considerable.

What’s the secret of staff retention?

If you’re assuming staff retention is all about paying the highest wages, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to learn that’s very far from the case. There’s been a great deal of research over the years into what makes staff want to stay in their job, and although pay is an important factor, it’s generally not the deciding one. Providing you’re paying a decent remuneration; staff won’t leave just for higher pay in most cases.

Far more important to staff is how much they enjoy their work and whether they feel appreciated for what they do. Most people want to feel that the work they do has value, that it’s making a contribution, and that that contribution is acknowledged by the people around them – especially the boss. One of the best tactics in your efforts to retain staff is simply to value them, tell them when they’ve done a good job, and support them if they’re struggling for any reason.

Many businesses have found that employee benefits schemes work very well as a way of keeping hold of staff. For example, by providing additional health benefits, insurances, pension provision, and sickness cover. You may not relish the prospect of administering such a scheme, but you can outsource your scheme with benefits administration from TriNet. Using a specialist service to manage employee benefits relieves you of the time and effort of trying to handle it yourself, and ensures you get the best value for money.

You can also aid retention by investing in staff training. Enabling staff to attend training courses, work towards relevant qualifications, and advance their knowledge is not only beneficial to the business from the point of view that staff gain skills that help them perform their jobs more productively; you’re also showing them that you value them and believe in them, which for most employees is more rewarding than anything else.


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7 Tips On How To Repay Your Payday Loan On Time

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We understand that there were unexpected expenses this month for which you had to opt for the last resort- payday loan. However, it’s imperative that you keep your loan repayments in check. Loans make people comfortable as they provide instant money, and who doesn’t always love to have a reasonable sum of money available?

So that you don’t feel any repayment stress when your loans are due, here is a list of pointers which will assist you in preparing you to develop good debt habits for a better financial life.

Prioritise the debts.

If you have several debts, it’s time to put the ‘let’s make it work’ shoes on and get started with the process right away. Make a list of all your loans and prioritise them in order of payment priority. The best way to pay off a short-term loan is by paying it back in one instalment and be done with it. Since payday credit has higher interest rates, keep them at priority and use the following tips to make a good sum to say goodbye to the credit in one go.

Plan to make it work.

Without planning and efficient financial management, paying off such a loan can be extremely daunting with time. Keep your options open and start working your way towards them to getting them paid off as planned.

Discuss your needs with your employer.

Many managers are considerate of their employee’s financial standing and are willing to extend a helping hand in times of need. One of the ways to make payment on the payday loan is by asking your employer for financial aid. From cash advances which can be deducted from your monthly pay checks to cash advances against extra work hours; have a detailed discussion with your manager so you can pin down a plan which works well for both of you.

Ask for an extended plan.

If you don’t want to involve anyone in this matter, then why not have a chat with the firm who gave you the loan in the first place? While many loan companies are rigid on their policies, you might be lucky enough to be dealing with a firm which has a window of possibility open for you. Ask the company for an extended payment plan explaining your current situations and hope for the best.

Sell what you don’t need.

Well, admit it. We all have a pile of used and unused items at our home, which we barely use. Make the most of such products by selling it off at decent prices. Find the right sites to ensure that the products sell off soon and you get the money ASAP. Add the collected funds to your final payment for the payday loans, and who knows, you just might make it without any other assistance needed.

PALs to your aid.

PALs or payday alternative loans can be an excellent solution to your problem. These are small loans which are given to pay off the payday credit without much struggle. Unlike the same day loans, PALs come with an EMI tenure of one to six months which allows you to get this debt off your shoulders quickly as well. Such loans are made available by credit unions so get your search engine running now!

Get the experts involved.

When nothing seems to work, it’s time to bring out the big guns and get the industry experts involved in the game. Credit professionals deal with all sorts of financial issues almost every day, and they can get you out of the mess with their knowledge and expertise. Follow their advice and make sure you don’t hide any detail from them.

Paying off a loan can be very stressful, but with the right assistance and knowledge, you can pay off your loan. Use these tips to your advantage and enjoy a low loan debt life ahead.


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Why Successful Product Management Involves More Than Spectacular Specs

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by Will Koffel, head of the Google Cloud Startup Program in the Americas

In 2013, I left a CTO job overseeing a 50-person product engineering team for the same job at a four-person startup. Upon arrival, I incorporated a few elements from my previous stop into this new endeavor, including a battle-tested Agile Scrum process and the corresponding technology.

Though the new team embraced me, the same wasn’t true for my cumbersome processes. Eventually, we compromised on a lightweight process that aligned with my new team’s size and its UX-focused way of designing and prioritizing new features. This learning experience left me with one seemingly obvious takeaway: The two trickiest variables of early product management are the “product” and the “management.”

Most early startups don’t understand the distinction between the two. Great product teams need vision, experimentation, competitive analysis, and a deep understanding of the pain points they’re trying to eradicate. Management, meanwhile, must remain focused on key features while leveraging a small team and limited resources to efficiently and authentically build a product.

While each side has its priorities, both work toward a positive and user-focused product experience. Keeping this philosophy top of mind during the product management phase is crucial for early stage CTOs, especially when working through backlogs and other barriers that can undermine the user experience.

Manage Your Workflow — Or Else.

For CTOs to properly oversee product management, bottlenecks must never turn into backlogs. When they do, teams lose efficacy in three vital areas that can ultimately hurt the customer: focus, transparency, and predictability.

Most effective teams know that multitasking is actually serial tasking, which leads to lost focus regardless of what you call it. Nothing should trump the task at hand, especially when the mismanagement or underdevelopment of any part of the product can lead to its overall downfall.

I try to remind my teams of one thing: “Today is the dumbest day of your project.” Every day that follows, you’ll know more about your users, your market, your skills, and your competition. If you let your backlogs bloom a thousand wishlist features today, you will inevitably fall victim to multitasking and lose your focus.

Transparency keeps teams in sync. This is an especially important trait for small companies where it’s easy for everyone (including executives) to express their opinions. CTOs, often acting as VPs of product capacity, must develop product specs and then provide them to developers and engineers. As an added benefit of a public (and focused) backlog, business stakeholders know that valuable work is being prioritized and that they can see where their requests sit in the work queue.

Early stage CTOs often overlook predictability, but it’s a valuable asset in thwarting brewing internal conflicts. Without the delivery of features at a predictable pace, it’s natural for sales, marketing, and fundraising teams to struggle to produce. Development teams must build a muscle for reliable estimation and delivery, whether through Scrum velocity metrics or their own approach. Aim for accuracy when items are predictable, and ensure stakeholders understand what’s still in the “discovery” phase.

A well-oiled, user-centric approach to product management requires a careful balance of focus, transparency, and predictability. CTOs must discern between features where a first impression is critical and those that teams can improve iteratively. Customers will always ask for the world, but an effective CTO can fend off potential disruptions — and customer dissatisfaction — by prioritizing features that customers use rather than the ones they request.

Maintain User-Centricity in Product Management.

To ensure that tasks are prioritized, workflows stay organized, and development teams remain productive, early stage CTOs should keep these four strategies in mind:

1. Rely on a monthly hyperfocus theme. 

Internal and external feedback is constant for young companies. CTOs should gather that feedback, break it down into digestible bits, and respond accordingly.

Pick a theme and make sure it’s readily visible, whether you write it on a whiteboard or set it as the desktop wallpapers of your team members’ computers. That theme should be your team’s focus for that week, month, or quarter; every task you tackle should advance that theme while streamlining your processes and customer experiences.

2. Conduct regular and ruthless backlog grooming.

At least once per week, your core team should work through a portion of the backlog. Discuss relative priority, effort, and whether all the backlog items meet the INVESTcriteria for great features.

Be ruthless about maintaining focus regarding the most important theme of the month, and aggressively archive items that aren’t likely to happen in the next six months. They’ll resurface later if they’re still relevant, and archiving them eliminates unnecessary distractions.

3. Use lightweight product management tools.

Numerous collaboration tools are on the market, and they exist for a good reason. If short-term product goals aren’t front and center in your daily dashboards and chat, they might as well be nonexistent.

Identify a lightweight tool that allows you to track requests and keep your product backlog in one trusted system. From here, your team should be able to see the task at hand and focus on it to accomplish your goals at a predictable pace. Sound familiar?

4. Maintain great release notes. 

Release notes are an engineering team’s “sales gong.” They celebrate progress, boost morale, and provide a valuable record of activity. Release notes hold just as much value because they act as a predictability indicator for your stakeholders. Your team members promise in the backlog and deliver in the product, but they get credit in the release notes.

Product management should always keep the stakeholders (external and internal) in mind, whether you’re working on the “product” portion or the “management” stage. These two steps require vastly different skill sets, but they’re complementary. The best-designed product in the world does you no good if you can’t manage toward a great execution and delivery.

With a user-centric view and the above strategies, CTOs can transform struggling development teams at early stage startups into productivity powerhouses.


Will Koffel leads the Google Cloud Startup Program in the Americas. With more than 20 years of experience as a startup founder, CTO, advisor, developer, and serial entrepreneur, Koffel specializes in working with small- to medium-size teams and focusing on agile product development and technology best practices. Koffel previously served as the CTO of Qwiklabs before it was purchased by Google in 2016. A graduate of MIT, Koffel and his family reside in the greater Boston area.


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6 Time Management Tips for the Busy Entrepreneur

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By Andy Bailey

Effective time management ranks among the more challenging, and often exasperating, aspects of being a successful leader. It requires the flexibility to respond to unexpected challenges and the self-discipline to block out distractions and complete daily tasks.

In my experience as a business coach, I frequently hear leaders express frustration with how easily their well-planned days veer off course. They describe how demands from clients, colleagues, and other constituencies take away precious time from their workday.

Face it: There will never be enough hours in the day to accomplish everything you need to do. But if you methodically review how you spend your days and instill focus and discipline while completing daily priorities, you will soon find more time to work on the long-term success of your business. Here are six ways to do it:

1. Conduct a time audit

The first step to effective time management is to audit your calendar. Sit down and review three months of activity. The data from the analysis will show where you spent your time (which projects, tasks, and priorities demanded your attention) and with whom you collaborated to get the work done.

The audit will also reveal if the work you were doing is properly aligned with company goals and priorities. It will shed light on areas where you were distracted, where you were the most productive, and which tasks/projects took more time (or less) time than anticipated.

2. Eliminate time drains

Another significant benefit of a time audit is it will identify unimportant and noncritical activities that take up your day. These are the kinds of things that sneak up on you and steal time, and can be better put to use growing your business. Look for these time drains: not delegating tasks, not managing meetings efficiently (tip: always have an agenda!), and spending too much time writing/responding to emails.

If you’ve done your job as a leader, members of your team can handle a majority of meetings and emails. You hired great people. Now let them do their job.

3. Take control your calendar

Repeat after me, “I am the only person responsible for how I spend my time.” Remember you drive your schedule; don’t let others drive it. Block time throughout your day and guard against changing your schedule to work on tasks that are not important or urgent.

The way you allocate your time has a direct correlation to your effectiveness as a leader and, ultimately, the performance of your business. Prudent calendar management will also send a strong signal to your team that you take this seriously.

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4. Plan your day

Plan every day and determine your priorities. Yes, that should be obvious, but you’d be surprised how many business leaders I’ve coached who don’t. When you know your priorities for the day you will be better prepared to reset your work schedule if the unexpected comes your way.

Once your schedule is set, block off chunks of time to work on your priorities. I recommend 90-minute blocks so you can concentrate on big-picture items or work on a group of related tasks. Stay disciplined and don’t allow yourself to go over that amount of time.

5. Limit interruptions

Now comes the hard part. Once you start working on each priority you need to remain focused. Close the door and don’t answer the phone unless it’s a critical issue. Avoid checking email. Don’t let distractions slow you down.

6. Hold yourself accountable

The final piece of the puzzle is accountability. Share your tasks, priorities, and deadlines with a colleague. Meet with that person at least monthly to review how well you managed your time. The probability of success increases when you have someone watching your progress and coaching you cross the finish line.

Time will always be a precious resource for business leaders. But if you follow these steps you’ll find more time each day that you can spend on improving operations, staying ahead of the competition, and positioning your company for future growth.

RELATED: 5 Useful Time-Tracking Apps for Time-Crunched Entrepreneurs

Andy Bailey is the author of No Try Only Do: Building a Business on Purpose, Alignment, and Accountability. He is CEO and head coach with the business coaching firm Petra Coach and serves in an advisory role on the Gazelles Council, the leaders of the Scale Up movement. Visit his blog at for more business and leadership insight.

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