How to avoid: The 3 big costs most businesses incur today without realizing

Business-Process-Management-and-pitfalls-of-ignoring

As any growing business,  we at Signority are constantly looking for ways to become more efficient in our operations. In a recent chat with our friends at Indellient — experts in business process management — we explored internal areas and processes to improve our business. Katie Hulan, their Marketing Manager, was gracious enough to accept our invitation for a guest post to share her insights for other small businesses.
As businesses, we are often fixated on the next immediate business need – shipping the next version of our product, making that next big sale, fixing that bug, applying for funding. These outward-facing or revenue-driving activities are the first to be given resources as they are directly related to the success of your business. But what about what’s happening internally? Are you set up to be as efficient as possible? Believe it or not, business success comes quicker when your team is set up to be successful first. And that, my friends, is where business process management (BPM) comes to play – it is a systematic approach to making the workflow of an organization more efficient, effective and capable of adjusting to an ever-shifting environment. A business process is an activity or group of activities that will achieve a goal of the organization. So, when your people, who, by the way, are your greatest asset of the company, are equipped with productive processes and effective tools, they are better prepared to meet the goals of your organization.  

There are many costs that an organization can incur if the business process management is not implemented.  

  1. First, the cost of customer support. Customers can easily get discouraged when they do not receive services efficiently and satisfactorily. Due to poor organizational workflow and not adapting to the changing environment, the customers will lose morale and migrate to those that have adapted to modern technology and with efficient services. In today’s world, you know that when customers complain about their dissatisfaction, they don’t complain to you but to the public instead. And the customers are good at this! Allow me to explain. The increasing popularity of social networks acts as a forum for frustrated customers to talk about their awful experiences with given companies and it spreads like wildfire! Now, this is very costly to the business since it implies the loss of loyal potential customers, loss of reputation, and profit.And when the organization fails to meet its financial goals, it cuts costs by reducing the number of employees. Cue the loss of morale and confidence because job insecurity takes away their focus from work. Obviously, the moment there is a shift in attention, productivity declines and more absenteeism follows and customer complaints rise. Thus it becomes a fierce cycle.
  1. Opportunities! Missing opportunities can be disastrous for businesses. Indecision, or, not taking advantage of the chance to make a decision, leads to its own costs and those costs more often are beyond that of a bad decision.  Bigger costs of inaction are the cost of missed opportunities. One of the major factors that lead to missed opportunities is the failure to adapt to the ever-changing environment, a role that Business Process Management accomplishes very well. It is commonly said that opportunities come once in a lifetime and therefore should be seized immediately. You may not calculate the exact cost of missed opportunities, but it is great. This is because, without an organized effort to find them, the opportunities to increase the performance will go un-noticed.
  1. Engaged Employees. A study conducted by the Gallup in 2015 shows that 32% of U.S workers were considered engaged in work.  Most of the employees were not engaged that is 50.8%, while the 17.2% were actively disengaged. The detailed research of Gallup reveals that the engagement of the employee is powerfully linked to business results, an element essential to the success of the financial goals of the organization, measured by productivity, profitability and customer engagement. Employees that are engaged are involved in the innovation, development, and revenue that their companies aim at.

    The “engaged” workers are those that were considered as having an opportunity to do their best on a daily at the workplace and had somebody to encourage and recognize their opinions as workable. These elements foretell the outcomes of the performance of the organization.Gallup further describes the engaged employees as those who participate and are enthusiastic about their work. Thus the research outcomes, according to Gallup, indicate clearly that employee engagement is strongly linked to business results. Lastly, the study concludes that the engaged employees boost the development, innovation, and revenue that their companies aim at.

In general, the cost of the inaction of Business Process Management is huge and leads to a vicious cycle. Right from customer support, loss of staff, inefficiencies, the cost of missed opportunities, reputation damage to loss of profits.  All these lead to a general decline of business efficiency, stagnation and may end up in the closure of business.
As you look to optimize your processes, take note of the 5 predictions for BPM in 2017.
Interested in BPM solutions? Look at this evaluation criteria for BPM.

About the Author

SMB_Growth_Katie_HulanThe author Katie is the Marketing and Communications Manager at Indellient, a software development and IT professional services firm that helps companies meet and exceed their critical technology and business objectives. Katie writes about the importance of effective business process management and how it is a revenue-driver for organizations today. She also explores topics on competitive advantages, marketing, and more. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

Hand-picked business growth reads

Top business growth reads - January 2017 Signority

Here at Signority, we strive to improve ourselves, our product, our company and the lives we touch. That goal requires a level of commitment to keep making things better and more efficient. Making things better requires us to be open-minded and challenge the status quo. This is why every day, we make the time to look outward at leaders and change-makers – in our community and far away – to learn from their stories.
Recently, it occurred to us that we should share with you a list of the top business articles our team stumbled upon this past month. We hope this helps you and your business to grow and keep improving at whatever your craft is.

On Managing your Business

From Brad Feld, Managing Director at Foundry Group
Brad Feld, a successful entrepreneur and early stage investor. Brad shares with us his views on organizational structures. He describes for us what he calls, “The Three Machines” (Product, Customer, and Company). This is one of our top business articles for any business owner or leader starting a company or looking to shake things up!
>>> Read “The Three Machines” <<<
From First Round Review
We love what they write at the First Round Review, seriously, big fans! When they started out, they claimed their goal was “to become the Harvard Business Review for Startups” and they do not disappoint.
In this post, they share the importance and benefits of finding advisors for your business early on, and how to find the best advisors for you.
>>> Read “Snag the Best Advisors for Your Startup, from Best-selling Authors to Fortune 500 CEOs” <<<
In this post, First Round covers, at length, many strategies to develop your team. Seriously, great insights and best practices you can put to work ASAP.
>>> Read “Three Powerful Conversations Managers Must Have To Develop Their People” <<<

On Marketing & Growth

From Pierre Lechelle, SaaS growth thought leader
Pierre shares his model to help you audit and analyze business growth. The main goal is to give you all the keys you need to develop a cohesive strategy. Plan to lose yourself for an hour or two with this top business article and other posts on his site. They rock.
>>> Read “How to Perform a Growth Audit” <<<
From Alvin Hsia, Product Designer at AirBnB
This is an 11 min read from late last year but it has so much that I’m sure you will immerse yourself in it for a lot longer. Any time you put in here is worth it as you’ll end up knowing so much more about the human mind. This new knowledge will sure help you in your communications, marketing and more.
>>> Read “Cognitive Bias” <<<
From Rand Fishkin at Moz
Rand shares his 8 predictions for SEO this year, as well as, shows a frank grading of his 2016 predictions. If you are into optimizing your site for better ranking, please read their blog. This post is a good start.
>>> Read “8 Predictions for SEO in 2017” <<<

On Tools to Increase Productivity

From Product Hunt
This post shows a list of key tools to help you in your writing. Mentions include: Hemmingway Editor, Bold.io, Refly.it and more.
>>> Check out: “9 Tools That Will Help You Become a Better Writer” <<<

Bonus: Brand New Companies to Check Out

>>> See if your new business venture name already exists at Viable <<<
>>> Find the best tools to built your chat bot with BotsFloor (Still in beta, so request an invite) <<<
—————-
So, here it is, from now on, we’ll be sharing with you, our top reads of the month. Please share any interesting reads you found with us hello@signority.com or ping me directly here @gustavojsm or on LinkedIn.
Gustavo 👊

Making the Most Out of Your Online Ad Spending

online-ad-spending-done-effectively

Back in January, waspbarcode released fresh data from their small business survey indicating that not only do small business have a marketing budget, they also intend to increase it in 2017. Investing in marketing is great for business growth, especially if the investment allows businesses to reach new customers. The report did mention those small businesses are considering investing some of that budget in online marketing, but is that the right thing for your growing organization?
When I talk to owners of small and medium businesses, they quickly mention Facebook and Google Adwords as the place to start, and that is understandable, these platforms have great targeting ability and the largest audience reach. Google also has the added advantage of search intent. If I am searching for Car insurance, I am more likely to be looking to purchase a policy soon. But are there any things to look out for? Let’s look at the insurance industry.
It turns out that keywords related to insurance are the most expensive ones to bid on, $54.91 USD is the cost of a click on an insurance related ad according to data released by wordstream. Using this data 100 clicks would cost a company $5,491, and if your website is typical it would convert at an 4% rate, that means of the 100 customers that clicked 4 would have provided their information and become a lead, a cost of $1,372.25 per lead. There are ways to optimize that experience, no doubt one can get to a 10% conversion rate by using well-designed web pages, placing good offers on the website, etc…, if we use a 10% rate, the cost per lead is $549.1
That is the range for Cost Per Lead online, approximately $549 – $1,372.25 for an insurance broker. If your brokerage is looking to acquire 100 customers from the web channel, what should your budget be? That number highly depends on how well your brokers/agents close leads, if we assume that they are able to close 54% of all leads, then the cost per customer would be 2*Cost per lead, or $1,098 on the low end or $2,744 on the high end.
The question is, can this be optimized? Remember that customers searching for car insurance probably clicked a few ads and are getting quotes from various parties, converting these customers fast is key to success, here are some tips to convert potential customers.

Optimizing Your Online Ad Spending

  1. Create a Well-Designed Web Page and Clear Value Proposition

Make sure you have a well-designed web page and a compelling offer to increase your website conversion page. In a previous article on usability, we gave some tips on how to optimize your website for a better customer experience
What is important is to create a compelling and clear value proposition: A value proposition is a business declaration that describes why your potential customer should use your product or service. Usually, a great value proposition should address what your company does, how are you are different or unique and who your company serves.
A/B test website content: Split testing, most popularly known as A/B testing, is a method of determining the more successful content piece (that could be a web page, copy or even buttons) by putting two variations of content against each other and basing it on a common goal set by you.
The goal could be, the number of conversions, sign-ups, increase in downloads etc.  

  1. Responding and Interacting to Leads

Responds to leads fast: the 5-minute rule is in full effect here, data released by The Lead Response Management study show that the odds of contacting a lead if called in 5 minutes versus 30 minutes drop 100 times. The odds of qualifying a lead if called in 5 minutes versus 30 minutes drop 21 times. So stay on top of those leads.
Address objections: Objections are a part of the buying cycle and are inevitable. The critical part about an objection is to understand that it might be due to your potential customer’s lack of knowledge regarding your product or inability to understand your solution thoroughly.
Listening to your customer and addressing these objections in a concise manner is primary for your business’ success. In terms of your site, spend the time to address typical questions that you expect or have been asked frequently through an FAQ page or even landing page copy and imagery.

  1. Increasing Trust

It’s natural tendency to make a purchase from a person or company that you trust, so why would this be different for your potential customer? Ensuring you give your potential customers a reason to trust you and your product can be critical in the conversion process. Few ways you can do that is:

  • Being transparent about the services or product features you offer.
  • Always honor any promises you make to your customers, whether online or offline.
  • Display your product or service’s price on your website.
  • Show social proof by creating a section for mentions or quotes about your product or service from happy customers.
  • And finally, be consistent with your brand and product throughout your website, collateral and communication.
  1. Sealing the Deal – Online

Remove the possibility of leakage: customers do not want to print, sign, scan, fax, it’s inconvenient and if I am shopping my quote around and your competitor sent me a document ready for my digital signature, you would have lost me as a potential customer. Stats show that 46% of customers drop off after a broker sends them a paper based quote. In terms of Google online ad spending, that equals $43,920, meaning that if a digital signature solution saves one customer dropping off, the $50 investment is well worth it!
Looking to seal the deal? Why not try Signority’s Digital Signature solution for free. Click here

The Benefits of eSignature

the-business-benefits-of-eSignature

Thankfully, most eSignature software (like Signority) are easy to use—even for the most inexperienced users. In fact, it’s ease of use has been one of the contributing factors to its sky-high adoption rate.
Though the exact process may vary depending on the software solution, the basic workflow is virtually the same.
Here’s how a basic eSignature solution works:

  1. A document is uploaded to a website (usually a third-party software)
  2. The document is tagged to pinpoint exactly where a signature is required
  3. The document is then emailed to the participants who are required to sign
  4. The signer(s) completes all required fields, then signs the document electronically
  5. The completed document is then automatically emailed back to the original sender
  6. The document is automatically stored for safe, secure, and easy access

Now that you understand the basics of how eSignatures work, let’s look at some of the benefits of eSignature.

Benefits of eSignature

Legally-binding eSignatures have a number of important benefits for businesses:

  1. Easy to use. Signing an electronic document is super simple for all those involved. In fact, most eSignature software is intuitive even to complete beginners, which means less time spent learning how to use new software.
  2. Save money: Paper isn’t cheap, especially when you account for purchasing, copying, scanning, and printing costs, among other paper-related expenditures. Needless to say, these costs add up quickly. Moving to a paperless system can reduce expenditures and instantly increase your profit margins. You can access our post ”A Paperless Business and 5 Ways You Can Achieve It Now”.
  3. Save time. Printing, copying and scanning take time. Preparing documents for signature takes time. Tracking down (and waiting for) signatures take even more time. eSignatures can shorten the turnaround time by as much as 90 percent.
  4. Improve accuracy. There’s nothing more frustrating than waiting for a signed document only to realize the recipient forgot to fill out a required piece of information, eSignature software allow you to specify mandatory fields, which, as you probably guessed, require the recipient to complete all such fields before the document can be signed.  
  5. Stay organized. Keeping track of paperwork (regardless of how efficient your filing system may be) is often burdensome. eSignatures create an easily sortable, organized filing system by which you can easily store and retrieve important documents.
  6. Add an extra layer of security: Electronic documents can be protected by a variety of methods, including passcodes, encryption, two-factor authentication, and even biometric authentication methods. These methods instantly make your important documents more secure.
  7. Make things easier for customers and/or vendors. While the benefits of eSignature can be obvious for your own business, they also make things much easier for your customers, partners, suppliers, or other vendors (for many of the same reasons we’ve already covered). Customers prefer eSignature solutions not only because it is more convenient, but it brings a number of important advantages, including eliminating unnecessary back-and-forth (saving time), simplifying internal processes, facilitating quicker onboarding, and increasing operational efficiency, among a laundry list of other benefits.

Planning to take your business paperless? Check out our recent guide “A Brief Introduction to eSignatures”, you can download if for free here.

Border-Free Business: Your Definitive Guide To International Contracts

International contracts for SMBs

My first experience with international contracts did not go so well. The year was 2004, I was travelling and had just recently met up with a very promising business prospect. We had the responsibility of finalizing a housing development project, by creating sandcastles from the toys we found scattered around the beach shore. Oh, did I mention I was only 8? Well, anyway, turns out my new found friend at the beach purposely hustled the only toy shovel right from my little naive hands.
This is my story.
Both of us wanted the shovel, so we decided to figure things out fairly- with a legally binding contract, aka, a game of heads or tails. Now, my new sandcastle developing partner, seeing an opportunity to push their own agenda, said “tails I win, heads you lose”… as you can probably guess, I blindly agreed to these terms. At the time, I didn’t realize the fine print of their offer and grudgingly gave away the only toy shovel. Only years later, lying wide awake at 3am, did I realize how unfair and one-sided that “contract” really was!
Don’t let yourself make the same mistake, because there’s probably a lot more at risk. So keep reading to learn what to watch out for before signing or sending international contracts (and some other useful information too).
International contracts can open up a lot of opportunities…. opportunities that you should take advantage of, like right now. If your business is not, at least, looking to expand into foreign markets, you are losing a huge slice of potential market share. Our economy would not be where it is today without the access and ease of entering into international markets. International trade is a part of every aspect of your, and my, day-to-day life. 
Now, you may be thinking, you work for a small to medium sized business and have no idea how to handle international contracts. Well fortunately for you, we have already done the hard work.
So here it is… Your definitive Guide to International Contracts!

Laws When Doing Business with a Foreign Company

Obviously, international business agreements are substantially different from domestic. For international, you have to be aware of the country’s political environment, economic environment, culture, and legal system. For example, as explained by Business Management, India’s laws protect small businesses and consumers, whereas China’s government strictly controls its business sectors. With this being said, it is very important to know the country’s specific contract laws. Countries that follow common law systems, like the United States, have very detailed contracts compared with countries that follow a civil law system, like Russia. This is an important detail to note, as common law system contracts can be time-consuming and expensive to create.

Sending International Contracts: What to Look for

The first, and most obvious, thing to look for is if your terms are properly stated. Make sure your international contract is easily understandable, free from any grammatical errors and is written in plain English. According to the State Bar of Michigan, writing contracts in plain English can improve the contract’s substantive content, and promote the client’s interests. Furthermore, your contract must follow a logical segmentation- if you can’t follow along with what the contract is saying, your signee won’t be able to either. Along the same lines, you should look out for vague standards, such as “reasonable” or “significant”, as these phrases can cloud your actual objective. Furthermore, read through and remove any implying terms. Make sure everything is explicitly stated and said with intent, especially in regards to price and payments. Making your standards more concrete and clear will make them easier to reinforce, and easier for signees to follow. Click here to learn how to include remote workers and digital nomads into your business plan. Already know how/why you want to hire international workers? Click here.

Receiving International Contracts: What to Look for

Most importantly, you need to read it over and agree to everything stated. Make sure the contract leaves none of your questions unanswered. For example, it should clearly define whether the method of payment is a fixed fee, or based on the current exchange rate (and whether you will be paid in local or foreign currency). It is usually a good idea to have a lawyer look over any international contract before you sign (don’t worry, we’ll explain how to easily find a cheap lawyer a little later on).

Receiving Employment Contracts: What to Look for

Unfortunately, international employment contracts are more technically complicated than standard employment contracts, as employment laws, tax laws and immigration laws affect them. As such, there are several things you should watch out for. First, make sure all of the nitty-gritty details are spelt out and clearly defined. For example, ensure any and all promised benefits are fully laid out. Second, be sure to read every single clause. You do not want to end up in a sticky situation because the “past” you was too bored to actually read what you were agreeing to. The non-compete clause is an important one to note, as, according to Wikipedia, this can prohibit you from working within a competing profession or trade with your soon to be employer. Especially if you’re uprooting your life and moving for this job, you want to be sure you have plenty of opportunities if you ever decide to quit (and that you’re not forced to move back home).

How to Find a Lawyer

All this responsibility does not have to fall on your shoulders; to be safe you should hire a professional to look over everything and make sure things are in order. You might be rolling your eyes and groaning, but hiring a lawyer does not have to be expensive. Let me repeat, hiring a lawyer does not have to be expensive. And the added security is definitely worth the minimal cost. You can always ask around for lawyer recommendations, but this can be extremely time consuming and friends/family are not always the most reliable source. Thankfully, there are also online sources available. LawTrades can help you find employment contract lawyers for cheap. Since they don’t have the overhead expenditure of law firms, they are about 60% more affordable – score!

Digital Vs. Paper Signatures

Contracts, in general, can be stressful, and it doesn’t help when you’re sending/receiving them half way across the world. International contracts have the added stress of time and distance. Paper signatures not only prolong the signing process, it also increase the frustration and overall inconvenience (and sometimes the associated costs). Thankfully, the future is here! Digital signatures speed up the process by sending contracts across borders instantaneously. As such, they save time, money and make everyone’s experience as stress-free as possible.
Online eSignature companies like Signority, can be the solution you’ve been waiting for. Compared with digital contracts, paper contracts make about as much sense as sending your mail by pigeon.
Well there you have it, all you need to know about the basics of international contracts. I bet heads your small to medium sized business will exponentially grow from being introduced to international markets, and tails that international contracts are not as hard as they seem.  
Thank you for reading, now please sign the dotted line below to grant us full access to all of your bank accounts: ____________________
To most of you who didn’t sign, I’m very proud of how much you’ve learned. To those who did sign, maybe just stick to hiring a lawyer.
Well, we have given you the basics of international contracts, now it’s time for you to start applying this information into your business strategy and open up a whole new world, literally and figuratively.
Also, check out our recent article on “The Ultimate List: 100+ Tools & Resources For Skyrocketing Business Growth in 2017” to help further automate and streamline your international business deals!
Looking to take your business paperless? Sign-up now and get free access to Signority’s Business Plan for 14-days.

How to Create, Manage and Track Your Legally Binding Contract

Legally-binding-contract-steps-tomanage-create-and-track

We know how important it is to properly create, manage and track your legally binding contract, and fortunately, we have comprised a foolproof step-by-step guide on how to do just that. Read on to learn how to impress your boss and clients with your notable contract skills.
Picture this: you have an incredibly important deal hanging in the balance, all the responsibility of tracking and managing the binding contract falls on your shoulders.
What do you do?
Well, you have two options.
One, you can stick to the basics and stunt your contracts growth and potential. Similar to a seedling being neglected and kept in the dark, no matter how much work and time you invest into making and managing your legally binding contract, it will never be able to grow. We know how dedicated you are to your work, so why work harder for less payoff? Not only is this tedious and time-consuming, but it’s also risky.
Or two, you can break through the old crutch of habit and reinvent the way you manage and track your legally binding contract. This industry is evolving and with the rapid technological advancements that we are currently experiencing, it’s hard not to believe that a completely digital future is just around the corner (check out our recent post on “The Evolution and Future of Document Signing”).
So, like Yoda from Star Wars once said, “once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny, consume you it will.” Similarly, missing the window for automating your sales operations, could mean a long and tedious future.

Allow yourself the opportunity to expand your skillset, optimize your operational and financial performance, all while reducing financial risk. You may be surprised at just how easy this is.
 

Before you start drafting your legally binding contract  


1. Work with the right people

You’re only as strong as your weakest link, so be sure your team comprises of people who are right for the job, match your company’s culture and are on the same page with your company’s mission.
According to Glassdoor’s, Top HR Statistics:
“Employees who understand their contribution to the company’s mission are more likely to bring a positive attitude and commitment to the workplace, which trickles down to company performance at every level.”
So, building a team with passionate individuals, will lead to getting more contacts signed and ultimately leads to your team’s success.

2. Do your homework
This goes without saying, but in order for the seedling to grow strong and sturdy roots, you have to put in the work.
Research the business you are creating the legally binding contract for and the legal background of the business relationship you’re entering. Systematic planning and methodology are what’s required to be successful.
Conduct interviews with the right people and collect any needed information on the present situation, as well as any decisions the outside parties’ plan on making in the future.
A couple of other important points to research are:
Who are you contracting? What steps need to be taken for the company/business to comply with requirements? What are their specific policies and procedures regarding decision-making? Does a decision have to be approved by multiple people? If so, what order? In short, familiarize yourself with the foundation and culture of that organization.
You can also use resources such as the Financial Times, Forrester Research and  Economist Intelligence Unit for general industry and market research.
 

After the research   


1. Get started on the paperwork

Creating a successful, legally binding contract can be broken into 3 main segments: Drafting, Reviewing and Finalizing.
Drafting
Ask your client to prepare and outline before you draft your contract.
According to RocketLawyer, asking your client to prepare an outline of the agreement as they understand it, not only provides you with a blueprint of the points that are important to them. But also, serves as a good starting point for discussing other critical issues that that they might not have thought of and should be addressed.

If this is not possible, be sure to include all of the important points that you made note of during your initial meetings with your client.
Reviewing
Once you have created your draft based on your client’s outline, begin reviewing the contract to make sure it is precise and focussed. Filter sentences to their basic points and substitute specific sentences with general ones to avoid future confusion.

FindLaw, a website that let’s you find information about legal topics, says that all valid, legally binding contracts have to follow some basic rules, namely, intent to make a contract; a lawful subject matter; an offer made by one party; acceptance of the offer by the other party; and an exchange of something of value.
Finalizing
To ensure that all goes well and you close your deal, prepare to work fast and make the signing experience as easy and pleasant as possible for your client.  
Fortunately, this can be done easily through Electronic Signatures.
Electronic Signatures solutions, like Signority, allow you to upload and securely send documents for eSignatures with a few clicks. This allows for a seamless experience for your client, ultimately avoiding wastage of time and money.

2. Get Tracking 

Tracking your online legally binding contract sent for signature is critical.  Tracking lets you know when the document has been viewed by the required party or if it has been forwarded. There are a few ways to track your contract:
Contract Management Systems
Contract management systems allow you to gain control of most aspects of your contract, from allowing you to access critical information and tracking, to generating reports when you need them.
eSignature platforms
Most eSignature platforms (including Signority) provide you with a tracking functionality, that lets you view crucial information, such as:  when a contract is viewed and how many times it was opened in real-time.
You can set up reminders and notification for your clients, allowing you to get your deals closed faster.
 
2. Get Paid 
After celebrating your closed deal — hopefully, with your awesome team — now comes the next challenge:

“Payments”.
Life is busy, and keeping track of all the nitty-gritty payment details of your contract can be tedious. We all have a lot on our plates and automating the payment processes can save you a time and hours of confusion.
Online payment and transaction apps such as PayPal and Stripe (we swear by Stripe at Signority), help your clients stay punctual with their payments — with minimal effort from both sides.
Besides making it easy for your clients, these platforms allow you to sync your data with most or all your management systems, to easily generate financial reports and provide you with important data for your analysis.
As the old English proverb goes: “work smarter, not harder”.
Follow these foolproof steps and guarantee that all of your hard work will reap the rewards you deserve. That little seedling will grow into a sturdy and resistant tree that can withstand any difficult contract building/management process.
Also, check out our recent article on “5 Habits of Highly Effective Insurance Brokers”.
Looking to take your business paperless? Sign-up now and get free access to Signority’s Business Plan for 14-days.

The Ultimate List: 100+ Tools & Resources For Skyrocketing Business Growth in 2017

The-Ultimate-List-Updated-100-Best-Tools-For-Skyrocketing-Business-Growth-in-2017

However skilled a manager you might be, if you’re looking into expanding (or even just for saving time and money) then you might want to look into some tools for making everything run smoothly and easily for your business. What’s in this list you may ask? Anything from apps to platforms, to websites and analyzers allowing you to coordinate, manage and develop your marketing and business strategies, as well as help in your team’s communication and collaboration.
I’ve personally tested or used most of these tools on a daily basis at either Signority or at previous jobs. The rest have been strongly recommended by other members of the team here as well colleagues from other technology companies. A lot of them also appear in this list from LeadPages last year. So, we’ve gathered it all and made, what we think is an updated list, the list of lists if you will, to go to in 2017 when it comes to tools for explosive business growth.
This list is broken down into sections for you so you can focus easily on what your business needs today. Anything from video marketing, automation, collaboration and more. We’ve also included some of the key reads and other resources we thought were amazing in 2016 and that you should read this year. So, here it is, please read on and share.

Team Communication

Team communication is one of the most important aspects in every line of work, so you have to definitely encourage and make it easier. The best apps we found for this are:

  1. Slack – it’s the ultimate tool for team communication. You can find your team and set up common communication channels, as well as one-on-one’s. The best part of it is the integrations into almost any other tool that matters today. It will make communication with your team and with your tools a lot easier and effective. It’s heavily used here at Signority as our central hub of comms between teams and it’s also where all our apps post status updates, making our daily life at work a lot easier.If you didn’t know, Slack is considered by many one of the fastest growing startups ever, having launched in August 2013 and with a current valuation (as of Apr, 2016) of over 3.8 Billion dollars. They are doing many things right. If you’re into making software, we suggest you read up on them and learn.
  2. Trello –  divided into different cards for each phase of your project and task related to it, Trello makes for a reliable and organized way of keeping in check with your team and the success or failure of each task. Recently acquired by Attlassian for $425 million dollars, it is unclear to us what will happen to it. Asana (read below) recently featured an update to include cards taking much of the functionality of Trello inside it.
  3. Invision – if you have a designer in your team, or better yet, a design team, they should be using something like the Invision app for team collaboration. It helps make the entire design process better and it allows people to collaborate around designs easily and faster than before. They recently released Boards which adds to it. They have free plans so there’s no excuse not to use them to improve your design workflows.
  4. Asana – as its own website boasts, Asana makes it possible for you to get projects from start to finish either with tasks and projects, or with conversations and notifications. We use this at Signority for tracking all of our work outside of engineering and I’ve been a fan since the early days in 2009.
  5. Realtimeboard – A virtual whiteboard for your browser. Very neat tool to allow collaboration with your remote workers, clients or partners across the web. Lots of ready-made templates to start collaborating online.
  6. Basecamp  – Its main focus is in getting everything organized and in one place, reducing the possibility of important files getting lost in the haste to reach deadlines. This is like Asana really and both have great features that set them apart. Here’s a handy comparison between Asana vs Basecamp from Capterra.
  7. Weekdone – Weekly employee progress report for managers. It focuses on showing everyone in your team, goals and tasks. The premise is that transparency and collaboration around people’s goals ensure alignment and success.
  8. Join.me – offers screen-sharing, video conferencing and online meetings, reforming and presenting them to your team in the most comfortable of ways. There’s a plugin that needs to be downloaded to run but once you get this done you are usually set. It’s pretty easy to use even for people that are not used to software and cloud apps.
  9. Attentiv – Attentiv claims to be the ultimate decision-making and team collaboration platform. You can start a team chat, submit your input anonymously, seamlessly switch between topics, and get real-time feedback.
  10. Projects by Growth Hackers – made for teams and making them focus on the most important tasks without getting sidetracked by all the mental cluster. This was a mystery last year but it’s finally out. It is relatively new and I haven’t personally used it yet but it’s trending among the tech circles. It’s got Sean Ellis behind it who is the father of growth hacking (the term at least) and so if he’s behind it, you can expect quality.

Marketing

Next one, right along with team communication is marketing. We all know that one of the keys to making a great product or service sell is marketing it well. Tools and sites that can help your business with this particular task include:

Communities/key blogs:

  1. Inbound.org – Inbound Marketing is a community of inbound marketers that share new ideas, events, jobs, and more.
  2. HubSpot blog – They know how to do inbound marketing well and often have quality posts.
  3. GrowthHackers –  Powerful collaboration, ideas and learning resources for marketing and growth teams.

Apps and tools:

  1. Buzzsumo – it’s the most used tool for marketing your content and SEO campaigns. This tool allows you to keep track of your content and how it’s doing online (shares) as well as that of your competition (or any site for that matter). It allows you to find influencers on any particular keyword or topic and it’s very easy to use. They have a free chrome extension that allows you to see the number of shares on any website you visit.
  2. PageCloud – They claim to be the world’s most innovative website creator. If you’re like most small businesses you probably have “updating the website” marked as an outstanding task for a while. PageCloud will make the entire process of creating a website seamless and easy using their drag and drop technology. You open up a browser and start editing your website on the fly, it’s easy and fun. See what TechCrunch has to say about them.
  3. SurveyMonkey – The leaders in online form and web-based survey solutions. They have been around for a while and offer a robust tool for any of your data gathering needs. We recommend you survey your customers often and get feedback on how your business can improve.
  4. ReferralCandy – We’ve used this in the past with great results. If you would like to leverage your customers to sell more, consider starting a referral program that rewards people for their actions. This particular tool is great if you have an online store and do e-commerce in your business. By the way, here’s a great starter read on referral marketing do’s and don’ts.
  5. Curated – as its namesake suggests, this app helps you put together an appealing newsletter or weekly digest so you can engage and keep your community interested and informed.
  6. Canva – creative and engaging, Canva lets you build stunning visuals for your business proposal and everything you might need, all with the power of drag and drop. You don’t have to spend big bucks on Adobe software for image editing anymore. If you need to add a quick headline or filter to an image, this can help.
  7. SimplyCast – it’s the right tool for automating marketing campaigns. They cover anything from email, SMS, forms, live chat, surveys and other ways to do online marketing. They focus on small and medium enterprises providing great value for your money.
  8. The Stocks – Royalty free stock photos to use in your emails, website and other marketing collateral. This site aggregates some of the best free stock photo sites under one umbrella making your photo searches a breeze.
  9. Moz – the right place for SEO and digital marketing insight. Moz is the SEO toolset that’s got it all: keyword research, link building, site audits, and page optimization insights, in one. Most importantly, if you’re just getting started on SEO, their blog and Connect Community is an excellent resource for learning the ropes. They have a free browser plugin that allows you to see the ranking of any web page you are on along with other insightful information.
  10. Gnowit – Real-time media monitoring for your business that uses artificial intelligence
  11. RivalExplorer – Look and search for all emails ever sent to people by your competition.
  12. HotJar – A very comprehensive tool that gives you analytics on your website as well as an in-depth view of how your app or website is used. This means visitor recordings, heat maps and even in-website surveys.
  13. Usertesting – Let’s you get out of those discussions with your marketing team about what you think it’ll work and instead it puts it to the test. Select the target audience that matches that of your business, configure a few test plans (what you want them to achieve) and then wait while the site matches your project with potentially hundreds of people. Once they go through your site, you’ll be able to see how they interacted with it giving you tons of useful information you can use to improve your site.
  14. 5secondrule – Similar to Usertesting, this tool allows you to query a pool of unknown people to get their real feedback. A five-second test is great for understanding and measuring people’s first impressions of your business/website/brand.
  15. Klipfolio – The ultimate business dashboard. Monitor the health of your business while this dashboard connects to potentially all your online tools, giving you a full and unified picture of your business.
  16. Rare.io – A smart email marketing platform that works best for online businesses that do e-commercee. It connects with Shopify (below).  
  17. LeadPages – Generating landing pages and lots of them to test out your creative and content are some of the great ways to improve conversion rates for your business. LeadPages is one of the leading tools out there that allow you to do this quite easily.
  18. SumoMe –these guys arm you with a suite of fail-proof, site-growing solutions to help you get more traffic, build a following, and track your success every day.
  19. Optimizely – offers you the possibility of heavily experimenting to keep up with every whim of your users’.
  20. LeadChat – live chat agents 24/7 might be best for those of you whose service is time-dependent and your business’ success depends on how swift your response to a query is.
  21. Import.io – extracting info from web pages can become a great source of raw data that can be later re-purposed and presented to help you come to important conclusions and decisions.
  22. Datanyze – provides you with insight based on your technology choices. Especially if your business is tech based, this might be just what you need.
  23. ConvertKit – if you’re a professional blogger, this is the right email marketing tool for you.
  24. Crazy Egg – website analytics presented to you in a visually clear and understandable way. Heat maps for most clicked locations in your site? Check!
  25. Drip – is another automated email marketing tool that help you build workflow and infographics for your emails and newsletters.
  26. FullStory – offers detailed info on your visitor’s behavior while on your site.
  27. Shopify – We couldn’t just leave out the biggest software company in Canada that is changing the world of ecommerce, and another Ottawa-based business like us. If your business does ecommerce or even as a point of sale, please check out Shopify to boost your sales. Their blog is also another awesome resource for small businesses out there.

Social Media Marketing

With social media’s far reaching impact, it has become a given for any serious business to have its own presence in it. You should check out:

  1. CoSchedule – Plan, organize, and execute every content marketing project in one place. If you are into inbound marketing (which you should) then having a healthy content calendar and plan in place is key to your success.
  2. BuzzStream – A great tool for influencer and blogger outreach. It lets you track email opens, save templates and keep organized lists for a productive outreach campaign.
  3. Buffer – makes it super easy to share any page you’re reading and schedule posts to go out from all of your major social media channels.
  4. Quuu – lets you handpick social media posts  that interest you and your followers, great tool to keep quality content in your social media feed.
  5. RaffleCopter – Giveaways, if done well, can often bring your business a lot of awareness and even leads. Rafflecopter lets you run online giveaways and embed them on your site without an IT.
  6. Grammarly – checking your text for grammar errors, typos and punctuation so that your content is flawless before posting it on all your social media account.
  7. Awario – Know thy enemy. This app helps you scour the web and find out what your competitors are posting, as well as mentions of your business of course.

Video Marketing

  1. Showbox – Create amazing videos in your browser. It helps save you hundreds or thousands of dollars in making videos. Granted, these are not going to have actors in them, but through illustrations and other images you can make a 30 second explainer video here for a fraction of the price.
  2. Loom – Great tool to create short but impactful videos from your browser. Stop making “one-pagers” that people won’t read and start creating quick videos that explain what you do. It also has webcam and screen recording capabilities. Free chrome plugin available.
  3. SmartPixel – A video capture and editing software that is both easy and affordable.
  4. AlltheFreeStock – Free stock videos to include in your production. They also feature free stock photos.
  5. VideoScribe – High definition whiteboard like animation video

Business Management

As a business owner/founder/CEO you need to get everything together and manage your business in the best way possible. Where to turn to for help?

  1. Recurly -enterprise-class subscription billing management for thousands of businesses worldwide
  2. AlignCommerce – Forget about wire transfers. Use AlignCommerce for making global payments from the comfort of your browser. No accountants needed.
  3. HubDoc – A personal favorite. It’s a tool that automatically collects receipts from all your tools and sends them right into your accounting software of choice. No more chasing receipts or getting nagged by your accounting team.
  4. Xero – online accounting software for your small business
  5. Chart.io – cloud based data exploration and website analytics for everyone, made easy.
  6. TradeGecko -Inventory management software for eCommerce and wholesalers
  7. Segment – collecting data from your customers and sending it wherever you need it.
  8. Google Analytics – analyzing website visits and tracking every change for you.
  9. UpCounsel – easily hiring attorneys for your business’ needs.
  10. Toggl – timetracker and employee sheet software.
  11. Zirtual – virtual assistant service matching busy people with dedicated assistants.
  12. Signority – bit of self-indulging, but yes, we provide you with secure, easy-to-use and legally binding electronic signature services.
  13. DropBox – File storing in the cloud that allows sharing, editing and distributing. It has advantages over Google Drive, mostly around organizing files and presenting the file system. If your business is not on the cloud and uses Microsoft servers and software to run locally, but you need a cloud storage solution, Dropbox may be for you
  14. RescueTime – Time management software for staying productive
  15. WaveApps.com – Create and send professional invoices, receipts and more
  16. Versature – If your business requires lots of phone interactions, look to Versature for a solid VOIP system
  17. Flyta – Smarter and cheaper international shipping. No joke.
  18. ChangeJar – If you run a business in the food or hospitality industry and have customers that pay you using a POS, ChangeJar allows you to provide rewards and collect money in a way that will save you money. Read on.

Customer Service and Retention 

Providing your customer with the best service is in most cases one of the top priorities for both small and medium sized businesses, as it is for big-sized ones. How to step up your game?

  1. SatisMeter – helps you collect customer feedback and eliminate churn while accelerating growth
  2. Intercom – makes communication with your customers easy. Live chat, customer support, they have everything you need.
  3. Packs By Startup Threads – You choose what you put into the boxes, this tool takes care of its delivery until it reaches your clients. Neat, right?
  4. Zendesk – creates software for managing your relationship with your customers.
  5. UserVoice – decide on a roadmap for your product, while backing every decision with qualitative and quantitative feedback from your previous customers.
  6. GoToMeeting – offers you online HD video conferencing, making your communication that much easier.
  7. Typeform – creating online, decidedly human forms. Check out some sample surveys here!
  8. Customer.io – triggers multichannel messages according to customer response to each of them.

Outsourcing

When you’re short of staff, you might want to look into taking in freelancers or temporary employees. If you don’t know how to work with remote workers, we wrote a post that outlines some tips. Some of the best platforms where you can find them are:

  1. Upwork – was built after the merging of oDesk and Elance, the first and second biggest freelancing platforms on the internet. The result? Getting work done!
  2. Crew.co – Hire top of the line creative freelancers. Based out of Montreal but with freelancers across the globe.
  3. Scripted – almost exclusively for writing, editing and proofreading, you can get some great writing works out of this site.
  4. Fiverr – offers small freelance services for only $5. Might be just what you’re looking for, and at a cheap price at that.
  5. 99designs – find and work with the best graphic designers online. Logos, websites, ads, what have you, they do it!
  6. PeoplePerHour – here you can find freelancer for things like translations, writing, designing and programming.
  7. WriterAcess – connects you with all screened, US-based pros, star rated by customer reviews.
  8. Guru – you can either look for jobs, or post things you need done and get offers.
  9. Gun.io – the place where you can look for verified freelance developers.
  10. Gigster –they bring together the best developers, designers, and product managers from Silicon Valley and the world to form elite development teams.

HR, Employee Engagement & Appreciation 

Another important thing for the wellbeing of your team is keeping your employees happy and interested in what they are doing. To help you with that, take a look at:

  1. Fortay – this is a culture-fit screening and matching platform for hiring managers that improves hiring and engagement for growing companies.
  2. TinyPulse – gives leaders the tools to improve culture, employee performance, and engagement.
  3. AnyPerk – gives you the right solution so you can make your employees happy with coupons, free passes, etc.
  4. Kin – manages employee files and time off in a web-based exchange which is enjoyable for your team.
  5. 15Five – performing lightweight performance tests for bringing out the best in your people.
  6. GlassDoor – platform that lets you know your worth as an employee.
  7. Zenefits – all-in-one platform that helps you manage your employees and gives you tools, insight and inspiration for dealing with each of them.
  8. Kudos – gives your employees recognition and feedback.

Automation 

  1. Zapier – One of our favorite tools from this list. It allows you to hook up pretty much every other tool together and create awesome automation that saves you time and money.
  2. Process.st – Simple task and workflow automation. Similar to Zapier but different. Here you can create checklists that can then trigger automation tasks. Very cool.
  3. Prospect.io – Switching gears a bit from general business automation to sales automation, we have prospect.io which is a cool platform for modern sales teams. It helps you find leads on Linkedin, prospect and send drip email campaigns in a few minutes
  4. RevealBot – Set up automation rules for your Facebook and Instagram ads and let the bot manage and improve your ad performance for you
  5. MixMax – Track, automate, and enhance your emails with the essential productivity suite for Google Inbox.
  6. Narrow – works by interacting with Twitter users that are talking about subjects relevant to the audience you want to attract.
  7. IFTT – is a free web-based service that allows users to create chains of simple conditional statements, called “applets”, which are triggered based on changes to other web services such as Gmail, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. IFTTT is an abbreviation of “If This Then That”

BONUS: Resources & Good Reads:

There is so much content out there to make you productive and most importantly to help you and your business succeed. We only posted a few of the big guides that are must-reads below. Keep following our blog, as we’ll be posting more of these throughout the year.

  1. Ultimate Guide to Business Process Automation with Zapier by Process Street
  2. Advanced guide to content marketing by Neil Patel
  3. Content marketing Playbook by Hiten Shah
  4. A beginner’s guide to social media by Moz
  5. The Small Business Blueprint to Marketing on Twitter by Shopify
  6. Social and digital ad size guide by Ad Jelly
  7. The CEO Guide to Customer Experience by McKinsey
  8. Small Business Online Marketing Kit by HubSpot
  9. How Slack Became the Fastest Growing B2B SaaS Business (Maybe) Ever by GrowthHackers

So there you have it. Our ultimate list of tools, apps and resources to skyrocket your business growth this year. Would love to know of any other tools you think are great for SMBs that we missed. Just drop us a line at hello@signority.com and we’ll make sure review and include it next time.
Looking to take your business paperless? Sign-up now and get free access to Signority’s Business Plan for 14-days.

What You Missed: Highlights of The CSIO eSignature Webinar for Insurance Brokers

CSIO eSignature Webinar for Insurance Brokers

The “eSignatures: Benefits and Implementation for Insurance Brokers” webinar was sponsored by the Centre for Study of Insurance Operations’ (CSIO) and hosted Michael Spiar (Broker Relations and Communications Specialist at CSIO) on January 19th, 2017.
With over 100 participants who came to learn about eSignatures and its implementation from the panellists: Karen Hoflin (Vice President, Go Insurance), Rebecca Reed (Operations Manager, Callister Musico Insurance Group), Samer Forzley (CEO, Signority). We have highlighted several key moments, observations and announcements from the webinar in this short post.
Below, you can see some highlights from the “eSignatures: Benefits and Implementation for Brokers” webinar, such as:

  • The legal overview for implementing electronic signatures
  • Current brokerage adoption rates in Canada
  • Workflow & Benefits of using electronic signatures
  • Broker testimonials and our personal observations

The legal overview for implementing electronic signatures

The webinar was kicked-off by Michael Spiar, who introduced the panellists and broke down the common legal definition of electronic signatures — I.e. “electronic information that a person creates or adopts in order to sign a document and that is in, attached to or associated with the document (Ontario Electronic Commerce Act, 2000).
The Five Broad Exclusions Under Insurance Law, namely:

  • Notice of cancellation
  • Nomination of person as having rights/interests of insured on insured’s death
  • Beneficiary designation (testamentary disposition concern)
  • Alterations to policy by insurer
  • Trustee appointment

Broker Adoption of eSignatures in Canada, courtesy of CSIO:

Broker Adoption of eSignatures in Canada

Workflow & Benefits of using electronic signatures:

There are several reasons for using Electronic Signatures and Digital Signatures, below are a couple of main points from Samer Forzley’s presentation:

In-person Signing (Insurance Brokers)

In-person Signing Insurance Brokers
According to IBC’s 2015 report Facts of the Property and Casualty Insurance Industry in Canada, operating expenses (Including employee compensation) amount to over 20% of total revenues — that amounts to about 20.6¢ for every dollar.
Which is due to: Travel times, phone calls and client onboarding.
Other reason for the high operating costs:

  • Documents are prepared and printed for signature by all parties
    • Print, sign, scan, email/courier/fax method
    • Internal and external customers/clients
  • Documents are often returned with missing signatures or incomplete/incorrect information, which can cause delays and restarts
  • Document transactions are halted without completed signatures, leading to further interruptions

eSignatures Signing Workflow (Insurance Brokers)

eSignatures Signing Workflow

  • Send: Upload and securely send documents for electronic signatures
  • Sign: Customers or Recipients receive, review and electronically sign the document. On completion Customers or Recipients receive a copy of the document and audit trail
  • Manage: Besides receiving a copy of the contract via email, broker’s can view signed documents, audit trails, a document’s status and even automate reminders

Benefits of eSignatures to Insurance Brokers

Benefits of eSignature to Brokers
According to EY Global’s “Insurance Digital Survey 2013”, Insurers aspire to future digital leadership; however, attaining their goals will require significant — and rapid — improvement to close the current gap. By their own admission, more than two-thirds feel they have delivered some easy quick wins, but they have not made transformational progress to realize their ambitious digital objectives.
Below are a few key reasons Insurance Brokers’ should go digital:

  • Ability to initiate and complete sales cycle quickly
  • Improved retention through customer convenience
  • Reduced errors and follow-up calls
  • Reduce overhead costs
  • Tamper-proof records

Benefits of eSignatures to Customers

Benefits of eSignatures to Customers
According to Ernst & Young’s report titled “Insurance in a digital world: the time is now.”
The two biggest drivers of digital strategies are “enriching the customer experience” and “regaining more direct control of the customer relationship” — far ahead of “attracting prospective customers and increasing sales.” While the cost of acquisition continues to rise, retaining existing customers is an increasing necessity and should be a critical and measurable benefit of any improvement in the customer experience, digitally enabled or otherwise.
Some benefits of eSignatures for your customers:

  • Improved convenience and experience
  • Customers can sign by mouse or touchscreen anywhere, anytime
  • Elimination of the antiquated print-sign-scan process
  • Secure storage of documents and personal data

What toLook for in an eSignature Solution Vendor

What to Look for in an eSignature Solution Vendor
5 things to think about, before choosing you Canadian eSignature Vendor:

  • Does the product answer your needs as a business?
  • Is the vendor’s product easy to learn and use?
  • Does the eSignature vendor have the level of support your business needs?
  • Does the eSignature vendor understand your business?
  • Is your data contained in Canada?

Other important notes
There were 2 main polls conducted during the webinar that brought about interesting results:

Poll #1

Primary learning objective in today's webinar
What is your primary learning objective in today’s webinar?

  • Legality of eSignatures
  • Workflow Benefits
  • Best Practices
  • Implementation Tips
  • Other

Poll #2

What is the primary concern of implementing eSignatures in your brokerage?
Primary concern of implementing eSignatures in your brokerage

  • Security/legal concerns
  • Workflow
  • Staff buy-in
  • Cost/effort
  • Other

We thoroughly enjoyed presenting and would like to thank CSIO for opportunity to be a part of the webinar.
Click on the download link below to get all the slides
Download Now
Are you an insurance broker with questions about the legality of eSignatures and its implementation?
We’d love to help, click on the contact us link below to send us a quick note.

How To Include Remote Workers and Digital Nomads in Your Business Plan

How To Include Remote Workers and Digital Nomads in Your Business Plan Office Movement

When I got my first job as a freelancer, while living in a country where most people don’t know what remote workers are, the first words from my backing system (aka my parents) were: “But that’s not even a real job”. What’s most important, I was skeptical of the process myself. However, as a student with lots of free time and a desperate wish for financial independence.
I was scammed at first because I barely understood the process, how to handle remote clients, how the communication needed to be structured and more. This was discouraging and almost made me stop there. So, while feeling like an errant child and not wanting to admit to failure, I got another freelancing gig and kept moving forward on a path to learn. This perseverance paid off and led to eventually doing many freelancing gigs over many years, and most importantly led to being part of teams across the globe (from places like Brazil, London, Australia, Canada), working successfully and having fun doing so.
If you don’t get discouraged while you’re getting the hang of remote working, you can do all kinds of stuff with your life when you get out of work. You can work in the comfort of your own home, at cafes, parks, basically everywhere a laptop is allowed. Most importantly, especially for young people: you can travel the world!
Now, if you are the CEO, founder, director or person responsible for managing and including in your business plan digital nomads and remote workers, then consider the following feedback from a previous digital nomad (before finding my team here at Signority!)

Remote workers have opportunities

Despite what company you own or manage, there may be many opportunities for hiring digital nomads that you haven’t thought of yet. Many creative people are basing their whole activity on the net – photographers, game designers, writers and editors, but what is really flourishing is game designing and programming. Still, not to be left unmentioned are technical people in engineering, designing, consulting and marketing.
Given the myriad of new and great team collaboration apps for communicating and managing tasks such as Slack, Asana, Trello and even TeamViewer, the process is getting easier every day. Programmers are using sites such as GitHub and BitBucket to collaborate on projects, and writers are polishing up their WordPress and SEO skills to get ahead of the game. More and more each day, Skype is used to communicate with team members around the world. What this means is that many fields already have a system in place allowing and facilitating remote working. Find yours!

Digital Nomads do their research!

It is a given that remote workers will have to read every sentence of contracts and terms and conditions they agree to. There are many cases where they don’t, which would make it your job to incite them to. This is extremely important for the job process, so to ensure that neither of you are caught up in loopholes. Double check everything thoroughly! Read everything there is to know about the payment process, the monitoring of the job quality, or periodical checks while it’s ongoing. While this doesn’t mean to treat people as if they’re out to get you, you have to remember that working remotely is just like the traditional system of work. You’re still dealing with people behind all those emails and check-up chats. Ensuring you have a sound contract to start from is a good foundation and ensuring it gets signed before committing work just makes sure there are no surprises down the road. A lot of our customers use eSignatures for the purpose of onboarding employees and remote workers to facilitate this workflow.

digital doesn’t mean humanless

If you are a manager making space for remote workers and freelancers on your business plan, you have to remember a very important thing: at the end of the day, you are still dealing with people. If you communicate only through texts or emails, it is very easy to forget you are not talking to a very efficient robot on the other side, and that is a valid point whether you are the manager asking for quality work from a freelancer, or if you are the freelancer doing it.
While working as a freelancer myself, I found myself guilty of treating one of my bosses as this very timely and robotic entity, where I could submit my documents and get feedback on in a few hours. Aided by the fact that he was not the most conversational person on earth, the work hours became very easily tedious and annoying. Many people are not social butterflies in today’s workforce, however much we try to make ourselves look so. In the manager’s position, oftentimes you will have to encourage people to express themselves more easily, or if you make a pitfall into “robotville” you will have to remember that the people you have hired have personal lives, which while not disrupting their work, should actually have to be lived at some point during the day. You can’t expect them to work or even be online 24/7.
How you choose to do this is still your choice, it doesn’t matter if it’s through Skype calls, group pictures of the team working in HQ, or even weekly updates of the social life within the company: parties thrown, events attended, you know the drill. Just remember, workers, digital or not, are still people and a happy worker is definitely more productive!

Internet connections can still be a pain in 2017!

When remote employees are travelling the world and working for you at the same time, you will not only have to change meeting hours left and right because of flights and all the rest: you will have problems with slow connectivity. There are still places, much preferred from those who like to work while lounging on the beach, in which broadband connectivity is spotty, slow, and overall, horrible.
It can set back the progress of your project, and you will have no one to blame. However, this is an easily controlled problem. While most freelancers usually make sure the connectivity is a priority wherever they decide to stay on their trips, things happen. So what’s best is to leave a certain amount of security time, usually a day or so, during which you’re sure to get the completed work successfully.
Additionally, digital nomads should make sure to have an established cloud backup for everything, with helper tools such a DropBox or Google Drive, electronic signature services and even online editing tools, which makes it possible for them to pack up their office and go to the coffee shop down the street to complete the task you’ve given them with no hassle at all.

Office implications

If you are a big company with many offices, having one or two freelancers on your team won’t make too much of a difference into the overall available space in your floor. When you’re small- to medium-sized, however, it can be truly and greatly beneficial for you. You can be a part of a team with 15 or more employees, and only have to rent an office for two people, or even better, you can have a whole team of remote workers. Companies like Buffer do this well. With remote offices, as a manager, you will have to work on the office culture you want your company to have. While digital nomads tend to avoid office gossiping and similar phenomena, they also tend to communicate less with other team members, especially if they don’t have to collaborate directly on projects. Everyone can benefit from a little “water-cooler” conversations, even if it is only to make plans for drinks after work hours. This is one of the reasons why traditional workplaces are still going strong.

Conclusions

As every new team member, digital nomads and freelancers come with their own set of problems in management and on the other side, benefits. What you have to decide is how does it all work for your company, after careful consideration of all the positives aspects and downsides.
For more, read up on this article by the Globe and Mail on how to work with Freelancers.

The Anatomy of an Audit Trail: Electronic Signature Simplified

The Anatomy of the Audit Trail and its Electronic Signature Implications

An audit trail can be the deciding factor between a valid and invalid electronic signature document. Going by the actively surging electronic signature adoption rates and growing number of online businesses, there’s no arguing that eSignatures are here to stay.
Since eSignatures are soon to be the new normal, we thought we should discuss what an audit trail is and why it’s an important part of an electronic signature.
You may be familiar with the difference between electronic signatures and digital signatures, in case you’re not, an electronic signature is information in electronic form (can be sound, symbol, process, etc.) that is associated or attached to a document. This means that as long one can demonstrate that the signature is associated with a person and that there was intent to sign, everything is legally binding and accepted.
A digital signature is actually a form of electronic signature that uses an encryption algorithm that helps validate who the signer is. It also ensures that the document cannot be tampered with, as the signature becomes invalid if the document is changed after signing.  You can read about the differences between electronic signatures vs. digital signatures here.
Now that we have covered the basics, let’s get to what an audit trail is and why it plays an integral part in the process of validating of a document.
Technopedia, the IT education site defines an audit trail, in the context of information technology, “as a chain of evidence in the form of hard or electronic business transactions or communications resulting from business processes, functions or programming executions.”
In other words, an audit trail is a detailed list of critical data points, pertaining to the transaction, that are recorded and reported. These data points help verify the validity of the transaction.
In terms of Electronic Signatures, an audit trail helps keep track and reports user data, furthering the validity of the signature process. Most, if not all serious eSignature vendors out there — including Signority — provide an audit trail with every electronic signature transaction.
Below is a list of important components we display in Signority’s audit trail:

  • Unique Document Title
  • Secured seal (Digital Signatures)
  • Email Address Of Signers And Viewers
  • The IP address of the involved parties
  • Documents viewed by each signer
  • Signers consent to terms of service
  • User authentication: SMS and Email
  • Signature creation (by each signer)
  • Party agreement to / acknowledgement of document
  • Document downloads after signing
  • Signer’s Status
  • GUID (or ‘Globally Unique Identifier’)

For the sake of avoiding any form of confusion, let’s go over what these components mean and what value they add to the entire electronic signature validation process.

Unique Document TitleBreaking down the Audit Trail

Unique Document Title

A unique document title is the unique file name of the document that was originally created by the document creator. The unique document name can be found in the first page of Signority’s audit trail.

Secured Seal
Secured seal (Digital Signatures)

The secured seal is native to Signority’s digital signatures audit trail, the Secured Seal is both “Tamper-proof” and “Digitally Encrypted”. Meaning that, if the audit trail document was tampered with or edited in a third-party software such as Adobe’s Photoshop, the seal would immediately break and be considered invalid.

Signority’s Secured Seal is only available with our digital signature plans. In order to make digital signatures available to our customers, we use a Hardware Security Module (HSM) provided by GlobalSign to help store and manage the digital keys used in the digital signing process.  

Want to know more about digital signature? Check out our post on the difference between electronic signature vs. digital signatures to learn more!

 

Email Address Of Signers And Viewers

The audit trail records and displays the email addresses of all parties involved, which can be either signer or viewer.

  • Signer: Signers’ are users who are required to sign a particular document. A signer could be a primary signer or a witness.        
  • Viewer: A viewer is a user with view-only capabilities.

IP address of user
The IP address of the involved parties

According to IP Location, an IP address or Internet Protocol is A unique address that computing devices such as personal computers, tablets, and smartphones use to identify itself and communicate with other devices in the IP network.”
In terms of Signority’s audit trail, the IP address associated with a particular signer or viewer, at the time of viewing the document is recorded and reported — adding an extra layer of validity to electronic signature documents.


Documents Viewed By Each Signer

The Documents viewed by the signer or viewer is displayed in the name section in the Audit trail. The audit trail also displays the exact time the document was viewed.
 

GUID (or ‘Globally Unique Identifier’)

GUID’s of Globally Unique Identifiers, are defined by BetterExplained as “Large, enormous numbers that are nearly guaranteed to be unique.”
They usually look like this:
fa06cc7a-8a32-44c2-9e4d-2192818ab076
At Signority, every document created is assigned a Globally Unique Identifier and can be viewed in the audit trail.
 

Signers consent to terms of service

cSigners consent to use terms of service, refers to the signer or viewer agreeing to abide to the rules in order to use services provided by Signority.

 

User authentication: SMS and Email

Verifying the identity of a user before granting access to secured information is the main intention of the User Authentication feature.
With Signority there are two additional methods that can used to verify signers and viewers — i.e. SMS and email — when email and /or SMS password authentication is turned on by the user, Signority sends a randomly generated unique code to the recipient. The code is required to access the document.
The type of user authentication used is displayed in the “Authentication” section of the Signority’s Audit Trail.
 

Signature creation (by each signer)

The Signature Creation section is a critical component of the audit trail, it is the original signature of the required parties.
At Signority and most other eSignature providers, a party’s signature can be created by:

  1. Using a touch pad/screen or mouse
  2. Typing their signature using a keyboard
  3. Uploading a scanned copy of their signature

 

Document downloads after signing

Once the document is finalized by all of the signers, all parties involved are notified via email with an attached copy of the finalized document for safe keeping.
 
Signers-Status

Signer’s Status

The signers status reflect the final action taken by all required signer’s, the status can be: “Rejected”, “Waiting to Open”, “In Progress”, “Finalized and “Viewed” — depending on the action taken by the signer.
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