Monday, August 25, 2014

7 Super Easy Free Apps & Sites Even “Technically Challenged” People Can Use



There are many apps and sites out there that claim to be “easy to use” or “a must for small business”, but does that mean they are for You?


When I ventured into social media and blogging , I was quickly overwhelmed by all the choices.  I knew I was “technically challenged”, and many of the things I tried to do simply frustrated me.


However, over time I learned to pick and choose what really worked for me.      


The first criteria for any app was that it was practical and easy to use.  It was also important that it save me time and solve a problem.


Through trial and error I found These 7 Apps & Sites that fit the bill!


Blogger   

When I wanted to start a blog for my business, I decided to use Blogger.  While there are many different hosts to consider, I have found this site extremely easy to use.  

Blogger features simple templates to set up your blog while still offering you options for personalization.  I was able to easily use my choice of colors,  fonts, and layout.  I was also able to incorporate my new logo on the home page.

Everything from adding my articles, to the editing, tagging, and scheduling of each new post, is super easy.  I also like having the ability to go back to even old blog posts to update them at any time.

I really appreciate the option of scheduling my posts in advance.  This way I can write a string of articles when I have the time and set them to publish according to my blogging schedule.  This is especially helpful when I was preparing for my vacation. 



While this is a little of a cheat as these are 3 different sites, collectively I have used them all to find great, sharable content.  Every day (or at any interval you may choose), I get the latest articles shared directly to my inbox.

Each of these sites allows you to choose parameters for the articles you see.  You can pick topics of interest or blogs you want to follow, whatever the case for that site may be.


I use these articles in my online paper and as interesting information to share with my connections.  I have also found them to be of great value when brainstorming for future blog topics.




While I have been using Hootsuite for some time now (and the Hootlet button more recently), Mike Allton’s blog on Hootsuite can explain its virtues much better than I:  “How To Leverage the Power of Hootsuite for Social Media Success” & “New Hootsuite Hootlet Takes Social Sharing and Research to New Heights”.


And even if it sounds confusing, I assure you, Hootsuite and Hootlet are anything but!  Being able to pre-schedule my social media posts at a time that is convenient for me has been invaluable (it is one of the main reasons I was able to take a “laptop free” vacation for the first time in years!).

And the Hootlet button has saved me more time than ever.  I used to find an article I wanted to share, or was looking to share one of my own, and it was a process.  First I would tweet the article so it was included in my online paper.  Then I would switch over to Hootsuite to schedule the article on another of my social sites (Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+).

Now with Hootlet, I am able to do it all right from my dashboard.  I simply click on the Hootlet button and it opens up a box where I can tweet and/or share the article to all my social sites at a time I choose.



I use Picmonkey and Canva to create graphics to use in my blog and on my other social media sites.  For me, they have been an invaluable tool.  First, they have saved me from running into copyright issues, and second, they have made it easy to include interesting and original visuals.

Both have online tutorials to help you get the most out of their service.  I have only used the free versions of each so far, but have been very pleased with the results!  Here are some examples of blog pics I created using my own photographs and free ones on their site:


           






What is the Headline Analyzer?

According to their website; “This free tool will analyze your headline to determine the Emotional Marketing Value (EMV) score.” 

Having a compelling headline is crucial in attracting people to read your blog.  If you don’t grab them with your title, or at least get them thinking, you have lost the battle.

This Headline Analyzer scores your title based on its EMV.  It will also tell you which emotion(s) your title will stir in your readers ~ intellectual, empathetic, spiritual ~ or any combination of the three.

According to the analyzer, the words you use in your title should be determined by what you are trying to achieve.  For example, if your goal is to  “bring out profound and strong positive emotional reactions in people”, then your title should be strong in Empathetic words. 

Using the analyzer has really helped me tweak my blog titles to make the biggest impact.  It usually takes a couple tries until I am satisfied, but I have found that I am getting better and better titles with fewer tries.



This is one of my more recent finds, and it is also super easy to use.  I simply type any hashtag I want to use into the site’s search box.  Hashtagify.me then finds the top 10 hashtags related to the one I searched.  

According to their site; “Hashtagify.me allows you to search among 35,440,428 Twitter hashtags and quickly find the best ones for your need based on their popularity, relationships, languages, influencers and other metrics.”

This tool has been a simple way to discover the best/trending hashtags I can use when sharing my posts.  And, once again, I have only needed to use the free version.



Evernote is the newest app in my arsenal.  I know many have already discovered its convenience, but I am a new convert.

According to Evernote; it is “one workspace”.  You can Write (lists, research projects), Collect (clip web articles, capture hand written note & photos), Find (easily search your saved collection), and Present (share your notes without having to create slides).

So far, I have found it a great way to store any articles I want to share, or even those I want to read later.  Also perfect for lists of my blog ideas, business contacts ~ really anything I can think of.  I love how I can sync it with my mobile devices too (iPad, iPhone, etc.).  Evernote really will keep all my information at my fingertips!

I also installed the Evernote “Webclipper” to my browser.  I am able to save and send anything I find on the web by clicking the Webclipper icon.  It will also save automatically to my Evernote page.

There are many ways I can see to use Evernote and I will have to take the time to explore them all!


These 7 apps and sites are now part of my day to day schedule.  I easily incorporated them into my routine and they have been easy to use from the start ~ definitely what I needed!  I think they can help you too!


Have You used any of these?  Do you have some “go to” apps of your own?  Please Share them in the Comments Below.  I would Love to Give Them a Try!


Authored by  



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Monday, August 18, 2014

How to Find Your Small Business Niche

Created by Kimberly Kline

Find Your Niche” ~ 
a phrase you have probably heard frequently, especially when discussing the best ways to market Your Business.  
But what does it really mean?  
And, more importantly, How can You do it?

This question was something I needed to consider early on.  I found that it was very difficult for me, as a small business, to compete with larger and more well known background check companies.

I decided I needed to look inward and find out what was important to me.    What I discovered is that when I identified my “why”, the rest fell into place.  (I wrote more about this in my blog post, “I Know Why I Do What I Do”).  

I knew my passion was to help small business owners and women in business find their own success.  After all, I was both of those things and I knew first hand the struggles they faced with money, marketing, and having to do it all.

Through this process, I was able to identify my target market. This was my niche, and where I needed to focus my marketing efforts.  

This strategy can work for you too!

3 Tips to Help You Find Your Small Business Niche!  "Tweet This"


3 Tips To Find Your Small Business Niche: 

Know You 
Find Your own “Why”.  What really drives you? At the end of the day, what will you be most proud of?  

For me, that came from playing to my core values.  The key is to think about your own life experiences and what means the most to you.  Out of this Your Niche will become clear.



Know Your Customer
With whom do you want to do business? Be as specific as you can. Consider going after a client your competitors are not addressing. 

Everyone knows the old adage, “You can’t be all things to all people”.  And that is especially true of a Small Business.  The more specific you can be in defining your target market, the better.

I realized most background check companies were looking for the big contract.  They were not focused on the smaller business that may only be hiring a couple times a year (or less).  This is where I placed my focus. 


Know What You Have to Offer
This goes beyond your product or service.  What specifically can you provide your target customers?  What problem does it solve? Why would they buy from you?

Your goal should be to find something that you can do that will distinguish you from your competition.  


Go Your Own Way

I knew I could provide my target client with something the bigger companies would not ~ customized service.  My specialty became my ability to provide my clients with the quality employment screening they needed for a price they could afford.  

If they only needed one county criminal check ~ fine.  If they wanted me to simply verify an applicant’s education ~ no problem. My niche was not to pitch for the “big sale”.  By listening to my client, I honed in on exactly what they really needed, and that is what I offered.


It is a simple as this ~ 
Find Your “Why” (Your Driving Force), 
then Focus on Your “Who” (Your Customers) and Your “What” (Your Product or Service).  This is where You will Find Your Niche! 


Have You Found Your own Niche?  
What steps did You take? 
Please share your journey in the comments below!

Authored by   






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Monday, August 11, 2014

Why You Need to Re-Screen Your Employees


You already know the importance of 
screening your applicants 
before hiring them into your company 
(and I have written many articles explaining the “whys” and “hows” 
that you can find in our blog).  
But is that the end of it?

The answer is.....it shouldn’t be!

Conducting periodic criminal checks 
on your existing employees 
is just as important as 
the initial background check 
in protecting the safety of your other employees, your customers, and your company.


While a pre-employment background check may have shown a clean record, that may no longer be the case.  

It is common sense to realize that much can happen after you make your initial hire.  Despite possibly having a company policy requiring your employees to disclose any arrests or convictions, it is human nature to take a “wait and see” attitude.

In fact, some state laws require certain industries to do periodic background checks on their workforce.  Moving companies, security services, day care, school employees and many others fall under this category.  However, other states do not address this at all.

Re-Screening Your Employees is Good Business!  "Tweet This"
So, Why should you consider adding Periodic Background Checks to your company policy?

  • To Protect Your Company from Negligent Retention Litigation
Re-screening your existing employees shows you are dedicated to practicing your due diligence and protecting your workplace.

Negligent Retention is based on the idea that it is your responsibility to control the behavior of your employees while on the job.  Re-screening can be a part of that effort and help you mitigate risk.

Companies have been sued for failing to perform periodic background checks on their employees when that employee is guilty of workplace violence or other dangerous acts.  If you uncover a potential problem before it escalates, you will have a chance to address the issue.

This goes a long way towards demonstrating your commitment to due diligence by staying informed and being proactive.



  • When an Employee is Being Considered for a Promotion or Transfer
When you are thinking of promoting or transferring your employee, re-screening can be an important step.  Many times their potential new job duties entail increased access to company funds, sensitive information, or simply more decision making responsibilities.  In those cases, a more thorough background check than what you needed for an entry level position makes sense. 

  • When an Employee is Guilty of Misconduct or Policy Violations
If your employee is suspected of job-related misconduct, you may choose to run a background check.  This can include things such as misuse of company funds, harassment, and other behaviors detrimental to your company.  The same can be said of violating written company policy.

Either way, an investigation can prove whether your employee is guilty of actions that need to be addressed.  And it is best to find out before they have a chance to escalate.  


Once You have Determined Why to Re-Screen, Here are 3 things You Should Do:

  • Make Sure You Include Periodic Screening in Your Company Policy
All employees should be made completely aware that this is part of your procedures and it should be clearly written within your policies.  You should also include what action would be taken in the event a criminal record is found.  

Just like during pre-employment screening, you would once again need to take into account if the nature of the offense would prohibit your employee from safely performing their job.  Your employee would also be required to receive a “pre-adverse action” notice and all FCRA guidelines would need to be followed (read more about this process here).

It is also important to clearly state what actions will be taken if an employee refuses to consent.  That is why it is so important to have your policy of re-screening clearly written into your procedures so it is well-known prior to accepting employment with your company.

This may be more problematic with employees hired before you decide on adding this to your policy, but being open and up front with your workforce can help.



  • Determine How Your Screening will be Done
Are you keeping it in-house or hiring an outside company?  Either way, it is imperative that you use reliable sources.  Best practice is to go directly to the courts to gather your information.

Also, be sure to get a signed release before beginning your investigation.  Unless you have suspicion of workplace misconduct, in which case a signed release is not required, then it is best practice to get one.

  • Realize the Possible Effect on Your Company Culture
Are you concerned that adopting a policy of re-screening sends a message of distrust?  

You need to be able to address this possibility head on.  Having sound reasons for using periodic background checks is first.  Then clearly communicating these reasons to your workforce is key.

Only You can decide whether running periodic background checks is in the best interest of your company.  However, consulting with a good background check provider, and keeping in mind the issues discussed here, can help you make an informed choice.


What Do You Think?  
Would you consider Background Checks on your Existing Employees?  
Is it Unnecessary, or just a part of 
Good Business?  
I would love to hear your views ~ please leave a comment below!


Authored by  






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for information on how you can protect the company you have worked so hard to build.  
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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Your References ~ Be Smart, Ask First!

Created by Kimberly Kline, API




Don’t fall prey to one of the biggest mistakes a job seeker can make ~ 
listing your former employers, 
supervisors, or professors as references 
without asking them first!



This simple step can save you from the embarrassment of a less-than-stellar recommendation and give your references a most welcome heads up.


In fact, this common courtesy can greatly increase your chances of getting the job.  Your references will have had the opportunity to gather their thoughts beforehand and will not be caught off guard ~ giving you the best chance of them working for you instead of against you.


When references are contacted unaware, they often stumble.  Dates and titles elude them.  Specific projects you may have worked on or tasks you lead are unmentioned.  This can lead to an unimpressive reference report.


So what can you do to avoid this pitfall?  




7 Tips for Getting You the Best References!  "Tweet This"





Before giving your potential new employer your reference list, 
Follow These 7 Tips:


  • Make a List

Take a look at your resume and for each employer, list your managers, supervisors, and even relevant co-workers.  Include any internships or volunteer positions you may have had as these can be great sources.  

Think of this as your first draft and just write down anyone who comes to mind.    



  • Check it Twice 

Now is the time to take a hard look at who you listed.  Keep those that know you and your work well, and eliminate the others.  Strive to have 2 or 3 quality references for each of your jobs listed.

Be sure to choose people who will be able to clearly express your talents and accomplishments and who know your character.  The important thing is to make sure they will show you in a good light.

Recruiters are especially interested in hearing from people who observed your performance regularly, with recent references first on the list.  Make sure whoever you list can share real examples of your work ethic, specific skills, and any assets you brought to the organization.

If you are a recent graduate, or have a limited work history, listing your former Professors or Advisors can be helpful.  In this case, be sure you list those who taught courses where you were active and excelled.  

You can also list managers or supervisors for any summer positions or internships you held.  Just be sure they meet the criteria listed above and will speak well of you. 





  • Spread the Word

Get in touch with each of the people you plan to list as a reference to see if they are willing to help you.  If at all possible, go see them in person or phone them.  Rely on email only as a last resort.  

What is important here is that you ask politely and allow them an out.  Sometimes people may not be comfortable giving references or feel they do not have the time.

Either way, if they are at all reluctant, then it is best to move on and ask someone else on your list.  You only want people who are eager to help you in your new job search.  After all, you want them to help you shine!


  • Fill In the Details

Once you have your final list, it is time fill them in on the details.  Make sure they know the job you are seeking and with what company.  It is also helpful to give them a quick rundown of the skills they are looking for in the job description.

Anything you can do to help them prepare, the better.  That can even mean supplying them with a copy of your resume to refresh their memory.  Most references will be happy for the help. 



  • Do a Double Check

Make sure that you have up to date contact information for each of your references.  Confirm their current company and job title.  Also be sure to ask them the best way to reach them ~ at work, on their cell ~ and list that as the main contact number.

The key here is to make it as easy as possible for your potential new employer, or the background check company they hire, to reach your references.  Causing delays by giving them incorrect information will put you in a bad light ~ and if they use a screening company, this will definitely get back to them (believe me!).



  • The Final Draft

Now you can create your stellar reference list.  Include all pertinent information for each reference ~ name, company & title, contact number and email.  It is also good to list the dates you worked with them and where.  

You may even want to include a short description of your working relationship, whether they were your direct supervisor, department head, etc.   




  • A Thank You Goes a Long Way

Sending a thank you note to your references is a great way to show them your appreciation, and to let them know if you landed the job.  Even if you were not successful, this little gesture will ensure their help as you continue your job search.  

And you never know when you may have the opportunity to work together again in the future!



While not all potential employers will ask for a list of references, if you follow these tips you will be ready if they do!  






All are designed to help you put 
your best foot forward 
and get the job you want!  
Good Luck!



Authored by  





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