Guest Post: Simplifying Business Processes as You Scale

It’s guest post week 🙂 Below you’ll hear from Victoria Vessella of Repsly, Inc.:

Growth is always a good thing for an organization. However, increased success usually comes with increased complexities. It’s not uncommon for companies to add new employees, technologies, and offerings to their repertoire as they scale. Simplifying business processes as much as possible is critical for smaller companies that do not have the same manpower as large corporations to manage a myriad of disjointed operations. Honing in on practices that add value and eradicating those that do not allows small businesses to keep their heads above water as they expand and sets the stage for long-term success. In the words of Isaac Newton, “Truth is ever to be found in simplicity, and not in the multiplicity and confusion of things.”

Shed the Small Stuff

It’s likely that some of your business processes are cluttered with superfluous activities and multiple steps. A good starting point for achieving business simplicity is to eliminate any onerous tasks that contribute to a burdensome workload. Harvard Business Review contributors Ron Ashkenas and Lisa Bodell explain that by removing petty tasks from your everyday operations, you create a greater capacity to focus on more substantial projects, as well as additional simplification opportunities.  

For example, consider how many individuals are involved in your decision-making processes. Are there some people who can be left out of certain conversations? Do you really need “x” number of people to sign off on every proposal? Another area to review is team size. Having unnecessarily large teams causes lags in productivity as several people are trying to coordinate schedules, goals, resource usage, etc. Sometimes too many cooks in the kitchen spoil the soup; it might make more sense to repurpose select employees’ roles to other assignments where they can make a stronger impact.

The Customer Is King
Perhaps the most important factor to keep in mind when simplifying your business is its ability to attract and retain customers. It’s no secret that a solid customer base is company’s most valuable asset. Nevertheless, when businesses grow, they often become caught up in the heat of the moment and accidentally disregard that which matters most – the clientele.

Remember to consistently seek feedback from your customers on how your products and services can be improved. Make returns, exchanges, and customer service requests as painless as possible. In his article for Fast Company, author Howard Belk suggests reviewing all touchpoints involved in the customer experience to ensure that it is streamlined and straightforward. For companies in the B2B space, using a simple CRM is an effective way to keep track of key client data so as to better serve customers and meet their unique needs.

Meeting Management

Meetings are a common business process that is filled with inefficiencies. It can be tempting for company leaders to hold regular status and planning meetings in an effort to “stay organized” when they are scaling. However, meetings designed to enhance productivity are, in reality, counterproductive. A recent poll conducted by Harris Interactive Inc. found that 60% of respondents spend more time preparing for a meeting than they do attending it. Not to mention, scheduling them can be a nightmare.

Think twice next time you want to bring your team together to check-in. First, evaluate whether or not you need to hold a meeting in the first place. If it’s decided that group discussion truly is necessary, there are a plethora of other options available which are excellent alternatives to traditional meetings. Social collaboration tools enable multiple individuals or parties to virtually interact and share information in order to achieve common goals. Instant messaging apps allow team members to converse and are more agile than email. They are typically associated with faster response times as well. If face-to-face interaction is preferred, teleconferencing is a useful choice. Check out this LifeHack article for examples of specific programs that your small business can adopt to eliminate senseless meetings.

Complexity is a productivity killer that is detrimental to employee morale. Keep this in mind as your small business begins to scale. Reducing the number of low-value tasks that employees have to perform will generate more time for relevant activities. Putting the customer first at all times helps to make sure that goals are set with purpose. Finally, being strategic about meetings is imperative for efficient business process management. Remember, simplicity in business doesn’t have to be complicated.


SONY DSC
SONY DSC

Victoria Vessella is a content marketing journalist at Repsly, Inc. With experience working in public relations, she is dedicated to creating high-quality content that is relevant and helpful to readers.

Guest Post: 5 Practical Tips for a Productive Home Office Environment

Another guest post this week. This one comes from Rachel Craig of Quality Formations:

Working from home. Well doesn’t that sound nice? It is. It’s utterly delightful, which is why I do it on a full-time basis, with the odd trip to the coffee shop when I feel like a change of scenery or a conversation with someone other than my dogs. However, working in your own home does come with its challenges, more so if you don’t create an appropriate environment that facilitates efficiency and productivity.

There is a tendency (for some) to just sit on the couch or at the kitchen table to work. I’ve tested both methods. They’re not ideal. I’ve also tried sitting at my window seat and on my bed. Again, the outcome in both situations was a tad disappointing, yet not particularly surprising. I was in a bad mood, my back was killing me and I didn’t get a great deal of work done.

Tips for success

The key to success when working from home is to establish a routine, be mindful of your health, and create a designated, well-designed workspace. Be that an entire room in your house, or just a section of your kitchen, living room or bedroom, the space needs to be functional, organized, free from distraction and aesthetically pleasing.

A home office should also look and feel like it’s solely for the purpose of work, otherwise you may struggle to make the mental distinction between your working environment and your home environment. You don’t have to spend a lot of money, though you can if you want. With just a little bit of thought and careful planning, you can create a stimulating working environment that is conducive to maximum productivity.

1) Daily routine

Most of us function better with a degree of order in our lives. This helps us to focus, stay motivated, work more efficiently and better react to unexpected challenges. As a result, we achieve more and enjoy a greater sense of satisfaction and contentment, both at work and in our personal lives. Failure to implement an appropriate daily routine will simply lead to disorganization, stress, lack of concentration and decreased productivity. None of which are conducive to success.

By creating a clear, structured plan of what you need to do and when you are going to do it, you will work more efficiently, improve your general health and wellbeing, and achieve a better work-life balance. This may include:

  • Deciding what time you’re going to get up to achieve your tasks.
  • Choosing your start and finish times for work.
  • Scheduling your tasks for the day.
  • Incorporating regular breaks and physical exercise into your day.
  • Remembering to eat well and drink fluids often.
  • Making time for rest and relaxation.
  • Making time for friends and family.
  • Deciding what time you’re going to go to bed to ensure optimal sleep.

It’s tempting to just wing it and take each day as it comes. I’ve tried this and it’s really damaging. People who enjoy the most success in life almost always rely on routine. It’s not about doing exactly the same thing every day, it’s about planning and organizing your life based on your own needs and goals.

2) Decor

Our surroundings have a huge impact on our productivity levels, mood and general wellbeing. It’s therefore important to design your office environment with both function and aesthetics in mind. You will spend a great deal of your time in this space, so it needs to be practicable, comfortable and decorated in a way that is appropriate and thoughtful.

The color of your walls requires careful consideration because color profoundly impacts our emotions, behavior and productivity. As a general rule, avoid stark white walls. Blues, blue-greens and soft neutrals, like warm greys and yellows, are generally accepted to be the most appropriate colors for creating a healthy, inspiring and productive office space.

3) Office chair

If you’re going to be working at a computer for the majority of your day, you should invest in an ergonomic office chair that adequately supports your back and pelvis, promotes comfort and facilitates good posture. An appropriate chair will minimize the risk of developing lower back injury, neck pain, trapped nerves, headaches, poor concentration and fatigue, so your choice of office chair isn’t just a case of choosing something that looks nice or using one of your existing kitchen chairs.

4) Lighting

Lighting has a huge impact on mood, energy levels and productivity, so appropriate office lighting is essential. If you can utilize natural light, do so. Harsh artificial lighting can be incredibly damaging and promotes tiredness. Natural light has the opposite effect, but you should avoid placing your desk directly facing a window – glorious weather can be a distraction!

If you’re not lucky enough to have a window in your home office, or you don’t get much light in your designated work space, an artificial daylight lamp is a great choice for replicating natural light. They can be a little pricey, but the benefits are worth the financial cost. Your mood will improve, your energy levels will increase, you will feel more motivated and you will sleep better at night. As a result, you will be far more productive at work.

5) Boundaries

Clear boundaries are essential when working from home. When you’re in your office space, it’s time for work. You should not be disturbed, so make this clear to friends and family. When you work from home, people often forget that you’re actually working, or they think you can stop and start at any time. This can be incredibly stressful and damaging to productivity. Make it clear that during certain hours, or when you’re in your office space, you should not be disturbed.
Conversely, when you’re in another part of the house, it’s time to relax and switch off from work. When you’re on a break or finished for the day, you should remove yourself from the office space to make that mental switch from work mode to personal mode. This is why it’s so important to have a dedicated work space that is visually distinct and/or completely separate from the rest of your home, otherwise the lines can easily blur. As a result, you’ll either fail to switch off from work mode, or you’ll struggle to concentrate and stay motivated when you’re trying to work.


Displaying Rachel-Craig.pngRachelCraig

Rachel Craig is the senior content writer and editor for Quality Formations Ltd, industry experts in setting up a limited company in the UK.

A specialist in her field, Rachel provides in-depth guidance and advice on UK company registration, corporate compliance and starting a new business.

Guest Post: The “Promised Land” of Viral Growth

It’s guest post week. Here you go…

Startup companies can be exciting and challenging to run. Every day there’s a new trend emerging from the web or a new tactic to implement, but how do you get the best results in the shortest time? How to move the needle and lead your startup to the promised land? Viral growth.

Viral growth is when your company starts to exponentially grow at a super-fast pace, regardless of any increases in promotional investment. All your previous efforts pay off and your business surfs the wave of being promoted and endorsed by countless evangelists for absolutely no extra cost.

But that’s easier to say than to do. Very few startups reach this special condition and they all utilized the following tactics to achieve their viral growth:

Landing Page Optimization

Landing pages aim to be a simple and straight to the point first contact for potential customers so they can get a taste of what the company is about, presented in an inviting/teasing way. They are important since users will access only the most important information, without wasting time and reducing the risk of misinterpretation and bounce. There are great tools that even help you build a landing page.

Email Marketing

Email Marketing is still proven to be the best way to reach after businesses. There are two different approaches here: to send one single email model to all the companies at the same time (pro: saves time / con: reader might treat it as spam) or to write tailored emails to each company (pro: reader will definitely read the entire email since it will be unique / con: it’s more time-demanding).

Public Relations

Public relations is sometimes considered free advertising, but that’s a misnomer since one has to spend time to make it work. Good practices here are to reach out to industry bloggers through email or through their own blog contact section to propose to guest-blog for each other. Another path is to contact local business associations such as chambers of commerce to develop partnerships. Finally, local newspapers are another good channel for PR, but this one could be harder to fulfil.

SEO

SEO is also one of the main tools for startup success. The key here is good content creation. Invest time on blog writing using the right keywords to both attract readers and increase spiders-effectiveness, share content and engage on social media channels to make users mention your name/handle/page, and post comments and answers on websites while mentioning your company name and website URL. Use tools such as MOZ or SEMrush to find out the best keywords for us to use and write our content with that in mind.

Analytics

This (measuring) is at the core of viral growth strategy. However, using statistical tools such as Google Analytics to run A/B testing is not that doable for small companies because they simply don’t get enough traffic for that. For a company to run a test between only two different options it needs to have at least 24k visitors/month to achieve trustworthy metric results, otherwise the results might be misleading. The best alternative is to do qualitative research, which means asking your customers what they like and what they don’t like, what they want, etc. and the best way to do that is through quick surveys (Survey Monkey is your friend here). Besides that, analytics tools can be used to evaluate progressive overall results.

Behavioural Economics

This is all about understanding how customers make decisions and why they make them. Customers need to change their behaviour in order to start using your product. You have to offer a great product that’s glitch-free and that delivers more than the customers were expecting. 

Product Management

Companies always have to keep in mind the main problem their products aim to solve; what the core benefit is. In SlickPie’s case, we offer a tool for small business owners to do their accounting online. We offer this solution through a simple and easy-to-use software and we offer it for free. That’s it. This is what we solve, what we do, how we differ from others, etc. Every improvement we develop for our product needs to have these points as a north.

User OnBoarding

The goal with user onboarding is to improve the activation/retention steps. Users need to feel comfortable while exploring your website, learning about your product, and using it. Good tutorials are a must-have for SaaS businesses. Effecting onboarding is also used to motivate customers to help “spread the word”. Some useful actions to take here are to ask users to import their email contacts list or social media friends right after they sign up or to incentive users testimonials.

UX

Last but not least, user experience! This part is crucial for any startup to thrive. Even if your startup is not in the software industry, it’ll have a website, so a good user experience is also necessary. UX is especially important for SaaS companies since positive user experience leads to increased word of mouth, engagement, and growth. Here at SlickPie our greatest goal is to deliver delightful online accounting software experience to our customers. Some of the best approaches to achieve this are to track the features that are not being used by most of the users and end it to keep delivering a simpler experience.  We can’t simply ask them what they want or use, we have to measure what they actually do while using the software and find the bottlenecks in their way to solve problems.
These are the tactics used by all startups that turned into successful companies. They are pretty straight forward approaches, but they demand a lot of time investment to be accomplished.  However, if you do accomplish them, the promised land will eventually come!

 

Nick ChandiNick Chandi is the co-founder of SlickPie Online Accounting Software. SlickPie is a Vancouver based cloud accounting software helping start-ups, freelancers and small business owners by providing them with a simple and easy-to-use alternative to the bloated, overly-complex software in the market today. Nick is also CEO of Welcome Networks Inc., a cloud based virtual desktops provider to small businesses in Canada and USA.

Guest Post: The Website Builder Secret They Didn’t Tell You

You’ve got a great new idea for an e-commerce website business. Investors have given you the green light and you are good to go.

Next on your to do list is to give your chosen digital agency the nod and your new world beating website will be given the development go ahead.

But wait!

Are you missing something? Is there something they didn’t tell you?

Open Source software may be “free” as in “given away” but out of the box it needs a ton of work to customise and make it look like the beautiful creation you envisaged it to be.

That Takes Time…And Time Is Money

A typical Magento developer on the top of their game charges out at around $100 per hour. And there’s no advantage in paying out at the cheaper end of the market because at $20 per hour it will take five times as long to get to the finished product.

Hot developers are in demand and do stuff very quickly. In a market where constant change is invariable you need to get to market as fast as possible to start repaying your investors.

When Boo.com collapsed in 2000, with it went £80m of investors cash. The original dot com bubble claimed many victims and this was one of the most high profile.

Lavish offices and thousands of staff on the payroll meant that the company swallowed four times the original seed fund of $30 million.

They had the right idea but the wrong implementation and we are still learning the lesson today.

OriginalIdeaImage

Ready, Fire, Aim!

The list of internet businesses that have pivoted from their original idea is eye opening:

Did you know that Twitter began life as “Odeo”?

The idea was to let people subscribe to podcasts but when iTunes got established the founders could see the writing on the wall. Odeo morphed into Twitter. Now it’s worth around $10 Billion.

Facebook started as “Facemash”

A “Hotornot” image comparison website. Now it’s worth over $334 Billion.

Instagram was originally a location service…

Where you shared your pictures and “hung out”. Today’s Value? Around an eye watering $35 Million.

If anyone of these bright ideas had run out of investor cash before they transformed from an ugly duckling then they wouldn’t be around today.

With hundreds of thousands of e-commerce stores all vying for attention your focus should not be on developing a new e-commerce solution that drives the competition into submission.

It should be on using your available resources to develop marketing techniques that outsmart them.

Using Customer Experience Tools

For example User Replay is a service that allows you to replay user sessions on your e-commerce website and identify the reasons for abandoned carts or other event based metrics.

Kana delivers software that enables users to take control of their browsing experience and makes online interactions more effective.

There are many more customer experience tools available to delve into the mind of your buyer and implementing any one of them will put you way ahead of the competitor that chooses to focus most of their energy and resources on developing e-commerce software.

It’s for that reason that online website builders are beginning to be taken seriously.

The combination of a scaleable hosting solution together with proven reliable architecture mean that there is far less risk to take onboard.

Development is quicker and far more cost effective than traditional website building techniques.

There is no point in reinventing the wheel.

Online website builders like Shopify, Bigcommerce, and, more recently, Lemonstand have an approach to e-commerce website development that can give you results far superior to standard digital agency output and at a fraction of the cost.

Here are some of the advantages to be gained by building your next e-commerce store “in the cloud”:

Hosting Scalability

By creating your website using the latest in Content Delivery Networks (CDN) you will be building in a secure and robust environment that will scale as you grow.

There is no need to employ server specialists to monitor your own servers and deal with the endless upgrade cycle of the LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP) platform. It’s all taken care of for you.

Customisable Templates

Perhaps one of the biggest reasons for being afraid of using a mass e-commerce platform is that you’ll end up looking like everyone else.

Most e-commerce providers have around eighty responsive templates for you to choose from and they are all highly customisable using simple website development techniques.

In fact the latest templates from Lemonstand use Open Source libraries that make development of your own custom look and feel a breeze.

Third Party Integration

When online website builders first came to prominence they were clunky and difficult to use.

Now, instead of trying to incorporate every feature into their design they use integration with third party “best of breed” solutions by default.

Now you can integrate your e-commerce solution with Accounting and Salesforce functions or email solutions like Mailchimp and GetResponse.

Low Cost

The monthly fee charged equates to what you would pay for a decent server to host your Open Source solution. What you save by managing it yourself is lost in maintenance and hosting fees.

Giving You Back Your Most Valuable Asset – Time

If you are paying developers to produce a custom e-commerce solution then they are using up your time bank. Time is not infinite. We only have so much of it to use before our work is done.

It’s far more preferable to begin with something that does the job and evolve it as you gain customer feedback. Using customer experience tools will show you where to invest wisely.

Summary

Building your e-commerce solution “in the cloud” allows you to take advantage of the very latest in hosting technology and build quickly on “barebones” e-commerce technology.

You don’t need to sink large sums of money into website development to start taking orders quickly freeing up cash to spend on customer experience analysis.

 


TonyCooperTony Cooper

Tony Cooper has been building e-commerce websites since he first discovered the Internet in 1999 and has worked for several successful internet startups.

Now he runs a website dedicated to e-commerce website builder reviews and associated tools to help the startup entrepreneur.

You’ll find all the information you need to build a successful e-commerce website at Storebuilder.co.uk

Guest Post: 5 Crucial Problems of Family Businesses

It’s guest post week. Today I have Dayton Uttinger talking about the troubles many family businesses face. Here’s Dayton:

You’ve overcome the twelve different obstacles that others have set for you and the forty that you created for yourself and you’re finally embarking on an entrepreneurial endeavor.  The doors are weeks away from opening your vision to the public, but there is still a mile of hurdles in front of you, including staffing.

Naturally, many new business owners turn towards their family, or rather their family turns to them.  It’s presented as mutually beneficial: the family member is getting a job and the owner is gaining an employee that – theoretically -cares about the business as much as they do.  Seeing little downside, business owners staff their front desks, kitchens, or even management with family.  This is a great way to interact with the people most important to you every day and you’ll never struggle with the name of the new sales associate.  However, the verdict is still out on whether or not family businesses are more successful than their publicly-owned counterparts.   Despite this uncertainty, families own or control 90% of all U.S. businesses.  The trend is clearly here to stay, but it has own set of concerns.

Expectations of Nepotism

Everyone wants the best for their family but your business is not necessarily the place to do your relatives favors.  Your other employees will inevitably treat everyone in your family differently, regardless of title, and expect you to treat them differently as well.  I waitress at my mother’s restaurant and when I get the good shift over someone else others don’t believe it was a professionally motivated decision.  So be aware of your employees’ perceptions.  This isn’t to say that my mother can’t ever schedule me for a Friday night, but if I’m always chosen over someone else, that’s a problem.

Similarly, your family might expect a certain amount of favoritism.  If a promotion opens up, they might be hurt if you don’t offer it to them first.  They could be assuming that they will take your place when you retire.  This isn’t surprising, when only 16% of family businesses have a formal succession plan.  Set expectations as early as possible.  Let your family know the order of inheritance or if you are planning on selling.  Family members will often plan their lives around the business, so don’t give them room to misjudge their place and blame you later.

Trusting Family?

This is a sensitive topic.  If there’s anyone you can rely on, it’s your family, right? Maybe.

You don’t have to be cutthroat to succeed in business, but there is a healthy amount of cynicism. Your family wants the business to do well, yes, but they don’t need to be in the center of everything.  Other employees are shocked when they find out that I don’t know the alarm code to the restaurant, but that’s as it should be.  Why would I need it?  If you wouldn’t give the information to another employee in the same situation,  don’t give it to your family either.  

Take precautions if you share a computer.  Maybe your family would never jeopardize your business, but that’s not all you have to worry about.  Inevitably, you’ll be in possession of some sensitive information about other employees, and that information should remain private.  They didn’t release their address or their salary information to your entire family, only to you.  

If your family is particularly touchy, they might believe that you don’t trust them.  Maintain your position and draw a firm line between family and employee.  You can still have a loving relationship in and out of work, but there is a difference in expectations and capabilities in the home versus work.  It only gets messy the more that you muddle that line, so stick to it.

Exclusion of Non-Employee Family

Start ups consume the lives of the founders to begin with, but if your family is working there, be prepared to talk about nothing else.  You will share the same work experiences and have the decades-old familiarity to support it; this takes the traditional work comradery up a couple notches.  Some of my family’s best bonding moments have happened because of our mutual dislike of a customer or distrust of another employee.  

However, this results in a certain level of exclusion of family members who do not work at the business.  They cannot share the stories of frustration or success, because they aren’t spending those extra 40 + hours a week with you.  This can be especially difficult when just opening your business, as you won’t have extra leisure time to spend with family, but make the effort to connect with them.  Talk about something other than work.  Your business might seem all-encompassing, but it is not enough to sustain a relationship with everyone in your family.

Running the Risk of the Risk-Averse

According to Harvard Business Review, family businesses tend to strategize based on the long term.  They are more concerned about the next generation and the longevity of the business, rather than turning a profit in the now.  This means that family businesses tend to be stronger in economic downturns, but they profit less in times of the plenty.  The reasoning behind this becomes obvious to anyone in a family business where there is a distinct lack of an individualist mindset.  If the company does badly, it’s not just your coworkers that you smile at in the elevator every morning, it’s your family that suffers.  Family business owners are less willing to take a risk, because that business is the livelihood of their siblings and children.

You can still get rich with a family business – look at Walmart– but it’ll be harder to see a risk worth taking.  More than likely, you’ll  be able to ride out a storm, but millionaires aren’t made by playing it safe.  

Others Will Take Advantage

This commitment to the longevity of the business manifests itself in other ways than just your business strategy.  It’ll affect the day to day, and your employees will see that you’re willing to go to any lengths to make your business thrive.  If you allow it, they will take advantage of that fact.  They will slack, figuring you will pick it up.  Do not let this become a trend.  Obviously, you signed up to have a higher level of responsibility than your employees, but that is no reason to let them walk all over you.  Set your limits and stick to them.  Reward employees that never make you ask and discipline employees who are never there when you need them.

Family can be an invaluable resource when starting your own business, but they can also be a detriment.  It’s a delicate balance but, if you can pull it off, you can provide a real opportunity for your family and yourself.  These are some of the obstacles in your path but they’re not roadblocks, more like speed bumps.  Slow down and access the line between family and employee and your life will be significantly smoother in the long run.   


DaytonUttinger

Dayton socializes for a living and writes for fun.  Her rarely relevant college degree has earned her expertise in political science, writing, Spanish, rugby, debate, theater, and spreading herself too thin.

Guest Post: 5 Personality Traits to Evaluate Before Starting a Business

This week’s guest post is from Kayla Matthews (Image by Viktor Hanacek):

Starting a business often sounds like a promising prospect. On your own, it’s easier to reap the benefits, work around a flexible schedule and take full control of a business. However, even if you’re capable and have great ideas in hand, you may possess some personality traits that make the formative business process more difficult, at least if they’re not taken into account beforehand.

Along with your business plan, which strives to evaluate the present and future, it’s a good idea to evaluate your personality traits. Some personality traits are ideal for new business owners, while others present themselves as obstacles. Five personality traits to evaluate before starting a business include:

1. Independence

Starting a new business often involves a group effort, with many cogs in motion. However, as the business owner, you have the special obligation to assume lead control in all circumstances, from when you’re understaffed to when departments are numerous. As such, it’s recommended to look back on your previous job experiences to see how you reacted to differing staff-based circumstances.

If you were able to perform impressively in both understaffed and comprehensively staffed environments, it’s a good sign that you’ll be able to handle roles as a business owner. However, if you struggled to keep up with work in the absence of other departments or co-workers, it’s important to realize new businesses often involve a period devoid of consistent structure and process. Someone who is both independent yet also willing and qualified to work with others is the ideal fit for a business leader.

2. Reluctance to Change

Many startup businesses never reach their potential due to sheer stubbornness. Higher-ups are sometimes reluctant to change up processes or tools they work with, even when research suggests they could save time and money in doing so. If you find yourself reluctant to change and prefer the old reliable to something that could potentially be better, then it’s time to re-evaluate that personality trait. Business leaders should constantly be seeking out and considering implementing new tech and tools that help toward the bottom line.

One method to deal with resistance to change includes participating in the actual change, which helps in identifying the blind spots or inherent attitudes that form the reluctance in the first place. Strong management plays a critical role in dealing constructively with resistance from employees, so as a business leader it’s important you’re not reluctant to change yourself. It sets an example for employees to follow in having a business that adapts rather than remaining stagnant.

3. Burnout

Also ask yourself how you respond to an excessive load of work. It’s going to happen — likely a lot — as a business owner, so this is an important one. A burnout-prone personality could make it difficult to lead a company, as there will be many times where you’re going to be forced to spend the night working or managing extra projects caused by employee turnover. Being a business owner means having to do tasks very capable of leading to burnout, so brace yourself and identify traits, such as procrastination, that you could remedy to make burnouts less frequent.

4. Perfectionism

Sure, perfectionism could contribute to spotless work that makes a client very satisfied, but in many cases it just leads to over-doing and causing delays. Aiming for perfection can certainly be a task if you have spare time or the client requests a change, but not turning in a project until it’s “perfect” or speaking with a client before you’re “perfectly” prepared will come across as procrastination, which will annoy clients and co-workers alike.

If you’re a perfectionist, realize that there’s a fine balance to achieve between promptness and quality of work. Both are prioritized similarly by clients.

5. Being Risk Averse

If you play it safe in every aspect of your business, then it’s very unlikely the business will reach its full potential. Plus, when employees see a business leader who’s content with average recognition, they aren’t likely to be motivated. Being averse to risk negatively impacts company morale, as well as limiting the overall potential in terms of both profit and work output.

Ninety percent of new businesses fail, so you’re going to have to face the fact that risk is a necessary part of a successful new business. Specifically, you’re going to have to face the very real prospect of no promised paycheck for a while. Early-stage companies rarely start out capable of paying the higher-ups. Working for no pay and few major initial results is a reality in many cases. Risk adversity and fear of failure in general are two red flags in personality traits for aspiring entrepreneurs.

Those who are overly perfectionist, risk-averse, burnout-prone, reluctant to change and unable to work in varied staff environments may have difficulties spearheading a new business, though it’s important to know proper evaluation of these personality traits prior to forming the business can make the planning process a lot easier. It’s possible to hire people or implement strategies that turn your weak personality traits into strengths.

KaylaMatthews

 

Kayla Matthews is a writer and blogger with a passion for tech solutions and personal development. You can read more of Kayla work on her blog, Productivity Bytes.

Guest Post: Why Entrepreneurs Should Never Stop Learning

Another guest post for you today, this time from Danielle Levine. Here she is:

In the words of Indra Nooyi, the CEO of Pepsi:

“You must continually increase your learning, the way you think, and the way you approach your organization.”

If you want to be successful, you must always be open to learning more, expanding your knowledge, and thinking in different perspectives.

Think of your business like a flower. You must feed, water, and nurture the plant in order for it to bloom into something beautiful. If you do not contribute to the flower’s well-being, it is not going to survive.

That’s how it is in business, too. If you aren’t willing to constantly learn new things to benefit your business, well, your business will lose momentum, and eventually wither away. You don’t want that to happen, do you?

Through my time observing the management styles of multiple different companies, I have observed two types of different entrepreneurial attitudes as shown by this infographic:

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As you can see, the styles of these entrepreneurs are polar opposites of each other. Entrepreneur Alex sees his employees as valuable assets to the company while Entrepreneur Bob lives in the mindset that he is already at the top of his profession, so there is no need to acknowledge and learn from his employees.

Take Blockbuster for example. Blockbuster was doing really well for a long time. It had a unique business model, and people turned to Blockbuster to satisfy all their movie cravings. The CEO, John Antioco, was overconfident in Blockbuster’s success; he saw Blockbuster as something that would always be relevant, but then Netflix came around.  

There is no doubt that Netflix came around the corner and swept Blockbuster off their feet and straight into bankruptcy in such a short span. However, if Antioco would have taken precautions to avoid this, such as innovating the business to fit the modern time period, learning more about Netflix, and maybe even taking advice from other executives and employees who might have disagreed with his plan, Blockbuster could still be around today.

Below, I will give you three important reasons why you should never stop learning as an entrepreneur so that you do not make the same mistakes as entrepreneurs like Antioco.

  1. Listen to your employees – They might provide insightful suggestions to guide you on the right path

The worst mistake that an entrepreneur can make is to ignore feedback from their employees. An entrepreneur should NEVER brush feedback off their shoulders like it is nothing, especially if it is coming from the people who hold your company together. Remember, you might be the rock of the company, but your employees are the ones that keep you grounded, so take their advice; your employee’s everyday experiences in the field will give you insight on how to manage your company successfully.

  1.  Live in the attitude that there is always room for improvement.

Just because you have achieved many successes, you run a thriving company, or you are respected in your field does not mean you should stop trying to grow. Take time to educate yourself. Take workshops from those who have already achieved success in areas you want to better yourself in. Always be open to new ideas, and think outside the box.

  1. Pick a mentor in your field of expertise and read, research, and learn everything about them.

Remember when you were younger, you had that one person you really idolized and looked up to. In your mind, this person was the superstar that you wanted to be. Now think about the entrepreneur you look up to. This could be a big shot like Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, or somebody less-known. Try your best to follow in path of success and learn from it everyday.

In summary, determine what areas you need to strengthen and follow a disciplined path of all these reasons that I gave you to be successful. You should never doubt your abilities to improve exponentially. Remember, the most successful entrepreneurs are the people who made mistakes, failed sometimes, but never gave up.

 

About the Author:

DanielleLevineDanielle Levine works on Marketing for Appfluence. Appfluence is the creator of Priority Matrix, a collaboration tool that allows teams to work together more efficiently. When Danielle isn’t reading up on the latest about productivity, she’s writing about it on the Appfluence, Productivity 101.

Guest Post: Common Small Business Accounting Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

This is a sponsored guest post.

Accounting is an important part of any small business. While it might not be the most glamorous part of your job, messing up your numbers can stunt the growth of your business, so you want to stay on top of it early and often. Before you dive in and start balancing your books, make sure you stay away from these 5 common mistakes.

1. Only Focusing on the Short Term

When you’re so involved in the day-to-day operations of your business, it’s easy to become fixated on quick wins and short-term success. However, when you’re looking to grow and expand, it’s important to remember that accounting is not just about keeping track of today’s numbers, but forecasting future growth and identifying financial risk. Check out this Entrepreneur article, which identifies best practices for forecasting revenue and growth, and show you how to use gross margin and profit margin to reconcile revenue and expense projections.

2. Not Invoicing Clients Fast Enough

Don’t wait. Invoices should be sent immediately after the product is delivered or the project has been completed. The sooner you bill a client, the sooner you get paid. Because your invoicing is tied to your cash flow, it’s important to have invoicing processes that are as streamlined as possible. In many small businesses this can be a challenge. A free invoicing app like Viewpost can help improve efficiency and eliminate paper when you invoice your clients. Learn more about it here.

3. Mis-Categorization of Expenses

There are fairly standard categories for expenses you can follow. However, expenses are often entered into the wrong categories or too many new categories are created. This can make balancing your books confusing and waste a lot of time. If you need help, this simple guide includes a list of general guidelines for standard categorization of your expenses, or check with an accountant for expertise and guidance. Better safe than sorry!

4. Trying to Do Everything Yourself

When you first started your small business, you may have been the only person managing finances — maybe you still are. However, as your business grows, managing your books on your own can become way more challenging. As a business owner, your time is valuable. You should be focused on what your business needs to grow. If you’re spending all your time on the accounting aspect of your business, the rest of your business may begin to suffer. Be aware of how you’re spending your time and don’t be afraid to hire an accountant at some level. You may not need a full-time bookkeeper right off the bat, and can instead turn to outsourced services or a part-time contractor.

5. Forgetting to Make Entries

This might seem like a no-brainer, but it’s the most important key to effective accounting. From small transactions to large payments, it’s important to record everything. If you’re not recording deposits accurately or depositing funds into the correct accounts, you’re messing with your bottom line. Find an intuitive accounting system designed for small businesses and set aside time every week to keep it up to date.

As a small business owner, other issues may often take precedence over accounting. However, it’s important to remember that your accounting system is one major aspect of your small business and should be seen as a long-term investment. If you take an active approach to your bookkeeping, your business will see a healthy boost in performance!


 

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Viewpost created a business-to-business network that removes the barriers businesses face during the exchange of invoices and payments. By democratizing information flow, simplifying process and removing costs and complexity that deter adoption, Viewpost effectively connects people to payments within a network of possibilities.

With a single, free connection to the secure Viewpost® network, businesses of any size exchange electronic invoices and share invoice status updates with their trading partners at no cost. Viewpost members also exchange payment for those invoices electronically, sending funds directly between their accounts at any bank. To better manage cash flow, members with extra cash can offer to pay early for a discount and those who need cash can ask for early payment. And at the touch of a button, transaction data is seamlessly pulled from or into an accounting platform. All, without requiring businesses to change their current workflows.

On the Viewpost network, trading partners easily connect with one another to save the time, cost and aggravation associated with invoicing and payments. Viewpost eliminates paper invoices and checks, provides real-time visibility into receivables and payables, and improves cash flow to make everyday business more efficient than ever. It’s simple, and good for everyone.

 

Guest Post: Your Company, Privacy, and You: What You Need to Know

Guest post this week coming to you from Cassie Phillips of Secure Thoughts. Here’s Cassie:

There is so much that goes into creating a successful business—proposals, investment, content, marketing—that very often the considerations given to online privacy are somewhat less than they should be. Preventing disaster from striking is a practice that is left, far too often, to the last minute, as most business owners don’t believe it matters to them until it actually happens. For the less tech-savvy amongst us, the intricacies of setting up a functioning online security system may seem a little overwhelming, so it’s easier to ignore it until it becomes a significant problem.

However, when dealing with cyberattacks, if it has become a specific problem, then it is already too late. Fortunately, with a bit of research and insider information, it’s easy to gain an understanding of what is meant by privacy, how it is important and why protecting yourself and your company really matters.
Privacy Matters

The online threat continues to grow alongside our virtual and digital lives. As many businesses take to the internet to sell, share and promote, they are becoming frequently exposed to cyber crime.

There are many types of malware designed specifically to take down businesses and countless malicious hackers who are constantly searching for opportune moments to steal your data and personal information, so failing to take these threats seriously is a terrible decision for your business.Whether you’re facing a traditional “denial of service attack,” in which the server is overloaded in order to bring down your site, or you fall victim to the newest, prolific, nasty threat, ransomware, it’s bound to be a disaster for you and your company.

Many people fail to consider the repercussions of an attack until after it’s happened, but a breach of your website could be a disaster for your reputation. Many cybercriminals are aiming to collect details in order to commit identity theft and, if you or your customers end up falling victim, then getting others to have faith in you and what you’re offering may become nearly impossible.

Similarly, if your website itself looks as if it’s suffered an obvious infiltration, customers will avoid your domain in order to protect themselves. It isn’t just a case of fixing some coding or changing your password; if it becomes apparent that you haven’t put successful privacy practices in place, the name and face of your business could be tarnished forever.

Your Privacy

When it comes to securing your business, your own privacy is equally as important as anything else. As the owner, the amount of company data you store makes you the perfect target and by logging into the site via your admin panel you put your company website at risk if you fail to protect yourself. General good computing practices, such as having an up-to-date firewall and security suite installed are essential.

Similarly, it’s worth investing in storage encryption to protect customer details and business data. If you’re working on the go, be sure to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to protect yourself on public networks as these notoriously unsecured connections can be a hot bed for hackers. Using a VPN will encrypt all your traffic between your device and the internet and will allow you to browse securely. It’s also important to be stringent with your passwords; ensure every one is unique and complex to reduce the chance of infiltration.

Your Company’s Privacy

When considering your business’ privacy, it’s worth remembering that showing your customer base that you have a good security system in place is just as important as actually protecting yourself. Customers are extremely quick to leave websites and businesses that they don’t trust, so making sure you present a secure face is important.

One great way to do this is by using a secure sockets layer (SSL). These online add-ons encrypt traffic between the server and the browser and are one of the most common protection protocols worldwide. The SSL symbol has become so widely recognized that showcasing the badge on your site will immediately instill trust in users.
Another important privacy point to consider for your business is in payment transactions. Although using third-party companies, such as PayPal, automatically increases your customers’ privacy, those who want to handle their own direct debit payments should be sure to complete a PCI-DSS compliance test. Through this test, the Security Standards Council assesses your privacy systems and works with you to help improve them.

Good Practices

Although many business owners feel that creating a good, working, initial privacy set-up is all that it takes to ensure successful online security, this is far from the case. Internet privacy is an ongoing practice, and as the face of the digital world is constantly changing, the threats and ways we deal with them change along with it; therefore, it’s important to stay up-to-date and knowledgeable about potential threats. There are many websites and blogs that regularly post about new possible attacks so by doing the research you can stay ahead of the game.

More specifically, regularly updating all of the programs you use is also important. This is because new security holes are being discovered and exploited by hackers and, subsequently, companies release software updates with patches to resolve the problem.

Other good practices include enforcing strict password rules to any subscribers or members of your websites and using monitoring software to pick up on any suspicious activity or traffic.

Online privacy is extremely important for any business, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. By taking these simple steps, you can easily start to protect yourself and secure your company. If you have any more tips for fellow business owners, then be sure to leave a comment below!


 

Cassie Phillips is an internet security specialist and blogger. She is delighted to share these tips with you and hopes that you will seek out more information on the matter to keep yourself and your company safe online.

How to Find Your Focus (Guest Post from Cat Rose)

I’ve got a guest post for you this week from Cat Rose of Cat Rose design 🙂

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It feels like ever since Gary Keller unleashed his book The ONE Thing on decision making and setting our focus to that ONE thing; we’ve all gone crazy trying to follow his advice.

Most of us are fully aware that we don’t get our best work done when we’re multitasking: we get distracted by the vibrations of our phone, the pings from social media, the 47 tabs in the browser…

It can feel pretty overwhelming to say the least!

However, just being aware of the ‘evils of multitasking’ doesn’t make it any easier to actually find our one thing to focus on – and then stick with it.

If the first step to focussing on one thing is actually deciding on what that one thing is – we’ve already got a problem on our hands.

How many of us can honestly feel assured that we’ve picked the one thing that’s right for us?

The story that hit home for me was the one about the donkey.

If you aren’t familiar with our donkey friend, the tale of ‘Buridan’s ass’ goes something like this:

A donkey (or ass) is standing halfway between a stack of hay and a pail of water. Unable to decide which to choose, the ass keels over and dies of hunger and thirst – and, indecision.

donkey

Fortunately, we’re smarter than this donkey!

We can decide on one thing by simply using psychology to overcome our ‘focus FOMO’: our fear that deciding one one thing will mean missing out on all other options we want to have.

To do this, we should approach our decision making in a scientific way. Time to get the labcoats on…

So we start with our hypothesis. That means we decide that picking X will give us the desired result.

Next we set ourselves some boundaries.

Our boundary could be time (for example, when picking a workout routine, we might assign 6 weeks to trial it and commit to it), or money (for example, running an advertising campaign until a set budget is used up).

Whatever you choose: the idea is to measure the results at the end of the experiment.

After that period of committing fully, you can feel free to turn around and either stick with your one thing – or jump ship and try something else.

The point is not to get so attached to the thing you pick and to chill out! Know that there is always the option to try something else if it’s not working out.

If only our donkey friend picked either hay or water – he could always have come back for the other later!

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5 Simple Steps to Focusing:

1) Start with your desired outcome.

By thinking about your end goal, you have something to measure success and progress by. Write this down! It really helps me to physically write it down – I seem to process the goal and remember it better than if I type it.

Then make sure to keep it visible – a post-it on the fridge, a big scribble on a chalkboard. I like to take a picture of my note and set it as my homescreen background on my phone. Not pretty but it gets the job done!

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It’s also worth keeping in mind how realistic you think your goal is in that time. The classic ‘SMART’ goal acronym is my favourite way to remember this.

You want your goal to be:

S = Specific

M = Measurable

A = Attainable

R = Relavent

T = Time-bound

2) Pick your (first) focus

If there are various ways of reaching your end-goal, it can be easy to get distracted and overwhelmed all over again. For example, if your end goal was ‘lose 5 pounds’ then there are multiple things you could do to get there. It’s worth making a big old mind map to get everything out on paper. This is the one thing you’re going to be focussing on each day – so give it some thought! Remember, after the experiment is over, you can always try out your second choice.

3) Set a boundary

As I mentioned, having a boundary will help you know when or if to quit. So it could be a time deadline, a budget – something that gives you a hard date to pause your experiment, and measure your results.

4) Buckle down!

You’ve got your goal, you’ve got your focus for each day, now you have to follow through until you hit your boundary.

5) Review your progress

Once you reach your boundary, take a look back at your desired outcome. Did you nail it? Did you achieve partial results? Was your hypothesis correct? Evaluate and decide whether or not you want to continue or whether you want to try another route. Trial and error at it’s finest!

 

I’d love to know what you’re choosing to focus on right now. Send me a tweet @catrosedesign!

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This guest post was penned by Cat Rose, author and business consultant at Cat Rose Design. Cat helps people reach their goals through step-by-step guides and productivity tips. To receive your free module on how to save time on social media, simply add your email here.