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Payment Network Size and Benefits Matter. Here’s Why. 21 Feb 2020, 7:00 am

When you make a purchase on your credit card, what actually happens? Someone pays someone else, and you get billed for it all later, right?

Unsurprisingly, it’s a bit more complicated than that.

To make card-based transactions possible, there needs to be near-instantaneous communication between your card, the merchant, and the merchant’s bank. All of these steps don’t just happen by accident; they’re facilitated by your credit card’s payment network.

A payment network is made up of the infrastructure that allows card purchases to take place. When you swipe your card at a merchant, the payment network acts as the go-between for your card provider at the merchant, recording the transaction details and delivering the payment. 

While that may sound like it’s none of your concern, some of the components of your card’s payment network can actually have a pretty big impact on how you do business. 

What You Need to Know About Networks

There are two major factors to keep in mind when thinking about different card networks: network size and network benefits. Here’s a deep dive into how those two factors might affect your card choice:

Network Size

There are four major card payment networks — Mastercard, Visa, American Express, and Discover — but the list of all networks is much longer. This list by Business Insider gives a sense of how broad these networks truly are, both in number and in reach.

Of the four, only American Express and Discover are also card providers (Mastercard and Visa are networks that other card providers tap into). You probably have at least one card that belongs to one of these payment networks, and for good reason: It’s the size of a payment network that dictates where you can and can’t use your card. 

Vendors are required to pay a small fee per transaction made with a card, and different payment networks have different fee structures. A report by Square shows that of the four major networks, American Express generally has the highest fee per transaction, which might discourage some small vendors from accepting it as an option. To offset this, American Express caters to more affluent users. 

Of course, network size is of little issue if all of your usual vendors accept whatever payment network your preferred card uses. For constant travelers or frequent patrons of small businesses, however, relying too heavily on one payment network might leave you exposed — you’ll always run the risk of ending up somewhere that doesn’t support your card. 

Chime’s Chonce Maddox explains the importance of having different types of cards at your disposal for situations like these. If you don’t use cash but want to be sure you can do business with any merchant, check that your cards operate on different payment networks. 

Network Benefits

While people often think of benefit and reward programs as being tied to specific credit cards, it’s actually a bit more complicated than that. While card providers have the final say on what rewards come with their card, card networks often have their own sets of perks that come with being part of their network.

For networks like American Express and Discover, network benefits tend to dovetail with the perks of the cards they provide. Visa and Mastercard, however, offer different levels of benefits that may or may not come with the card you carry. 

Your provider might include all of the traditional perks offered by Visa or Mastercard, but they might also block them in favor of including their own. Kevin Cash and Paul Soucy at Nerdwallet do a good job of distinguishing between the two and giving a basic overview of the perks each network offers. 

What about those smaller card networks? Although they’re used by fewer vendors, they also come with their own valuable set of benefits.

When looking at potential credit cards, don’t just look at the perks they offer; look at the perks that their network offers as well. There’s a chance your provider might be holding back on some important ones, such as zero fraud liability or price protection, that the network normally offers. When in doubt, shop around.

Although it may not showcase major distinctions between the four major payment networks, be sure to read the fine print. And if you still can’t find what you’re looking for, consider smaller payment networks. 

If nothing else, your card’s payment network matters for one important reason: Your ability to make purchases with plastic depends on it.

The post Payment Network Size and Benefits Matter. Here’s Why. appeared first on KillerStartups.

Automated coaching startup BetterYou sets horizons beyond the personal. 20 Feb 2020, 1:48 pm

Automated coaching is a burgeoning field. The always-on, easy availability of modern smartphone products mean that many people now spend their entire day tethered to a mobile data device. More and more companies are springing up that take advantage of this close connection by providing regular influence prompts designed to improve users’ lives in general.

 

At the head of this pack is a startup called BetterYou. Founded in 2018 by Sean Higgins, BetterYou operates as a “digital coach” that helps people make better health and wellness decisions. It does this by logging how people actually spend their time, and comparing this reality against their stated goals.

BetterYou’s approach is somewhat unique in the industry, in that they leverage the background data from users’ phones to log progress, without any manual entry. In addition, they used a sophisticated AI-based back-end to catch the fleeting insights nessicary to nudge people toward the outcomes they desire.

Because usage information is automatically retrieved from users’ phones, BetterYou is updated in real-time, providing immediate visual feedback for better decisions as the user is making them. This always-on approach also makes it easier for their AI to catch less-obvious patterns of behaviour, and work to improve them.

BetterYou has set its sights beyond simply competing in the personal digital coaching market. Recognizing the value that their technology captures, they are positioning the company to act as a coach in corporate scenarios as well.

Studies have shown that modern corporate employees spend more than 3 full hours per day on their phones. BetterYou attempts to meet employees on their phones, where they are most comfortable, and provide the type of detailed, metrics-backed corporate coaching that increases productivity and job satisfaction at the same time.

By offering both personal and organizational solutions operating in the same ecosystem, BetterYou presents an attractive slate of automated coaching tools designed to make users’ entire day more effective, enjoyable, predictable and productive.

BetterYou is available from the company website at betteryou.ai, which also presents a pile of further information about the platform’s features and guiding philosophy.

Photos BetterYou

The post Automated coaching startup BetterYou sets horizons beyond the personal. appeared first on KillerStartups.

Be Productive Every Day – 25 Daily Calendar Productivity Tips 20 Feb 2020, 8:00 am

For most of us, calendars and productivity are integrally linked. But, that’s only possible if you’re correctly managing and organizing your calendar every day. While that may sound like a daunting task, it’s achievable if you implement the following 25 tips to be productive every day.

1. Map out your week on Sunday.

I’d rather spend my Sunday vegging out. I’d be perfectly fine with watching football and munching on pizza. But I’ll be honest with you. By Sunday evening, I’ve had my fill of football — unless the night game is worth paying attention to. Even though I’ve found that this is the best time to plan my week.

Write down everything that you need to get done this week. Then, filter your list. Determine what’s most essential and add them to your calendar. For items that aren’t as important, schedule them when you have the availability. You may also be able to hand off specific tasks to others or drop them entirely from your schedule.

Also, review what you already have penciled in. For example, let’s say you booked an appointment or meeting months ago. Then you’re going to have to plan your day around that event.

I’d also add that you can use your Sundays to prepare for the week. If you want to watch football, then run your errands during the morning. And, you can still keep tabs on the games while cooking your meals for the week, doing laundry, or tidying up. These are all small items that you can knock out on Sunday so that they’re not distracting you throughout the week.

2. Set your intention for the day.

Benjamin Franklin began each day with a question: What good shall I do this day? He asked this question before he did anything else each day. And I love it.

Setting intention brings you back into the moment. It forces you to identify and live by your values and virtues. It also has the power to increase your emotional and physical energy.

Most importantly, intentions will direct and remind you where you want to go for the day. As an example, you have a meeting today at one. Your intention is good to make it valuable and productive for attendees. Determining this first thing in the morning will get you in the right mindset to achieve this. It will also keep you focused and encourage you to knock the meeting out of the park.

3. Have your daily agenda sent to you.

Do you use Google Calendar? If so, you can have your Daily agenda sent directly to your Gmail account. Just go into Google Calendar and then “Settings for my calendars.” Scroll “General notifications” and choose “email” under “Daily agenda.”

Outlook users can also take advantage of this feature. Go into your web app and head into “Your app settings” and choose “Calendar.” Under Reminders, select the checkmark next to “Get daily agenda email for calendar and tasks.”

4. Don’t underestimate the power of simplicity.

Search for “how to be productive.” The Big G will return a whooping 240,000,000 results.

Here’s the thing you’re going to find plenty of useful advice. But, you’re also going to come across several complicated productivity secrets.

Want to know the secret to be efficient and effective daily schedules, though? They’re simple.

Go back and look at Franklin’s daily schedule. It’s so open and straightforward, while also providing structure and encouraging a routine.

Franklin’s schedule only included six blocks:

  • Getting ready for the day: shower, breakfast, personal study, and prepare for work (3 hours)
  • Morning work (4 hours)
  • Review of current projects and to eat lunch (2 hours)
  • Afternoon work (4 hours)
  • Dinner and rest and wrapping up the day (4 hours)
  • Sleep (7 hours)

That’s it. It’s so straightforward that anyone could use it as a template if they want to have a more productive day.

5. Take into account your circadian rhythms.

“Humans have a well-defined internal clock that shapes our energy levels throughout the day: our circadian process, which is often referred to as a circadian rhythm because it tends to be very regular,’ writes Christopher Barnes on HBR. “If you’ve ever had jet lag, then you know how persistent circadian rhythms can be,” he adds. “This natural — and hardwired — ebb and flow in our ability to feel alert or sleepy has important implications for” everyone.

How does this affect your calendar and productivity? When planning our day, we should take into account our own circadian rhythms.

“The most important tasks should be conducted when people are at or near their peaks in alertness (within an hour or so of noon and 6 pm),” recommends Barnes. “The least important tasks should be scheduled for times in which alertness is lower (very early in the morning, around 3 pm, and late at night).”

6. Block out proactive and reactive blocks.

“Time blocking is simply a time management technique where you set aside a specific amount of time for a particular task,” writes Howie Jones in a previous Calendar article. “For example, instead of checking your phone every time you receive an email or social notification, you would do this at clearly defined times.” Howie does this before diving into his work in the morning. “There’s another block after lunch. And, the final one is later in the afternoon before calling work a day.”

However, you decide to block out your time is up to you. But, I suggest that you block out both proactive and reactive blocks. Proactive blocks are reserved for your most important tasks. These have to get done — no exceptions. Reactive blocks are unexpected occurrences, like an emergency meeting.

To achieve this, make sure that you set hard boundaries when it comes to your proactive blocks, such as turning off your phone. To address the reactive blocks, leave a couple of time slots in your calendar free.

7. Use the 52/17 Rule.

After tracking the habits of their top 10 percent most productive users, Desktop found that the most productive people work for 52 minutes, followed by 17 minutes of rest. The reason? We need these breaks to help us recharge and refocus.

So, in your calendar, block out around an hour for your most important work. Then, schedule a break for around 17-minutes and so forth. Don’t be afraid to adjust these times, however, to suit your own rhythms. Some people might be able to work for 90-minutes before having to take a break.

8. Schedule “no meeting” time blocks.

Meetings, while necessary, can be a massive waste of time. Even worse, they can pry you away from more important matters or interrupt your flow. To counter this, make sure there are specific chunks of time where you never accept a meeting. For me, I never take a meeting in the morning since that’s when I’m most productive. Instead, I book them in the afternoon.

You could also take this a step further by banning meetings altogether on specific days. I also prefer to schedule all of my meetings on the same day so that I don’t have to bounce between work mode and meeting mode.

9. Theming your days.

Theming your days is a simple productivity technique. As opposed to switching between tasks all day, you would focus on one theme for the entire day. For instance, Mondays could be spent developing and creating content ideas like blog posts for the week. Tuesdays would be for your most challenging work, and so on. Because energy begins to dip, and we can’t wait for the weekend, Fridays are perfect for meetings or tying up loose ends.

After you’ve identified your themes, add them to your schedule. So, on Monday, you could brainstorm from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. Following a 15-minute break, your next block would be writing, following by lunch.

10. Be realistic with your time.

So many of us have fallen prey to this. We create ambitious and lengthy daily to-do-lists. The problem? These lists never account for time. As a result, you end biting off more then you can chew.

Focus on only between 3-5 tasks per day. These should be your priorities. They should also be scheduled in your calendar so that they become a priority — it also helps you weed out distractions. The key, though is to block out the right amount of time. So, if you only need an hour for a specific task, then don’t block out two hours.

Review past calendars to see how you spent your time. If that’s not helpful, then track your time for a week or two.

11. Don’t be a captive to calendar defaults.

When you create a new event in a calendar, you’ll notice that the default time is an hour. Just because this is the default, doesn’t mean you have to stick with it. If you only need 30-minutes for a meeting, then change the event time. Remember, time is your most valuable resource. So make sure that not wasting it be being tied to default times.

12.

Your eyes aren’t playing tricks on you. And I did not forget to add a title here. I left it intentionally blank to illustrate a point: the importance of scheduling nothing.

As opposed to booking every minute of your calendar, leave some slots blank. It’s a technique championed by people like LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner. He used this buffer “to think big, catch up on the latest industry news, get out from under that pile of unread emails, or take a walk. ”

For me, it’s an opportunity to escape temporarily. I go for at least a 15-minute walk with my dog. It gives us both a chance to stretch our legs. But, it also allows me to clear my head and think. I usually leave my phone behind, too, as a way to disconnect.

As an added perk, you can use those blocks of nothingness to handle any unexpected circumstances that may have landed in your lap.

13. “OOO.”

“OOO” is short for “out-of-office.” These are blocks when you’re unavailable. Examples would be when you’re traveling, taking your lunch break, on vacation. Add these blocks to your calendar so that they don’t get filled by something else.

And, it wouldn’t hurt to also create an out of office message — which is easy to do if you use Google or Outlook. Now when someone tries to book you during this time slot, the message will automatically let them know that you’re out of the office, and when you’ll return.

14. There’s an app for that, so use it.

Yes. As you already know, your online calendar also comes in app form. If you haven’t done so yet, download it to your phone. Now your calendar will always be with you. Just make sure to sync your calendar across all of your devices to prevent confusion.

Also, like peanut butter and jelly, pair your calendar with the right tools. For example, Calendar integrates with Google, Apple, and Outlook calendars. It uses machine learning to figure out your schedule to make smart suggestions on how and when to plan meetings. Most online calendars can also connect with Slack to streamline communicating with others. And, they even work with voice assistants like Alexa and Google Home so that you can quickly add new events as they appear.

15. Go light on the details.

“Adding details to your schedule is beneficial,” explains Calendar’s Angela Ruth. “For instance, when you just booked a conference call, it would help if you had some necessary information about the person on the other end of the line, such as their name, position, and meaning of the chat.”

“At the same time, you don’t want to include too many details, like their entire life story,” adds Angela. “Doing so will make your schedule too cumbersome to manage.” And, if you’re working with others and share your calendar with them, “it may annoy the daylights out of them. Like you know, they probably only need the most relevant information to complete a task or prepare for a meeting.”

16. Be more thoughtful about lunch.

When it comes to lunch, I’m a stickler about stepping away from work and making the most of this time. Personally, I get skeeved out by people who eat at their desks. It’s just so unhygienic. Besides, when you take an actual lunch break, you have the chance to do the following:

  • Eating healthy and nutritious food will boost your brainpower.
  • Taking a break will sustain your concentration and energy levels.
  • Practicing mindfulness or taking a nap will clear your head and improve your memory.
  • Exercising or walking outside reduces stress, improves your mood, and refreshes your attention span.
  • Going outside the office can spark creativity.
  • Lunch is a great time to meet with others.

17. Set reminders strategically.

Online calendars allow you to set reminders so that you won’t forget important dates and times. But, don’t roll with the default reminder setting. Be more strategic by setting reminders that more helpful.

For example, if you have a meeting this afternoon at 3, what’s the point of having a reminder go off five-minutes prior? Instead, you could set a reminder for 30-minutes ahead of time so that you have enough time to commute and prepare for the meeting.

18. Get rough with your schedule.

Not literally. Rough scheduling is simply not scheduling all of your leisure time. When you allow for spontaneity, like running into an old friend and grabbing a coffee, it makes you happier. Researchers state that this is because when scheduled, leisure tasks feel more like a chore. And, by the way, when you’re happier, you’re more productive overall.

19. Never accept last-minute time requests.

Unless it’s an end-of-the-world type of emergency, never accept a last-minute time request. It’s the best way to protect your calendar bt not letting less important items leapfrog your priorities.

20. Keep your calendar weird.

When planning a meeting or grabbing lunch with an acquaintance, consider scheduling the event at an odd time. For instance, meet at 1:13 p.m. instead of 1. Not only will the event stand out, but it will also encourage everyone to be on time. The reason? It’s so specific there isn’t time for tomfoolery.

21. Highlight important information.

Remember when you were back in school? If you were like me, you highlighted vital information in your textbook. Listen, I spent a lot of money on that book, and I could do with it whatever I wanted. I’m probably still paying it off!

Anyway, like your textbook, you should make essential calendar entries pop. For example, use different colors, all caps, or boldface for the daily entries that deserve most of your attention and focus.

22. Capture new information ASAP.

Whenever a new task or event pops-up, add it to your calendar sooner than later. Let’s say that you just agreed to meet a client for lunch two weeks from now. If you don’t create that event, you may forget about it and schedule something else.

23. Don’t be shy.

You don’t have to be like Cat Stevens and “let your feelings roll on by.” But, you shouldn’t keep your calendar to yourself. Share your calendar either through email or embed it on your site. Now people like your coworkers or family know when you’re busy or free to be interrupted. It also makes scheduling future events easier by eliminating those pesky back-and-forth exchanges.

24. Maximize your downtime.

Whether it’s during a break or when you get home for the day — make the most of your downtime. Learning something new, networking, reading, and just relaxing are all excellent ways to spend your downtime. The reason? These activities can help your destress or help you become more proficient.

Also, protect your downtime just as you would with an appointment or deadline. If you’ve set aside to attend a workshop, then don’t commit to something else during that time.

25. Reflect on your day.

Bear with here, but this is the last time I namedrop Ben Franklin.

At the end of every day, he asked: What good have I done today? He took note of what went wrong, as well as what didn’t. Franklin could then use this to improve his daily schedule going forward.

Also, when you reflect, you can see how you spent your day. From here, you can identify and eliminate any time-wasting activities from your calendar so that you can focus on what truly matters.

Be Productive Every Day – 25 Daily Calendar Productivity Tips was originally published on Calendar by John Hall.

The post Be Productive Every Day – 25 Daily Calendar Productivity Tips appeared first on KillerStartups.

How Do You Prioritize Yourself? 18 Feb 2020, 8:00 am

Years ago I was having dinner with my parents. The phone rang. It was a friend in a panic. She was driving home and her car died. We later found out that her car had an oil leak. And, because she hadn’t put oil in it, the car obviously overheated and shut down. But how do you prioritize yourself?

Do you make sure that your vehicle is well maintained? Are you prioritizing yourself? You will want to prioritize all the things in your life that you can so that your life will run smoothly. When you prioritize yourself — all parts of life run better. You’re not going to break down because you’re physically and mentally burned out.

As Lisa Firestone Ph.D. notes in Psychology Today, everyone should take care of themselves because:

  • When we’re drained, we don’t have anything else to give to others.
  • Doing what we love recharges us.
  • We lose aspects of ourselves when only focused on others.
  • Setting aside our own needs can exhaust those around us.
  • We lose ourselves in our own critical inner voice.
  • We fail to practice self-compassion.
  • It causes stress for us and our family, friends, and co-workers.
  • It impairs our performance at work.

Additionally, when you put yourself at the bottom of your to-do-list, you’re more stressed and less energetic and creative. Your sleep is impaired and you may turn to other vices. Self-care is one of the secrets to physical and mental health.

Despite this fact, many of us fail to put ourselves first. While this varies from person to person, it’s usually because we believe that it’s selfish — which it’s not. We also have a tendency to overcommit, get distracted by unhealthy activities like watching TV or simply don’t feel worthy of the best things — and you are.

Thankfully, there are simple ways for you to finally prioritize yourself. And, here’s where you can start.

Take a “me” moment.

Like my sister and her car, why wait until there’s a problem? Instead, make prioritizing a part of your routine. “Self-care is simply every day, healthy rituals that keep your body and mind energized,” Alexia Brue, co-founder, and CEO of Well+Good, told Forbes.

“It could be as simple as going to bed every night at the same time, scheduling a regular massage or lighting candles and taking a pause,” adds Brue. “It’s finding whatever recharges you, and then incorporating it as a ritual into your life.”

Do you feel so crunched for time that this isn’t feasible? Well, in a previous Calendar article, Choncé Maddox gave the following suggestions on how to add a self-care routine to your calendar:

  • Book self-care appointments first thing in the morning before you get sidetracked. It will also make you feel energized and boost your productivity for the day.
  • Time block your schedule. “Choose a time of day to block out just for self-care,” recommends Choncé. “This can be 30 minutes, one hour, or several hours if you’ve already finished up with work and other responsibilities for the day.”
  • “When it comes to making room for self-care, you can turn your self-care routine into a system that you can easily schedule in when necessary,” adds Choncé. For example, when you take breaks into work-related tasks, you could go for a walk, meditate, or journal.
  • Start small, such as claiming 5 to 10 minutes per day for yourself.

Increase your emotional intelligence.

“Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize our feelings, emotions, and moods to better identify what we are feeling and why,” says Jen Shirkani, keynote speaker and author of “Ego vs. EQ” and “Choose Resilience.”

“By [doing that], we can channel our emotions to respond in healthy, intelligent ways rather than allowing our emotions to take over and undermine us,” adds Shirkani.

Schedule times throughout the day to check-in on your feelings. If you feel stressed or anxious, then you may want to take a step back to acknowledge and address these feelings. It could be something as simple as going for a walk or talking to a friend. That may mean rescheduling a conference call or task. But, it’s better than letting these feelings bottle up and explode.

Watch your language.

“Language can have a profound effect on your thoughts, moods, and perspective,” notes the team at Jody Michael Associates. “It’s not just what comes out of your mouth in conversations with others; the messages you tell yourself play an essential role in how you feel.”

In all fairness, it’s easy to fall into the trap of beating yourself up when you fail. Instead of labeling yourself as a “failure” or “incompetent,” treat yourself with compassion. You can do this by encouraging “yourself in the same way that you would a child or a good friend. If you tell yourself ‘You’ve got this!’ often enough, you will get it!”

Take a break from social media.

Yeah. It’s easy to take shots at social media these days. But, even if you don’t permanently quit, it’s easy to understand why people are reducing the time spent on these platforms.

On top of privacy concerns, damaging your reputation, and being distracting, social media can increase anxiety and depression. It can also reduce the amount of sleep that you get. And, it’s a poor use of downtime. As opposed to spending over an hour a day on social media, you could spend that time taking care of your well-being.

If you can’t delete your accounts, you can at least limit your exposure by uninstalling the apps on your phone. If that’s not an option, then banish them from your home screen. You could use apps like Freedom, SelfControl, or Offtime that block these channels when you don’t want to be distracted. And, you could also delegate or automate your social media responsibilities.

Recite empowering mantras.

Are you not prioritizing yourself because of guilt? If so, recite empowering mantras. These have the ability to boost your self-worth and motivate you to attend to your own needs.

Here are a six mantras, courtesy of Shine, that you can try out today:

  • “I deserve joy.”
  • “I am important.”
  • “When I pour into myself, I can shine my light onto others.”
  • “I am worthy of all the things that bring me happiness.”
  • “I can make time to nourish my mind, body, and spirit.”

Phase-out the negative and stress in your life.

Carve out a piece time, preferably when you’re not focused on something important, to evaluate the things in life that are causing you stress. Are they truly important to you? If not, you may want to start cutting them out of your life. For example, if there is a friend who consumes too much of your time and energy, you may want to distance yourself from their negativity.

If you’re not satisfied with your career, you may want to search for a new job. Or, you may even want to take the limb and start your own business. It may be nerve-racking. But, you don’t necessarily have to quit your job today. You could browse openings or have a side hustle until it takes off.

Learn how to say “no.”

Putting your foot down and standing your ground is probably the most effective way to prioritize yourself. If you don’t say “no,” then you’ll always put other’s wants and needs ahead of your own. Not only is this time-consuming, but you’ll also always be behind on your work. And, it prevents you from doing the things that you actually want to do.

The good thing is that you can say “no” to others without offending them. You can achieve this by being honest and straightforward with them. They may be disappointed. But, they should understand and respect your decision.

You could also have a policy. For example, Friday nights are reserved for your family. No exceptions. So, if a friend from college wanted to get together, you would have to offer an alternative like Saturday night.

Remember your why.

In the hustle and bustle of daily life, it’s easy to lose track of your why. But, slow down and think about why you get out of bed every morning. Why do you go to work, hit the gym, or strive for learning opportunities?

Reconnecting with your why puts things in perspective. It can reignite your passion. It motivates you to achieve your goals. And, it will encourage you to put yourself first.

Reflect and accept who you are.

I’m not gonna lie. It’s never easy to admit your faults. But, when you’re transparent with yourself, you can look for ways to grow. At the same time, you don’t have to just focus on your shortcomings. Every day discover something new that you like about yourself. Besides giving you a self-esteem boost, you can also look for opportunities to put your strengths to good use.

Accepting who are means acknowledging your strengths and weaknesses. From there, you can spend your time devoted to what you can and can not change.

Schedule downtime.

Finally, make it a point to schedule downtime. Start by taking 15-minute breaks between tasks at work. When you’re done for the day, leave work where it belongs — the office. Instead, spend your evenings with your family or just relaxing. And, during the weekends, do things that you genuinely enjoy.

How Do You Prioritize Yourself? was originally published on Calendar by Angela Ruth.

The post How Do You Prioritize Yourself? appeared first on KillerStartups.

6 Benefits Employees Value That You May Be Overlooking 18 Feb 2020, 7:00 am

As a startup, you’re most likely providing some form of health insurance and a retirement plan for your employees. While this is a wonderful start, you may be missing the types of benefits that will help you attract and retain the best employees.

Ideally, the benefits you offer will allow your employees to grow personally and professionally while mitigating external stressors, such as personal finance and health issues. Developing a robust benefits package can give your startup the boost it needs to bring in high-quality employees who will help your business thrive.

Here are six that could be considered deal breakers:

1. Robust Healthcare Coverage

Don’t skimp on the quality of healthcare coverage you offer your employees. Fifty-five percent of employees report that good health insurance is the most important benefit. Thanks to the Affordable Health Care Act, you could qualify for a subsidy if you choose state-sponsored insurance for your employees.

If comprehensive care is outside your budget at the moment, look for options to help employees better utilize insurance benefits without driving up costs.

2. Disability Insurance

Consider offering long-term and short-term disability insurance options to your employees to help alleviate the stress of unexpected worst-case scenarios or routine life events. Short-term disability plans, in particular, can make a huge difference for women planning to have children in the next few years. It can give them financial peace as they take maternity leave.

Long-term disability allows employees to seek the medical care they need, even if they know it will mean missing a significant amount of work. These types of provisions create trust and confidence in employees because they know they’ll be taken care of, come what may.

3. Vacation and Sick Days

Give your employees the peace of mind that they will be taken care of when they’re sick or in need of personal days. Encourage healthy work-life balance by offering a generous amount of vacation time. Some companies even offer unlimited vacation,” meaning that they leave it up to their employees to make reasonable decisions about how much time they need to take off.

Ideally, if you’re hiring the best types of employees, they can be trusted not to take advantage of this freedom. This option allows workers to feel empowered and trusted, giving them the flexibility to make healthy choices in their personal lives.

4. Digital Healthcare Options

In addition to excellent healthcare coverage, think about giving your employees more modern options. Many healthcare options are now conveniently digitized, allowing you and your employees to save time.

Consider investing in an online medical app like MDLIVE, which allows workers to consult a doctor without leaving their homes. You could also utilize an online healthcare service, such as Nurx, which gives women the option to order affordable birth control online with or without health insurance.

5. Flexibility

Give your employees the benefit of flexibility. Whether you allow them to telecommute occasionally, grant flexible hours to accommodate life’s ups and downs, or offer mental health days, employees will have an increased sense of trust and comfort in your company.

Encourage your workers to establish a healthy balance between their work and personal lives. In turn, they’ll experience heightened morale and engagement with their work. What benefits them will ultimately benefit you and your business. 

6. Wellness Opportunities

Think about making a deal with a local gym or yoga studio to give your employees the benefit of good health. Offer healthy snack and beverage options in the office space, even something as simple as filtered water or fresh fruit. What about standing desks, windows and lots of natural lighting, or outdoor seating and walking trails?

These simple but meaningful touches make the difference for an employee who values health and wellness and seeks a workplace that will promote this type of living. And, of course, healthy employees benefit the business.

Think creatively about ways to give your employees the very best treatment, even from your business’s early days. Strategically choose insurance options that will provide financial peace, and provide your workers with benefits that promote health and reduce stress. Give them a place where they feel safe to have a personal life, and they’ll give you valuable work in return.

The post 6 Benefits Employees Value That You May Be Overlooking appeared first on KillerStartups.

Turning the tables on recruiter AI 17 Feb 2020, 9:34 am

Let’s face it: finding work has turned into a warfare. Almost every job seeker is fighting tooth and nail against a horde of equally-qualified applicants to fill almost every position. This current state of general panic has only been exacerbated by the ongoing arms race in the field of AI-automated candidate screening.

Modern businesses no longer employ low-level HR functionaries to collect, file and respond to the flood of résumés they now receive on a daily basis. Instead, they have machines for that. Machines read most of the résumés that people now submit, and machines decide which résumés are good enough to secure an interview.

Many job seekers take umbrage to this notion, that the person conducting their first interview might also be the very first human to even look at their résumé, but where many see a new and pernicious obstacle, Salil Sethi, founder of Apollo Yard, sees only further opportunity.

Recognizing the market-wide shift to résumé intake automation a decade ago, in 2009, Sethi developed Apollo Yard specifically to turn automation back into job seekers’ favor. The platform uses the same AI deep-learning tricks as recruiters’ software, but in reverse. Job seekers give it their résumé and the job listing they seek to secure, and Apollo Yard automatically re-writes the résumé in a manner designed to appeal to the recruiter AI that generated the listing.

If you’ve been involved in a job hunt of late, you can probably immediately recognize how valuable this tool is for job seekers. Rewording résumés for specific positions is hugely time consuming, while at the same time being very hit-or-miss. It was difficult to do when humans were reading all the résumés, and now that most are read by black box AI, it can seem daunting to the point of impossibility. Many people just give up and send unedited résumés, which the AIs then dutifully ignore.

Given that now, a decade after Apollo Yard’s founding, almost all initial hiring intake is handled by software, job seekers really need sophisticated software of their own to ensure optimal structure, formatting and content in the résumés they are submitting. With Apollo Yard, they can escape the drudgery of endless rewriting, while at the same time ensuring that the résumés they do submit are as closely-tailored to the job listings that they are pursuing as is humanly (and  computerly) possible.

Photos: Apollo Yard

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Why WordPress Websites Attract More Traffic 15 Feb 2020, 7:00 am

As an entrepreneur, establishing a website is crucial. Attracting traffic to that site is even more crucial.

Your website’s success depends on a variety of factors: your marketing strategy, your SEO efforts, and your usability, to name a few. While these factors influence all sites, regardless of platform, some websites tend to perform better than others. Websites built in WordPress often tend to outperform sites built on other platforms — and that can be a game changer for entrepreneurs.

There’s nothing inherently magical about WordPress, but the platform is flexible and user-friendly. Implementing marketing and SEO strategies in WordPress is easier than most other platforms, allowing business owners and entrepreneurs to generate massive traffic with little training. 

WordPress has user-friendly and automated SEO settings

When a platform automates basic SEO, there’s little room for error. At the most basic level, the WordPress visual editor automatically inserts proper paragraph, styling, and heading tags. At a higher level, you can customize and optimize permalinks for SEO. For instance, you can set page and post links to include a category: http://yoursite.com/category/postname. Or you can skip the category altogether: http://yoursite.com/postname

Setting the URL of each page and post to include a category affects your traffic in several ways. If you’re generating organic traffic from search engines, people will notice the category for each post. Categories help visitors know they’re in the right place. Placing a category in each URL helps potential visitors make the split-second decision to visit.

Adding keywords in your URLs also helps rank your pages. Adding categories to your URLs helps when you can’t put every keyword in a page title.

Other automated SEO benefits include:

  • Metadata being added automatically.
  • Automatic image optimization.
  • Mobile optimization being built into most themes.

WordPress is a powerful yet simple platform for both beginners and experts. If you’re just getting started, read this WordPress setup tutorial and bookmark it for the future. The guide covers everything from setting up hosting to developing WordPress content to installing plugins.

WP plugins help you change URLs without increasing your bounce rate

People make changes to their URLs all the time without considering how many visitors might bounce if they get a 404 error. They don’t realize they’re sacrificing traffic that could have been conversions. WordPress makes it easy to make URL changes that won’t kill your traffic.

For example, say you run a website selling tennis shoes and have five active PPC campaigns on Google and Facebook. Suddenly, you realize your landing page URLs have typos. You can’t just change the URLs — you’ve got active campaigns driving traffic to your site. However, if you don’t change the URLs, those typos will make you look unprofessional.

In this situation, you need to change your URLs and implement permanent 301 redirects. You can set up 301 redirects inside most hosting accounts, but it’s time-consuming. But there are WordPress plugins that can handle redirects from your admin dashboard. 

WordPress makes it easy to make changes without disrupting your traffic. You can:

  • Duplicate your landing pages and rename the copies to the correctly spelled URLs.
  • Publish duplicated landing pages.
  • Set up 301 redirects to properly spelled landing page URLs.
  • Delete incorrectly spelled landing pages.

Themes are built by professional designers

You can find themes for any platform, but WordPress designers tend to have experience designing user-friendly interfaces and mobile-friendly layouts. That’s likely because WordPress has been around longer than many other CMS platforms. 

Part of increasing traffic to your site involves having readable, eye-catching typography. While you can always customize typography styles with CSS, WordPress designers often create appealing typography you don’t need to change. 

WordPress allows multiple authors with individual logins

Content marketing is a proven way to generate traffic to your site. If you’re hiring out content creation, WordPress allows you to create multiple user accounts with separate logins for each writer. You can take a hands-off approach and allow users to publish content; you can also review each draft before publishing.

An easy platform means more time for marketing

WordPress isn’t the only CMS on the market, but it’s definitely among the easiest for entrepreneurs to use. Even if you get stuck, there are enough tutorials and guides available to navigate any problem you need to solve.

When WordPress powers your website, you’re making your job as a webmaster easier. Best of all, you’re giving yourself more time to focus on marketing, advertising, and customer satisfaction — the things you do best.

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Boston’s Cleanzen is revolutionizing the home office 13 Feb 2020, 9:57 am

What’s one thing most offices have in common? Cleanliness. Businesses pay someone to keep work areas clean and clear, and most of the time this cleaning is done by dedicated cleaning staff. This makes sense, since other employees are performing core-business functions with their paid time, and need a clean environment in which to perform them.

So, with the explosion of telecommuting and freelance work over the past 2 decades, you might wonder how work-from-home employees are able to maintain the level of cleanliness they require for the job functions, while working out of space that they have to clean themselves.

Well, for many in this new and modern facet of the labor market, the secret is a great cleaning company. In Boston, the company of choice is a startup called Cleanzen Cleaning Services.

Cleanzen benefits from a convenient head-office location right in downtown boston, from which its cleaners can quickly and effectively reach any home in the greater Boston area. The service, which was established in 2017, offers a wide range of add-on cleaning services designed to tailor their experience to the needs of any type of home.

These specialized services range from eco-friendly cleaning products to even washing your dishes, so no matter what state you home or home/office is in, they can get you back on the path to unencumbered productivity.

After two years in operation, Cleanzen is the a top-rated platform for house cleaning & maid service in greater Boston area, with a perfect 5-star review rating from Google and over 100 individual 5-star reviews.

What makes them especially attractive to homeowners and home-based-business owners is that each of their professional cleaners undergoes a thorough screening before hiring, including a background check, proficiency tests, and an in-depth reference examination. They stand by their intake process with a 100% Satisfaction Guarantee, and are ready to re-clean your house or apartment for free, should you find any deficiency in your service.

Photos: Cleanzen

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7 Crucial Components You Must Schedule into Your Day 13 Feb 2020, 8:00 am

With so much to do on any given day, knowing how to prioritize your time can feel overwhelming. We all have a limited number of hours available. We have to use that time to maximize our productivity, but we also have to make sure that we take the opportunity to facilitate our health and wellbeing. Establishing healthy habits part of your daily schedule ensures your health doesn’t get pushed aside.

Below we created a list of 7 crucial components to schedule into your day to keep your health, mental clarity, and productivity all in perfect balance.

1. Nighttime Routine

When it comes to our physical and psychological health, a good night’s sleep is vital. Yet, many Americans do not receive the rest they need to function correctly. The CDC reports that a third of US adults get less than the recommended seven hours of sleep per night. Since insufficient rest is linked to serious chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stroke, and obesity, this is a cause for concern.

The CDC has gone so far as to declare sleep deprivation as a “public health problem.” So what does all of this mean for your daily routine? Experts suggest that establishing a nighttime routine can significantly improve the quality of your sleep and help you fall asleep faster.

Our list below includes essential components for your nighttime routine.

  •  Set your bedtime.
    To ensure you get a full night’s sleep, establish a set bedtime. When you go to bed at the same time every night, your body will naturally begin to relax and prepare for sleep on its own. To help make this part of your daily routine, consider setting the alarm for one hour before you plan to go to bed. When this alarm goes off, you’ll know you have plenty of time to complete your nighttime routine and get to sleep on.
  • Perform relaxing activities.
    Before bed, relaxing and soothing activities can help you fall asleep faster. Consider reading, taking a warm bath or shower, performing breathing exercises, or journaling. These activities can calm the mind and help you relieve stress from your daily life.
  • Create a restful environment.
    Trying to find adequate sleep in a space that is cluttered can prove impossible. Remove any items from your sleep space that may trigger stress or anxiety. Mail, laundry, work-related issues, computers, and exercise equipment should be banned from your bedroom. It’s also important to consider your mattress. Sleeping on an inadequate mattress or pillow night after night can severely disrupt your sleep. Be sure your mattress is supportive, comfortable, and suited to your needs, and get the best pillow to complete your sleep setup.
  • Avoid large meals before bed.
    When our bodies work hard to digest food, it can be challenging to unwind and rest. Therefore, medical experts suggest avoiding large, heavy meals before bed. Try to give your body at least 3 hours to digest food fully before retiring to bed.
  • Reduce screen time.
    Our bodies naturally produce melatonin to help us relax and prepare for sleep. Since light can interfere with the production of melatonin, experts suggest reducing the amount of screen time at least 2 hours before bed. Less screen time ensures you fall asleep faster.

Incorporating some or all of the above components into your nighttime routine should help improve your sleep quality. For balance and productivity, a bedtime routine is essential.

2. Morning Routine

How you end, your day is just as important as how you start it. The morning is a perfect time to plan for the day ahead and organize your goals before your day begins. To establish a morning routine that will set you up for a productive afternoon and evening, consider our tips below.

  • Evaluate goals.
    First, consider your goal for the day. You may have several things you want to accomplish, but by identifying the most critical tasks, you will be better able to prioritize your time.
  • Review schedule.
    Once you have established the critical tasks for the day, you can create a realistic timeline for completing them. Be sure to review appointments, meetings, and productivity time so you can identify any open slots.
  • Plan meals.
    Planning out your breakfast, lunch, and dinner can go a long way in reducing daily stress. If you go into an office each day, consider packing your lunch. Taking your lunch to work can save money, help you eat healthier, and give you more
    time to relax. Arranging your dinners in advance will also prevent you from having to stress over what to make after a long day. To help yourself prepare, consider writing out your meal plans in the morning before the day begins. Additionally, you can use the weekends to create meal plans for the entire week.
  • Exercise.
    Exercise can take place at any time of the day; however, many experts suggest that the morning is the best time to take part in physical activities. Morning exercise is excellent for helping the body wake up, jump-starting metabolism, and burning stored fat.
  • Make your bed.
    Completing small tasks like making your bed each morning can help you feel accomplished and in control as you start your day. Though this may seem a trivial task to some people, making your bed can set the tone for a productive day. It also leaves your bedroom tidy and organized, which will help you feel more relaxed when you return to bed at the end of the day.
  • Create a getting out the door routine.
    Mornings can often feel hectic as you try to get out of the door. To help reduce morning stress, consider doing a bit of prep the evening before. Place essential items you will need for the day close by the door. For example, laptops, briefcases or backpacks, lunches, and water bottles, keys, purses or wallets, gym clothes, and shoes should be placed in the same place each evening, so they are ready to go in the morning.

Incorporating any of these small tasks into your morning routine can give you a jump start on your day and leave you feeling focused.

3. Exercise

As we mentioned above, exercise tends to be most effective in the morning. However, if you are unable to make exercise part of your morning routine, be sure to schedule a workout elsewhere in your day.

Just like sleep, exercise is critical to your health. Experts note that regular physical activity helps to prevent significant health issues such as stroke, metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, depression, anxiety, and some forms of cancer. If you don’t currently have a regular fitness routine, consider starting small with a 7-minute workout. Even this short routine can help make exercise a permanent part of your daily life.

4. Downtime

The term “downtime” means something different to everyone. What helps each person relax and let go of stress will be specific to their interests, lifestyle, and hobbies. However, making time for leisure activities within your day is vital for your mental clarity. Our list below includes some healthy things you may want to consider incorporating.

  • Spend time with family and friends.
  • Read.
  • Participate in your favorite hobby.
  • Laugh.
  • Enjoy a favorite beverage or meal.
  • Cook.
  • Go for a walk.
  • Journal

Above all, what you do in your downtime should make you happy and leave you feeling centered. Be sure to schedule in your downtime so that it always remains a priority.

5. Productivity

Most of us need to think that we have been productive at some point in the day. Whether you work a traditional 9 to 5 job, do freelance work, or own a business, you will need to schedule your work.

To keep your operating hours productive, consider decluttering your workspace, removing distractions, placing tasks in manageable “chunks,” and delegating or outsourcing projects if you find your workload unmanageable. It is essential to set a specific number of uninterrupted hours of productivity each day. A set schedule will ensure that your professional life does not interfere with your health or wellbeing. Work quickly from your phone while on the train, trax, or uber when you can.

6. Outdoor Time

Outdoor time is good for the brain and the body. Natural sunlight improves mood and focus. Studies show that going outdoors during that day:

  • Reduces stress.
  • Boosts the immune system.
  • Improves energy levels.
  • Helps reduce or dissipate depression.
  • Lifts anxiety.
  • Gives you your daily dose of vitamin D.

Scheduling even a small amount of outdoor time into each day can have significant effects on your overall health. To make coordinating outdoor time easier, consider eating your lunch at a nearby park, completing your exercise routine outside, going for a short walk in the morning or evening, or finding longer hikes you can achieve or complete on the weekends. Even if you live in a busy city, chances are you will be able to find nearby green spaces or hiking trails.

7. Gratitude

When we are in the midst of your busy lives, it can be challenging to stop and take a moment to be thankful. During your day, try to make time to express gratitude. You can do this first thing in the morning upon waking or just before bed.

Consider starting a gratitude journal, or letting those around you know that you appreciate them. Taking a small amount of time to be grateful for what you can help reduce stress and improve mental clarity.

Addition Scheduling Tips

It is important to remember that establishing healthy habits takes time. Remember to start small and gradually increase the number of tasks you schedule. For example, if you have begun incorporating a 7-minute exercise routine into your day, after a month of completing this task regularly, you may want to increase the intensity and duration of the workout. Always have a self-care routine. Self-care will be your secret weapon to physical and mental health, as well as higher productivity.

Additionally, it will be helpful to keep your momentum going. If you begin by establishing a set bedtime, try your best to maintain that habit. If you miss a day, don’t fret, aim to stay consistent afterward. Before long, these habits will become second nature.

7 Crucial Components You Must Schedule into Your Day was originally published on Calendar by Howie Jones.

The post 7 Crucial Components You Must Schedule into Your Day appeared first on KillerStartups.

5 Reasons You Want Your Employees to Fail 12 Feb 2020, 7:00 am

It was the resume read ’round the world.

In spring 2016, Princeton psychologist Johannes Haushofer published a new kind of professional history: a CV of Failures. With sections like “Academic Positions I Did Not Get” and “Awards and Fellowships I Did Not Get,” this publication laid out in unsparing detail his unsuccessful efforts.

He couldn’t resist drawing a lesson from the flurry of interest in this unusual document: “Most of what I try fails. But these failures are often invisible, while the successes are visible.” That leaves many with the impression that most of his undertakings work out. Nothing could be farther from the truth, he says.

Failure in the Workplace

If a researcher at one of the world’s most prestigious universities sees failure as part of the journey, why do we avoid it in the workplace? Why do we hide our unsuccessful efforts? And what would allowing employees to fail do for our organizational cultures? 

Far from destroying businesses, embracing failure could make them stronger. Here’s why letting your employees fail is essential to helping them succeed:

1. Failure is an unavoidable part of life.

Many workplaces operate with expectations that aren’t set up for the way life goes. They don’t make it easy for workers to struggle. Instead, employees duck blame, minimize their shortcomings, or despair about their capabilities. 

A more forgiving approach benefits everyone. Instead of avoiding failure, workplaces should anticipate it. Managers should help employees learn from mistakes. Employees need to grow when their results are disappointing. The company can adapt based on what went wrong — and focus on figuring out what might work next time. 

Failure is inevitable. It shouldn’t be taboo. It’s how you move forward that counts.

2. Failure fosters healthier work cultures.

A workplace that encourages failure as part of the learning curve allows employees to become their best selves. 

Beyond the personal benefits, embracing failure can change institutional cultures. Like individuals, organizations have to navigate ups and downs to attain success. “Failing well” can reshape the work environment, stimulating creativity, risk-taking, and growth. 

Need help establishing that culture? Consider getting transformative leadership speakers to discuss the place of failure in the workplace.   

3. Failure strengthens resilience.

What’s the best predictor of future success in business? Is it intelligence? Is it charisma? What about experience in the field? Degrees from the right schools? Internships at top firms?

None of the above. The answer, it turns out, is grit. As Angela Duckworth defines it, grit is equal parts passion and perseverance. Whether researchers are examining athletic performance or educational attainment, this single trait separates the best from the rest. 

Think of failure not as a catastrophe for your workers, but as an opportunity to develop grit. Like the athlete who learns from defeat, employees will grow from frustrated attempts if they’re taught to mine these experiences for resilience. 

4. Failure is essential to success.

Oprah Winfrey braved challenging circumstances and dangerous neighborhoods to become an icon. Richard Branson was diagnosed with severe learning disabilities, yet made a fortune as a media mogul. Michael Jordan was cut from his freshman basketball team, but secured his place in the basketball pantheon. Steve Jobs teetered on the edge of business failure and was ousted from Apple leadership. He later returned to guide the brand to unprecedented heights.

What’s important about these examples is the clear link between failure and success. Setbacks aren’t just incidental to achievement — they’re essential way stations on the road to triumph. 

Organizations should treat failures as opportunities to build up their rock-star employees, not as deficiencies.

5. Failure builds community.

Not only does embracing failure build a brand’s culture, but it also builds community. 

Employees who know failure is part of the job tend to support each other when things go wrong — not cast blame. All that energy expended in passing the buck can instead be dedicated to taking responsibility. As a group, they’ll learn from mistakes and move forward together. 

That attitude tends to binds teams together rather than break them apart. In fact, few things unite workers more than shared experiences of progressing through challenges, so long as there’s a framework for doing so.

Haushofer’s CV of Failures reminds us just how intimately failure is related to success. Making mistakes is unavoidable. But companies that make space for learning from these errors equip their employees — and their organizations — to scale new heights.

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What Are the Main Priorities in Your Business Life? 11 Feb 2020, 8:00 am

Regardless of whether you’re looking to climb your way up the corporate ladder or grow your business, we need to have priorities for our professional life. Without establishing your priorities, we won’t be as effective at our jobs or meet goals and deadlines. Priorities are also needed to protect resources like time and money. Essential to business and personal growth — are priorities.

But, you already knew that, right?

Even if you are aware of the importance of priorities, what are the main ones for you to focus on? Well, here are six main priorities that are required if you want to thrive in your business life.

Determining your “big three.”

Here’s an experiment. Write down all of the tasks that are tied to your professionally for the next month. I have no doubt that it’s quite the list. And, it probably contains several high priority items. But, in reality, this list could be drastically trimmed down.

I know what you’re thinking, “I can’t trim down my list; it isn’t possible because everything on my list is a top priority.”

“If you review your list carefully, item by item, you will find that only three items on your entire list account for 90% of your value to your business,” writes Brian Tracy. So, how can you determine your “big three”? “Make a list of ALL your work tasks and responsibilities, from the first day of the month to the last day, and throughout the year,” suggests Tracy. “Then answer these three magic questions.”

The first question would be, “If I could only do one thing on this list, all day long, which one activity would contribute the greatest value to my business?” Because it’s so important, it will probably stand out from the rest of the items on your list. If you’re uncertain, it should be the one thing that will have the most significant impact on your business or career.

The second would is, “If I could only do two things on this list, all day long, what would be the second activity that would make the greatest contribution to my business?” These items should also jump out at you. However, they may not seem as apparent at first.

The third question is, “If I could only do three things on this list, all day long, what would be the third activity that would contribute the most value to my business?” As a general rule of thumb, only focus on completing three tasks for the day. It’s unlikely you’ll be able to accomplish any more than that.

Enhancing your time management skills.

Time management should never be overlooked. Sure. It’s nice to have some downtime. But, managing your time is a surefire way to improve your business life.

The most obvious reason is that you’ll be able to achieve more in less time. Because you’re more productive, you’re ready to meet deadlines. You will also earn the reputation of someone who is never late and is reliable. I don’t know about you. But, that is someone that I would want to business with or retain if I were a business owner.

Additionally, time management can be beneficial to your health. Since you have the time to attend to your well-being and aren’t working excessive hours, you’re less stressed. You’re also able to find time to exercise, make healthy meals, meditate, or get enough sleep. And, because you aren’t behind on your work, you’re not as anxious.

To get you on the right path, here are the necessary time management skills that you should develop:

  • Work the hours that best suit you.
  • Keep a time log.
  • Focus only on what you do best.
  • Implement the “two-minute” rule.
  • Break your activities down into simple problems.
  • Don’t fall into the “urgency” trap.
  • Schedule “me” time.
  • Cluster similar tasks.
  • Identify and eliminate distractions.
  • Arm yourself with the right tools.

Feeling in-balance.

Work-life is often a perk that employees demand. Some studies have previously found that this was a top priority for demographics like millennials. But, it’s also top of mind for small business owners.

It’s easy to understand why. Even if you’re a workaholic and love what you do professionally, you also need time away from work.

The reasons vary from person-to-person. But, mainly when you don’t let work bleed into your personal life, you have a chance to rest and recharge. You can also spend time doing things that are truly important to you. As a result, when you return to work, you’ll be more focused and rejuvenated enough to persevere.

Of course, this is easier said than done. Thanks to technology, we’re expected to be on-call 24/7/365. Sometimes you need to be kept in the loop, especially when you have to address an emergency.

Some ways that this is possible is by maximizing your time at work, stop overcommitting, and not bringing work at home. You should also establish boundaries. For example, if you’re spending time with friends or family on a Saturday night, then don’t respond to any work-related correspondence.

Innovating, learning, and growing.

If you want to advance your career and stay ahead of your competitors, then innovating, learning, and growing must be the main priority for you professionally.

For example, you should always be brainstorming ways to improve a product, service, or process. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel here. But, you should be on the lookout for ways to update or upgrade these areas. It may make you more efficient and stand out from the pack.

What’s more, you should seek out opportunities to learn and grow both professionally and personally. As an example, if you were to enhance your skillset, you would be more proficient at your job. Not only will this make you more valuable, but it will also help you work smarter and not harder.

You should also stay up-to-date on the latest trends, technologies, and external factors that may influence you professionally. Again, besides making you more useful, this will also help you adept.

And you should also find ways to grow. For instance, you may want to improve your communication skills by taking a public speaking class. You can use this new talent to make your meetings more effective. You could also apply to seek out speaking engagements to help you become an authority figure.

Getting to know the people in your neighborhood.

You don’t have to get to know everyone in your neighborhood — unless you want to. But, when you’re surrounded by kids, sometimes you have to do things like watch the 50th anniversary special of Sesame Street. I’m not complaining. But, I do have this song stuck in my head now.

Anyway, your neighborhood, when it comes to your business life, would be your business partner, employees, customers, or investors. The reason? Well, it will help foster a more positive and collaborative work environment. You’ll also be able to ease the pain points of your customers. And, if you need funding, you’ll know which investors to connect with.

Growing your network.

Whether if you do this online or in-person, growing your network is a priority that I feel many of us neglect. After all, networking is another way to improve your skillset or stay abreast of the latest trends. It can also help you find mentors, partners, or clients.

If you’re job searching, networking is a great way to mingle with potential employers or get hooked up with a referral. And, if you are self-employed, networking can be used to build your brand.

Do a little digging and find local meetups or conferences that you should attend for the upcoming year. And block out specific times in your calendar to schedule a phone with an industry expert or interact with your audience on social media.

 

What Are the Main Priorities in Your Business Life? was originally published on Calendar by John Hall.

The post What Are the Main Priorities in Your Business Life? appeared first on KillerStartups.

Is Your Start-Up Right for Venture Funding? 6 Feb 2020, 2:35 pm

Not all startups are designed for venture capital. There are several criteria that VC’s look for when deciding whether to deploy capital or not. There is a reason for that. Some companies are just not capable of utilizing such a massive influx of cash. Startups need to have the ability to scale quickly and take over the market. These startups are also expected to pull this off within 3 to 5 years. As much as I would like to say that everybody can use this growth accelerator to achieve domination, I, unfortunately, cannot. Here are some guidelines to determine whether venture funding is right for you.

  1. Scalability 

Is your startup scalable? What does this mean? It means that your company can grow without collapsing on itself. If your startup is not scalable, then perhaps you will run out of resources when demand increases. For example, take the Impossible Burger. The Impossible Burger captured a deal with Burger King, and almost McDonald’s, but they collapsed under their own success. They did not have the infrastructure in place to keep up with demand.

  1. Market Takeover 

Can your startup take over your target market? Does it have the ability to crush the competition? Facebook is a perfect example of a startup taking over a market. Not only did they do that during their rapid growth, but they maintain this market dominance and growth by purchasing potential competitors.

Another example is Google. Google was not the first search engine to come onto the scene. Instead, they had a better search algorithm, which gave them the ability to capture the market. They did this in the face of Yahoo! and other search engines. Just like Facebook, they also continue to buy potential competitors to snuff out threats.

  1. Market Size

Your target market needs to be large enough. A one-billion-dollar market may seem significant, but it is not. A very rough rule of thumb is to assume that you will be able to acquire 1% of the market. If you did obtain 1% of the market, that means your company’s revenue is ten million. By using a revenue multiple of say, 3x, your startup’s valuation is now 30 million. Although good, it is not what a VC is looking for.

  1. Is there a need?

Your market may be enormous, and the potential upside gigantic, but is there a need? Innovation needs to be continuous within every industry. This is how society improves! Does your startup accomplish this? You may be able to find a niche market that can produce enough income to make you comfortable, but that is where it stops. Companies like this are not fit for venture funding. Why? To be blunt, it is because your startup will not disrupt the market.

It is a natural desire to want capital to scale your business to unimaginable heights. Every company has this opportunity, but each path is different. Sadly, some doors are open to one and shut to others.

Bio:

Scott Hogan is an analyst at VU Venture Partners based in San Francisco, CA. He studied at the University of California, Davis, majoring in Managerial Economics. Scott previously operated a manufacturing company at the age of 20 while also working on his various startups. In his free time, you can find him playing with his two daughters, writing, or cooking a delicious meal.

Linkedin: www.linkedin.com/in/scott-hogan-81313897

Website: https://www.thevcunicorn.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheVCUnicorn/

Article written by Scott Hogan

The post Is Your Start-Up Right for Venture Funding? appeared first on KillerStartups.

Why Your Work Pedigree Doesn’t Matter to VC’s 6 Feb 2020, 2:34 pm

Does your work pedigree matter to a venture capitalist? Simply put, it does to some, and it does not to others. Your work history is undoubtedly a factor to be considered. Still, if you are relying on your work history to carry you across the finish line with a venture capitalist, you will be disappointed.

Here are three reasons as to why your work pedigree doesn’t matter.

  1. Your being hired by a prestigious company could be the result of their appropriately assessing your incredible skills and work ethic, which would be a positive indicator for a venture capitalist to consider. On the other hand, your being hired by that prestigious company could have just as easily been a massive mistake by their Human Resources Dept. As a venture capitalist, are you going to let an HR representative decide with who you invest?
  2. You worked at a prestigious company but didn’t make a meaningful difference.

All too often, people flaunt the fact that they worked at Google, Uber, Microsoft, and so on. There is a reason you left or are leaving your previous employment.  Were you fired?  Were you pushed out?  Did you not see opportunities for growth due to your limitations? You can tell me why you left, but I don’t know you well enough to know whether or not you are entirely truthful.

  1. You like to tell people you were a CEO, or maybe you want to say to people that you were an “advisor” to startups. Those “titles” won’t impress any venture capitalists. Why? Because you probably created the startup and made yourself the CEO, or perhaps you “advised” a friend with his/her startup. There are exceptions; for example, if the CEO of Google, Sundar Pichai, walked in, people would pay attention. Other than that, it doesn’t mean anything. I can’t tell you how many people have walked through our doors and claimed to have accomplished exemplary things because of their title. They believe if they have an impressive title, we will bow down to them. This, of course, is not true. Think about how many “entrepreneurs,” “advisors,” and “CEOs” you see on Instagram, Facebook, or any social media platform. They are a dime in a dozen.

Entrepreneurs who do not fit the typical mold of having an impressive work pedigree need not be discouraged when in search of funding. The VC’s you will partner with will be doing their best to look past your pedigree and figure out who you are.  Bottom line – It comes down to your idea. Does it make sense? What is important is not where you worked, but how you will work.

Bio:

Scott Hogan is an analyst at VU Venture Partners based in San Francisco, CA. He studied at the University of California, Davis, majoring in Managerial Economics. Scott previously operated a manufacturing company at the age of 20 while also working on his various startups. In his free time, you can find him playing with his two daughters, writing, or cooking a delicious meal.

Linkedin: www.linkedin.com/in/scott-hogan-81313897

Website: https://www.thevcunicorn.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheVCUnicorn/

Article written by Scott Hogan

The post Why Your Work Pedigree Doesn’t Matter to VC’s appeared first on KillerStartups.

Time Blocking 101: Step-by-Step Guide to Mastering Your Daily Schedule 6 Feb 2020, 8:00 am

Let’s get down to brass tacks. You’re here because you’re on a journey to find a way to manage your time better while boosting your productivity. While there hundreds, if not thousands, of options to achieve this goal, one surefire technique is time-blocking.

If you’re not familiar with time-blocking, then you’ve come to the right place. In the following article, I’ll describe what time-blocking is, why it rocks, and guide on how to implement it into your daily schedule.

What is time blocking, and why is it effective?

“Time blocking is simply a time management technique where you set aside a specific amount of time for a particular task,” explains Calendar’s Howie Jones. “For example, instead of checking your phone every time you receive an email or social notification, you would do this at clearly defined times.” However, how you decide to block out your day is at your discretion.

For Jones, he sets aside a block to check his inbox and social media before diving into his work in the morning. “There’s another block after lunch,” he adds. “And, the final one is later in the afternoon before calling work a day.”

Others, such as Bill Gates and Elon Musk, are fans of micro scheduling where their entire day consists of five-minute blocks. But, a more common practice would be to reserve an amount of time, like around an hour, to complete an important task or attend a meeting. A short break follows it, usually no more than 20-minutes, before getting back to the grind.

That’s all well and good. But why is time-blocking so effective?

For starters, while useful at times, to-do-lists are inferior. Mainly this is because they don’t account for time. You may have ten items you want to accomplish today. But, if the first two take longer than expected, you’re never going to complete the rest. Because of this, we tend to tackle those more manageable and less critical tasks first, meaning those delicious frogs just sit there getting cold.

Moreover, time-blocking discourages you to multitask. “By scheduling chunks of time for a specific task or problem, you’re promoting deep focused work,” explains Jones. “It also helps you focus less on ‘shallow work,’ which is urgent, but not essential activities.”

Time blocking also fights backs against perfectionism and procrastination since there’s a time limit attached to your daily responsibilities. It also makes it easier for you to reject requests for your time. And, it helps you reflect on your priorities by giving you a document of what you did and did not accomplish in a specific timeframe.

Are you ready to harness the power of time-blocking? If so, here’s a simple step-by-step guide to help you finally take control of your daily schedule.

Step 1: Untangle your mind.

Before you start adding blocks of time to your calendar, you first need to determine how you’re going to fill them.

It would be like building a shelf from scratch — if you possessed such a talent. You need to do a lot of planning upfront. If not, you may have a shelf that serves no purpose because the dimensions are all wrong. But, if you knew that you wanted this shelf to hold your vinyl collection, then you would first lookup plans. Now you would purchase the right materials to meet your storage needs.

Like most of us, though, there are probably a million things you have to do swirling around in your head. So, get them out of there by doing a brain dump.

It’s a simple activity where you literally write down everything that you must do. You can use a pen and paper, an app like Evernote, or your phone’s note app. Start by listing your commitments like attending a meeting or handing in an assignment by a specific date. Other items to include here would be things like your morning ritual, daily commute, or anything pertaining to your goals.

You’ll also want to include things that you would like to do but haven’t yet committed to them. And, also throw in anything that you wouldn’t mind doing down the road.

You don’t have to do this daily. But it’s something that you should frequently. Personally, I think that this should be a weekly activity, like Friday afternoon or Sunday evening.

Step 2: Identify your priorities.

With your list in tow, it’s time to prioritize it.

Thankfully, if you broke your list down into must, want, and perhaps, you’re halfway there. But, you still need to analyze it so that you can identify the items that must get done this week. Anything else can either be scheduled for a later date, delegate to someone else, or erased from your list.

If you’re stuck because everything seems essential, here are a couple of strategies to prioritize your list:

  • Determine your MITs. These are no more than three things that absolutely have to get done today.
  • Use a priority matrix. Here, you would place everything on your list into the following quadrants: urgent and vital; necessary, but not urgent; critical, but not important; and neither urgent nor important.
  • Determine the value of your tasks with the ABCDE method. Just assign “A” to your most important task, “B” for important, “C” for perhaps, “D” equals delegate, and “E” is for eliminating.
  • The Pareto Principle. Focus on the handful of activities that deliver the most results.
  • Warren Buffett’s 2-list strategy. Jot down the 25 things you want to accomplish this week. Next, circle your top five and forget the rest.

Step 3: Prepare a daily blueprint.

Now that you’ve got your priorities figured out for the week let’s figure out where to place them in your calendar.

Your first option would be to work through your tasks in chronological order. Let’s say that you have then items that need to get down by Friday. Your first two tasks would be scheduled for Monday. Tasks three and four would be scheduled for Tuesday and so forth.

I like this. It’s pretty straightforward and not overwhelming. When I wake up on Monday, I know which fish to fry — as I do for the rest of the days of the week.

Of course, there are some considerations here. First, you need to estimate how long each of these tasks will take you. If each one eats up five hours, I doubt that you’ll complete both of them on the same day. It’s not that you can’t work a ten-hour day. But, that’s not feasible when you take into account breaks and distractions. In this case, you’re looking at more of a 12 plus hour day.

Another factor would be before commitments like conference calls, meetings, appointments, or hard deadlines. It’s going to be a challenge to tackle two large tasks when you’ve got two meetings already in your calendar.

And don’t forget to work around your energy levels. We all have different times when we’re most productive based on our own ultradian rhythms. Track your own so that you know when you’re most productive. As a general rule of thumb, we’re usually most alert and energetic a couple of hours after waking. Also, as the week goes on, energy levels begin to decrease.

With this in mind, you would want to schedule your most challenging tasks in the morning. You would then use the afternoon for less draining activities like meetings. Also, try to front-load your week so that you aren’t working on a high-objective item on Friday.

Step 4: Blockout your entire day.

Let’s take a breather here. I mean, I just threw a lot of information at you. But, we’re pretty much at the point you’ve all been waiting for — time blocking every day of your schedule.

Since you’ve already identified your priorities and came-up with a blueprint for your week, this shouldn’t be all that difficult. It probably goes something like this:

That’s an elementary daily schedule. But, I think you get the point. Your time has been accounted for the entire day. You’ve also blocked out time for your most important work and shallow tasks like email.

You’ve also dedicated chunks of time to your morning routine, daily commute, breaks, and family time. There’s even an unscheduled block of time just in case you didn’t complete your work in the morning, take care of back burner tasks, or you have to take care of an unexpected occurrence.

Step 5: Transition from block-to-block.

If you want to perfect the art of time blocking, then you must have buffers in-between each chunk of time. It’s unrealistic to believe that you’re going to jump immediately from one task to another. Your brain needs time to decompress and recharge.

What’s more, you need these transitional periods for things like traveling to a meeting. Let’s say that you have to go across town at 2 p.m. to meet with investors. You may have a meeting blocked out. But, if it takes you 20-minutes to get there, you should also block out from 1:30 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. It’s just a simple way to prevent you from accidentally scheduling something else that may cause you to run late to the meeting.

Step 6: Turn off and tune out.

Another way for time blocking to be useful is to eradicate those pesky distractions. Alright, eradicate might be a bit harsh. But, you get the idea. Distractions interrupt you from getting things done.

The main culprit? Your smartphone. Thankfully, you can block apps at certain times by setting limits on your phone or using tools like Freedom or FocusMe. You can also put your phone on the ‘Do Not Disturb’ mode. And, if that doesn’t work, you can always keep your phone in another room.

Besides your smartphone, you may also get distracted by co-workers or your family if you work at home. Sometimes this is unavoidable. But, you could close your office door when you need to focus on work. If they don’t get the hint, place a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on your door or share your calendar with them so that they can when you’re free to chat.

I suggest that you keep a distraction log. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Just make a note of what interrupted you and when. For example, if a noisy trash truck causes you to lose focus every Wednesday morning, put on a pair of noise-canceling headphones around this time.

Step: 7: Revise as necessary.

Finally, revise as needed.

To do this, review your calendar from the past week. How productive were you? What didn’t go as planned? For the upcoming week, move some blocks around to see if those changes were beneficial or not.

It would also be wise to use a tool like Calendar that can analyze how you’re spending your time thanks to the magic of machine learning. It can then make smart suggestions. For instance, it can keep tabs on your meetings and then recommend when they should take place, along with whom to invite.

Time Blocking 101: Step-by-Step Guide to Mastering Your Daily Schedule was originally published on Calendar by John Rampton.

The post Time Blocking 101: Step-by-Step Guide to Mastering Your Daily Schedule appeared first on KillerStartups.

Productively Managing an Executive’s Calendar 4 Feb 2020, 8:00 am

Whether you’re an intern, assistant, or helping out a friend or family, you may be asked to help manage someone else’s calendar. That responsibility should never be taken lightly. They need their day to run as smoothly as possible to protect their business, reputation, and well-being. Here’s how to productively manage an executive’s calendar.

But, what if you’re new to calendar management? Well, here’s how you can effectively achieve that. And, as a perk, you can take this experience and apply it to your own life. Who knows? It may even help transform you into an effective leader yourself someday.

And, if you’re an executive who still manages their own calendar, then these tips will also apply to you.

Get to know your executive.

Imagine that it’s finally time for you to host your friends and family for a holiday feast or reunion. In all of your excitement, you probably didn’t take into consideration the dietary needs and preferences of your guests. Maybe someone is a vegan, while another suffers from celiac disease.

Did you also think about the distance that everyone has to travel to? If someone had to drive two hours to get to your house, having dinner at 8 p.m. may be too late for them if they weren’t staying over.

The point is, it takes a lot of planning to throw together a successful event. And, the same is true when it comes to an executive calendar.

You may be tempted to start filling their calendar however you like. But, remember, it’s your executive’s valuable time. That means you need to respect how they wish to spend it.

Spend some time shadowing them so that you know what their daily routine is like. Ask your boss when they prefer to have meetings or eat lunch. How do they prioritize their lists? When are they at peak productivity? How does your exec make time for their own well-being?

You could also review their past calendar to see how they spent their time.

Besides their individual inclinations, the rules of time management are undoubtedly different for employees and executives. But, you won’t know that if you don’t get actually to know your executive.

Think strategically.

There’s a misconception that when managing an executive calendar that you’re merely taking orders. They ask you to add a lunch date or schedule a team meeting, and that’s it. The thing is, to effectively manage an executive calendar, it’s the opposite.

You need to think broader and more strategically. Before filling up your boss’s calendar, you need to consider the bigger picture. Do the task event have a purpose. Does it align with their goals? What is the time commitment attached to the time request?

What’s more, you also have to realize that just because a slot is open doesn’t mean it’s available. For example, let’s say that there’s a blank block from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. Because there isn’t anything scheduled, you book a conference call. But you didn’t notice that your boss has a meeting at 3 p.m. that’s on the other side of town. They wanted to leave that block open so that they could prepare and travel for that meeting.

Before adding something to their calendar, make sure that it’s not interfering with anything else on their calendar. You should also take into account travel time, jet lag, breaks, and work-life balance. For instance, avoid scheduling an urgent meeting on the day after they arrive home from an international trip or when it interrupts with their downtime.

Use a shared calendar.

There’s really no excuse for not having a shared calendar. A shared calendar should be readily accessible and come packed with benefits like keeping everyone in the loop. Besides, if your organization uses Office 365 or G Suite, then you already have a shared calendar at your fingertips.

Whenever someone asks what the executive’s availability is, send their calendar via email. Better yet, embed their calendar somewhere like the company’s website. It just avoids those lengthy back-and-forth communications when scheduling.

It’s essential to keep in mind, though, that you don’t want to share too much information. There’s no need for anyone else to know what your executive’s life is like outside of work. You should also customize the calendar by using the executive’s preferred view. You can also use color-coding or different fonts so that they can quickly identify calendar entries.

And, integrate the calendar with tools like Calendar. It works with Google, Outlook, and Apple calendars. But, it also used machine learning to make smart suggestions on how to schedule your executive’s time.

Run a better medical practice appointment schedule.

You don’t have to be involved with a medical practice to run your schedule like one. After all, medical practices must maximize their schedules to keep patients satisfied and keep the office running smoothly.

So, how can this be achieved? Well, here are some tips that accomplish this goal:

  • Always start on time. If meeting beings at 1 p.m., then that’s precisely when it should start. To prevent a late start, suggest that everyone arrives ten minutes early. Even better, the meeting invite could have a start time of 12:50.
  • Plan appropriately. A doctor’s office typically sees a bump during specific times of the year, as flu season. Knowing this, they make sure that they have enough help and resources to handle the increase in patients. For you, review past calendars to see when your executive is most in-demand so that you don’t fill their calendar with less essential objectives.
  • Forge a timeline. Medical practices know in-advance how many patients they can see per day. For you, be real on how much you and your executive can accomplish realistically every day — including how many meetings can be scheduled.
  • Group similar patients. It’s more useful for medical professionals to see patients with similar conditions or histories at the same time. Mainly because it keeps your boss in the right mindset. Also, it prevents them from continually putting away and getting right the same equipment. We call this batching. It’s pretty much the same concept where you group similar activities together.
  • Schedules should reflect the patient mix. “If you have 70% Fee for Service (FFS) patients and only 30% are insurance-based, then your schedule should reflect that,” explain the team over at liveClinic. “Block out only 30% of your daily schedule for capitated patients and leave the rest for open Fee-For-Service patients.” How does this apply to you? It’s similar to the Pareto Principle, where 80% of your executive’s outcome is produced by 20% input.
  • Create organized triage. Medical professionals also have to handle emergencies. In other words, they will only see a patient at the last minute, depending on the “the symptom, appointment urgency, and appointment length.” On your end, learn how to prioritize so that your boss doesn’t fall into the urgency trap.
  • Be open all day. Of course, this isn’t possible. Even though leaders are always “on,” they need downtime to recharge and rest. To protect this time, without completely neglecting their responsibilities, use automated tools that could take care of customer service inquiries. You could also create an out-of-office message informing the other party when to expect a response or what steps to decide if it’s an absolute emergency.

Update their calendar in real-time.

An employee asks if they can schedule a one-on-one. You look at the calendar and see that the executive is free next Wednesday at 3 p.m. Both of you agree on that date and time. Unfortunately, you get sidetracked and don’t add this to their calendar. In the meantime, someone else requests this same date and time. It’s free, so you go ahead and book that event. That’s definitely disrespectful to the employee.

The sooner you had a calendar entry, the better. It’s a surefire way to prevent conflicts.

Also, if an event has to be canceled or rescheduled, make a note of that in the calendar and notify the other people it impacts.

Bonus tip: Even if something hasn’t been set in stone, maybe the other party has to double-check their availability, add it to the calendar anyway.

Foresee the future.

Obviously, you don’t possess this power. But, there are simple ways to make it appear as if you do.

Stay on top of traffic and weather reports. I would just set up Google Alerts so that this doesn’t slip your mind. The reason you want to do this is that both can impact travel.

But, there’s more to this then being weather or traffic reporter. You also need to be their timekeeper. Do they have a conference call in fifteen minutes? Either shoot them an instant message or set up a calendar reminder to give them a head’s up. If they’re in a meeting, provide them with a signal when they have five minutes to bring the meeting to an end.

You could even do small things like having lunch ideas prepared. And, know which calendar entries can be pushed back or rescheduled. Knowing and understanding the motivations of your exec can be tricky when everything is a priority. But, date-specific entries or essential and urgent tasks usually take place before anything else.

One final word of advice here. Allow for some flexibility in your exec’s calendar. That means not overbooking the boss’s schedule where every minute of their day has been scheduled. Instead, leave some blank spaces so that they can attend to an emergency or have some free time to spend with their employees.

Review. Then review again.

Be proactive by reviewing their calendar frequently. Ideally, you should double-check your exec’s calendar every evening (right when you check your own calendar — or at least first thing in the morning. That may sound like overkill. But, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. For instance, let’s say you notice that a meeting invitee had to cancel at the last minute. You need to let your executive know the information as quickly as possible so that they’re not still planning their day around this event.

I’d also suggest that you review their calendar for the next two weeks. It allows you to address any possible conflicts and make sure that everything is still on track.

And, most importantly, make sure that their calendar has been successfully synced across all of their devices.

Find a system that works for both of you.

Finally, find a system that works for both of you. Even though you might do everything digitally, the other person may not be as tech-savvy. As such, you may want to print out their calendars for them so that they can still access their schedules offline.

While this takes some trial and error? Certainly. But, once you get into a groove, it will make managing an executive calendar much easier.

Productively Managing an Executive’s Calendar was originally published on Calendar by Abby Miller.

The post Productively Managing an Executive’s Calendar appeared first on KillerStartups.

10 Strategies for Turning Your Employees into Leaders 30 Jan 2020, 8:00 am

Over the last several years, numerous reports have been published proclaiming that there is a leadership shortage. If true, this should be a concerning issue. More than ever, businesses are facing increased competition and disruption. No wonder so many studies, like this one from Deloitte and LinkedIn, have found that developing leadership is a top priority.

The thing is, successful companies don’t go out and recruit people to fill these gaps. The best businesses grow their own leaders. A business can turn its employees into leaders by using the following ten strategies.

1. Make a smart investment.

When interviewing candidates, imagine them being a part of your organization years down the road. Don’t just think of them for what you are hiring them for, think of them as a leader and view them as such. Do they have that potential?

Sure. You can’t predict the future. But, what’s the point in investing in an employee if you’ve trained them up for a competitor? Or, what if they have the talent — but aren’t a good fit for your company culture? You’re going to not only have to let them go, but you’ll also have to go through the hiring process all again.

When hiring potential employees, make sure that they possess the skills that you need both now and in the future. The new employee needs to gel with your company’s culture and be excited about your products and services. You should check their references to see if they are trustworthy and have integrity.

When you find the ideal candidate — do all that you can to retain them. Paying them a competitive salary and offering perks that they care about are prominent places to start.

2. Know who they are.

Another way to hold on to your top talent and potential leaders is to get to know them better. Discover their strengths and weaknesses. Find out what motivates and interests them inside and outside of work. Stay connected with them and ask how they’re doing.

Knowing your team on a deeper level creates a more positive work environment. It also shows that you genuinely care about your employees. You can also use this knowledge to begin shaping and inspiring them to become a leader. For example, if they lack communication skills — then you could show them the basics of nonverbal communication and recommend that they take a public-speaking class.

Not sure how to do this? Well, you could have informal chats with your team during breaks. Invite them to lunch or schedule a one-on-one walking meeting. Ask for their feedback through surveys. And, you could also have monthly team-building activities where you get to understand who they indeed are. You may even get to see their hidden talents in-action.

3. Help them drop bad habits.

“Habits play an important role in our health,” says Dr. Nora Volkow, director of NIH’s National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Understanding the biology of how we develop routines that may be harmful to us, and how to break those routines and embrace new ones, could help us change our lifestyles and adopt healthier behaviors.”

At work, you could steer them towards more healthy routines. For example, you could suggest that they implement a morning routine where they exercise and eat a healthy breakfast, instead of sleeping in and grabbing a doughnut. Another idea would be letting them know the importance of work-life balance by not sending them emails when they’re not working.

Additionally, you could show your employees how to change their routines to be more productive. For instance, as opposed to checking your phone every time you receive a notification, block out specific times for this action. Encourage them to work on their most important tasks when they have the most energy.

And, you could also help them break those bad habits that are holding them back from work. Examples would include never taking breaks, always being late, making excuses, and preferring only to work alone. You wouldn’t want to see these habits in an employee, let alone a leader who is supposed to be setting an example.

4. Teach and encourage them to network.

“Networking is not only fun but essential to individual growth and business development,” writes Andre Lavoie in a previous Entrepreneur article. “Start small by encouraging networking within the workplace during lunch hours or at after-work events.” When they feel more comfortable, have them go outside of your organization by attending industry events.

“Networking will teach them how to forge powerful connections, initiate conversations with strangers, and act with the confidence of a leader.” The power of networking can open the door to new business opportunities and gives your team the chance to exchange ideas. And, “networking can help turn good employees into great leaders by raising their reputation within the industry,” adds Lavoie.

5. Provide plenty of opportunities for them to learn.

The only way that your employees are going to develop both the hard and soft skills to become a leader is through proper training. You can’t go wrong with tried and true techniques like formal education and training. You could also pay for them to attend workshops and industry events. Another idea would be to suggest consuming content like books, blogs, podcasts, or videos that could help them improve upon their weaknesses.

Personally, I learn best by doing. So, delegate some of your responsibilities to them. You could also let them take over an upcoming meeting. You’ll want to be there to guide your employees as they navigate new skills — but allow them to fail a bit. After all, failure is often the best teacher.

6. Find time to mentor.

As a leader, being a mentor within your organization is a must. Besides being beneficial and rewarding on your end — it’s one of the best ways to boost the careers of your employees. Mainly mentoring provides opportunities for you to pass on your knowledge bass to potential leaders.

As a mentor — you’ll help mentees set and achieve short-and-long-term goals. You’ll also be there to help them work through any difficulties. And, because you’re their biggest fan, cheerleader, and advocate — you can motivate and reassure them when they stumble.

If you don’t believe that you have the availability or know-how to be a mentor — that’s not a problem. Refer this individual to someone who you think can guide them — don’t just toss them out.

7. Encourage decisiveness and accountability.

If you are continually micromanaging and criticizing your leader-in-training, they will fall.

“One important trait of being a leader is the ability to make decisions and to be accountable for your actions,” writes Lolly Daskal. “When you give your employees autonomy and authority, you’re telling them you trust them.” As a result, they’ll “step up and surprise you with how much they can do if they know you are counting on them.”

8. Help navigate organizational politics and culture.

“Although ‘politics’ is often viewed as a dirty word, it’s the way things get done in organizations,” writes Dan McCarthy for Balance Careers. “Your staff needs to know this and learn to navigate the office culture.”

How can you achieve this? McCarthy suggests job shadowing and role-playing as “ways to educate employees about the ins and outs of being politically savvy.”

I’d also add that you must get everyone on the same page regarding company policies and standards. And make sure to cultivate a positive work environment where respect and transparency are the norms.

9. Keep them well.

When your employees aren’t at 100%, either physically or mentally, their productivity and overall well-being suffer. So, if they’re sick, tired, and burned out in their current position — you can’t expect them to thrive in their work now nor the future leadership role. It takes a long time to rehire — consider keeping your employees well, both mentally and physically.

You can encourage your employees to prioritize their health by launching an employee wellness program. You could also promote preventive care, provide healthy snacks, and encourage them to be more physically active. Other options would be to show them how to manage their stress correctly and where to seek help when needed.

Most importantly, I would suggest that you be open about your own health struggles, especially when it comes to mental health since this will remove any stigmas. There has been a lot of research showing that people want their employers to discuss mental health, especially if you have Millennial and Gen Z employees.

10. Teach them practical time management skills.

If your employees are struggling with time management now — then how will they fare once in a leadership position? From my experience, not very well. You can help your team solve their time management problems by setting clear expectations and timelines.

Train your employees well in time management right in the beginning and recommend they conduct a time audits continually. Suggest that they protect their maker time. I’d also share with them a variety of time management techniques that have worked for you. Examples would be prioritizing goals, eating the frog, the 80/20 rule, block scheduling, and saying “no.”

 

10 Strategies for Turning Your Employees into Leaders was originally published on Calendar by John Rampton.

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3 Signs a Startup Has What It Takes 29 Jan 2020, 7:00 am

When evaluating a startup’s viability, there are standard boxes to check: indication of a strong market opportunity, a team with a strong work ethic, interested customers, a market differentiator. But what about that “X factor” you can’t quite put your finger on — the indescribable “thing” that subtly conveys a company will succeed?

Sometimes, the X factor is obvious — a sense of confidence or an air of success. But other times, you have to look for it. 

The Boxes You Absolutely Have to Check

Of course, investors want to make sure that any startup they fund checks the obvious boxes. Its financials need to be in place and solid. It must have strong profitability projections. Its team members need to have the know-how and leadership capabilities to execute on what they say they’ll do. Commercial traction is another biggie: You need confidence not only in the market opportunity, but also in customers’ likelihood of buying the product. 

But when determining which startups to fund, there are other factors to consider — all of which contribute to that enviable standout factor.

1. Startups need to stand out in their industry.

With potentially millions of dollars on the line, it’s important that investors take the time to do their due diligence and educate themselves on the industry. That way, they can instantly spot a diamond in the rough. Dan Conner, partner at Ascend Venture Capital, reviews 300 companies every month and takes a thorough approach. “Ninety-five percent [of companies] are eliminated immediately, because they are too similar to the things I’ve seen before,” Conner notes. “The remaining 5% take a long time to review, because I’m thinking long and hard about whether or not they are a unique play or if they can win in this industry.”

The upside for founders? Investors who’ve done their research are more capable of helping you distinguish your brand — or avoid obstacles that have tripped others up.

Investors need to make sure they have enough context to determine how a startup’s solution fits into the industry at large. They need to be able to confidently determine whether the valuation is in line with the industry and region. More importantly, investors should get to the crux of a company’s mission — its “why” — so they can understand what the draw will be for customers. A thorough understanding of the strategic vision will also strengthen their relationship with the founder(s). That’s crucial if the need for a pivot should arise. 

2. Leaders should reach out regularly (beyond requests for a check).

Members of a startup should meet with investors long before broaching the subject of money. Ideally, company leaders should interact with investors months ahead of the actual start of their fundraising to build a personal relationship. Startups might also stay in touch by sending out monthly company newsletters or investor- and potential investor-specific updates.

For investors considering investing a big chunk of change in a business, their relationship with the leadership team is arguably just as important as the numbers of the deal. In the end, these interactions and relationships can make or break the partnership; it’s vital for investors to know early that the founders are interested in doing their part to cultivate a strong bond. If founders’ eyes are only on investors’ pocketbooks, the partnership is doomed from the start.

3. Leaders actually have skin in the game, which beats passion any day. 

Oftentimes, investors are sold on how “passionate” founders are about their company. Passion is an admirable quality, but passion alone only gets a startup so far. Investors should look for entrepreneurs willing to invest at least some of their own money. When the going gets tough, no amount of passion will keep a founder working 13-hour days. Skin in the game goes much further in trying times.

Twenty years ago, a man approached lending professional David Bradshaw about opening a kiwi farm in Georgia. He claimed to have it all figured out. When it was winter in New Zealand, it was summer in Georgia, so he’d corner the kiwi market. He’d already identified land and equipment to purchase, as well as wholesalers to (potentially) buy his fruit. He projected he could sell kiwis for 50 cents each — but he needed 100% financing of the startup cost. Bradshaw opted not to invest, telling the aspiring kiwifruit magnate, “What you have is an idea, not a business.” 

When evaluating a startup for potential funding, the numbers are certainly important. But what really will make or break a startup is its ability to stand out in its market — and whether its founding team is committed to building a relationship with investors. By keeping an eye out for those subtleties, investors will have a better sense of whether a startup is worth their investment.

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12 Mental Health Hacks for Entrepreneurs 28 Jan 2020, 8:00 am

There’s a mental health crisis among entrepreneurs. And, that shouldn’t be all that surprising. Being an entrepreneur is stressful, full of uncertainty, unhealthy comparisons, and social isolation. It’s gotten so bad that research conducted by Michael A. Freeman has found that start-up founders are:

  • Twice as likely to suffer from depression.
  • Six times more likely to suffer from ADHD.
  • Three times more likely to suffer from substance abuse.
  • Ten times more likely to suffer from bipolar disorder.
  • Twice as likely to have a psychiatric hospitalization.
  • Twice as likely to have suicidal thoughts.

These are concerning stats for all businesses. It’s time that we begin to remove the stigma around mental health so that we can address the struggles that entrepreneurs are facing. But, until we reach that point, here are twelve ways that founders can begin improving their mental health.

1. Boost your resilience or walk away.

The level of stress and the weight of uncertainty and anxiety are nearly unbearable to many entrepreneurs and founders. It’s always the company’s responsibility to hire talented individuals who fit within the company culture. It’s challenging to work with all levels in your company, but you’ll have to let an employee go if they don’t work out — this is a business fact. The fact is also a deep stressor. A CEO and founder has to stay on top of market shifts. You have to identify the trends in your space — and keep track of what the competitors are up to.

Not enough? There are also late nights, putting out fires, traveling, and constantly worrying about failure. Each entrepreneur has to walk a different path. Today, that path has to include taking care of mental health. An entrepreneur has to look inside and see that not everyone is cut out for being a founder. Not everyone can live through the pressure or face what the stress and tension begin to make out of you.

You’ve got to know that it’s okay to walk away if you need to walk away. Allow yourself that thought, and you’ll handle the “now” better. Watch for ways to boost your resilience and reduce pressure.

2. Remember your “why.”

Whenever you feel overwhelmed or don’t want to get out of bed, stop what you’re doing, take a deep breath, and remember your “why.” Obviously, this is different for everyone. But, usually, it’s by answering a simple question, “Why did you get out of bed this morning?” You can also ask, “Why does your company exist,” and “Why should anyone care?” when you’re really in a bad place.

When you remember you “why,” it injects passion back into your life. It also pushes you to be your best and put things in perspective. And, it helps you keep your eyes on the prize whenever there’s a setback.

3. Limit social media use.

Don’t think that I’m hating on social media. It’s actually a great way to network, engage with your audience, and market ourselves and companies. But, it can also be distracting and can negatively affect your mental health. You likely can’t go completely off the grid, but there is a compromise here. And, that’s to limit the amount of time you spend on social media.

Personally, I check all of my notifications right before work, after I’ve eaten lunch, and before I leave the office for the day. If you’re crunched for time, you can check social during your commute on when you’re sitting in a waiting room. The idea is to block out specific times throughout the day so that you’re not continually getting sucked into social media.

You could also use tools like Buffer or Hootsuite to manage your accounts and schedule content in advance. Or, if you want to take a step back, you can delegate your social media responsibilities to someone you trust.

If self-discipline is a concern, I suggest deleting the apps from your phone. Not only will this prevent notifications from interrupting you, but you’ll also be able to check your accounts by logging in. That extra step may ease the temptation.

4. Focus on what you have.

Early on in my career, I fell into this trap. I would see other entrepreneurs, friends, or family posting social media updates from their travels all over the world. They would talk about the new house or car they just purchased. And, they would boast about how their business was crushing it.

Sometimes they were putting on a facade or trying too hard to impress others. But, as someone who was struggling to get their business up and running at the time — it stung. Even worse? It made me feel pretty crummy about myself.

It’s taken time and self-discipline, but I no longer worry about what I don’t have. Instead, I focus on what I do have. The easiest way to focus on what you have is to be more grateful. Start by writing a list of the awesome things in your life or keep a gratitude journal and write down the people and pleasant surprises you’ve experienced.

While you can make a gratitude list daily, research has found that those who do this at least weekly are happier and more optimistic about the upcoming week.

5. Ramp up your self-care routine.

“Self-care is any activity that we do deliberately to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health,” writes Raphailia Michael, MA. “Although it’s a simple concept, in theory, it’s something we very often overlook.” And, that needs to change. Self-care can improve your mood, reduce anxiety, and manage stress.

But, as a busy entrepreneur, how can you possibly have time for self-care? Well, start with the basics. Get enough sleep, exercise, and eat a healthy diet. Take breaks throughout the day and use that time to meditate, journal, or go for a walk outside.

During downtime, like after work and the weekends, spend time with loved ones. You can volunteer (nothing helps me more than volunteering) read, pick-up a new hobby, clean your house, play with your kids, go out with friends, or learn something new. Find ways to laugh daily.

6. Strike a pose.

Did you know that you could reduce anxiety, boost your confidence, and help you better deal with stress in just two minutes? That may sound too good to be true, and maybe it is — but perhaps it works somehow through body language.

Body language can increase testosterone, which makes you feel more confident. It can also lower the stress hormone cortisol. But, that’s only possible if you position yourself into “high power” poses, which are relaxed and open.

Some have said that striking a pose doesn’t really work — but stand in front of the mirror and laugh. Pose for a friend and tell them you are boosting your confidence, and you’ll both laugh. Strike a ridiculous pose — for sure, this will reduce anxiety.

7. Create a worrying time.

For some, this may seem counterintuitive. However, as Kim Pratt, LCSW, explains, “employing this cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) tool can help you develop control over the frequency and timing of your worry.” Also, when designating specific times to worry, your mind will be free to focus on the present.

If you want to give this exercise a try, here’s how you can get started:

  • Set aside 15-30 minutes per day. Ideally, this should be in the morning or afternoon and not before bed.
  • Jot down all of your worries during these sessions.
  • If you begin to worry at other times, let them go.
  • At the end of the week, look at what you have written so that you can spot patterns.
  • Repeat this until you feel that you have more control over your thoughts.

8. Compartmentalization.

“Compartmentalization is not about being in denial,” says Barton Goldsmith, Ph.D.

Instead, “it’s about putting things where they belong and not letting them get in the way of the rest of your life.” In other words, your problems won’s disappear if you ignore them, “but obsessing on them won’t help either.”

For example, when my first business failed, I went to Disneyland. It was a good distraction from how I was feeling. And, when I returned, I was refreshed and ready to start my next venture.

Another useful tactic would be to speak in the third-person. Researchers from Michigan State University have found that speaking in third-person is helpful because it distances yourself from painful situations that happened in the past.

9. Put a stop to catastrophizing.

Catastrophizing is irrational thinking, also known as “cognitive distortion,” where you believe something is worse than it is. I don’t actually “believe” something is worse — I like to recreationally gripe about stuff. But I’ve noticed that my fun in spinning a horrible situational story can start others looking poorly at issues — and sometimes my viewpoint can become jaded, too.

You may have lost a client or had a weak financial quarter. You then tell yourself that because of these obstacles — both you and your business are failures. Stop it. We all experience bad days. But, instead of going down the rabbit hole, remind yourself that just because today sucked doesn’t mean that every day will be the same.

Other techniques you can try would be to recognize when thoughts are valid and irrational, repeating positive affirmations, and practicing self-care. I’ve also found it helpful to tell my mind to “stop.” When I’m particularly anxious, I may even put my hand up and make a stop sign.

10. Avoid wearing all-grey clothing to work.

Grey is associated with passivity and a lack of energy. It’s also usually worn by people who want to remain neutral or invisible. Sometimes that’s not a bad idea. But, because colors can influence everything from your mood to decision-making, it wouldn’t hurt to add some color to your wardrobe.

Take red, for instance. It’s the color of power, and it can make you appear more attractive to others. Blue is calming and exudes trustworthiness. Green is connected to positive emotional health. And, colors like orange and yellow are warm and can lift spirits.

11. Be productive, not busy.

As entrepreneurs, we idealize those founders who put in 60-80 hours per week. Having a strong work ethic is critical if you want to succeed. But, you can only work for so long before getting burned out. Besides, no matter how amazing you are — your brain still needs time away from work to rest and recharge.

One way to reduce the amount of time you spend working is to be more productive instead of just being busy. You can do this by:

  • Identifying what’s essential and necessary. These are your priorities, and everything else can wait.
  • Optimizing your organization by only listing three items on your to-do-list and using systems like “mise en place.”
  • Minimizing distractions.
  • Not sweating the small stuff.
  • Only saying yes to time requests that bring you closer to your goals or that you’re excited about.
  • Weighing the pros and cons before jumping on the latest trend.

12. Seek help.

“While many entrepreneurs don’t have the luxury of seeking help through an employer, they do have many other options they can use should they suffer from depression,” notes John Boitnott. Exercising, eating eat, taking breaks, and practicing gratitude are all ways to help. But, they also need a reliable support system.

“Due to the nature of the entrepreneurial journey, there is additional job isolation, and long work hours are all too common,” adds Boitnott. “Surrounding yourself with like-minded people, who stay in your corner through your ups and downs — is extremely important.” Also, this can help make you realize that you’re not alone, “even if your depression wants you to believe you are.”

And please, if you’re struggling — please speak with a mental health professional or join a support group. If it’s an emergency, contact the Suicide Prevention Hotline (1-800-273-8255) and The National Alliance on Mental Illness Helpline (800- 950-NAMI).

“Most importantly, as an entrepreneur, don’t neglect your feelings and thoughts,” says Boitnott. “The sooner you search for a diagnosis — or at the very least, seek help — the better your chances of fighting and winning.”

 

12 Mental Health Hacks for Entrepreneurs was originally published on Calendar by Deanna Ritchie.

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Baoding Ball Simulator by MindTrip Studio is world’s first. 27 Jan 2020, 9:47 am

What,” I can hear you asking, “is a Baoding Ball?”

Baoding are metal balls designed as zen meditation tools, 保定健身球, or “Bǎodìng Jiànshēn Qiú” in Chinese. They’re more widely known in the west as Chinese meditation balls, hand-exercise balls, or Chinese medicine balls.

These balls were first created in Hebei, during the Ming Dynasty, a region that continues to produce them in large quantities. Originally known as “iron balls,” modern baoding usually come in sets of two hollow spheres, with both containing a wire and marble system that causes the spheres to chime when they are moved and handled.

Baoding balls are used in a contemplative exercise which involves rotating two or more balls, repeatedly, in the hand. This improves finger dexterity, relaxes the hand, and can aid in the recovery of muscle strength and motor skills after surgery. They work similarly to Western “stress balls.”

Mind Trip’s baoding ball simulator “Zen Meditation Spheres” is a fun and accurate simulator offering many of the same health and wellness benefits found in the traditional balls. These include: Clearing the mind, relaxation, stimulating meditation, lowering anxiety, improving patience and enhancing sleep.

The app’s ball sounds are real and authentic, and includes five nature scenes, each with their own relaxing melody and tied to a specific element, to further enhance the relaxing and meditative experience.

As the only baoding ball simulator on the Google Play store, Zen Meditation Spheres is already gathering considerable praise from users, with 4.7 star rating overall. You can find Zen Meditation Spheres from Mind Trip here.

Photos
Zen Meditation Spheres

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6 Big Data Tools for Startups 23 Jan 2020, 8:00 am

If you thought big data was only for big businesses, think again. Small businesses jumping on the trend will be largely responsible for doubling the share of total data collected by companies between 2015 and 2025.

Behind startups’ increased interest in data collection is a suite of new tools. Whereas AI and data visualization tools were once mostly confined to the enterprise, smaller firms are now betting a big chunk of their tech budget on analytics software.

Which big data tools are tipping the scales for startups? The following can help your company collect, prepare, and analyze more data than ever before:

1. Amazon Web Services

AWS is a platform-as-a-service and infrastructure-as-a-service provider that works with a huge range of applications and data. AWS stores, hosts, and crunches data for millions of organizations around the world, which keeps costs low. Its 69 data centers span 22 regions around the world, ensuring that analyses run quickly and that your data can’t be lost. Plus, it runs on a pay-as-you-go pricing model, which is ideal for startups in need of financial flexibility.

2. ETLrobot

Although AWS can host almost any type of data, actually making use of it requires you to consolidate it into a single format and storage location. ETLrobot is a data-pipeline-as-a-service tool, meaning that it will extract, transform, and load your data into your designated warehouse. A no-code tool, ETLrobot offers a variety of integrations. In addition to hooking up with analytics systems, it works with CRM platforms, payment gateways, and developer tools so you can analyze many different types of data. 

3. Tranzlogic

Tranzlogic promises to turn transactions into insights, leveling the payment analytics playing field for small companies. Tranzlogic enriches credit card transactions with valuable customer and market insights, including geographic, demographic, economic, and psychographic attributes.

Information about who your customers are and what they stand for has broad business value. Use it to make your marketing more relevant, spot new market segments, and improve your customer experience.

4. Google Analytics

Especially if your company relies on the G-Suite, Google Analytics is a great tool for getting a deeper understanding of your customers, your website’s performance, and your inbound traffic.

Google Analytics straddles the analysis and reporting spaces, and it’s built to work with Google’s other advertising and publishing services. Although it’s free for anyone with a Google account to use, the paid version — Google Analytics 360 — is worth the investment. Google Analytics 360’s additional capabilities include advanced analytics, Google’s BigQuery data export feature, data-driven attribution for cross-platform customer journeys, and more. 

5. Kissmetrics

Kissmetrics’ landing page says what startup leaders need to hear about big data: Advanced product analytics shouldn’t break the bank. Kissmetrics covers a lot of ground, including:

  • Which search terms bring the most revenue for your business.
  • How frequently customers are leaving and who they are.
  • Attributes your converting customers have in common.
  • Which digital product features people are — and aren’t — using.

Although those details have value for sales and product development, Kissmetrics’ platform is decidedly focused on marketing. It includes customer journey reporting, cohort analysis, behavioral predictions, and trigger-based notifications. 

6. Tableau

For small business leaders who are searching for the story in their data, Tableau is a great tool. Users can create interactive maps that break down data by geographic region, sales territory, customer demographics, and more. Tableau works with Hadoop, Spark, and NoSQL databases, though its reports are accessible by nontechnical team members. Tableau Prep, a newer part of the platform, takes the stress out of data cleaning, while Tableau Mobile delivers insights on the go.

Big data can’t be mastered with a spreadsheet and a college statistics course. But no longer is an on-staff data scientist required, either. By investing in the right tools, small companies can extract insights that were off-limits to them even a couple of years ago. And in a business environment that’s built on big data, those insights can make a big difference.

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