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Why Leaders Need to Embrace Transparency 12 Dec 2019, 8:00 am

One of the most important goals you should have as a leader is to be able to unleash your employee’s full potential. And while there are many ways to accomplish this, workplace transparency is often the most effective. Workplace transparency makes everyone feel valued. Transparency encourages employees to step outside of their comfort zones and not fear being punished after sharing feedback. Freedom to share both ways also keeps them in the loop whenever you’ve made an important decision.

Many leaders still hesitate to embrace transparency. Possibly the hesitation is from a lack of understanding of how to create transparency or cultivate it. Let me try to convince you of the benefits.

Why Leaders Need to Embrace Transparency in the Workplace

Improves workplace engagement.

Transparency in the workplace is one of the most effective ways to motivate and engage your team. Using current research, we see that transparency is the number one factor contributing to employee happiness. When your peeps are satisfied, they’re more productive and loyal.

What’s more, transparency reduces stress and creates a healthier work environment. Mainly the work situation changes because transparency creates a sense of fairness. It also encourages collaboration and cultivates a safe space where everyone can express their opinions. Employees and other people don’t have to be concerned about being penalized for making a mistake. Instead, they’re encouraged to learn from the experience.

Better alignment.

“Employee alignment, for transparency’s sake, means taking a look at the big picture and seeking to understand everyone’s role within it,” Andre Lavoie wrote previously for Entrepreneur. “This is easily done when employers practice transparency in the workplace.”

“Transparent leadership results in employees who understand the company vision and how their efforts help achieve company-wide goals,” adds Lavoie. As a result, both you and your team will become more proactive, improve your decision-making, and only fill your calendar with items that push you closer to your goals.

Problems are solved faster.

Employees and leaders learn more about one another and can grow to work toward solving problems faster when their leaders are transparent. While creating an open environment, we can see less of the ‘perilous’ leader. “Three factors contribute to one behaving as a perilous leader,” says Karol Wasylyshyn, Psy.D. in Psychology Today.

Using transparency as the vehicle, the managers and bosses begin to embrace total brain leadership (TBL), and better emotional intelligence (EI) can start to emerge. When there is less fear, there is more honesty, and people are freer to express opinions. Empathy increases and narcissism fades in a more competent transparency environment.

For example, if you need to improve your bottom line, then solicit feedback from your team on how to improve your cash flow before jumping the shark and making cuts, like issuing pink slips.

It creates a flat hierarchy.

As Angela Ruth points out in a piece for Calendar, “more and more organizations are opting to go with structures that are flatter and are more democratic.” For starters, it’s been found that organizations with flat structures outperform those with traditional hierarchies.

Furthermore, hierarchies are becoming outdated, move too slowly, stifle creativity, and prevents everyone from getting on the same page. However, through transparency, organizations can become more flexible and encourage more fluidity within positions.

Builds trust and respect.

Employees will trust and respect you more when you’re open and honest. For instance, you could discuss the challenges and mistakes you made early on in your career and how that helped you grow. While you don’t need to be too personal, you could also share your struggles with mental health as a way to improve your employee’s well-being.

Being transparent isn’t a sign of weakness. It actually shows that you’re a human being who had flaws, as well as strengths. That takes a lot of courage to admit. And, it can make you more relatable to others, which in turn, creates stronger bonds.

How You Can Create More Transparency Within Your Organization

There’s no denying that transparency should be on your radar. But, how can you promote it within your organization? Well, here some of the best ways to achieve this specific goal.

Hire wisely.

Yes, you can embrace transparency as soon as you begin hiring and recruiting employees. For example, make sure that you post detailed and accurate job descriptions. Look for potential hires who are honest. And keep the lines of communication open during the interview process.

Not only will you find the right people for the job, but you’ll also find those who will fit in with your culture. And, it also sets a precedent for openness right from the start.

Build connections through swift and focused frequency.

“Building trust isn’t just about intent, but also frequency and detail,” Marcus Buckingham, author of “Nine Lies About Work,” told Fast Company. “Employees need to know that you have their back and that only happens through regular check-ins or light touch, individualized communications.”

“If you meet with employees once a week for 10-15 minutes and simply ask, ‘what are you working on and how can I help?’, it goes a long way toward building trust,” adds Buckingham. In addition to one-on-ones, find other ways to communicate and engage your team frequently.

At Calendar, we use Slack to touch base, share information, and keep everyone updated. However, you can also break down silos through town meetings and implementing an open-door policy. And, don’t forget to provide easy access to crucial information like sharing cloud-based documents or creating web-based Wikis.

“People want to know where they stand with you as a manager, and every employee knows that’s a moveable feast,” says Buckingham. “When you take time to hear from each team member on their near-term priorities, while also letting them know ‘we don’t need to solve everything this week,’ you move the relationship forward, and see stronger engagement and performance as a result.”

Share results.

“Don’t just share plans, let employees see what worked and what didn’t,” notes Kasey Fleisher Hickey over at Wavelength. “Leaders who speak openly about the state of the company gain trust.”

“While it can be difficult to reveal you had a bad quarter financially, keeping employees in the know every step of the way maintains confidence in your leadership and company,” continues Fleisher Hickey. “It can be particularly important during periods of high growth or financial struggle.”

Ask questions and show interest.

Put your ego aside for a moment and admit that you don’t have all of the answers. Instead, talk to your team members who do have the right answers. Not only will you learn something, but it also shows your humanity. And, most importantly, it lets your team know that you actually care about what they’re bringing to the table.

Treat everyone the same.

It’s only natural that you would click with certain people. But, when it comes to the workplace, you can’t pick favorites. It’s a surefire way to breed an unhealthy and toxic environment. Treat everyone with the same amount of respect. And never make exceptions when someone breaks company policies.

Involve others in the decision-making process.

Solicit feedback from your team through brainstorming sessions, online polls, or even the good ole’ suggestion box. It makes them feel like crucial players within your organization. And, because everyone made the decision together, you don’t have to explain yourself.

Don’t avoid difficult discussions.

A long time ago, I worked at a job that promised me a promotion. Every month I kept asking, and there was always an excuse. Finally, right around Thanksgiving, I was laid off because they were making cuts. I was furious. They strung me along for several months instead of just being honest with me.

Of course, no one likes having these types of conversations. But, at least you’ll be admired for addressing it head-on and not avoiding it. And, who knows? Maybe you and your team can find a way to resolve the problem together without having to resort to something as drastic as layoffs.

Always know “why.”

Discovering your “why” gives meaning and purpose behind your work. It’s what gets you out of bed in the morning and keeps you plowing ahead when times get tough. And, it keeps you passionate and motivated.

When it comes to leading a team, explain why each member is essential to your organization. Acknowledge why their contributions matter to you. Encourage honesty through understanding. Let your employees know the purpose behind their work, so they buy into the dream of your business. When you take a moment to be transparent, your team, office, and employees will be more driven and focused during the day-in-and-out efforts.

This post was originally published on Calendar.

The post Why Leaders Need to Embrace Transparency appeared first on KillerStartups.

Could Cutting IT Costs Save Your Startup? 10 Dec 2019, 12:44 pm

There are some things that are inevitable when you’re starting up in business. You’re going to be spending much more money than you probably anticipated – and a lot of that money is likely to be going on IT expenses.

Painful right?

The thing is, there’s a workaround that doesn’t compromise on anything. If you’re looking at IT staff salaries and wondering if you’re in the wrong line of work, you’ll be pleased to know that you don’t have to build your own IT team. You’ll also be pleased to hear that deciding against building your own IT team isn’t going to compromise on what you get from IT.

The secret is – finding a good managed IT service provider.

If you can, you’ll save yourself the enormous amount of money and hassle that’s involved with nurturing your own IT team – and you’ll be bringing onboard an expert group of professionals that can potentially push your business in directions you didn’t know you could go.

What’s wrong with in-house IT?

On the surface, it perhaps sounds like an in-house IT team is bad news. In actual fact, that’s definitely not the case. IT teams can be the oil that keeps a very large and complex machine moving. The question isn’t whether or not in-house IT teams are valuable and talented – it’s more about whether or not now is the right time for you to be building that team.

Think about it this way:

The recruitment of one staff member is going to cost you somewhere between $3,000 and $5,000. Now, that’s assuming you only need one person to run your entire IT infrastructure. More realistically, small startups generally require 2-3 people to get their IT systems into place and keep them running.

So, that’s more like $12,000 – $15,000.

Even if you’re sitting on that kind of money right now, don’t forget – this is recruitment cost. You haven’t paid a salary yet.

Add your recruitment cost to the cost of training, accreditations, and baseline monthly staffing cost – and you’re suddenly looking at a figure that’s potentially $25,000 or more.

IT is the backbone of your business

In many cases, this kind of cost is somewhat justified – after all, IT is going to be the foundation that most modern businesses are based on. Get this right and you’ll have solid systems that’ll take you from your humble beginnings to your first million-dollar year.

The thing is, you can get this kind of service without the outlay. In fact, you can probably get a service that’s far superior.

While there are some financially secure IT managers and general staff that may think your startup is worth them taking a risk for – the majority won’t think this way. Not because you’re not talented or you have a poor business plan – simply because they’ve got bills to pay – and startups are not a sure thing.

So, you might not get the cream of the crop.

Great IT service providers do get the cream of the crop though. They can pay well, they can keep people up to date with costly accreditations, and they can promise a dynamic and unique working environment where the scope to learn a huge amount about the systems that power countless startups and enterprises. What’s more, if half of those startups fold, they’ve still got plenty of customers – so there’s solid security too.

Where would you go if you were an IT professional?

In short, talking to a managed service provider isn’t just going to save you money – it’s going to buy you an outstanding team that’s at the cutting edge of their field.

What’s the payoff?

We’re talking now about a world-class IT team that’s going to cost you significantly less than building your own.

Where’s the catch?

Well, depending on how you look at it, the minor catch is that they’re not sitting next to you all the time. For many startups, that’s actually a bonus – especially considering the cost of the real estate you’d need to house a quickly growing team.

So, you need to pick up the phone if you want to talk to your IT team. You’ll also need to book meetings in advance – and you probably won’t have an unlimited amount of time to pitch your ideas to them. In reality though, this isn’t going to be a problem – since this is a team that’s going to be bringing best practice to you.

Whether you’re looking for innovative ways to reduce your networking operation costs; hoping to implement a next-generation SD WAN solution; planning on harnessing the full potential of cloud infrastructure – or any one of thousands of other possible IT solutions that’ll drive your business forward, your provider will already be up to speed – ready to tell you what’s possible.

The downsides of outsourcing your IT are very few – especially when you consider quite how many benefits they bring to the table.

Saving your business?

We started this article with the tantalizing prospect that by cutting your IT costs, you might actually save your startup – and it’s a sentiment we stand by.

Take a look at these statistics from CBinsights on why startups fail:

  • 29% fail because they run out of cash.
  • 42% fail because there’s no market need for their product.
  • 23% fail because they don’t have the right team

Not only will working with a managed IT service provider save you cash – it’s cash that can be spent on driving research and development. A managed service provider also offers an objective set of eyes over systems that will be fundamental to your business – an opinion from outside your team.

Sure, there’s no saying that a managed IT provider would have solved all of those issues that cause startups to fail – but there’s a good chance they could make a big difference.

Before you put your hand in your pocket and start the recruitment process. Talk to some managed service providers about what they can do with your IT. One thing’s for certain; you’re going to save yourself a lot of time, money, and effort – and let’s face it, they’re all things you need in abundance if your business is going to fly.

The post Could Cutting IT Costs Save Your Startup? appeared first on KillerStartups.

Will a Four-Day Work Week Produce Greater Productivity? 10 Dec 2019, 8:00 am

Companies continue to tout the importance of work-life balance for their talent. They acknowledge that workers need rest and relaxation. However, wanting to create this balance and actually achieving it are two very different things. That’s because the process for striking this ideal balance with available time has proved elusive. However, Microsoft Japan may have finally discovered the formula for greater productivity and a work-life balance that works for their team. Their answer is the four-day workweek. The result of everyone working four days with three days off equates to a 40 percent increase in overall productivity, according to the company’s research.

The idea that everyone in the company would take three days off may not seem like the pathway to higher productivity. After all, essentially shutting down operations for three days doesn’t sound like much can be achieved. Also, while the shorter workweek may help one, it may not produce the same everywhere. Nor may it result in productivity gains across all companies in the U.S.

What Works with a Shorter Week

Employees enjoy a shorter workweek for the same pay. That’s because today’s workforce feels overworked. Many talented individuals are working upwards of 70 to 80 hours a week. This intensive work schedule can be done in the short run. At some point, workers that pound out this many hours experience burnout. As time goes by, they may still be working 70 to 80 hours. Yet, what they produce at that time diminishes. In the meantime, the rest of their responsibilities outside of work get neglected, including their health, family, and friends.

Now, take those talented individuals and give them four days to get their work done and three days to rest and enjoy their lives. They will love the exciting work they do and are satisfied with their wages. These workers will have the time to reflect on the work they are doing. They will also be able to divide their time across other interesting pastimes. The shorter week works because employees now have the best of both worlds.

Therefore, a four-day workweek calibrates a work-life balance and increases productivity. Workers realize they have four days to get everything done. That leads them to look at how they are working and identify smarter processes that help complete tasks within a shorter timeframe.

Sounds Good, But Can it Be Done?

Despite the enthusiasm for a shorter work week and the proof that it simultaneously results in work-life balance and productivity, there are barriers to implementing it. Companies cannot make the switch to a four-day workweek overnight. That’s because it’s more than switching physical schedules. Mindsets must also change.

Beyond the hours, companies have become accustomed to technology that has made their workers always accessible no matter what the time of week or day. Even if workdays decrease, it won’t make a real difference to these employees until there is a mindset shift away from the idea that managers can still contact them on these three days off about work-related tasks or questions. If this continues, then workers will continue to feel they lack control over separating work from life. As a result, the talent will continue to feel stressed and eventually burned out.

And, it’s for this reason that some employees have noted in surveys that they don’t think a four-day workweek will help them. They cited the requirement to stay in the office or on-call longer during those four days. In doing so, these workers are then unable to take care of things outside of work on those four days and instead must cram them into the three days.

Control and Change Mechanisms

The conclusion is that the issue for employees relates to control. They want to have that sense that they have control over their work schedule so they can develop their own version of work-life balance.

With control as the central factor impacting whether a different work-day schedule can be implemented across U.S. companies, the right approach might involve discussions within individual companies to understand what works for employees.

The answer could result in a range of remote work schedules and options. Ideas for how to reduce meetings and other time-consuming tasks may also help develop a shorter, more productive week. Better preparation, brief meeting times, and set agendas can help reduce the amount of time wasted during meetings. Making these physical changes may then help managers start to change their mindset, moving away from the idea of “always-on” and back to the respect for boundaries between employees’ work and life personas.

Hybrid Four-Day Work Weeks

While the four-day workweek can be implemented in a wide range of industries and business segments, some like hospitals, factories, retail locations, and call centers may find that the four-day week can’t work. These types of companies focus on helping people who need help seven days a week.

In these situations, the four-day workweek would help productivity and work-life balance. However, those benefits wouldn’t count if these companies lose all their customers. Yet, a hybrid workweek could make workers available for seven days a week. At the same time, the workers could have ample time to relax, reflect, and recharge. In this case, rotating four-day workweek schedules across the team could help tap into the benefits of the shorter week. Plus, these companies can still assist customers on a 24/7/365 schedule.

This post was originally published on Calendar.

The post Will a Four-Day Work Week Produce Greater Productivity? appeared first on KillerStartups.

Double your drop shipping while having your inventory overhead. 9 Dec 2019, 4:01 pm

E-commerce is a vast industry, with innumerable small- and medium-sized businesses now delivering products purchased over the web. However, customer-facing footprint of retail has shrunk, the back-end has bloated considerably.

Modern e-commerce businesses rely on fickle customer pools that have grown accustomed to immediate gratification. They want access to all possible styles and variants, with instant shipping and quality customer service.

While Amazon and other major e-tailers can easily provide this level of service, independent e-tailers often find that they are swamped by inventory costs and requirements, negating any savings they’ve accrued from operating without a brick-and-mortar retail face.

However, there’s no reason for them to suffer these logistical hurdles, thanks to the drop shipping phenomena.

Drop shippers provide a fungible back-end solution for electronic retail. One of the most popular (currently serving over 150,000 different businesses) is Modalyst. They offer a wide range of different products from different US and overseas manufacturers, as well as all the metadata that e-commerce sites require to simply and seamlessly include listings for any of their products, at any markup, on any site.

What this means is that e-commerce storefront operators no longer have to consider and correct for the various costs implicit in inventory warehousing and product accessibility at the time of order. Modalyst handles all of the back-end, so shop owners can focus on their passion: driving sales.

In business since 2012, Modalyst has continued to perform well in the market, and to rack up accolades from satisfied retailers. Cedric Cages, a New York-based fashion reseller, literally laughed when asked about the company’s market position. “”Hah! I laugh at those not using Modalyst,” he exclaimed. “The amount of content on here is amazing. I was using Aliexpress for a little bit, but once I started using this splendid app, I deleted everything I imported from Ali and replaced them with Mod’s suppliers.”

Tracy, of Tracy’s Expressions, concurs. “I absolutely love this app,” she explains.”The ease of use to integrate products to my inventory is wonderful, not to mention the quality & fashionable styles.”

Ease of use when adding new products is a big draw for Modalyst’s clients. The owner of retailer Jodirebecca “love[s] how the products import into [our] Shopify store,” explaining that “ it makes it so much easier to organize products. The products import with professional looking titles, pictures, and descriptions. This saves me a lot of time compared to other apps I’ve tried.”

According to the retailer Denn for Men, Modalyst is “one of the best dropshipping apps of fashion suppliers around.” The owner was quite happy with the platform, explaining that their “experience so far has been incredible,” and that they “can really see [their] brand elevating to a whole new level, by marketing top quality fashion products.”

Photos
Modalyst

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Are too many tools leaving you confounded? 6 Dec 2019, 1:27 pm

Finding the right balance of tools to best complete your work on-time can be overwhelming. There are so many different providers these days, all of them putting out different applications that function in different ways.

Many applications duplicate functionality already found in apps you already use, but do so with a different UI and following different processes. Interoperability is rare, despite the fact that most users have many different apps trying to communicate on their devices.

DoIt.io aims to cut through this morass, with a specialized productivity suite aimed at unifying and simplifying anyone’s digital “to do” list infrastructure. The site pulls all your notifications and communications into one place, allowing you to collaborate successfully with people across a myriad of different services.

Founded in 2019, DoIt.io was built, from the ground up, to provide a digital respite from the panoply of different tools and notifiers that the major collaboration purveyors operate. The site quotes Benjamin Franklin, who said that “for every minute spent organizing, an hour is earned.” Their goal is to help you earn those extra productive hours.

The site offers three tiers of membership, with the basic account completely free. Premium access costs $4/month for an individual power user, or $8/seat/month for a corporate site licenses that includes additional group work coordination and organization-level services.

The other issue that DoIt.io addresses is the fact that nearly 4 billion trees are cut down worldwide each year for paper production, representing about 35 percent of all harvested trees. Much of this paper is waste making notes and documents that are better-suited to the right digital medium. DoIt provides that medium.

The company has positioned themselves as a replacement for legacy Post-It Notes, but with a far-greater feature set, and no costly environmental footprint.  Every note written in DoIt, instead of on a pad of paper, is a step towards a more efficient schedule for you, and a greener planet for all of us.

Photos
DoIt.io

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Why Small Business Owners Deserve Vacation Days + How To Take Them 5 Dec 2019, 8:00 am

Small business owners deserve vacation days. There I said it. It’s essential to take time off no matter what type of work you do, but when you run a business, this can be extremely challenging.

When you work for yourself, you can enjoy individual freedoms and flexibility, but you also don’t have anyone around to recommend you take a break. Kids have winter and spring break, and employees get around 2-4 weeks of paid time off each year.

Entrepreneurs need to plan to take time off on their own somehow. Check out these three compelling reasons why small business owners deserve vacation days, along with some key tips and strategies to help you take time off.

3 Reasons Why You Should Take Time Off When You Run a Small Business

It’s no secret that everyone needs a break from time to time, but this is a crucial step for business owners to take. According to a Gallup Poll, 39% of business owners say they work over 60 hours per week. That many work hours is way more than the average 40-hour workweek that most employees have. Working more likely requires more rest time to recover.

Another reason why is that small business owners don’t seem to have a reasonable level of work-life balance. Sure, you can set your own hours and choose who you work with, but running a business puts an insane amount of pressure on an individual. If you are in the beginning stages and don’t have much of a team, this can leave you carrying most of the burden.

According to a Bank West Small Business Growth survey, at least 50% of business owners live with considerable uncertainty about the future; nearly 40% struggle to balance work and leisure time, and 43% admit always being on the job.

The third reason why you should take time off is pretty apparent. With you working all the time and handling most of the pressure of running the entire business, you are merely not scheduling enough vacation time into your budget. But this can change if you’re willing to make an effort. Here are a few key strategies to implement when you want to start taking more time off because let’s face it – you deserve it.

Budget In Your Own PTO

Aside from time, one of the most significant factors that stop small business owners from taking some much needed time off is money. You may not feel like you can afford to take a few unpaid days off from work, or you may fear that your business will stop making money while you’re gone.

The best way to combat these doubts is to budget in your own PTO. Since you won’t get paid for vacation time, start saving up for it in advance. Realize that you may need to take time off for health reasons or take a few personal days. Calculate how much you typically earn during a workday and start stashing some funds away so you won’t have to deal with any financial blowback when you take time off.

Work Ahead on Projects

In addition to budgeting in your own PTO, you may want to work ahead on projects regularly. I like to work ahead on projects often because it provides peace of mind to know that if I have to change my schedule, my deadlines for the following few days are met.

Whether you’re planning a week-long getaway or want to take the week of Christmas off to relax with family, make it a habit to get your work finished ahead of time. Working ahead may mean you are stuck working on projects one Saturday out of the month or have to pull a few late nights.

Planning ahead is not just perfectly normal — it’s a way to help yourself and your productivity. Above and beyond that — nothing beats knowing that your work is completed a week or two in advance so you can get paid even if you take time off.

Delegate Tasks

Stop trying to be a one-person show and start delegating to team members and contractors. You can work fewer hours and have more time for vacations and personal days when you delegate tasks.

Start by outsourcing a single task that is time-consuming or that you’d rather not do. For there, you can hire a virtual assistant or a part-time team member to help regularly with specific responsibilities.

Delegating tasks or asking for help can ensure you have more work done in less time. Once you train the right people, you can rely on them to hold down the fort while you take some time away from your business.

Put Things on Autopilot

Work smarter and not more laborious by putting more things on autopilot so you can take time off when it’s necessary. Start with your most tedious tasks then look into free and affordable ways to automate them.

You can set up an email auto-responder to help you filter through messages and prompt leads to schedule calls and meetings with you. You can schedule out content on your website along with social media posts and email newsletters.

Use a combination of working ahead, delegating, and automating your business to free up more time and energy so you can have the freedom to step away from your business if you feel you need to.

How do you plan for more vacation time as a small business owner? Which one of these strategies is your favorite, or do you prefer a combination of all of them?

This post was originally published on Calendar.

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Answering Analytics Ambitions 4 Dec 2019, 2:44 pm

Big data analytics remains a deeply-desired skill set across employment verticals. As models evolve in all market spaces, employers demand smarter cross-channel analysis for deeper insight into possible efficiencies. This growing trend has already driven 50,000 established and developing data scientists to SuperDataScience, the premier hub for explicated analytics.

Founded in 2017, when “big data” was more of a marketing buzzword than a standard proficiency, SuperDataScience has accrued user consistently since then, thanks to its library of over 2,500 instructional videos.

The site is more than just a convivial social hub for users interested in learning, through collaboration, about the very cutting edges of data science. It is also an entry-level solo educational resource comprising some 200+ hours of in-depth video content taught by experts in the data science field.

That content is broken down into specific “study paths” that learners can follow, paths which have been built around common job functions and career development goals that existing site users have expressed. SuperDataScience retains freshness by remaining a user-driven experience; this is evident both on the front end—where new users are on-boarded into the community though self-satisfying vocabulary building, and on the back end—where constant, agile redevelopment based on community-built objectives ensure a regular and relatable feature flow.

Given this open-minded design philosophy, it’s no wonder that the site has been quick to accrue accolades. Guy Manova, a Canadian media analyst, explains that the streamlined community onboarding education material “is hands down the best I’ve seen. SuperDataScience instructors simplify the complex, focusing on what you need to know, without confusing you with what you don’t.”

Garth Zoller, a Data Analyst with NetApp in Durham, NC, concurs: “SuperDataScience will keep you motivated and engaged,” he explains, as an active member. ”You will quickly build and demonstrate your data science competence. This is one of the best investments you can make in your professional journey.”

Larry Weixel, AI Systems Engineering Lead at Lockheed Martin in Dallas TX, has 21 years experience using big data to train intelligence models and find occluded patterns. He found that SuperDataScience “instructors have a relaxed, yet professional style, and provide answers to anticipated questions during the courses. I continue to be impressed by the content.”

What makes the site great is its ability to satisfy the curiosity demands of the established professional data analytics class, while still offering an industry on-ramp for new talent, avoiding the “old boys club” feel that many professional fora engender. Sanaz Afshar found her way to a promising career at Netgear in Santa Clarita, CA. “After only a few months learning at SDS I was able to get a Data Analyst job,” she explains. “After I got the job, I am still continuing learning from the many different courses.”

In addition to the community and video-driven content, the site offers a number of internally-produced podcasts. These podcasts allow you to continue to absorb new and important vocabulary and concepts “in the background” as you do other things, such as commuter or clean your home. If you want to become a background expert on big data analytics, SuperDataScience is a community waiting for you.

Photos
SuperDataScience

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Time Management Skills Successful Business Owners Must-Have 3 Dec 2019, 8:00 am

Time. It’s something that we all take for granted. But, as a business owner, it’s your greatest resource. Without enough time, you’re less likely to achieve your goals. You won’t be able to focus on what’s really important. Less time — adds stress to your already hectic life. And, you can kiss a healthy work-life balance goodbye without it. Here are the time management skills a successful business owner must have.

For the business owner — here are the essential time management skills that you will want to possess.

Work the hours that suit you.

Here’s one of the best things about being your own boss. You can work whenever you want. Of course, that doesn’t mean you can slack off or just come and go as you please. What this means is that you aren’t forced to work that 9-to-5 schedule if it doesn’t fit you well.

For example, let’s say that you’re a parent. Your working hours could be when your children are in school, let’s say around 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. When they’re doing their homework, you could then use that time for administrative tasks or reviewing your calendar for tomorrow.

Another option would be to work around your energy levels. If you’re a morning person, then knock out your most essential tasks bright and early when you have the most energy. Night owls, on the other hand, are more productive in the late morning or afternoon.

What’s more, well have our own ultradian rhythms — which are the body’s rest-activity cycle. But, for most of us, that means that we can only focus for 90 to 120 minutes before we need to take a break.

Keep a time log.

Want to get more done? Then keep a time log so that you can see how you’re spending your time. Additionally, time logging will let you know what your biggest time-wasters are. It will keep you from over-or-underestimating how long certain things take down the road. And, tracking your time encourages you to stop multitasking and hold yourself accountable.

There are actually a couple of ways that you can conduct a time audit. The first would be to track everything that you do throughout the day, such as your morning commute or the time spent on a specific task.

The other way would be to set a timer for every 15 minutes. When the time is up, write down what you did during that block of time.

You could also use time tracking apps and tools like Toggl, RescueTime, or Timely to keep tabs on your digital usage.

Focus on what you do best.

“As much as you need a strong personality to build a business from scratch, you also must understand the art of delegation,” Richard Branson once said. “I have to be good at helping people run the individual businesses, and I have to be willing to step back,” he added. “The company must be set up so it can continue without me.”

When you stop trying to do everything on your own, you’ll not only free up your valuable time. You’ll also make more money. That’s because you have the right people working on the right tasks.

For instance, even if you’re familiar with the basics of accounting or coding, you’re going to spend more time on these tasks, then an expert would. And, you’re more likely to make a costly mistake.

Implement the Two-Minute Rule.

In the famous words of David Allen, “If it takes less than two minutes, then do it now.” Sounds simple, but think of all of those small things that add up. Instead of taking a minute to respond to an email, you wait until the end of the day when your inbox is overflowing. That dish you didn’t wash after lunch? It becomes a dish full of dirty plates.

Furthermore, this rule helps you form new habits. And, most importantly, it can help overcome procrastination. As an example, instead of declaring that you want to read more, start with a small goal like read one page daily.

“The idea is to make your habits as easy as possible to start,” says James Clear. “Anyone can meditate for one minute, read one page, or put one item of clothing away. And, as we have just discussed, this is a powerful strategy because once you’ve started doing the right thing, it is much easier to continue doing it.”

Break your activities down into simple problems.

“Utilizing your consciousness requires more energy and can be avoided by simplifying your problems,” writes Mario Peshev for Entrepreneur. “Excellence in time management revolves around establishing a process and breaking it down into small, atomic operations that are easy to grasp and don’t require intensive resource consumption.” Cutting down your resource consumption is what makes business owners successful. They’re able to take a “complex task and decompose it into pieces, thus making the remaining process easier to comprehend and follow,” adds Peshev. “The simple operations are simple, and executing them doesn’t require dozens of follow-up questions preventing you from checking tasks off your list.”

As a business owner, you have a lot of responsibilities. To make sure that you achieve them, you need to have a system in place. For me, that’s writing down my to-do-list and adding the most important items to my calendar. It’s a simple and effective tactic to make sure that I don’t forget to do anything. And, it allows me to block out time for these actions, so I don’t schedule something else.

Here’s the problem, though. With so many things to do and so little amount of time to get to them — which tasks do I start with? Well, that depends on your specific priorities. These are usually the activities that move you closer to your goals or have a date attached to them. So, your top priorities should always be scheduled first and come before everything else.

Unfortunately, a lot of us get sidetracked by things that are less important — even though they seem deserving of your time and energy. Eventually, your time management and productivity suffer — which is never good for business.

To avoid this, don’t fall into the urgency trap. Identify which items you must do, defer, delegate, and drop. Stick to listing no more than crucial tasks for the day. And focus on your priorities when you have the most energy.

Schedule “me” time.

Scheduling “me time” isn’t a waste of time. Me-time may turn out to be your secret weapon against stress and lack of focus. The more you add to your schedule, the busier you’ll get. Over time you’ll be burning your candle at both ends. As a result, you’ll become burned more. Or, even worse, you’ll be putting your mental and physical health in peril.

Always schedule free time in your day. It doesn’t have to be much. But, if you have an hour of blocked time throughout the day where nothing is listed on your schedule — it can do wonders for you mentally and physically. After all, free time makes us happy, encourages self-care, adds flexibility in our calendars, and recharges our batteries.

Cluster similar tasks.

Switching between tasks all day isn’t practical. It’s chaotic and encourages us to multitask. Think about it. You respond to an email, then rush out the door to speak with a supplier, and then come back to file paperwork. And, in between all that, you have to attend to any problems that your customers or employees are experiencing.

As opposed to jumping all over the place, organize your day by blocking similar tasks together. For example, block out a specific time to clean out your inbox and return call, another to file paperwork, and one more for problem-solving. Depending on your business, you may also need to box out time for meetings, checking your inventory, or testing your products.

Identify and eliminate distractions.

Distractions are the leading cause of poor time management. But, how can you remove them when they’re constantly screaming for your attention?

One way would be to keep a distraction log. It can be as simple as a piece of paper or Word Doc, where you jot down what interrupted you from work and when. For instance, if an employee takes a break at about 10:30 a.m., they may stop by your office to chat with you. The problem is that this is when you don’t want to be disturbed. To correct this, either take a break around the same time or close your office door.

You can also eliminate distractions by putting your phone on ‘Do Not Disturb’ mode, installing tools that block distracting websites, or scheduling check-ins or phone calls instead of taking them when you have something else planned.

Arm yourself with the right tools.

Finally, surround yourself with the right tools. An online calendar is an obvious choice. But, you may also want to use a tool like Calendar to automate all of your scheduling needs. Evernote and Todoist care useful for managing your tasks. While Hootsuite, Pardot, and Xero can put your social media, email marketing, and accounting in autopilot.

By using these tools to automate your most tedious and redundant tasks, you’ll have the availability to focus on your priorities.

This post was originally published on Calendar.

The post Time Management Skills Successful Business Owners Must-Have appeared first on KillerStartups.

Is Time Blocking Effective? 28 Nov 2019, 8:00 am

Folks like Elon Musk and Bill Gates may have been getting some bad press as of late. But, regardless of how you personally feel about them, there’s no denying that they’re super-successful in business. They’ve also mastered the art of time management. Here’s the question: is time blocking effective?

Want to know Elon and Bill’s secret? It’s something called time blocking. It’s been proven to be one of the most effective ways to become more productive without burning yourself out.

What is Time Blocking?

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

How you segment your day, however, is totally up to you. Musk and Gates are known for creating five-minute blocks for activities like email and meetings. Cal Newport, a computer science professor and author of Deep Work, dedicates “ten to twenty minutes every evening to building my schedule for the next day.”

“During this planning process, I consult my task lists and calendars, as well as my weekly and quarterly planning notes,” adds Newport. “My goal is to make sure progress is being made on the right things at the right pace for the relevant deadlines.”

Newport says that this “is like a chess game, with blocks of work getting spread and sorted in such a way that projects big and small all seem to click into completion with (just enough) time to spare.”

Regardless of how you section out your calendar, time-blocking forces you to focus on more meaningful activities. In turn, this will reduce the time you spend on unnecessary and unproductive actions. Additionally, it encourages you to carve out time for yourself so that you can remain at peak condition.

Why Time Blocking is Effective

The benefits listed should be enough to sell you on time blocking. But, that’s just peeling the fit layer of the onion.

To-do-lists are inferior.

After interviewing over 200 billionaires such as Olympians, straight-A students, and entrepreneurs, Kevin Kruse, New York Times best-selling author, and LEADx founder found a common thread. “Ultra-productive people don’t work from a to-do list, but they do live and work from their calendar.”

As Kruse further explains in a piece for Forbes, this is because to-do-lists don’t account for time. “When we have a long list of tasks, we tend to tackle those that can be completed quickly in a few minutes, leaving the longer items left undone.” Research shows “that 41% of all to-do list items are never completed!”

Kruse also argues that lists don’t distinguish between urgent and essential. And, lists can contribute to our stress thanks to the Zeigarnik effect. For those unfamiliar, this states that we often remember unfinished business better than what we’ve completed. As a result, these “intrusive, uncontrolled thoughts” can make us feel overwhelmed. Lists can even contribute to insomnia.

Time blocking discourages multitasking.

“Time blocking is the opposite of multi-tasking, a cool-sounding term that, in reality, can cause long term damage to your productivity — and happiness,” notes writing productivity expert Chris Smith. By scheduling chunks of time for a specific task or problem, you’re promoting deep focused work. It also helps you focus less on “shallow work,” which is urgent, but not essential activities.

Science has also found that when we multitask, we experience “attention residue.” In a nutshell, this is a more sophisticated way of saying that our attention is divided when constantly switching between tasks.

Moreover, behavioral researchers Thomas Buser and Noemi Peters conducted an experiment to see how multitasking impacts performance. They concluded that the “Subjects who are forced to multitask, perform significantly worse than those forced to work sequentially.” Interestingly, they also discovered that “subjects who can freely organize their own schedule also perform significantly worse.” According to Buser and Peters, this means that “scheduling is a significant determinant of productivity.”

It combats perfectionism and procrastination.

Perfectionism and procrastination are two of time management’s most challenging adversaries. Thankfully, time blocking is a powerful way to thwart them both.

Time blocking encourages you to reserve your energy and willpower by scheduling your most challenging tasks first. You can also use it to break larger projects into more manageable pieces. Also, when you add items to your calendar, it forces you to commit to getting them done.

And, researchers Dr. Todd Rogers and Dr. Katherine L. Milkman have found that“concrete plans help people follow through on their intentions.”

Time blocking makes it easier to say “no.”

Saying “no” to others can be awkward. But it’s one of the best ways to protect your time. After all, if you say “yes” to ever time request that comes your way, you won’t get as much done. Eventually, your priorities will get buried underneath others.

Time blocking makes it easier to say “no.” For example, let’s say someone asks if you can meet for lunch. You can politely let them know that you already have plans and suggest a time when you’re available. Or, you could avoid this conversation altogether by sharing your calendar with them so that they can see when you’re free or busy.

Encourages you to reflect on your priorities.

Finally, go back and review your schedule this past week. How did you spend your time? Were you able to spend your time productively? Did you allocate the right amount of time to the right activities? Or, did you spend too much time cleaning out your inbox or attending unnecessary meetings?

When you reflect on how you spent your time, you’ll be able to plan better your schedule going forward. More importantly, it will encourage you to fill your calendar with more meaningful entries.

The Downside of Time Blocking

Despite these benefits, there are drawbacks to time blocking that you should be aware of. For starters, time blocking may be too rigid. If your calendar is jam-packed, it can’t handle emergencies. It also takes the fun out of spontaneous encounters. And it can be complicated. Mainly this is because we’re not always the best at estimating the amount of time it takes to do things.

While valid, these concerns shouldn’t stop you from trying time blocking out. The key is striking the right balance. For instance, block out specific times for when you need to focus on uninterrupted deep work. But, leave some white space in your calendar in the afternoon so that you can address any schedule changes.

Outside of work, don’t hyper-schedule yourself. Having a little unstructured free time makes life fun.

Getting Started with Time Blocking

Ready to take time blocking for a test spin? Then here are some pointers on how to get on your way:

  • Find out when you’re most productive. Instead of sticking with the traditional 9-to-5 schedule, identify when you’re most productive. When you know this, which is by determining your ultradian rhythms, you’ll want to schedule your most important or challenging tasks when you have the most energy.
  • Allot enough time. Track how long it usually takes you to complete certain things. It can help avoid under-or-overestimating your blocks of time. Also, add buffers just in case you run over.
  • Reserve breaks, time off, and the unexpected. You need time to recharge. So, set aside time for breaks, vacations, and when you’re off the clock. What’s more, keep your calendar flexible so that you avoid overcommitting and have the time to handle the things that happen.
  • Ditch those distractions. Write down the things that distract you the most. Then, you can find ways to eliminate them to make your blocks more productive. For example, if the notifications on your phone interrupt you, then either turn your phone off or block certain apps during the time that you’re working.
  • Track your progress and revise it. At the end of the week, reflect on how productive you were by reviewing your calendar. If you noticed that you underestimate how long it took you to finish something, then add more time to that task when creating next week’s schedule.

This post was originally published on Calendar.

The post Is Time Blocking Effective? appeared first on KillerStartups.

How to Build a Highly Productive Remote Team 26 Nov 2019, 8:00 am

Instead of looking for talent in their own backyards, more and more companies are turning to remote workers to fill their gaps and expand their capabilities. Offering for workers to contribute remotely increases productivity, retention, and stress.

A highly productive remote team can also help reduce sick time and overall costs. Remote work leads to significant gains for employers and is desirable for today’s top recruits. Telecommuting has become a valuable recruitment perk, with 85% of workersclaiming it as their number one reason for taking a job.

Yet, managing a remote team comes with unique challenges, including communication, time management, and accountability. While the stats suggest the team will be more productive, managers need to use smart strategies to ensure everyone is contributing and working together as a team. Productivity doesn’t just happen on its own; instead, it needs to be fostered.

Although 91% of remote workers claim they feel more productive when working from home or other non-office locations, companies shouldn’t take productivity for granted. Security issues, distractions at home, and lagging communication can all affect how much your employees accomplish. Leaders must understand these and other productivity challenges to mitigate them as much as possible.

How to Build a Highly Productive Remote Team

There are certainly best practices to develop the best team around. If you’re looking to create a highly productive remote team, you should cultivate the following in your company:

Develop a Strong Company Culture

Remote workers don’t have the benefit of enjoying the same collaboration that comes from working on-site. Working onsite is one of the key reasons companies like Yahoo! and IBM have ended telework, claiming that face time is more productive and that ideas happen in person.

However, many experts argue that, when a remote work program fails, it’s often more attributable to a lack of communication or a company culture that isn’t set up for remote success.

That’s why companies must invest in company culture and ensure they are carrying that culture beyond the four walls of the office. Remote workers must be engaged in the company’s mission, values, activities, and strategies. Make them feel like part of the team by ensuring they’re included in meetings and announcements. Invite them to team activities if they’re local, or take a page from Buffer’s playbook and hold annual meetupsfor those who reside elsewhere.

Invest in Coworking Memberships

Coworking workspaces provide offices-on-demand that eliminate the distractions associated with working from home to help employees focus on their workload. Fortunately, the number of these flexible workspaces located across the country is growing, enjoying an increase of 16% in 2018 alone.

In one study, 74% of workers said their productivity increased after joining a coworking community. Working out of a coworking space may help create a routine for remote workers. These workers also have the benefit of working around other companies’ employees, which may lead to new perspectives and creative insights.

While it comes with a bit more of a monthly cost, companies may want to consider offering a coworking membership to remote workers. Enjoying a change of scenery may help to stimulate creativity and give remote workers the focused environment needed to be productive, and the new ideas may have a great payoff.

Simplify Communication

Ideally, remote worker communications with the in-house team should be as swift and straightforward as if every worker was on-site. Realistically, that’s not usually the case. One report notes that when a remote work program ends and employees are called back into the office, their managers haven’t contacted many workers in months – even years, in some cases.

Companies that fail with remote work usually lack a robust communication structure. But thanks to the widespread availability of tools like Slack and Zoom, remote teams can still enjoy consistent, ongoing communication with their supervisors, employees, and fellow remote workers. Just having these tools is not sufficient. To foster direct and effective communication, your company should set rules about what to use.

For example, Slack should be used to contact co-workers about immediate questions during business hours. Email can be reserved for ongoing, long-term projects. Additionally, phone calls or video conferences should be used during brainstorming and reviews or feedback sessions. These rules will help remote, and on-site employees know when and how to communicate internally.

Acknowledge Achievements

Employees love when their work and accomplishments are appreciated. But it’s more than just an ego boost; recognizing employees for a job well done has been shown to motivate performance and improve productivity.

It’s easy for team leaders to get bogged down in daily tasks. Being overworked and bogged down can lead to forgetting to recognize their employees’ efforts – especially when they are remote. But it is essential to building this acknowledgment into your remote culture to ensure employees remain engaged. Even a simple thank you on Slack, or a personal email can go a long way. It creates a positive and productive remote workforce.

Additionally, celebrate the company wins together if you are having a celebratory happy hour on-site, video conference in remote workers. Ship them a drink so they can also participate and feel included in the most social aspects of the job.

Consider the Impact of Security Issues

One of the biggest under-the-radar productivity killers for remote workers is the potential impact of security issues. Workers who rely on public spaces like coffee shops could leave themselves vulnerable to cyber attacks, yet only 18% of workers say that it’s one of their top concerns.

Also, 38% of workers say they don’t receive the technological support or expertise they need while working remotely, which could pose more significant security challenges to businesses. Security is a potentially serious issue. Remote workers who unknowingly download viruses while working may have their entire system taken hostage. These attacks can be costly in terms of data stolen, removing viruses, and lost employee work time.

Remote workers that can use their own devices (like mobile phones and tablets) might house company information. Using their own devices provides great device freedom to the remote worker. It can lead to a higher mix of operating systems, browsers, updates, apps, and software to contend with, making the work of your IT department more complex. But help when figuring out bugs for customers.

To overcome tricky security challenges, many companies implement VPNs, two-factor authentication, secure browser requirements, or other security features with their remote workers. Investment here makes sense. It’s expected that cybercrime will rack up a bill of more than $6 trillion by 2021. No company is immune to these attacks, as even large companies such as Yahoo! and Capital One have suffered expensive damage from cybercrime.

Proper security is a productivity concern. Major security breaches have the potential to grind company operations to a halt; even smaller impacts can disrupt a team’s performance for days, weeks, or even months. Make sure your team implements solutions that allow for higher productivity while also protecting the company’s digital infrastructure.

With Great Reward Comes Great Responsibility

Remote teams have given companies and employees more flexibility and potential, but they also require a higher level of accountability. Work must continue to be completed, no matter where in the world associated team members are located. Unfortunately, neither employers nor employees can realize the full benefits of remote work if productivity suffers.

It takes careful planning to re-think the workplace and facilitate a thriving remote work environment. Recognize potential barriers and asking the right questions. You’ll be as prepared as possible to help your team overcome the most common obstacles. Overcoming obstacles will allow the productivity of your company’s remote workers to thrive.

This post was originally published on Calendar.

The post How to Build a Highly Productive Remote Team appeared first on KillerStartups.

The Networking Trick You May Not Want to Hear 26 Nov 2019, 8:00 am

You’ve attended five startup networking events in the past three months, trying to make your 60-second business pitch sound conversational and smart. Unfortunately, all you have to show for your efforts is a stack of business cards — not one person you met has become a client or referral source. Exasperated, you tell yourself that networking doesn’t work.

I hate to say this, but you need to hear it: It’s not them; it’s you.

Fortunately, you can right this ship pretty easily — as long as you’re willing to accept that successful networking will never be a quick fix. It’s not about shifting into new circles of influencers or eating where you think the angel investors hang out. And forget about your apps for a second; they aren’t going to network for you. 

The only way to build lasting business bonds is to practice the old-fashioned art of communication.

Learning to Listen

When was the last time you headed to a Chamber of Commerce function, ready to listen rather than blather on about your business? Many people miss major opportunities to forge relationships because they see networking events as places to sell their business ideas. No one wants to hear about your new widget two minutes after meeting you. 

However, they’re probably open to sharing all sorts of personal information, from the new puppy they adopted to the house they’re trying to rent out. If you ask great questions and listen, you can learn what makes them tick. Later, you’ll have a reason to text to ask if they ever found tenants or whether their pet has become a little less rambunctious.

A listen-first approach always works because it gives others a chance to talk about themselves and offers you a conduit to discovery. Of course, you have to be sincere or risk sounding blander than Alexa.

Becoming the Network Star

If you’re ready to grow your network rather than just add to your stack of business cards, incorporate these behaviors into your encounters, both on and off the clock. 

1. Know the brand you stand for.

What’s your personal brand? Jot down everything that makes you unique and that you want people to remember about you. Perhaps it’s that you love to volunteer or that you’re a tech nerd. Focus on delivering your brand experience every time you meet a new person.

To take that a step further, align your brand around the value you add to others — something deeper than a list of skills on LinkedIn. “A positive public image can help your business, but it must be real,” advises Hope Horner, founder and CEO of on-demand video production company Lemonlight. “In the early days of networking, center your conversations on how your offerings can improve people’s lives or businesses. And follow that path.” The better you understand the value you bring to the table, the more likely you are to create memorable rapport.

2. Play for keeps.

Stop siloing all your networking events. They’re not just independent appointments; they create a collection of experiences that keep enhancing your reach. And remember you can network anytime, not just when you head to a trade show. Networking happens everywhere, from your neighborhood summer block party to the waiting room at your son’s orthodontist’s office. 

Sure, you have to be open to talking to people in order to make this work, but it gets easier. Aim to make new acquaintances on a weekly basis. Share stories and connect on LinkedIn, but don’t stop there. Message new contacts occasionally about subjects you discussed. Be patient as your relationships develop. Who knows? These individuals could become your key to a million-dollar sale or a lucrative position years down the road.

3. Pay it forward always.

Karma is real, my friend, and if you put in the hard work, you’ll reap the benefits. For instance, if you meet someone you think would hit it off with another person you know, offer to make the connection. Better yet, set up a lunch or coffee date so the three of you can chat. 

Your goal shouldn’t be to see anyone as your ticket to riches. Instead, view yourself as his or her supporter. Then, look for ways to fulfill that commitment. Eventually, your good deeds are sure to come back multifold. Bonnie Marcus of Women’s Success Coaching recalls a woman she knew who lost her high-paying job. She snagged another in a month and a half, thanks to a loyal team of friends she’d previously helped. That’s solid networking in action.

4. Take on the role of networking social organizer. 

As you become more accustomed to the art of networking, put yourself squarely in the driver’s seat by hosting an event on your own. This could be a huge conference sponsored by your company, but it doesn’t have to be. Inviting a dozen of your most influential and closest connections to a wine tasting in your apartment is perfectly acceptable, too.

Not only will this give you the chance to foster your connections, but everyone at your event will see you as a leader, too. That’s a powerful role to play. It’s also one that can lead to more business and a better reputation. “Hosting your own events enables you to build relationships more strategically than a conference or mixer typically allows, because you’re controlling the guest list, and as the convener, you get ‘credit’ for the connections your guests make with one another,” notes Dorie Clark, a marketing strategist and professor at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business.

Expect networking to be a slow build at first. If you put in the relationship-building effort, though, this will be followed by a steady stream of rich interactions with people you actually know and care about, not just names and faces on a social media platform.

The post The Networking Trick You May Not Want to Hear appeared first on KillerStartups.

10 Things Gen Z Should put in Their Calendar for Productivity 19 Nov 2019, 8:00 am

Adding anything to your Calendar may sound like a strange way to increase productivity. However, productivity is not all about cranking out task after task without interruption. A productive life is typically based on a balanced lifestyle. Extra random tasks on your Calendar will not increase your productivity, but making time for specific tasks can improve your overall productivity. Here are ten things Gen Z should put on their Calendar for productivity.

What tasks will increase your productivity?

Before making time for anything on your Calendar, you should carefully assess the possible benefits. If you aren’t entirely sure about trying something on your Calendar — then consider testing it out for a couple of weeks. Some things may not help you, but other listed items could have a life-changing impact. Everyone is different, so make time for the things that are most useful for you.

Our Gen Z — the true digital natives — have always had business savvy.

Gen Z was practically born with business-savvy. Now, take a look at a Gen Z Calendar. The Gen Zers seem to put everything in their Calendar, and this may be why they are finding a better work-life balance than the rest of us. I asked about a few of the items listed on the Calendar of our Gen Zers on the team. Below are the answers:

1. Sleep.

Although sleeping seems like the exact opposite of productivity, a healthy sleep pattern can significantly increase your productivity. Instead of getting the bare minimum amount of sleep that you need to function, consider making time to get enough sleep to feel well-rested.

Sleeping replenishes your energy reserves and allows you to function at a much higher level. We all know that sleep makes us feel good, but it can lead to an increase in productivity. If you get a healthy amount of sleep, your body will reward you with enough energy to be more productive.

Make time for a regular sleep schedule that maximizes your energy levels for higher productivity throughout the day.

2. Eat health foods — and health food.  

Eating healthy can seem like a chore to many of us. It can take time and energy to prepare a healthy meal that you will enjoy. It seems more natural to grab a quick bite from a fast food place or heat yet another unhealthy frozen meal. It takes time to make a healthy choice meal, and it takes time even to eat it. Gen Z puts in the blocks of time to do each action. Fueling your body with healthy food can make a difference in your productivity.

A few ways to make healthy eating less painful includes choosing healthy restaurants to order from — meal prep in advance and stocking your pantry with healthy options.

3. Downtime.

Making time to unwind is an effective way to increase your productivity. Without scheduled downtime, it can be tempting to keep plugging away at your ever-present to-do list. Not only is this an exhausting way to live, but it’s also unproductive.

When you choose to never really stop working, it will drain your productivity because you are never able just to start fresh. Downtime could be a short break in the afternoon, a weeklong vacation, or just enough time to enjoy the evening before bed.

4. Exercise.

Building a healthy body will also help to create a healthy mind. When you make a healthy mind and body, you’ll be more resilient to changes in your workload and prepared to tackle the inevitable challenges.

Exercise leads to the release of endorphins in your body, which are linked to a happier state of mind. Getting through your daily responsibilities while working towards your long-term goals is usually not easy. There will be good days, bad days, and “bad-bads.” Our Gen Z plan for the bad-bads better than the rest of us. A healthy boost from exercise can help make the bad-bads more bearable.

5. Learn something new.

It can seem impossible to dedicate time to anything new in the middle of your busy Calendar. However, learning new things can help you reach your overall goals. It also stimulates your brain and can help you accomplish more with the new information. I’ve put more learning into my Calendar than ever before.

Reading a book, taking a course, or flipping through an article may seem like a luxury you don’t have time for. It can be challenging but make time to learn something new. Even dedicating just a few minutes a day can really help to boost your long-term productivity.

6. Set clear goals.

Instead of vaguely setting goals and throwing tasks on your Calendar, make time to set clear and attainable goals for your future. Think about both your long-term and short-term goals. Decide on the steps that will help you achieve these goals. Finally, schedule the tasks necessary in a reasonable way.

If you don’t set clear goals, then some of your time will be wasted on tasks that do not help you achieve your goals. A clear vision will allow you to plan out your Calendar for maximum productivity.

7. Get outside.

Nature has a fantastic way of making us feel more at ease. When you are tied to your desk for days in a row, sometimes you need a little bit of inspiration to get yourself motivated. Without the right motivation, it can be hard to achieve a high productivity level.

Whether you can take a walk, plan a beach day, or escape to a National Park, a little bit of time outside can help to give perspective to your daily workload.

8. Track wasted time.

Many of us waste time in small amounts throughout the day. Scrolling through your phone or mindlessly checking emails can seriously affect our productivity levels. The worst part is that most of us don’t even realize that we are wasting this much time!

Install an app that tracks your phone usage and let it track you for a few days. It will take a few minutes to set up, but it will be worth it. You may be shocked at how much time you waste on your phone. Try to cut back this time and use it for something more productive.

9. Declutter.

Cleaning out your workspace can seem like a daunting task. You may have months (or years) of clutter piled around you. Clutter can quickly decrease your productivity in a variety of ways.

  • First, you may waste time sifting through the clutter to find important things.
  • Second, you may feel slightly claustrophobic in your workspace, which can kill your creativity.
  • Finally, thoughts that you really should tidy up invade your thoughts daily and distract you from your work.

Make the time to clean up your space. You might be surprised how much your productivity will increase. While you’re here — stick in a plant.

10. Meet with an accountability buddy.

Find someone that you can hold yourself accountable to and make the time to chat regularly. Your buddy should help to keep you on track as you work towards your goals.

An accountable relationship takes time and effort, but it can help you meet your goals efficiently.

The Bottom Line

Your Calendar is already full, but finding the time for some activities could help to increase your overall productivity. It will take some trial and error to find the right balance for your Calendar — but it will be worth the effort.

 

This post was originally published on Calendar.

The post 10 Things Gen Z Should put in Their Calendar for Productivity appeared first on KillerStartups.

How to Prepare for an Equity Investment 18 Nov 2019, 8:00 am

If you’re like most startup entrepreneurs, you’re eager to get the equity investments you need to scale your business as quickly as possible. There’s no guarantee you’re going to get the money you need, and with each passing day, you get deeper into your company’s development.

Still, before you get to the point of signing an equity agreement and getting money from a VC firm or angel investor—or even going public with an IPO—there are some important steps you’ll have to take to prepare your business for the investment.

Determine and Understand Your Source of Financing

First, figure out how you’re going to get your funding, as well as the full strengths and weaknesses of that source. There are different advantages and disadvantages with each type of funding you could procure. For example, if you choose to work with a VC firm, you might have access to more experts and resources, but there may be more stipulations about how you can spend the money. You may face more competition.

If you choose to take the company public with an IPO, you may have unlimited growth potential. But you’ll also need to comply with far more rules and regulations. Do your research before you move forward.

Audit and Document Your Operations

Even if you’re still in the early stages of development, take the time to audit, understand, and document how your company operates. Which departments do you have established, and which ones require further development? How do you make your product or perform your service? How much money are you spending on upkeep, and how will this change over time?

This is important—it will help surface weak points within your organization. It may also be an important piece for prospective investors to review; many invest in people and processes rather than products or services.

Know the Numbers Inside and Out

Before you even think about getting funding, you should know your company’s numbers (and future forecasts) like the back of your hand. How much revenue are you currently generating? What expenses do you face? How will these numbers change over time?

If you understand these numbers well, you’ll be able to present them to a prospective investor confidently. You’ll be prepared to answer any questions concerning anticipated industry and market impacts. You’ll also have a much better chance of spending the money in a way that ultimately helps your business grow.

Figure Out How to Use the Money

This leads to my next point: Figure out how you’re going to use the money. Too many entrepreneurs who get a big injection of equity funding start spending liberally, without any thought toward budgeting or long-term financial plans. You might already have documented items you need to get (like pieces of factory equipment) or people you need to hire.

But before you take on this kind of funding, you should be able to account for every dollar—or nearly so. It will help you make a better pitch to prospective investors and ensure you spend that money responsibly.

Review and Upgrade Your Financial Team

You might already have a CFO in place or, at the very least, an accountant to help you track the company’s finances. But if you’re anticipating a major injection of capital, you’ll need a more robust and capable financial team to help you manage things.

There’s no firm rule for how many people you should have on staff, but make sure you have access to plenty of collective experience and manpower.

Establish a Governance, Risk, and Compliance Framework

Governance, risk management, and compliance (GRC) looks a little different for every organization, but no matter what, you’ll need to have some kind of GRC framework in place. There are countless variables to consider, so your best bet is to work with a team of mentors or advisors to determine the best structures and policies to institute for your company.

Create a Foundation for Investor Communications

Finally, work to create a strong foundation for your communications with investors. If you’re working with an angel investor or a small group of people, this means setting firm expectations for how to communicate in advance.

If you’re going public, you’ll need to establish how you’re going to report on company financials and other important information.

Once you’ve taken these steps, your startup will be ready to receive equity funding. Depending on the nature and size of your startup, equity agreements can get complicated. Make sure you have an experienced financial team backing you to understand the nuances of your agreement, whether you hire in-house or work with a third-party consultant.

Equity investments can be exciting developments for a growing company. But they can also be disappointing and draining if they aren’t handled correctly. Make sure to prepare your company—and yourself—for what’s to come. It will result in the best outcome for everyone involved.

The post How to Prepare for an Equity Investment appeared first on KillerStartups.

The Insults Game is Well Positioned to Ruin a Snowflake’s Night. 14 Nov 2019, 1:53 pm

Trash-talking has become a huge part of competitive gaming culture. From Discord to in-game chat text, deploying a powerful zinger is a great way to increase the fun and effectiveness of your online play.

This type of creative mockery has reached its apogee at the same time as mainstream culture is actively stomping out light-hearted humor gleaned from the expense of others. “Politically Correct” speech dictates, both at home and at school/work have had a chilling effect on how many insults one can spew publicly. For many, the semi-anonymous world of online gaming is the only forum left where they can feel comfortable being creatively deprecating of others.

The insult game turns the tables on this overarching cultural phenomenon. It asks “what if creating creative insults was the game itself?” In doing so, it provides a new, safe space for people who want to insult (and be insulted) to revel in their crapulence without the worry of censure by parents or other authority figures.

Developed by George Michael (not the one you’re thinking of) this engaging pursuit combines the simple and repeatable fun of a basic card game with the vast panoply of creative insults that users may contrive.

Gameplay consists of collecting and mixing different hand full of insult-specific phrase and word cards, to create a compound phrase that best elicits laughter (from the other players) and chagrin (from the target of the insult.) It combines all the fun of playground name-calling with the exciting and engaging world of tabletop printed card games.

The Insults Game is currently being promoted on Kickstarter, and is developing a mobile-focused app which will allow players to take their insult-building empire online, and play with other users on the go.

Another unique feature is the ability to have custom cards and box art printed as part of personalizing your own version of the game. If there are key phrases or other in-jokes that you and your friends enjoy, you can have them added, as custom cards, to make your own Insults Game sessions extra special and personal for the players you know and love (to insult.)

Custom box art and card backgrounds mean you can also personalize your Insult Game set with the photos of your friends and family, further deepening the emotional chasm into which the game will cast the people closest to you. If the insults aren’t triggering enough, how about putting your enemy’s face (or team crest) on the cards for when you play? This is great for team sports, or eSports groups who want to really lay into the competition after hours.

The Insults Game is available at on Kickstarter until November 24th, making it easy for you to pick up a copy, with delivery for Christmas Morning guaranteed by the producer. Have an insult-ridden Christmas.

Photos
The Insults Game

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5 Ways to Find the Frustration for Breakthrough Innovation 6 Nov 2019, 8:00 am

Inevitably, startups get some things wrong. Products don’t always work out as planned. Processes that seem solid on paper may prove dysfunctional in practice. Sometimes, entrepreneurs learn they’re trying to solve the wrong problem entirely.

Going back to the drawing board is never fun. It does, however, have a serious silver lining: Frustration drives innovation. When things aren’t working like they should, it’s easy to see opportunities for improvement.

While identifying frustration may be easy, turning it into something productive is more difficult. The key is spotting where your skills can make a difference. If you want to turn your frustration into innovation, you need to focus it on a problem you’re actually equipped to solve. 

Picking the Right Problem

Whatever gets you fired up, use that frustration to create positive change. The following are prime places to look:

1. Issues you’re passionate about

He may not have started in education, but Shahzad Bhatti saw that plenty of modern schools weren’t preparing people for the working world. During his time as the investment director at an Asian private equity fund, Bhatti heard the same stories wherever he went: Companies were struggling to find qualified employees, and employees were struggling to find work. There was simply a disconnect between what was needed and what was available.

What did Bhatti do? He left the finance industry. Having previously founded Prism Learning Group, Bhatti saw that he had the skills needed to do something about it: He started Axiom Learning, which offers one-on-one tutoring, test preparation, and treatment for learning challenges. Axiom’s latest initiative is LEAP 3.0, which offers ADHD treatment options that go beyond medication.

2. Your side hustle

There can be a lot standing between where your side project is at and where you’d like it to be; that’s the situation Tracey Grace faced right before she founded IBEX IT Business Experts. While working as a vice president at a Dutch consulting company, Grace was asked to completely eliminate her health IT staffing division.

In addition to managing IT and other services core to the company’s operations, Grace’s division helped major hospitals recruit and incorporate technical talent. Despite the division’s profits, the company cut it for being too distant from its overall mission.

Rather than let her division be shut down, Grace left to found IBEX, which provides on-site experts and training in IT frameworks like COBIT and ITIL. Since then, Grace has translated her passion for inclusivity into programs like Certifiably Diverse, which helps companies increase the diversity of their suppliers. As a minority woman founder, Grace felt she’d accomplished too much to let her work be taken from her.

3. Your daily routine

You could sum up Dollar Shave Club founder Michael Dubin’s frustrations in a single phrase: razor fortress. Razors had become so complicated and expensive that they’d gotten away from what they were supposed to do: shave. So he and other men didn’t have to spend half an hour sorting through different razor types in stores, Dubin founded his direct-to-consumer grooming company. Since then, his direct-to-consumer approach has become the name of the game in the personal care market.

Your days are comprised almost entirely of the same activities. Do you ever stop to think about how your conference calls, for example, could be stronger? Could some simple soundproofing reduce background noise? As Dollar Shave Club’s Michael Dubin showed, innovations don’t have to revolve around a cutting-edge app; they just need to be better than what’s already out there.

4. Your own limits

As an entrepreneur, your job probably isn’t all that physical. But if your product’s packaging or controls are frustrating to you, imagine what they’re like for people living with disabilities. Channel that into better, more accessible design.

Microsoft tapped that same frustration to create its Xbox Adaptive Controller, developed for gamers with physical disabilities. To develop disability-friendly models and packaging, designers Mark Weiser and Scott Wang asked gamers with disabilities what they wanted. Together, they created a cardboard shell free of twist ties, thick plastic, tape, zip ties, and any other unnecessary components that can make unpacking more difficult than it needs to be. Their collaboration produced the market’s first gaming devices specifically designed with and for disabled gamers.

5. Negative feedback

You may be your company’s leader, but you know how it feels to have someone shut down your idea. As much as it can hurt, you should turn those experiences into motivators. If you’ve seen a similar idea work elsewhere, put a spin on the idea and try again; if you haven’t, be the first.

After focus group testers rejected beer served on ice, Anheuser-Busch VP of Innovation Pat McGauley struggled to find what could possibly work for American beer drinkers if ice was too wild. Not wanting to let his CEO down, McGauley’s team developed a refreshing alternative to iced beer: the Lime-a-Rita.

McGauley’s innovation wasn’t just successful: The Lime-a-Rita spurred a revival of the malt beverage market. The Lime-a-Rita has since branched out into numerous different fruit flavors and attracted attention from other major brewing competitors like Miller-Coors and Labatt Breweries. 

Starting a company may not require discomfort, but innovation surely does. Whether you’re trying to change the world or simply improve your existing product, pay attention to what’s bothering you. More often than not, it’s the right place to start.

The post 5 Ways to Find the Frustration for Breakthrough Innovation appeared first on KillerStartups.

HelloWoofy streamlines media-rich, compliance-conscious, data-driven social. 17 Oct 2019, 10:07 am

Managing social media marketing has become a complex and thankless task. Social network providers are continually updating their compliance policies for commercial users, and locating and sharing the right content with the best hashtags, emoji, images and text takes real work. It also takes in-depth knowledge about which words, images, emoji and ideas work best together to drive engagement, and which will get your account banned if you used them.

The reason why emojis are critical is that industry leaders such as Hubspot and adobe have shown how double-digit engagement can be achieved based on the use of emojis (and they’re thousands of them to sift through in real-time which is what woofy does as you type in real-time). For example: “Emojis in a tweet can increase engagement by 25.4% and emojis in a facebook post can and the number of comment increase the number of likes by 57% and shares by 33%.” According to Hubspot and according to adobe: “48% of respondents […] say they are more likely to follow a brand on social media if it uses emojis, while 44% claim to be more likely to purchase products that are advertised using emojis.”

Unlike competitors Hootsuite, MeetEdgar and RecurPost, HelloWoofy uses a proprietary neural network to suggest proven best-choice emoji, hashtags, words and images every time you compose a new post. It was designed by CEO and founder Arjun Rai to provide what he calls the “Marketer’s Exo-Skeleton.” By making data-driven options available at the time of composition, users can be creative faster, and more effectively, spending less time searching for appropriate post content, and more time creating and scheduling more and better posts for real engagement.

“Small to medium sized companies deserve a categorically new marketing platform,” Rai explains, “that’s driven by intelligence or data science to compete with large enterprises that really have unlimited marketing budgets.”

HelloWoofy is designed with the tight timelines that entrepreneurs face central in its philosophy. Its UI is simple to use and color-driven, while including important accessibility features, like a color blindness option that replaces color cues with geometric ones. Where it really shines, however, is in the deep learning AI residing in the app’s back end.

“The AI aspects of the platform are driven by 35 million data points and analyzes them to autocomplete with the best words, emojis and hashtags in real time,” Rai continues, “So you, as a business owner, save grunt work, and, in essence, time and money.”

In addition to aiding in post creation, HelloWoofy ensures compliance with social networks’ evolving content requirements. As each post is created and added to the library of schaeuble content, it is analyzed for similarity to other content already posted. As soon as a new post is drafted, you receive a similarity score that can alert you to duplicate content. If your “new” post is too similar to something already shared, you HelloWoofy automatically prevents you from adding it to the available content library.

HelloWoofy was founded in 2016, and is currently working on porting their software to a Chrome Extension. They are also seeking to add strategic partners who can further their ambitions is global markets and other languages.

Photos
Hellowoofy.com

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Nostalgia Sells: How to Adapt Your Marketing 9 Oct 2019, 8:00 am

Every startup has to decide what its brand flavor will be. And while there’s definitely a demand for sleek, modern, and cutting-edge branding, don’t underestimate the power of throwing it back a few decades.

Nostalgic branding evokes pretty raw emotions, which can be a great thing for a new brand to capitalize on. It can also make the unfamiliar feel very familiar.

The Compelling Nature of Nostalgia 

When was the last time you found yourself daydreaming about some past event? Perhaps it was the last high school football game you ever played? Or your first kiss? Or maybe it was that time you got a big promotion at work and your wife and kids surprised you with a big celebratory dinner? These are all examples of nostalgia — and they’re more than just moments of reminiscing. 

“Nostalgia is the warm, fuzzy emotion that we feel when we think about fond memories from our past,” explains Erica Hepper, Ph.D., a lecturer at the University of Surrey in England. “It often feels bittersweet — mostly happy and comforting, but with a tinge of sadness that whatever we’re remembering is lost in some way.”

Here’s another way to understand it: Reminiscence is the behavior of looking back fondly on the past, while nostalgia is the emotional response it triggers. Research shows that nostalgia actually causes significant changes in the brain — mostly positive. It often makes people feel more optimistic and warmer. It can even block out negative emotions and help people shift their habits in a more positive direction. In other words, it’s a powerful force with predominantly positive outcomes. 

3 Ways to Use Nostalgia in Marketing

From a marketing perspective, it’s possible for brands to evoke feelings of nostalgia in its customers by encouraging them to look back fondly on things of the past. Just look at some of the latest cameras from Fujifilm and Polaroid, and you’ll see how powerful the pull of nostalgia is in a customer base that’s in love with the idealistic notion of a picture-perfect past. Or consider the widespread appeal of the Netflix show “Stranger Things,” set in the 1980s. Vintage tableware is making a comeback. There are even companies like eFireplaceStore offering freestanding stoves and accessories, allowing customers to embrace elements of simpler times.

Regardless of what product or service you sell, there are ways you can incorporate nostalgia in your marketing efforts to reach customers and amplify sales. Here are a few ways you can do it:

1. Know Your Target Market

You can’t use nostalgia successfully in your marketing efforts if you don’t understand exactly who your target market is. Take “Stranger Things,” for example. While plenty of today’s high school students enjoy the show, they don’t like it for its nostalgic factor; they never experienced the 1980s. It’s the viewers in their late 30s and 40s who feel that sense of wistfulness. Netflix understands this and does a good job of targeting both groups of viewers. But if the brand were only targeting high schoolers, it would miss the mark. Make sure you know your audience so you can embrace what’s nostalgic for them.

2. Authenticity Is a Must 

Authenticity is a must-have today, and that extends to throwbacks. “It works well for brands that have an authentic connection with the past, especially some powerful associations with it (e.g., the VW Beetle),” marketer Steve Olensik writes. “It can work for brands without an authentic connection to the past if the brands can create that familiar feeling without. This is tricky but can be done. It is aspirational for some but at the same time nostalgic.”

In other words, authenticity is the key. You can’t fake nostalgia and expect it to work. You need a genuine connection with the past — or at least an authentic reach toward the past — for your efforts to be effective. Your brand story, incorporating your grandparents’ old-fashioned methods, might serve you well. Explanations of how you’ve incorporated old-school elements — like rounded hubcap shapes or lace doily touches — can also create ties.

3. Continually Look Forward

Very few brands can live completely in the past and continue to grow. It’s okay to leverage nostalgic branding, but don’t do so at the expense of future growth and development. Always keep one eye on the future so you can innovate and maintain relevancy. 

There’s no doubt that nostalgia sells. The key for brands is to look back at the past with a genuine appreciation rather than a gimmicky push. It’s all about being real and natural — nothing should be forced. Done well, nostalgia can evoke just enough of those bittersweet feelings to compel people to make a purchase. Likewise, it has the ability to foster brand loyalty for years to come.

The post Nostalgia Sells: How to Adapt Your Marketing appeared first on KillerStartups.

For Startups, Ignoring SEO and Link Building Is a Long-Term Mistake 7 Oct 2019, 8:00 am

As anyone with startup experience knows, launching and growing a new business is often characterized by a stark dichotomy of emotions. It’s both exciting and scary, energizing and depleting, hopeful and frustrating. But what nobody tells you going into it is that you constantly have to weigh the short term against the long term.

With no guarantee of future success, you have to build your business like you’ll still be here in three, five, or 10 years, even when statistical averages suggest you won’t. This means paying attention to investments like SEO and link building — even when you won’t see the benefits until further down the road.

Startups: Shift Your Thinking to the Long Term

We live in an on-demand world — a fast-food culture, if you will — in which anyone can get anything he wants with very minimal delayed gratification. Need a ride somewhere? Pull up Uber or Lyft on your phone, and your very own private driver is on his way. Want to watch your favorite TV show? With on-demand streaming, you can binge watch an entire season whenever you want.

While there’s nothing wrong with living in an on-demand world, it’s warped our view of reality. We intrinsically assume that everything should happen right now. It’s killed any trace of patience we had left in our systems, leading us to believe that waiting for something is a sign of stupidity or weakness.

As an entrepreneur and startup founder, you have to push back against this deep-seated fallacy. As old-school as it sounds, patience is a virtue. A failure to recognize this will lead you to ignore the long-term value that comes from a steady, incremental commitment to SEO and link building. 

The Long-Term Value of SEO and Link Building 

SEO and link building go hand in hand. SEO refers to the big picture of optimizing your website and content for search engine visibility. Link building is a subheading beneath SEO, albeit one of the most important subheadings. The problem with SEO, and link building in particular, is that you won’t see overnight results. It’s a long-term play that takes months and months of disciplined work and effort to generate tangible results. But once the results start flowing in, they’ll continue to compound.

Startups can’t live without SEO — here’s why. In particular, they need to make a long-term commitment to link building. Patiently doing so over many months yields myriad benefits:

  • Amplifies search rankings: Google uses links as trust signals. When an authoritative website links back to your website, it serves as a trustworthy referral. In response, Google lifts your pages in its search rankings. 
  • Drives website traffic: Link building almost always results in website traffic increases. It does so in two primary ways: First, you gain clicks from the actual link. (A certain percentage of people reading an article with your link will click on the hyperlink and visit your page.) Second, you’ll see organic traffic increases from your improved visibility in the search rankings. 
  • Builds brand awareness: The more links you have on other websites and blogs, the more exposure your brand gets. This is particularly true if they’re overt brand mentions or features on your business.
  • Establishes authority: As you generate more links, the same people continue to interact with your brand. This allows you to establish authority in your niche. 
  • Builds your network: Link building is far from passive. It’s a proactive investment that requires you to actively engage and seek out opportunities. While it’s hard work, all of this effort ultimately allows you to build up your network with entrepreneurs, business owners, journalists, bloggers, etc. 
  • Diversifies risk: Anyone with enough budget can pay for traffic and exposure. But as soon as you stop paying, the visibility goes away. A long-term investment in link building diversifies risk by giving you a sustainable framework that will last for years to come.

When you look at link building through the lens of these benefits, a long-term investment is a no-brainer. For now, you have to push past your desire to get quick results and trust that all of your hard work and discipline will eventually pay off. It’s a counterintuitive idea in today’s culture — but also one that’s extremely effective.

The post For Startups, Ignoring SEO and Link Building Is a Long-Term Mistake appeared first on KillerStartups.

6 Sales Tools to Make Startups’ Lives Easier 4 Oct 2019, 8:00 am

You’ve started a new business, but now you have to convince people that your solution is worth the money. Sound familiar? If so, you’ve just entered the stressful world of sales.

Every company has to sell to survive. No matter how valuable your offering is, you won’t last long if you fail to communicate why buyers need it.

Evolve into a sales master by adopting these tools for your startup:

1. Workflow Automation

Salespeople can’t sell if they spend all day updating spreadsheets and records. Use workflow automation tools to empower your employees to eliminate manual tasks — and spend more time on activities that bring revenue to your business.

Even if you’re the only person on the payroll, you still need workflow automation software to make the most of every hour. Smart tools can templatize your email pitches and update customer records. They can also provide contextual customer support without flipping through files or placing callers on long holds. To sell more, start by automating more.

2. Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

You can’t sell products without prospects. Use a CRM to track sales opportunities, store contact information, and record interactions with prospects and customers. With a CRM powering your communications, you can help current customers and ensure buyers feel valued.

Most CRM systems integrate with a variety of sales tools, so you can customize the software to fit your needs. Try a few combinations and free trials to determine what works best. Once you have your CRM optimized, it will become one of the most potent weapons in your sales arsenal. 

3. Payments and Invoices

Handshake deals are good, but cash in your pocket is better. Invest in user-friendly payments and invoicing software to create a smoother finale for your sales funnel. If you force prospects to go through a cumbersome closing process, deals will slip through your fingers. Your competition will be waiting with open arms.

Many other sales tools offer built-in invoicing functionality. If that works for your startup, don’t fix what isn’t broken. However, if you could use a faster, more intuitive process, consider alternatives. Look for a tool that can scale with your sales team as your company grows.

4. Internal Communications

Sales and marketing teams share common goals. Without strong interdepartmental communication, neither team can reach its full potential. Implement internal communication tools and processes that encourage their use. This will get salespeople, marketers, and customer success agents talking.

When everyone in the company understands others’ needs, everything runs smoother. Customer satisfaction increases as agents know more about products and promotions, leading to more repeat business. Salespeople know how marketers promote different deals, so they feel more confident selling them. Marketers understand sales teams’ real needs and create content to fill the gaps. This catapults your company’s sales success, but only when your teams talk.

5. Order Management and Inventory

Every company with physical products needs a smart solution to track inventory and orders. Without up-to-the-minute information, your salespeople could accidentally make unfulfillable promises. Not only will that irritate customers, but it will also make your business look amateurish.

Stay informed with order management and inventory tools to get ahead of potential problems. Look for a solution that alerts you when stock is running low. The best products use smart reporting to identify which products are most profitable. They then help adjust your inventory management accordingly.

6. Social Media Management

In the post-Facebook age, even stodgy B2B companies stay active on social media. Give your salespeople a fighting chance by using social to promote your brand and advertise new deals.

Take advantage of social media chat capabilities, too. Talk to customers in comment sections and through private messages to resolve small issues before they become big problems. Allow customers to purchase directly through social channels. If that doesn’t work, make the transition from social account to landing page as seamless as possible.

As you learn the ropes of sales, you’ll eventually realize that no one has all the answers. Sometimes, ideal customers will go through the right parts of the funnel and fail to convert, anyway. Don’t let failure get you down. Continue to invest in your sales process. One day, you’ll look back at your early sales struggles and wonder why you ever worried.

The post 6 Sales Tools to Make Startups’ Lives Easier appeared first on KillerStartups.

Maryland’s Favorite Full-stack Forensic Lab-log Software 2 Oct 2019, 4:32 pm

Founded in 2016 by postdoctoral researchers with the NIH (National Institutes of Health), LabLog has become the most-used laboratory logging platform in Maryland. Providing an average 82% increase in timely lab report submission, it is becoming a requisite tool for laboratories engaged in high-end research. A full-stack solution for information tracking across multiple interdependent research teams, Lab log is currently used to facilitate verification and interoperability of results by over 500 institutional researchers across the United States.

“We chose LabLog because I had heard about the company from our peers, and they were all raving about the great features,” says Adam Azuli, of the NIH. “We were not disappointed at all.”

It makes sense that the NIH recognize Lablog’s value; Dr. Hani Ebrahimi and Dr. Pamela Gallagher, LabLog’s founders, both did graduate research there, and found their research constantly hamstrung by a lack of usable document management systems capable of expediting results delivery while maintaining strict FDA 21 CFR 11 documentation regulation compliance.

By removing regulation compliance as an individual concern for each and every researcher, LabLog frees laboratory staff to work together in a state of creative comradery. This enhanced team performance is evidenced in the numbers, with 72% of LabLog clients reporting that the platform increased communal relations between research staff and administrative staff.

Needless to say, LabLog is now looking beyond the state borders of Maryland to make their platform a national best-in-breed tool for all manner of lab-based research concerns. Their website is located at https://labnotebook.app for this exact purpose.

Photos
LabLog

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