Category Archives: Business Tips

5 Business Processes You Can Outsource

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business processes

When it comes to any business, there are many mandatory tasks that can be beneficial to growth but also burdensome in terms of your time. If you feel like you’re being pulled every which way then welcome to the club.

Running a business requires a lot of work, effort, planning and time on your end. Even if you don’t have a business partner, you can still split up some of the important tasks to free up more of your time and focus.

Thanks to outsourcing, you can hand off tasks for many of your processes large or small. It all comes down to narrowing down what you need help with then finding the right people to take charge of the project. Here are 5 key business processes to outsource.

1. Marketing

Marketing is all about testing. That said, it may not be a wise use of your time to aim for perfection with your marketing strategy in the beginning. You’ll need to focus on producing and testing out different mediums and strategies to see what provides the best results.

That said, it’s much easier to outsource this task. Marketing agencies and services help to get this done for you. They will likely have the expertise and know-how that will save you time in the long run. This allows you to focus on your actual products, services, and other bigger plans to push things forward.

Once you find a marketing strategy that works best for your business, you can automate it and hire someone to simply check-in and manage these processes. Marketing can be a great way to score new customers and passive sales for your business but it does require some of an investment upfront.

2. Accounting

One of the main goals of your business is to be profitable. Managing finances however, can be a whole other job in itself. While it’s important for you to know where the money is going and how your cash flow is, you can also outsource the hardcore accounting tasks to a professional.

Making a huge tax mistake or forgetting to track income and expenses can be stressful. Hiring someone for accounting will help spare you this burden. You can even consider checking out accounting software if you’re not quite ready to hire someone. This will still save you time and money so you don’t have to worry about overlooking the books while running your business.

3. Research

Similar to marketing, research can help improve your business, but it is an extensive drain. If you need to research company data, such as figures and findings, there are plenty of services that will do this for you. Let’s face it, most of us learned how to research in school so it shouldn’t be hard to find someone to do this for you.

This is one of those tedious tasks that can often be consolidated and outsourced so you can work on more important logistics.

4. Administration

Administration is one of those areas that is important, yet seems to cover everything. In short, it’s a constant ongoing task that can take up plenty of resources and take efforts away from simple productivity.

You can hire a virtual assistant to cover administrative duties and perform other tasks like onboarding new team members, scheduling meetings, sorting through email, and so on. You can still have an administrative role yourself, but having an extra person to help can reduce the hours you spend on this task. Plus, it’s always great to feel like you have a productive partner who’s lending a helping hand.

5. Deliveries/Customer Service (For Digital Products)

Finally, if you sell and ship a physical product, there are many companies out there that will try to achieve this themselves. This, however, presents a wall of costs before a single profit is made, such as vehicle purchasing, maintenance and taxes, as well as the required staff to do so.

Couriers and other logistics services exist for this very purpose. In addition to being cost-effective, you only use them when you need to, so the costs rise and fall with profits.

As you grow, logistics and supply chains can further reduce costs and give you a system that, although not completely automated. Not having to ensure deliveries and schedule the relative staff makes the process much easier, giving the customer what they want and improving the service they receive from you.

If you’re selling digital products, you can still outsource the customer service aspect. Since those products will likely be sent automatically via email, customers still may want to give feedback or have questions. It’s important to handle some of the customer services yourself so you can understand your customer’s needs more clearly and find ways to improve.

However, customer service is a task that can get overwhelming and take up most of your day. Consider hiring someone who can filter through email or be present via a chat feature on your product sales page so that everyone gets their questions answered in a reasonable manner.

Final Thoughts

As you probably know already, there’s a huge difference between working in your business and running your business. You don’t want to spend so much time with your head down that you are unable to actually visualize the next steps and how you want your business to perform. This is why you need a reliable time as well as business processes to outsource to others.

Consider these 5 key business processes to outsource during your next team meeting to determine how you’ll save time, energy, and money while still growing your business to new heights.

Image Credit: Fauxels; Pexels; Thanks!

5 Business Processes You Can Outsource was originally published on Calendar by .

4 Affordable Ways to Reward Your Employees For Their Hard Work

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A business is nothing without the employees who grind day in and day out to make it run. As the business owner, or manager, you need to show your team how much you appreciate their hard work. When you reward your employees for their efforts, it will also lead to increased productivity and motivation. Especially in startups, it’s tough for business owners to allocate a budget for these rewards. Truth is, you don’t have to break the bank to show your employees your appreciation. It really comes down to being creative and connecting with them on a personal level. If you’re short on ideas, take a look at these four affordable ways to reward your employees for their hard work.

Field trips.

Let’s take a quick moment to reminisce on our many years at school. Remember, when a teacher would announce a field trip? The level of excitement from the students was typically through the roof. Even if the trip was months out, you better believe every student had it on their calendar. This level of excitement can also be brought to your company. Team outings are a great way to reward your team as well as build chemistry. Whether it’s a trip to the bowling alley or a team dinner, there are plenty of cheap options that will have a huge impact on team morale.

Executive lunches.

As your organization grows, your staff will become increasingly distant from the executives who ultimately run the business. That distance will cause a naturally disconnect between the employees and their leaders. A great way to bridge that gap is to schedule lunches with the team and the executives or founders. Lunch meetings are productive for many reasons. First and foremost, they put the attendees in a much more casual setting compared to a conference room. This will encourage discussions beyond business and allow the employees to connect with executives on a personal level.

Flexible work days.

Rewards and perks go hand in hand. One perk, that literally costs nothing, is a flexible work day (or days). Whether you allow them to work completely remote or reduced hours, they will feel like they are being given a special privilege. Not only that, working remote has actually been found to increase productivity for some employees. The best way to leverage this policy is to leave it loose. For example at our company, being in the office on Friday is optional. If you’re able to finish your work before Friday, then you can enjoy an extended weekend. You should focus on measurable output rather than just hours worked.

Gym memberships.

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle goes hand in hand with living a happy and productive life. Odds are, most of your employees are looking to get a gym membership to say active. Nowadays, memberships at quality gyms can get quite expensive for a single member. Luckily for the business, plenty of gyms offer corporate or group membership packages that allow you to equip your entire team with a membership. This is a small gesture that will be well-received by everyone. Keeping your employees happy is no easy task. However, a loyal employee will stick with you through thick and thin. That said, use the four strategies above to make sure you’re rewarding your team for their efforts.
Originally published here.

Leading Your Startup When You’re Out of Town

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Finding Your Motivation After Startup Failure

At some point, even the most passionate and hardworking entrepreneur gets pulled away from their business. Maybe it’s because they’re taking a much-needed vacation. Or they’re traveling for work to attend a conference or meet with some important. Leading your startup while you’re out of town can be extremely stressful, regardless of the reason

On one hand, just making travel arrangements and getting from Point A to B is enough to turn your hair grey. But, you also want to make sure that your business operates as usual. That will further change the color of your hair. But, that doesn’t have to be the case if you take the following steps.

Preparation is key.

There might be days when you wish you could up just get up and disappear for a couple of days. Unfortunately, that’s not a luxury for entrepreneurs. Just imagine the chaos this would create!

To ensure that things run smoothly at your startup while you’re gone, you need to make lots of preparations. This includes making your travel arrangements to informing key stakeholders when you’ll be gone and when you’ll return. Sharing your calendar would be the easiest way to do this in one shoot.

Additionally, you should wrap up any work that has a deadline and not take on any more responsibilities. Also, designate someone to be in charge of the office and delegate tasks properly. Create an out-of-office message and schedule social media in advance. And, don’t plan to schedule anything to go “live,” like a marketing campaign or new site.

The point is to make sure that everything is in order before you leave. This way business will operate as normal. But, if there is a hiccup, you have a Plan A, B, and C to handle it before it gets any worse.

Assign new responsibilities to your team.

This isn’t delegation per se. Instead, it’s giving members of your team members a chance to spread their wings. For example, if someone has expressed interest in creating content for your website, let them write blog posts while you’re gone. You may want to still review it before it gets published, but it’s reducing your workload while keeping your team engaged.

Another option that I’ve tried is giving different people a chance to run meetings. These meetings are often shorter and no as in-depth when I’m out of the office. But, it lets my team develop new skills and keeps regularly scheduled meetings in everyone’s calendar.

A matter of trust.

The only way that you can lead from afar is by having people on your team that you trust 100 percent. At the minimum, you should have an assistant you can take messages, manage your inbox, and maintain your schedule. You should also have someone to put out fires. And, you should have a team that you know will still get work done when you’re not around.

There’s no right or wrong way to do this. But, building trust is about setting clear expectations and connecting the right people with the right jobs. And, if you’ve given your team autonomy, then this shouldn’t be an issue.

Use technology to your advantage.

Armed with nothing more than your smartphone, it’s possible to check your emails and jump in on conference calls. With a little preparation, you can pretty much run your entire business from the palm of your hand. After all, there’s an app for every aspect of your business from accounting to project management.

The kicker is that you’ll need WiFi — but what do you do if you don’t have WiFi? Since this is readily available, this also isn’t a concern. But, it does force you to be more mindful of your tech usage. You don’t want to be glued to your phone while attending a conference, meeting with a client, or relaxing with your family.

Schedule check-ins.

This segues into my next point; determine when to plugin or not. Whether you’re out of town for business or pleasure, it’s impossible for entrepreneurs to completely unplug. It’s like being a parent. Even when you’re out having the time of your life, you still call home to make sure the kids are alright. In fact, an ADT survey found that 45 percent of business owners said they find it very hard to ‘check out’ while away.

Since completely unplugging is not an option, schedule frequent check-ins. Let’s say that from 6:30 A.M. to 8:30 A.M. and then from 5:00 P.M. to 6:00 P.M. you’ll be available. During these times you can go through your inbox, get on Slack, and take phone calls. However, when you’re offline, then stick to it so that you can get the most out of your travels.

Collaborate and listen.

Again, there are all sorts of tools that ensure everyone in your organization remains in the loop. Shared calendars and project management software, for example, can be used to assign tasks and deadlines. You can also track your team’s projects. And, you can work together on a project thanks to the power of the cloud.

Additionally, these tools allow you to review schedules and address any issues in real-time. Even if there isn’t a crisis, at least you can make sure everything is running smoothly without micromanaging your team. Your time-off may also be a time to rethink about meaningful motivation and what actually drives each of your employees.

Let go of perfectionism.

Even if you were home, you know that things don’t always go as planned. Remember, we’re all human and make mistakes from time to time. But, if you’re chasing perfection, you’re not only harming your productivity, you’re also putting your health in jeopardy since it creates more stress.

Of course, this is even truer when you’re out and about. You just don’t have the time to be perfect. You may not even have access to the right resources to get the job done as well as you would like. But, do the best you can and move on.

Leading Your Startup When You’re Out of Town was originally published on Calendar by John Hall

Dread Meetings? How to Create Team-Lead Accountability

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Less Is More: People Will Attend Your Meetings When You Make Them Painless

Let’s not sugarcoat this. Meetings suck your time, your energy, and occasionally your soul. Meetings waste your team’s focus, they’re boring, and they’re the leading cause of death in office productivity. The good news is that there are ways to reduce the number of meetings within your organization. But, if you dread meetings, how can you create team-lead accountability?

Thanks to project management tools and internal communication channels like Slack, you can collaborate on projects, ask questions, assign tasks, and map out an entire project without ever having a meeting.

And meetings are a necessary evil: They’re where problems and conflicts are resolved. They also enable goals to be set and achieved, and feedback to be given and received. It’s where you can “rally the troops.”

Those reasons may not be enough to help you and your team get over the collective disdain of meetings, but if you create a culture of team-lead accountability, that might change.

Find a common purpose and set clear expectations.

“Set the stage for any team initiative by talking about the ‘why,” suggests Cathy McCullough, a business growth consultant, and culture expert at Rhythm Systems. “Connect what you need the team to do with why you need them to spend valuable time doing it. What’s the point? Why does it matter? We always tend to tell a team of people what to do; many leaders are good at that. As a result, the ‘why’ gets wholly ignored.”

After the purpose is clear, you can set measurable goals, so everyone involved with the meeting knows what’s expected.

Assign pre-work.

Assigning pre-work can be as simple as asking your team to provide critical solutions, suggestions, examples, or feedback about the agenda before the meeting takes place. Getting this information before the meeting not only ensures that everyone comes prepared, but it also makes people curious. A little buzz about a meeting goes a long way to making the session better. After all, your team is involved in its creation.

Adopt an “everyone plays” mentality.

Remember when you used to play soccer as a kid? It probably wasn’t much fun when you had to sit on the bench, right? The same is valid for meetings.

We often dread attending them because we feel like we contribute nothing. Rather than let that happen, get everyone involved by assigning roles, topics, or updates for every participant to share with the group. The assignments will make everyone more attentive and feel more empowered because of additional responsibility.

More importantly, it makes every attendee feel like his or her opinions and feedback are genuinely valued and play a role in the bigger picture.

Follow the “two-pizza” rule.

Meetings are more effective when there aren’t as many individuals involved. Only key players should attend. Fewer people not only keeps the meeting moving faster, but it also keeps them be more productive.

“Besides, the more people you have in the meeting room, the less responsibility each of them has,” writes Renzo Costarella. “As items are discussed, people will feel less inclined to speak up as they assume it will get covered by the other attendees. You need to invite key players, not spectators.”

As a general rule of thumb, follow the advice of Jeff Bezos: Don’t hold a meeting if two pizzas aren’t enough to feed everyone.

Decide who will do what and by when.

One of the most effective ways to create a culture of team-lead accountability is by assigning tasks to team members and giving them deadlines. Deadlines inspire your team members to take action and hold themselves accountable for their specific responsibilities.

However, it’s now your responsibility to step back and avoid micromanaging. Instead, give your team the freedom to complete these assigned tasks however they want — just as long as the project completion is within the timeframe. You’re only here to listen and provide support.

Rotate the leader.

One person should lead each meeting for the sake of efficiency; rotating that role will give your sessions variety.

You’ll need to provide guidelines for each meeting leader to follow. Allowing a rotation of employees to volunteer and experience leading a meeting can make them feel valued and visible. A rotating meeting leader can ensure the “regular” meeting leaders don’t burn out. All of your employees will step up their game on every project with revolving meeting leadership. Watch it happen.

If you’ve called a meeting because urgent decisions need to be made — make sure the leader of the meeting is also a high-ranking decision-maker.

Include “culture moments.”

When you start your meeting, kick it off with a “culture moment.” It’s a simple way to make the session more enjoyable while aligning expectations for how you want invitees to think and act.

For example, if you give a team player recognition for going above and beyond, tell the story — like how two departments collaborated on a project together — or ask others to share a story or give recognition.

Leave room for white space.

Keep the agenda as concise as possible. Don’t pack the meeting with so many items that it goes over the allotted time. Call this, leaving a little extra room for the white space. Not overloading a meeting with too many details also enable spontaneous discussions that help spark creativity.

Follow through with a plan.

Once the meeting has concluded, make sure attendees leave with action items. In most cases, these tasks are expected to be completed by the next meeting. If they’re not, you may want to reconsider whether the tardy person should continue to be a key player in future meetings.

Send an email to all attendees, so everyone knows who is expected to be in the session. All employees need clear indications of what is expected. You’ll not want an employee coming into the meeting who shouldn’t be in attendance. Similarly, you’ll not want someone not showing up to a meeting when their presence is essential. Include what assignments and preparation are necessary. Who’s responsible for what and when the work should be completed all will be decided beforehand so the meeting can remain short and sweet.

Empowering your team to take the reins at meetings can result in fresh ideas, new perspectives, and interest. Rather than put the onus on yourself to keep meetings captivating, pull your team members in to share the load — they’ll appreciate it as much as you will.

Dread Meetings? How to Create Team-Led Accountability was originally published on Calendar by Deanna Ritchie

How to Improve Your Own Morale When Working From Home (and Why You Should)

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Improve Your Own Morale

If you’re working from home, you’re probably working by yourself, in a vacuum. This is especially true if you’re self-employed, running your own business or freelancing. There are some major benefits to this arrangement, allowing you to focus on your work without interruptions and giving you more flexibility to handle the demands of your personal life, but there are also some drawbacks.

Notably, your morale can quickly decline. If you’re working for yourself, there isn’t anyone above you to monitor and improve your morale; there won’t be a supervisor to throw your team a congratulatory party when you reach a goal, or a boss to give you a bonus when you achieve exceptional performance in a given year. And even if you are working for an organization, working in a solitary environment can get depressing after a while.

The solution is that you have to take charge to improve your own morale. But why is this so important, and how can you do it?

Morale and Productivity

There’s a positive correlation between morale and productivity, which makes intuitive sense, but the data verify this effect. Employees who believe they have a good work-life balance are 21 percent more productive than those who don’t. Employees who work fewer hours end up getting more done in each of those hours. Those who feel good on a regular basis, and report positive or neutral mental health end up taking fewer sick days, which means more time to commit positive work.

Whatever your goals are, productivity is going to be a part of them. If you can increase your morale, you won’t just feel better, you’ll work better, and you’ll be more likely to achieve your vision.

What steps can you take to improve your own morale?

1. Invest in a Better Workspace 

If you’re going to be happy at work, you need to be happy with your workspace, and if you’re working from home, that means investing in a more enjoyable home office. You’re going to spend hundreds or even thousands of hours in this space, so you need to be comfortable in every dimension.

For starters, make sure your home office is separated from the rest of your house; you need to separate your work life from your home life, even in the context of your home. Designate a specific room to use only for work, or segment a section of a room with a door or curtain to give yourself some professional privacy.

Then, splurge on some furniture and equipment that can make your job easier. Having an ergonomic chair, a beautiful desk, and a sufficiently powerful computer can make any job easier to deal with even on the worst days. You can also add little touches, like an oil diffuser for your favorite scent or good speakers to play your favorite background music.

2. Venture Out to a Coworking Space 

Coworking spaces are becoming more popular, in line with the increase in remote working opportunities, and they’re valuable opportunities to boost your morale. Working in the same place over and over can leave you with a feeling of ennui or a lack of stimulation, and working by yourself can leave you feeling lonely (even if you like the idea of focusing on your solitary work). Coworking spaces give you a nice change of scenery (usually with a lucrative work station setup) as well as the opportunity to engage with other like-minded professionals. There might be a fee involved, but it’s usually worth it. For more periodic changes in scenery, consider heading to a café.

3. Work Outside When Possible

Working outside can also provide a hearty boost to your morale, given the weather is suitable to do so. Like going to a coworking space or café, working outside gives you a chance to your typical environment. It also gives you a chance to feel the warmth of sunlight upon you, and breathe fresh air. People who spend more time outdoors are at reduced risk of depression and tend to report higher feelings of happiness and optimism. Just bring a mobile hotspot or be prepared to do some offline work while you’re out.

4. Mind How You Collaborate 

If you’re part of a remote team, either as a leader or collaborator, consider refining how you collaborate with others. Much of your morale is going to depend upon how you engage with other people (and whether you engage at all).

When it comes to the actual work you’re doing, you can improve your morale by choosing communication channels that are as clear and appropriate for whatever message you want to convey; for example, phone calls and teleconferences are better for hashing out complex issues, while emails are better for relaying instructions or documenting new changes. Using a mix of both can improve the efficiency of your communications and leave you feeling more satisfied.

Outside of work, you may boost your morale by having more personal interactions with your team. For example, if you work in the same city, you can have periodic in-person gatherings for dinner or drinks. If you don’t live in the same city, you could arrange an occasional meetup at some point central to all of you.

If you work mostly alone and don’t engage with many other people, it’s important to find some other way to collaborate with other people, such as a social hobby. Excessive isolation, even for the most introverted among us, will eventually result in lower morale.

5. Take Time Off 

This is one of the most essential strategies you can use since it will help you avoid burnout, reduce stress, and spend more time doing what you want to do. When working from home, you’ll often have some degree of control over your schedule, so make sure you specifically schedule breaks and vacation days.

If you’re self-employed and highly motivated, you’ll be tempted to work as long as possible. When you have the option for a break, you’ll convince yourself you can go just a little bit longer, and you’ll avoid vacations since if you take one, your income could temporarily plummet. However, it’s vital that you treat your breaks and vacations the way you’d treat a work meeting or crucial industry event; schedule them proactively, and prioritize them above your other work.

There isn’t a “right” or “wrong” way to take breaks or a minimum number of breaks to take, but do try to take at least one full-fledged vacation, with multiple days off, every year. And try not to work more than a few hours at a time without at least a few minutes to decompress.

6. Exercise

Physical exercise is remarkably beneficial for both your physical and mental health.

Committing to just 20 minutes of exercise a day can help you reduce stress, increase your energy, and stay in good mental shape. Even better, try to exercise in the middle of your workday, so you can get the short-term benefits of the energy boost while also having a good excuse to take a prolonged break.

Exercising before work (for the energy increase) or after work (to relieve stress) may also suit you well.

7. Shake Things Up

Repetition and lack of stimulation will almost always result in decreased morale; if you do the same things every day, and in the same way, it’s eventually going to get to you, even if you thrive on predictability and order. Accordingly, you can keep your morale high by shaking things up on occasion.

How you do that is entirely up to you, and dependent on what kind of work you do. You could, for example, change the types of tasks you usually delegate, take on different types of clients, or rearrange your schedule occasionally.

8. Keep a Journal

In the course of your work, it’s also wise to start keeping a journal. It doesn’t have to be in-depth or complex; sometimes, even a simple record of how you felt throughout the day is enough to be valuable.

This serves a few important purposes. For starters, writing about how you feel is a form of catharsis;

  • By specifically acknowledging your stress and negative emotions, they become less powerful, and you become more capable of understanding them.
  • Second, you’ll keep tabs on how your thoughts and feelings develop in response to certain variables. For example, when you have an increased workload, do you feel hopeless and tired of your job? If so, that’s a sign you need to spend more time delegating, or evening your workload across multiple weeks. This is especially important if you feel yourself struggling with low morale.

Morale is a tricky business, especially when you’re managing it for yourself, but once you master the fundamentals and learn which strategies work best for you, you’ll find yourself working with renewed vigor—and little to no risk of eventually burning out. Even better, you’ll be able to get more done every day and feel better about your work at the end of your shift.

How to Improve Your Own Morale When Working From Home (and Why You Should) was originally published on Calendar by Abby Miller

7 Time-Saving Tips for Business Travel

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From overcrowded airports to lost luggage and long lines, travel isn’t always easy. However, with a bit of planning and adjusting your travel tactics, you’ll discover plenty of things you can do to save time and avoid any travel-related stresses.

By becoming a loyal airline customer and joining a frequent flier program, you’ll receive priority treatment and perks like early boarding or TSA pre-check. By making it a habit to travel only with a carry-on, you avoid wasting time at bag drop or baggage claim. Not only that, but you won’t be at risk of the airline losing your luggage either.

When it comes to business, it’s important to be cautious of your time and reduce your risks from any travel hiccups. To learn more, check out these seven time-saving tips when traveling for business.

1. Avoid peak travel times

If your schedule allows for it, when booking travel, try to avoid peak travel times like before the weekend or during rush hour. According to research, airports are typically busiest early in the morning or early evening, and slowest on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Therefore, if you can manage to take an afternoon flight or a redeye, or get out of town mid-week, you don’t have to worry about any airport chaos.

2. Join a frequent flier program

Committing to one airline is a great way to relieve travel-related stress and elevate your overall experience. If you’re a member of a good frequent flier program, you’ll receive special perks and benefits. For example, if you’re stuck at the airport due to a delay, you’ll be able to enjoy the airline’s VIP lounges. Or, when checking in, going through security and boarding the plane, you’ll typically get priority over passengers who are not part of that airline’s frequent flier program.

3. Plan ahead

Don’t just assume you’ll be able to quickly hail a cab or hop in the car two hours before your flight. In order to avoid traffic or any unexpected delays, do your research ahead of time. By checking and comparing various types of transportation methods, you’ll be able to figure out which is the fastest, most convenient and cost-effective mode for you. Not only that, but you’ll alleviate any stress that might come with last-minute panning.

4. Only travel with a carry-on

For smooth-sailing on and off the plane, never check a bag and pack smartly in a single carry-on bag. By using a carry-on, you’ll avoid the hassle of dropping your bag and picking it up at baggage claim. Additionally, it will also force you to pack smartly and efficiently.

5. Sign up for Global Entry

If you typically fly internationally, signing up for Global Entry is a no-brainer. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Global Entry program gives qualifying travelers an expedited customs process. According to the Dept. of Homeland Security’s website, the program allows “expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival into the U.S.” All it takes is a background check and interview in order to join.

6. Download your ticket to your phone

Gone are the days of printing paper plane tickets. Today, nearly every airline allows passengers to download e-tickets directly onto their smartphones. By downloading your e-ticket, you skip the hassle of printing your boarding pass and you don’t have to worry about misplacing it either.

7. Ask yourself if travel is really necessary

Before you go through the hassle of coordinating a business trip and spending days outside of the office, make sure that a trip is essential. Thanks to today’s technology, it’s incredibly convenient to conduct business across the globe using apps like Skype and Hangouts. In fact, apps like these reduce the need for in-person meetings because they allow us to have virtual video calls. So, before you start planning your trip, assess if a face-to-face meeting is really necessary.

7 Time-Saving Tips for Business Travel was originally published on Calendar by John Hall

8 Out-There Apps to Boost Your Productivity Levels

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Apps to Boost Productivity

From email follow-ups to meeting prep and note-taking, thanks to technology some of today’s most menial tasks don’t have to take up your precious time anymore. In fact, there is pretty much an app for everything nowadays. But what apps boost your productivity levels?

The app FollowUp compiles all of your most urgent emails and unanswered communications so you don’t forget anything. Charlie puts together information on a person you’re meeting with. And Squid converts your hand-written notes into digital files. It is safe to say there is an app to help with anything you do today.

If you are not sure where to start, take a look at these eight out-there apps to help boost your productivity levels.

1. FollowUp

When you’re busy, it’s easy for things to slip through the cracks. However, FollowUp wants to make sure you don’t forget anything. FollowUp congregates all of your most important emails, text messages and unanswered phone calls in one place, so you’re reminded to get back to them.

2. Charlie

Whether you’re meeting a new client or going into an interview, it’s important to know some background about who you’re meeting with. Instead of taking the time to research people on the web, Charlie can do this for you. The app goes through hundreds of sources to create a one-page document with information about the person you’re going to meet with.

3. Things

To-do lists can get messy and congested, and the app Things seeks to fix that by helping users make the most of their day.

For Mac and iOS, Things organizes your to-dos in different lists including today, this evening, upcoming, checklists and other customizable headings. It helps create an outline for not only your day, but months in advance.

4. Squid

Built for Android and Windows, Squid helps you save time by converting your handwritten notes and other documents into images or PDFs. You can annotate and write on the new images, and you can also scan and sign any documents without needing to use a printer or scanner.

5. Atlas Recall

Few of us are born with a photographic memory, although with the help of today’s technology, we can feel like we have this power. Atlas Recall creates a searchable index of all of your content, including browser history, email accounts, social media, chat messages and more. Calling itself a “searchable photographic memory,”

Atlas Recall helps users find anything they’ve come across on any device, apps and cloud services.

6. Strides

Strides isn’t just another daily to-do app. It helps you track your goals and habits, letting you know how close you are to achieving the goals you’ve set. It groups habits and goals in four categories: target, habit, average and project. It will not only help you reach your long-term goals, but also help you kick any bad habits.

7. Feedly

With the abundance of news outlets out there today, there’s a ton of overlap when it comes to breaking news and other content. Feedly helps users quickly filter through articles published by their favorite news outlets — allowing them to organize, read, save and share stories that they care about.

8. Realtime Board

Communication is key when you’re working with a team. Realtime Board is an online whiteboard designed for collaborative work environments that helps keep every team member on the same page. Users can work on research together, sharing images and creating mood boards, conduct visual brainstorming sessions, work on user experience and design together and more. Realtime Board puts everything in one place and lets every team member chip in and see what’s going on.

Now, you can get started with any one of these apps to boost your productivity levels.

8 Out-There Apps to Boost Your Productivity Levels was originally published on Calendar by John Hall

Why and How to Sever Ties With Bad Clients

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Sever Ties with Bad Clients

No founder enjoys losing a client. That goes double when the client has been with the company for years or contributes a large amount of revenue. However, when a client turns toxic or prevents the company from growing, founders have no choice but to cut ties. There are rules of why and how to sever ties with bad clients.

A client who is bothersome or needy does not necessarily merit firing.

An infographic from Invesp details that new customers are more expensive to acquire than existing ones is to retain, less likely to try new products and more profitable in the long term. By firing a client, the company might solve some immediate problems but create larger ones down the road. Every successful founder will eventually sever a few relationships, though. To keep company growth on track without creating unnecessary, hurt feelings, leaders need to understand when they have no other choice.

When to fire a client.

Startups should only fire clients in a few situations. Most importantly, if keeping the client is preventing the business from growing, founders should cut loose quickly. A company that started in one field but found massive opportunities in another cannot continue to dedicate resources to older, less profitable areas of business.

Clients may also merit firing when they have a negative effect on employee retention. Happy employees are productive employees. When workers continuously have to deal with a client who is never satisfied and always rude, they get less satisfaction from work, increasing the likelihood of burnout.

Talented and committed employee teams are far more valuable than any single client. In some cases, firing a bad client is like kicking a belligerent regular out of a restaurant. The company might miss the income, but the staff will be grateful knowing that management has their backs when push comes to shove.

Firing a client the right way.

Most clients won’t be happy about losing a vendor. Once the decision becomes final, the founders need to know how to navigate the conversation without causing unnecessary problems.

Keep these rules in mind when cutting ties with a client:

1. Leave pride at the door.

Before making the first move, think about the factors driving the confrontation. If this client is generally good for the business, don’t let one lousy interaction sour the relationship beyond repair — especially if the company is at fault.

Be willing to make amends if the client suffered the first insult. Michael Luchies, the founder of TrepRep, recommends full ownership of mistakes in times of strife. Only if the relationship has become harmful for the business (and not just personal pride) should the firing process proceed to the next step.

2. Decide on acceptable solutions.

If the relationship is broken beyond repair in its current state, outline acceptable solutions to the problem first. Would this relationship be better if the client continued to use some services but not others? Could this relationship resume later? Has the relationship deteriorated beyond the point of repair?

Answer these questions before making any ultimatums. Don’t let the client come in with an unconsidered compromise. If that happens, it may prolong an inevitable separation and create bad blood on both sides.

3. Outline an exit plan.

With the final decision to separate, walk the client through the exit strategy. Be willing to complete all current projects on time and budget, if possible, or be prepared to talk about how to hand over the unfinished work.

If you are leaving a client behind, it is an excellent time to be familiar with the contract, but don’t let legalese set the tone of the conversation. Relying on “Section 5, Article 4, Paragraph 3,” is a cowardly way to end a relationship.

Instead, talk to the client like a human being and be clear about expectations for the future. Knowing the underlying agreement provides structure for the conversation, not ammunition for an attack.

4. Stay committed to the plan.

Bad clients who get fired don’t always take the news well. If you think you can burn a client via email, they might call and start yelling. If they’re already on the phone, they might try to guilt or bargain their way out of the situation.

Remember all the research and difficulty that led to this hard decision. Bring a written list of reasons into the conversation as a reminder of why this became necessary. Offer recommendations for other providers but stay committed to the final decision.

Not all bad clients require active damage control when they get fired. Plenty of them understand the reasons and wish the best for both parties. When that happens, feel free to leave the door open for collaboration down the road. Just remember – the situation deteriorated for a reason. Unless the factors that soured the relationship change, a second attempt would end up the same as the first.

Why and How to Sever Ties With Bad Clients was originally published on Calendar by John Hall

How to Manage Multiple Clients (Without Suffering From Burnout)

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Manage Multiple Clients

Can you manage multiple clients without losing your mind? When you first start your business, your goal is just to land a single client…any client. As time goes on and your business grows, you’ll start to develop new client relationships which will require you to split up your time.

One day, you may even get to the lucky place where you can be more selective with who you work with. Regardless, you will still need to learn how to manage multiple clients. Freelancing businesses especially can be very feast or famine so want to do your best to maintain the clients you have without getting overwhelmed or burned out.

If you’re finding it challenging to manage multiple clients, here are some tips and strategies that can help.

1. Prioritize Your Clients Throughout the Week

Depending on how many clients you have, you will likely have to split up your workload so you can focus on each client on a particular day and time. If you have 5 clients and work 5 days per week, you may want to dedicate a few hours each day to each client.
But what if you have more and don’t want to work Monday through Friday? Odds are each of your clients have different needs. Some may need communication and provide bigger projects while others may be more hands-off and assign smaller tasks.
Set your schedule up each week so that you know which clients you’re working with and how much time you’ll need. Bigger clients may need to take precedence toward the beginning of the week or vise versa. Keep deadlines in mind and come up with a schedule that works best for you and allows you enough time to perform well for each client.

2. Realistically Manage Client’s Expectations

Have a conversation with clients early on about their expectations and how you can accommodate them. Be honest about what your schedule/availability looks like along with the fact that you have other clients as well.
If you don’t work weekends, speak up and let clients know. Also, let clients know when it’s the best time to reach you to discuss projects and other topics. If Monday – Wednesday works best for you to prioritize a particular client, communicate that to them and they will likely feel special and appreciated that you are dedicating a specific time block to their needs.

3. Consider Using a Project Management System

I don’t know how I managed clients in the past without using a project management system. Sites like AsanaTrello, and Basecamp allow you to organize your tasks and separate projects which is great for being able to manage multiple clients.
I personally use Asana and I like how I can see everything I need to do for each client daily along with the deadlines. Asana automatically sends email reminders when a task or coming up due or it’s overdue. This way, I never forget a client project large or small.
You can also share files in Asana and communicate easily with clients by leaving a comment under the task. If you’re working on a team, Asana is also great for this because you can create sub-tasks for each task and assign different roles of the process to different people. This saves me time and eliminates a lot of stress when I’m trying to effectively manage all my clients and meet deadlines.

4. Schedule a Meeting Day

If a lot of your clients request to have meetings with you, consider scheduling them all on the same day. Sure, this can sound like overkill, but it can actually do the opposite when it comes to your productivity. Having a meeting every day or even multiple times during the week can slow you down.
You have to stop what you’re doing to attend your meeting which means a lot of your projects will be partially completed throughout the day. It’s probably better to just load up all your client meetings on one day. That way, you can knock everything out at once and won’t have to worry about refocusing on important tasks.
Also, be sure to bill clients for meetings that take you away from your work or factor those costs into your project rate.

5. Do One Task a Time

You may think you need to multi-task because you have several clients but this couldn’t be further from the truth. I’ve done the stop-and-go routine when by working on several different projects at once and it never pans out.
Instead, stick to your schedule and do one thing at a time. If you feel overwhelmed at the start of the day, pick a specific client project to work on and don’t switch gears until you’re finished.
Schedule in time for breaks or to check email but try to focus on the task at hand and cross it off your list before moving on.

6. Don’t Be Afraid to Say No

In order to effectively manage multiple clients, you need to know your limits and be comfortable with saving no. If having 10 clients is too much for you, be honest about it and either say you’re fully booked, or hire help and raise your prices.
Saying no may be tough especially if you feel like you’re turning money away but realize there are plenty of opportunities that will come and go. If you don’t have the time or energy to take on an extra client or project, you’d be doing yourself a disservice by taking it on anyway.
Don’t compromise your quality or attention to detail by overloading your schedule. This will lead you to get extremely burnt out. Instead, know your limits, hire the right help, and schedule in downtime so you can take breaks and decompress as needed.

How many clients do you have and how do you manage them all while maintaining your sanity?

How to Manage Multiple Clients (Without Suffering From Burnout) was originally published on Calendar by Deanna Ritchie

How to Break Your Bad Time Management Habits

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Time management habits

Many founders love to compete on who gets the fewest hours of sleep, who works the longest and who takes the most infrequent vacations. This toxic attitude about time is not only unhealthy but unproductive. Here are some ideas about how to break your bad time management habits.

Americans are especially bad about working long hours. If you are in the U.S. or anywhere else in the world working too many hours, you need to break your bad time management habits.

The International Labor Organization found that Americans average 137 more work hours per year than Japanese workers and 260 more than British workers. That’s nearly one extra working month per year compared to Japan, a country that has a word for “death due to overwork.”

In a nation of over-workers, founders seem to work more than just about everyone.

It’s easy to see why. Popular media idolizes founder martyrdom, and people like Gary Vaynerchuk tell would-be entrepreneurs that they have to work 18 hours a day to succeed.

Fortunately, there’s more to success than working long hours. The most successful founders are not the ones who force themselves to work late into the night, but the ones who do more in eight hours than most people do in those elusive 18 hours.

Use these tips to get more from the workday and let other people handle the late shift:

1. Schedule it, do it and forget it.

No one can multitask, even people who pride themselves on their ability to do so. Research from the American Psychological Foundation found that multitasking carries a host of hidden costs. According to the researchers, the best way to multitask — is not to do it at all.

Avoid the temptation to multitask by scheduling time to handle batches of small tasks throughout the day. For example, set one time during the morning and one time during the afternoon to answer emails, then ignore the inbox outside those windows. Schedule a couple of short breaks to avoid burnout and maintain focus.

Practice decisiveness by setting deadlines on when to make final choices.

That might mean deciding on a new vendor by the end of the week. Decide on which flight to take by the end of the next 10 minutes. Get into the habit of acting on available information to cut down on unnecessary balking. If the decision isn’t correct — you can pivot just as quickly.

2. Fight the urgency effect.

Founders who answer every email, phone call, and meeting summons barely have time to sleep, let alone work on their companies. Determine quickly whether a task requires the attention of the founder and delegate any work that someone else could handle just as well.

A phenomenon called the urgency effect, covered in the New York Times, describes why people perform minor tasks they don’t need to do, even when larger projects await. Human brains enjoy the satisfaction of completing tasks, so they direct people to complete everything in front of them regardless of how those tasks affect the big picture.

Fight the urgency effect by following a straightforward rule: if someone else can do it, someone else should do it.

Founders face plenty of work that only they can accomplish (such as high-level sales and investor relationships). Don’t waste precious time on administrative work or in meetings that someone else could attend.

3. Keep a notebook.

Jack Dorsey, founder of Twitter, could use any productivity tool in the world. He could even hire a team of developers to build one just for him. Instead, he uses the most straightforward tool possible — the note-taking app on his iPhone.

Dorsey understands what every innovative person does: thoughts are fleeting. A potential solution to a longstanding problem might seem obvious in one moment, but when it comes time to tackle the issue again, the brilliant idea may not seem so clear.

With a bit of practice, efficient entrepreneurs can make impressive progress in just a few hours.

Keep a notebook throughout the day to jot down ideas, short to-do lists, and anything else that merits a written reminder. Get into the habit of externalizing thoughts. Entrepreneurs have plenty on their minds, and they can’t keep track of everything without a few things slipping out. Less time spent reconstructing old ideas means more time to execute and move on to the next something.

Why work late into the evening when a few productivity adjustments during the day work just as well? Drop out of the additional content on hours logged and start doing more with the rest of the workday.

How To Break Your Bad Time Management Habits was originally published on Calendar by John Hall

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