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Entrepreneurs Management Motivation Personal development Productivity Small Business

7 reasons why 20somethings are more productive

Today’s guest post comes from Clay Collins over at The Growing Life. He talks about the 7 reasons (I suspect there might be more if we pushed him on it) that 20somethings are (apparently?) more productive than us old guys.

Well, except for me. *I’m not that old*<g>

Check it out before Clay turns 30, will ya?

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Competition Employees Leadership Management Marketing Motivation Productivity Small Business

Why are you STILL wasting time?

No, this is not another time management discussion. I simply want to put your day in the proper context.

After all, almost 60% of the year is behind us and I want you to be sure you’re getting closer to making it where you wanted to be by the end of the year.

So… if you are wasting an hour a day – doing *whatever* – what do you think that’s worth to you?

If you have 10 employees and each one of them is wasting an hour a day, it would probably bother you. At least I hope it would.

Lets assume for the sake of argument that you take $100,000 out of your business each year. If you waste an hour a day, that’s $51 and change you waste every day, or about 85 cents per minute. That’s assuming you make that 100 large in an eight hour day, working 50 weeks per year.

If you waste that hour a day all year long, you just tossed $12,750 out the door (.85 per minute * 60 minutes per day times 5 days per week times 50 weeks per year).

Is whatever you’re doing today worth the money you’re paying for it? Is it generating the $ you need it to?

Look at it another way, if $100K is your benchmark. $100K divided by 5 days per week and 50 weeks per year (Im assuming you take 2 weeks off) is $400.

That’s $400 per weekday, day in, day out. If you work 8 productive hours per day…

If you only manage 7 productive hours per day on average all year long, then you’re up to $457 per weekday.

If your numbers are bigger, that wasted time gets a lot more expensive.

Stay focused.

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Amazon Apple Automation google Management Productivity Small Business Software Technology

MobileMe becomes ImmobileMe

Call me old fashioned, but when someone says they’re gonna host all of my email somewhere else and Im just supposed to trust them and not keep a copy here where I can protect it, I think I’ll pass.

Doesn’t matter to me if it’s Google, Apple’s MobileMe, Amazon S3 or whoever. All of them have had email downtimes or lost data.

As have I. At least if I lose it under those circumstances, it’s my fault and I have control over the backup processes.

Are you trusting your critical business email to (immobile) MobileMe?

Think hard about what happens to your business if you lose access to MobileMe, Gmail or Amazon S3 data for an hour.

Or…

  • A day.
  • A week.
  • A month.
  • Permanently (as occurred last week for some MobileMe users).

Does your stomach hurt yet? It should.

And if you’re using MobileMe or any of these services without a local backup of your critical business data, it’s no one’s fault but your own when you have to shut the doors.

Outlook (or your email program of choice) may be annoying as crud compared to that cool web interface, but I control how many backups I have and where they are, and I can get to them ASAP without having to drive to Cupertino (or wherever) to beg for a restore disk cuz I once golfed with Kevin Bacon and he knows someone who is only 7 levels of separation from Steve Jobs.

Heck, I could probably find Kevin on LinkedIn 🙂

Seriously though, where is your critical path data?

Think about what happens to your data, and thus, your business, if the internet goes down for a few days – or at least, your access to the net.

Think about what happens to your data, and thus, your business, if you can’t access invoices, contact info, and so on.

Think about covering your backside a little better.

And make sure you have a few candles in the closet.

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Employees Leadership Management Personal development Productivity Small Business systems Time management

Life and business control starts with systems

Many business owners would love to have control of their lives, yet they never seem to take any serious steps toward achieving that state.

I’ll be the first to tell you that I’m no poster boy in this department, but just like me, if you look around, you’ll find someone doing even worse than you at this.

It’s something I have to make a very determined effort to stay on top of.

For me, it all comes back to systems.

My system is fairly simple.

It consists of Outlook, lists and a Smartphone or similar that talks to Outlook and knows what’s on my todo list and calendar.

One thing that makes Outlook far more functional at this is David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD) add-in for Outlook.

If you haven’t read David’s book Getting Things Done, I suggest giving it a shot. I’ll warn you – You might not agree with his methods at first.

If you are one of those people with piles all over your desk and all over your office, constantly trying to figure out where things are or finding things late because they were in a pile, then David’s book is a definitely a worthwhile read for you.

Lets get back to the Outlook thing for a minute. GTD for Outlook adds a toolbar to the email viewer screen, and to the main Outlook screen.

One of the most important buttons on that bar is DEFER.

When you get an email that you dont need to deal with for 2 weeks, or it confirms an appointment (and the other user isnt using Outlook’s meeting confirmation/calendaring features), you can simply use the Defer button to quickly create an appointment on your calendar.

Best of all, that appointment has the original email attached to it, along with any files or what not that came along with it.

I’m not going to document the entire product, but that button not only saves me a lot of time (no manual entry of appointments) but it also helps me make sure I am where I’m supposed to be, when I’m supposed to be.

Give the book a read. I think you’ll get something out of it even if you don’t use Outlook. There are other programs (Including another add-in for Outlook) that were designed to work in the GTD system.

Control of everything is impossible, but effectively dealing with the disasters (or just random annoyances) is a lot easier when the controllable stuff is actually under control/management.

Remember, you set the tone for your business.

If you aren’t under control (or at least look it), then your staff won’t see much reason to be either. Or they’ll find an employer who is.

Same goes for clients.

Is your controllable stuff actually under control?

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Automation Community Competition Creativity ECommerce energy Management Marketing Positioning Productivity Small Business systems Technology

Fuel cost thoughts for small business owners

To the consternation of many, I’ve quietly noted for several years that the rise in fuel costs would also have some positive impacts on us and on our society – in addition to the obvious negative ones.

It’s not a liberal or conservative issue, it’s a pragmatic one.

Among other things, higher fuel costs will…

  • force us to become more self-sufficient, both as individuals and as communities.
  • force us to become better thinkers. The smartest business now has even more of an edge.
  • force us to become better planners.
  • force us to become far more responsible to ourselves, our neighbors and to our businesses.
  • force us to deliver even more services via the Internet
  • force us to use the Internet to fine tune the logistics of every aspect of our businesses
  • require our communities to become far more dependent on the individuals and businesses within, rather than on a largely-faceless community 600 or 6000 miles away.

That last one is where the business that has a personal relationship with its clients will shine.

What should fuel costs have the small business owner thinking about?

The obvious thing is the rising cost of shipping and transportation of goods.

While it is “really cool” to order a new computer on the internet at 2am and then be surprised to have the Airborne guy standing in my driveway with the computer box at 8am that day, the cost of making that happen is far more than the $5 extra I paid to make it so back in 1987.

The changes that rising fuel costs cause require some thought, no matter what you do or sell.

Some might not be so obvious, and those are the ones that can make the most difference.

Look for things that are below the radar of “most people”.

One example: the real estate business

Evidence is appearing that prospective home buyers are looking far more closely at the location of homes and the resulting commutes.

The higher price of homes close to town is offset by shorter commutes to work and shopping. How many people in California (much less Boise) would rather spend that extra 2-4 hours a day with their family rather than on gas, as they stare at the back of the car in front of them? Suddenly, even with California wages, those numbers become significant.

If you are a Realtor or a mortgage broker, you have to be watching for small changes in people’s behavior before they become large changes. You might start selling more homes in areas that are less congested (slower traffic, longer commutes), yet still close in and convenient.

You might have a new tool that takes MLS address info, ownership years, employer data and change real estate agent farming forever.

Maybe you “niche yourself” by offering a service for employers that helps their people find homes closer to the office, or a similar service for employers who are moving employees to the area.

You might focus your attention on selling those remote homes by touting their access to broadband internet and place your marketing attention on work-at-home business owners, telecommuters and the like – people who are far less concerned about commuting distances.

Distances to day cares from work and homes are now more important. This will affect your ability to find employees. Minimum wage work will be chosen more carefully, since commute costs will eat into a small wages quickly.

If you were having a hard time finding people a year ago, commute costs due to fuel prices might complicate that further.

You must put far more thought into those 3 little words: location, location, location.

The best Realtors are going to find smart ways to leverage today’s issues, as they always have, only the parameters have changed.

It isn’t just real estate though

If you do a lot of mail order/internet order/phone order business, how are you preparing your business to do more locally?

What if shipping costs tripled tomorrow? Would your mail order business survive? Where would you find “replacement” customers locally? How would you attract them? Would you focus on regional mail order clients vs national? What changes in your product line are necessary to succeed on that refocused client market?

These are things you should already be thinking about, no matter what you do.

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Competition Corporate America Employees Management Productivity Small Business

Learning from Google

Today’s guest post is a brief story in Baseline magazine about how Google treats their employees.

Unless you work in an IT shop (ie: a geeky guy like me), you probably haven’t read Baseline, but I highly recommend it.

It was the source of the excellent coverage of the Delta Nervous System years ago that changed how Delta captures and utilizes info about their business, from all parts of their business.

This article, however, is about a visit to Google and some insights gained by observing how things work around there. To be sure, when you have enough cash to wallpaper the Pentagon, your business might do things others wont do, but the details of the implementation can be overlooked in this case.

Look at the consideration taken for the employee. For Google, or for you, they’re a critical piece of your business.

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Blogging Competition Management Motivation Personal development Productivity Small Business systems Time management

We dont need no stinking batches

Apologies to fans of the movie The Treasure of Sierra Madre, but Darren set me up so well, I just couldn’t resist.

Note: The embedded YouTube viewer is annoying the often-annoying Internet Explorer, so you can see the video here instead.

You see, Darren Rowse of Problogger, and Digital Photography School would argue that you do need those “stinking batches”.

In today’s guest post, Darren describes how batching his work allows him to get more done.

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Apple Automation Competition Management Marketing Positioning Productivity Real Estate Restaurants Retail Rotary Small Business Software Strategy Technology The Slight Edge Web 2.0

Small business + iPhone app = opportunity

Disclaimer: I simply have to admit that it’s unlikely that I would buy an iPhone until Apple decides to discard AT&T, or Steve Jobs’ gang adds a better cell carrier to the mix. I’m simply not willing to deal with those guys if I don’t have to.

And yes, I’d probably get over it if the right opportunity (or idea) came to me.

My AT&T issues aside, your business could benefit a great deal from taking advantage of the fact that there will be even more iPhone users out there – with what appears to be the best mobile application platform built to date.

Let’s talk about a few possibilities.

Let’s say you own a restaurant. Imagine if an iPhone owner, their spouse and another couple are driving around deciding where to go for dinner.

They call up an app called TonightsSpecial on their phone. Because the iPhone has a GPS in it, it knows where you are. It displays the current specials at restaurants within a 15 minute drive (or 5 or whatever the iPhone owner decides) of their current location.

It shows the wait time for seating (if you so choose), price range, cuisine, and how to get there from the iPhone’s current location – again, since your phone knows where you are and where the restaurant is.

And with a touch, it tells the restaurant to hold a table for 4 for seating 15 minutes from now, because you’ll be right over.

Or maybe you own a motel. And some poor, tired traveler has been driving all day to get to Mount Rushmore, the kids are tired, their spouse is after them to find a motel and everything is full because it just happens to be the first weekend in August – ie: the Sturgis motorcycle rally.

Except that this traveler’s iPhone has an app on it called EmptyRoom that tells them where all the empty hotel room inventory is within 30 miles of their current location. And since you registered your hotel with EmptyRoom’s service, it knows when you have a vacancy.

Instead of that family driving past Rapid City because every hotel they checked was full, they turn left just past the airbase and follow the directions on a phone to a room that cancelled 23 minutes earlier because a biker got held up by some rain (ok, ok, that wouldnt happen with a REAL biker, but I digress).

Rather than having a room-night go up in smoke, you just did 2 things: Rented a room for the night that was probably going to go to waste and 2, pulled a tired driver off the road and made their spouse and kids a lot happier and safer.

Or, you’re a Realtor. And you have built an iPhone app that automatically notifies a client on their phone when a home that matches their needs comes on the market.

You’re busy, out making a sale, or at a closing – yet your iPhone app is telling the client where the newly-listed home is, how to get there, what the price is, and if they tap a button in the app, it’ll make an appointment using the open times in your shared Google calendar (or me.com, or whatever) to tour the place.

And of course, it’ll only do that for people you have under contract, if that’s how you want it to work.

Or, you belong to a network of independent coffee shops. Starbucks is your arch enemy, other than the nice thing they did to sell everyone on how cool it is to buy $4 cups of coffee:) So when you join the independent coffee shop network, your shop appears on someone’s iPhone when they open that app.

Again, since a GPS is built-in, it can show me the closest independent coffee shops to the iPhone’s current location. This one can be cloned for just about any independent business. Bike retailers. Pizza shops. Dry cleaners, etc.

No matter what business you’re in – and especially with service, retail, restaurants and lodging, there are a pile of iPhone application possibilities here to make your business even more personal, to deliver even more value and to take advantage of an opportunity that most competitors wont even recognize.

Sure, all of this can be done now, from a web page, or the Yellow pages. You have a chance to bring it into their hand, without extra effort, so you can draw them specifically to your business – and that’s exactly what they want, otherwise they wouldnt be using that iPhone app in the first place.

Pre-sold buyers. Everyone likes them.

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Apple Automation Competition Corporate America Creativity Customer service Media Positioning Productivity Small Business Software Strategy Technology

Who cares about the iPhone?

If you own a small business, you just might start to care.

First of all, set aside some time to watch the video of Steve Jobs’ iPhone keynote yesterday morning at the Apple Worldwide Developer’s Conference. Apple QuickTime (a free download) is required to view it.

Pay close attention to how well Apple appears to have listened about when people asked for REAL business support. In the video, the discussion is “enterprise”.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking this only means big business.

Even if you don’t watch the entire video, watch the first 5-6 minutes until they show the cover of Fortune magazine and share who participated in the beta testing for iPhone 2.0.

Between March 6th and June 9th 2008, 250,000 people joined the free iPhone 2.0 developer program. In that same period, 25,000+ applied to the paid beta program. 4000 of those were accepted.

Included in these 4000 testers are:

  • the top 5 commercial banks
  • the top 5 securities firms
  • 6 of the 7 top airlines
  • 8 of the 10 top entertainment firms
  • 8 of 10 top pharmaceutical firms
  • the U.S. Military
  • and the Who’s Who in higher education (Duke, Harvard, Stanford, etc)

All told, 35% of the Fortune 500 participated in the beta.

Remember, this is an Apple beta. Why is that a big deal?

Mostly because Apple has never been known a friend of business, much less small business.

Their response to the enterprise’s demands of the first iPhone is a very clear sign that things have changed at Apple. They’re not just for elementary schools and artists anymore.

Even Mister Spock would be impressed with the example applications they showcased. If you watch the video, the musician app was particularly interesting – though not from a business perspective. Also represented were the medical industry, music, Major League Baseball, blogging, education and others.

I’m sitting here watching these demos and the ideas are flying through my mind for clients, much less for friends who are in medicine, forestry, retail, hydrology, you name it.

Take another look at that list of markets above that were in the paid beta program. Do you compete with or work within those fields?

No doubt, one of thoughts going through your mind is “How does he expect me to do this too, when I can’t keep up as it is?”

Look, I’m simply bringing it up, thinking it might spark an idea that generates your next great way to serve your clientèle. That’s not keeping up, it’s staying ahead. You’re either staying ahead or you’re falling behind.

Speaking of keeping up… In an unrelated geeky conversation, a friend of mine said “boy, does it ever illustrate how hard it is to keep up”.

My reply to him: “Its even harder to stay behind.”

Tomorrow, we’ll talk about how you might consider using the iPhone to make your small business more personal to your clients.

Categories
Management Marketing Motivation Positioning Productivity Small Business Strategy Time management

Saying no to business

Do you say no?

I’m always in fear of not having enough business, so I say yes to projects that might not be a perfect fit or that I don’t have time to tackle effectively. So for me, the question would be, how do I know when to say no?

That’s a quote from a reader.

When you aren’t sure how many deals you have coming next week, can you say no to business that isn’t your forte, or that you are too busy for?

Sure, it’s tough, but you have to. You can do that other stuff, but you’ll regret it.

Every time you take a project that is out in left field, you’ll be annoyed.

If you have properly positioned your business, the chance of getting more projects that don’t quite fit right will be reduced. You won’t be tempted to take what isn’t offered and you’ll be available for more of the right
work.

In addition, the better you are at your core business, the less likely you are to want to produce other work that can’t meet your typical quality standards – simply because you do that work sporadically.

Sometimes you’ll have to transition to that core work, stepping into other projects along the way as you focus your marketing and take on more projects your the core business area.

One alternative – find someone who is great at that other work you get and work out a deal to refer the projects to them.

Doing 100 things poorly is no way to run a business. Even jugglers use the same type of balls (well, most of them anyhow<g>).