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By Nickie on August 6, 2018
One common characteristic that many successful, prominent leaders share is that they are avid readers. Books contain a wealth of knowledge and insight, allowing you to access information and ideas you wouldn’t know about otherwise. For an entrepreneur, strong leadership is such an important quality that we’ve compiled the best books on leadership that every entrepreneur should read.
By Nickie on July 30, 2018
It can be a wonderful feeling knowing you have a great, go-to employee—someone who can perform an important part of your business as well as, or better than, you can. There is a particular sense of security and satisfaction; that is, until they quit, retire unexpectedly or depart in some other way.
By Nickie on July 23, 2018
When you own a small business, it can be challenging to differentiate your business from your competitors. For example, in many cities and towns, there may be a dozen Chinese restaurants, a dozen bakeries, or a dozen photocopy stores to choose from.
7 Daily Habits of Great Leaders and How to Add Them To Your Daily Routine Misty Young and Mike Kelly
By Nickie on July 16, 2018
When you think about the accomplishments of great business leaders, the scope of their achievements may seem intimidating.
After all, they’ve made huge waves in the world of business, whereas you may feel like you’ve barely made a splash.
By Nickie on July 9, 2018
Home-based businesses often struggle with an image problem. Although running a business from home can be more efficient—and even more profitable—than running a business outside the home, it can give the impression of a scrappy, less mature operation.
By Nickie on July 2, 2018
As small business owners, we all have good and bad habits. There are things we do that—for better or worse—we just seem to do naturally day-to-day.
As business owners, however, good and bad habits can come with a (literal) price. If you aren’t nurturing effective business habits, you may be depriving yourself of the efficiency your enterprise deserves.
Now, anyone who has tried to make a habit out of going to the gym knows that forming or breaking habits is often easier said than done. Habits aren’t just a matter of willpower, but consistency. A 2012 study found that forming a habit, one that will become a part of how you live your life (or run your business), can take up to 66 days.
Thankfully, as is often the case in our digital world, there’s help in the form of technology. Google Play and Apple’s App Store are full of apps geared toward building positive habits by offering reminders and guiding you toward your goals. Here are six of our favorite apps that can help you develop new habits to be a more effective small business owner.
6 Mobile Apps for Building Good Habits
1. HabitBull (Android, iOS): Accountability—with a bit of forgiveness.
HabitBull is inspired by a streak-based method of habit tracking attributed to Jerry Seinfeld. The concept? Complete a task day after day, and you form a streak. The longer a streak goes, the more you won’t want to break it, and the more likely you are to adopt the habit you want. HabitBull is especially good because, while it pushes you the way you need to be pushed, it’s also forgiving. Most notably, it gives you the option of setting some tasks as “should do, but not essential” so that if you slip up one day, it won’t completely ruin your streak—or your spirit. So, if you aspire to update QuickBooks every day, but miss a day, it doesn’t mean your goal to make it a routine is ruined. Now, slip up more than once, and you’ll start getting into trouble. But this app is built to understand the realities of life. It’s that more encouraging—but still effective—approach that defines HabitBull. A little fun and gentleness are welcome in an app that orders you to do stuff you may not always want to do.
2. Habitica (Android, iOS): Build good habits with your team.
What if tracking your habits were more like a video game? With Habitica, it can be. Evoking the look of old-school 8-bit video games like The Legend of Zelda, Habitica turns your daily tasks into Castlevania-like little monsters. When you defeat them by completing your tasks, you gain experience points to help you jump a level along with coins to better outfit your character. Don’t complete a task? You lose health and progress. But what really elevates Habitica is that it stresses social accountability. It’s not meant for you to use on your own, but ideally with other people. The app allows you to form guilds with other users and go on adventures together, including facing a big “boss”—like Mario facing Bowser. Here’s the catch: if you don’t complete your task to contribute to the battle, you’re not the only one who loses health. Everyone does. For small business owners with close-knit teams, that can be a highly effective tool not just to work together toward new habits, but also to create a sense of community and shared accomplishment.
3. Balanced (iOS): Get positive encouragement.
For those who prefer a gentler push to track your habits, Balanced is a good fit. The app is skewed more toward positivity, encouraging you to monitor tasks that lead to habits which make you feel happy and satisfied. It does so by rewarding you with positive feedback, fun animations, and gentle “Do Soon” or “Do Now” reminders. It also has an easy Tinder-like user interface. You swipe down to add a task, left to skip, and right to complete. Balanced comes with 50 pre-programmed activities like “Hit the Gym” or “Be thankful” to choose from; however, these activities tend more towards general lifestyle options. Small business owners aiming to develop the daily habit of tracking expenses in Wave or sending invoices to clients every Friday, for example, will have to enter those in manually. But once they do, Balanced will do a great job of keeping them on track.
4. Coach Me (Android, iOS): The digital personal trainer for your habits.
Coach Me supports and motivates you toward your goals. Complete a task and you get a “Woohoo!” along with a virtual high-five. Continue a streak, and you unlock milestones. And Coach Me isn’t an app you use on your own. One of its major appeals is that there is a community built into it, made up of real users who can support each other. More common tasks that are shared by several users, like “Run” or “Take Vitamins,” have what is essentially a comment board where users can share insights, ask questions or provide inspiration. If you’re a small business owner with several employees, you could set up a task like “no unread email in inbox by the end of the workday” and get support from each other, or other users, towards achieving that goal. As you work toward that goal, Coach Me employs its robust data system to analyze weekly or monthly trends in your progress, which can be a big help in determining where you’re excelling and where you’re falling behind when it comes to improving your habits.
5. Streaks (iOS): Outstanding design with a focus on priorities.
If you like your apps pretty, this iOS Design Award winner is for you. Now, Streaks may only allow for six tasks to be tracked at any time, but that doesn’t need to be a limitation. Sometimes the ability to enter an endless number of tasks into a habit app can be overwhelming, making you lose focus, discipline and follow-through. Streaks allows you to hone in and prioritize key habits that will make a difference in your life and business. It’s never a bad thing to have to sit down as a small business owner and think hard about what select few things you need to do in order to improve your working habits. Streaks also stands out in that users have control over when and how they get reminded to do things. Some habit mobile apps can overdo reminders. Streaks lets you customize notification settings for each task your tracking. That way you can make sure reminders are effective, not nuisances you start to ignore.
6. Strides (iOS): Set S.M.A.R.T. goals and break them down into smaller achievements.
Strides is built around the concept of SMART goals, encouraging you to take on tasks that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely. The “specific” and “measurable” aspects are what differentiate Strides from other apps. Strides allows (or forces) you to dig into the nitty gritty of what you’re hoping to achieve. A welcome feature is the ability to take a larger task and break it down into smaller parts. Say you want to build the habit of maintaining a certain cash flow each month. To make an action plan that helps you attain your goal, you could use Strides to break it into smaller parts like, “Pay all monthly invoices by [deadline] ” or “UpdateQuickBooks once a week on Friday.” That way, you’ll not only have a game plan to achieve a big habit, but will also lock in several supporting habits along the way. Don’t worry if that sounds overwhelming. Strides has a very handy dashboard that makes it easy to see everything you’re working on at a glance.
By Nickie on June 25, 2018
Are you overpaying your small business’s taxes? One of the major reasons small business owners (including me) hate paying taxes is the mystery of it all.
By Nickie on June 18, 2018
Reputation is everything in business, so it’s easy to see why reputational harm poses a costly risk to small businesses.
Reputational harm generally occurs when a business gets portrayed negatively in some way, from a bad online review to a negative newspaper article to an ex-employee who badmouths the company all over town. This can tarnish the image of a small business and even result in lost profits. Fortunately, your business insurance protects you from reputation-related risks.
Damage to your reputation can really cost a small business. An assessment of claims data by The Hartford found that the average harm-to-reputation reputation claim costs $50,000, compared with $20,000 for a slip-and-fall and $8,000 for burglary and theft. So, it’s smart to make sure you’re protected by insurance.
In some scenarios, a reputation harm fight can lead to a costly court battle. Consider the case of a Teaneck, N.J. event planner:
New York mother Honey Bernstein hired Iris Gillon of Iris Gillon Music’N Celebrations to book a band for her son’s wedding. At the wedding, Bernstein disliked the music so much that she ordered the band to stop playing and cued up an iPod playlist. Afterward, she posted a bad review, complaining that the singer was “awful,” that too few musicians came and that the band leader had “no personality whatsoever.” The small business owner sued her former client for libel, product disparagement and defamatory injury to reputation. In her lawsuit, Gillon alleged that she had one customer cancel a contract as a result of the bad review, forcing her to issue a refund of $3,700, and that she generally experienced a downturn in business after the review was posted. The case is making its way through the courts.
Reputation damage commonly results from online complaints or reviews, says Kelly Edwards, the CEO and Senior Marketing Director of Lawton Marketing in Lawton, Okla., who has shepherded many small businesses through reputation catastrophes.
In addition to unhappy customers, small businesses may get disparaged by disgruntled former employees and competitors, Edwards says. Any small business owner can get entangled into such a dispute as the victim or even the accused perpetrator.
The good news is that proactive action can help you protect your business. These five steps can help you avoid costly reputation damage:
Nurture your good name.
Small business owners should work hard to collect reviews from happy customers to diminish the power of any occasional negative reviews, Edwards says. For example, she recently went out to dinner in Las Vegas. The waiter, learning the group enjoyed the meal, offered them each a free glass of wine if they pulled out their smartphones and review the restaurant. However, make sure you learn and respect the rules of online review sites, and never review your own business or ask family and friends to sing your praises online, Edwards says.
Monitor mentions of your business.
Set up Google alerts for your business name and use social media management tools like Hootsuite to check social media regularly, Big Mouth Marketing , a Scottsdale, Ariz., online marketing agency, recommends. If you publish a blog that allows comments, either require approval to avoid inappropriate comments or set an alert to notify you of new comments. The sooner you’re aware of potentially damaging statements, the faster you can take action to correct the problem.
Do damage control.
If you discover a negative review or an online complaint, respond in a timely manner. Apologize publicly for the experience and provide your business phone number, asking the customer to call so you can rectify the situation. That lets the dissatisfied client or customer know they were heard and may stop them from spreading more negative information. This “makes you look like the good guy,” Edwards says.
Try to talk the problem out.
Simply picking up the phone can solve some problems. Edwards says she once found an unflattering online post about her own marketing agency. Based on the wording, she suspected a competitor had written it. She called the business and left a polite but firm voicemail message asking them to remove the post. It disappeared almost immediately.
Learn the law.
Most small businesses publish content on blogs and social media. For that reason, it’s important to learn the laws about reputation, so you can protect yourself and avoid inadvertently harming the good name of another business. For example, making a false statement of fact, even unknowingly, could have legal implications — part of the Gillon lawsuit hinges on the defendant writing that only three band performers showed up while photographic evidence shows six performers. And it’s possible to harm someone’s reputation verbally. So, don’t disparage competitors in public or when chatting with customers.
If you take these actions, you can help strengthen the standing of your small business and reduce the risk of reputation harm.
By Nickie on June 11, 2018
In many homes, mornings are chaotic. There is hustle and bustle as members of the household arise, gather their tools and equipment, and steel their minds for the day ahead.
Many entrepreneurs are like other adults in the hours before their day officially begins. They rise, get dressed, maybe read the paper, glance at their emails, look at their schedule, eat some breakfast or enjoy a cup of coffee, and then they head out to start their day.
By Nickie on June 4, 2018
Make no mistake: Of the two parties involved in a job interview, being the person doing the hiring has a lot to recommend it. You don’t have to iron your clothes the night before. You can breeze in 20 minutes late with an offhand “sorry … had to do something,” and face no serious repercussions.