Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Should You Start a Business Blog?

There’s no doubt that blogging has taken the online world by storm. Every day, an estimated 175,000 new blogs are added to the blogosphere and at one point or another you’ve probably either known someone that started a blog, read a blog, or probably already write a blog yourself. Many businesses are discovering the benefits of starting their own blog and many are asking themselves if they should be starting a blog themselves. Starting your own blog is easy and for the most part it’s free. So if you’re still contemplating on starting your own blog, here are just some benefits and tips on starting a blog.

• A blog is a great way to drive traffic to your own business site. The majority of search engines, such as Google, Bing and Yahoo typically favor sites that are updated on a regular basis, which can give you a better chance of appearing high on the list of a Google results search.

• Blogging is perfect for businesses wanting to have an online presence, but don’t have the budget to hire a web designer. There are many platforms that can host your blog for free. Some of the most popular sites include Blogger.com and Wordpress.com.

• A business blog allows you to share your expertise, which can lead to potential customers. It’s also a medium for you to engage with your customers, find out their likes/dislikes and create a better understanding of your company.

• When starting your blog, make sure you are updating your content regularly. Readers do not want to visit a blog, only to see that it has not been updated in months. Not only will this drive your readers away, but it leaves a bad impression on the company. Also, when blogging keep your entries short and relevant. This will help engage your readers.

• Commit. I can’t tell you how many people I know decided to start a blog, only to leave it abandoned a month later. If you decide to start a blog, make sure you commit to it.

• Share blogging duties. Don’t feel like you have to do all the blogging yourself. Get your employees involved. Offer incentives for the employee that blogs that most. We’re not talking something major here, like a two weeks paid vacation (although that would be nice). But something simple such as offering a $25 gift card can be a great motivation.

When done right, starting a blog can be a great tool to boost your business, gain new customers or even become a thought leader in your field. All you need is commitment, creativity and something to write about.

Click here to watch a video on how to get your blog started.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A Case of the Mondays


The days are getting longer, the weather is getting warmer and let’s be honest that sometimes it’s tough to get through the work day. It’s no secret that we all look forward to the weekends and it can be hard to be productive when you find your mind wandering off to visions of what you would rather be doing. Instead of staring at your computer screen with a blank look on your face, take matters into your own hands and try and refocus your energy so you can power through the rest of the afternoon. Here are some tricks to get you through.

1) Go For A Walk
Getting a short walk in will get your blood moving and wake you up. If you have a meeting with a coworker, suggest to do it over a leisurely stroll around the block. A little sunshine never hurt anyone either.

2) Stretch
Sitting in the same position for too long isn’t healthy. Get up every hour, stretch your legs and move around.

3) Take A Break
If you push on one task for too long your mind can get cloudy. Walk away from your desk, stop thinking about work for a few minutes and you’ll return with more ideas and energy.

4) Get Up Early
Always easier said than done but if you can have a little time for yourself before the work day begins you’ll feel better once you sit at your desk. And if you can push yourself to do something physical and get in a quick workout before going to the office you’ll feel like a million bucks.

5) Put on Music
Crank up Pandora or put on your ITunes. Music always makes things better and beats sitting in a silent office.

6) Get Coffee
For you caffeine junkies out there, sometimes that 3 PM cup can push you over the end of the day hump. Take a quick trip with a coworker to your nearest coffee shop(or make your own) to get the boost you need.

7) Make the Most Out of Lunch
At times we forget that we’re entitled to lunch and this doesn’t always mean scarfing a sandwich at our desk. Make plans to go out once in a while or run a few errands that you would typically take care of once the work day ends. The world won’t end because you’re not at your computer for 45 minutes.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A Solution for Unproductive Conference Calls


Conference calls are essential to most businesses but I have a bone to pick with them. We've all been on our fair share of painfully boring, two hour long calls that feel never ending. On a good day, you have one call scheduled at 10am when your double espresso latte has started to kick in. And on a bad day, you can be on conference calls all day long, leaving little time for actual work, let alone bathroom breaks. There's got to be a better way to keep these calls quick, semi-interesting, and productive!

With 20 e-mails flooding your inbox per minute, staying focused on a conference call is a difficult task. It's so easy to hit the mute button on your phone and attempt to bang out a few messages while half listening. Let's admit it, we are all guilty of this. But perhaps this is where part of the problem lies. Everyone is half listening, so time is wasted and calls get drawn out.

I would like to propose a solution. Conference calls should not be allowed to last any longer than 30 minutes. This way, you don't have the time for long ramblings. Make your point, give your update, or ask a question and let someone else speak. After 30 minutes, the call is over, so figure out next steps quickly as this is usually the most important part of any conference call.

With 30 minute conference calls, you will have to plan ahead of time. Forget about winging it. Have a clear, concise agenda. It is your job to make sure everyone sticks to the agenda, otherwise you might not get all the information you need to move ahead.

Finally, with shorter conference calls, attendees will be more focused. By shaving off extra time, the call is more urgent. The pace is fast and there's no time to repeat information. If you take five minutes to sort through your inbox, you've missed nearly 20% of the call.

I realize that 30 minute calls may not be practical in every circumstance. But perhaps for these necessary longer meetings, a video conference is more suitable. At Fish, we all just signed up for Skype accounts to start video chatting more often. With Skype you can easily set up a video connection between all your offices wherever they are – and it’s free!

The next time you send out a calendar request, I ask you to think of this post. Schedule the call for 30 minutes and make it known at the start that you have a lot to cover, you want to move quickly and not waste anyone's time....in a polite way, of course. I'm sure everyone on the line will appreciate your sensitivity to their time.

Monday, May 10, 2010

PowerPoint Overload

By: Chad Cohen


We’ve all been there - the endless PowerPoint presentation with an umpteen amount of slides and 15 bullets per each page. Yawns creep in right away and the smart phone stoop begins on about slide 3. You know what the smart phone stoop is - it’s when people in the room have become so bored with your presentation that they stare down into their laps clacking away on their iPhones while checking email or posting to Twitter about how lame your presentation is.


Reminds me about a recent New York Times article I read where Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the leader of American and NATO forces in Afghanistan, was shown a PowerPoint slide in Kabul last summer about the complexity of American military strategy, but it looked more like a bowl of spaghetti.


The general’s comment was priceless - “When we understand that slide, we’ll have won the war,” he dryly remarked.


PowerPoint has become an addiction. From the war room to the boardroom, we’re a culture obsessed with PowerPoint. Problem is that a majority of presentations we all sit through just plain suck. From cheesy clip art slides to endless bullets and unenthusiastic presenters, the time has come for us to collectively stand up and say enough. Yet with an addiction such as this, it’s probably unrealistic to assume we’re all going to go cold turkey. With that said, there are some things we can all do to improve our presentations so audiences stay captivated and not focused on their phones in their laps.


Practice

It may sound simple, but relatively few presenters do it. There is nothing worse than getting up in front of a crowd and stumbling through your delivery. Take some time the night before in your hotel room or with colleagues and run through your presentation. Practice does make perfect - Mom will be so happy I said that.


40 Slides is Way Too Much

Come on, really? Who wants to sit through 40 slides of anything? It’s boring and people will loose interest before you even get a quarter of the way through. The only time I want someone to read to me that much is if I’ve downloaded an audio book for a road trip. Bottom line, 5-10 slides for a 30-minute presentation. You are there to talk and stimulate conversation, so do that.


Get Yourself Some Steve Jobs Style

Don’t just convey information, but inspire. Apple fan or not, most of corporate America will admit that Steve Jobs is one of the most polished presenters out there. Dude is the Internet age Wizard of Oz. He strives for visual simplicity and creates memorable one-line descriptions for products. No messy bullet points or goofy transitions. For example, to illustrate the thin frame of the MacBook Air, Jobs used a picture of an office envelope with a notebook sticking out. Comes right out and says bam - this is what it is.


Make it Readable

How often have you sat in the room trying to make out what’s on a slide because it’s written in Palatino size 8 font? Even the nerdy kids in the front row are playing Secrets of the Lost Cavern on their iPhones because they can’t even read what you have projected on the screen. Don’t cram too much on to a slide, make the font readable and make sure your images are in focus.


There is a lot more to making presentations great, but hopefully this gets you started down the right path. In the end, it's quite simple - don't suck, be relevant, be interesting and inspire conversation. You do that and you're way ahead of the game.


Thursday, May 6, 2010

Be a Better Boss

By: Chad Cohen


It’s one of those classic movie lines that has always stuck with me - “My momma once said life is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re gonna get.” Forrest Gump was on to something there. It doesn’t matter who you are - boutique small business, Fortune 500 company, franchise or the neighborhood merchant - learning to manage others is all about dealing with that intrinsically unique box of chocolates.


Don’t Overbook

You need time to see the big picture. Unstructured time can foster creativity and allow you and your team to get into the groove. Too much time on conference calls and in meetings can bog down progress.


The Business of the Business

As an entrepreneur, metrics are the lifeline, but does your team understand what they mean? Explaining the business behind the business makes employees feel connected and part of something beyond their day-to-day projects.


Be a People Person

Each employee is part of that box of chocolates. Everyone is unique and different in their own respect. Make sure you take the time to touch them all throughout the day. Learn what makes them tick. Find out what interests them beyond work and connect on a different level. Everyone will be better for it.


Give Some Room to Grow

Just because its not how you would have written it or how you would have handled it, does not mean it was wrong. Micro managers suck. Give your team a chance to stretch their legs and develop their own styles.


Read Everything

Despite what you might tell yourself, you can always learn more. Be an avid reader and always on the lookout for new ideas. Read the blogs, newspapers, magazines, websites, newsletters, Twitter and everything in between. Knowledge is the key to building your business and your team’s success.