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Permalink - Posted on 2019-09-04 05:10
For your company or organization to succeed, you must make an actionable plan. And for a strategic plan to be successful, the process that goes into creating it must be effective.
In this article, you will learn the 4 keys to successful strategic planning with your team members.
According to Simon Charles, a marketing specialist at Brill Assignment, strategic planning is an activity where organizations, through their management departments set priorities, dedicate energy and resources, enhance operations, and ensure organization’s employees and other shareholders are working to achieve the same goals.
It is a process that produces essential decisions and actions that shape and guide the organization, the people it serves, day-to-day operations of the organization with the aim of achieving certain goals.
In short, strategic planning helps the organization or company to know where it is headed to over a set period and how it can get there.
In his article about ways to buy essays, Andrew Michael terms a strategic plan as a document that entails the organization’s goals, what is needed to achieve those goals and all the important elements included during the creation of the strategic plan.
That means an organization or company without a strategic plan is the same as a driver driving on a new road without a map. And you know how fast driving on a new road without a map can get you lost. The same way, an organization will face challenges that it is not equipped with the knowledge on how to navigate them.
The best favor an organization can do to its self, especially if there is uncertainty ahead, is to have a strategic plan.
Basically, a strategic plan gives a rough idea of where your organization is heading to, so that your team can work on reaching there. It shows what you are, what you do, and why it does it, with the aim of improving your future potential.
An effective strategic plan includes:
For a small business, a brief strategic plan is just enough. But for a bigger company, a more detailed strategic plan is more effective.
Note that a strategic plan, although it contains elements included in a business plan, you should not confuse a strategic plan with a business plan.
A business plan is more detailed and contains a strategic plan, a marketing plan, a financial plan, and an operational plan.
A business plan will cover everything from what your business does and the value it commands in the market. A strategic plan, on the other hand, outlines the company’s action plan.
Usually, the creation of a strategic plan involves a team of key players in the company. Being the owner of the company, you are the head of the strategic plan. Your team will then contribute towards the creation.
This depends on the nature and needs of your company. For instance, if there is uncertainty in the future then it’s the best time to schedule a strategic planning process.
Usually, the best time to create a strategic plan is:
Having an effective strategic plan will benefit you in the following ways.
That said, here are 4 keys to successful strategic planning with your team.
Every member of the team responsible for the strategic planning process must be engaged to make it successful. The team can be key players within the company whose main purpose is to work in pursuit of common goals of the team.
In the strategic planning process, every team member is given a chance to bring something to the table.
A team with fewer members can lose efficiency. All the team members must work together in harmony, think together, and plan together. Every team member is required to contribute ideas throughout the strategic planning process.
Being accountable is important in the strategic planning process. It’s not just about identifying what each employee or member of the team does to make the strategic planning process successful. Accountability involves all the members of the team.
Every team member is required to think carefully on how to make the process successful to enable the company to achieve its goals. During the process of creating the strategic plan, team members are keen about the success of the plan and what they can do to improve its success.
Since the input of every member of the strategic planning process is valuable, there must be effective communication else, there will be a problem. Communication lines need to be left open for every team member. Well, of course, your team could comprise of individuals who are not on the same level but they all have to bring something to the table. Everyone should be treated equally regardless of what position one takes in the company. No one should be barred from sharing his or her own ideas.
If your team involves senior managers and employees, bottom up and top down communication lines should be open. This means that employees’ contributions should also be considered. This enables those at the bottom of the company to provide shocking revelations that show how senior managers have contributed to the failure of strategic plans.
Usually, companies create strategic plans either when launching a new product, during restricting the company or a department within the company. To ensure a successful strategic planning process, there must be innovation.
Grademiners argue that innovativeness should not only be left to the team creating the strategic plan but it should be for all the employees of the company.
To create a successful strategic plan, each team member in the company must be engaged and communication lines should be open among all participants, and teams should be accountable and innovative.
Permalink - Posted on 2019-08-27 05:10
Closing a successful deal isn’t easy with the business world’s ever-increasing pace. People have shortening attention spans and deals happen faster than before. The extreme pressure forces CEOs and other executives to close complex contracts through high-stakes negotiations where one slip-up can cost millions. The pressure puts these negotiators in a constant state of alert where some are prone to cracking under stress. Read this article to learn how to handle negotiations when things get stressful.
Some similarities can be drawn between high-stakes business negotiations and the highly pressured negotiations and decision-making required of military commanders. Much like business people in negotiations, U.S. personnel must foster relationships with other leaders while also gathering intelligence and making trade-offs.
What’s at stake for business people and military leaders is quite different, though both may feel pressure to make quick decisions. This article presents business case studies from advanced negotiation training, as well as real-world examples of military deals, and provides guidance on how to secure deals in stressful business meetings.
There’s simply no substitute for gaining direct experience negotiating with others. For this reason, expect to spend most of your time while on negotiation training courses mastering the role-play exercises. The type of negotiation, or product or service, doesn’t really matter. What matters is learning how you tend to react under stress and pressure.
Everyone has their own unique style, so best to come to terms with your own style and get to a point of choice, rather than have others push you around or lose out because you didn’t like the pressure.
High-pressure situations have the tendency to go either very well or very poorly. With so much on the line, the negotiators on both teams don’t often walk away and speak at a later date. When a resolution is needed immediately, it’s likely that both teams end up walking away unsatisfied, or the deal that is made will come to have negative repercussions.
Remember, the deals you sign will often have long-lasting effects on your business. Acquisitions, in particular, could come back to haunt you. A key example took place during the 2008 financial crisis. Companies took government bailouts in exchange for breaking up their businesses, but asset valuations fell prey to negotiating under stress.
An excellent example of a negotiation gone wrong under pressure is the Chrysler bailout by the United States Treasury Department. Chrysler received $12 billion in exchange for dividing its ownership among union workers, the Treasury Department, the Canadian government, and Fiat. Fiat also negotiated an option to buy out part of the union ownership and the ownership of the U.S. and Canadian governments.
Eventually, the Italian automaker sought to buy out Chrysler to prop up their business. Though when Fiat went to buy out the union, the valuation of Chrysler caused issues. No one had determined if a $4.59 billion note paid to the union should count towards Chrysler’s value, landing both Fiat and Chrysler in court.
The takeaway here is that stressful situations are liable to cause negotiations that cost your company money. When Fiat negotiated its buyout clause, there was a lack of foresight to secure a valuation that helped future options. Likewise, the union also dropped the ball when faced with the prospect of making billions, and the pressure got to Fiat’s and the union’s executives.
When we’re stressed, we tend to lose our creativity. This is usually to our detriment, as our best ideas come when we’re able to access the creative parts of our brains. One of our best routes to noticing when we’re sinking into our fight-or-flight mode and losing our creativity is to become mindful.
Mindfulness has been practiced in the East for thousands of years. Mindfulness is now becoming increasingly popular globally at the negotiation table. If you are a member of a team, then commit to watching each other. If you’re negotiating on your own, then track your muscle tension to figure out early on when you’re becoming stressed.
You should also be watching and listening carefully to others in the negotiation room. A sure sign of conflict to come is interrupting each other, especially using the word “but.”
Now that we’ve seen how stressful situations and snap decisions can influence negotiating, let’s talk about time pressure. Time pressure refers to using limited time in your favor. If you know the other negotiators’ wants (or needs) to close on the deal, the opportunity may arise to act on your own agenda. Leveraging time is a time-tested strategy to gain the upper hand in high-pressure situations.
In our previous example, Chrysler and Fiat were both under time pressure to get their deals made quickly. Chrysler needed the bailout, and Fiat wanted to secure the best buyout clause while the deal was available.
In an ideal negotiation, Fiat time pressures the Treasury Department into writing a deal where the $4.59 billion note would count against Chrysler’s valuation (lowering the buyout price for Fiat). The time pressuring happens because the Treasury Department needed to bail out Chrysler to save American jobs. Fiat could have backed away from the table and used Chrysler’s impending collapse to push the Feds into writing in their chosen buyout clause.
As it happened, Fiat missed the opportunity to control talks and instead panicked themselves into signing a contract that left key benefits (buyout options) on the table.
To gauge the effect of a delayed deal on the person or people you’re negotiating with, train yourself to write down questions such as:
If you are working on behalf of a company, talk with your colleagues to get as much time as you can to tie up the deal, so that time doesn’t end up haunting you. Also, ensure that your colleagues are not talking to the other side. This could undermine your position by having time and other factors acting as leverage against you.
When high-pressure negotiations go well, the payoff is typically tremendous. After all, you’re not putting yourself through all the stress to only make pennies. While we touched on pressuring the other business involved, sometimes cooperation works better than arm-twisting.
The Harvard Business Review studied high-pressure military negotiations and uncovered both positive and negative examples of negotiation. Of the better examples, one, in particular, stands out.
Artillery battery commander Captain Andrew Williams received a report that IEDs (improvised explosive devices) were placed along the roadside. Instead of using force, Captain Williams instructed his troops to monitor the men placing explosives.
Williams then went to the village where the identified men lived and asked the elders to stop placing the IEDs. The villagers demanded money (time pressure at work), but Williams didn’t panic. Instead, Williams asked the elders, “Why?”
Williams started probing the villagers’ motives and learned that the villagers were poor and didn’t want to appear like informants. Williams then made a counteroffer to the villagers: the military would continue to determine the men’s identities, but the elders would take them to the nearest U.S. combat outpost.
The elders liked the offer but worried the men placing IEDs were only trying to earn money for their families. Again, Williams took the elders’ concerns into consideration and devised another plan. Williams pitched that his team would enter the men’s names into a database but let them return to the village. Through this approach, the elders could build trust within the village for handling the situation and help the U.S in the process. The elders agreed.
Not long after, Williams started receiving numerous reports of weapons caches. Locals also began warning him about IED placement. With lives on the line, Williams successfully negotiated his position without a hardline stance.
In your business negotiations, train yourself to meet face-to-face with your supplier or customer whenever possible. Meeting face-to-face builds trust and credibility—vital to getting your discussions onto a collaborative path.
Go for early wins by finding shared goals. Early agreements build momentum and confidence. There’s a high risk in tackling the most difficult areas of disagreement too early.
Just because higher pressure negotiations mean you have more to lose, high-pressure negotiations don’t mean you can’t collaborate with the other team involved. Remember, the other team may have just as much, if not more, to lose than you do.
Captain Andrew Williams showed this advanced collaborative strategy perfectly in our last example of a successful high-pressure negotiation. Instead of caving to the elders’ demands or trying to wield his power, Williams took an understanding approach.
Williams attempted to collaborate with the villagers and reached an agreement that benefited both the U.S. troops and the village elders. Even with lives on the line, Williams negotiated with each group’s best interests in mind.
In the end, the collaboration ended up paying off beyond Williams’ initial negotiation. Williams may have gained more intel than if he had taken the threatening approach.
We can easily translate this situation into the business world. Negotiation training teaches that making an effort to collaborate on a negotiated solution could yield further business down the line. Sometimes, it pays to be friendly when possible. Don’t burn bridges over stressful negotiations unless it’s the only option (or you don’t plan on collaborating with that company again).
One of the best pathways to gaining collaboration is to earn it. Start by doing the other side a favor. Favors demonstrate that you’re looking out for the other negotiators’ interests. It also shows that you’re not only interested in meeting your own needs. Favors invoke the universal human principle of reciprocation. This is essential in collaborative relationships.
When you look out for others’ needs, they feel obliged to return the favor and look out for your interests. So be the first to invest in others.
Successfully negotiating under pressure varies depending on your unique situation. There are many different strategies that can be used, from simple to advanced, but among the most useful are time pressuring and collaboration.
When the going gets tough, be careful not to fight or fly in response to the pressure. With most business relationships, you’ll do better in the long run by collaborating.
Permalink - Posted on 2019-08-14 05:10
Automation is coming! Automation is coming!
Are you ready for it?
Even small business owners know the importance of using technology for everything from increasing efficiency to managing daily operations. But what about security?
According to statistics, criminals aren’t just going after fat cats with in-house IT departments and deep pockets. More than 43% of all cyber attacks target small businesses. Does your company have the funds to fend of a ransomware attack or survive a data breach?
Before you launch your startup or expand your business, security automation should be an integral part of your plan.
Threats are all around us, but many remain hidden in malicious code and sketchy attachments. In order to know how to keep your business and customers safe, it helps to know what threats you’re facing and where they’re originating.
The most common cyber threats aren’t coming from the outside. More than 64% are due to simple human error within organizations. This includes lost or stolen devices and employees using weak passwords.
Here are some of the top threats that could be facing your company.
BYOD (Bring Your Own Device). Increasingly mobile workforces are bringing internal threats from home to work and back again. As a result, more companies are faced with developing policies regarding mobile device management (MDM).
Phishing and other social engineering schemes. Malicious code originating in email attachments and fraud are probably the two biggest external threats small businesses face.
Vulnerable access points. From data breaches to lack of encryption and weak password protection, too many companies and their employees are leaving their cyber doors open to criminals.
Ransomware. Weak access points and phishing exploits have left many networks open to data-for-ransom schemes.
DDoS exploits. These types of attacks can crash your network and lead to downtime, and downtime leads to loss of customers. As more companies move to the cloud, these types of threats will increase.
Malware. From spyware to annoying popup ads, the malware runs from malicious to annoying.
IoT (Internet of Things). As more of our systems become interconnected, it opens up further areas of vulnerability for network owners and administrators. Many of these threats are overlooked because they don’t seem like a problem. Who would have thought that hackers could get to your customers’ databases through your thermostat?
Knowing where the threats are coming from eliminates one of the biggest threats of all: lack of awareness, but 21st-century problems require 21st-century solutions.
Here is how automation can help.
Automation in cybersecurity is nothing new, but advanced tech is becoming more affordable for businesses of all sizes. Even artificial intelligence is being routinely sought as a tool that SMBs can utilize to bring their defenses into the information age.
Businesses aren’t the only ones using automation. Cybercriminals are indexing data and implementing other business-like practices to step up their game as well. In this type of climate, traditional firewalls and encryption may not be enough.
Rather than simply restricting access on a case-by-case basis these AI interfaces detect threats in real-time and intuitively update systems responses. This type of automation can be used to detect problem emails as well. Using machine learning technology that’s rooted in AI, these apps can evaluate email content and filter out suspicious messages or attachments.
Much like a smart firewall, the ability of smart filters to use data to learn and anticipate threats beats the old system of simply compiling lists after the fact and blocking email or IP addresses of known or suspected bad actors.
Deploying smart technology for security purposes is a little different than deploying it to run portions of your business. The whole concept of machine learning and big data analysis requires the systems to have access to historic data to analyze. That makes immediate exploits like zero-day threats, which are attacks on unknown or new vulnerabilities, a little more of a challenge.
This is why the best security is a combination of automation for studying, anticipating, and isolating threats, traditional barriers to block brute force attacks, and human oversight from employees trained in cybersecurity are needed for robust threat detection and mitigation.
If you have automation tools for taking care of monthly business expenses, make sure to limit password protection for those systems. Criminals who can access any code connected to online accounts or cloud services can change your payment schedule or withdraw cash from your accounts. Using a password tool, two-factor authentication, and other digital access protection tools will block access for those accounts that require passwords.
Current automation tools are more advanced, but they still sometimes require updates and patches to keep them secure. One of the best built-in automation tools are automatic updates, This allows your security programs to scan regularly for newly identified viruses and update your threat database.
Physical access to commercial buildings is being increasingly bolstered by technology like face or voice recognition, fingerprint analysis, and other innovations that are more difficult for anyone but an authorized person to access systems. However, you should keep your smart systems and IoT components on a separate network from your business systems, and use varying levels of permissions to determine who has access to which portions of your networks, databases, and devices.
Encrypting data flow to the open internet via a virtual private network or VPN is becoming a common method of making it harder for cyber-criminals to create mischief. While not a perfect solution (nothing is), a subscription to a good VPN service should only cost five or ten dollars monthly, which is a bargain if it foils a single intrusion attempt. According to Sitelock, any random website on the internet is attacked an average of 63 times per day. Unless you adopt an automated defensive mindset, one of those will get through eventually.
As cybercriminals become more tenacious and sophisticated, our defenses should evolve to match the threats. From installing the best ad blockers for warding off Potentially Unwanted Applications (PUAs) to deploying E2E encryption, incorporating technology into your cyber-security plan is an investment that can prevent loss of revenue and save your reputation. Is your business prepared?
Permalink - Posted on 2019-08-06 05:10
Financial accounting is a mirror reflecting the quality of management and the efficiency of any business. Competent accounting of finance from the very start can help correctly assess its financial position and direct the cash flow to the right stream. In this article, we will talk about how to take into account the flow of finance at each stage of business development and how to analyze its financial condition.
The rate of change and uncertainty in the markets and business is growing, but you still need plans. In the planning process, you can look a few periods ahead and predict what the financial result will be.
How to Do It in Practice?
Synchronize the work of the procurement and sales departments (you can use Nozbe and communicate through tasks). If they do not work smoothly, you will definitely have problems with the provision of goods to the buyer and reputation. To sell products, you have to freeze the money in the product or reduce the price so that the transaction is profitable for the next buyer.
If there are more than one partners and founders in a company, then, as a rule, only one of them is engaged in the operational management of a company. The others, without being engaged in current affairs, gradually cease to understand what is happening and where the money goes.
Spending seems to them unreasonable, relationships no longer seem to be transparent and honest, and along with it, good relations with a partner are gradually destroyed. Due to financial disagreements, thousands of partnerships and friendships have collapsed. Meanwhile, this can be avoided if you are able to control the state of affairs in the company and allow your partner to also be fully aware of all the changes.
How to Fix the Error
Creating and tracking financial statements will allow you and your partners to always be aware of what funds were spent on, and also not allow you to go beyond the established budget. It works especially effectively when it comes to joint business. Such reporting can be entrusted to an external accountant or staff member, with the proviso that each of the partners can obtain the necessary data at any time.
Money used for working needs and money used to support a family should be kept separate. This separate account management will help avoid confusion when you will deal with taxes and other payments, help you more responsibly manage the money belonging to the company, as well as keep track of exactly how much money was spent. This approach will also protect your personal funds from debts and other expenses at work if the company faces difficult times.
Practical Ways to Maintain Separate Accounts
Automation of accounting processes is your faithful assistant. Thanks to that, you or your employees do the work faster and with fewer mistakes. Capable programs help you automate financial management if you work with them properly. Customize them based on your needs. Order the creation of those reports that you need. Continue to work with the program constantly, because your needs will change as you expand your business.
And do not forget to make regular backups. Thus, you will be sure that you will not lose all accounting data for several years in case of a program crash or a virus appears. Set up an automatic backup to the cloud or to the hard drive and cloud to be 100% sure of data integrity.
You can take a risk when it is really justified, but you can give in to impulse or influence. The first group of risks has a positive expectation, the second - negative. The probability of the former works in our favor, the probability of the latter is against our expectations. With the launch of new markets and products, the risk remains. It is important to make sure that it is justified. An intelligent financier can figure out the idea of a new business or product and say whether it is worth investing time and money.
How to Avoid Risky Spending
The financier must take justifiable risks, reduce the possible negative effect on them and insure possible damage.
When entering a new market, you first need to explore the situation and then plan investments. There is a high probability that the investment will not justify itself. The first stage of exploration is carried out within the company, the second through market research, an expert survey, testing a hypothesis through the launch of a pilot project.
Understand the mechanics of the market, find out what products are in demand, and at what price. Determine whether the market has enough capacity to achieve financial goals. Leadership will not help if the niche is poor and not growing.
Now you can ask a reasonable question about how finances are relevant to this statement?
If you do not know your customers and competitors, you lose money. For example, you create products that no one will buy, set too high or too low a price, and lose customers or reduce profits. Without this knowledge, it is easy to launch an advertising campaign that will “eat” your money and does not produce the desired results. This list can be continued.
What to Do?
The answer is simple - you need to collect data about the market, niche, customers, competitors, and trends. Fortunately, now there are a lot of advanced systems, including those using artificial intelligence, that help solve this problem.
Doing business is a constant stream of financial management solutions. As your business grows, you will have to make more important financial decisions. Even when a competent financier appears in your team, you still need to be able to speak with him in the same language, to formulate the business objectives in the language of financial numbers. That is why, from the very first steps of your young company, pay attention to improving your financial literacy - read books, watch webinars, attend seminars and, of course, communicate more with more experienced business owners on financial management.
We will repeat the main steps leading to clarity in the company’s accounting:
We hope these tips were helpful to you. Wish you a rapid growth and constant predominance of income over expenditure!
Permalink - Posted on 2019-07-23 05:10
Stress is our body’s natural reaction when it comes to dealing with difficult situations in our lives. Whether it’s because you are cramming to meet your deadline, or you are late for your meetings and are rushing through the commute to work, or you probably had a fight with your significant other - all of these can trigger stress. And sure enough, stress is already a part of our everyday life. But what makes a difference is on how we can prepare our mind and body for it. Here are some tips that might help you reduce stress.
With so many gadgets now within our reach, genuine one-on-one conversations has become quite a chore for us nowadays. But you can’t really replace the true sensations offered by real, face-to-face chats with people that you enjoy spending time with. Whether it’s your best friend, your guidance counselor, your mother, or your special someone, it’s important that you spend some time with some people and connect with them. Talking to people and sharing your thoughts or problems with them helps alleviate the stress that you may be feeling at the moment.
You have a list of tasks that you need to accomplish immediately and right now, you are panicking! They are all of equal importance but if you don’t decide which to do first, you won’t be able to finish them all in time. The best way for you to approach this situations is by working on the most difficult stuff first then down towards the easiest tasks. Research shows that by finishing difficult tasks first, you’ll feel less stressed as you continuously tick one item off of your list. Once you get the difficult part out of the way, you will only have to concern yourself about the easier, less troublesome tasks that you need to accomplish. This is proven to be an effective way of reducing stress for some successful entrepreneurs.
In any given day, we tend to have our peak hours of productivity. Some morning person tend to be more productive in the morning, while some prefer working in the evening or even during wee hours of the morning. If you want to get more things done and feel less stressed about the mountain of tasks that you need to accomplish, then it’s best that you schedule your activities around the times when you have less distractions and are at your most productive.
There is a reason why routines work for a lot of people. By creating a daily routine, you have your expectation set as to what activity comes after another. You can line up a list of activities for the whole day but if you stick to them as scheduled, you won’t feel any stress because you know that that’s just how your usual day goes. By setting up and following on your daily routine, you can get all tasks accomplished without worrying yourself as to what goes first and what to do next. You just follow what you have on schedule and you get things done accordingly and in no time at all!
When working with a group of people, it’s completely normal if one or a few among your group would have some problems or experience stress. And in the same way, it helps for the people in your team if you share with them what you are going through at the moment. Whether you are a member or you are the leader, what’s important is that you be completely truthful about what you feel or what you are experiencing as it makes everyone else feel less stressful or more at ease. In the same way, you will also feel more comfortable working with people who understand you and respects your thoughts and feelings because you are being transparent.
It is important for you and your teammates establish an open communication. This way, you are all on the same page on what to expect from each other and so everyone else in the team will know how to work around what you can bring to the table. You will all have your own capabilities, ideas, fears, and problems that you might have to share or deal with on your own. But by letting your team know about how you are doing at the moment, you’ll make everyone else understand why you are acting or thinking the way you do.
Remember that as a part of a team, whether it’s for preparing a presentation or studying for an upcoming quiz, you and your teammates have one common goal. And you are expected to work as one entity to meet that common goal. And by creating an open channel that allows you and everyone in your team to talk to each other and share their concerns, you also get to minimize the stress that you may be feeling at the moment. It helps lift a weight off of your shoulders. Plus, it helps you create a better relationship with everyone in your team.
Giving yourself a break and taking the opportunity to connect with the people around you helps you see things differently and helps you deal better with stressful situations. We can’t change the things that may bring us stress, but what we can change is the way we deal with these stressful situations. Whatever may be the source of your worries, it will always be easier to deal with it if you take time to breathe, relax and share your burden with people who are willing to help out.
Permalink - Posted on 2019-07-09 13:40
One of the things I enjoy most about running my own business is the fact that I can make my own work rules, along with my team. Together, we can build our “perfect world.” If you’ve been following Nozbe, then you may already be familiar with some aspects of our company’s approach to work: working with the latest technology; remote work (“#NoOffice” – we don’t have a physical office employees must go to); working only four days a week, where Fridays are a time scheduled for weekly reviews and personal development (dubbed “TGIF”, as in “Thank God it’s Friday”); and our constant experimentation with new ideas.
Yet, I have a problem: as a business owner, I think about the company all the time. I just can’t stop. Even when I’m on vacation with my family, I continue thinking about the company, its future and growth, the team… and I can’t turn it off!
That’s why, this year I decided to try something new and, for me, totally crazy. I decided to take a “sabbatical,” i.e., a long, six-week vacation.
Since I began Nozbe back in 2007, I haven’t taken any long breaks from work. Sometimes I managed to take a week off and keep my mind off the company, yet most of the time, I found myself still checking work things in the evenings to find out what was happening; I wasn’t able to mentally detach myself from my work.
What’s more, I saw the same thing happening with my co-workers. To change this, a few years ago we introduced a two-week vacation requirement for all employees. Before that, people used to take two or three days off from work from time to time, but that didn’t allow them to truly relax and disconnect from work. Therefore, we implemented a policy enforcing mandatory two-week holidays to enable everyone to effectively distance themselves from work.
It can be difficult, but after taking a longer break, you will want to go back to work. You’ll feel reenergized and full of new ideas, and it will help you gain perspective on some decisions, and that’s a healthy way to work.
So now the employees have their holidays. But if the boss keeps thinking about work, then it’s still not a healthy situation. Inspired by my “guru,” Michael Hyatt, I started to seriously consider how I could take some real time off of work, and I also wanted to ensure that the company could run smoothly without me in case I need to take a break.
Another reason to give it a shot was that last year my parents celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary. As a gift, my wife and I got them a voucher for flight tickets to New York. They said that they’d love to go, but on one condition: that we come along! And that’s how we ended up going to New York as a group of seven: my parents, me, my wife, and our three daughters (Milena, 9 years old; Emilia, 6 years old; and Liliana, 2 years old).
So, 11 years after starting Nozbe, I was preparing to take more than a month off of work… More than a month! Not two weeks. Not three. But, including travel time, six business weeks! That’s crazy!
But on second thought… why not? The company is doing great. The individual directors are responsible for their areas and teams: product, technology, development, customer support and financial matters. I decided that it was about time for me to get some distance and stop thinking about work 24⁄7!
Now, I’m writing these words from a small cabin on the Muskoka River in Canada, and I still have two weeks of vacation left, which is awesome.
First of all, the weeks leading up to the trip were pretty hectic. There was a lot of work to be done. During my time off, half of the company employees were also scheduled to be away on holiday, and I was working more than usual to prepare the marketing plan and make plans for the upcoming months!
This was something completely new for me, and it gave me the opportunity to learn some new things. I tend to act on impulse, and even though I think long-term, I rarely make plans several weeks ahead of schedule. This time, knowing I’d be away for several weeks, I had to make plans for the next couple months!
And it turned out that long-term planning works much better for me and is more effective, as it gave me time to outsource various preparations to the rest of the team! Amazing, right?
As a result, despite the heavy workload, everything ran smoothly during this vacation period. I prepared the company for my absence – and beyond! In fact, I’ve outlined my plans until almost the end of the year!
We planned the entire trip in advance. We decided where we wanted to go and what we wanted to do. I booked the flights to the U.S. and back, as well as our first accommodation in New York. I left the rest of the planning for vacation time.
What’s important is that we agreed on what we wanted to see and what our capacity would be in advance – my parents are in their 60s, and I have small kids that can get bored easily with certain things.
The plan was that we were going to spend the first week in New York and later rent a minivan to head up to Canada (where we are right now). On our way back, we’re making a stop at Niagara Falls, and from there, we’re heading to New York to catch our flight back home. At least, that’s the plan.
There were certainly a lot of factors to consider when planning this trip. We had to plan according to our needs, and there were a few different ways this was done.
First of all, I relied on Apple Pay. I added all of my cards to Apple Pay, and because I have a U.S. currency credit card, I tried to pay for everything in dollars to avoid expensive currency exchange fees.
However, the problem with Apple Pay is that it doesn’t work too well in the United States. Very often, it doesn’t recognize or accept my Polish credit card, so I have to pay “the traditional way,” using a physical payment card.
Secondly, the best way to book attraction tickets is to do so online, especially if you’re planning to visit New York. Thanks to avoiding attraction queues, we were able to save a lot of time. It was sufficient to book the tickets a few moments earlier – on the iPad or iPhone in our rented apartment!
Thirdly, it is important to consider accommodation. We booked our accommodations either through Airbnb or Booking.com. For a family of seven like ours, it’s much easier to rent an entire apartment through Airbnb than to book two separate hotel rooms via Booking.com. Sometimes, however, we simply had no choice. Therefore, having both of these apps installed on our iPads and iPhones proved essential. So far, we’re really pleased with our choices, which have included: a nice apartment in New York, a traditional American house with a porch and a rocking chair in a small town in the Hudson Valley, a beautiful tenement flat in Montreal, and a lake cabin, from which I’m writing these words … Airbnb made our trip much more interesting. Right now, we need to find an apartment in Toronto and later somewhere in the Niagara Falls area.
When we needed a place to stopover for the night on the way from point A to point B, Booking.com proved to be the easiest way to find accommodation.
Fourthly, to accommodate our seven-person group and baggage, we rented a Dodge Grand Caravan minivan from Alamo, as it’s one of the few companies offering Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) insurance in the price of the vehicle. In case something happens to the car, it won’t be my problem.
And lastly, internet access was an important consideration. To make sure I had access to the internet in both the U.S. and Canada, I purchased a 2 GB GigSky plan (“Apple Sim”) directly from my iPad. I also set up a personal hotspot on the iPad to which I connected my iPhone. Besides that, most places we’ve stayed at so far had free Wi-Fi, not to mention there’s public Wi-Fi at almost every Starbucks or Apple Store, giving me plenty of ways to stay in touch with the world.
So far, so good. I’ve been able to completely “switch off” from work. My sole focus is my family and the place we’re currently exploring. The only exception is this article, which was written in a cabin on a Canadian lake after everyone went to bed.
I admit that I still think about work, but more in the long term – for example, how we should do things in the future, how to make the business grow, in which direction should we develop, where I see myself in a few years, etc.
And the truth is, I really can’t wait to get back to work! But that’s a good thing, because I still have almost two weeks left to enjoy life without work and focus on my family.
I’m happy that after so many years of working on Nozbe, I can take my mind off the company for six weeks… and if it turns out well, maybe I’ll repeat it next year! We’ll see about that, but one thing is for sure: taking time off work is necessary, because it allows you to gain perspective and relax. Further, it is a great way to boost your motivation – and that’s something even the most passionate entrepreneurs need. What are your thoughts?
Permalink - Posted on 2019-07-03 05:10
Online authority is a digital form of the word of mouth marketing. The Internet allows everyone to publicly express their opinions about brands and products, thus adding a whole new layer of information to the traditional concept of brand reputation. In such circumstances, one of your top business goals should be to strengthen online credibility.
According to the report, 60% of consumers say negative reviews turn them away. What does it mean? To put it simply, it means that you are going to lose customers if you don’t pay attention to what users are saying about your business.
Handling online reputation has obviously become a quintessential part of a company’s everyday work, so it is necessary to learn how this process works. If you haven’t had any experience with this concept before, you’ve come to the right blog as we are about to present you with online reputation management (ORM) tutorial for a newbie.
Online reputation management is the practice of crafting strategies that shape or influence the public perception of an organization, individual, or other entity on the Internet. The strategy focuses on pretty much everything people say about your brand across all channels of communication – your website, social media platforms, review websites, etc.
Numerous studies prove the power of ORM, but we will point out only a few key figures here:
Nestle, one of the biggest food and beverage corporations globally, learned this lesson the hard way almost 10 years ago. The company faced an avalanche of criticism for its sales of baby milk formula in developing countries, which forced them to react and invest millions in ORM activities.
On the other side, the truth remains that companies with great ORM strategies often enjoy a number of privileges. Some of the most important benefits of building a great online reputation include:
You’ve seen what makes ORM such a fundamental business strategy, but now we need to explain how to take care of it properly. Keep in mind that the process depends on the peculiarities of your business and the number of employees, but the basic tactics apply to every organization. Here they are:
As a company, you should behave proactively and publish high-quality content on your website and social media accounts. These are the first indicators of a brand’s professional credibility, so you have to invest enough time into content creation.
Make sure to write in-depth blog posts and create outstanding visual content that can establish you as the key opinion leader in your niche. If you can’t do it single-handedly, we recommend you to hire writing expert services like DoMyWriting Reviews to help you out.
What you publish is one thing, but the comments that your customers write about the brand are even more important reputation-wise. You have to ensure continuous monitoring if you want to nurture relationships with the audience.
For instance, a free tool like Google Alerts will keep you informed about all brand-related news available in Google searches. On the other side, [Mention][me] takes a step forward by analyzing social media networks as well. There are many other tools to consider here and your job is to check them out and select the ones that suit your requirements perfectly.
Another tip is to be completely transparent and address each comment with all due attention. Professionals from various industries ( e.g. Forex Broker ) emphasize one big truth: “Don’t go mute when you see a negative review, but rather try to apologize politely and give a logical explanation to the problem. Always answer publicly and prove that your company is not afraid of constructive criticism”.
Besides that, allow customers to communicate with you using multiple channels. This includes website comments, official review websites, social accounts, emails, phone calls, live chat, and even one-on-one conversations.
The next advice is to take responsiveness to the brand new level by answering users’ comments quickly and directly. For example, one report reveals that customers expect businesses to respond to their emails within an hour.
This is the best case scenario that you should try to respect regardless of the communication channel. Of course, it is even more important to write a polite and reasonable answer along with an explanation of the problem and a promise to set things right quickly.
The golden rule of ORM is to keep your promises. If you promised to improve services, you have to do it exactly the way you said. On the other hand, avoid overpromising if you are not sure of the company’s ability to fix the issue. In this case, it is much better to apologize to the angry customer and offer some other type of compensation like a refund or a new product free of charge.
The sacred rule of business says that the customer is always right. While there are some exceptions to the rule, the truth is that you have to take care of consumers’ comments in almost 100% of the cases. This is particularly important in the age of the Internet because users are free to act and comment on your products or services publicly.
In this post, we showed you a comprehensive ORM tutorial for a newbie. The hacks we mentioned above could help you to strengthen online authority, so make sure to use them and take your business to the whole new level of professionalism.
Permalink - Posted on 2019-06-25 05:53
Live from Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference in San Jose, California, we discuss our fresh reactions from Apple’s conference. New iPadOS, the cheese grater, Shortcuts and automation, Catalyst, and SwiftUI.
…or watch if you prefer:
Having reached his 40th birthday (and we, The Podcast, our fourth), Michael shares his best bits of wisdom: Finding what you’re good at, striving for longevity, knowing when to reinvent yourself, having fun, and nurturing friendships.
Michael talks about what it’s like to walk a 260km pilgrimage over a week and a half, why he and his wife did it, how it can be a great experience even for non-religious people, how to pack for it, and why northern Spain is kinda nice.
📚 Discussing The Courage To Be Disliked by Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga. Giving autonomy to live their own lives, neither prasing nor rebuking, and finding happiness in being beneficial to people around us.
Just follow your passion, right? … No.
Unless you’re already highly skilled at something you’re passionate about, following your passion will only drive you to be miserable. To get a great job you can feel passionate about, you must first have something rare and valuable to give. You must be so good they can’t ignore you.
A much better idea: Follow your curiosity.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this month’s episodes of “The Podcast” - please let Michael and Radek know how you like it and what you’d want them to talk about in the future! You can use the comments section below.
If you rate The Podcast on iTunes, Michael & Radek might give you a shout-out on air! :-)
Permalink - Posted on 2019-06-19 13:40
Do smartphones serve us – or do we serve them? I just recently discussed this topic on ThePodcast.fm (episodes 168 and 175). In addition, I just finished reading Cal Newport’s latest book, Digital Minimalism. All of this led me to review my system of apps, notifications and all the other stuff I constantly kept checking, even when I am spending time with my daughters… In this post, I’d like to share some of my thoughts on this subject with you.
The creators of so-called apps for “connecting people,” such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, make a living off the fact that we constantly check our phones for updates from thousands of our social media friends. Unfortunately, all that time we spend online comes at the expense of our real-life relationships.
It’s just so tempting to check Instagram for the 20th time a day, even though probably not much has changed in the last 10 minutes. That’s because its clever algorithm makes it seem like new stuff is appearing all the time.
And that’s how we become slaves to FOMO: the Fear of Missing Out.
In his book, Cal Newport compares the smartphone to a “digital slot machine.” Are we just habitual gamblers who have become enslaved to our phones without any hope for change?
To cure my phone addiction, I began wondering what I need my phone for and which apps I really need access to. As a result, I slowly started deleting social media apps, especially those I used most frequently: Instagram and Twitter.
Apart from setting a time limit in iOS12, I began wondering what else I could do to use Instagram even less. Together with Radek and Rafał, we created a Siri Shortcuts script that allows me to open Instagram only twice a day. I’ve hidden Instagram deep within my phone and load it only by means of that script. If I try to open it for a third time, the script will tell me that I’ve used the app enough for the day.
The script has another advantage: when I try to open Instagram a second time, it informs me that I’ve already used this app once today and asks me if I’m sure I want to use my last chance to open the app. That moment of thought transforms an action that, until now, was an impulsive click into a conscious decision to open an app.
I created a copy of that script for Facebook (limited to once a day) and LinkedIn (also once a day).
As for Twitter, I completely deleted the app from my phone, as I used it almost obsessively. Right now, I only use Twitter on my iPad, and when I do, I use Tweetbot for that purpose. In addition, I set a 30-minute daily time limit for the app. I also cut down the number of people I follow by deleting those who post too much about politics and current events. Reading their posts made me worry too much about things I have no control over.
For some time now, I’ve been using 1BlockerX on both my iPhone and iPad for blocking ads, but I also noticed that it works well for blocking websites. It helped me block access to a lot of news websites. It became more and more frequently that I would catch myself entering these web addresses almost automatically into my devices just to check what was going on in the world. Reading all that news created unnecessary stress in my life.
By keeping those sites blocked, I can’t open any news websites. When something really important happens in the country or in the world, sooner or later someone will tell me about it, so I don’t need to get overexcited and spend half of the day searching through multiple websites to get all the details.
As a basketball fan, I follow my favorite team (@warriors) on Twitter. When they play, they always post live updates from the games. In the mornings (European time), I used to sit down and check out the most interesting plays and highlights from the game.
But I don’t have Twitter on my iPhone anymore, so how am I supposed to do that? What’s worse: how am I even supposed to live now!?
It turns out there’s a much better way to watch the Warriors – one that doesn’t involve social media. To stay up to date with their games schedule, I subscribed to their iCal calendar. In addition, I have a script that searches Google for “Golden State Warriors game highlights.” In the search results, the first line always shows a YouTube clip with a 10-minute recap of the game. I sit down to breakfast, watch all the best moments from the game, and I’m done! I get to see more action, and the material itself is much more exciting than reading Twitter posts… and it doesn’t take me more than 10 minutes!
Radek, with whom I record The Podcast, gave me another useful tip: instead of checking Reddit or Twitter for information about SpaceX and other rocket-related stuff, he subscribed to a newsletter that summarizes all of the most important updates on the subject.
Observe your habits in respect to using your phone. Analyze the way you use individual apps, ask yourself what benefits social media gives you, and consider if you can achieve the same goals in a different (or perhaps even better) way. Set time limits or, like me, put a block on your phone to limit the number of times you can open a particular app. Break free from your smartphone addiction and start seeing it for what it really is – a genius pocket computer that lets you stay connected with the whole world.
Permalink - Posted on 2019-06-17 08:10
The future looks bright for today’s small businesses. According to Capital One’s most recent Small Business Growth Index, optimism is at a record high, with 67 percent of small businesses viewing conditions as “good or excellent.” 65 percent of those surveyed cite business growth as the reason behind their enthusiasm, followed by national economic conditions and improved business operations.
However, optimism aside, many small businesses find their growth plans thwarted at every twist and turn. Whether it’s hiring the right people, accurately monitoring cash flow, or simply managing an ever-present workload, small businesses are faced with a ton of challenges. Surprisingly, one of the biggest impediments to growth is often the business itself. Failure to recognize some of the most common barriers to business growth can be detrimental to long-term success.
Here are 4 factors that might be preventing your business growth and steps you can take to break through them:
Competition can be a great driver for growth if approached in the right way; in fact, some business leaders find competition to be greatly motivational. Even Bill Gates admitted, “Whether it’s Google or Apple or free software, we’ve got some fantastic competitors and it keeps us on our toes.”
On the other end of the spectrum, many small business owners are unprepared for the realities of fierce competition and they quickly lose their way in an attempt to respond. It’s important for businesses to maintain a deep understanding of their value and offerings, rather than becoming mixed up in their competition. Although business owners shouldn’t get bogged down in the details, some competitor knowledge is essential for understanding your market.
It can become quite difficult for a business to become better than their competition if they’re unsure of where they stand in comparison. A great tool that small business owners should use to best understand the state of their business is the SWOT analysis. SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, and refers to a process for identifying all four of these elements within a business. This exercise can help business owners identify what’s working, what isn’t, and where a business should focus its energy.
A SWOT analysis is a useful starting point for businesses when learning how to differentiate themselves against the competition and drawing out the value they provide versus their competition.
A major mistake that many small businesses make in the early beginnings of their business is failing to plan for the future. Business owners often make decisions based on the here-and-now and can forget to consider how their choices will impact their business down the line.
This is especially true as businesses pick and choose their technology tools. What may be a suitable tool now may not be as effective in the future, and an ill-fitting choice can make business operations more complex instead of acting as a helpful resource.
That said, savvy businesses opt for cloud-based tech solutions because of their scalability. As operations grow in scale, a cloud-based system can adjust and expand to fit your business’s needs. When growing your company, adding a new system for each new business area can create conflicts with your existing services and slow your progress. As stated in a Wall Street Journal Article on Oracle’s cloud apps, selecting a cloud-based suite in the early years will prevent you from undergoing “the complex process of integrating lots of different applications” in the future.
Many businesses hope to grow over time, and cloud software offers the scalability required to handle that growth. Whether it be a new employee joining the staff, a development in product offerings, or even an expansion into a new global market, selecting unified, cloud-based technologies help businesses plan ahead for future endeavors.
Small businesses are particularly susceptible to cash flow problems; in fact, 82 percent of them shut their doors for this reason alone. With growth comes extra cost — inventory must be procured, marketing campaigns executed, new hires paid, and so on. In many cases, small business owners must spend money to make money when experiencing growth, but this concept can quickly spiral out of control and leaves businesses in a precarious financial position.
As business owners plan to grow, they should create a cash flow forecast and focus on ways they can ensure the stability of their finances on a monthly basis. Cash flow projection gives business owners a clear look at current revenue, costs, and profits.
Small businesses should also develop new ways to build their business credit should they need to access financing options. For example, business owners may want to ditch their personal credit card in favor of a business card they can use for large investments. Exploring a business line of credit is another option that might help fund expansion or tide a business over during predictable operating cycles, like on- and off- seasons.
Small businesses often have to combat getting as much done as their larger counterparts while simultaneously maintaining a smaller workforce. In many instances, finding this balance can be difficult. Small businesses tend to put more stress on their employees, with employees often taking on the job of two or three people.
This can be detrimental to the overall health and wellbeing of an organization. Allowing employees to take on too many projects can lead to increased stress levels, and results in burnout over time.
Burnout is especially present in a business’s high-achievers and go-getters. Psychology Today notes that this stems from their willingness to work exceptionally long hours and take on exceedingly heavy workloads, as well as the enormous pressure they put on themselves to excel. The negative impacts of burnout can include exhaustion, stress, and disengagement, all of which can diminish a business’s productivity and output.
To prevent the negative impacts of burnout, small businesses need to find proactive methods to maintain a healthy workload for employees. Many small businesses have begun to use automation technologies as a way to keep up with business demands while also balancing a smaller workforce. Automation allows your employees to spend less time on routine tasks, like sending emails or arranging meetings, and more time on high-level activities that require their creative thinking and problem-solving abilities.
If there’s a common thread to breaking through growth barriers, it’s this: set goals and be prepared. Effective business planning can help small businesses achieve their goals in an effective, yet manageable, way. It can help account for the unpredictable aspects of small business management and guide business leaders for continued success and optimism.