Getting The Work-Life Balance Right

27 Aug

When I made the decision to work for myself again, the demands of getting a start-up off the ground and the unpredictability of my days really took a toll on my work-life balance.  My family and social life suffered and the home gym equipment became another convenient place to hang clothes.  Thankfully, things have since improved.  Whereas I still can’t log off my lap top at 7pm everyday (I’m working on this too), I’ve started working out again on mornings and I try to shut down on weekends and focus on family and friends.  This blog by Mike Figliuolo was therefore an interesting read and good advice for many of us.

How To Keep Your Life In Balance

by Mike Figliuolo 

Achieving personal balance is as important as achieving work balance and it is especially hard for people who love their work. If you love what you are working on, it is hard to step away from it. You must achieve a state where your energy is balanced between work and life. If you restrict your hours at the office by working at a furious pace that saps all your energy, you will have no energy left to live your life away from the office. That approach defeats the purpose of trying to achieve balance.

I know a fellow entrepreneur who struggled with the “life” part of work-life balance. He dedicated every last ounce of energy he had to building his business. He could not stop talking about all the fantastic things going on in his business but when I asked how things were at home his tone became more reserved. He explained how tired he was when he got home at night and how his son regularly said he missed him. The entrepreneur had not been sleeping well and he had put on about fifteen pounds because his physical fitness regimen had lapsed.

I asked if he had experienced similar challenges when he was a “corporate guy” and he said no. He had no problem making time for his family in the evenings. He would get in a solid workout every morning. He slept better and was generally happier despite not particularly enjoying his corporate job. I asked him what had changed since he went out on his own. He said he was much happier with the work he was doing but the variability in his schedule made it unpredictable and he found it difficult to establish a routine. He also felt a great deal of pressure to work on everything in front of him because he was solely responsible for the success of his business. He believed that if he did not drive hard and tackle every project, his business might fail.

“Why don’t you try shutting the computer at 7:00 PM every night for the next few weeks then let’s grab coffee and find out how things are going. You have to promise to hold yourself to that standard. Also, start your workouts again and don’t open your computer until after you have finished working out.”

Initially he looked at me like I was crazy when I offered him this guidance. But he reluctantly agreed to try the new approach. After several weeks we reconnected.

“I’m getting to spend time with my family now at least. I feel better too because I’m working out again. I even lost a few pounds in the past few weeks. At first I panicked at the thought of not getting all that former ‘evening’ work done but it’s been weird. All those things I used to do at night don’t seem to get done the next day. The odd part is it isn’t a big deal if they don’t get done.”

We discussed how the approach of walking away from the work at 7:00 PM was forcing him to prioritize. In the past he had no time constraints therefore he did not have to make a choice about what work got done. His choice was instead one of what time he would finish. His limiting factor was the work, not the time. By being rigorous about holding time as fixed he naturally began working on the most important things first to ensure he completed them by his self-imposed 7:00 PM deadline. Lower priority work automatically fell to the bottom of the list. His time with his family and his new workout regimen reduced his stress and helped him sleep better. The extra sleep made him more productive during the day and a virtuous circle ensued.

How do you keep yourself in balance? What reminder will you use to tell yourself it’s time to go home?

– Mike Figliuolo at thoughtLEADERS, LLC

http://www.thoughtleadersllc.com/2013/08/how-to-keep-your-life-in-balance/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+ThoughtleadersLlcBlog+%28thoughtLEADERS+Blog%29

Ten Common Errors When Starting A New Business

7 Aug

Congrats on your new business.  This can be the beginning of the most amazing and fulfilling period of your career.   However there are some common errors you need to avoid.  In their blog “Ten Mistakes To Avoid When Starting A New Business”, wix.com provided this list of (10) most common mistakes new entrepreneurs make and should avoid:

1) Not Researching Your Target Market – You need to know their habits and behavior as consumers. The more you know about the people you want as your clients, the more focused and cost-effective your marketing plan will be.

2) Sketchy Business Plan – You must have some type of financial forecast for expenditures, an initial marketing plan, a breakdown of your target audience and your competition, and most importantly some idea of how you plan to be profitable.

3) Getting Loans from Friends and Family – If you have a great idea and a well-organized business plan, you should be able to receive loans from institutions that specialize in these matters. Do you want to risk the relationship with people that you love? Be smart and resist the temptation, even if they offer.

4) Expecting Immediate Profit – New businesses usually take two years to become profitable. Make sure you have enough capital to carry you through, because in the beginning you will mostly be spending money, not making it.

5) Not Focusing on the Customer – You need to focus on offering solutions.  That is where your real profit lies. If your business provides something of substantial value you will get loyal clients that happily recommend your services.

6) Disregarding Controlled Testing – The only way to find out exactly what works for your business is to plan, test and analyze.  Do this in a controlled fashion and on a small scale. Don’t blow all of your investment money on random advertising or mass marketing. Test out different strategies on a small group and obtain feedback before you make any major move.

7) Relying on Your Own Legal and Accounting Skills – Do not trust yourself with something so critical as your own business. Experts are considered experts for a reason

8) Trusting Verbal Agreements – When money is involved, you need to have a written agreement to secure your interests. Contracts are not just a formality. When you sign one, make sure you actually understand and agree with its content.

9) Trying to Do Everything Alone – There are so many things to look after with a new business. Even if you’re planning a small operation, you will find yourself in need of assistance – even on a part-time basis. Seek out people whose abilities balance out yours, so that you can focus on developing your ideas and making deals.

10) Sacrificing Personal Relationships for the Biz – Most entrepreneurial efforts require around the clock attention, and can strain family and close relationships if you allow them to. You need the support of your loved ones, so don’t neglect them. Maintaining a healthy private life is crucial for your well-being. If you don’t, eventually, your business will also be affected by it.

You may read wix.com’s full article here http://www.wix.com/blog/2013/07/common-business-mistakes/

 

Review Your Facebook Page To Make Sure Its Working For Your Business

6 Aug

Screen Shot 2013-07-24 at 12.34.13 PM

In a recent survey of 1,000 social media users, researchers found that more than 1/2 of them – 52% – found a business’ facebook page to be more valuable than its website.  82% said that facebook was a good place to interact with brands.  Use the following 10 tips in the below infographic to review your facebook page and make sure its working for your business:

1) To increase visibility, write a photo description for your cover photo that includes a CTA (to do this, just click on the photo and write in the space provided).

2) To track user data for ad targeting, “Export Data” from your Insights panel weekly or monthly. Use the report to track the progress of your Page and monitor the posts that get the most engagement.

3) Status updates Posts should speak to your brand. Follow the 70/20/10 rule. Seventy percent of posts should build brand recognition; 20 percent are content from other people/brands; 10 percent are promotional.

4) Define the style of your Page and create a social media style guide so admins know what to post — and what not to. Decide if the tone of the Page is fun, funny, informational, journalistic, etc. and be consistent.

5) If you’re using third-party apps, make sure they’re easily accessible on mobile devices. Use QR codes on in-store signs to lead customers to your Facebook Page or a custom app.

6) When responding to users in the comments section of status updates, leave negative feedback visible so customers and potential customers can see how you respond to it.

7) Feature your three most important app thumbnails on your Timeline and include a call to action on each app thumbnail.

8) A profile photo should complement the cover photo. Change your profile photo often to reflect seasons, highlight holidays, etc.

9) Use Facebook ads to target users with precise interests. Sponsored Stories and Promoted Posts are great ad options to help increase the viral potential of your posts.

10) In your Page’s About section, list your company URL first if possible; fill out the rest of the section completely, including URLs to your other sites. Use this section to also include information about your business, like the date you were founded, contact information and milestones you’ve reached.

Infographic courtesy sociallystacked.com http://www.sociallystacked.com/2013/07/infographic-of-the-day-does-your-facebook-page-need-an-operation-2/

Six Steps To Start Up Success

22 Jul

Achieving start up success is difficult and as a result many fail.  However following the below advice from Bob Diener is a great place to start.

success

Six Fundamentals Every Entrepreneur Needs to Succeed

by Bob Diener

As an entrepreneur who founded and runs a successful and growing business, Getaroom, I see many entrepreneurs with great ideas but no clue how the business will be profitable. For certain websites or apps, if the idea is good enough you can get lucky and sell the business after you get a spike in interest. However, most companies require considerable planning and need both a competitive advantage and a solid business plan in order to succeed. For my company, I focused on a big market and found a profitable and attractive niche.

If you’re thinking about starting your own company, here’s my advice:

Set realistic expectations.
While enthusiasm and faith are needed when planning out your business, you do want to temper those thoughts with realism. Your projections for the business should not be wildly optimistic so you can manage your expectations and those of any partners. Consider the type of business and industry. Are you selling a lower margin product that will take time to gain traction? Or are you taking a shot with an app that might be a dud or might attract 100,000 downloads a month? Plan for a realistic amount of sales and interest so you can conservatively manage your finances. Are you counting on advertising to bring in customers? Remember that most advertising simply does not work, and you’ll need to attract customers through other channels and the power of word-of-mouth referrals.

With Getaroom, I understood the lodging market is massive and knew a niche player could capture a large amount of revenue, but my initial projections were modest and I watched expenses closely.

Have a clear value proposition.
Your product or service should offer true value. The value assessment has to go beyond your own biased opinion. You’re invested in the business, so of course you’ll feel it has value for your customers. Gather some outside counsel to be sure the value is clear and easily explained to your targeted audience. Envision someone referring your service to a colleague, saying “You need to get Service X because it will help you do A, give you B, and offer you insights into C.” If the value proposition is unclear, then you’re likely setting up the business for failure. Getaroom.com’s value proposition is based upon superior pricing and service. In an environment with rate parity such as in lodging, companies that can offer consumers reduced prices and exemplary service are able to really stand out as valuable.

Offer unique attributes.
Does your intended service or product bring something new to the consumer? If they already possess what you are offering, can get it for free, or can an easily acquire it from myriad competitors, then how do you expect to stand out? Will customers be able to identify and discuss your competitive advantage? Getaroom stands out because it presents a new model for hotel room booking. It features an unpublished rate program which gives consumers typically 10 to 20% (but up to 70%) off standard rates at thousands of partner hotels who want to move room inventory. What is markedly different about the company is these rates are only available through the Getaroom.com call center. The model is also different because we tell the traveler the name of the hotel, but not the actual rate until they book, while other models offer the rate but not the hotel name. We serve a clear segment of travelers who are looking for deals, but who also want to control where they stay. That sets us apart from our competitors. What attributes would set your venture apart from the competition?

Find your niche in a sizable market.
Knowing your clear value proposition and your unique attributes will help you determine where you fit in the market. We don’t offer every possible hotel, but we do offer unpublished rates for tens of thousands of the very best. Lodging is a $500 billion annual business, so for Getaroom, we don’t require too much of a share of that market sum to reap considerable rewards. Travel is a good market for entrepreneurs, but it’s not the place for copycats. You can’t compete with big booking sites unless you have an angle. Several of the large online travel agencies have a model of offering access to all hotels in every location; their angle is the sheer breadth of coverage. Others travel sites outsource their call centers overseas and really push all interactions to be electronic.

At Getaroom.com, we are a deal and value site, where we use pricing and a well-trained call center to stand out. We built a U.S.-based call center staffed with highly trained agents so they can offer enhanced services and act more like a travel agent than just a process person.

In large and expanding markets, there is always a value proposition to be found with niche players who can provide a compelling service. In travel, there is always someone looking to help research it, track it, or provide services for certain areas or class of travel. As long as the niche service has a true value proposition and a reasonable market audience, it can pull in profits.

Design a sound business model.
An entrepreneur can have the most unique product offering, one that offers tremendous value, but if her underlying business plan is not sound she has nothing. A quality plan is the key “how” of a business: how you are going to move forward with your service while keeping costs down? How do you ensure there will be demand for your product that can be reasonably sustained over the long term? How will you market your product or service to the intended audience on a reasonable budget? You need to be a hawk on the bottom line and ruthlessly manage top line expenses. The hard truth is that most businesses fail, and not always because the idea itself was not sound. A well-constructed economic plan does not of course guarantee success, but it is necessary and can turn a failure into a learning experience instead of a catalyst for personal financial ruin.

A sound model doesn’t mean you can’t deviate from the model and innovate when it is the right call. For instance, we instituted flash sales, where travelers have a limited amount of time to book, typically up to 24 hours. We usually offer these sales at 10 to 60% off, which creates an incentive for immediate action. This model is also a great driver for traffic to the site, as these sales are not pre-announced, but just pop up whenever the timing is right.

Pull in customers cost-effectively
Once you have the product or service and a solid plan lined up, you need to drive customers to make purchases. As I mentioned before, advertising typically does not work. Look at inexpensive promotions or contests and your social media strategy as cost-effective ways to attract consumers. Encourage conversations about your brand by asking for reviews or finding a way for consumer-created content that shows off your product’s unique features.

While none of this advice may seem particularly surprising, I’m always amazed by how many entrepreneurs have neglected to do this homework before they launch. If you want to beat the odds, make sure you’ve carefully thought through these non-negotiables before you start your business.

You may read the original blog here: http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2013/07/as_an_entrepreneur_who_founded.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+harvardbusiness+%28HBR.org%29&cm_ite=DailyAlert-072213+%281%29&cm_lm=sp%3Afranciscajordan%40gmail.com&cm_ven=Spop-Email

What Motivates Employees Today? Recognition, Growth and Fun!

10 Jul

badgeville

A recent infographic released by Badgeville confirms that raises or monetary rewards will not necessarily motivate employees and opportunities for growth was the top reason they stayed in an organization.  Here are some other statistics they shared:

1) 71% of employees are not engaged

2) 70% of workers are more motivated by non-monetary rewards at work

3) 83% said recognition for contribution is more fulfilling than any rewards and gifts

4) 76% said opportunities for growth was the top reason they stayed in an organization

5) 90% find a fun work environment very or extremely motivating

6) 79% of those who quit their jobs cite lack of appreciation as the main reason

Here’s the link to Badgeville’s full infographic shown below: http://www.badgeville.com/motivate

Do Your Social Media Connections Overshare? Here’s Why?

6 Jul

The prolonged fight on twitter between a couple you know.  A friend’s angry posts on facebook that is aimed at someone  you don’t know.  The pictures that your social media connections post of themselves in various stages of undress.  The video of someone you barely know rambling about a topic you care nothing about.  The incessant posts by other friends  that document every seemingly intimate thought or occurrence in their lives.  Sounds familiar? Congratulations: you’re a victim of extreme social media overshare.  So much for the phrase “You never know what goes on behind closed doors”.  Our facebook, twitter, you tube and instagram feeds now allow us to know things about each other that we probably wouldn’t have before.   Here’s why?

Rhianna

Sex, Alcohol and Oversharing

What makes us reveal too much on Facebook and Twitter? And why do we do it?

By  @techland July 05, 2013

There it is. On your Facebook feed: a picture of a tall, clear glass full of what looks like a red smoothie. “That looks good,” you think. And then you read the caption: “Mommy’s First Placenta Shake. It tastes like heaven. I put lots of pineapple, orange and mango sorbet. Yummmm!”

Congratulations: you’re a victim of an extreme social-media overshare. Maybe your annoying neighbor told everyone about his appendectomy. Or perhaps you sister posted too much about her attempt to conceive Baby No. 3. Either way, you’re surrounded by people who blab their business online — and it’s happening more and more.

Not too long ago, office water coolers were the place to hear and share that kind of news. But your facial cues — like raised eyebrows and wide eyes — told them when they were going too far. Or you could just walk away when the details got a bit too intimate. Today though, Facebook and Twitter are the hubs of social life, helping you check up on old friends, browse weekend photos and set lunch plans, so inevitably, you’ll run into all kinds of TMI postings.

We all have a near biological urge to overshare, and oftentimes, the results are funny. The placenta smoothie, for example, comes courtesy of Blair Koenig, creator of the submission-based STFU, Parents blog. But more often than not, the joke backfires, and oversharing leads to some sobering and challenging consequences.

The Compulsion to Share

The roots of oversharing go back long before Mark Zuckerberg was born, down to the depths of our subconscious. Most psychology experts say we overshare to try to control anxiety. For example, when we talk to people, we spend a lot of mental energy worrying about how we come off to them. We want them to think we’re funny, smart and interesting, but that often means we don’t pay attention to what we’re actually saying. That’s why we blurt out unexpected comments to the people we want to impress most, like that crush you had back in high school or prospective in-laws. As soon as those ridiculous words leave your lips, you instantly regret it. You know you shouldn’t have said it, and then you try to fix it, making it worse. Why? You pile on the blabbing because your anxiety is rising.

Certain types of people are more prone to BYB, or blabbing your business, than others. It depends on your “attachment style” — how you form emotional bonds with people, Dr. Hal Shorey, a professor at Widener University’s Institute for Graduate Clinical Psychology, told the Wall Street Journal. Partly genetic, attachment style is also a by-product of how your parents raised and related to you as a child.

The theory maintains that we’re divided roughly into three types: “secure,” which are loving and comfortable with intimacy, make up about 55% of population; “avoidant,” which reduce closeness, make up 15%; and “anxious,” which were inconsistently nurtured, account for roughly 15%. The remaining population is a combination of types.

Anxious types, which are overly sensitive to social cues, are prone to overmanaging personal connections — they’re also the most routine blabbers. Meanwhile, avoidants rarely overshare, while secure types do so on occasion. Though we manage the urge to blab to varying degrees of success, that basic urge is still instinctual.

Beyond those originals in anxiety, though, it just feels good to brag about ourselves. According to a Harvard study, about 40% of our speech, and 80% of social-media posts, is devoted to telling others about what we feel or think. “Self-disclosure is extra rewarding,” said Diana Tamir, the Harvard neuroscientist who conducted the experiments with colleague Jason Mitchell.

When you talk about yourself, you engage two areas of the brain associated with reward: the nucleus accumbens and the ventral tegmental. Those areas — linked to feelings of love, pleasure and addiction — send the same powerful feelings you experience when engaged in sex. And it continues until the rational parts of your brain kick back in, and you realize, “Oh, my God, what have I just done?”

Beyond the Ewww Factor

BYB is like the reality TV of social media — cringe-inducing, yet mightily entertaining. Koenig’s blog and her 14,000 Twitter fans touch on a range of topics, from placenta smoothies to lessons in potty training to bouts with puberty.

“Once a poop-picture oversharer, always a poop-picture oversharer,” she said. But oversharing isn’t just a joke anymore: people are discovering that what they share on Facebook and Twitter is evidence that can be used against them in a court of law.

Richard

In February, Richard Godbehere made headlines after he posted a five-minute video of himself drinking and driving. “You’re not supposed to do that,” he said. “But they didn’t say anything about driving then drinking.” Local police didn’t find it humorous and ticketed him.

Confession is good for the soul, but it’s usually bad for the case — and that’s especially true on social media. Jacob Cox-Brown, an 18-year-old Astoria, Ore., resident, for example, posted a Facebook status that read: “Driving drunk … classic :). But to whoever’s vehicle, I hit I am sorry :P.” Someone tied the apologetic post to news about an unknown driver sideswiping two cars, leading officers to investigate his home and find the damaged vehicle. He was arrested, but he’s fighting the case, claiming icy conditions contributed to the accident.

Your employer, though, has more leeway in dealing with posts that cross the line — a lesson one worker at London’s Luton Airport learned the hard way. The employee, described as a “new, overenthusiastic member,” posted a photo of a crashed airplane to the company’s Facebook page, along with the cheeky caption: “Because we are such a super airport … this is what we prevent you from when it snows … Weeeee :).”

The law protects you against self-incrimination, but it doesn’t cover voluntary gloating, confessions or stupidity. You’re protected against a forced confession, but not against your questionable choice to videos and social-media posts, highlights the very important difference between what goes on in your mind and what you should share.

The real trouble with oversharing isn’t so much that it’s part of human nature, but that digital tools make you vulnerable to doing it — or being a victim of it. Who hasn’t vented to friends about a relationship fight and then having to smooth things out after the make-up? It’s hard making nice after a fight, but if you’ve posted about it on Facebook, it’s even harder. We overshare to manage our anxiety, but after you apologize, kiss and move on, you still have to clean up the mess with all the others you drew in.

You can manage it by recognizing BYB-prone situations. Take a moment to see if sharing will cut your anxiety — try to imagine if the negative effects make it worthwhile. If you’ve already overshared, of course, you may want to consider dropping the subject altogether. By revisiting it, you run the risk of aggravating an already awkward situation. But if you think it’d be better to bring it up one last time, be brief and apologize without asking for approval, which may compound the gaffe.

In our culture, people bare themselves for all to see. And we need boundaries between private and public life — a safety zone. Tech tools improve our lives in many ways, but they can also exacerbate some basic urges that are best ignored. In the end, rethink your computer or social-media use if you’re anxious, doing questionable things or under the influence. Rarely does it end well. And if you have a kid, do us all a favor and don’t post pictures of placenta smoothies. Ewww!

This article was written by Margaret Rock and originally appeared on Mobiledia.

Read more: http://www.mobiledia.com/news/180578.html#ixzz2YGeIqq7j

Taking My Weekly Technology Break….Why Don’t You Join Me

5 Jul

Time off mouse

There are serious personal benefits of taking time away from the constant hum of technology. So why wait for your next vacation? Take a device hiatus every week. On Friday night, turn off everything with a screen — your computer, tablet, and phone. Put them in a drawer to keep them out of sight. And don’t turn them on again until Saturday night.

Knowing you won’t be able to connect for 24 hours can be unnerving, so prepare in advance. Print out your schedule, along with any maps or phone numbers you need. Let people know that they won’t be able to text, tweet, email, use Facebook, or web chat during that time. Then enjoy — be present and focused on whatever you do — spend time with your kids, go for a hike, read a book. You’ll likely find the day is longer and when you power back on, you’ll feel recharged.

– Courtesy The Harvard Business Review

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