From the Vault: Give it a Break, Already. Mike | August 3rd, 2015

EDITOR’S NOTE: We originally published this post 5 years ago. Seein’ as how we are away right now for a long summer weekend, we thought we’d share this one one more time… enjoy!

I left early this morning for the first “real” vacation I have had in over a year and I am looking forward to eating lobster rolls in Maine (hear me, Jeff?) and pouring real maple syrup on my pancakes in Vermont. For entrepreneurs, it is critical to find time periodically to get away, recharge the batteries, re-boot the mind, and, mostporno of all, STOP THINKING ABOUT THE BUSINESS FOR 5 MINUTES ALREADY, WILL YA?

I find that I can think more clearly, work more efficiently, communicate more comprehensibly if I can get away even for a few days every so often. Not to mention the benefits to my family life, my love affair with my wife, and my relationship with my colleagues. I can truly be a bear when I need a break.

Here are 6 tips for planning your next getaway; I hope they help to inspire your own journey and that they provide a strategy you can use.

1. Carve it out and let nothing come between.

A common mistake that entrepreneurs make is to wait until the last minute to start planning their vacation. You’ll need to figure out the “where”, but  first do the practical thing and nail down the “when.” Get thinking about it at least a month or two in advance. Talk to your partner and team members. Discuss it with your spouse. Most important? Put it on the calendar and block out those days so nothing important gets scheduled during your special time.

2. Plan ahead (and stick to it).

Where you will go is the tricky part. Some of us like holidays that are all about staying busy with things to do, people to play with, and activities galore. Then there are those of us who dream only of the beach in those Corona commercials. Whatever your pleasure, you should not wait until the last minute to try to plan something. Book in advance, get your deposits down, start working on that base-layer tan, lose a few pounds for the beach, get your reading list together, make your reservations, but please don’t wait until 2 days before you want to leave or disappointment will be your new best friend. In our world, vacations are so rare and precious that you absolutely want to make sure yours comes true.

3. Read a f#¢&ing book.

Read books, eat great food, go to the movies. As startup founders, these are the things that we sometimes forget exist in life. Vacation is the time for us to re-learn these simple pleasures and a time to enjoy all of the things we deny ourselves during the rest of the working year. Who has time to read just for the pleasure of it? How many movies have you missed seeing this year? And wouldn’t it be nice to have a conversation about that great meal you had last week? Well, use your vacation time to take advantage of all the riches life offers that we often forget even exist.

Read the rest of this post »

Twitter Link Roundup #280 – We Love Great Resources for Small Business, Startups, and Design! Mike | July 31st, 2015

Every year, at their annual conference, Fonts from all over the world get together to discuss industry trends, innovative approaches, and strategy. Keynote talks, panel discussions, and breakout sessions are programmed to address the interests and concerns of the audience. But, every so often, controversy arises, things get heated, and debate devolves into argument and rancor. As the video above demonstrates, this year’s conference didn’t go so well!

But… fonts, schmonts! It’s time for our latest set of links and articles that we shared with you over the past week on our  crowdSPRING Twitter account (as well as my own Twitter account)! We just love sharing articles about fonts, logo design, web design, startups, entrepreneurship, small business, leadership, social media, marketing, economics and other interesting stuff! Enjoy!

smallbusinessblog

Avoid These 3 Mistakes When Scaling Your Business crowdspring.co/1My9jRu

Small Business and Startups: Finding Your Match | @crowdSPRING Blog – crowdspring.co/1Mpz0CW

9 Free Remote Access Tools crowdspring.co/1f43TPZ

This Teen Paid for College by Selling on Etsy. Here Are 5 Ways She Did It. crowdspring.co/1eusKvC

Inflation Is Low, but U.S. Consumers Still Feel a Pinch crowdspring.co/1Gme5sW

startupsblog

This Resume Angel Can Help You Get That Job crowdspring.co/1OLKY9h

Drinking 10 cans of diet coke per day led this entrepreneur to start her own company. crowdspring.co/1LP4aEE

YouTube Chief Talks Children, Mobile and Competition With Facebook crowdspring.co/1SnlkIb

Your Team Can’t Read Your Mind – buff.ly/1ImRySq

For the first time ever there are now more millenials in the American work force than gen X’ers pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015…

Achieve Any Goal By Following These 5 Simple Steps crowdspring.co/1Ji9tGr

Meet the Business Owners Spearheading Alcohol’s Avant-Garde crowdspring.co/1Rzy6Z2

Mike Rowe: Don’t Pursue Your Passion. Chase Opportunity. crowdspring.co/1HNdSQw

5 Perfectly Simple Tasks That Enhance Your Credibility crowdspring.co/1MaDRbY

What Competing In An Ironman Taught Me About Entrepreneurship crowdspring.co/1MSju0v

What Navy SEALs Can Teach Your Company About Effective Communication crowdspring.co/1Rzy8jC

3 Signs That You Need a Vacation, Now crowdspring.co/1Rzyabh

Win Over Executives by Proving Customers Support Your Idea crowdspring.co/1Jibwue

How to Recognize the Good in Every Situation Without Kidding Yourself crowdspring.co/1SnmTFZ

Design Trends From Some of the Coolest Startup Offices crowdspring.co/1HxShwf

16 Personality Types and the Best Careers for Each One [Infographic] crowdspring.co/1f49cPk

How To Play To Your Distinctive Strengths crowdspring.co/1LP4bZa

Ways to Make an Amazing First Impression With Potential Clients crowdspring.co/1fAJLVT

8 Buzzwords to Blacklist in Your Workplace crowdspring.co/1DJDY6m

The Simple Technique That Will Instantly Win Over Customers crowdspring.co/1h0jH7O

Read the rest of this post »

Fresh from the SPRING: Imagician Audree | July 29th, 2015

When perusing our galleries here on crowdSPRING, we see some amazing work submitted in the projects. Today, we noticed this gem submitted in this logo project.

Let us start the slow clap for Imagician. Check out more great work on Imagician’s profile page.

FFS-Template-ImagiNicely done, Imagician, nicely done!

 

 

Small Business and Startups: Finding Your Match Mike | July 27th, 2015

Last week I wrote about customer service and the importance of scheduling and allocating your support resources. Lots of small businesses find that they can deliver top-notch, high-volume customer support with very small teams of people as long as they have the correct tool and as long as they pay close attention to the kinds of problems their customers are trying to solve and (just as important) when those customers are trying to get their issues resolved.

But of equal importance to how you apportion resources is in who you hire to do the job. Hiring a great support team is like casting a great movie or finding the perfect match on PlentyOfFish. But anyone who has played the online dating game also understands how much “noise” exists and how challenging it can be to sort through dozens or hundreds of potential matches to find “the one.” Recruiting a new team member is an equal challenge, and this goes for all of your departments, whether support, or technology, or marketing, or sales (and especially at the C-level. There will always be plenty of rejects and plenty of false positives in the game of love and the game of hiring.

The trick in hiring, as in dating, is to find the right match through a combination of careful planning, creative process, clear understanding of who you are as a company and a team, and the willingness to look beyond whether an applicant comes with the required experience, skills, and  qualifications. Here are 6 things you should be thinking about as you begin the search.


1. Who are you?.
As in finding a love-mate, finding a work-mate starts with an understanding of the character of your company and your team. Like people, companies have personalities and experiences that shape who they are. I am talking about what people usually call company “culture.” Start with characterizing your team by applying descriptive adjectives to describe your nature: Heads-down focused? Partiers? Laugh-factory? Buttoned down? Corporate? Innovative? Caring? Wipe the whiteboard clean and make a list because, when your list is finished, you will have a first draft description of the personality you are looking for and a clear grasp of the kind of person who sill fit in successfully.

2. Where do you look?
Where you search for this person is just as important as who you are searching for. There are hundreds of hiring and job posting resources, ranging from professional search firms to online SaaS providers to sites like LinkedIn and all the way down the spectrum to Twitter and Craigslist. Any of these are good options, but when you know exactly who you are stalking for you will get a pretty good idea of where you should be hunting.

3. How do you whistle?
If you’ve ever owned a dog, you know that she will respond to the unique whistle or call you let loose when you want her to come. Same thing with that perfect hire – only instead of whistling your task is to craft the perfect job description. Like any good piece of written content, the description you craft should be aimed at a very specific audience – indeed an “audience of one.” Remember that the person you are speaking to when you post a job listing is the one person you want to hire, and just like that distinctive dog-whistle, that person is out there just waiting to respond when you put your lips together and blow. Read the rest of this post »

Twitter Link Roundup #279 – Wow! Great Resources for Small Business, Startups, and Design! Mike | July 24th, 2015

At crowdSPRING we love latte and we also appreciate a great love story. And who better than Amy Schumer to tell a story of love and loss through the literary device of latte foam art? Follow the tale of a young couple as they meet, fall in love and, eventually, are left with only the cold, dank dregs of their bittersweet romance.

Alright – it’s time now to finish that last cup of coffee and get to work! Because we present to you, our latest set of links and articles that we shared with you over the past week on our  crowdSPRING Twitter account (as well as my own Twitter account)! We just love sharing articles about fonts, logo design, web design, startups, entrepreneurship, small business, leadership, social media, marketing, economics and other interesting stuff! Enjoy!

smallbusinessblog

Small Business and Startups: Making Customer Service Available (On Your Own Terms) | @crowdSPRING Blog – crowdspring.co/1KbFoew

How to Negotiate with Powerful Suppliers crowdspring.co/1KPnb7O

4 Reasons To Refinance Your Small Business Debt crowdspring.co/1dK1DMW

NextRequest Puts The Public Information Request Process Online crowdspring.co/1fkqzfC

startupsblog

Why Embracing the Worst-Case Scenario Improves Performance and Increases Well-Being – Further crowdspring.co/1e0QaJ1

Subtle Habits That Could be Killing Your Career crowdspring.co/1J0GtqX

Science-Backed Tips to Negotiate Better crowdspring.co/1glvsVZ

How This Woman Proved at Age 78 That It’s Never ‘Too Late’ crowdspring.co/1MbiVhI

Denver Mayor Hancock explains how the public and private sectors have come together to spur rapid business growth. crowdspring.co/1HKL4g2

6 Surprising Insights Of Successful Employee Engagement crowdspring.co/1f462ex

Fear Trumps Greed in Silicon Valley as Some Venture Firms Hedge – buff.ly/1g2B7Ai

Meet Maye Musk, the glamorous model mother of billionaire Elon Musk – buff.ly/1LARvUd

How to Make Sure Your Worst Enemy Isn’t You crowdspring.co/1J0GtXX

The Role of Mentorship in Business crowdspring.co/1glweSW

What Startups Can Learn From The Art Market crowdspring.co/1LQixr0

You Don’t Need a STEM Degree to Make Good Money crowdspring.co/1J0GrPT

Minimum Wage Increase Proving Successful for Ikea Stores crowdspring.co/1J0GqLK

Preventable Disasters That Have Ruined Countless Startups crowdspring.co/1TiWNpQ

Read the rest of this post »

Fresh from the SPRING: LOREWREN Audree | July 22nd, 2015

When perusing our galleries here on crowdSPRING, we see some amazing work submitted in the projects. Today, we noticed this gem submitted in this logo project.

Let us start the slow clap for LOREWREN. Check out more great work on LOREWREN’s profile page.

Nicely done, LOREWREN, nicely done!

FFS-LOREWREN

Small Business and Startups: Making Customer Service Available (On Your Own Terms) Mike | July 20th, 2015

Periodically (like every single quarter) we review our customer service data to determine whether we are best using our resources. This is an excellent practice for a small company, especially one that is ambitious and by its very nature capacity constrained.

At crowdSPRING we strive to provide world-class quality support, but our team is small and their responsibilities complex. We do this through the use of great tools and by implementing technology that helps us handle a very heavy load. For instance, in the quarter that just ended, our team of 4.5 (including part-timers) responded to 8,158 email and webform requests, received 2,658 incoming phone calls, made 1,033 outbound calls to customers, and chatted online with another 783 users. This is not to mention the 469 intellectual property violations they investigated, the 601 prospects they followed up on, or the hundreds of instances of possible fraudulent activity they scrutinized. This gets even more impressive when you consider that the average request to our support team was answered in under 24 minutes and the average issue was resolved in less than a day! To me, the truly amazing thing is that this team not only handled that kind of volume with that kind of efficiency, but that they did it with smiles on their faces and a relative minimum of frustration.

How is this possible? That such a small team can respond so quickly and effectively in a high-volume customer service context? Well it starts with hiring the right people (a discussion we will leave for a different blog post), and continues with strong training regimens (another future post, ok?), as well as having clear protocols and systems in place. But one of the most important factors in building efficient customer support machinery has to do with the art of scheduling.  And guess what? Great scheduling starts with great data! If you know when the work needs to be done, and how much work you can expect, you are halfway to delivering exceptional service to your customers. Read the rest of this post »

Twitter Link Roundup #278 – Freaky Good Resources for Small Business, Startups, and Design! Mike | July 17th, 2015

Not one, but two of our favorite technologies were  Gilles Deschaud’s film, “Chase Me.” We love the art and the painstaking craft of stop-motion animation and Deschaud has got it down cold. Maybe more impressive is the fact that he produced the entire film using 3d print technology! As mashups go, h cool is that?

So get out your printers and dust off your animation stand, but first be sure to enjoy this set of links and articles that we shared with you over the past week on our  crowdSPRING Twitter account (as well as my own Twitter account) ! We just love sharing articles about fonts, logo design, web design, startups, entrepreneurship, small business, leadership, social media, marketing, economics and other interesting stuff! Enjoy!

smallbusinessblog

6 things to do after your pitch

Pizza and the Complications of Running a Business

Cringeworthy Mistakes That Could Ruin Your Business

The Selfish Reason You Should Be Extremely Generous

Why This Little Pickle Stand Is a Symbol of Big Innovation

Science-Backed Tips to Negotiate Better

Why Offices Full Of Ping-Pong Tables And Video Games Might Be Onto Something

startupsblog

The Secret To Walt Disney’s Corporate Strategy

Why Staying Connected at All Hours Is a Bad Thing

Is Your Business Suffering From FOMO?

7 Ways Great Leaders Think Differently Than the Rest of U

Funny or Die trying

Kim Kardashian Is a Lot of Things, But Not an Entrepreneur

Stop Sugar-Coating Your True Opinion

Pitfalls to Avoid When You Inherit a Team

Why We Love to Hate HR…and What HR Can Do About It

4 Steps to Being an Entrepreneur Without Quitting Your Job

Bright, Shiny Objects and the Future of HR

What Startups Can Learn From The Art Market

How to Protect Your Intellectual Property When Crowdfunding: 5 Tips

Meet Nava, A Startup That Wants To Fix The Government’s Crappy Design

Read the rest of this post »

Fresh from the SPRING: Anise Audree | July 15th, 2015

When perusing our galleries here on crowdSPRING, we see some amazing work submitted in the projects. Today, we noticed this gem submitted in this logo project.

Let us start the slow clap for Anise. Check out more great work on Anise’s profile page.

Nicely done, Anise, nicely done!

FFS-Anise

Lean Business Tips: Marketing Channels on the Cheap Mike | July 13th, 2015

Startups and small businesses face a steep learning curve when it comes to online marketing. The options are rich, the ROI can be cruel, the capacity investment can be significant, and the results can often be questionable. At crowdSPRING we have experimented with virtually every online marketing strategy and tactic available, often with negative results. The rule of thumb is to experiment in small batches and, as quickly as possible, identify the losers and stop the experiment.

Numerous studies have shown that online marketing can be a financial loser for many companies. Does this mean that you should avoid online marketing and social media channels? Absolutely not! Many companies see excellent results and gain meaningful traction through the use of Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and the like. In fact, entire businesses are marketed solely using using social channels, and a huge industry of consultants and agencies specializing in these tactics has developed over the last five years. Have a look at these five channels, none of which will strain your marketing budget, although each will require a commitment of time and capacity. Dip your tow in slowly to determine which will work for you and, remember – set goals, design your experiments carefully with measurement in mind, invest in the winners and n=banish the losers!

Twitter. As an ad platform, Twitter can be a powerful and modesty priced option for many businesses. With a pay-per-click model and the ability to set your budget at a level that makes sense for your business, ROI can be easily measured and analyzed. In addition, data has shown that, as measured in clicks and posts, the average Twitter user engages at a rate almost 5x that of the average Facebook user.

YouTube Reviews. 90 percent of consumers trust word-of-mouth referrals from friends and even strangers, compared to only 14 percent who trust an advertising message. This is the primary reason that businesses try so hard to encourage and enable their customers to write reviews about your offerings. YouTube is one of many sites that allows users to leave reviews. but also have a look at Reseller RatingsEpinionsCNET and others.

Read the rest of this post »

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