Small Business and Startups: 6 Traits of Great Businesses Mike | September 22nd, 2014

A few weeks back I wrote about 5 traits of leadership and some of the characteristics that great leaders share. Today let’s move away form the individual(s) that lead businesses and discuss the businesses themselves, shall we? Leadership is all well and good (not to mention completely necessary), but there is more to a business than simply the person or people who lead it.

Organizations large and small can be strengthened and improved when certain business-wide traits are present or developed. Sometimes these traits are inherent to the business from day one, other times they are structural and need to be built over time, and sometimes the traits are intangible like values and culture which require time to mature and instill.

The reasonably strong businesses have one or several of these traits in common and while most managers do focus on one or two of these, it is rare that a venture  incorporates all six of these characteristics. Great small businesses and startups should keep these six traits in mind as they build, launch, and grow their companies and work hard to be:

1. Transparent. Mom taught us to always tell the truth, and that goes for those of us in business, too. And, no matter the audience, whether investors, customers, or team, truth can be measured by how transparent you are. Sharing performance and growth data, communicating clearly and openly, admitting to mistakes and failures – these are the hallmarks of an open, transparent organization.

2. Customer-centric. While I do not subscribe to the maxim that “the customer is always right” I do strongly believe that the customer is always first. Companies that keep the focus on their clientele build better products, offer better service, and experience stronger organic growth than those that, well, do not. This means that you need to be in constant contact with your customers: make it easy for them to contact you, survey them regularly, provide great content for them through your social media channels, and listen closely to what they have to say. Small businesses in particular rely on word of mouth and recommendations, so the better your relationship with them, the stronger your communications with them, the greater the WOM effect will be.

3. Disciplined. Focus equals discipline. This applies whether the focus is on product development, strategy, hiring, or positioning in the market. When we first conceived of crowdSPRING, Ross and I thought it would offer services across multiple verticals – it didn’t take us long realize what a mistake that would be and to slash our ambitions and focus only offering only creative services. The same idea can be extended to many aspects of your business operations, strategic planning, and your daily routine! Resist the temptation to overreact to external events or market changes and maintain your focus and discipline on your core strategy and tactics.

4. Flexible. In spite of what I just wrote in the previous paragraph, great businesses are flexible in everything they do. Managers should always be ready to respond to threats, make course corrections, and be constantly looking for new strategies and tactics that will provide the edge they need. Flexibility also extends to the workplace – work rules, vacation policies, individual’s schedules can all be approached with a mindset of flexibility and can lead to greater employee satisfaction, lower staff turnover, and higher productivity. Nice.

5. Strategic. Strategy does not mean complexity; sometimes strategy can be simple, forthright, even elegant, but no company can succeed, let alone be great without a strong emphasis on strategic planning and execution. A business plan is a great place to start and every business needs one. It doesn’t have to be 80 pages long, nor does it have to include 10 years of projected revenues and earnings; many great companies articulate their strategic approach in a one-page document or a 5-slide presentation. Same goes for execution: articulating strategy is all well and good, but a company that is not disciplined and focused can not hope to accomplish its goals.

6. Talented. Hiring the best and developing talent takes time and there is probably not a virtuous manager on this good earth who wouldn’t choose to hire the very best person they can find. But there is more to hiring than the old saw about “hire slow, fire fast.” Spotting talent is a skill, but this is the real world and sometimes a business needs to get a worker on the job and can’t afford the luxury of waiting for the perfect person with the perfect resume and the perfect skill-set to come through the door. Great talent can be bought, but great talent can also be developed in-house. The key is to build your team carefully over time, give them the training and resources they need to do their job, nurture and encourage them in their growth, and reward the behaviors and skills you desire. Hire smart, develop carefully, and incentivise wisely!

A Navy tug-of-war exercise, photo: Wikimedia Commons

Twitter Link Roundup #235 – Small Business, Startups, Innovation, Social Media, Design, Marketing and More Ross | September 19th, 2014

Every day on the crowdSPRING Twitter account and on my own Twitter account, I post links to posts or videos I enjoyed reading or viewing. These posts and videos are about logo design, web design, startups, entrepreneurship, small business, leadership, social media, marketing, and more! Here are some of the links that I’ve liked and shared this past week!

The video above is from Megan MacKay. Megan takes a very creative approach in talking about a serious subject – spousal abuse (based on the recent events surrounding football player Ray Rice). Nicely done, Megan.

smallbusinessblog

Small Business Tips: 5 More Great Online Tools (Have I Mentioned These Before?) – crowdspring.co/1y6EixS

3 Surprising Interview Questions You Should Ask Every Potential Employee – crowdspring.co/1s051td

What’s the Best Time to Send Email Newsletters? | WordStream – crowdspring.co/1tOs1vg

Be Honest: Are You Really The Best Boss for Your Business by Howard Tullman – crowdspring.co/1u86ES3

The Exact Amount Of Time You Should Work Every Day | Fast Company – crowdspring.co/XhnDGI

How to Spot & Avoid Bad Web Hosting Companies | InstantShift –

8 Excellent Reasons to Redesign Your Website –

Why Introverts Make Great Leaders – crowdspring.co/1yhmaS5

startupsblog

The Myth of Venture Capital | Re/code by Jon Oringer – crowdspring.co/1tNFeV7

What’s the Best Time to Send Email Newsletters? | WordStream – crowdspring.co/1tOs1vg

Inside the Mind of a Technical Founder | OpenView Blog by Larry Kim – crowdspring.co/1u7Fz1b

The Paradoxical Traits of an Entrepreneur | by Jody Porowski – crowdspring.co/1piN6X6

The Paradox of Innovation And Why Innovation Labs Rarely Work – crowdspring.co/1t63K1Y

Why Introverts Make Great Leaders – crowdspring.co/1yhmaS5

Bad Notes on Venture Capital – crowdspring.co/1u3NJvn

Terrific insight in this reddit AMA by Peter Thiel – crowdspring.co/XpTXHi

8 Excellent Reasons to Redesign Your Website –

5 Signs You’ve Got the Wrong Co-Founder – crowdspring.co/1u17ovZ

Be Honest: Are You Really The Best Boss for Your Business by Howard Tullman – crowdspring.co/1u86ES3

12 Qualities To Look For In A Co-Founder – crowdspring.co/1m97mzy

How Everything We Tell Ourselves About How Busy We Are Is A Lie | Fast Company –

Are startup burn rates out of control? They seem to be | AVC – crowdspring.co/1rbM5FT

This Invaluable Lesson Will Keep You From Making Catastrophic Hiring Mistakes -crowdspring.co/XeV4JS

Hiring startup engineers? Talk about challenge, not pay | VentureBeat by Kieran Snyder – crowdspring.co/1wpHRKP

Busting the Lean-Startup Myth – crowdspring.co/1ozOXHA

Ways to think about watches – crowdspring.co/1wpIpQT

Apple Watch: Initial Thoughts and Observations – crowdspring.co/1maJA6k

1871 Ranks 9th In The World In Survey Of Business Incubators – crowdspring.co/Xe1N6Y

How to Spot & Avoid Bad Web Hosting Companies | InstantShift –

Activate or Die: 10+ Ways You Can Improve Your User Activation for SaaS – Part 2 | 500 Startups Blog – crowdspring.co/1rgMYgu

The Exact Amount Of Time You Should Work Every Day | Fast Company – crowdspring.co/XhnDGI

SaaS Startup Balance Sheets: How Much Cash & How Much Debt to Raise – crowdspring.co/XyDAJ3

The $3.2 Billion Man: Can Google’s Newest Star Outsmart Apple? – http://crowdspring.co/1uDEaB6

3 Surprising Interview Questions You Should Ask Every Potential Employee – crowdspring.co/1s051td

The 3 Myths Most Entrepreneurs Tell Themselves About Marketing | by Dharmesh Shah – crowdspring.co/1uyrQ4U

How To Think Like an Entrepreneur: the Inventure Cycle | by Steve Blank – crowdspring.co/1wkTR3b

socialmediablog

What’s the Best Time to Send Email Newsletters? | WordStream – crowdspring.co/1tOs1vg

How to Use Social Media to Drive Traffic for B2B Companies – crowdspring.co/1nPz9An

You Can’t Be Everyone’s Girlfriend – crowdspring.co/1tWpcIz

Voice of the Customer: The Secret of Great Landing Page Copy | WordStream – crowdspring.co/1rgMIOC

The 3 Myths Most Entrepreneurs Tell Themselves About Marketing | by Dharmesh Shah – crowdspring.co/1uyrQ4U

Activate or Die: 10+ Ways You Can Improve Your User Activation for SaaS – Part 2 | 500 Startups Blog – crowdspring.co/1rgMYgu

designblog

Designing Custom iOS App Interface Elements using Photoshop – crowdspring.co/X7LhFm

Classic. When not to use reflections: pic.twitter.com/KxQAcAI31r

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Fresh from the SPRING: LuW Audree | September 17th, 2014

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 LuW. Check out more great work on LuW’s profile page.

Nicely done, LuW, nicely done!

FFS-LuW-Viperfish

 

Small Business Tips: 5 More Great Online Tools (Have I Mentioned These Before?) Mike | September 15th, 2014

A few weeks ago I offered up five online tools that I have tested or am currently using (and that I have never written about before). I like to explore these new apps, tools, and services every so often with an eye towards sharing and possibly implementing in our own business (Remember? Here, here, herehere, and here).

Some of the best tools and apps we use are available online for little or no money. The best of these reduce workloads, improve productivity, increase capacity, and (yes) can pay for themselves through reduced expenses in other parts of the budget. Plus many of these are downright interesting to watch and the results can be incredibly helpful, not just budgetary, but also strategically.

This will be the last list of this kind from me for 2014, so enjoy these five great online resources!

1. SpyFu. Do you manage your own keyword campaigns or work closely with the person who does? SpyFu is a great tool that allows you to compare your own SEO/SEM tactics against those of your competitors. The tool is simple to use and the results are intuitively displayed for simple analysis. What’s the implication here? By allowing a peek at the competition’s most profitable keywords, you can tailor your own to match or exceed their efforts.

2. Balsamiq: Mockups here, mockups there, mockups mockups everywhere. Anyone who has been involved with creating web interfaces or developing a/b tests for existing pages knows what a wireframe is and how it’s used. Balsamiq is an online tool that allows simple and quick creation of wireframes for desktop apps, mobile apps, web sites, and dialog windows. Even a non-techie like me can use this tool to effectively ideas and proposals.

3. Mixpanel: An advanced analytics platform, Mixpanel allows users to drill down and better understand how visitors engage with your site. The traditional page views metric dimply does not provide the valuable information you need when analyzing page performance and making strategic decisions. By reporting user’s actions, and better understanding what they actually do on the page, this handy tool allows deeper understanding and can lead to higher conversion rates and lower abandonment.

4. Trello: A simple online collaboration tool, Trello organizes information into boards that can be shared for easy organization, tracking, and archiving. At crowdSPRING we use this tool to plan and track our own Dev Team sprints. Each task or item is presented as a card and the cards can be updated, commented upon, and time stamped for our own internal data purposes. The interface is clean and simple and the features are just powerful enough that your team can use the tool for a variety of purposes. So stop it already with the 25-response email threads and the clunky spreadsheets! (Plus, it’s free!)

5. Square: Mobile payments are a dream come true for many businesses, from the kid’s lemonade stand on the corner to the artist selling their works at the local street fair. But wait – lot and lots of bricks & mortar retailers are taking advantage of mobile payment tools, too. One of the leading innovators in the space is Square, the tiny little point-of-sale device that works seamlessly with your mobile device and as a merchant payment processor. The software is simple and intuitive, the hardware is tiny and unobtrusive, and the use cases are almost endless. Square’s rates are competitive with those of other merchant processors and implementation is simple dimple.

Photo: A modern toolbox – Wikipedia

Twitter Link Roundup #234 – Small Business, Startups, Innovation, Social Media, Design, Marketing and More Ross | September 12th, 2014

Every day on the crowdSPRING Twitter account and on my own Twitter account, I post links to posts or videos I enjoyed reading or viewing. These posts and videos are about logo design, web design, startups, entrepreneurship, small business, leadership, social media, marketing, and more! Here are some of the links that I’ve liked and shared this past week!

The video above shows 100 of the most iconic movie shots of all time. Some remarkable cinema is represented. What’s missing?

smallbusinessblog

Small Business and Startups: 5 Traits of Leadership – crowdspring.co/1usla8G

8 Excellent Reasons to Redesign Your Website – crowdspring.co/1xDca5b

Why Branding Is the Next Essential Startup Competency – crowdspring.co/1p2EOT3

6 Tips for Creating an Effective Survey | MarketingSherpa Blog – crowdspring.co/1onWjxK

startupsblog

What the Second Time SaaS CEOs are All Doing | saastr – crowdspring.co/1lF9GOf

6 Suggestions for an Aspiring Startup Founder – crowdspring.co/1o6CzhV

Small Business and Startups: 5 Traits of Leadership – crowdspring.co/1usla8G

Why Branding Is the Next Essential Startup Competency – crowdspring.co/1p2EOT3

Startup CEOs Get Too Much Credit For What is a Team Sport | !ExitEvent – crowdspring.co/1uwFw0p

Good look at the value of a founder’s time (with a useful spreadsheet) | by Marc Barros – crowdspring.co/1tNDFGJ

The Truth About B2B Lead Gen: What Really Works | The Daily Egg – crowdspring.co/1uuaGFD

The top 22 mistakes of first-time CEOs | VentureBeat – crowdspring.co/1lNxwYr

Why Amazon Has No Profits (And Why It Works) – crowdspring.co/1lPTMkd

8 Excellent Reasons to Redesign Your Website – crowdspring.co/1xDca5b

Startup founders reveal why their startups failed (free PDF book) – crowdspring.co/YtlN77

socialmediablog

Why Branding Is the Next Essential Startup Competency – crowdspring.co/1p2EOT3

The Impact of Symmetry in Online Marketing | Optimizely Blog – crowdspring.co/1nILN4c

The Truth About B2B Lead Gen: What Really Works | The Daily Egg – crowdspring.co/1uuaGFD

6 Tips for Creating an Effective Survey | MarketingSherpa Blog – crowdspring.co/1onWjxK

8 Excellent Reasons to Redesign Your Website – crowdspring.co/1xDca5b

designblog

Designing Badges (And More) For A Conference | Smashing Magazine – crowdspring.co/1pEATSm

What Top Designers Think Of Apple’s New Smartwatch | Co.Design – crowdspring.co/1xJ2IgK

Read the rest of this post »

12 Questions: Meet Tal More (USA) Audree | September 11th, 2014

In our 12 Questions blog series, we feature interviews with someone from the crowdSPRING community. For these interviews, we pick people who add value to our community – in the blog, in the forums, in the projects. Plainly – activities that make crowdSPRING a better community. Be professional, treat others with respect, help us build something very special, and we’ll take notice.

We’re very proud to feature Tal More (crowdSPRING username: moretalme) today. Tal lives and works in Los Angeles, California.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

1. Please tell us about yourself.

Hi crowdSPRINGers and NetBrowsers. My name is Tal More. I was born in Israel aka the holy land (known to some as the holy shit land) in 1978 and lived most of my life in a small town called Rehovot, about half an hour drive from Tel Aviv. These past few years I’ve been living in sunny- often too sunny- California, first in the bay area and more recently in L.A. (known to some as Hell A). I guess you could say that creativity pretty much runs in my veins. I used to write a lot when I was younger, but these days I focus on copywriting, songwriting, recording my music and giving music critiques to other artists. I also have a BA in Film and Television studies, but getting it was mostly an excuse to catch up on great films (mission accomplished). However, I did also get some practical use out of it working on a few projects, most notably while working on the script and the creation of the music video for my song- ‘Parallel Me’:

{Animation: Rivka Press; Direction: Rivka Press & Yaniv Shmeltzer}

2. How did you become interested in writing?

I was drawn to art and creativity from an early age. It started with music- I was classically trained but then in my teens I found out that I also extremely enjoyed expressing myself through writing. I guess school essays were mainly to blame. Thus began a short story phase in my life. For a long time I was certain that I was destined to be a writer. Some of my short stories got some buzz on the internet and later on I won first and second place in a couple of short story contests. I briefly worked as a book critique in a big online portal and also had a few stories published in a couple of magazines. But then one day I started writing songs and that was a major turning point. I realized that though writing short stories was nice, writing songs was even better because it fused my two passions together- music and writing. What could be better than that? (Answer: Nothing). Since then I’ve been writing and composing like a madman. I’m pretty sure that songwriting will be my main focus for the rest of my life.

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Small Business and Startups: 5 Traits of Leadership Mike | September 8th, 2014

What is a manager? What is a leader? In the context of small business and startups these two characteristically different beings are necessarily rolled into one. In the world of the mega-corporation-consultant-advised-worker-powered-behemoths a manager can often be a quietly effective, detail oriented, often cloistered individual who might supervise dozens or even hundreds of others, while displaying minimal, or even non-existent leadership skills. This is not to say that mid-level corporate managers are not often strong leaders, but merely that leadership ability is not always a required personality attribute for these folks.

However, in the world of small business and startups, a great manager must also be a great leader. Must undoubtedly be a great leader. The special breed of person who is attracted to and finds success in small businesses has to be a detail-oriented,  data-reading, team-building, communication-centric, debate-leading, empathically-oriented, responsibility-taking, customer-focused, strong-willed, no-nonsense, laughter-loving, strategy-creating, answer-seeking, curiosity-driven individual. This special manager/leader has to be and inspire others in their ambition, enthusiasm, dedication, loyalty, tenacity, energy, and commitment.

Thats a long list right? Well yes. Great manager-leaders are, at their core, complex individuals, but certain of these traits are common to all of us. These are the 5 that I consider the most crucial to the success of a great small business manager-leader:

1. Is honest. Transparency, openness, and willingness to share are key traits for an effective small business manager. Your own values and core beliefs should permeate your organization and the people you hire should be both beneficiary and reflection of those values. A mission statement, while not critical to many small businesses, can be a valuable tool for emphasizing the principles by which you do business and for maintaining focus on the integrity you want to encourage.

2. Has superior communication skills: It is completely and totally incumbent on great manager-leaders to also be great communicators. Expectations are set and guidelines are defined via strong communication skills, both oral and written. How can your team understand what is expected of them unless clear and honest feedback is offered consistently? When employees have concerns a great manager-leader needs the ability to listen and respond. And when good work merits praise or when improvements are needed communicating with your team is imperative.

3. Takes responsibility: Great manager-leaders do not hesitate to take responsibility for their actions and for the outcomes, whether those are successes, failures, mistakes, or triumphs. A strong ethic of buck-stops-here accountability is always on display, but is also expected from the entire team. By consistently and persistently taking responsibility, you set high expectations while effecting positive change. Sharing in the success rather than assigning blame is a great strategy for building strong teams.

4. Collaborates freely and willingly: There are several elements to collaboration that any manager-leader should be mindful of and practice. Great collaboration most always involves an element of delegation; a critical part of leadership is understanding that other team members need to work their way up their own learning curves and have input along with the ability to succeed (or fail) on their own. Team-building starts through each individual’s growth and development, and without empathic, collaborative, effort that growth can never occur.

5. Displays passion: Great leadership should be inspirational: clear commitment should always be readily apparent, and a visible mixture of enthusiasm and eagerness will inspire the same in those around you. Passion brings perspective by always expressing commitment and hard work is a manifestation of that passion. Set an example through your own passion and use that to kindle energy and fervor in your team.

Pat Summit, one of the greatest college basketball coaches of all time, epitomized these traits; photo: USA Today

Twitter Link Roundup #233 – Small Business, Startups, Innovation, Social Media, Design, Marketing and More Ross | September 5th, 2014

Every day on the crowdSPRING Twitter account and on my own Twitter account, I post links to posts or videos I enjoyed reading or viewing. These posts and videos are about logo design, web design, startups, entrepreneurship, small business, leadership, social media, marketing, and more! Here are some of the links that I’ve liked and shared this past week!

Apple is known for the unique style of their ads. Here’s a fun parody from IKEA, poking fun at those ads and promoting the annual IKEA book catalogue. Very well done by IKEA.

smallbusinessblog

Small Business Tips: 5 Great Online Tools (That I’ve never mentioned before) – crowdspring.co/1q6KH6T

10 Ways to Motivate Your Employees on the Cheap – crowdspring.co/Y8l0IJ

5 Ways to Create an Engaging Customer Experience – crowdspring.co/W6LVm2

Ten Things Bosses Never Tell Employees, But Should | by Jeff Haden – crowdspring.co/Yef2Gd

Why Responsive Web Design Helps People Buy Your Product | Inc – crowdspring.co/1psW8QW

startupsblog

The 10,000 Hour Rule Is Not Real | Smithsonian – crowdspring.co/1qp7eeR

A Discussion with Jon Bischke of Entelo: On Successfully Switching from B2C to B2B (SaaS) | saastr – crowdspring.co/1tKArlK

My Golden Rule for Pitching Your Startup or Product – crowdspring.co/1n4zIpz

10 Ways to Motivate Your Employees on the Cheap – crowdspring.co/Y8l0IJ

How We Increased Landing Page Conversion by 16%: Lessons Learned from Redesigning the Buffer Home Page  – crowdspring.co/1pEnAkK

Six Key Benchmarks for Your SaaS Startup | by Tomasz Tunguz – crowdspring.co/W6wR8d

Why Responsive Web Design Helps People Buy Your Product | Inc – crowdspring.co/1psW8QW

Terrific post & great insight by Andrew Mason discussing Internal Tools at Detour | Detour Blog – crowdspring.co/1poOjMf

A Great Job Interview Requires a Great Conversation – crowdspring.co/1w2Owuk

Ten Things Bosses Never Tell Employees, But Should | by Jeff Haden – crowdspring.co/Yef2Gd

Here is How to Make Sense of Conflicting Startup Advice – crowdspring.co/WbLd7B

5 Ways to Avoid Useless Meeting Syndrome – crowdspring.co/1lCjk4o

How to Market Test a New Idea | Harvard Business Review – crowdspring.co/1vSai6S

Four Unexpected Tips for Keeping Great Employees | by Cameron Herold – crowdspring.co/1vNZc2F

The Pernicious Effect of Dilution in SaaS: The Cold, Hard, Bloody numbers | saastr – crowdspring.co/W6Bwqs

9 Case Studies That’ll Help You Reduce SaaS Churn – crowdspring.co/1pEiCVj

Startup Mentors — How Do You Filter Out The Good, The Bad And The Ugly? | TechCrunch – crowdspring.co/1pJheAB

Rarely say yes to feature requests | Inside Intercom – crowdspring.co/1plBz95

You suck at technical interviews – crowdspring.co/1pEfybN

Benchmarking Hubspot’s S-1: How 7 Key SaaS Metrics Stack Up – crowdspring.co/1qlwWRG

“Note And Vote”: How Google Ventures Avoids Groupthink In Meetings | Co.Design – crowdspring.co/1qluNWc

socialmediablog

The Power of First Impressions Online – crowdspring.co/1pE91h2

9 Case Studies That’ll Help You Reduce SaaS Churn – crowdspring.co/1pEiCVj

Why Landing Page Emotion Makes All the Difference In The World | Forbes – crowdspring.co/1plBu5p

How to Market Test a New Idea | by @ScottDAnthony, Harvard Business Review – crowdspring.co/1vSai6S

How We Increased Landing Page Conversion by 16%: Lessons Learned from Redesigning the Buffer Home Page  – crowdspring.co/1pEnAkK

Why Responsive Web Design Helps People Buy Your Product | Inc – crowdspring.co/1psW8QW

“there is only one lesson to be learned from the Ice Bucket Challenge: sometimes silly shit catches on.” – crowdspring.co/1nX1btw

designblog

53 million Americans are freelancing, new survey finds | Freelancers Union – crowdspring.co/1xhkXtt

Infographic: Leading Graphic Designers Share Tips On Improving Design Skills – crowdspring.co/1lwFwgg

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Small Business Tips: 5 Great Online Tools (That I’ve never mentioned before) Mike | September 2nd, 2014

If I took the time to analyze the number of hours I spend doing my job online, and then add in the number of hours I spend online doing non-work stuff, the result would probably choke a virtual horse. At any given time I have several dozen browser windows and tabs open and am logged into numerous sites, working on multiple apps, and using an abundance of tools. Most of these are for work, though some overlap into my personal life and others are purely for fun. All are great resources and all of these provide me value in the form of efficiency, economy, or entertainment.

My online tools for work run the gamut from email and calendars, to conferencing, accounting, marketing, scheduling, and HR. Many of these are tools that I try out on occasion to see if they might be better than what I currently use and others are old standbys that have proven their worth over time. I’ll often learn about new tools through colleagues, blogs, online reviews, or email marketing campaigns.

Periodically I write about some of the tools I am testing or those that I use regularly (i.e. here, here, herehere, and here). and post-holiday, I thought it time for a new iteration. So without further ado, here are 5 tools I have recently had a look at, tried out, used, or heard about:

1. Expensify. Here is a sweet little app that allows you to manage your business (and personal) expenses. Your credit card charges can be imported, you can track time or mileage, and you can keep track of various billable costs to pass on to your customers. Like other online financial tools, Expensify has full support for bank import, and automatically categorizes your expenses. Plus if you travel internationally over 160 local currencies and VAT and other international taxes are supported. Expensify can be customized with user-set rules to comply with company’s policies and can be used online of off.

2. GetSatisfaction: Want to deliver better service to your customers? Want to gain valuable insight into how people use your product or service? Build a community and ask them! Get Satisfaction allows organizations to quickly build and manage online user-based communities and leverage the expertise that others have developed by interacting with your products. The platform allows your customers to interact directly with one another – trading tips, solving problems, answering questions, and sharing knowledge in an intuitive, easily managed interface.

3. ZipRecruiter: Posting job openings is a pain. We all want to hire the best: most talented, very smartest, most experienced, best-cultural-fitting, perfect employees. The problem is, especially for small business, hiring recruiters is crazy expensive and doing it yourself is an massive strain on capacity and resources. For sure, writing a great job description takes time and focus, but the biggest drain is managing the flood of applications and that’s only after you get the thing posted to the right site to attract the right candidates. This is where ZipRecruiter comes in. Post your job once and it is automatically listed on over 50 job sites, such as Monster, Job.com, LinkedIn, and Craigslist. Responses are aggregated in one place, resumes are re-formatted for consistency, candidates can be pre-screened and millions of potential employees can be searched in a huge database.

4. Intelius: Who can you trust nowadays? How do you know if a potential employee or partner has something in their background that might raise a red-flag? How can you tell if that credit-seeking customer is worthy of the risk? Intelius is a simple online tool that collects online data on just abut anyone, in a simple, easy-to-use interface that makes searches fast and inexpensive. For as little as $3.95 you can quickly look up basic information on just about anyone, and for around $50 you can run a full background check that includes credit information, criminal background, pending legal actions and more. Kinda scary, but kinda handy, too.

5. Trademarkia: As someone who is intimately involved in the logo and design business, I understand clearly the importance of protecting your brand and your mark. Trademarkia has one of the world’s largest databases of trademarked logos, names, and slogans. The database includes domestic and international trademarks filed over the last 140 years and gets bigger everyday. So before you invest in your new branding, take a spin through their site and make sure that the work you are getting is original and unencumbered.

Photo: Ancient agricultural tools – Wikimedia

Twitter Link Roundup #232 – Small Business, Startups, Innovation, Social Media, Design, Marketing and More Ross | August 29th, 2014

Every day on the crowdSPRING Twitter account and on my own Twitter account, I post links to posts or videos I enjoyed reading or viewing. These posts and videos are about logo design, web design, startups, entrepreneurship, small business, leadership, social media, marketing, and more! Here are some of the links that I’ve liked and shared this past week!

If you’re a little kid and your dad is a video animator, you can have quite a lot of fun, as the above video shows.

smallbusinessblog

Empower Your Small Business, the latest crowdSPRING SmallBiz Newsletter – crowdspring.co/1zL7c26

Labor Day! TCB and TCP – crowdspring.co/XLWVXY

startupsblog

The 10,000 Hour Rule Is Not Real | Smithsonian – crowdspring.co/1qp7haq

Stop Wasting Time With Low CTR Strategies | WordStream by Larry Kim – crowdspring.co/1tzJTbr

socialmediablog

Good analysis on How Foursquare Onboards New Users | User Onboarding – crowdspring.co/VAYG8s

To Be Customer-Centric, Stop Talking And Start Doing – crowdspring.co/1C5Zm72

Stop Wasting Time With Low CTR Strategies | WordStream by Larry Kim – crowdspring.co/1tzJTbr

designblog

A collection of spectacular examples of hand lettering – crowdspring.co/1pzLKvm

12 Mobile Apps Essential For Developers and Web Designers – crowdspring.co/1n256Vr

30 Sets of Free Globe and earth Vector Graphics and Icons – crowdspring.co/1veSbHX

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