5 Strategies To Increase Productivity In Open Offices Ross | March 21st, 2016

Basecamp Office

More and more companies, especially startups, are adopting open office floor plans. Today, nearly 70% of all offices have open floor plans. Companies of all sizes see open offices as an opportunity to reduce real estate footprint and costs – you can put more people into an open layout. In fact, as more companies embrace remote work, the need for dedicated private offices diminishes. The trend has been fueled in large part by startups. Some startup teams are nimble, energetic and productive, and people assume that open offices are, at least in part, responsible for those traits.

Despite this trend towards open offices, there’s a growing body of research casting doubt on the benefits of open offices. Researchers have found, for example, that the benefits of easy communication in an open office layout don’t outweigh the lack of privacy, and other disadvantages.

The chart below, from Harvard Business Review, summarizes the biggest complaints about different types of office layouts (based on a study of more than 42,000 U.S. office workers).

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As you can see, people complain the most about open offices and cubicles.

The researchers, Jungsoo Kim and Richard de Dear of the University of Sydney wrote:

Our results categorically contradict the industry-accepted wisdom that open-plan layout enhances communication between colleagues and improves occupants’ overall work environmental satisfaction. The open-plan proponents’ argument that open-plan improves morale and productivity appears to have no basis in the research literature.

Should you sound the alarm and build private offices for your teams?

No, unless there are specific reasons that private offices are necessary.

I’m a big fan of open offices, but I believe it’s extremely important to create an office plan that overcomes the many real challenges of open offices.

Here are five strategies to help you get started:

1. Build a culture of quiet. Many companies encourage (or don’t discourage) open and loud communications in an open office. This builds a dangerous culture. After all, open offices have few sound-reducing walls. A study found that workers exposed to open office noise for three hours can experience an increase in adrenaline levels associated with the fight-or-flight response.

From the start, build a culture of quiet – encourage people to talk in private rooms or common areas, and to use chat tools like Slack or HipChat. Encourage people to use headphones – especially noise-canceling headphones. These can help cut out background noises and distractions and can also boost productivity.

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4 Toxic Behaviors All Successful Leaders Avoid Arielle | March 15th, 2016

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The most successful entrepreneurs and business owners are good leaders. Notice I didn’t say good managers or bosses – good leaders. This is because good leaders are often good bosses. Good leaders know what has to be done and who should do it. They work to put their team in the best position to succeed. On the other hand, bosses who lack strong leadership skills are often ineffective leaders. Instead of motivating their teams, they often scare their teams through toxic behavior. In an essay on LinkedIn, Alan O’Rourke, Vice President of Growth at OnePageCRM, writes about the differences between leaders and bosses:

A boss is all about power and control, demanding orders, and has an “I’m always right “ attitude. A leader is inspires the team to grow, learn, and succeed. A leader will recognize employee’s strengths and utilize them, while also helping to build up their weaknesses. He provides an environment for the employees to think for themselves and solve problems independently. Instead of being defensive, a leader is playing offense—helping his team become more productive and making situations better instead of placing blame when things go wrong.

Good leaders avoid the toxic, negative behavior that is so common in the workplace. A 2012 study by the International Journal of Leadership Studies explored the effects that toxic and cooperative behaviors in the workplace had on companies and their employees. Successful entrepreneurs, business owners, and employees all echoed the same sentiments: the best leaders show little evidence of toxic behavior and therefore, improve the chances for success. Poor leaders exhibit numerous types of toxic behavior and substantially lower their chances to succeed.

This makes sense – toxic behavior led to breakdowns in communication, trust, culture, interactions, promotion, and conflict resolution. Such negative behaviors caused people to become narcissistic, egocentric, blind to reality, or even angry. Those who demonstrated the toxic behaviors clouded their thoughts with a toxic mentality, rendering them unable to make good decisions. The opposite was true for those who demonstrated cooperative behaviors. So what are these toxic behaviors that successful leaders avoid? Here are four common toxic behaviors that prevent people from being good leaders.

1. Taking everything personally.

Good leaders don’t take everything personally. Psychiatrist Abigail Brenner writes about the importance of this in a blog post for Psychology Today. Brenner cautions that in order to avoid this toxic behavior, it’s important to not jump to quick conclusions. For example, when customers voice negative comments about your product or service, they’re rarely personally directed at you. But as an entrepreneur or small business owner, it is very likely that you are one and the same with your business. You probably view all negative feedback as a personal insult. The most successful leaders can distance themselves and consider the feedback objectively.

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Fresh from the SPRING: bilhill_art Audree | March 15th, 2016

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

Nicely done, bilhill_art, nicely done!

FFTS-Billhill

Twitter Link Roundup #296 – Terrific Reads For Small Business, Entrepreneurs, Marketers and Designers! Ross | March 11th, 2016

What motivates us to do or not to do something? Here’s a terrific talk by Tony Robbins on the “invisible force” that motivate everyone’s actions.

Now, we hope you enjoy another great set of links and articles that we shared with you over the past week on our crowdSPRING Twitter account (and on my Twitter account). We regularly share our favorite posts on entrepreneurship, small business, marketing, logo design, web design, startups, leadership, social media, marketing, economics and other interesting stuff! Enjoy!

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3 Steps to Becoming a Networking Ninja | crowdSPRING Blog –

Facebook, Cookies, and Marketing: How To Prevent Your Small Business From Stagnation –

Small Business Customer Service Tips: The Art of the Short Reply | crowdSPRING Blog –

A Resource Guide for Recruiting: Advice from the Experts –

NEW Empower Your Small Biz newsletter. Succeess With Remote Employees, Myths On Starting a Biz, Importance of Brand

Guide to Starting a Business (focusing on UK but good overall info) –

startupsblog

3 Steps to Becoming a Networking Ninja | crowdSPRING Blog –

How Zenefits Crashed Back Down To Earth –

The Keys to Scaling Yourself as a Technology Leader –

A Resource Guide for Recruiting: Advice from the Experts –

Do Fewer Things, Better –

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Mastering the Art of Persuasion: How To Get What You Want Arielle | March 9th, 2016

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Persuasion is a delicate art form. It’s easy to be ineffective when trying to persuade, but also remarkably easy to be overbearing. As a business owner or entrepreneur, your job is mostly to persuade. You must persuade people to come work for you, stay in your company, follow your lead, become a customer, be a partner, write stories about you and your company, and much more. In reality, almost every aspect of business includes some level of persuasion. When leaders fail to successfully master the art of persuasion, their businesses often fail. It is impossible to create a following, a customer base, or a strong team without having others support and believe in you and your product. Fortunately, persuasion can be learned. Here are three tips that can help you to become a master in the art of persuasion.

1. Listen.

Listen to your customers, coworkers, industry experts, other small business owners or entrepreneurs. You’ll learn much more when you listen and much less when you speak. The moments when you aren’t speaking are often the most important moments because it makes the other person feel as though you sincerely value their time. Former US Secretary of State Dean Rusk agrees: “[t]he best way to persuade people is with your ears – by listening to them”.

There’s considerable research supporting the conclusion that listening is key to being persuasive. For example, in a recent study at Columbia Business School, researchers found that when they asked coworkers to rate each other on their listening skills and then persuade each other to do something they originally opposed, high listening skill ratings correlated positively to the success of the persuasion. Through a series of other experiments, researchers were able to conclude that our ability to influence others correlates heavily to the timing when we choose to be verbal with our persuasion. Keep in mind that even while listening, it is possible to continue to persuade through body language cues.

2. Connect.

In his book The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell describes a charismatic salesman, Tom Gau, as the perfect example of someone who has mastered the art of persuasion through human connection:

When Tom Gau and I sat across from each other in his office, then, we almost immediately fell into physical and conversational harmony. We were dancing. Even before he attempted to persuade me with his words he had forged a bond with me with his movements and his speech… I felt I was becoming synchronized with him. “Skilled musicians know this, and good speakers,” says Joe Capella… It is a strange thing to admit, because I didn’t want to be drawn in. I was on guard against it.

It is extremely important to forge a connection with whomever you are trying to persuade. Humans are more likely to respond to emotional appeals, something dating back all the way to Greek philosopher Aristotle’s time. A great influence in his time, Aristotle created his Three Modes of Persuasion in Rhetoric, also known as ethos, pathos, and logos. Aristotle realized that people were most persuaded by a combination of emotional, logically argumentative, and credible appeals. For the most part, he found that when high levels of emotional appeals (pathos) were used, people were more likely to be persuaded. Business owners and entrepreneurs can mirror this idea by following the example of Gau, matching their voice inflections, charisma, and physical cues to the person with whom they are speaking. This creates an emotional connection, and makes the other person feel as though you are more similar than you really are, forging a bond of trust.

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Fresh from the SPRING: kayagraphics Audree | March 8th, 2016

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 kayagraphics. Check out more great work on kayagraphics’ profile page.

Nicely done, kayagraphics, nicely done!

FFTS-kayagraphics

 

 

 

 

3 Steps to Becoming a Networking Ninja Arielle | March 2nd, 2016

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Ninjas are agile, fast, and efficient. Business networking is typically the exact opposite. It’s often slow, confused, and discombobulated. Yet, while many people avoid it, networking is one of the most important tools in a business owner’s toolkit. When we network, we increase our knowledge and opportunities, and we also amplify the messages we spread about our companies. This is why networking events or conferences are so popular in the business world- especially for startups and small business.

People often avoid networking because of social anxiety, lack of knowledge, inexperience, or doubt that networking can actually be useful. If this describes you – you are not alone. But experienced business owners and marketing/PR experts all agree that such doubts and fears are irrational. People simply lack the necessary skills to feel more comfortable in a networking situation. Michelle Garrett of Garrett Public Relations says:

Small business owners need to do more networking to make more contacts, not only for possible referrals, but as resources and even as friends you can turn to when you have a question or problem related to your business.

Since networking is not exclusive to specifically labeled events and conferences, this means that any opportunity you meet someone is a networking opportunity! Now, this doesn’t mean that every social event is an opportunity to plug your business or work out a deal. It simply means that each of us has many opportunities to connect with someone who could help us in the future. To help ease small business owners and entrepreneurs into the world of networking, here are three basic tips to becoming a networking ninja.

1. Make your first impression count- in a good way.

Making a good first impression is one of the most critical parts of networking. The first impression should be smooth and subtle, much like a ninja entrance. Through extensive studies such as the ones done by Princeton psychologists Alexander Todorov and Janine Willis on first impressions, we now know that it only takes people a tenth of a second to form an impression of a stranger – based completely on their appearance. The research also found that generally, longer interaction or exposure didn’t alter the initial impression in any way.

The bottom line: look presentable. Make sure that you are appropriately dressed for the venue and/or event (whether it’s black tie, jeans, or pajamas). Dressing out of place causes people to believe that you are unable to pay attention to detail, and can make others feel uncomfortable by feeling out of place. In an article for The Muse, career strategist Jenny Foss talks about a time when overdressed candidates made the rest of the company feel out of place when hiring to fill a position:

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Fresh from the SPRING: folker Audree | March 1st, 2016

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

Nicely done, folker, nicely done!

FFTS-FOlker

Small Business Customer Service Tips: The Art of the Short Reply Keri | February 25th, 2016

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When I first joined the customer support team at crowdSPRING, I was convinced that every customer or creative needed detailed replies; the next great American novel in email response form. More content means good customer service, right? Boy, was I wrong about that. Think about your own experiences as a customer. Would you rather save time and get the answers you need, or take time to dig for the answers you need in lengthy verse? Less is more. Your customers want answers, not short essays.

So how do you give your customers all of the information they need while keeping your reply short and concise? It’s easy enough if you just train your brain to do it and use the handy tools at your disposal.

Here are the top 4 ways to shorten your responses:

1. Make sure you understand the customer’s question.

I know this seems obvious, but take the time to really read the ticket or email and make sure you know exactly what your customer needs from you. In fact, it’s impossible to show empathy – something critically important when delivering customer service – if you don’t understand the question. This will help you ensure you hit all necessary points and give an accurate response. And of course, there are times when you just need to smile and let the conversation flow, as we discovered in this very odd but very funny exchange with a customer.

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2. Use your FAQs.

More likely than not, it took a group of people on your team a good amount of effort to produce your FAQs, so use them. Answer the question and maybe add “Here is a handy resource to provide further clarification: (and add a link so that the customer can quickly access that resource)” Links to FAQs are helpful because they give your customer a wealth of information, which they can even bookmark and reference back to any time they need it.

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Facebook, Cookies, and Marketing: How To Prevent Your Small Business From Stagnation Arielle | February 24th, 2016

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At some point, even the most successful businesses hit a wall. Sales plateau, the customer base stops growing, morale is low, and revenue is either flat or falling. The best companies – and the best entrepreneurs – find ways to overcome such stagnation.

The challenge often isn’t in finding ways to quickly increase customers and revenue or to decrease costs. Most entrepreneurs and business owners can identify short-term fixes. But it can be very difficult to find a lasting solution.

We can all learn from the experience of one of today’s most successful social media platforms – Facebook. Today, more than a billion people are connected through Facebook. Originally only open to students enrolled at Harvard University, Facebook was created to help Harvard students connect. When founder Mark Zuckerberg found that no new Harvard users were signing up, he opened the website up to students at other Ivy League schools. Yet this still wasn’t widespread enough for long term success, so he allowed Facebook to be used by high school students, and eventually by the general public.

Whether he knew it at the time or not, Mark Zuckerberg was relying on something psychologists call the scarcity principle to overcome his company’s stagnation. Scarcity principle is defined as our heightened desire for things that are not easily or readily available. When Zuckerberg encountered stagnant points, he used such points to his advantage instead of leaving himself and his company stuck. Since his product was so relevant to many people, Facebook kept pulling in more potential users with related products. Zuckerberg explains:

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