Twitter Link Roundup #256 – Great Freakin Resources for Small Business, Startups, and Design! Mike | February 13th, 2015

Besides wanting to know what exactly is in her mom’s mouth, we also want to know where this little cutie Scarlett learned everything there is to know about identifying typefaces. This is a skill every designer can use, so I recommend watching this adorable  girl strut her stuff!

So… it’s time now for “the chickening,” aka our weekly Roundup! Here are a whole bunch of great links and articles we shared with you over the past week on our  crowdSPRING Twitter account (as well as my own Twitter account). We so like to talk about fonts, logo design, web design, startups, entrepreneurship, small business, leadership, social media, marketing, economics and other interesting stuff! Enjoy!


A Standing/Sitting Desk You Can Afford | Co.Design | business + design

Small Business and Startups: What Type of Boss Are You? | crowdSPRING Blog –

How to Turn a Prospect into a Paying Customer | Men with Pens

6 Common Reasons Customers Come to Your Store

Small Business Ideas and Resources for Entrepreneurs

Incredibly Useful Business Gadgets for 2015


Never Rent An Ugly Tux Again: These Startups Want To Disrupt Men’s Wearhouse | Fast Company | Business + Innovation

Satya Nadella makes a big impression in just a year –

Why Managing For Progress is So Important –

12 remote workers reveal how to be happy, effective and valuable | WP Curve –

“The true purpose of sales is to create new value for customers.” –

Accomplish More by Committing to Less – HBR

13 Critical Traits of Successful Inventors

Things They Don’t Tell You When You Leave the Big Corporate World for Your Own Business –

Why I Am Not a Maker – The Atlantic

Google and Lending Club Team Up, Online Lenders Gain Steam

7 Ways Highly Successful People Achieve More | Jeff Haden | LinkedIn

Two big announcements from 37signals (now just Basecamp).

Emma Watson Tells Young Fan To ‘Be An Engineer’ Even Though Her Dad Doesn’t Want Her To –

5 Leadership Skills You Must Have to Succeed

Why You Should Doodle More | Co.Design | business + design

UI, UX: Who Does What? A Designer’s Guide To The Tech Industry | Co.Design | business + design –

How Do You Rank the World’s Best CEOs? – HBR

Europe’s Young Entrepreneurs

How to Use Anger to Your Advantage – Further

Two big announcements from 37signals (now just Basecamp).

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Fresh from the SPRING: SUJITHFAB Audree | February 11th, 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 for testicular cancer awareness.

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

Nicely done, SUJITHFAB, nicely done!



Small Business and Startups: What Type of Boss Are You? Mike | February 9th, 2015

I like to think of myself as a benevolent boss – guiding the team with a wise and gentle hand. Except on those occasions when I am not. Day-to-day I don’t think a great deal about the bossing-style I practice, but when I do take time to reflect, I realize that I have some very serious shortcomings and could stand to learn from the example set for me over the years by some of my own bosses.

If you’ve had a few jobs in your life and been around the sun a few times, chances are good that you had at least one boss who, whether you loved her or hated her (or both), taught you something about managing people.

The key to learning from your boss is understanding what type of manager you have. A great boss-mentor can come in many different flavors, but, for me it boils down to five archetypes: the Visionary, the Bureaucrat, the Cruise Director, the Autocrat, and the Valiant. There is, of course, plenty of overlap and some bosses don’t fit neatly into one of these boxes. In fact the very best bosses have aspects of several of these and are a complex and healthy mix. Chances are you should be able to recognize facets if each of these in boss you are currently answering to, or the boss you want to be.

  • Visionary. This type of boss is one who looks to the horizon and beyond. They ask of themselves and their team a focus on where the company is heading and how will it get there. Visionary bosses work to inspire people to stretch themselves and their view of what might be possible for the company and they can quickly lose patience with anyone who is not focused on turning the vision into reality. Many of the greatest and most famous bosses have been visionaries: think Steve Jobs, Henry Ford, even Alexander Graham Bell and you start to get the idea.
  • Bureaucrat. This type of boss can be both frustrating and effective. At larger organizationsna bureaucrat can be mightily effective at making certain their unit is not lost in the org chart. But at small businesses and startups someone who is a mere functionary can slow down the process with needless paperwork, endless meetings, and a frustrating focus on internal process instead of internal progress. They tend to be pretty straightforward though, and predictable which makes dealing with them easier. The bureaucratic boss often has a tendency to micromanage and, when it comes to goals and strategy, can lose focus easily.
  • Cruise Director. Fun, fun, fun. Bosses who fall into this particular archetype at wonderful at team building, empowerment, and consensus, but are notoriously bad at decision making. Teams that work under this boss tend to be happy and fairly productive, but can easily lose track of big picture and tend to revert to doing average work on average days in an average way.
  • Autocrat. In command? You betcha. In control? Always. To this type of boss management is always an exercise of power and how it is employed. This boss is decisive, sometimes to the point of making hurried or even bad decisions and has a level of conviction in the correctness of their actions that can be off-putting to the people under them. Autocrats are ever in danger of alienating their team or isolating themselves.
  • Valiant. This boss is a hero. Competent, capable, and smart they can be a pleasure to work for. They tend to put the team first and are inclined to share the credit and the glory when things are going well. And when things go less than well, the valiant boss will take the blame into themselves and work to protect the team. In turn the people who work for these bosses tend to be loyal and incredibly hard-working, willing to go the extra distance to make the boss proud.

Illustration, Wikimedia Commons: The Prophet Ezekiel, from Doré’s English Bible, 1866

Twitter Link Roundup #255 – Some Lovely resources for Small Business, Startups, and Design! Mike | February 6th, 2015

It has been freakin cold and snowy here in Chicago the past couple of weeks, so I thought I’d share this beautiful video of our beautiful city in winter. Other places eschew the cold a and frost; this filmmaker with a drone says, bring it on!

Brrr. Now that you know what drives us around here, I present to you our weekly roundup! Great links and articles we shared with you over the past week on our  crowdSPRING Twitter account (as well as my own Twitter account). We do like to talk about logo design, web design, startups, entrepreneurship, small business, leadership, social media, marketing, economics and other interesting stuff! Enjoy!


5 Things Small Business Owners Should Know About ‘Facebook At Work’| Deborah Sweeney |

Don’t Forget This One Secret to Running a Trade Show Booth

Morning Rituals to Keep You Productive All Day Long

Forget Resolutions, What’s Your “Beautiful Question” For 2015? | Co.Design | business +

Plans to Prosper: Small Biz Marketing Doesn’t Mean Small Impact


Elon Musk touts launch of ‘SpaceX Seattle’ | Business & Technology | The Seattle

Why Creating Your First Blockbuster Online Product Is Easier Than You Think – Copyblogger –

The Best Digital Business Models Put Evolution Before Revolution – HBR

8 Ways To Make Working From Home More Efficient | Fast Company | Business +

Stop Equating Women In Tech With Engineers –

Startup Podcasters You Need To Follow

99% of Networking Is a Waste of Time – HBR

Texas Prison Program Aims to Produce Business-Savvy Inmates

What I am Using Now (5 Free Tools!) | crowdSPRING Blog–

7 Ways Highly Successful People Achieve More | by

How to Take Your Pitch From Good to Great

How History and Adversity Pushed an Entrepreneur to Shark Tank Success

How To Emulate Some Of The Most Innovative Companies | Fast Company | Business +

E-commerce and price flexibility: New evidence | VOX, CEPR’s Policy Portal

Taylor Swift, trademark diva

Tim Rookes: entrepreneur seized opportunity after spotting gap in the cloud market | Derby

Read the rest of this post »

Fresh from the SPRING: Feniks Audree | February 4th, 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 for an upcoming Helen Hunt movie.

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

Nicely done, Feniks, nicely done!


Small Business and Startups: What I am Using Now (5 Free Tools!) Mike | February 2nd, 2015

As a manager of a small, online business I wear a whole range of hats: I supervise marketing, customer service, engineering, business intelligence, HR, and operations (among other things). My days are full, my hours are long, and my budget is ever limited. Like all of us, I am constantly looking for money-savers and productivity-boosters and because my days are spent in front of my computer I need tools that allow me to do the most work in the shortest amount of time for the smallest investment of cash.

Fortunately for me, there are roughly, um, gazillions of apps, websites, SaaS products, and off-the-shelf software products to help me. To choose amongst these, I look for several key qualities in a new tool: 1) does it solve the problem I am addressing, 2) can it be used collaboratively?  3) is it easy to learn and stable? and 4) is it affordable?

is a freelancer if not a small business? Just like small businesses, freelancers must engage in marketing, manage payables and receivables and other accounting tasks, perform HR functions, direct production, and plan strategy.

1. Social Media Content Management. Buffer solves a major problem for me: how to stay as active as possible in social media channels with a minimal investment of time and without having to monitor my own feeds and lists every minute of every day. Using Buffer I can share content to my Twitter, Facebook Google+, and LinkedIn accounts from any webpage, with a click. It allows me to schedule specific days and times I want to share, customize the messages I send and select an image to include with the scheduled post so that in one or two short sessions per week I can make sure there is always rich content queued up and ready to share. Multiple people can share and manage one Buffer queue and the simplicity of the software means the learning curve can be surmounted in minutes. Buffer does offer high-volume business plans for power users, but for most people the inexpensive “Awesome plan” offers plenty of horsepower.

2. Online Search Ad Management. Do you manage your PPC campaigns on Google? Do you find yourself scratching your head as you attempt to navigate through the thickets of your campaigns online? If you’re sharing that pain, I recommend Google’s free tool. Adwords Editor allows you to download any or all of your Adword accounts into a simple, easy-to-learn interface where you can make  changes, set up new ad groups, view various statistics and play what-if with your campaigns, keywords, targeting, and ads. Once you are happy with your changes, one click will upload those and synch up your online Adwords accounts. It also works in the other direction: any changes you or oyur collaborator make using the online Adword manager will synch to your Adwords app with the click of a button. It takes a few sessions to get up to speed with the tool, but if you already have a basic familiarity with Adword campaigns, you should be able to navigate your way around by the end of the first sitting.

3. Spreadsheets. OK, I confess. I love Microsoft Excel. I have been a steady user of this product for over 20 years now and, if I may say so myself, I know my way around a spreadsheet. I may not be the most power of power-users, and my spreadsheets may not be the equal of what they use at Los Alamos National Lab, but I do know how to make those suckers sing. But the problem with Excel spreadsheets starts to become obvious as soon as collaboration comes into the picture. First of all, not everybody has Excel installed on their machine, and second of all there is no meaningful way to track changes and save histories. Google docs has offered spreadsheets for a while now, but until recently this product has been a pretty pale comparison, especially when using large data-sets or working with pivot tables and other reports or charts. Well, I am not sure when this happened, but the team at Google has made some welcome changes and Google spreadsheets have greatly improved. They now have available a reasonable number of custom charts, pivot table functionality, multiple worksheets, and some very nice functions and tools. As anyone who already uses Google Docs knows, collaboration is a no-brainer and includes powerful features for commenting, revisioning, and history. And pricing? Well you just can’t beat free.

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Twitter Link Roundup #254 – Sweet, Sweet resources for Small Business, Startups, and Design! Mike | January 30th, 2015

Computer viruses are a huge threat to business large and small – one small infection can lead to a widening crack in the cyber-door to our businesses. Same goes for viruses of the medical kind and last week we saw what happens when large numbers of people choose to forego their children’s vaccinations. Measles, anyone? Who better than Penn and Teller to explain to us why it is so important to get your kid Immunized!

OK then. Now that you understand just how critical immunization is, let’s move on to our weekly roundup! Great links and articles we shared with you over the past week on our  crowdSPRING Twitter account (as well as my own Twitter account). We do like to talk about logo design, web design, startups, entrepreneurship, small business, leadership, social media, marketing, economics and other interesting stuff! Enjoy!


Breaking Up With Your Clients The Mathematical Way

Regulatory Issues That Could Affect Your Business in 2015

Tips for Creating Meaningful Business Relationships Online

Reasons I Love Sales, and Why You Just Might, Too

The 5 C’s That Every Great Leader Needs to Succeed

Small businesses could benefit from workplace wellness programs: study | Safety+Health Magazine –

Big Data Is No Longer Confined to the Big Business Playbook

5 Things Business Owners Should Keep in Mind With Succession Planning


Ten Things We Believe — Founder Stories — Medium

What I Learned About Communication From the Dentist

Turns Out, Humility Offers a Competitive Advantage –

EVERY entrepreneur needs to grok this: Job Jumpers Need Not Apply –

An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Taking Over the Family Business

From 0 to $1B – Slack’s Founder Shares Their Epic Launch Strategy –

How To Tackle A Complex Issue In 90 Minutes | Fast Company –

Why This CEO Quit His Job to Pursue a Childhood Dream

Secrets From a Chess Master Who Built One of the Fastest-Growing Companies in the U.S. –

How To Keep People On Your Side When Your Startup Makes Changes | Fast Company –

Lean Business: Unleashing the (task) Force | crowdSPRING Blog –

Food Startups Bring Quinoa and Quail To The Boonies | Fast Company –

Scaling Business, Graduate Advice, Transparency in Business –

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Fresh from the SPRING: thegonz Audree | January 28th, 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 thegonz. Check out more great work on thegonz’s profile page.

Nicely done, thegonz, nicely done!



Lean Business: Unleashing the (task) Force Mike | January 26th, 2015

When I think about the word “taskforce,” what comes to mind is a small group of people charged with accomplishing a specific duty or chore. However, it’s when I looked more closely at the word, in its component parts, that an insight began to take form. A task is an activity that is to be accomplished within a defined period of time or by a deadline to work towards work-related goals. Force is typically defined as a measure of strength or energy, but it’s the root of the word that caught my attention; it derives from old Norse and its original meaning was a waterfall. What a wonderful image: a cascade of energy, but with a specific purpose.

A key aspect of Lean Management is to work effectively with limited resources and small teams. And for most small companies, working with small teams, capacity management is one of the great challenges; the to-do list is always too long, and the dev queue is ever in need of prioritization. The best small businesses become adept at distinguishing between the truly important work needed to improve the product, serve the customers, and increase profitability, while learning how to identify the less-critical tasks that are “nice-to-haves,” but are by no means necessary for success.

Over the last couple of years at crowdSPRING, we have learned to leverage the power and energy of the Task Force, a wonderful tool that has helped us greatly with capacity management challenges. Periodically we convene small teams tasked with very specific goals: “improve customer satisfaction,” “increase site-wide conversion,” “develop a fair  and meaningful reputation system,” “identify new back-end admin tools,” and so forth. The teams that are assigned these duties follow our own best practices and follow a templatized approach to the work. Typically, theTask Force has 2-3 weeks (usually requiring 3-4 meetings) to develop a report to be presented to management, as well as the team as a whole, with the results of their study and their recommendations. Obviously, the assignment theTask Force is tackling will define their approach, but their goal is always the same: present their research, data, and conclusions along with the recommended action items and a timeline for accomplishing these. Sometimes it can take months to accomplish the work of implementing the recommendations, but more often the time from first meeting to launch is a matter of weeks.

Here are a few of the best practices we have developed for our own teams; of course your own needs will be different, your own problem/solution sets unique to your business, but in general these tips should serve you well as you launch your own versions of the Tsk Force!

  • Keep it small. A committee of 4 people is probably the largest you want your Task Force to be; a smaller group works faster and communicates better. 4 is also a good number when it comes to dividing up the work the force is tasked with performing, just be sure that your group includes at least one strong number-cruncher, one good writer, as well as one person with solid skills at presentation. In general the work will fall into XXX key areas: research, number-crunching or analysis, development of recommendations, and the fashioning of a report and/or presentation.
  • Make your Task Force diverse. Whenever possible, Task Force members should be drawn from across your organization. This is not to say that some task forces should be from within one department or functional area (clearly some should), but these small committees tend to be stronger when they are made up of people with varying perspectives, backgrounds, and skill-sets. The recommendations the Task Force produces will be stronger if they are drawn from a variety of outlooks and will tend to be less biased if individuals from different verticals contribute.
  • Set specific goals. The very first job is to define and clarify the goal of the Task Force. Sometimes this will be clear from the inception, other times it will take the entire first meeting just to define. Try to keep the assignment and goals as simple as possible; some examples might be, “Increase margins” or “Reduce refund rates” or “Develop a tool for ____.” If the Task Force can simplify it’s objective, it will greatly simplify the work, speed the entire process, and increase the probability that the effort will be a success.
  • Start immediately. Once the goal is defined, schedule the first meeting of theTask Force for tomorrow. Better yet today. When a problem is identified and determined to be important enough to devote a small group’s capacity there is no reason to keep things waiting. While the iron is hot, the Task Force should get to work and focus in as quickly and efficiently as they can.
  • Have a leader. A leader for the task Force has to be selected by the team itself and usually the choice is obvious. It might be the most senior manager on the Task Force who takes on the role or it might be the person will has already undertaken key work involved, or it might be the person with the greatest expertise or passion for the subject matter. In any case, someone has to take on the job of chairing the committee, supervising the work, overseeing the report, and making the presentation. The leader has the responsibility to keep things moving, to schedule the meetings, and to push the agenda.
  • Do it quickly. Among the aims of the Task Force strategy is to streamline processes, push changes briskly, and implement recommendations straightaway. The first step in achieving these intentions is to make the work of the Task Force itself  as efficient and fast as possible. Try to keep the number of meetings to a minimum, limit the length of each meeting, require the members to turn their work around swiftly. The hope is that the entire process take 1-2 weeks from inception to final  presentation. Set a fast pace with the Task Force and try to follow up on their recommendations even faster!


Illustration, Wikimedia Commons: Yoshitsune Falls, from the series Famous Waterfalls in Various Provinces – Google Art Project.jpg

Twitter Link Roundup #253 – Wonderful resources for Small Business, Startups, and Design! Mike | January 23rd, 2015

The Super Bowl is one week away and boy are we excited! Not so much abut the game, or the ads, or the half-time spectacle, but rather for the inevitable swipes, jokes, and satire that will follow. Get warmed up with this video and learn what the players, coaches, and officials are really saying down there on the field!

So… read my lips: it’s time for our weekly roundup! Great links and articles we shared with you over the past week on our  crowdSPRING Twitter account (as well as my own Twitter account). We do like to talk about logo design, web design, startups, entrepreneurship, small business, leadership, social media, marketing, economics and other interesting stuff! I hope you enjoy!


Hold Hands and Leverage Your Customer Service |crowdSPRING Blog  –

Ways to Say ‘No’ That Won’t Damage Business or Relationships

What Doesn’t Seem Like Work?

Seriously Easy Ways to Spark Your Creative Energy

MBA: Worth Your Time or Money?


The Best Colleges for Entrepreneurs

How To Work With Different Productivity Styles | Fast Company –

A Dozen Things I’ve Learned from Chris Dixon About Venture Capital and Startups | by @trengriffin

Why Some Teams Are Smarter Than Others | NYT –

Get the Boss to Buy In – HBR

Help Your Overwhelmed, Stressed-Out Team – HBR

Quotes to Inspire Great Team Productivity

The Characteristics of the Most Successful Teams | by

The Authenticity Paradox – HBR

Immigrant entrepreneurs boost ‘main streets’ in Nashville

How to Manage the Wall Street Roller Coaster

Technology’s Impact on Workers | Pew Research Center –

Maynard Webb, Yahoo’s Chairman: Even the Best Teams Can Be Better

Racial Bias, Even When We Have Good Intentions

Things That Separate the Great Entrepreneurs From the Rest

The Year in Startup Funding (Infographic)

This Entrepreneur Is Making His Own Waves

You’ll Never Control Expenses If Your Team Doesn’t Know What Anything Costs

11 hacks to get meetings with investors in Silicon Valley — Medium

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