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

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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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Fresh from the SPRING: Konstantin Audree | January 21st, 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 Konstantin. Check out more great work on Konstantin’s profile page.

Nicely done, Konstantin, nicely done!


Small Business and Startups: Hold Hands and Leverage Your Customer Service Mike | January 19th, 2015

From Day One we viewed crowdSPRING as the ultimate light-touch, self-serve, highly scalable internet business. We determined that we would build the product and out website such that even the least sophisticated visitor could learn for themselves how the system worked and could then take self-led actions to source the creative services they came looking for. Our idea was that a very small team could operate a two-sided e-commerce marketplace and serve a large community of users by providing powerful tools and features, offering great educational content at every turn, and by being at the ready to very quickly answer their questions and solve their problems when they came to us looking for help.

Sounds reasonable, right? Well we’ve learned a great deal through the years, and while we have done a spectacular job at building the tools that users want and responding with lightning quickness when they ask for help, we have done a poor job at building strong and lasting relationships with many of our customers. This is not to say that users haven’t been loyal to us and that we haven’t steadily increased the lifetime value of our customers. Rather, it is to say that we have missed an important opportunity to connect in a simple and meaningful way, by making one material adjustment to our approach to customer service. For us 2015 will be the year of proactive service; instead of waiting for them to reach out to us when they have a question or need an issue resolved, we are building tools and processes that allow our team to energetically reach out to customers on the site to draw them into conversation, to actively educate them about our service, and to build relationships. In other words, we have determined that we are in the hand-holding business and that every single customer on our site is worthy of our attention and our effort to engage.

To do this, we have looked hard at how we can identify potential customers amongst the visitors to the site, how we can make an initial contact with them, and how to take that contact from the “Just saying Hi” stage, through the full process of drafting, posting, managing, and completing a crowdSPRING project. AND (perhaps most importantly) how we can make this rather profound change leveraging the assets we already possess. To do this we determined would take four basic steps: 1) identify those who are most likely to be customers, 2) find ways to politely and respectfully make contact with them, 3) educate our new friends about how things work here guide them through a complex process , and 4) surprise and delight with high-quality service and meaningful gestures.

1.Force them to raise their hand.
The first problem we had to attack was finding ways to identify among thousands of visitors to the site, those that are most probably potential customers. Like all internet businesses, we know little about a new visitor to the site; we can figure out where in the world they are, we can make some assumptions about their demographics, we can scan to see if their browsers contain any relevant cookies, but other than that we don’t know for sure who they are or why they came. One way to find out is to do something very simple: ask them! To that end we have implemented tools that, based on behavior, will take a moment to interrupt a visitor to ask them if they are willing to share with us a bit of information. Those that choose to do so are clearly interested enough in our offerings to answer a couple of quick questions and provide us their contact data. Those that aren’t willing are welcome to continue exploring on their own.  The idea is that the people we are least interested in getting to know are those that decline to share. It’s those that do agree to share information with us that we value the most and that we are focused on serving.

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Twitter Link Roundup #252 – Sweet resources for Small Business, Startups, and Design! Mike | January 16th, 2015

Open office plans work for many small companies but some teams just do not function well no matter what the office looks like. Here is one company (and one worker) that struggles with the issues common to all of us. Just with some unique personality twists – enjoy!

But enough about office life – 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!


MBA: Worth Your Time or Money?

Technology’s Impact on Workers | Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project –


Can A Cup Of Coffee Make Workers Less Likely To Lie? | Co.Design | business + design

Racial Bias, Even When We Have Good Intentions

The Most Controversial Productivity Hack: Getting High At Work | Fast Company | Business +

What’s Love Got to Do With It? | Inc

What Maslow’s Hierarchy Won’t Tell You About Motivation | HBR –

9 Quotes to Inspire Great Team Productivity

The Authenticity Paradox – HBR

Communicating Values: Show, don’t Tell –

While toiling over the perfect startup name, keep in mind there’s a company called BlaBlaCar that’s raised over $100M

The Rising Table Stakes in SaaS | by

Get the Boss to Buy In – HBR

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

5 things Entrepreneurs Can Learn From Charlie Hebdo | crowdSPRING Blog –

Here’s the Advice I Give All of Our First Time Founders | First Round –

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