Small Business Tips: Engaging Customers (Sell, Sell, Sell) Mike | August 11th, 2014

Last week I wrote about building lasting relationships with your customers and the critical importance of nurturing and maintaining strong ties over time with those most important to the well-being of your business. Today, I thought perhaps we could start from the beginning, with a discussion on how to start those relationships.

Perhaps the hardest thing to do in business is to establish a relationship with a prospect, whether that person is visiting your office or store or website for the first time, or you are picking up the phone to cold call the latest lead. Sometimes they come to you and sometimes you have to go out there and find them. The tools of the engagement trade include everything from a friendly smile when a prospective customer walks into your store, to an blast via a recently purchased mailing list, to the trash that seems to stuff your mailbox, to the family-dinner-interrupting call from a tele-marketing professional (do-not-call lists aside).

There is an art to the initial engagement and the very best salespeople have perfected the elements over centuries. That flattering Fuller Brush salesman from the 1950s knew exactly what he was doing when he gave that housewife a huge charming smile and told her what a pretty dress she was wearing. And today’s SEO/SEM experts have their own ways of flattery and charm that work to bring in new customers.

Here are 5 straightforward things you can do to build strong ties, encourage word-of-mouth and create relationships that will last!

Be nice. First things first. Just like when u met new kids at school, the rule is the same: you have to be nice to people if you want them to like you. Potential customers can tell if you are sincere and they can be quickly turned off when the sales pitch gets too intense. Take your time, get to know them, and let them see that you are the kind of company thay’d like to be friends with.

Create your own channels. There is no rule that any one tactic will work for your business. Conversely there is no rule that it will now. Experimentation, testing in small batches, and (mostly) taking data to see what works is the only way you will know if customers are responding to your pitch.

Get ready for rejection. No matter what u do, no matter what you try, 90% of the potential customers you approach will either ignore or explicitly reject your advances. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep trying; in fact a 10% conversion rate for any one tactic is excellent and should indicate that you stay with that approach. Train your people to be flexible, to accept rejection and to nt take it personally when a potential customer tells them to buzz off.

Go slow. Engaging customers can take time and there is no hurry. In fact, a slow, gentle approach usually works best – introduce yourself, let them get to know you as a company, and build trust without any explicit sales pitch. Mostly you need to be helpful, answer questions and, over time, let the customer come to you to say what they need.

Move them down the path. One of the keys is to understand how customers find their way to your offering. They need to be educated and moved along in a defined sequence of steps. Creating a “funnel” approach whether it is in how you arrange merchandise on your floor or the sequence of web pages that you guide a customer through will help them to learn about your company at their own pace and answer their own questions about what you do. In combination with a friendly and open approach from you, this strategy is most effective.

Advertisement: Fuller Brush Company

Small Business Tips: 5 Steps to Building Great Customer Relationships Mike | August 4th, 2014

You started a business and slowly, surely you have been acquiring new customers. They buy your products, they pay their bills. And they bring you their problems. Not the kind of problems they share at home with their spouse or on the couch with their shrink. Rather they share the problems they have with whatever it is you sold them. They want you to do it differently. They want their money back. They can’t make your website work. Customers inevitably run into issues and expect that you will help them find resolution.

And really there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, your customer’s problems represent a major opportunity for you to build a relationship with them, surprise and delight them, and build a great reputation and engender strong word-of-mouth. How can you do this? It’s simple, really; building great relationships with customers is little different from building relationships with friends. It is a mater of spending time, paying attention, listening and responding. It works the same with customer relations; just like you learn to appreciate your new friends as you spend more time with them and get to know them better, you’ll build lasting connections with your customers, too.

Here are 5 straightforward things you can do to build strong ties, encourage word-of-mouth and create relationships that will last!

Strike fast. First things first: attack. Whether a new customer walks into your shop or a new visitor loads a page on your site, this is the moment to begin the magic. Say hello, whether in person or via a banner or pop-up and have a smile on your face whether that face is physical or digital. It is critical that you begin the process immediately in order to let the new customer know that you are available, accessible, and interested in them as a person. If you are a service provider look for ways to educate the visitor about what you do and the values with which you do it; if you are bricks and mortar retail, be a welcoming presence so they feel comfortable asking questions; and if you are a web-based business make sure that your contact us information is front and center.

Follow up. Be sure to follow your initial introduction with a kind “May I help you find something?” or a “Welcome aboard” email if they register on your site. Studies have shown clearly that the follow-up is the most important step in building a lasting relationship. It is important that you not be annoying or overbearing in these communications, but a special offer, or simply a nice, personalized email goes a very long way to building those warm/fuzzy feelings.

Know them. Whether you get to know about the people who buy your products or services by talking with them and asking them about themselves, or by gleaning their data from their web visits, it is essential that you try to learn about your customers as people. They are, after all, individuals with different values, priorities, and needs and you can only serve them well if you know a bit about them. Keep track of their buying data so that you can offer them the things they want, survey them so that you can ask specific questions, send them offers so you can better understand what they find important.

Solve their problems. Whatever it takes is what you’ll need to do in order to build that relationship and create that great word-of-mouth buzz. Listen to their suggestions, make returns and credits a breeze, and when they ask you for your help with something, do it fast! If a customer calls you or writes you, get back to them as soon as you can. If someone calls, be sure to pick up the phone or call them back as soon as possible. And if someone walks in the store – greet them with a smile and ask how you can be of help.

Ask them to come back. When they leave your shop, shoot them a “Have a nice day and see you soon.” When they haven’t been on your site for a while, shoot them a “We miss you” email. The point is to stay in touch and try to remain top of mind with your customers; you want them thinking about you, talking about you, and coming back to you soon. Remember that business is a 2-way street; you are dependent on your customers for their business and they on you for the service you provide or the products you sell. Build a strong, mutually beneficial relationship and they will come back over and over and over!

Symbiosis illustration, Wikipedia: Henry Scherren, 1906

Summertime Logo Fun Mike | July 21st, 2014

Summertime, right? Business tends to slow, strategy meetings are put aside in favor of ling weekends and early-dismissal Fridays. Vacations crowd the schedule, choices have to be made about which music festivals to attend, the grill and that beautiful whole snapper await and, frankly, our focus gets a bit soft. Between the chilled cocktails and the (please pass the) guacamole we find it a bit hard to concentrate. So what better time to take a few minutes for a bit of business fun, right? And what could be more fun than looking at a few great logos and deciphering the meaning hidden in each of them.

The art of logo design is a fabulous mash of artistry, strategy, and execution that, in the case of the best logos, culminates in an instantly recognizable symbol of a brand that conveys the substance or meaning of an organization. This can sometimes be just for fun, but often can contain significance about a company’s history, mission, or service. Here are 5 of my favorites and a bit of history behind each.

1. The Bronx Zoo

The Bronx Zoo logo is a wonderful mashup of animals (duh) within a stylized cityscape, using negative space images of tall buildings to define the giraffe’s legs. Such a clever use of meaningful imagery to make this institution distinctly of and by New York!

2. Baskin Robbins

Exactly how many flavors of ice cream are sold by this iconic franchise? Well, I am glad you asked! The company has been around since the 1940s and adopted the ’31’ moniker in 1953, to illustrate the fact that they had “a flavor for every day of the month!” The current updated version of the logo cleverly uses the brand’s pink and blue color scheme to subtly emphasize the number ’31’ encompassed in the logotype. Sweet, indeed.

Read the rest of this post »

Small Business and Startups: 7 Habits of Me Mike | July 14th, 2014

Steven Covey started it all with his seminal book, “7 Habits of Effective People.” His work has spawned hundreds of blog posts – a quick search turns up the “21 Habits of Successful Entrepreneurs,” and the “7 Habits of Effective Managers,”  even the “10 Habits of Happy Mothers.”

All of this exploration of habits and success, habits and effectiveness, habits and happiness led me to ask myself: “Self, I ask, what are your habits? Are they effective? Do they lead to my own success and happiness?” “Hmmm,” I answer, “Not sure.” It did start me thinking about my own life and work habits – what do I do on a daily basis that could be categorized ad habit? Do these work for me? Are my own habits a help or a hindrance? A quick analysis of the things I do habitually could help me to understand which work for me and which I might want to train myself out of. So this morning I sat and made a list (habit #4, below!):

  • Wake up early and get to work. Although I often awake without it, my alarm goes off at 530am on weekdays and I am typically at the computer answering emails (and drinking coffee) between 545 and 6. It takes me anywhere from 5 to 40 minutes to answer the important ones, trash the spammy ones, and read/sort the others to deal with later in the day. I check in on overnight customer service tickets to see if there are any issues that need to be dealt with right away, and also check on any tests we might be running or surveys we might have sent out recently or things of that sort.

Is this an “effective” habit? YES. I know enough about myself to know that I am most efficient in the morning, but also know that my mind is not fully awake for an hour or two after I get up. If I take care of the simple tasks (like answering emails) and leave the more complex ones for later in the morning I am at my most effective.

  • Read newspapers and online sources. Once the emails have been answered, and I have reassured myself that the site didn’t crash overnight, I sit with my (second) cup of coffee and read the paper, as well as several online blogs and other news/information sources. I typically start at the front page and work my way through to business, technology, op-ed, and politics (sometimes sports, especially if the NBA is in season!)

Is this an “effective” habit? YES. Information is critical to me as a business owner/manager. From news sources I learn about events that may effect the markets, about businesses that interest me or may have some strategic importance to mine, and absorb ideas and trends that can inform decisions I make every day. Keeping a finger on the pulse of the world makes me a better manager.

  • Analyze yesterday’s business data. One of the first things I do when I get to the office is to take a deeper dive into the BI data that I receive overnight. I am looking closely at sales figures, traffic, site registrations, and user activity for the prior 24 hours. I typically spend 30-60 minutes with spreadsheets, taking time to compare the day with prior periods and determining any patterns or trends that may impact decision-making.

Is this an “effective” habit? UNCERTAIN. While it is important for managers to have an intimate relationship with daily business numbers and data, I could probably limit the time I spend on this every day and do it weekly without compromising strategy or decision making.

  • Make lists. Most days I open my moleskin and start my work by writing a list of the 6 or 7 things I hope to accomplish before bed that night. This can include people I need to call, websites I need to visit, notes to share with department managers or the bookkeeper, emails I need to write, etc. Not everything I need to do makes the daily list, and there are many days when I don’t get through the entire thing, but the list helps me in two important ways – first it is a constant reminder, in my face, of what I need to get done; second it serves as a daily journal, allowing me to look back to remind myself of the exact date I had a phone call with so-and-so, or requested such-and-such from one of my colleagues.

Is this an “effective” habit? YES. Listing provides me with structure and helps me to remember and keep track of important tasks and events. By creating short lists, I prompt myself to finish work on time and allows me to compartmentalize tasks so that one doesn’t intrude on the others.

  • Return emails promptly. In the course of a given day, I probably check my email 20-30 times. I tend to deal with them in real time and answer most of them promptly. Sometimes an email check-in will take 2-3 minutes, sometimes as much as 15 or 20.

Is this an “effective” habit? PROBABLY NO. But a hard habit to break, nonetheless. Everything I have read suggest that the best way to deal with emails (and the way to limit their obtrusiveness) is to check email several times a day, on a pre-determined  schedule. Managed in the way I typically handle it, email can be a distraction, and can limit productivity by breaking concentration, splitting focus, and forcing re-prioritization. Must. Stop. Checking. Email.

  • Take an afternoon coffee break. I know myself well enough to predict that between 230 and 3 I start to flag. By flag, I mean yawn. By yawn, I men nod out in front of my computer. I have not decided if this is simply because by 3 in the afternoon, I have already been at work for 9 hours or if this is due to my natural body rhythms, but the point of it is that I need a break. Sometimes I go for a short walk and other times I open the paper and read a bit or watch a video online. 15 minutes is what it usually takes before I can get back to matters at hand.

Is this an “effective” habit? YES. By mid-afternoon, my energy has been drained and coffee is what brings me back. Not just the caffeine, mind you. The break itself helps me to recharge batteries, refresh energy, and re-set my mind and body for the remainder of the day.

  • Go home for dinner. The work-life split/dilemma is something that business owners and managers struggle with every day. How to focus on the important things in life while effectively managing a business is a challenge for all of us. One of my answers to this is to structure my day in a way that allows me to spend time with the people I love most in the world, while keeping an eye on the store. In the old days a grocer may have lived upstairs from his store; my version of this is to live within short walking distance of my office and to head home in the late afternoon to finish my day working there. This allows me to sign off for a couple hours to help make dinner and to hang out with my wife at the end of the workday. Even though I normally check back in at work after dinner and finish up any tasks that need to get done, at least I am at home and paying attention to that part of my life.

Is this an “effective” habit? YES. This is something I enthusiastically recommend to all managers and entrepreneurs. Keeping life in balance requires a commitment to both work and home, and being home at the important moments of the day is a large part of that.

Photo: Old Dog – Wikipedia, Lisa M. Herndon Alexander Torrenegra

Twitter Link Roundup #229 – Small Business, Startups, Innovation, Social Media, Design, Marketing and More Ross | July 11th, 2014

morris-feature-messi-9

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 image above is from a very interesting deconstruction of the impact Argentinian soccer player Lionel Messi has on the teams for which he plays. Today, Messi is generally considered to be the top soccer player in the world. Amazingly, when one looks at the data, Messi’s impact on the game is even greater than people assume. More in the Other section below.

smallbusinessblog

The Perils of Founder Fighting – crowdspring.co/1qnNtlJ

The surprising secret of happier, more productive organizations: conflict – crowdspring.co/1qscUpx

The Importance of Understanding Your Best Users – crowdspring.co/1o21ZOj

How to Succeed in Business by Bundling – and Unbundling | Harvard Business Review – crowdspring.co/1lphhyB

startupsblog

A Dozen Things I’ve Learned from Reid Hoffman | 25iq by Tren Griffin – crowdspring.co/1qz86yT

The Unintended Consequences of Startups | WSJ by Jason Nazar – crowdspring.co/1nYW6mN

The Hottest Startup Sectors – crowdspring.co/1lpiG8h

A Dozen Things I’ve Learned from Vinod Khosla | by Tren Griffin – crowdspring.co/TqevOg

The Perils of Founder Fighting – crowdspring.co/1qnNtlJ

The surprising secret of happier, more productive organizations: conflict – crowdspring.co/1qscUpx

The Other 1% – Ranking The Top 20 Angel Investors | 500 Startups – crowdspring.co/1is3Iiw

It’s getting harder to tell what’s a real Silicon Valley startup and what’s a parody – crowdspring.co/1k05eDQ

Candid insight (not what you typically hear) on women & leadership from PepsiCo CEO: Women Can’t Have It All – crowdspring.co/1s3aFa0

Everyone in SaaS Needs to Do Customer Support. At Least Until You Have 50 Employees. But Ideally, Forever crowdspring.co/TqngIa

Silicon’s Valley’s Brutal Ageism | New Republic – crowdspring.co/UDl8O9

Betting on the Ponies: non-Unicorn Investing – crowdspring.co/1jqLtKQ

My Top 10 Year One SaaS Mistakes. Save Yourself Some Pain & Just Don’t Make Them Yourself  – crowdspring.co/1qcQEwe

What fuels great design (and why most startups don’t do it) | Google Ventures – crowdspring.co/1rexlGI

Ten Things I Learned Researching Ten of the World’s Fastest Growing Startups – crowdspring.co/1xIm1mV

A Dozen Things I have Learned from Jeff Bezos | by Tren Griffin – crowdspring.co/1qPi3Z7

Can Better Acoustics Make Open Offices Suck Less? | Co.Design – crowdspring.co/1z7WNzT

The secretive billionaire who built Silicon Valley – crowdspring.co/1qjKWZN

Why You’ll Want to Raise $100,000,000 for Your SaaS Start-Up: The Incremental Customer | saastr – crowdspring.co/1rSAVGF

The Importance of Understanding Your Best Users – crowdspring.co/1o21ZOj

The Importance of Hometown Investors for Startups – crowdspring.co/1z8kNTu

4 Mistakes New Product Managers Make – crowdspring.co/1rXNZrC

In Venture Capital, Birds of a Feather Lose Money Together (you want contrasting opinions) – crowdspring.co/1o1YA2b

How the ‘PayPal Mafia’ redefined success in Silicon Valley | by Conner Forrest, TechRepublic – crowdspring.co/1pQYY4B

How Fast-Growing Startups Can Fix Internal Communication Before It Breaks – crowdspring.co/VrHqmQ

Good insight on startups and product development in this AMA with Jason Fried – crowdspring.co/TmVP1

My startup failed, and this is what it feels like – crowdspring.co/1lO2Ipv

“A Minimum Viable Product doesn’t count in SaaS – it has to be a Minimum Sellable Product.” – crowdspring.co/1ls0X06

Google Ventures’ Bill Maris on Venture Capital in Silicon Valley | Re/code – crowdspring.co/1v00G51

No, *I’ll* tell you the answer! – crowdspring.co/VQyx6i

Proper labeling of axes is absolutely crucial – crowdspring.co/1mdPUZB

How to Succeed in Business by Bundling – and Unbundling | Harvard Business Review – crowdspring.co/1lphhyB

SlideShare Best Practices: How to Turn Written Content Into a Winning Deck | Copyblogger – crowdspring.co/1njM91p

socialmediablog

Engagement is a Long-Term Process (some tips on drip marketing) – crowdspring.co/TiSCjz

Just Say No to Low CTR – crowdspring.co/1lpjlq8

Read the rest of this post »

Small Business and Problem-solving: Take a Walk Mike | July 7th, 2014

Sometimes I wake up in the night thinking about my company. On occasion it can be difficult to get back to sleep, especially when some recently wrestled-with and unresolved issue is nagging at me. My mind gets stuck on a problem or a question and sleep can be elusive from that point forward. I think this is a fairly common phenomenon for small business owners and many have  told me they experience the same problem.

I just returned from a 2-week vacation, which was greatly appreciated luxury. I visited places I had never been, experienced a culture that was brand-new to me, saw art and architecture that was eye-opening and inspirational, and walked for hours on end. I also thought a great deal about our company and our team.

Sometimes a break from routine is exactly what’s needed. Stepping back and allowing oneself the chance to look at a problem from a distance can be the best way to attack that problem. Routine can be the death of creative thinking; going to work, sitting at the same desk, and performing the same tasks simply does not allow for the time and perspective needed to tackle certain problems.

The process we use to develop ideas is different for every person and every manager and small business owner has their own way of approaching this, consciously or not. My vacation reminded me that my process stagnates without a change of scenery and without the space I need to think. It also led me to think about ways I might think more creatively in my everyday work life and talk to others about ways that they jumpstart their own creative thinking. Here’s a few that made sense to me:

  • Allow yourself and your team to make any and all crazy suggestions (as well as those that seem rational)
  • Don’t judge ideas too early in the process – let them develop and grow
  • Daydream more and spend time with your feet up just letting your mind ramble
  • Make mistakes and accept them
  • Go for a long walk and let yourself play with ideas
  • Draw or paint an idea
  • Change your habits and do things differently – try walking or driving a different route to work

 

I’d love to hear any ideas for your own creative thinking process, please share your thoughts!

Photo, Wikimedia: Dmitry Rozhkov

Twitter Link Roundup #228 – Small Business, Startups, Innovation, Social Media, Design, Marketing and More Ross | June 20th, 2014

titanicpool

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 image was taken during the filming of the movie Titanic. Although much of the movie is set on the ocean, the “ocean” the actors jump into is just a giant, 3 feet deep pool. More strange and mind blowing movie facts in the Other section below.

smallbusinessblog

Why Your Website is Your Dumbest Salesperson – crowdspring.co/1iv6Kgp

Small Business and Leadership: Thinking About Dad – crowdspring.co/1i0PkgN

Start-Ups Need a Minimum Viable Brand | Denise Lee Yohn, Harvard Business Review – crowdspring.co/1qkFicI

12 Collaborative Services for Success at Work | by Jeremiah Owyang – crowdspring.co/T4iNed

startupsblog

10 Things I Learned from Paul Graham at Y Combinator | Betabeat by Nathan Kontny – crowdspring.co/1lDqrbH

Why Your Website is Your Dumbest Salesperson – crowdspring.co/1iv6Kgp

Start-Ups Need a Minimum Viable Brand | Denise Lee Yohn, Harvard Business Review – crowdspring.co/1qkFicI

After Failure, What’s Next? | by Brad Feld – crowdspring.co/1iMMtTI

Why Lead Velocity Rate (LVR) Is The Most Important Metric in SaaS | saastr – crowdspring.co/U3ZbaM

Good insights for entrepreneurs & investors – crowdspring.co/1nQhSc9

Entrepreneurs Turn to a New Source of Funds: Neighbors | WSJ – crowdspring.co/UNEYGO

How To Turn Good Ideas Into Great Products – crowdspring.co/T83uRB

The Optimal Seed Round Construction to Maximize Series A Success – crowdspring.co/1kHPwfA

12 Collaborative Services for Success at Work | by Jeremiah Owyang – crowdspring.co/T4iNed

The Optimal Average Customer Value for SaaS Startups – crowdspring.co/1ib05xm

How many SaaS companies still have freemium products? | LaunchBit – LaunchBit crowdspring.co/1vtjWKi

Interesting SaaS data comparing Enterprise, Midmarket and SMB focused companies | by @ttunguzcrowdspring.co/T84wx4

A Dozen Things I’ve Learned From Marc Andreessen | by Tren Griffin – crowdspring.co/1vtlDaP

If SaaS Products Sell Themselves, Why Do We Need Sales? | Andreessen Horowitz – crowdspring.co/U3YU7R

Sand Hill Road’s Consiglieres: August Capital | TechCrunch by Leena Rao – crowdspring.co/1vtmNTH

How To Write A Startup Marketing Plan – crowdspring.co/1vtDkH3

Shit Entrepreneurs Say – crowdspring.co/1i5yb5Y

socialmediablog

How To Write A Startup Marketing Plan – crowdspring.co/1vtDkH3

If SaaS Products Sell Themselves, Why Do We Need Sales? | Andreessen Horowitz – crowdspring.co/U3YU7R

Start-Ups Need a Minimum Viable Brand | Denise Lee Yohn, Harvard Business Review – crowdspring.co/1qkFicI

Why Your Website is Your Dumbest Salesperson – crowdspring.co/1iv6Kgp

10 gorgeous examples of social media creative for Twitter | Econsultancy – crowdspring.co/1ijz3nh

designblog

How Much Designers And Developers Make In Various Countries – crowdspring.co/1nj86xq

Science Explains The Enduring Appeal Of Bland, Symmetrical Layouts | Co.Design – crowdspring.co/1u3e1Jx

Read the rest of this post »

Small Business and Leadership: Thinking About Dad Mike | June 16th, 2014

I spend a lot of time thinking about leadership and how to encourage the best  from the team. There are thousands of books on the topic, a quick google search on “business leadership” returns 971,000 results and I figure there must be a hundred million or more Tweets posted on the subject. But lately (especially with Father’s Day yesterday) my thoughts have been turning to my dad and the lessons I learned from him.

My dad was a complex guy who studied philosophy as an undergrad, went on to a fairly prosperous career in corporate sales with Kodak and eventually turned his creative impulses into a successful second career when he left the business world to pursue photojournalism. He read a great deal, he loved movies and art, he was an always intelligent presence and could quietly and effectively debate current events, politics, and the nature of people. As is common with the sons of immigrants, he tended to be stern with his 4 children, and was not stingy when it came to dispensing the spankings or other punishment. But he was also a loving and affectionate presence, always supportive and always willing to listen when his children needed him.

The lessons I learned from my father have carried through my life – he taught me a personal value system and (hopefully) instilled a strong sense of right and wrong. He taught me about parenting and the importance of being a better father then he was; the idea of generational improvement was a constant theme for him. But he also taught me about work ethic, communicating clearly, the importance of ideas in a person’s life, and the value of respect for others.

He taught nuts and bolts: the logistics of dealing with a family of six, the scheduling, the chores, the “quality control,” were all important to him and he passed that along to me. Not only were we required to clean the house every Saturday morning, but he  made sure we were cooperating with our siblings, and he closely inspect our work, making corrections (sometimes not so gently) and always praising us for quality. Feedback was a priority for him and he did not hesitate to give it, positive and negative. When we did a poor job, he would call us back to the house to have it done over and when we did a good job, he was there to let us know that too. My dad was also a master of the motivational incentive: if we wanted desert we had to finish dinner, or if we wanted to stay up an extra 30 minutes at bedtime we could, but only if we used the time to read. He was a great one for encouraging teamwork – chore time was inviolate, but swapping was fine and working together to get it done faster was celebrated.

My dad understood the concept of a company culture (in this case applied to the family). We had LOTS of activities together, regular family meetings were held when something needed to be discussed, and we had (and loved) our favorite meals and restaurants (though eating out was rare). He instilled the value of teamwork and encouraged his children to do things together. I’ll never forget the Halloween when he and mom had us all 4 dressed as a family of mummies for trick-or-treat. These were all things that created a strong bond among us, a bond that I still share with my siblings today.

Unfortunately, my dad died young and the lessons ended early, but I greatly value the things I learned from him. The lessons have stayed with me not only in my role as a father to two sons of my own, but as a leader and business manager for almost 30 years. As small business owners we can all look to our dads for inspiration, guidance, and modeling in how we lead our teams, how we interact with our customers, and how we lead our professional lives. So, a day after Father’s day, I hope you remembered to thank dad for everything he gave you that allows you to do a great job with your own business. Thanks, Dad!

Film still: Mufasa and Simba, The Walt Disney Company

Twitter Link Roundup #227 – Small Business, Startups, Innovation, Social Media, Design, Marketing and More Ross | June 13th, 2014

fzIreVg

 

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!

I’m sure you’ve noticed the proliferation of social click-bait media designed to get people to click the latest story on silly topics. Even The Onion has joined the game by launching a parody site – Clickhole – that on the one hand, pokes fun at click-bait, but ultimately, runs monetizes through advertising, just like every other click-bait site.

The image on the left is a fun look at how famous books would be renamed if the authors were optimizing for clicks, much like those who write online click-bait articles. More examples in the Other section below.

smallbusinessblog

Small Business and Startups: What Would You do Differently? – crowdspring.co/Uo7qiz

This Is Why Social Media Doesn’t Work For Your Business – crowdspring.co/1pWbP8R

10 amazing web tools to spy on your competition | Inspired Magazine – crowdspring.co/1q7MhFU

Content Marketing Will Fail Your Business If You Keep Doing This – bit.ly/1kX3Rui

startupsblog

How Airbnb Manages Not To Manage Engineers | ReadWrite – crowdspring.co/1kDg8nG

This map reveals exactly where Silicon Valley gets its talent | VentureBeat – crowdspring.co/1kLpblq

This Is Why Social Media Doesn’t Work For Your Business – crowdspring.co/1pWbP8R

Why Your Product Must Deliver More in Less – crowdspring.co/1ihQ8si

Gallup: The 10 Qualities Of Highly Successful Entrepreneurs | Forbes – crowdspring.co/1v4fSjE

No Silver Bullets: Etsy’s Randy Hunt on Product Design | The Art of Ass-Kicking – crowdspring.co/1nzzDMV

Entrepreneurs Need a Better Way to Cash Out | Kanyi Maqubela – Harvard Business Review – crowdspring.co/SKltNW

A Dozen Things I’ve Learned from Michael Moritz About Venture Capital – crowdspring.co/1kLoGb1

Don’t Become A Tech Company With Feet Of Clay | TechCrunch – crowdspring.co/1k0d8vG

New study suggests patent trolls really are killing startups | Ars Technica – crowdspring.co/TQ83Rj

10 Insider’s Lessons From Facebook’s Marketing Strategy | Fast Company – crowdspring.co/1q1VT57

10 of the Most Counterintuitive Pieces of Advice From Famous Entrepreneurs – crowdspring.co/1q5fYaF

Small Business and Startups: What Would You do Differently? – crowdspring.co/Uo7qiz

I don’t know if accurate, but this is an interesting detailed look at economics of driving for UberX – crowdspring.co/1u9dE07

Good move by SendGrid to implement TLS for outgoing mail. Astonishing that so many email co’s still don’t support – crowdspring.co/1kDohs5

socialmediablog

This Is Why Social Media Doesn’t Work For Your Business – crowdspring.co/1pWbP8R

2014 Marketing Hiring Trends and Salary Guide – crowdspring.co/1ig97Dw

The Hidden Power of Nofollow Links | Moz – crowdspring.co/1v4gZ2G

10 Insider’s Lessons From Facebook’s Marketing Strategy | Fast Company – crowdspring.co/1q1VT57

10 amazing web tools to spy on your competition | Inspired Magazine – crowdspring.co/1q7MhFU

US non-Internet media advertising outlook, 2013-2018. tl;dr: They all suck. pic.twitter.com/0JXrl9vfVR

Content Marketing Will Fail Your Business If You Keep Doing This – bit.ly/1kX3Rui

10 Dreadful Clichés The Ad Industry Should Euthanize – crowdspring.co/1hF1Hiq

Forget influencers on social networks. You just need some smart bots | MIT Technology Review – crowdspring.co/1hLIBY3

designblog

The ultimate guide to email design | Webdesigner Depot – crowdspring.co/1q1zgxv

Best 100 Free Fonts 2014 | 1stwebdesigner – crowdspring.co/1oJyweL

How to Use Warm Color in Design Projects | Design Shack – crowdspring.co/1nJ2Vff

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Small Business and Startups: What Would You do Differently? Mike | June 9th, 2014

Mom told us to learn from our mistakes. The world’s great religions teach us that our transgressions will be forgiven. Redemption is all around us every wherever we look, whether as a plot-line in a movie or in the world of politics. Entrepreneurs make mistakes every single day, many of them completely unforced errors. Sometimes these mistakes have a negligible impact on the business, but other times can be profound. We all work hard to minimize the mistakes and mitigate the effects when they do happen, but what about afterwards? Crises come and crises go and there is often little that can be done to avoid them, but one of the characteristics of a great entrepreneur is in how they handle the aftermath of a mistake. How they analyze what occurred and what they learn from it can be more important that the mistake itself.

Since Ross and I launched crowdSPRING we have made numerous mistakes (just like everyone else) and we try hard to take time to look at the mistakes, consider their ultimate impact, discuss what we might have done differently, and (hopefully) learn enough such that we don’t repeat the mistake again. Here are a few specific tips on steps you might take to help figure out what you’d do differently!

1. Do a post-mortem. Wipe the whiteboard clean, get out the colored markers and start listing what went wrong, when it went wrong, and how it went wrong. The first step in understanding the mistake is to be clear on exactly what it was and how it happened. If the goal is to learn from mistakes and avoid them in the future, you have to look straight at it with eyes wide open and lay it out for yourself and your team.

2. Take it seriously. Sometimes we fall into the habit of simply moving past our mistakes without taking the time to reflect. We justify this by telling ourselves that this was just a little thing. or this was just a one-off. Well the truth is that we can learn from our small mistakes as readily as our large ones. Take your mistakes seriously and take the time to learn from all of them – major or minor, simple or complex. Read the rest of this post »