Fresh from the SPRING: mariaKaz Audree | September 2nd, 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 mariaKaz. Check out more great work on mariaKaz’s profile page.

Nicely done, mariaKaz, nicely done!

FFS-MariaKaz

Small Business and Startups: When a Customer Deserves to Be Fired Mike | August 31st, 2015

Last week we fired a customer. Yep, you heard me right. We asked one of our customers to please take their business elsewhere. Why would a small business do such a thing? Who in their right mind would turn down revenue and earnings? Well it’s really not that complicated. Some customers simply drain resources, strain the team, and end up costing you more than they bring in. There truly are some customers out there who you would happily send to the competition.

The trick is to identify these folks as early as you can and act decisively to stop the bleeding and start the healing. For instance, the customer I am writing about today has been with us for a number of years. For a long time this user was not active on the site, but would visit periodically, almost always accompanied by a question or three for our customer support team. One of the first signs that there might be trouble ahead was when we received a list of “suggestions” on how to improve the product. Of course, suggestions for improvement are a good thing and smart businesses will listen closely to their customers. Having said that, when a user writes a manifesto telling you all of the things that are wrong with how you run the company, you might want to give thought as to their motivation.

In the past few months, this customer increased their activity on the site. They posted a project, they sent in dozens of support tickets, they called into our phone support line multiple times, and they complained. And complained. Did the complaints have merit, you ask? For the most part, no they did not. They were mostly complaints about what the customer disliked about the business and the other users on the site and the interface and the payment system and the phone hours we maintain and the slowness of our team’s replies and on and on.

The crowdSPRING business model, like many other businesses, has relatively low profit margins and a relatively low rate of repeat business. This means that every single customer counts and our support team works incredibly hard to make sure every customer is satisfied. This means that we do not put limits on the amount of time an agent can spend on the phone with a customer, or the number of emails the agent can send to solve an issue. So when a customer comes with a seemingly endless appetite for frivolous complaining it can be a huge distraction and a gaping, sticky tarpit for the team. As a manager it is critical that you support your people and that you recognize when a customer is causing strife within your community. Take the plunge, make the call, and let the customer know that they are no longer welcome in your shop!

Here are a few tips on what to look for and how to manage the process:


1. Who are you?.
The key is to identify the (hopefully) rare customer who costs more than they provide. Are they someone who has endless complaints? Do they overtax your support system? Are they abusive to your people? These are pretty good signs that they may be a customer in need of firing. Of course, not every person who has complaints is in need of firing – many are legitimate customers with real issues that need to be resolved, but train your people to raise the red flag when a single customer starts to account of a disproportionate share of your team’s capacity.

2. What do you cost us?
It’s not that hard to do the math. For instance, a customer service agent is a resource that costs you a certain amount of money for every hour they work. If your agent costs $15/hour and a singe customer ties them up for 10 hours, that means you have devoted $150 of support resources to that customer. If the customer only represent $125 in net profit, you are already underwater and there is reason to believe you will sink deeper if you try to maintain the relationship. Simple dollars and cents tells you to end the association.

Read the rest of this post »

Twitter Link Roundup #284 – Late Summer Resources for Small Business, Startups, and Design! Mike | August 28th, 2015

I guess I have a travel bug this month. Sad me, it’s August but there’s no time for vacation right now. I’ll have to continue from last week and fantasize about the places I would be visiting, oh if I only could. For instance, I do really like a good market in an exotic locale, and this may be one of the most comprehensive lists of these places yet crafted. Have a look at the 21 incredible markets from around the world ad come salivate with me!

Sigh. But back now to reality, and I some small measure of redemption, because it’s time for the set of links and articles that we shared with you over the past week on our  crowdSPRING Twitter account (as well as my own Twitter account)! We do love sharing articles about fonts, logo design, web design, startups, entrepreneurship, small business, leadership, social media, marketing, economics and other interesting stuff! Enjoy!

smallbusinessblog

From the Vault: Working Remote. Yeah. About That. | @crowdSPRING Blog – crowdspring.co/1NK8tPd

The Art of the Out-of-Office Reply nytimes.com/2015/08/28/fas…

How to Start Spreading the Optimism: 7 Simple Tips crowdspring.co/1NrcU4v

The Research Is Clear: Long Hours Backfire for People and for Companies – buff.ly/1JvB6lv

startupsblog

The Art of the Out-of-Office Reply nytimes.com/2015/08/28/fas…

How to Build a Better Org Chart crowdspring.co/1hy2WRT

Avoid These 8 Productivity Myths crowdspring.co/1Th9o0l

Sleep Deprivation Is Making You Paranoid crowdspring.co/1DDsiaM

The Secret of Airbnb’s Pricing Algorithm – buff.ly/1WN0tTz

Things the Smartest People Never Do crowdspring.co/1WdhUMQ

The Workplace Culture That Flying Nannies Won’t Fix nytimes.com/2015/08/24/opi…

The Top 5 Mistakes Made by Every New Entrepreneur crowdspring.co/1EkiEVe

16 Startup Metrics – buff.ly/1Nwxfp5

Read the rest of this post »

From the Vault: Working Remote. Yeah. About That. Mike | August 24th, 2015

EDITOR’S NOTE: We originally published this post back in 2012. Next month crowdSPRING will move from a 60% remote work environment to around 90%! This means that the team will gather together on just one day per week, the rest of the time we will be working remote from our homes, hotel rooms, Starbucks, front porches, or wherever we can find a decent WiFi signal! Have a read and let me know what your thoughts are.

On any given day at the crowdSPRING HQ, we will have anywhere between 1 and 6 people working in the office simultaneously. Of late, 1 is the more common number and 6 is becoming a rarity. Why is that? Well a year or two ago we instituted a policy (I say “instituted,” but really it was more of an evolution) whereby people could come and go as they please. Now some of our folks work as independent contractors, and the law says that we can not require these folks to work in the office, though of course we welcome and encourage them to do so, at least on occasion.

This  started a few years back, when our engineering team asked if they could work remotely every Friday. We said sure, let’s try it out and see how it works. Our attitude at the time was, hey, as long as it doesn’t impact productivity, why not? It turns out that the team was able to maintain their productivity and may even have increased it on remote days  by eliminating commute times, freeing everyone from inevitable office distractions, and improving quality of life through workplace flexibility. Over the next couple of years, we expanded our “policy” and allowed other people to work from home on Fridays, too. And it slowly became more and more common on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays; pretty soon folks would stay home because they were expecting a package or had laundry to do or a meeting out fo the office.

We encouraged the trend and enabled it. Last year, we began training our customer service people specifically to work remote – we figured as long as they had a good internet connection and a headset, they had all the tools necessary to do their job. And the tools were legion and were readily available: we could all easily access the admin side of the site and SAAS offerings helped us to work together; Basecamp allowed real-time collaboration, Zendesk allowed access to support tickets; Skype gave each of  us a virtual desk phone; IfByPhone routed customer calls to whichever Skype number we preferred, and Google Hangouts allowed us to meet for real-time video conferences whether for 2 people or for a full-on, all-hands team meeting. Pretty soon, morning emails started to include heads-ups that this person or that person would be working home that day, and these became ubiquitous. “See you online” became the tagline and a way of working that we have encouraged and enabled. For better or worse.

A few months ago, Marissa Meyer decreed that Yahoo employees would henceforth be required to work from the office, and the ‘flexible’ work policy that Yahoo’s workers had long enjoyed would be rescinded. When I read this news and the ensuing storm of opinion it prompted, I was among those who scoffed at Ms. Meyer’s folly. Why would she chose to take away such a wonderful privilege? How could she be so insensitive to the needs of working mothers? How could she impose the curse of the commute on thousands of people who were perfectly happy toiling away in pajamas, coffee in hand? I felt superior and condescendingly looked down my nose at such a lame determination.

Well… lately maybe not so much with mocking, at least on my part, of Ms. Meyer’s decision. I tend to work from our office 4-5 days per week, choosing to work from home most Fridays but still preferring to be “at work.” But it gets lonely. Often I find myself all by myself on many weekdays. Nobody to ask questions; nobody to joke around with; nobody to bounce an idea or ask a question; nobody to have lunch with and talk movies and music. It’s not that I can’t ask that question in Basecamp, or tell that joke in in an instant message. And even though our weekly product roadmap meetings accomplish the same thing with all of us attending via broadband, it is just not the same as the creative energy that happens when we’re (at least mostly) in a room together.

Was Ms. Meyers correct then? Is it better to err towards a central office with a central cast of workers in residence? I am on the fence, for certain. I can see clear advantages in the completely flexible policy that our company and many like it have developed, but I am also seeing the down side. A darker side, with each f us working alone in our own bubbles, never really connecting in a meaningful way, never being totally up to speed on what others are working on or what problems they might be confronting. I miss the intimacy of the team, the camaraderie of our lunch table, and the sound of varied voices. Have we paid too a steep price for personal flexibility? Made a poor tradeoff in the service of a lean business methodology?

I am curious to hear your thoughts… comments, advice, and feedback here would be greatly appreciated.

 

Photo: Michael Heiss

Twitter Link Roundup #283 – Old Fashioned Resources for Small Business, Startups, and Design! Mike | August 21st, 2015

I don’t travel all the time, but when I do travel, I love visiting libraries – and you’d be surprised how many incredible collections are scattered across the world. And you’d be doubly surprised by the incredible buildings that house some of the great libraries of the world. Business Insider has put together what may be the definitive list of the greatest libraries in the world (with pictures!); check this out and dust off your passport and your reading glasses, because you got some traveling to do!

All those books and sooo little time! And even less time now, because it’s time for our latest set of links and articles that we shared with you over the past week on our  crowdSPRING Twitter account (as well as my own Twitter account)! We just love sharing articles about fonts, logo design, web design, startups, entrepreneurship, small business, leadership, social media, marketing, economics and other interesting stuff! Enjoy!

smallbusinessblog

The Bedtime Routines of 4 Exceptionally Successful People crowdspring.co/1IFvHm0

Lean Business: Why Comcast Stomps ADT’s Customer Service | @crowdSPRING Blog –crowdspring.co/1ErKhM4

Average Manager vs. Great Manager – buff.ly/1fd3xXa

startupsblog

Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace nytimes.com/2015/08/16/tec…

Life Hacks Learned in Prison That Will Maximize Your Productivity crowdspring.co/1J01How

Stripe CEO Patrick Collison On The Limitless Potential Of Payments | Forbes – buff.ly/1Mz1JoE

Sure Signs You’re Working Too Hard To Be Effective crowdspring.co/1DDpDhf

9 Things Warren Buffett Says You Should Do to Be Happy and Successful crowdspring.co/1J01G3W

Master Strategies For Public Speaking crowdspring.co/1EkhARk

New York Activist Group Calls For Apple To Ditch The Gun Emoji crowdspring.co/1L0nKuM

How To Seek Out Creative Partnerships That Work crowdspring.co/1L2yZ8L

Pointless Phrases You Keep Including in Emails crowdspring.co/1Th5RPD

My Management Lessons from Three Failed Startups, Google, Apple, Dropbox, and Twitter – buff.ly/1LdcduZ

15 Little Phrases That Will Make You Remarkably More Productive crowdspring.co/1f4cvpt

How to Play the Valuation Gap Between Start-Ups and Public Tech Companies crowdspring.co/1gtYySK

8 of the Greatest Commencement Quotes From Business Leaders crowdspring.co/1DI74IG

Read the rest of this post »

Lean Business: Why Comcast Stomps ADT’s Customer Service Mike | August 17th, 2015

Customer service ain’t easy. It takes a combination of the right people, the right training, the right tools, and the right attitude. Lots of companies get this right, but most just don’t haver a clue.

I had to make a couple of calls this morning to a couple of different service providers: Comcast (yikes, right?) and ADT. Our office in Chicago is served by both of these vendors – we get our internet service via Comcast Business and our security system is from ADT. I have not had complaints for either company about the overall quality of their products and I have found the equipment they each provide to be reliable.

Here’s what happened: I had to call each company to make a change in our service. First came ADT. After inputting my account number and navigating through several levels of voice commands, I was put through to an agent. I told her what the change was and she asked several questions and then told me I had to speak to someone in the “small business group.” OK, fine, even though I had already been on the phone for almost 10 minutes. After listening to their hod music for another 5 or 6 minutes a different agent came on and asked me for my account number and proceeded to ask all of the same questions I had just answered. By now 12 minutes had elapsed and I was starting to get a little impatient. Finally, the agent told me that she could not help me over the phone and that I would have to send a signed letter on company stationary requesting the change. What? By now my frustration is starting to boil over and I (of course) asked to speak with a supervisor. What a shock when the agent told me repeatedly that “there is no supervisor available.” Long story short, I ultimately was placed on hold (again) and finally put through to corporate headquarters customer service for a resolution, but only after my ears had been through steam-cleaned.

My next call was to Comcast, and I must admit I was dreading it. Can anyone out there name a company with a weaker reputation in the support realm? I can’t. Well guess what? The experience with Comcast was the polar opposite of that with ADT. After the requisite voice menus, I was put through to a single agent (Marvin) who was efficient, courteous, and helpful. Marvin had me off the phone in under 5 minutes and left me with a smile on my face. No frustration, no raised blood pressure and no messing around. What a relief.

From there were several takeaways, and one important lesson learned: the art of great customer service is dependent on the person delivering it. Sure, companies have to work hard to build policies and processes that allow their people to do a great job, but without the right person making the right decisions and listening closely to the customer on the other end of the phone, it will all be for naught. Delivering great customer service is like Tina Fey’s first rule of improvisation: you are required to agree with whatever your partner has created; in other words, the very best customer service agents know that the right answer for a frustrated customer is “SAY YES!”

Phot, Wikimedia Commons: Godzilla Raids Again (1955)

Twitter Link Roundup #282 – Profoundly Great Resources for Small Business, Startups, and Design! Mike | August 14th, 2015


Our friends at the New York Times get to do stuff that, frankly, makes me jealous. For instance, the other night they got to go for a ride on the brand new carousel at Battery Park, in lower Manhattan. The $16 million dollar version of an old-school treat opens this week. The architects Claire Weisz and Mark Yoes have designed a magical undersea journey – an incredible ride for the senses.

My head is spinning and I can’t wait to ride the SeaGlass Carousel! But, wait I must, because it’s time now for our latest set of links and articles that we shared with you over the past week on our  crowdSPRING Twitter account (as well as my own Twitter account)! We just love sharing articles about fonts, logo design, web design, startups, entrepreneurship, small business, leadership, social media, marketing, economics and other interesting stuff! Enjoy!

smallbusinessblog

From the Vault: Give it a Break, Already. | @crowdSPRING Blog – crowdspring.co/1Iu8mCV

Why Success Can Be So Lonely crowdspring.co/1LP7lw5

Local Businesses and Facebook | Mobile Marketing Watch – buff.ly/1rr8qdK

How Family and Friends Can Help You Strengthen Your Good Habits crowdspring.co/1InDUKt

Why You Should Discriminate Amongst Customers, and Be Proud of It crowdspring.co/1euuMvS

How to Build a Successful Business Out of Lego crowdspring.co/1S8M30c

startupsblog

“Funding Your Business Without Selling Your Soul” Stresses Financing Basics crowdspring.co/1IFvDCQ

A Look Inside Google and Carnegie-Mellon’s IoT Campus crowdspring.co/1S8M6sT

Rules for Finding Balance Between Startup Life and Family crowdspring.co/1D2TQGh

How Entrepreneurs Like Branson Hatch Their Best Business Ideas – Forbes crowdspring.co/1LP5qrp

It’s Never Too Late: At 78, This Former Physicist Is Starting a Hedge Fund crowdspring.co/1LP5kQo

The Brave Strategy That Finally Helped These Two Startup Founders Dominate Their Market crowdspring.co/1MSjZaR

Ways Successful Entrepreneurs Stay Calm crowdspring.co/1D2TWh9

Baited On ‘Shark Tank’ — The Reality Of Fundraising On Reality TV – Forbes crowdspring.co/1MSkykU

The Productivity Mistake Everyone Is Making crowdspring.co/1fAN3bF

These 6 Principles Help Make Innovation Easy crowdspring.co/1fAKp5P

Google Creates Alphabet, but Runs Into BMW http://crowdspring.co/1MrMuiG

What I Learned Writing a Haiku Every Day for 100 Days — The Lighthouse — Medium crowdspring.co/1JU4dcu

Read the rest of this post »

Small Business and Startups: Build Teams, Have Fun Mike | August 10th, 2015

Who says business can’t be fun? Leadership is not just about productivity, strategy, and tactics – much more important is the fact that great leadership is about people. Strong leaders never lose sight of the individuals who make up their team and never stop working to make the team stronger. A great team is at once a reflection of its leadership, but it also defines its leaders.

A leader should focus efforts on building community, creating and supporting company culture, and paying close attention to employees and their needs. This starts with valuing each member of your team as an individual, and recognizing the unique strengths that each brings with them. The corollary to this is identifying each individual’s weaknesses and deficits and being ready to help them develop in those areas and grow into even stronger members of the team.

One of the ways we do this is by spending time together – not just in meetings and on conference calls, but outside of work, in a relaxed atmosphere where people can be themselves, and learn about their co-workers. Outings, activities, parties, and meals are great ways to get to know the people around you even better, and too build the strong bonds that enable a company culture to develop and thrive.

1. Eat together. Instead of each person sitting at their sad desk, eating a stale sandwich, and drinking a flat soda take the time whenever possible to sit together for lunch. Share your food, share your ideas, and share stories. Talk about the TV show you watched last night, the book you just finished reading, or the presidential debate you drank your way through. Taking time out of the work day to relax and enjoy one another’s company is an invaluable way to build bonds and create intimacy; this is the stuff relationships are built on.

2. Take time to relax. Recognize that people are not robots and that everyone needs some moments of relaxation in the course of their work day. Some folks get this by taking a short smoke break or going for a walk. Others like to play a game of ping-pong or do some online shopping. And some just like to have a little chat about something – anything really – as long as it is not work-related. When you see your folks chit-chatting for a few minutes here and there instead of focusing on their tasks, smile and join in when you can. Remember that people thrive on the small things and create an atmosphere that respects that.

3. Be kind to one another. Paying attention to the people around you means asking them how they are – and then listening when they tell you. Everyone has a life outside of work made up of countless moments, both happy and sad. Their health and the health of those they care about, their hobbies, their passions; these are the things you can only learn about if you ask and then listen. Remember people’s birthdays and anniversaries and (if you have musicians, actors, or artists amongst you) attend your colleagues performances, shows, and exhibitions. People appreciate the fact that their co-workers truly care about them and the kindness and respect you show will be paid back many times over.

4. Create events. Go skiing together, rent kayaks and paddle, take in a movie (or even take a break during the day and watch one together in the conference room). There are countless things that you can do as a team and by creating events large and small, you give your team the opportunity to strengthen their relationships to one another, to the company, and to you.

5. Party togetherPeople love to party. So have one – do a cookout for a holiday or a birthday; take people out for special birthday lunches, or just do a get together for no special reason. If you’ve done a good job hiring the right people, chances are excellent that you already like each other and enjoy each other’s company. So go for it – buy some hot dogs and buns, whip up a batch of potato salad and have everyone over for a lazy summer afternoon.

6. Drink beerLastly, after work today invite the team out to your local watering hole and buy them a beer dammit. They deserve your thanks and having a quick drink at the end of the day is one of the simplest and most effective ways to show your gratitude for what they do and who they are. Cheers!

7. Create events. Go skiing together, rent kayaks and paddle, take in a movie (or even take a break during the day and watch one together in the conference room). There are countless things that you can do as a team and by creating events large and small, you give your team the opportunity to strengthen their relationships to one another, to the company, and to you.

Photo: cS Team members out for a special birthday lunch!

Twitter Link Roundup #281 – We Love Great Resources for Small Business, Startups, and Design! Mike | August 7th, 2015

Artists got skills, yo. As a person whose entire career has been devoted to supporting the work of artists, I like to think that I have seen great works unfold before my eyes. And I have. But when I saw this video, I was blown away – the artistry and skill behind this pencil astounds me every time I watch. I think it will astound you as well.

Now close your mouth – you look silly with your jaw hanging down to your chest. In any case, t’s time to focus. Why? Because it’s time for our latest set of links and articles that we shared with you over the past week on our  crowdSPRING Twitter account (as well as my own Twitter account)! We just love sharing articles about fonts, logo design, web design, startups, entrepreneurship, small business, leadership, social media, marketing, economics and other interesting stuff! Enjoy!

smallbusinessblog

From the Vault: Give it a Break, Already. | @crowdSPRING Blog – crowdspring.co/1LUJl9e

Why You Should Discriminate Amongst Customers, and Be Proud of It crowdspring.co/1euuMvS

Small Business and Startups: Finding Your Match | @crowdSPRING Blog – crowdspring.co/1ImT5In

How Family and Friends Can Help You Strengthen Your Good Habits crowdspring.co/1InDUKt

10 Things Managers Of Two-Person Teams Need To Know crowdspring.co/1InDnbB

startupsblog

Life Hacks to Be Productive Instead of Just Busy crowdspring.co/1KCT42n

“F*^% You Airbnb”: What Some New Yorkers Really Think About The Company Everyone Is Talking About crowdspring.co/1MWmOYk

How to Live with Risks crowdspring.co/1fAJP88

Sam Adams Founder: Waiting for That ‘Light Bulb’ Moment? Don’t. crowdspring.co/1VJy6VO

These 6 Principles Help Make Innovation Easy crowdspring.co/1fAKp5P

How Entrepreneurs Like Branson Hatch Their Best Business Ideas – Forbes crowdspring.co/1LP5qrp

Don’t Fall For “The Big Lie” When Planning Your Career crowdspring.co/1OLLDaH

Super-Successful Leaders Give Their Best Career Advice for Millennials crowdspring.co/1KudA8b

It’s Never Too Late: At 78, This Former Physicist Is Starting a Hedge Fund crowdspring.co/1LP5kQo

The World According to China crowdspring.co/1HVEBxx

The Brave Strategy That Finally Helped These Two Startup Founders Dominate Their Market crowdspring.co/1MSjZaR

How To Play To Your Distinctive Strengths crowdspring.co/1LP4bZa

Why Superfans Can Be Super-Scary For Companies crowdspring.co/1VJy8gt

Homejoy shuts its doors crowdspring.co/1MSkzW7

Rules for Finding Balance Between Startup Life and Family crowdspring.co/1D2TQGh

10 Ways Successful Entrepreneurs Stay Calm crowdspring.co/1D2TWh9

Best Health Practices to Improve Your Life — In and Out of the Office crowdspring.co/1S8Km2L

A Private Island In Paradise For A High School Teacher Turned Millionaire – Forbes crowdspring.co/1ICF4Z4

Drinking 10 cans of diet coke per day led this entrepreneur to start her own company. crowdspring.co/1LP4aEE

This Resume Angel Can Help You Get That Job crowdspring.co/1OLKY9h

Why Success Can Be So Lonely crowdspring.co/1LP7lw5

The Hidden Dark Side of Goals and Planning – Further crowdspring.co/1fIxTBg

Schwinn As Its Own Spokesperson crowdspring.co/1LZOu1u

Read the rest of this post »

Fresh from the SPRING: titikapi Audree | August 5th, 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 titikapi. Check out more great work on titikapi’s profile page.

Nicely done, titikapi, nicely done!

FFS-titikapi-

 

 

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