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2014

If you are like most small business professionals you have a couple of pain points, with time and money usually topping the list. It’s that first topic I would like to discuss today.

 

It’s a fact that we are all working a lot these days. Probably too much, truth be told. There are several reasons for this, but ironically, one of the culprits may also be our friend: technology.Steve-Strauss--in-article-Medium.png

 

Technology is undoubtedly one of the problems contributing to our struggle with time. Example: last night around 8 pm I was packing for a trip and I texted a question to my assistant Stephanie. She texted me back the answer about five minutes later, and it dawned on me that a decade ago I never would had thought to bother Steph at 8 o’clock at night. But technology has made it such that we have blurred the lines between work and play.

 

Technology is the reason I can write this column on a plane on my way to Mexico, but it is also why you are answering emails at 11 pm, and why we all have to be reminded to turn off our cell phones while at the movies.

 

Indeed, according to the Spring 2014 Bank of America Small Business Owner Report, 25% of the respondents said they work more than 60 hours a week, and 62% said that they give up vacation time to run their business.

 

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

 

Click here to read more articles from small business expert Steve Strauss


So how do we regain some of that time? I have three answers for you:

 

First, on Wednesday, June 25 at 8 pm EST, I am going to be discussing this very topic during a Google+ Hangout with my friends here at Bank of America, representatives from MasterCard, and moderated by CNBC’s Carol Roth. We will be sharing some really interesting tips, tools and insights that should help you be more productive and in the process, reclaim some of that time.

 

Second, as I mentioned above, one of the solutions is the same technology that can be the problem. There are a lot of apps and programs out there that have been developed to free your time and make you more efficient. The ones I list below can turn dead or wasted time into productive time, allowing you to transfer those lost hours into fun time or extra profits.

 

Hootsuite: The old-fashioned way to manage social media is to post the same content daily on several different platforms. Hootsuite obviates the need for that. The app allows you to link all your social media content, schedule tweets for distribution across those platforms, and find out who’s interested in your postings. For small businesses that don’t have the time to consistently engage with followers online, it’s a huge help.


Evernote: With so much information out there today, keeping it all straight can be a bear. That’s where Evernote comes in. The promise of Evernote is “Remember everything, capture anything, access anywhere, find things fast.” You can use it to capture and remember most anything, whether that is URLs to review later, a favorite recipe, or a list of ideas for the sales team. Evernote helps you keep and find more of what you don’t want to lose.

 

McAfee: Yes, you know that you are supposed to have virus/malware protection on your computer, but do you? Amazingly, most small businesses do not. So, for that reason alone, getting software protection like McAfee makes sense. But here is where it saves time: Pro versions of the program log, keep, protect, and remember all of your passwords. No need to ever try to remember or find that long-forgotten password ever again.

 

Checklist Wrangler: Like to make lists? Then this is the app for you. This simple solution lets you not only quickly make different types of lists, but it helps you manage your execution of the items on the list.

 

And finally, the third way to get some of that time back is this:

Just say no. As in, “No, I really don’t need to write an email right now,” or even, “No, I don’t really need to bother Stephanie tonight.”


About Steve Strauss

Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest,The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss.

http://www.smallbusinessonlinecommunity.bankofamerica.com/people/Steve%20Strauss/content

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here


Inc.

Infographic: A Road Map to Growth

Posted by Inc. Jun 20, 2014

Roadmap-thumbnail-image.jpgIf you’re looking to grow your business, you have a variety of ways to do it. From building new service and product line extensions and growing your market footprint, to joint ventures, acquisition, and global expansion, our Road Map to Growth infographic gives you a glimpse into what’s working today.

 

Click here to view the Road Map to Growth infographic.

 


Small business owners are a busy group of people. While they often have the freedom and flexibility to do what they love, they are always “doing.” And when you add in family, friends, and household responsibilities, it can often feel like there simply aren’t enough hours in the day.Andy-Rowe-Headshot.png

 

According to the Bank of America® Spring 2014 Small Business Owner Report, time is extremely precious for small business owners. One in four works more than 60 hours per week, and a whopping 72 percent say they have made significant sacrifices in their personal lives for their business. Family and vacation time are also affected; more than half (52 percent) of small business owners surveyed feel that they should be spending more time with their family, and 62 percent give up vacation and leisure time to run their business.

 

However, one of the great advantages of living in the digital era is that there are many ways to get that coveted time back. Here are a few examples of ways to improve efficiency in your small business:

 

  • Outsource. From managing recruitment to laundering your employees’ uniforms, you don’t have to do everything yourself. Determine what tasks are always moving to the bottom of your to-do list, and figure out the best resources to help you remove the added stress in your life. Freelancers, interns, and virtual assistants are all good sources to start with. Additionally, websites like Task Rabbit can help you find individuals to do everything from web design to proofreading at a variety of price point.
  • Master your schedule. Sometimes we unwittingly let technology slow our productivity. Set aside uninterrupted blocks of time to work on specific tasks, and do your best to limit phone calls, meetings and emails from disrupting your focus. Multi-tasking might feel like a must, but studies show that the best way to get more done may be to spend more time doing less.
  • Learn the power of “no.” Before you opt into additional commitments or tasks, think carefully about how the experience will benefit you and/or your revenue. Are you tweeting every day to an audience that doesn’t engage back? Maybe it’s time to look at a different medium. Going to networking events that haven’t garnered new business in a year? Time to reevaluate. In the time gained, look at the tactics that are sure to make a positive impact on ROI and focus on those.
  • Utilize online and mobile banking tools. Bank of America offers remote check deposit that saves you a time-consuming trip to a bank or ATM. You can take some of the hassle out of payroll with Intuit® Online Payroll—everything is done online, you have access to a service specialist, and you get the fast paydays and detailed reporting you and your employees need. Additionally, using a mobile banking app allows for secure transactions while saving you time.

 

While I’ve only touched on a handful of tips, there are a lot of free and affordable programs and apps that can help seamlessly integrate work and personal schedules. It’s possible for you to turn dead time into productive time, allowing you to use those extra hours for what’s really important to you.

 

 


This month, I’ll be part of a Google Hangout with MasterCard on this very topic, alongside leading small business experts from around the country. We would love to have you join us on Wednesday, June 25, at 8 pm ET.

 


* Intuit is a registered trademark of Intuit Inc., used under license. Bank of America is a registered trademark of the Bank of America Corporation. Member FDIC.

Recently, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was getting ready for a media appearance when the people around him began snapping pictures of him. He said:

 

“What do you get out of all these pictures? I mean, what exactly do you do with them?  I don’t get this new world, everybody’s taking pictures. When do you have time to live? Everybody is taking pictures of each other. I don’t buy it. I am the only one here without all of these electronic devices. I am a free man and you’re all slaves, slaves to your gadgets.”

 

I happened to be watching that on my cell phone.

 

I think that for most of us, there is a ring of truth in what the Prime Minister said, and it brings up a good point: In this age of mobility, have the lines between work and home become so blurred that there is no line anymore?


Steve-Strauss--in-article-Medium.png

There are, of course, plenty of great things to be said for the mobile revolution. People like being able to work when and where they want. They like not being tied to a desk and they like the ability to get work done outside of the traditional 9-to-5 workday.

 

The problem is, it’s almost too easy to take work with you when you leave the office. Whether it is checking emails during a movie or joining a conference call while on vacation, more than a few of us have no life at all anymore, and it’s not healthy.

 

Having a work-life balance is important. In fact, it’s probably more important today than ever before. After all, how can you be a good boss or good employee when you never get (or take) a break? Having time away from work rejuvenates people both mentally and physically. 

 

Consider this from the New York Times (February 9, 2013): “In 2006, the accounting firm Ernst & Young did an internal study of its employees and found that for each additional 10 hours of vacation employees took, their year-end performance ratings from supervisors (on a scale of one to five) improved by 8 percent. (20 hours more vacation equaled 16 percent, and so on.) Frequent vacationers were also significantly less likely to leave the firm.”

 

So the fact is, ironically, all of this plugged-in working just may make us less productive, rather than more. Productivity often means that people get solid, uninterrupted, useful stretches of work done. However, if you are always plugged in, those long stretches are harder to come by, both because you may become accustomed to working in shorter, digital stints, as well as the fact that you might just get sick of working so much.

 

The second irony is that you probably have no one to blame but yourself. If you work for yourself, you are the boss. So be a good one. Give yourself a break, literally and figuratively. If you work for someone else, it is likely true that they do not expect you to be sending out work emails at 11:30 at night.

 

Click here to read more articles from small business expert Steve Strauss

 

So, what is the answer? How do you restore some sanity to your work –life imbalance?

 

You know the answer.

 

Turn it off. Silence your cell phone, close your laptop, and turn off your tablet.

 

The only one who is going to create that line is you. And the thing is, no one will really notice that you have decided that there is a time for work and a time for play, except for the people who count most – your family, your friends, and yourself.

 

Yes, of course you can and will work when you are home, and that’s great; that’s the beauty of the mobile revolution. But, in the end, maybe mom knew best. When looking to create a better work – life balance in the digital age, remember her words of wisdom: “Moderation in all things, dear.”


About Steve Strauss

Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest,The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss.

http://www.smallbusinessonlinecommunity.bankofamerica.com/people/Steve%20Strauss/content

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here






A friend came to me not long ago, complaining about his business. He had recently moved to my town and was looking to start over. Back where he used to live, he made a nice living as an independent real estate broker. He had many clients and deals were easy to come by.

 

Then he moved here, to a whole new situation. Of course, he had fewer contacts, and even fewer potential clients. Given that he didn’t really have to work too hard to get business where he used to live, he wasn’t used to marketing, didn’t like it much, and didn’t want to put so much time into getting clients at this point in his career.

 

It seemed to me that my pal likes all of the perks that come with being his own boss, but frankly, and this is what I told him, he seems unwilling to pay the price that self-employment demands. Yes, it is easy to think lofty thoughts about the life of the entrepreneur. I do it too. It’s easy to think “how fun and interesting it is to create something from nothing, how great it is to be your own boss, how welcome it is to make your own schedule and to make money.”

Steve-Strauss--in-article-Medium.png

But.

 

But, to get those benefits, you have to be willing to pay the price. What price is that? Glad you asked.

 

 

1. Be willing to put yourself out there, again and again. The price of admission into the game of entrepreneurship is that you have to continually put yourself out there - you have to market yourself and your business. You may have to go to networking events, or try new ideas. You might even have to cold call.

 

A seasoned small businessperson once told me that it’s like throwing cooked spaghetti against the refrigerator door to see if it’s done. What he meant by that is that when you are in business for yourself, you have to keep experimenting to see what sticks. If you are not willing to be that proactive or that creative, then this game is not for you.

 

2. Realize that there is no rainmaker – you are the rainmaker. One of the great things about working for someone else is that it is usually their job to generate business. It is your job to carry out the various assignments that that business requires.

 

Click here to read more articles from small business expert Steve Strauss

 

However, when you work for yourself, not only do you do the work, but you have to get the work as well. This is like having two jobs rolled up into one and will almost certainly mean late nights and early mornings. Again, that is a pre-requisite. If you are not good at rainmaking or don’t like it, think twice. If you get really good at it and stay in business for a while, your workload, ideally, should slow down at some point. But entrepreneurs work a lot for the most part.

 

3. You will miss some important personal and family moments. I interviewed a guy who started what is now a very busy and growing website operation. He says that he missed school plays, vacations, and more, for the first two years. Yep.

 

4. No steady income. Clients and customers come and go. You will make more money some months than others. If you’re self-employed, you need to be able to live with that sort of uncertainty.

 

5. You will wear lots of hats. Employees have assigned duties and tasks. Sometimes they will be asked to take on extra work outside of those tasks, but for the most part, they do what they are paid to do. Not so for entrepreneurs. We wear many hats within the organization. One day it may mean doing shipping all day and another day it might be doing taxes. Roll up those sleeves.


6. There will be stress. Everything that I’ve previously mentioned means that the life of a small business person is creative, interesting, liberating, and hopefully fun and exciting.

 

It is also stressful, exhausting, and nerve-wracking.

 

To enjoy the first part of that list requires that you pay the piper with the second part of that list. That is the deal you must be willing to make.

 


About Steve Strauss

Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest,The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss.

http://www.smallbusinessonlinecommunity.bankofamerica.com/people/Steve%20Strauss/content

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here




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