Spreadsheet programs come and go. One that has stood the test of time and remains an invaluable tool for any business owner is Microsoft Excel.

Introduced in 1987, MS Excel has grown in popularity over the years especially with the release of Version5 in 1993. Version5 was compatible with Windows which made the software easier to use.

Likewise, Version5 provided the user with faster calculations, more advanced features for creating graphs, pivot tables, and the use of a programming language called Visual Basic for Applications.

Today, many regard MS Excel as the gold standard among spreadsheet programs. The fact that MS Excel accounts for 85% of the office market further strengthens this argument.

For many business owners, the use of a spreadsheet program offers many benefits:

  • Organize and store data
  • Tools to analyze data
  • Prepare charts and graphs for presentation
  • Preset formulas for quick and easy calculations
  • Ability to synchronize with other software programs

And MS Excel makes all of these – and more – easier to do! In business, getting organized, tracking your expenses, and analyzing performance are keys to staying profitable.

MS Excel is an indispensable tool that can be literally accessed at the palm of your hand.

Top 10 Microsoft Excel Tricks That Will Help Any Business Owner

Learning its basic functions will go a long way in helping you manage your business. However, here are 10 Microsoft Excel tricks that you should learn so you can take your business to the next level.

1. Conditional Formatting

Storing data in MS Excel is an easy way to organize information that is key to the success of your business. However, as data begins to accumulate, it may be difficult to make sense of all of those numbers.

Conditional Formatting is a feature in Excel that helps you set the parameters of your data. This Excel trick will make it easier for you to find what you are looking for.

Let us assume you are a foreign currency trader who wants to keep track of currencies that are depreciating by 5% every week.

Simply click on “Conditional Formatting” highlight the column where the relevant data has been entered and set the parameter at “less than 5%”. Once you scroll down the data, all the currencies that conform to your search parameter of “less than 5%” will be highlighted in color.

By learning how to use Conditional Formatting, it will be easier for you to evaluate all of the data that you have been collecting.

2. Removing Duplicate Data

When you are constantly uploading massive amounts of data, duplication is always a very real possibility. We will share with you our experience during the content creation process.

Optimization is an important part of content writing. If the blogs are not optimized, it will not be found on the Internet. One of the most important processes in content optimization is keyword research.

A particular topic can yield thousands of keywords. Most of these are duplicates and if the content writer does not clean out the keyword spreadsheet, he may be misled by the discrepancies in search volume between the same keywords.

In order to remove the duplicates, all you have to do is go to “Data”, highlight the columns where there are duplicate data, then click “Remove Duplicates”.

Once the spreadsheet has been cleaned of duplicates, it will be easier to work through the data.

3. Recover Lost Files

For sure this has happened to you before.

You have been uploading and analyzing data for the past hour. Then, without warning, the power goes out. Fortunately, MS Excel has an Auto-Save feature.

Unfortunately, your current MS Excel Auto-Save feature is set at every 20 minutes. You have lost data that you have been uploading the last 20 minutes! Once power is restored, you will have to re-upload all of the data that has been lost.

We will teach you an important MS Excel trick that will help you relax and breath a sigh of relief whenever there is a power outage.

First, go to the “File” menu. Go to “Info”, then click on “Manage Versions”. You will see 2 options. Click on “Recover Unsaved Workbooks”.

This simple tip will help you save productive minutes. When you have power back on, all you have to do is to start where you left off.

4. Paste Special

One of the most common activities you do in MS Excel is to copy and paste. However, you may want to view the data in a different way. For example, you may want to have the data presented in a percentage format.

Paste Special will enable you to change the look of your data with a few easy clicks.

Going back to our example, let us assume you want a column of data converted into percentage format. Highlight the data that you want to convert, click copy, then paste it on another file.

Here is the step-by-step process on how to convert the numbers into percentages:

  • On a separate column, write down “100” since, in order to convert numbers into percentages, these numbers have to be divided by 100.
  • Copy the value of “100”.
  • Highlight the entire column that you want to be converted into percentages.
  • Right click, then choose “Paste Special”.
  • Under “Operation”, choose “Divide”.
  • All of the numbers in the highlighted column will be automatically divided by 100.
  • Click the “%” icon to insert the percentage symbol in all the numbers in the column.
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5. Freeze Panes

After years spent building a solid reputation in the real estate industry, you are finally invited to present your services to one of the state’s biggest and most successful property development companies.

This is an opportunity you cannot pass up! The Vice-President of Business Development wants to know how you target potential buyers for the properties in your list.

You present to the VP your Buyer’s Profile spreadsheet which is a result of years of hard work and consistent data collection.

However, by the time you get to column AA and below row 50, the VP cannot see the header cells. It is hard to appreciate the effectiveness of your system if the main decision maker will not be able to follow its movement.        

The solution is to freeze panes to keep the headers in place while you continue to scroll through the data.

All you have to do is to click to the cell below the header you want to freeze. You can also click to the left of the column you want to be frozen. Go to the “View” tab and choose “Freeze Panes”.

6. Extend Formula Across/Down

Before MS Excel, you had to be familiar with the M+ key on your calculator. This is the key which allows you to store a number that you can use to multiply or divide another value.

With MS Excel, all you need to do is to write down the formula on a cell and copy it across or down in order to repeat the same calculation.

Clicking “Copy” then dragging the formula down or across highlighted cells would be one way of extending the calculation. However, if you have a large amount of data to calculate, simply double click the formula on the cell where you want it to run.

7. Filters

Filters allow you to explore data faster by hiding information that is not relevant to your search.

For example, the value “Fruits and Vegetables” are no longer relevant to your data analysis. MS Excel can filter this value out whenever the program comes across it.

The newer versions of Excel allow you to run filters on numerical values such as percentages or parameters as “is greater than”. Likewise, the current versions of Excel can also filter out cell colors.

8. Print Optimization

Perhaps one of the knocks on MS Excel is that having documents printed out is not always easy. For sure, you know what we mean!  Sometimes you do not get exactly what you wanted to print out. It may take a few tries before you finally get the copy that you want.

The key to optimizing MS Excel’s printing capabilities is to follow a set of steps:

  • Print Preview
  • Fit to One Page
  • Adjust Margins
  • Print Selection
  • Printing Headers
  • Choose Portrait vs. Landscape
  • Spreadsheet Design

It will take some practice to get the hang of printing. However, this will be a task that you should expect to perform several times during the course of your business.

9. Flash Fill

Flash Fill is a feature that was added to the 2013 version of MS Excel. It is a wonderful tool to use for cleaning up and organizing data.

Some users have remarked that the Flash Fill feature is MS Excel thinking on its own. It anticipates your intended action and by simply clicking on the “Flash Fill” button, MS Excel will execute the task.

For example, you have a column of customers’ names that are presented as follows:

Last Name, First Name

Let us say you want to extract only the first names of the customers and copy them on the column beside it.

All you have to do is to write the first name of the first entry on the cell where you want to print the data. Next, go to “Fill” and click on “Flash Fill”.

Just like magic, MS Excel will copy all of the first names on the list to the column and run the data in order of their appearance.

10. Index-Match

Users of MS Excel who have used its VLOOKUP function to sort out data will share a common opinion – INDEX-MATCH is a better feature!

With VLOOKUP, the data will get affected whenever changes in column positions are made. This will not happen with INDEX-MATCH.

INDEX-MATCH is a great feature to use if you want to sort out specific data from your spreadsheet. Simply choose the location where you want the sorted information to appear. Then, set the parameters or conditions of your search in the INDEX-MATCH formula.

Within seconds, MS Excel will retrieve the data you want and present them in the location you chose.

Conclusion

There are other spreadsheet programs that you can consider for your business. For example, Google Sheets is also becoming popular with entrepreneurs. Other noteworthy spreadsheet programs include Numbers by Apple, Open Office Calc by Apache, and Zoho Sheet by Zoho.

However, MS Excel remains the gold standard to which these software programs are measured against and with many good reasons. MS Excel is easy to use, highly-navigable and includes key features that are very important to running a business.

Like all skills, becoming proficient in MS Excel will take time and practice. Working with MS Excel will be time well spent. Do not be intimidated by the commands and features. Keep practicing until MS Excel becomes second nature.

Did you find this article helpful? If so, please feel free to share it with people who may want to learn more about MS Excel.

And if you have other MS Excel tips and tricks that you wish to share with our readers, please feel free to write them down in our comments section.

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Do you want to see the world? If yes, then you should work from home.

How is that even possible? When you say, “Work from home” what it really means is that you are working outside the confines of a formal office.

You don’t have to beat rush hour traffic in the morning and in the afternoon.

You don’t have to clock in and clock out.

You don’t have to wear formal office clothes.

You don’t strictly follow a 9-to-5 schedule with a one-hour lunch break.

Unless you are a telecommuter, you don’t have a boss to directly report to.

Your “home” could be anywhere.

Of course, you could work from your own house. You could also work from your favorite coffee shop, the gym, the supermarket, or at the public park.

You could also travel; see the world while working at the same time. There are no boundaries to where you want to go.

Who Works From Home?

Working from home is a matter of choice: Yours or your company’s.

According to data from the US Small Business Administration (USSBA), 99% of all businesses registered in the US are categorized as “small” and more than 50% of these small businesses work from home.

It makes sense for small businesses to start out from home. As we will discuss shortly, working from home has several advantages for the start-up. However, these advantages will also carry over to more established businesses.

Another study, this time the GEM Entrepreneurship Report, revealed the following statistics:

  • 69% of start-ups work from home
  • 59% of established businesses are home-based

It is not just the start-ups and established entrepreneurs who are taking the home-based route. Freelancers are another component of the home-based economy.

Freelancers are professionals; remote workers who offer their services to companies on a contractual basis.

Here is a typical profile of a freelancer:

  • Well-experienced; put in years working the  9-to-5 shift
  • Knowledgeable and highly-competent in a specific skill or discipline; many are certified or licensed in the field of expertise
  • Good with computers; ability to perform tasks using a variety of software programs

A 2017 report by the New York Times showed that roughly 43% of the US workforce has done freelance work.

The growth of the freelance market has given rise to another segment of the home-based economy: the Telecommuter.

Telecommuters are often confused with freelancers. Although both types of home-based professionals work from a remote location, telecommuters are hired by a company.

Telecommuters start out as FTEs or Full-Time Employees of the company. Eventually, they are transitioned to Telecommuter status by the company for the purposes of cutting cost and increasing productivity.

Yahoo! under Marissa Mayer was one of the first US companies to experiment with telecommuters. Mayer wanted to see if productivity would increase if workers were allowed to work from home.

While Mayer’s telecommuting program produced the desired results during its early years, eventually it fell short of the company’s long-term goals and had to be discontinued.

Yahoo’s failure in telecommuting did not stop other companies from integrating telecommuters in the workforce.

Here is a partial list of US companies that continue to hire telecommuters:

  • VIPKID
  • Appen
  • Conduent
  • Rev
  • LiveOps
  • TTEC
  • Amazon
  • Sykes
  • Dell
  • Working Solutions

It has been projected by market analysts that by 2020, more than 50% of the US workforce will be composed of telecommuters.

7 Benefits Of Working From Home

So what are the benefits of working from home?

1. Higher Level of Productivity

We have often quoted a report by productivity coach, Steve Pavlina, which revealed that out of 480 office minutes, workers are only productive for 90 minutes. That is only 19% productivity.

This finding is substantiated by another report which showed that American companies lose an estimated $1.8 Trillion a year due to low productivity.

What factors affect productivity?

  • Distractions at work – Internet surfing, social media
  • Water cooler chatter
  • The long commute, traffic
  • Sickness

Companies found out that by integrating telecommuters into the workforce, these factors would be mitigated and productivity would improve. A 2-year study conducted by Stanford University confirmed the positive impact of telecommuting on productivity.

Are distractions present when you work from home?

Yes. You will have distractions when you work from home but these factors are easier to manage compared to time spent at the office:

  • Put away the mobile phone; leave a voice message
  • Use a separate PC for work; it should have no access to social media and other non-work related sites
  • Utilize focus blocks; 90 minutes of 100% focus for work followed by a rest period of 30 minutes

2. Lower Attrition Rate

Attrition is a reduction in the workforce whether through resignation or retirement. In the context of Human Resources (HR), attrition is synonymous with the weakening of the workforce.

A company that has a high rate of employee turnover – employees leaving the workforce – has a negative connotation. When a company has a reputation for having high attrition rates, the common assumptions relate to an unhappy workforce.

In its 2018 report, the Work Institute estimates that 1 in 4 Americans will leave the workforce to look for better opportunities. The alarming statistic should be a wakeup call for most employers to meet the demands and expectations of their employees.

A proven way to lower the levels of attrition is to hire remote or home-based workers. Studies have shown that employees who have accepted telecommuting assignments are much happier and productive.

For companies, lower attrition rates mean more savings. They are able to save almost $11,000 per employee in terms of absenteeism, turnover, and overhead costs.

How about work from home entrepreneurs?

Ask home-based entrepreneurs how different it is working from home and an office. Many, if not all will tell you they are happier with the new career direction for the following reasons:

  • They no longer have to worry about rush hour traffic.
  • They don’t have to deal with office politics.
  • As business owners, what they earn equates to their level of productivity. When you are an FTE or Full Time Employee, your salary essentially encapsulates your worth to the company.
  • They set their own work schedule.

Instead of having to worry about traffic, a home-based entrepreneur can get started on work right after having his first mug of coffee!

3. Better Life/Work Balance

As an FTE, your schedule is at the mercy of the Workforce Manager or the Supervisor. If you are asked to put in overtime work to finish a deadline, you can’t say “No” even if it means missing your daughter’s ballet performance or your son’s football game.

In some cases, you may even have to bring work to your home.  Instead of having a nice glass of red wine and a plate of cheese with crackers with the wife on a Friday night, you find yourself crunching numbers or finishing up a report.

Working from home assures you of a better life/work balance because now you have complete control of your schedule. If you are a freelancer, your client may give you deadlines.

However, all the client cares about is that you complete the project on or before the due date. It will not matter how you set your schedule.

When you have a better life/work balance you are happier because you are able to fulfill your obligations to both your clients and family. It makes you feel more fulfilled. You no longer live for work but instead, work to live.

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4. Streamlined Costs of Business

Some entrepreneurs believe that your business should have a brick-and-mortar office. So they look for affordable office space, pay the required security and rental deposits, buy furniture, and make the daily commute to work every day.

Over time they realize that they could have saved hundreds if not thousands of dollars every month if they managed their business from home.

In the first place, by working from home, you can save up on the following expenses:

  • Rent
  • Tenant dues
  • Internet service
  • Power
  • Water
  • Telephone

Of course, you can factor in the estimated rental cost on your home office to get a more accurate measure of business performance. However, you don’t really pay actual rent.

Likewise, businesses that outsource work also reap the cost-saving benefits of contracting the services of freelancers, telecommuters, and other third-party service providers.

In our experience, clients save money by contracting Mountaintop to handle website management, digital marketing, and content marketing instead of hiring FTEs. They save up on salaries, employee benefits, rental space, the additional cost of Internet bandwidth, power, water, and office supplies.

5. Stay Fit and Healthy

Stress is one of the leading contributors to heart disease, strokes, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and other dangerous illnesses and conditions. Your career can be a major source of stress.

In addition to overtime work and meeting deadlines, you also have to deal with traffic, office politics, lack of job fulfillment, financial problems, the threat of being laid-off, the absence of a clear career/succession path, and company culture to name a few.

Doctors prescribe regular exercise as the best way to manage stress. Those who work in an office environment say they have “no time to work out” because they are “too busy”.

Working from home will afford you the time to exercise. You don’t even have to go to a gym to get exercise. You can get a few exercise equipment such as dumbbells, resistance bands, a Yoga Mat, and a jump rope to get started.

Or why not take a quick run or a 30-minute stroll at the park?

You can also eat healthier food when working from home. You have complete control over what you eat. Sure it takes time to prepare your meals. But with advanced planning, you can pre-pack your meals and just reheat your food for a few minutes when you want to eat.

Office people tend to patronize bars, restaurants, and the food court for lunch. While some restaurants offer healthier fare, it will be hard to choose a fresh garden salad with olive oil vinaigrette dressing when everyone else is ordering hamburgers with French fries!

Taking frequent naps is another good way to combat the effects of stress. You might be allowed by your employer to take a 10-minute nap during your break. However, taking a 30-minute nap in your own bed or favorite couch is even better.

6. Generate Higher Savings

Working in an office entails daily expenses. Your list of expenses includes gasoline, food, water, and an allowance for contingencies. You will also be tempted to spend more.

Thinking of going to the mall for a quick bite? You might end up buying something else other than just food and drink. Of course, there are the get-togethers with the office mates. It is not uncommon for office mates to have a few drinks at the bar after work hours.

The expenses all seem insignificant until you check the daily balance of your bank account.

You will spend less when you are working from home. First, you don’t have to commute. Second, everything you need – food and water – are already in place. Lastly, unless you watch the shopping network during your break time, there is nothing at home that will tempt you to spend.

Thus, spending less means you can save more of your hard-earned income. The money that you used to spend on gasoline, food, drink, and contingencies will now go to your savings account.

How much money are we talking about?

According to a survey by CareerBuilder, the average American office worker spends $3,500 per year on transportation, food, coffee, water, and contingencies! You can do a lot with $3,500 in your bank account every year.

7. Provides an Environmentally-Friendly Solution

A study conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) revealed that we could prevent 1.5 billion pounds of gas emissions if all office equipment was Energy Star certified.

The problem is when you set up an office, your priority is to buy equipment that will fit your budget. Oftentimes, these types of office equipment may not be environmentally friendly.

With fewer expenses, you can purchase more environmentally friendly equipment for your home office. For many people, especially the Millennials, creating a sustainable workspace is a big incentive for working at home.

You do not need as much paper and can do away with equipment such as fax machines, printers, and copiers when setting up your home-based office.

Conclusion

Did we convince you about the benefits of working from home? Before you make a decision to move your business from a brick-and-mortar office to your home, there are a few things you need to consider:

  • Make sure your home office is conducive for productive work. There should be no distractions within the area. No TV. No refrigerator. The PC should be dedicated for work purposes only.
  • Prepare for contingencies. Be ready to move to another location in case of power failure. If you are not confident of your Internet Service Provider (ISP), consider getting a backup ISP.
  • If you live with other people, ask them to respect your business hours. That includes your kids.
  • Make sure your PC is reliable. That is your bread and butter equipment. Invest in a good, powerful PC that can get the job done.

Do not scrimp on the hardware. If you regularly meet with your clients online, buy the best headset and make sure there is enough capacity to handle audio-visual calls.

Working from home will be a definite change of pace. It may take some time to get used to. However, you will soon realize that transitioning to a home-based office was the right move for your business.

If you enjoyed this article, please feel free to share it. And if you have other tips for those who want to work from home, kindly share them in the comments section.

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You’re in a lunch meeting with a representative of a company that could potentially be your biggest client. The company is looking to invest millions in a strategic partnership that could set you up for your retirement years. The representative shares that the company plans to capitalize up to 60% of their investment through borrowings:

“How has the inflation rate been trending the last 6 months?”

You have no idea what to say. It feels like your whole life just flashed before your eyes. More like, your retirement plans.

Why would a company entrust millions of dollars of investments to a partner who is not even updated with the inflation rate? If you don’t know the latest trends and developments on a fundamental concept in macroeconomics, what more about key political issues? Peace and order?

You don’t have to be a business dealing with foreign partners to stay updated on business news. Every business owner regardless of industry or scale should make the news a part of his/her daily work schedule.

Reading the latest business news will not take too much time. You can go through various publications and news websites while having a 30-minute coffee break. It will certainly make your coffee break time a more productive one.

What Does Business News Have To Do With My Private Business?

Everything. For the reason that we are living in a globalized economy, what happens in one region is no longer contained in that region. Instead, it has repercussions in other parts of the world.

Do you remember the Greek Referendum of 2011? Greece held a referendum for the people to decide on whether the country should leave the European Union (EU) or stay.

At stake was an economic bailout package from the EU which could help Greece get back on its feet. However, the bailout package had strict and very harsh austerity measures.

The referendum kept the world on pins and needles. If Greece decided to leave the EU, it would effectively default on its debts. The shockwaves would surely be felt throughout Europe, most notably the biggest lender, Germany.

There were also repercussions worldwide particularly for countries such as the United States which negotiated large-scale trade agreements with the EU.

The Greek Referendum of 2011 has its roots in 2008 when the Euro Zone realized Greece would have difficulty paying off its loans to the EU.

Around this time, a number of multinational companies such as Bank of America, Deutsche Bank, JP Morgan, and IBM started to pivot away from Europe and began to set up operations in Asia which did not have large exposure in the EU.

In fact, the problems that plagued the Euro Zone helped transform Asia as the world’s new seat of power. Asia is considered by many as the world’s fastest-growing region.

Case Study: The Bakery Owner

Assuming you own a bakery, how would these global events affect my business?

When there are fewer investments in your country, there will be fewer opportunities available in terms of jobs. With more people entering the unemployed, aggregate demand will be reduced. People will be spending less and saving more.

If your country is import-dependent, fewer investments can lead to a weaker currency. The cost of raw materials will be more expensive and will have an impact on your profit margins.

Petroleum is a major factor of production. It is a significant cost component in the manufacturing and transportation of products. If petroleum prices rise, everything rises. There will be a cascading effect – from the prices of raw materials to rental rates. The problem is worse if you have a weak currency.

So what will you do in the face of rising cost of raw materials, rent, and lower aggregate demand? Should you raise prices right away?

An alternative course of action is to change your business model. You can set up an e-commerce website for your bakery where customers can place their orders. This way, you open up a new stream of revenue for your business.

The cost of maintaining an e-commerce website is not much. Also, you can bake on demand and thus, reduce your inventory. If the volume of sales improves, you can put a temporary freeze on any price increase.

Eventually, you can do a comparative cost analysis. The result of the study will help you decide on whether to keep the brick-and-mortar bakery open or become a 100% online bakery business.

5 Reasons Why Business Owners Need To Be Aware Of Business News

As we just showed you, the effects of developments in other parts of the world will have repercussions on other countries and even on small businesses.

With the Greek Referendum of 2011, the businesses that planned their alternative courses of action in 2008-2009, were able to survive and even thrive in the face of worldwide turmoil.

Don’t assume that because you own a small or medium scale business that such major events will not affect you. When it comes to running a business, you must always be prepared to deal with uncertainties.

Keeping yourself updated on the latest developments around the world – and in your own backyard – is a step in the right direction.

Here are 5 reasons why business owners need to be aware of business news:

1. Improves Your Critical Decision-Making Skills

Contrary to what some people think, getting immersed in business news will not make you paranoid. The root of this thinking comes from the popular perception that news only focuses on negative developments.

To a certain extent, there is some truth to this. Media will tend to focus on negative developments because it attracts more interest. When you read business news, your purpose is to analyze the development and assess how it would affect your own business.

For example, if the government increased the minimum wage, how would it affect your cost of operations? Would it affect your profit margins significantly? How would the increase in the minimum wage rate affect your plans to expand your business? Would you consider outsourcing some tasks to streamline costs?

Reading the business news creates a cycle of “Question and Answer” which will help you come up with courses of action that could protect your business when conditions turn adverse in the future.

The key to finding the right information is to patronize only the most reliable and trustworthy websites. For your daily news, we recommend The Morning Brew for the following reasons:

  • The news is delivered straight to the point without fluff or filler content.
  • The articles are very well-written and kept brief and concise.
  • Reporting is generally unbiased and informative.
  • You can find news that fits your business or industry.

We have included the link to The Morning Brew. Get your news hot and fresh off the press every morning – and it is for free!

2. Provides Great Resources For Understanding Your Customer

Because of the Internet, people have more access to information. Your customers can easily be influenced by what they see and read on the Internet. In a few months – even weeks – the demographic that composes your audience may undergo significant changes.

The news also provides content that can help you develop a better understanding of your customer. Some publications and websites frequently share data on changing consumer behavior.

You can come across informative articles that discuss what customers expect from retailers and manufacturers. There are websites that feature opinion pieces from resource people who are attuned with the pulse of the market.

They have the ability to clearly articulate important information that you could use for business planning purposes.

Businesses that are involved in technology would greatly benefit from news about changing demand preferences. What kinds of apps are people looking for? For the reason that sales of PC continue to decline, will you campaign harder for mobile responsive design? What types of hardware for smartphones are in demand?

Creating a buyer’s profile is an important part of running a business. You should always keep track of what your buyers or followers need.

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3. Research Your Industry And Competitors

To run a successful business, you must also keep track of your competitors. Find out how they are performing in the industry. Are they introducing new products and services in the market?

Whenever an innovative product or game-changing service is launched, you can be sure that the news media will cover it. In some cases, the company – your competitor – will pay for the press release announcing the groundbreaking innovation.

Keep in mind that your competitors are also doing research on the industry and possibly, on you. Changes in their business development plans are a result of the investments the company has made on its research efforts.

By conducting research on your industry and competitors, you will also know which products or services are no longer in demand. You can uncover which competitors have closed down. From there, you can find out the reasons which contributed to their downfall.

4. Builds Up Your Analytical Mind

In some ways, keeping a daily schedule of reading the business news is like being in university. You learn new things every day. And if you don’t know some of the terms discussed or if the article appears vague, you will be compelled to do research.

When you were studying in the university, learning concepts such as depreciation, trade and budget deficits, Gross Domestic Product, and deregulation seemed pointless.

Now that you are running a business, you have developed a greater appreciation for economics because you can apply them to real-life situations.

You may have to go back to your old college textbooks to refresh your memory on what depreciation is. However, more than just learning its definition, you will clearly understand what depreciation is and how it can impact your business.

5. Great For Networking

Knowledge is power. That saying is 100% accurate and true. When you are updated in business news, you will never attend a business meeting unprepared. An important rule to remember when reading business news is that it is an exercise in comprehension, not memory work.

Do not memorize terms, names, dates, and events. A more effective approach would be to understand the information in the article; analyze it and apply the data to your own business.

“How will this new development in the news affect my business?”

Likewise, you will function more comfortably in a networking event. For sure, some of the people that you will attempt to connect with would like to find out your opinions on current events and the prevailing issues in the industry.

How you articulate your opinions will definitely influence the outcome of your networking efforts. People who are impressed with your knowledge would certainly want to connect with you and potentially do business in the future.

Conclusion

Although reading the news is usually done during break time or before the commencement of work, it can still qualify as part of the productive time. While you may occasionally skim through the funnies, sports, or entertainment, you must always prioritize business news.

For your business news-reading activity to become more productive, you should follow only the most reliable sources of information. As we suggested earlier, The Morning Brew is a great source of news. Sign up for a free subscription and get your fix of business news with your daily dose of caffeine every morning.

Do you have a particular favorite news website? Please feel free to share your recommendations on the comments section below.

And if you enjoyed this article, give us a call and we can help you write amazing and compelling content that will keep your business top-of-mind.

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While many employees spend their free time daydreaming of becoming financially independent, the entrepreneur is working to make the dream a reality. That is why entrepreneurs are risk-takers by nature.

Entrepreneurs are willing to take that all-important first step of breaking free from the chains of the 9-to-5 grind and take command of their of their own destiny. Instead of driving someone else’s business, they go behind the wheel and follow the course they have charted for their own business success.

Yet, sometimes these very same attributes – ambition, drive, and dedication – can become an entrepreneur’s own worst enemies.

They end up taking on too many tasks most of which are administrative in nature. As a result, a big chunk of their waking hours are spent – rather, wasted – attending to functions that have no direct contribution to their bottom line.

The workday becomes unproductive. The essential tasks or the core functions of the business are left unattended. Goals are not met. Business targets become farther away today compared to yesterday.

By taking on non-essential tasks, the entrepreneur ends up working for his/her business instead of on his/her business. Ironically, the entrepreneur has become an employee of his/her own business.

Is there a way or a process the entrepreneur can use so he/she can focus on the main functions of the business without overlooking the administrative tasks?

The Solution: Outsource Tasks And/Or Services!

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Would you rather spend 2 hours filtering your Inbox or working on a client’s project?
  • Would you like it if your phone keeps ringing every 30 minutes while you are working on your client’s project?
  • Would it be okay with you if the Internet provider cut its service because you unwittingly forgot to pay the latest invoice?

If you answered “No” to these questions, it is time for you to consider outsourcing tasks of your business.

Outsourcing is the process of delegating or transferring predetermined tasks or functions to a third-party service provider.

You can read more about the benefits of outsourcing in our article “How Outsourcing Tasks Can Save You Tons Of Money – And Build Your Business”. In the article, we presented an accounting of how much money you can save through outsourcing.

Essentially, outsourcing is the ideal strategy for entrepreneurs, especially those in the start-up stage, because it is a low-cost, high-value solution. From the article, you will come to understand that with outsourcing, costs are easily managed.

Outsourcing will present you with options that you can use to stretch your finances without compromising the quality of goods and services.

FTE Vs. Outsourced Talent: Which Is The Better Option?

Cost savings are possible because you are taking advantage of comparative advantages that are generated by outsourcing foremost of which is labor.

With outsourcing, you are not hiring full-time employees or FTEs. Instead, you are contracting the services of qualified people or agencies. This distinction between FTE and contracted services is very important!

Let’s compare the FTE and the outsourced talent:

Particulars:FTE:Outsourced Talent:
Rate/Hour (Minimum)$18$8
Work Hours/Day8Flexible
Work Days/Week5 to 6Flexible
Paid Benefits:YesNo
Total Cost:$27/hour$8

As you can see, flexibility is the key differentiator between an outsourced talent and an FTE. When you contract services, you are not obligated by law to pay a minimum wage or designate the mandated work hours per week.

This makes it possible to be more financially flexible with the outsourced talent compared to hiring an FTE.

Here are some real-world examples:

  • Contract the services of a virtual assistant who can manage your administrative tasks 10 hours a week.
  • Outsource content writing services and pay the outsourced talent on a per word or per productive hour basis.
  • Outsource web development/management services to Mountaintop Web Design and pay fixed charges on a monthly basis.

By agreeing on the conditions for payment, you are assured of higher productivity and better quality of work.

According to a study that was presented by productivity coach Steve Pavlina, the average American office worker only puts in 90 minutes of productive work every day.

That is 90 minutes out of 480 total work minutes every day or a productivity rating of only 19%! Yet, America remains the strongest economy in the world.

What happened to the remaining 390 minutes? According to Pavlina, those hours are spent surfing the Internet, taking extended water cooler/coffee breaks,  napping, checking their cell phones, and reading the news.

Guess what? Those hours are paid. This means every time an FTE chit-chats with a another FTE about the latest Netflix movie, you are paying for those minutes.

By outsourcing, you are also increasing your level of productivity because now you can place greater focus on the main enterprise of your business.

A study presented by the Harvard Business Review showed that at most, people can only maintain 100% focus on a given task for 90 minutes. After completing the task, you have to rest the mind for at least 10 minutes.

Assuming an 8-hour work schedule, this means that by outsourcing tasks, you can target 4 to 5 tasks to accomplish every day. That is 360 minutes out of 480 minutes per day or a productivity rating of 75%!

In contrast, a fully-paid FTE who can tender only 90 minutes of productive time per day will possibly only accomplish 1 task per day.

Which Tasks Should You Outsource?

Hopefully, at this point, we have convinced you of how outsourcing can build your business. The question we will answer in this section is which tasks you should outsource.

In the future, we will present a more detailed and comprehensive article on how to take a strategic approach to outsourcing that can scale up your business. For now, we will show you how to identify the tasks that you should outsource in order to streamline costs and increase productivity.

You will need to answer these questions:

  • Which tasks are non-essential or not directly related to my business’ main enterprise?
  • Which tasks will require a higher level of expertise and greater experience?
  • Which tasks are repetitive in nature?
  • Which tasks do I have the tendency to overlook or forget?
  • Which tasks do I greatly dislike doing?

From there, you will probably come up with the same or similar tasks that we have outlined below:

1. Administrative Tasks

For many entrepreneurs, administrative tasks are the necessary evils of running a business. These tasks are categorized as non-essentials, meaning they are not directly related to your business’ main enterprise. However, they play an essential role because administrative tasks keep your business organized and running.

Examples of administrative tasks that you should outsource:

  • E-mail Filtering
  • Calendar Management
  • Appointment Setting
  • Phone Handling
  • Preparing Reports
  • Limited Research
  • Database or CRM Management
  • Bookings and Reservations
  • Preparation of Limited Communication

2. Technical/Specialized Skills

Your business may need to introduce new products and services that require greater skill, a higher level of expertise, and longer tenure. These are skills that you cannot become proficient at simply by watching YouTube videos or reading a “For Dummies” instructional. Otherwise, the quality of work will suffer.

Examples of technical/specialized skills that you should outsource:

  • Website Design/Management
  • Digital Marketing
  • Search Engine Optimization
  • Search Engine Marketing
  • Content Writing
  • Graphic Design
  • Software App Development
  • Transcription Services
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3. Customer Support Services

Many businesses stunt their growth because they are only focused on new market development. In so doing, they neglect their current market base or end users of their products or services.

Don’t forget your current end users. They are already your customers. The cost of maintaining them is lower than creating new markets for your products and services. And the returns are much higher because your current end users already made the decision to choose you over the competition.

Having great customer service assures your existing end users that their needs and concerns are always met and addressed right away.

Examples of Customer Support Services that you should outsource:

  • Inbound Phone Support
  • Technical Support Services
  • Email Support
  • After-Sales Surveys or Outbound Call Support
  • Chat Support
  • Content Moderation Services

4. Back-Office Functions

It’s called the back-office because the people who work here are not seen but otherwise play a valuable role in running your business. You can outsource these tasks to qualified third-party service providers and still get great results.

Examples of back-office functions that you should outsource:

  • General Accounting
  • Payroll Preparation
  • Employee Benefits Administration
  • Human Resources Management – Recruitment, interviews, testing, evaluation, and selection

Conclusion

To better understand the value of outsourcing, let’s delve into the mind of the entrepreneur.

Entrepreneurs or to be more specific, small to medium scale business owners, are limited by their resources. Even the most successful ones do not have the benefit of liquidity compared to large scale businesses. This is, of course, part of the growth process.

As a small business owner, the immediate challenge is to maintain liquidity before achieving profitability. Effective cash flow management is very important. Thus, an entrepreneur strives to keep operations as lean as possible.

Instead of hiring employees to help him/her run the show, they take on most, if not all of the tasks of the business.

Ask any entrepreneur and they will tell there is nothing they can’t do. Like a superhero, an entrepreneur will take on any challenge and believe they can win it. The reality is, victories are only short-term.

Over the long-run, the number of unproductive workdays has accumulated to a point that the business starts to suffer.

Your best option is to outsource specific tasks or functions. Not only will outsourcing services greatly reduce the costs of running a business but the strategy will help you increase productivity without compromising the quality of work.

If you enjoyed this article and know people who would greatly benefit from it, please feel free to share!

And if you would like to know how Mountaintop can help you get started on your own outsourcing solution, please do not hesitate to give us a call. You can consult with us for 30 minutes free of charge.

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As we head toward the finish line in 2018, small businesses have begun the process of closing their books. Across the U.S, small business owners and decision-makers are preparing their year-end business review to assess their performance for the last 365 days. Once the books have been closed, all thoughts begin to turn toward 2019.

Why Small Businesses Are The New Engines Of Economic Growth

In 2009, the U.S. economy was in a freefall. Nearly 8 million jobs were lost from 2007 to 2009. The stock market lost trillions of dollars in wealth. People not only lost their jobs, but they also lost their homes. The once-mighty U.S. automotive industry was reeling from the effects of the global recession.

Then-U.S. President Barack Obama called upon the small business owner to help stimulate growth in the economy.

Obama referred to the small business sector as “the backbone of the American economy” and introduced a stimulus package from two American Reinvestment and Recovery Acts that pumped in nearly US$1 Trillion to help budding entrepreneurs cope with the recession.

Politics aside, it should be of no surprise why Obama viewed the small business sector with such high regard.

In 2016, the US Small Business Administration (USSBA) reported that there were 5.6 Million employer firms. Of these businesses, 99.7% had fewer than 500 employees. These firms are classified as “small business” and in 2016, small businesses helped generate more than 1.1 million new jobs.

Small businesses increase aggregate demand and spending which help stimulate growth in the economy. If the economy is strong, more jobs are created and made available to the labor force.

That is why the small business sector is the new engine of economic growth.

The 7 Biggest Challenges Facing US Small Businesses In 2019

In comparison to big businesses, small business owners are more vulnerable to adverse changes in the economy. For the reason that they operate with tighter budgets and have smaller profit margins, the success of a small business is more sensitive to factors that affect cost and consumer behavior.

The failure rate of small businesses is quite high. According to the USSBA, 50% of US small businesses fail within the first 5 years and only 25% make it past 15 years. There are a number of reasons why small businesses don’t succeed. Among them are as follows:

  • Lack of Money Management Skills
  • Poor Business Planning
  • Rigid Business Modeling
  • Lack of Marketing and Promotional Activities
  • Expanding Too Soon

In view of these factors, the key to achieving success in 2019 is enhanced foresight. Thus, you should anticipate the conditions, situations, and events that could have an effect on your business performance so you could be prepared to address them in 2019.

We don’t have a crystal ball or a time machine at Mountaintop. However, we have met and have had interesting – often lively – discussions with our clients. Our talks centered on what 2019 could possibly hold for small business owners.

Here are 7 of the biggest challenges facing US small businesses in 2019:

1. Rising Interest Rates

When starting a business, you need money to capitalize your operations and for working capital for at least 6 months. How will you fund your business? Where will you get the money to keep your business afloat?

Among the options available for small businesses include bootstrapping, getting partners, securing funding from sources like Angel Investors or Kickstarter. The most utilized avenue is to get a business loan from the bank.

Rising interest rates will affect the cash flow of the small business owner. You could probably negotiate an arrangement where payments for the principal amount would only come in during the second year.

However, if the performance of your business does not improve significantly, the increased cost of amortization will become a bigger burden on your cash flow. Rising interest rates will also affect small business owners who accumulated credit card debt in order to fund their business needs.

The US Federal Reserve increased its benchmark rate from 2% to 2.25% last September. Fed Chairman Jay Powell is not concerned about the rate increase because the rates are still relatively low and should not discourage small business owners from seeking bank loans.

The Fed is eyeing 3 interest rate increases in 2019 and one more in 2020.

2. Hiring the Right People

Whether you are looking to hire 5 or 500, finding the right people to help you run your small business can be tough.

The keyword in the preceding statement is “right”. You want to hire people who are “right-fit” for your business. This means people who are aligned with your own values, embrace your purpose, and therefore, subscribe to your vision.

Finding right-fit people has less to do with their technical and fundamental competencies and more with their behavioral attributes. When we speak about “attributes”, we are referring to soft skills. These are the personality traits that make an individual a perfect fit for your organizational culture.

In fact, more companies are placing greater emphasis on soft skills rather than technical or hard skills.

Would you prefer to hire someone with the highest job recommendations and achievements but is socially disruptive to your organization or someone with modest accomplishments but is willing to learn and stay dedicated to the fulfillment of your business objectives?

People who share your values, purpose, and vision are potential leaders that can be developed within your organization. They will help your business navigate through the toughest economic periods.

3. Healthcare Costs

Healthcare costs are the problem of small businesses that have more than 50 employees because the law mandates them to provide adequate healthcare benefits.

The Commonwealth Fund which studies the healthcare systems of countries around the world has ranked the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Australia as having the best coverage.

In its most recent study, the Commonwealth Fund has ranked the United States’ healthcare system as the worst performing even though America spends the most.

In 2016 alone, more than 27 million Americans did not have insurance coverage because they either could not afford it, live in a state that would not expand Medicaid coverage, or were undocumented.

Healthcare costs are also being driven up by rising administrative expenses. There is just too much bureaucracy in the US healthcare system. Doctors are spending so much time reconciling claims with insurance companies.

Unfortunately, it does not seem that healthcare for Americans is going to get better as we head toward 2019.

The Trump administration appears to be more motivated to discredit Obamacare than finding ways to improve it. As a result, healthcare has become a political issue that has polarized many of the federal states.

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4. Increasing Revenue

As the popular saying in business goes, “If you want to make more money, you have to be willing to spend more money.”

For the reason that they have tighter budgets and limited access to capital, increasing revenue is a bigger challenge for small businesses compared to large businesses.

Small businesses need capital to fund new products and services; run digital and traditional marketing programs, finance expansion projects such as the opening of additional branches or outlets, and to improve infrastructure.

It is difficult for small businesses to become more aggressive in their business development programs without access to more capital. Unfortunately, most banks and lending institutions are stricter with small businesses than large businesses.

5. Aligning Business Practices with Changing Customer Behavior

According to a report published by Gartner entitled, “Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2019”, businesses need to factor in changing consumer behavior in their development plans for 2019.

The Gartner study revealed that consumers who are part of the Millennials and Generation Z demographic will be influential in the coming year. These groups tend to patronize businesses that have a conscience for society as well as the environment.

Similarly, Millenials and Gen Z’ers will distance themselves from businesses they perceive as not having corporate governance; values, ethics, and practices that contribute to worsening social and environmental issues.

The findings of the Gartner report are supported by a separate study conducted by Deloitte entitled “The 2018 MIllennial Survey”.

The Internet and social media have given consumers the platform to be seen and heard. Small business owners have an advantage that large businesses do not have.

When a business transitions from small-scale to large-scale, it also creates a more decentralized structure. The owners drift further and further away from their customers as these tasks are left to managers who are hired to handle customer service.

As a small business owner, try to stay more involved and engaged with your customers. Make yourself more accessible through social media, your blogs, and of course, your website.

By staying active and involved with your customers, you will be able to give your business a personality the market can trust and identify with.

6. Improving Profitability

Earlier we discussed the challenge for small businesses to increase revenues in 2019. Revenue is just one part of the profitability equation. The other variable is cost.

For a small business to remain profitable in 2019, it should not only focus on increasing revenues. Likewise, it should find ways to streamline costs. In times of economic uncertainty, companies will cut costs in order to remain profitable.

Even if sales are increasing, margins can be compromised if the costs of production are increasing.

A proven way of streamlining costs without compromising the quality of production is outsourcing. This is the process whereby select tasks and responsibilities are delegated to a qualified third party.

For example, instead of setting up an in-house Digital Marketing team whereby you have to hire a certified Digital Marketer, content writers, graphic designer, web designer, SEO specialist, and social media marketer, why not outsource Digital Marketing to a qualified third party like Mountaintop Web Design?

We have a team of experienced and expert web designers, programmers, digital marketers, SEO specialists, graphic designers, and content writers who can run your online campaigns.

With an in-house Digital Marketing team, you will have monthly recurring expenses such as salaries, benefits, rent, office supplies, and Internet services. By outsourcing the service to us, you will only pay for actual services rendered.

By outsourcing services, you can lower your operating costs by as much as 80%! Other responsibilities that are popularly outsourced are accounting, customer service, IT, and telemarketing.

7. Improving Data Security

The threat of being hacked and infiltrated by cyber-criminals is an everyday reality. These cyber-criminals have been enjoying a windfall in the last 2 years. For the reason that the hacking business has remained profitable, you should expect cyber-criminal activity to become even more aggressive in 2019.

Thus, small businesses should consider investing more in cyber-security measures. You should find ways to fortify your website and ensure the protection and integrity of business data.

Here are 5 important statistics on cyber-attacks that all small business owners should be aware of:

  • Small business owners are the target of 43% of cyber-attacks.
  • Your business might close down 6 months after a cyber-attack.
  • During the period from May 2015 to May 2016, 55% of respondents in a small business survey report having experienced a cyber-attack.
  • 58% of respondents claim they are concerned about a cyber-attack in the future but 51% have no plans of allocating a budget for cyber-security.
  • Only 38% of small business owners regularly update software programs.

If you own a WordPress website, you should consider signing up for our Extreme WordPress care programs. These are customized sets of repair and maintenance packages that have been put together by our web development team.

We will take care of your website for you while you go ahead with your day’s regular schedule. You can go to sleep knowing that your website is in good hands and protected against threats posed by cyber-criminals.

Conclusion

Regardless of how your business performed in 2018, the New Year will always bring forward a great feeling of anticipation. Even though 1 January 2019 is just another day in the life of the business, as far as the books are concerned, it is a new chapter.

The New Year brings in hope; a promise for a better year and the anticipation of new challenges for businesses but particularly for small and medium-scale enterprises.

If you enjoyed this article, please feel free to share it with your friends. And if you have other ideas on the challenges that small businesses will face in 2019, kindly share in the comments section below.

Most importantly, please share your proposed solutions!

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Whether you believe leaders are born or made, one thing is very clear. Leadership is a skill. Like all skills, you must continually work on it in order to become a better and more proficient leader. You need tools to help you stay sharp. These tools are resources with the necessary information that will further your development as a leader.  

If you observe the work habits and ethics of the most iconic leaders in business and politics, they make learning a part of their daily routine. They take time during the day to read books, references, and online articles to broaden their knowledge on subjects that will help them grow as leaders in their respective industries.

Much has been said about the importance of finding the best talent in the market. Companies want to hire people with the highest educational attainment, the most tenure, or those with the longest list of accolades and achievements.

A lot of the emphasis has been on the hard skills or the measurable qualities that are specific to the job. However, a shift toward soft skills or the behavioral attributes that define the individual’s approach to the job has been noticeable in the last five years.

According to a survey conducted by Bloomberg in 2015 which involved 1,320 recruiters from 600 companies, showed that more employers have been putting greater emphasis on soft skills.

Leadership skills are one of the most after attributes of employers along with strategic- thinking and creative problem-solving.

Definition of Leadership

Google the phrase, “What is Leadership” and you will get several definitions of the term. The definitions are phrased differently but essentially mean the same thing and share common words:

  • Ability – Connotes that leadership is a skill; you have to work on it in order to develop the ability to lead your organization.
  • Lead – Root word; a leader is one who takes charge, goes to the forefront of the direction he/she has charted for the organization.
  • Others – Refers to people; your employees, teammates or subordinates.
  • Achieve – A leader is focused on achieving a stated goal.
  • Common Goal – The achievement of the goal is shared by the leader with his/her people.
  • Take Risks – A leader takes risks because he/she knows that is part of the decision-making process.
  • Accountable – Once the decision is made, the leader accepts accountability for the end result. The leader does this so that alternative courses of action are made in the event the desired result is not achieved.
  • Decision-Making – A leader believes that “If you are not moving forward, you are moving backward”. Decisions have to be made on a day-to-day basis. Some will be risky and some will not be popular. However, decisions have to be made nonetheless.

From these keywords, we can arrive at our own definition of leadership:

Leadership is the ability to lead others and achieve a common goal by taking risks and accepting accountability for all decisions that have been made.

The Best Resources For Self-Directed Leadership Development

In a global economy, the demand for good leaders has become greater. Business conditions have become more unpredictable and ambiguous. Companies need people who are willing to step forward and make the hard decisions.

Leaders are able to make these hard decisions because they have the ability to foresee change before it happens. Therefore, they can implement revisions to the strategy that will allow them to accommodate or adapt to changes in business conditions.

How will you develop these abilities to foresee change and come up with immediate solutions?

Experience is the best teacher. However, you should also learn from the experiences of others. We have come up with a list of the best resources that you can use for leadership development.

I. Books

1. “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership” by John Maxwell

This book was written in 1998 by highly-respected and world-acclaimed leadership development expert, John Maxwell. According to Maxwell, there are 21 laws to attaining effective leadership and that these laws should never be broken regardless of the situation. Among these laws are:

  • The Law of the Lid
  • The Law of Influence
  • The Law of Process
  • The Law of Navigation
  • The Law of Addition

The book continues to inspire other people to become better leaders in their respective industries.

Christian businessman John Faulkner cited the book as his inspiration for starting the business publication, “Two Ten”. NBA basketball player Harrison Barnes credited the book for his improvement as a professional sports personality.

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2. “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Steven Covey

First published in 1989, this book remains Steven Covey’s most popular work to date. It introduced the world to the idea of a “paradigm shift” whereby perspectives cause 2 people to see the same thing and yet arrive at different conclusions.

A chapter is dedicated to each of the 7 habits Covey identifies as key attributes people should develop in order to achieve desired results. To date, the book has sold more than 25 million copies.

3. “The Power of Positive Thinking” by Norman Vincent Peale

Dr. Norman Vincent Peale published this book in 1952. Dr. Peale was a strong advocate of positive thinking. In his book, he cites case histories which prove that adopting a positive attitude and view on life can bring better and more sustainable results.

Dr. Peale gives recommendations on how to develop positive thinking. These techniques include frequent positive affirmations and powerful visualization of positive thoughts.

4. “Winning” by Jack Welch

Jack Welch was an American businessman who is better known as the long-time Chairman and CEO of General Motors. Welch ran GM from 1981 to 2001. During Welch’s term, the value of GM rose by a staggering 4,000%!

In the book, Welch gives his 8 rules on becoming a better leader for your organization.

Welch’s 8 rules heavily focus on the importance of firm decision-making and of developing your team; getting them more involved in accomplishing projects. Similar to Dr. Peale, Welch is an advocate of positive thought and an optimistic attitude.

Warren Buffett, founder of Berkshire Hathaway, called “Winning”, the best book on management he has ever read.

5. “Good to Great” by Jim Collins

Jim Collins is an author and staunch advocate of sustainable business practices. First published in 2001, “Good to Great” chronicles the experiences of companies that transitioned from being “good to great” by developing the organization’s culture, finding right-fit talent, and embracing the advantages of technology.

The Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council called “Good to Great” one of the best management books every executive should take the time to read.

II. Blogs

1. John Maxwell

John Maxwell’s blog features work by other noted leadership experts as well. Maxwell’s blogs cover a wide range of topics other than leadership. He also touches on the latest developments in business, personal growth, performance, and the value of service to society and the community.

2. Michael Hyatt

Michael Hyatt is a well-known author and proponent of effective leadership. He was the former Chairman and CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers. His blog page is packed with rich content and tackles issues on personal development, gaining self-confidence, and gives valuable tips on improving business performance.

3. Mark Sanborn

Mark Sanborn is the founder of a leadership development company, Sanborn & Associates. He is the bestselling author of the book, “The Fred Factor: How Passion In Your Work and Life Can Turn the Ordinary into the Extraordinary”.

Sanborn’s blogs are very insightful and comprehensive. He sheds light on the perspectives of others in your value chain particularly your employees.

4. Jesse Lyn Stoner

Jesse Lyn Stoner is the founder of Seapoint Center. This is an organization composed of leadership experts dedicated to helping companies develop the natural talents and abilities of their people. Her blog page covers a wide range of topics such as communication, leadership habits, and managing remote employees effectively.

5. Scott Eblin

Scott Eblin is the founder of a leadership development company called The Eblin Group. His blog page will give you great advice on how to nurture and develop your innate leadership abilities. After going through Eblin’s content, no doubt, his advice came from years of experience working with some of the biggest and most successful businesses.

Conclusion

What about today’s leaders in business? Which books gave them inspiration for the successes that they have become today?

Here is a short list of successful people and the books that inspired them to achieve greatness:

  1. Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon – “Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies” by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras.
  2. Michael Bloomberg, Founder of Bloomberg LP – “The Innovator’s Dilemma” by Clayton M. Christiansen.
  3. Myron Ullman, CEO of J.C. Penny – “Transparency – How Leaders Create a Culture of Candor” by Warren Bennis, Daniel Goleman, and James O’Toole.
  4. Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks – “The Gospel of Wealth” by Andrew Carnegie.
  5. Hector Ruiz, CEO of Advanced Nanotechnology Solutions – “Good to Great” by Jim Collins.
  6. Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos – “Tribal Leadership – Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving Organization” by Dave Logan, John King, and Halee Fischer-Wright.
  7. Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook – “The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses” by Eric Reis.
  8. Jeff Bewkes, CEO of Time Warner – “Competitive Strategy” by Michael Porter.

Always keep in mind that you have it in you to become a great and effective leader. It is just a matter of identifying these qualities and learning how to nurture them to their fullest.

Reading these published works and taking the time each day to learn all about leadership will go a long way in helping you realize your capabilities and abilities as a leader for your organization.

We have also written a few articles on leadership. These are as follows:

And of course, this one.

We believe leadership is a very important quality to develop whether you are a business owner or a top-level executive. Leaders can become effective managers but not all managers can become effective leaders.

Why? The answer has to do with a leader’s ability to make decisions. There are managers who rose to the ranks because of their performance in their previous position. However, the ability to make the tough decisions requires more than just technical and fundamental competencies.

Leaders understand that not everyone will agree on the decision they make but they pull the trigger nonetheless simply because the company has to keep moving. Leaders know they cannot please everyone so they always focus on what is good for the entire organization.

How about you? Do you have a few favorite books on leadership that you want to share? You may want to make your own list in the comments section provided below.

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Communication is one of the most important areas of business. Missed correspondences can often lead to missed opportunities. A slow response time may also leave an unfavorable impression on your level of professionalism. This is why reading and responding to emails are part of our daily routine. In the digital age, email has become the primary medium of communication.

However, as important as email is, it can severely impact your productivity. According to a study by McKinsey Global Institute (MGI), people spend 28% of their time during the workweek managing emails. In a standard 48- hour workweek, that is 13 hours or 2 hours per workday spent on the Inbox.

What can you do in 2 hours?

Let’s reference the study on “The Ultradian Rhythm” which disclosed that our brains can focus on a task for no more than 90 minutes to 120 minutes before requiring a 20 to 30- minute break or rest period. This means, 2 hours can give you enough time to accomplish one, and even possibly, two essential tasks.

7 Ways You Can Make Time Spent With Email More Productive

Despite email’s implications on business, it remains first and foremost, an administrative task. In other words, a non-essential task. If you spend too much time managing non-essential tasks, your day will become non-productive.

Is there a way to manage email effectively that it does not compromise your level of productivity?

Not just a way. How about 7 ways?

1. Create Different Email Accounts

The Inbox of your business email can be flooded with hundreds of messages on a given day. However, which of these messages are relevant to your business? How many messages are in response to a current need or concern?

If you took the time to filter through them, you may find out that a significant majority are not relevant to your business.

Some may be correspondences from family, friends, or are simply marketing content. Worse, you may come across a good number of suspicious email.

Creating different email accounts is an effective strategy for improving productivity.

First, you will have to establish the purpose of each email account. For example, in addition to your business email, create one that will be the destination point of correspondences from friends, family, and associates who are not connected to your business.

You may also consider creating emails for specific areas of your business. For example, [email protected] would be used for recruitment. Another one would be [email protected] for those who want to learn more about your products and services.

Lastly, be more judicious when giving out your business email address. Do not give your primary email out when signing up for newsletters. You can create another one such as [email protected]

2. Customize the Settings of Your Email According to Preferences

How proficient are you with the features of your email client? They have features that allow you to customize its settings according to your personal preferences. You can program your email client to move, organize, sort, and flag the messages in the Inbox.

You can also create specific lists for your email. For example, you can inform the email client of contacts that should be prioritized. Likewise, you can let the email client know of addresses and contacts you want to be blocked. In your “blacklist”, you should include people who are notorious for spamming activities.

There are email clients that enable you to create filters so you can sort out your Inbox automatically. This will save you the time in scrutinizing which emails to attend to first.

Another approach is to create specific folders to categorize and store the email you receive. For example, if you are managing multiple clients, you can create a folder for each of them.

When you receive an email, briefly scan the content then transfer it to the designated folder. It will be easier to find the email and go over it thoroughly when you finally have the time.

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3. Include Email Filtering as a Break Time Activity

In our article, “Top 7 Tips For Productivity”, we included a section on the use of focus blocks. A focus block is a period of time that has been dedicated to the accomplishment of a specific task.

It is based on the Ultradian Rhythm theory, whereby you should set aside 90 to 120 minutes of 100%, uninterrupted focus on the accomplishment of the task. Once the task has been completed, you should “reward” yourself with a 20 to 30 minute rest period or break time.

You can use the break time to eat, take a nap, or attend to any non-essential task. It would be a good idea to use the 20 to 30 minute break time to filter your Inbox. This way, email management will not intrude upon the time that has been set aside for productive activity.

Let’s assume that in an 8- hour workday, you have established a total of four 90- minute focus blocks. By using the 20- minute break time windows to check email, then total time spent managing the inbox would only be 80 minutes or 1 hour and 20 minutes.

If we reference the MGI study which showed people spend 2 hours per day checking email, then by using focus blocks, you can save 40 minutes per day. You can use the time savings to attend to other tasks.

It will not matter if you allocate the 40 minutes to non-essential tasks as the time saved came from your rest periods, not from productive hours.

4. Shut Off All Email Notifications

Notifications are great reminders but they can be a distraction when they pop up frequently. Not only will the email notification briefly take your mind off the task you are working on, but it may compel you to check and issue an immediate response.

Don’t just shut off email notifications on your PC desktop. Include your mobile phone too. While you’re at it, turn off all notifications coming from your other applications that are often. These apps normally include Skype, Slack, and Viber.

Like we discussed in the previous section, it would be more productive to read your emails during your 20-minute break time. You can also use your break time to check on your messages from the other apps.

5. Maximize Mobile

If you are one of the 80% of people who open their mobile phones first thing in the morning even before brushing their teeth, put the habit into good use by checking your email right away.

Mobile phones make it easier and faster to access your Inbox. Why is this so important? A study by Roy Baumeister revealed that your ability to make rational decisions declines throughout the day. Your capacity to process information may be at its strongest early in the morning.

What does this mean if you think you are not a “morning person”?

You don’t have to respond to an email right away. However, reading it first thing in the morning may allow you to process it more effectively because your mental faculties are still opening up.

Perhaps you will be in a better frame of mind to compose the appropriate response after 2 cups of your favorite coffee!

Another way you can use mobile to maximize productivity is to catch up on your emails while you are commuting to work. Spend your time at the train, the bus, or in the taxi going over your email. You can use the commute to categorize messages, send out reminders or quick responses, and to clear out your Inbox.

6. Don’t Read It?… Unsubscribe!

We have all subscribed to newsletters. For some time, we found the content relevant and useful in our business. However, its relevance could diminish over the years. Eventually, these newsletters will just accumulate and continually flood our Inbox with unwanted content.

If you have subscribed to content that you no longer read, then there is no more valid reason to grant the sender access to your Inbox. The best recourse is to unsubscribe to their mailing list.

If you have not been able to track all the newsletters you have subscribed to, use an app called unroll.me. This app will give you a summary of all the services you have subscribed to. You will have the option to unsubscribe from each service or to put all of them under one message.

7. Keep Your Responses Short and Concise

Email remains one of the most popular forms of communication because you can send quick messages in real time. When crafting a response or original content, it is good practice to keep its length short and concise.

Like you, the recipient of your email may also be facing the challenge of filtering out his/her Inbox. The recipient may have his/her own set of practices that allow email checking to become part of a productive day. Chances are, the recipient of your email will not have the time to go through a long email.

Is there an ideal length for an email? Yes, there is actual research which determined the ideal length of an email that gets the highest response rate from its recipient. According to the study, emails that have a word count of 75 words to 100 words received the highest response rate at 51%. The response rate at 50 words and 125 words is identical at 50%. However, there is a noticeable drop in the response rates when the word count was lower than 50 and greater than 125. What does 100 words look like? This paragraph is 100 words long!

Conclusion

Email is an inescapable reality of everyday life. You will rarely find a day where your Inbox has been zeroed out. For some people, clearing out the Inbox is like a game. They have to be able to clean out their messages at the end of the day.

This is why email presents a conundrum. It is a necessity; email is an important component of a business. Yet, it is also one of the leading causes of stress in the workplace!

A study conducted by Professor Tom Jackson from Loughborough University revealed that 92% of people get stressed out after receiving and reading an email in the workplace.

Thus, it would be advisable to spend as little time filtering email as possible. Another option would be to outsource email management to a qualified third-party service provider.

Bestselling author and productivity advocate, Tim Ferris, found his moment of clarity when he hired virtual assistants to manage his email and other non-essential tasks.

How about you? Do have you have any productivity tips on email management that we did not take up? Kindly share in the comments section below.

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Are you working on your business? Or are you working for your business? If you are spending more time pushing pencils than acting on tasks that add to your bottom-line, then you are working more like an employee than an owner of a business. Yes, we have to check our emails, manage our weekly calendar, and take phone calls. However, as important as these functions are, attending to them does not constitute productivity.

Productivity is associated with effective time management. How you allocate time to manage the tasks you need to accomplish every day will lead to greater productivity. While this is correct. it is not entirely the case. Productivity is also about efficient time management.

We have been conditioned to think that we should work eight hours a day. If you can efficiently manage the time you need to become productive, you won’t have to work eight hours a day.

When it comes to productivity, it is never about quantity. Quality should always be your primary focus.

It is not the number of tasks you accomplished but the type of tasks you finished that matter. It’s not the number of hours you spend working per day but how you spent those hours that count.

If you are not sure of how to attain this, take the time to read our top 7 tips to becoming more productive.

1. Outsource Non-Essential Tasks

The first step to productivity starts with identifying the non-essential tasks from the essential tasks. Non-essential tasks are functions that do not directly contribute to business growth. These tasks can be categorized as follows:

  • Administrative – Email filtering, appointment setting, calendar management, and phone handling.
  • Specialized – Social media marketing, content writing, SEO, graphic design, website management, and digital marketing.
  • Back Office – Accounting/ Payroll, Human Resources, and Information Technology.

Can you imagine having to do all of these tasks yourself? You won’t have enough time to manage the essential tasks or the functions that directly contribute to business growth.

Although they are categorized as “non-essential”, they are otherwise important because these tasks keep your business running. Your best option is to outsource the non-essential tasks to a qualified third-party service provider.

Contract the services of a Virtual Assistant. These are highly-qualified and well-experienced professionals who have made the move from the brick-and-mortar world to the Internet. Virtual assistants are no longer just personal assistants or secretaries. You can find one to handle any task you want to be managed.

Even if you have the experience, skill set, and training, you should not keep yourself preoccupied with the non-essential tasks. In addition to website management, we have had clients outsource specialized tasks such as SEO, digital marketing, content writing, and social media marketing to us.

These tasks require specialized skills and training. Likewise, you need to dedicate time to track and monitor performance. We have the skills and the experience onboard our team to oversee these functions for our client.

Outsourcing is a great strategy. It will help you streamline your costs without compromising your revenue-generating efforts. Best of all, it will increase your productivity by ensuring you have more time to manage the tasks that contribute to business growth.

2. Plan Today Yesterday

“Carpe Diem” is a popular saying in Latin. Translated to English, it means to “Seize the day”. You should start your day with purpose; know what you need to do so that you can accomplish more.

In contrast, if you wake up every morning not knowing what to do first, you will end up wasting time.

The most successful people in business and politics plan for tomorrow the night before. This way, there is no time wasted on guesswork. They get the day off on a flying start; their minds focused on the tasks that need to get done.

Before you end the evening, spend a few minutes planning your agenda for the next day. Review your objective for the week. Prioritize your tasks on the basis of this objective. Rank the tasks based on their importance.

Some people write down the tasks in their smartphone’s Memo app. Others will save them in a productivity app like Evernote. One of the most effective ways is to go old school. Write them down on a whiteboard. The tasks will be the first thing you’ll see in the morning. It will certainly wake you up faster than a triple-shot espresso!

3. Get Your Most Dreaded Task Out of the Way

In the previous tip, we recommended arranging the following day’s tasks based on importance. Another approach would be to prioritize the task you dread doing the most. Get it out of the way so you can focus on the other important tasks in your schedule.

For example, salespeople dread cold calling. However, it remains an effective technique for generating leads as well as converting interest into sales. Salespeople dread cold calling because the rate of rejection is quite high.

Plus, they have to deal with gatekeepers; usually, the receptionist or secretary who is dead set on one thing: to make sure the boss has a productive day!

Unfortunately for telemarketers, cold calling is best done during the first business hour of the day. This is the time when the gatekeeper could still be finalizing the boss’ itinerary for the day.

Closing a deal or making a sale is a game of opportunity where winners and losers are determined within seconds. A telemarketer who hesitates in making the cold call could be preempted by another telemarketer. The moment of hesitation could be costly.

If you want to be productive, do the most dreaded task right away. Who knows? It could be your day’s biggest accomplishment!

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4. Utilize Focus Blocks

Focus blocks are clusters of time that are allocated for specific tasks. While in a focus block, you cannot be distracted. You must be 100% focused. You should not leave your work area until the time allocated for the focus block has expired.

This means no breaks for coffee, water, snacks, or even the restroom. Did you watch the Will Smith movie, “The Pursuit of Happiness”? In the movie, Smith’s character, Chris Gardner, calculated the amount of time people waste going to and from the restroom and factored it in his work schedule.

How much time should you allocate for a task? According to sleep researchers, on average, we can maintain 100% focus for 90 to 120 minutes. To be sure, set aside 90 minutes per focus block.

Once a focus block is completed, take a break equivalent to one-third of its length. This will allow your brain to reset and get ready for the next focus block. Thus, a 90- minute focus block should be followed by a 30-minute rest period. During this time, you can have a snack, go to the restroom, check your messages, or better yet, take a short nap.

If you can accomplish just 3 focus blocks, you would have put in 270 minutes of productive time. That is 4.5 hours of productivity! So who says you have to put in eight hours of work per day to be productive?

According to productivity guru Steve Pavlina, the average American worker only puts in 90 minutes of productive time every day! For a 480-minute work day, 90 minutes only represents 17% productivity.

Again, think about the quality of work. Focus on what the tasks mean for your business. Will they bring me closer to achieving my goals?

If you accomplish 3 tasks that will significantly bring you closer to achieving your business objective, then you have a productive day. On the contrary, if you crossed out 20 tasks in your “to-do” list that are more administrative in function then what you had was a busy day. It was not necessarily productive.

5. Remove All Distractions

Let’s go back to Steve Pavlina’s study which revealed Americans only put in 90 minutes of productive time every day. Pavlina says the rest of the day is spent doing the following activities:

  • Surfing the Internet
  • Checking their social media status
  • Water cooler chatter
  • Coffee breaks
  • Taking snacks
  • Reading the newspaper
  • Taking naps

These activities are definitely not examples of productive behavior. Instead, these activities are prime examples of distractions. Yet, the United States remains the most powerful economy in the world!

Before commencing on work, remove all forms of distractions. Put away your smartphone. Close all of your social media pages. If you work with certain work-related apps open such as Skype, Slack, or Viber, leave a message about your current status.

If you have a secretary or a Virtual Assistant, ask them to just take messages. Make sure your assistant gets complete details on every important call.

6. Get Good Quality of Sleep Every Night

Sleep is an overlooked factor of productivity. Without enough sleep, you will not be able to function properly. Doctors consistently recommend getting 7 to 8 hours of good quality sleep every night. If you are getting less than 7 to 8 hours, you could be exposing yourself to the following health risks:

  • High-blood pressure
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Decreased memory function
  • Affected level of cognition
  • Depression
  • Mood swings

Sleep is your body’s time to recharge. If your body is not properly rested, its various systems may not function properly. People who lack sleep are more susceptible to acquiring diseases, illnesses, and infections because their immune system is compromised.

If you plan your day properly, you will have more time to relax and prepare yourself for a good night’s sleep.

7. Organize Your Meetings

If you manage a team, scheduling meetings is a great way to make sure everyone is on-board and on the same page. However, if meetings are not organized properly, they can be productivity killers.

Before you finalize the meeting, draw up its agenda. Identify the amount of time allocated per item. Prepare an outline of the salient discussion points for each item on the agenda. If you must, assign a discussion point to a team member.

Inform your team of the meeting by routing an email to each and everyone at least one week before its scheduled date. One week will be enough time for them to get ready.

Make sure your email has complete details: time, place, and items to bring if any. Remind everyone to be on time. If necessary, penalize those who are late.

Conclusion

Life is not just about work. If most of your waking hours are spent in the office and on your business, you are not being productive. It does not matter if your bank account is growing. If you are neglecting other aspects of your life such as family, friends, and health, you are not optimizing time that is available to you.

You are merely existing, not living.

Productivity means achieving a balance between life and work. If you follow our top 7 tips for productivity, you won’t have to work 8 hours every day to accomplish your business goals and objectives. Integrate focus blocks into your day, and you may only have to work 4 to 6 hours per day.

Assuming you get 8 hours of good quality of sleep every night, that means you will have 16 hours of daylight to get things done. By being productive and working only 6 hours per day, you will have 10 hours to do other things such as:

  • Have nightly dinners with the family
  • Attend your son’s baseball games
  • Watch your daughter’s piano recital
  • Take your spouse out for dinner
  • Exercise in the gym
  • Catch up on some leisurely reading
  • Take a vacation with the family
  • Learn a new hobby

Most of all… breathe! Relax and realize that you work to live and not live to work.

Do you have any great productivity tips that you would like to share? Please feel free to share in the comments section below.

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Let’s start out with a news flash: Stress is good for you!

Stress is your body’s natural reaction when you are faced with a pressure situation. Your body releases stress hormones called cortisol which functions to improve performance. When the adrenal glands release cortisol, your senses become heightened. You are more focused and your reaction time is faster.

A good example would be when you have a tight deadline to meet at work. You might need to burn the midnight lamp to get the job done right and on time.

Working under these conditions will create a stressful environment. Your body will respond by releasing cortisol to help you cope with the various stressors. You may notice that your level of concentration is higher. Cortisol has helped you accomplish the project on time without compromising the quality of work.

There are people who are able to thrive under pressure because they can manage the conditions that make the situation stressful. Thus, if you can manage your levels of stress at work, you should be fine.

However, prolonged levels of cortisol in your body are not good. In fact, it is not healthy as evidenced by the following negative effects:

  • Decreased muscle mass
  • Impaired cognition
  • Poor quality of sleep
  • Decreased bone density
  • Increased/ irregular blood pressure
  • Higher concentrations of abdominal fat
  • Imbalances in blood sugar levels

These negative effects may lead to illnesses and diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes. It will also result in premature aging.

This is why one of the most stressful jobs on earth belongs to the President of the United States. It astonishing to see how fast American Presidents have aged while on the job.

Thus, while pushing yourself to overcome challenges and accomplish more tasks is admirable, in the long run it can have damaging consequences on your health. Instead of pushing harder, pull back, step on the brakes and think about getting more rest and relaxation.

7 Health Benefits Of Rest And Relaxation

Proponents of Behavioral Leadership, a discipline that advocates new results require new behavior, like to advise their clients to  “Slow down in order to speed up”.

They believe that for top-level executives and entrepreneurs to succeed, it is important to be in the best state of mind, body, and spirit so they can perform to the best of their abilities.

If these top-level executives and entrepreneurs are chronically fatigued from stress, their sense of judgment will be impaired. Likewise, they will be more prone to illness and disease due to having a weakened immune system. Some may even acquire unhealthy habits such as excessive drinking and eating to cope up with stress.

As we mentioned, stress has been linked to several deadly diseases. Your achievements will not be worth it if you end up paying for it with your health.

If your mind and body are showing the effects of stress, slow down and consider taking some time off from work. One of the best remedies for stress is to simply get more rest and relaxation time in.

Here are a few of the health benefits of getting more rest and relaxation:

1. Keeps Your Heart Healthy –

Stress can lead to irregular heartbeat and this is not good for your heart. Activities that promote rest and relaxation such as taking naps or getting more sleep can help your heartbeat return to normal and keep your heart healthy.

2. Strengthens Your Immune System –

Studies conducted at the Carnegie Mellon University showed that stress doubles the risk of catching a cold.

The reason is that stress increases inflammation in the body which weakens the immune system’s ability to fight off viruses. By getting more rest, you can help your immune system recover and become stronger.

3. Improves Cognition and Memory –

Studies on mice showed that stress can affect the function of the prefrontal cortex which is responsible for cognitive reasoning and memory.

If you’re suffering from a mental block, a simple 15 to 30- minute rest will suffice to get you up to speed. You will be able to articulate ideas much more clearly.

4. Lowers Risk of Stroke –

A study published in the 2011 Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine revealed that work-related stress was responsible for 10% of strokes.

Instead of spending more time at work, why not head off to the gym and get some exercise? If you have children, you can use the time away from work to do healthy, family-bonding activities such as hiking or mountain climbing.

5. Prevents Onset of Depression –

Prolonged stress has been proven to kill brain cells and prevent the creation of new ones. This can lead to behaviors such as loss of appetite, and feelings of hopelessness and sadness. Cumulatively these conditions can develop into depression.

If your situation at work is making you depressed, get away from it all by taking a vacation. A short holiday will clear your mind and keep your body rested.

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6. Helps You Maintain a Healthy Weight –

Stressors at work can develop triggers that lead to unhealthy habits. This is why many overworked people cannot wait to hit the bars for a few drinks or reach out for comfort food.

Cortisol can lower your metabolism which leads to higher accumulation of abdominal fat. Thus, when you are relaxed, your metabolism works more efficiently. You will also have less motivation to consume alcohol and unhealthy food.

7. Lowers Risk of Developing Cancer –

Although more studies need to be done, some research has shown a possible link between stress and certain cancers particularly breast cancer in women.

The bottom line is why take chances? It would be better to take a few days, even weeks away from work to get more rested and relaxed than potentially create conditions in the body that are ideal for developing cancer.

What Are The Best Ways To Rest And Relax?

The question may seem counter-intuitive considering that rest and relaxation are natural, learned examples of human behavior. However, many of us have forgotten how to rest and relax. We have been so caught up with our obligations to work that we have compromised our own abilities to get proper rest and proclivity to enjoy relaxing activities.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • On average, how many hours of sleep do you get every night?
  • Do you often wake up listless and lacking in energy?
  • When was the last time you exercised?
  • When was the last time you and the spouse had a relaxing dinner?
  • How long ago was your last vacation?
  • What was the last book you read?
  • When was the last movie you watched?
  • Are you attuned to the activities of your children?

These are normal activities that help us relax and get well-rested. However, many of us have taken these activities for granted perhaps thinking we can do these things on another day.

In the meantime, the cumulative effect of stress has taken its toll on our health and inevitably in our relationship with family and friends.

Of course, we are not entirely to blame. Technology has made it easier and more convenient for us to get things done in life and work. Unfortunately, instead of allowing us more time away from work, it has created a situation where we can do more things in the same amount of time.

In an increasingly competitive environment, it becomes harder to allocate time for rest and relaxation. We must simply do more to stay ahead of the competition.

In the end, we may pay the ultimate price with our health and overall well-being.

Now that we have read about the destructive effects of prolonged stress on the body, it is important that we commit time for rest and relaxation.

The question is, what are the best ways to rest and relax? It is a matter of individual choice. The most important thing is to find time for it. You should not just allocate, but dedicate time in your schedule for activities that promote rest and relaxation.

At Mountaintop, we have come up with a list of things that you can do to help you get better rest or find relaxing activity:

  1. Get 8 Hours of Sleep Every Night – Times may have changed but the science behind the ideal hours of sleep has remained the same. You should make an effort to get 7 to 8 hours of good quality sleep every night. Sleep is your body’s natural way of recharging itself. Poor quality sleep will make you feel restless, inattentive, and irritable the following day.
  2. Schedule Time in the Day for Exercise – Regular exercise strengthens your muscles, bones, and the immune system. It will also improve blood circulation and help your organs function better. Exercise also releases mood- enhancing endorphins that make you feel good and fight off depression.
  3. Spend More Time with the Family – Time lost is time you will never regain. This is especially true when it comes to family. As your children grow up, they will go through milestones in their lives. You should be part of it. Regular communication is also important to maintain a healthy relationship with your spouse.
  4. Read a Good Book – Sure you can read a book from a tablet. However, nothing feels better than having a trade paperback in your hands. The smell of paper goes well with your favorite cup of coffee. Regular reading not only improves comprehension but it is very relaxing. That is why the richest people in the world like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg make an effort to read to read at least 50 books every year.
  5. Cut Down on Social Media – Social media is a great source of information, a terrific platform for communication, and is an effective channel to market and promote your business. However, it can also be toxic. If you often find your newsfeed inundated with negative content, you should either clean it up or cut down the time spent on social media.
  6. Schedule a Vacation During the Year – Taking a one or two-week vacation will not negatively impact your business. Vacations are a great way to recharge and revitalize your mind, spirit, and body. It can also be educational especially if you visit new places and learn about their cultures and traditions.
  7. Outsource Work – If you want to find more time to rest and relax, outsource some of your work. Among the types of work you should outsource are administrative functions and those that do not fall under your core competence. For example, if you plan to run a digital marketing campaign, outsource it to an agency so you can allocate more time to tasks that will contribute directly to your business’ bottom-line.

Conclusion – Get Some Rest!

At Mountaintop, we get a lot of projects that have tight deadlines. Digital marketing campaigns have to be tightly monitored. Analytics on performance are routinely made and discussed with clients. We manage a high volume of client websites and regularly run updates and improvements to ensure high-level performance.

Still, despite the hectic schedule, the people that make up the Mountaintop team make it a point to find time for rest and relaxation.

Founder Josiah Bussing and his wife, Jeanna, are avid mountain climbers which explain the name of their company. For them, climbing mountains is not only a great form of exercise but also presents new challenges to overcome. It gives them the time to clear their minds so they can perform to the best of their abilities. Mountain climbing is also an activity they share with their future children.

What about you? What activities help you relax? Please feel free and share in the comments section below.

If you want to learn more about outsourcing; how it can improve productivity and allocate more time for rest and relaxation, please feel free to give us a call or an email. We will get back to you as soon as we can!

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Leadership is an important component of management. Without it, there is no organization or direction. Instead, there will be chaos and confusion. Decisions cannot be made because there is no accountability. That is why leadership is one of the most sought-after traits in management. Companies spend thousands of dollars on programs that can help develop leaders within the ranks.

A group without a leader is just a collective. In the presence of a leader, the group becomes a team. Think about it. The most successful teams in professional sports were defined by its leadership. A good example was the Detroit Pistons team which won the NBA Finals in 2004.

The Pistons consisted of journeymen players; those who were discarded from their previous teams. In the 2004 Finals, the Pistons met the Los Angeles Lakers who were led by All-Stars Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant. During the off-season, the Lakers signed two more All-Stars in Gary Payton and Karl Malone.

Detroit did not have All-Stars but was led by a veteran guard, Chauncey Billups whose strong but silent leadership style earned the respect of his fellow players. Billups recognized their strengths and harnessed them. He saw their weaknesses and accepted them.

In contrast, the Lakers’ All-Stars were feuding. Bryant and O’Neal both wanted the ball. Malone had an off-court altercation with Bryant. Payton wanted more playing time. Even the legendary coach, Phil Jackson, could not manage the players’ egos when it counted the most.

In the end, the Pistons beat the Lakers with Los Angeles only winning one game in the Finals. Billups was chosen Finals Most Valuable Player (MVP).

When you have a leader on your team, you do not need All-Stars because he/she will make everyone a superstar. A leader knows how to harness your strengths and takes the time to work on your weaknesses.

7 Leadership Styles: Which One Is Yours?

Are leaders born or made? That question has been the subject of much debate. There are people who seem to take naturally to leadership roles. They exude charisma, embrace challenges, and people tend to gravitate toward them. Some would say they were “born to become leaders”.

Then you have those whose leadership skills were honed from experience and years of study. They have been in the trenches and had the know-how to lead his/her people out of dire situations. Some would say they rose from the ranks because they “accepted the mantle of leadership”.

The truth is everyone has leadership qualities. A study by the University of Illinois showed that while there are some people who are predisposed to leadership, it does not mean that those who are not cannot acquire it.

It may just be that your leadership style is different. You could be manifesting leadership qualities in your day-to-day activities but it may not be perceived as clearly compared to other styles.

So which one is your leadership style? Here are 7 leadership styles that may represent your own.

1. The Democratic Leader

You are someone who likes to get everyone on the team involved in the decision-making process. Yes, you will ultimately make the final decision. However, you make sure every individual on your team has the opportunity to study the situation and present his/her opinion on how to best address the matter.

This style of leadership is one of the best and probably generates the most productive outcomes. People like to be heard. They want to be involved. Within an organization, subordinates want the opportunity to show management what they can do; how they think and approach problem-solving.

By soliciting the opinions of his/her people, the Democratic Leader shows that he/she recognizes their value to the organization. The Democratic Leader lets the people know, he/she cannot do this on his/her own. To succeed requires a team effort.

The Democratic Leader approach also reduces the risk of making costly decisions. Your people will view the situation differently. The benefit of being Democratic is that you will see solutions from different perspectives.

In many cases, this helps filter out potential flaws in the decision-making process until what you are left with is the best course of action.

2. The Autocratic Leader

The Autocratic Leader is the exact opposite of the Democratic Leader. He/she does not respect the opinions of others. The Autocrat will not consult the members of his/her team. The Autocrat will make decisions on his/her own.

This style of leadership is rarely, if ever at all, effective. It is typical of people who have a “Strongman” mentality. All you have to do is review world history and see how the Autocratic rule has failed their respective countries.

Even the Autocratic leaders of today; Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela, Kim Jong-un of North Korea, Vladimir Putin of Russia, and Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines, have failed to improve the economy as well as the livelihood of the people.

Autocrats create dissension within the organization. It breeds contempt and polarizes people to segment themselves into different sub-groups. As such, there will be no strong foundation for the organization to support itself.

The single-decision maker system will likewise open the organization to incidents of graft and corruption. The Autocrat may abuse his/her power and introduce changes in the structure or current system to benefit personal interests.

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3. Laissez-Faire Leader

Laissez-Faire is a French word that translated into English means, “let them do”. A person who practices this leadership style essentially transfers the authority to make decisions to his/her people.

In some cases, companies allow employees to “self-govern” their work responsibilities in order to accommodate their current situation. For example, a worker who has to split time between the office and attending to the needs of a parent recovering from surgery.

Companies that have this accommodation follow the ROWE Concept or Results-Only Work Environment which was developed by Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson.

In this type of program, employees are evaluated based on performance. The number of hours worked or the frequency of having a physical presence at work is not considered. GAP and the American Society of Clinical Oncology implement ROWE in the workplace.

Another variation of the Laissez-Faire style of Leadership is Holacracy which was popularized by Tony Hsieh for his company, Zappos. Holacracy is a form of decentralized management. There is no management team. Instead, the responsibility of making decisions is passed on to holarchy teams.

Likewise, there are no positions or individual designations. People are identified by roles that are determined by the team or holarchy.

Zappos has adopted Holacracy since 2014. However, it is not clear if the program has benefited Zappos and the employees. Reports have surfaced that employees have resigned due to greater pressures at work.

If you plan to implement the Laissez-Faire leadership style to your business, you should constantly keep track of the company’s performance. Make sure you are updated on every decision made by your people.

4. The Strategic Leader

The Strategic Leader is a person who attempts to find a balance, or an equilibrium point, between the interests of the company executives and personnel. Decisions are made on the basis of whether the course of action would protect the interest of one without compromising the interest of another.

Numbers are a key component of the Strategic Leader’s game plan. He/she likes to review numbers to have a good idea of the company’s financial position. This way, if the executives are proposing a course of action, the Strategic Leader can see if this can adversely affect personnel.

For example, the company executives plan a shift to capital or technologically intensive processes. The Strategic Leader would want to find out if such a move would lead to layoffs.

The Strategic Leader can be effective. However, because he/she positions between the executive and the interests of personnel, there will be situations whereby decisions cannot be finalized.

As a person of authority, you have to realize that you can never please everyone all the time. Over time, you may encourage people to believe they can always get their way and that can have disastrous consequences.

5. The Transformational Leader

The Transformational Leader believes that business conditions are always changing. The industry is in a perpetual state of evolution. There are always new developments and trends are constantly shifting. Therefore, he/she wants people to evolve with change.

The advantage of having a Transformational Leader is that he/she will not hesitate to invest in new training programs. The Transformational Leader does not want to be left behind. He/she wants the people to be ready and prepared to learn, understand, and implement new processes.

The great thing about a Transformational Leader is his/her willingness to invest in the human asset. However, pushing people to constantly learn new processes and systems may take them off their natural learning curve. It takes time to develop the skills necessary to become proficient at a new procedure.

Some people may have a difficult time transitioning from one school of thought to another. If you are a Transformational Leader, you may want to consider transitioning the new learning through a series of waves or teams.

Divide the organization into different teams. Segmentation can be based on years of experience or consistency of performance. Let Team #1 go through the new learning program.

Once they have completed the training, allow them time to implement the procedure. Evaluate the test results. If the results are in line with expectations, have Team #2 undergo the same type of training.

6. The Bureaucratic Leader

The three words that best describe the Bureaucratic Leader: By the book. If you base the finality of your decisions on existing company guidelines and policies, you are a Bureaucratic Leader.

Unlike the Autocratic Leader, the Bureaucratic Leader will allow his/her people to voice out their thoughts and opinions. However, if the recommendations run contrary to the company’s policies, the Bureaucratic Leader will shut them down even if these make good business sense.

During these times when the Internet and the continued evolution of digital technology have made innovation a necessity, the Bureaucratic Leader is ineffective. Rigid business modeling will not generate consistent results in constantly shifting business environments.

7. The Transactional Leader

The Transactional Leader is a person who likes to match performance with incentives. This leadership style is prevalent in sales departments where management will incentivize people with attractive commission rates and bonuses.

Providing incentive schemes are great. Most people work because they want to achieve financial stability. Evaluations that are based on incentives earned will also give irrefutable empirical evidence on an employee’s performance.

However, on the downside, the employee may associate his/her value with currency. The intangibles such as dedication, passion, respect for others, punctuality, and professionalism may end up swept by the wayside in favor of higher earnings.

It may also encourage a “win at all cost” attitude whereby employees resort to unscrupulous ways and means to achieve their targets.

Conclusion

In truth, there are no bad leadership styles. Whether your approach succeeds or not, will depend on how you apply your leadership methods. Amazon is a tightly-run ship and one can make the case that its CEO, Jeff Bezos, is an autocrat. However, no one can argue with the success of Amazon.

Virgin Group CEO Sir Richard Branson may be thought of as a Transformational Leader. He loves investing in his people’s training and in fact, is highly-involved with the company’s interesting management training programs.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has his office table mixed in with the rest of his people. Zuckerberg appears to be an example of a Democratic Leader. He likes to get his people involved in the decision-making process.

So which one best represents your leadership style? Please don’t hesitate to share your thoughts and opinions about this article in the comments section below.

And if you want to know how Mountaintop can help your business move to the next level of success, please feel free to give us a call or drop us an email. We will get back to you right away.

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