In our previous article, “Why ‘I Don’t Have Time’ Is The Reason Your Business Is Not Succeeding”, we discussed why many people struggle in putting in productive hours in a day. 

The problem is not because they “can’t”. The problem is because they “won’t”. 

Everyone can be productive. But productivity won’t happen by itself. You have to make it happen.

This is the reason why time management is one of the most sought-after skills. If you have the ability to find more quality time, you will be productive. 

In time and with consistency, effective time management will help you become successful in your business, career, family life, and other endeavors. 

Here are 7 tips on how to find more quality time and be productive.

1. Plan Ahead

For sure, you have had one of those days where you found yourself staring at blank space for several minutes… perhaps an empty wall or a computer screen. 

It is perfectly okay to gather your thoughts. However, if the seconds add up, you may end up losing valuable minutes that could lead to wasted quality hours. 

Guesswork is one of the biggest time-wasters. The best way to avoid playing the daily guessing game is to plan ahead. 

How early should you start planning? 

Here are a few helpful tips to consider when planning ahead:

  • Monthly – Review your calendar. Do you have any meetings or special occasions lined up for the month? Even if these meetings are still tentative and subject to change, work some of your tasks around these dates. Send a follow-up email to the party you are scheduled to meet with and confirm the time and date. 
  • Weekly – Again, review your calendar. Which dates have been marked for meetings or special occasions? Have these activities been confirmed? It would be a good idea to have them confirmed before the start of the workweek. Once you get a confirmation from the parties involved, close them out by encircling the date. Then, work the rest of your workweek around these times and dates.
  • The Night Before – Before calling it a night, do a quick review of the day’s activities. What key duties and responsibilities were you able to accomplish? What tasks remain unresolved? Do you have upcoming deadlines? Identify the most important tasks and rank them according to priority.
  • The Next Day – Do a quick review of the tasks you have earmarked for the day. Make sure you have everything you need right in front of you. Have a good breakfast and a strong cup of coffee. Take a deep breath… then hit the ground running!

2. Prepare A To-Do List

Preparing a to-do list is a simple but effective way to gain more quality hours. It clears out your head and lays out the important tasks that you have to work on. Where and how you prepare the to-do list is your choice. 

There are many wonderful apps you can use to prepare your to-do list such as Evernote, Wunderlist, and Microsoft To-Do. Likewise, it may be a good idea to go old school with an Executive Planner or a simple whiteboard. 

Studies have shown that writing notes using a pen on paper can retain memory longer than tapping away on a keyboard. The research concluded that writing by pen increased the amount of feedback the brain receives from the writer’s motor actions. 

A whiteboard is an inexpensive but highly-effective tool for posting reminders and tasks. It allows you to write your thoughts out so you can articulate your ideas more clearly. Whenever you see your notes on the whiteboard, you feel more motivated to get tasks done. 

3. Learn How to Prioritize Tasks

How many tasks can you handle per day? The answer would depend on the number of hours you want to spend per day on your business. 

According to the Ultradian Rhythm theory, you can only maintain 100% focus for 90 to 120 minutes before you would have to take a 30-minute break. 

Let’s assume you want to dedicate 8 hours or 480 minutes per day on your business. If you spend 90 minutes per task and follow it up with a 30-minute break, then realistically, you should be able to handle 4 tasks per day.

The next question is: “Which tasks should you prioritize?”

There are 3 ways you can prioritize your tasks:

First, prioritize the tasks based on Return on Time Invested (ROTI). In other words, work on the tasks that result in the highest returns for your business. 

Which projects pay the most? Are there projects that once completed may open new doors of opportunity for your business? 

Second, attend to the most dreaded tasks right away. These are the ones that weigh on you like an 800-pound Silverback Gorilla and give you sleepless nights. 

Work on them right away – first thing in the morning, if possible – so you can breathe much easier and move on to the other tasks. 

Third, once you have firmed up your calendar for the week, you can choose to prioritize the easiest tasks. By attending to the easiest tasks, you might accomplish more than 4 per day. 

Once you’ve cleared out all of the easy tasks from your schedule, you will have more time to work on the key tasks that you have earmarked for the week. 

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4. Organize Everything You Need Before You Start

How much time did you waste looking for the mock-ups on the client’s project? Worse, how many precious minutes did you waste looking for a calculator, pen, paper, and a stapler? 

Lack of organizational skills will keep you from expertly managing your time because you waste valuable seconds searching for files and other things when you should already be working. 

Since you have prepared a to-do list the night before, take the level of preparation another notch higher by organizing everything in your workplace. 

Pull out all the files and tools you need to work on the tasks identified in your to-do list and organize them properly on your table. If the files are on your computer, move them to the desktop folder so you can see them right away when you open your PC. 

The tools you need – pen, paper, calculator, other office equipment, and the hard copy of important files – should be within reach. You can place these items near the edge of your desk or on top of the closest shelf.

5. Take a Step Back… If You Feel Like It

There is a saying, “Take one step back to take two steps forward.” It means that sometimes doing more can lead to accomplishing less. Therefore, call it a day, get some rest, and come back stronger, recharged, and more focused.

We are human beings, not machines. We get tired and fatigued both physically and mentally. 

If we are not fit to continue, then the more we push ourselves, the greater becomes the risk of compromising the outcome of the task we are trying to accomplish. 

The important thing to keep in mind is that we should focus on “quality” time. 

You can work for only 4 to 6 hours in a day, but if the time spent enabled you to accomplish key goals and objectives, then you put in quality hours on your business. 

If you feel tired and worn out, do not hesitate to pack it in, regroup, and resume work when you are ready. Take a short vacation if you have to. 

6. Say “No”… If You Have To

They say whenever opportunity knocks, you should answer it because it may never come back. 

However, if you do not feel confident in your ability to render top-quality work and service for the prospective client, saying “No” may be the best decision to make. 

At Mountaintop, we have a team of highly-experienced professional web designers. The web designers are the company’s assets and we assign specific projects to them. 

We will accommodate requests for website design and development only to a point where we are 100% confident in our ability to build the best website for the prospective client. 

If we end up pulling assets from one project to another because our resources are heavily stretched out, the decision to say “Yes” to a new project may end up compromising our other clients. 

We will do our best to negotiate the development schedule of the website with the client. If the client agrees to the new timetable, then we will accept the project. 

If not, then we will have to say “No”. 

In any business, your work is the best representative of your brand. As long as you consistently produce high-quality work, opportunities will always come around knocking. 

7. Shut Out Distractions

There is nothing wrong with spending time on Facebook or catching up on the latest release on Netflix. However, there is a time and place for everything. When it is time to work, there should be no distractions. 

The reality is, distractions lurk everywhere. Your mobile phone could be buzzing every few minutes with calls, messages or notifications. 

If you work from home, a family member could knock on your door and engage you in conversation. At the office, co-workers could be nudging you to spend a few minutes with them at the watercooler. 

To get things done, you have to make arrangements to shut out distractions. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Use a different PC for work; it should not have access to Facebook, YouTube, Netflix, and other websites that are potential distractions. 
  • Keep your mobile phone locked away in a drawer or better still, in a different room. Make sure to leave a message that you will return the call or respond once you have available time.
  • Talk to your family and friends about your quest for productive time. If they care about you – and we’re sure they do – they will understand and will leave you alone during those hours. 

You can check your social media pages or your phone for text messages and missed calls during your 30-minute break. If you have kids, spend the 30-minute break time with them.

Conclusion

If you want to be an expert in time management, you must apply it to all facets of your life.

For example, if you have a family, take a few hours during the weekend to plan for their needs the following week. 

What meals will you prepare for their dinner? Do you prefer to eat out? If so, where? When will you schedule your visit to the supermarket or the laundromat? Is it time for your kids to visit the dentist?

If your kids have school activities, make it a point to mark the dates on your calendar. You would not want to miss your daughter’s musical number with her classmates or your son’s championship game. 

Of course, you should include another important person in the planning process: You. Set aside time in the week for yourself. 

There is no excuse for not finding time to exercise if you plan your workout days properly. It does not have to be in the gym. You can walk around the neighborhood, run at the park, or play ball with your kids. 

Similarly, you may simply want to find time for some peace and quiet – perhaps catch up on some personal reading.

The bottom line is if you want to find more quality time, make it happen! Don’t say, “I don’t have time.”

We hope you enjoyed this article as much as we did writing it. If you have a friend who needs help in becoming productive, please feel free to share this article with him.

Outsourcing services is another proven way of finding more time for yourself. If you want to learn how outsourcing some tasks can increase quality time, give us a call and let’s discuss what you need. 

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Entrepreneurs and professionals achieve success in their respective careers because they are proficient in time-management. 

In contrast, entrepreneurs and professionals who are languishing in their careers do so because they do not understand or appreciate the intrinsic value of time. 

For sure you have heard people respond with “I don’t have time” whenever they are asked why business is struggling or why their career trajectory has stalled. Some of them could be your friends or family members. 

“I don’t have time to network for clients.”

“I don’t have time to visit ABC Company for the sales pitch.”

“I don’t have time to post and update content on my social media pages.”

Breaking news: You do have time. We all have time. The difference is some people choose to manage their time better than others.

Put it this way, if you sleep for 8 hours every night, you have 16 hours in a day to do everything that needs to get done. 

How much time do you need to network for clients, schedule a sales presentation for ABC Company, and manage your social media pages? 

You will never hear a successful person say “I don’t have time” because they make time. Successful people understand the value of time; that once a second goes by, they will never be able to get it back.

Successful people make every second count.

5 Reasons Why People Say “I Don’t Have Time”

In business, opportunities exist every day. Winning these opportunities may come down to a difference of a few seconds. 

Think about it. 

That phone call you put off because you didn’t have time? Someone else could make that call and land the prospect as a new client.

Putting off time for ABC Company will open the door for your competitor to waltz in and clinch the deal that would set them for the year. 

Your failure to find time to update your social media pages will render you invisible on the Internet. 

Meanwhile, your competitors are expertly using social media as their virtual soapbox. They are driving more traffic to their websites and increasing the opportunities for sales conversions. 

As you see everyone else pass you by, the frustrations will mount. People are climbing up the ladder. You are stuck in the same place where you were last year. Or the year before. Or 5 years earlier. 

Given the long-term repercussions of such indecision, why do some people still insist that they don’t have time?

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1. They Are Afraid Of Failure

Here is an interesting statistic on job hunting:

On average, there are 250 applicants for every job that is posted. Of these 250 applicants, no more than 6 will be invited for the interview and only 1 will get the job.

Win or lose. Yes or no. Deal or no deal. 

Every decision you make will result in one of these 2 possible outcomes. Truthfully, there will always be more losers than winners. 

For some people, the thought of losing or failing is such a scary proposition that they just freeze or fall back. They would rather “not try” than face the prospect of failing. 

So instead of doing the right thing, their mind races to find a reason to validate their decision not to try. 

“I don’t have time.” 

What they don’t realize is that those who win are the ones who are willing to fail as many times as possible because they understand the nature of competition. 

Sir Richard Branson of Virgin Group of Companies. Howard Schultz of Starbucks. J.K. Rowling, the author of the “Harry Potter” series. These are just 3 examples of people who overcame adversity to become successful in their respective careers. 

You are competing with others in the industry. And only 1 can win the top prize. There is nothing you can do about it because that is the nature of competition. You can’t win them all, but you should at least try and do your best.

2. They Are Fearful Of Stepping Out Of Their Comfort Zone

To do great things, you must be willing to push the boundaries of your capabilities. The saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” should be rewritten as “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it – improve on it!”

If inventors didn’t test the boundaries of technological innovation, the Internet, the laptop, the smartphone, and all the apps you are enjoying would remain the work of science fiction. 

To succeed, you must develop skills that will give you an advantage over everyone else. 

If you run a business, take up a few courses in accounting and learn how to prepare financial statements that can help you manage your money. 

Do you want to enhance your viability in the job market? Learn a new language, study the requisite computer programs in your industry, or get certified in a usable skill. 

If learning these types of skills makes you feel uncomfortable, that is because of the phenomena known as “The Learning Curve”. In time and with consistency, your learning curve will slope and acquiring knowledge will be easier. 

Unfortunately, some people don’t want to explore their learning curve. Instead of taking up courses, learning new skills, or getting certified, they just stay within their comfort zone.

Why?

“I don’t have time.”

3. They Don’t Have Confidence In Their Abilities

You’ve heard the popular phrase “It will come down to who wants it the most” uttered in tightly-contested sporting events. 

The basketball player who wants the ball in his hands during the final seconds of a tied championship game. 

The battered, bleeding and beaten boxer patiently waiting for his opponent to throw a straight right so he can fire a perfectly timed counter left hook. 

The tennis player who sets up a sizzling forehand to the baseline after extending the rally by 25 shots. 

Whether it is a sales presentation for the most-sought after account in the industry or an interview for a high-paying position in the company, it will come down to your confidence in taking the biggest shot of your career. 

Clients and Human Resource Managers will test your confidence. They will try to tear you down to see how you get back up. Your ability to navigate safely through difficult situations will depend on your confidence level. 

Some people don’t want to be tested. The idea of being put in situations where there appears to be no way out – of now knowing how to respond or giving the wrong answer – frightens them. 

They decide not to take the challenge because their pride is not worth the time. They will rest their outcome on the other guy – the competition – hoping that he will make a mistake. 

Pride is not confidence. It is arrogance. Confidence is the backbone of success. Those who say “I don’t have time” value their egos more than achievement.

4. They Are Averse To Making Sacrifices

Do you know why “to lose weight” is the most broken New Year’s resolution? Because it is hard; you have to make sacrifices such as foregoing junk food for healthier options and setting aside 3 to 4 days a week for exercise. 

To lose weight, you have to embrace changes in lifestyle. For some, they are afraid that these changes could radically affect relationships. Families and friends may not understand and treat them differently.

“Losing weight is not worth losing friendships.”

So they don’t find the time to exercise, eat healthy food, and get in more hours of quality sleep. 

They stick to their old ways: playing video games at home or staying out late with friends drinking at pubs and eating fast-food.

What they fail to realize is that by not making the necessary sacrifices to lose weight, their health will be at risk. 

The same can be said of growing a business. You will have to make sacrifices for the greater good of your enterprise. 

Yet, some people would rather spend time on Netflix than prepare for the meeting. They would rather grab a few pints with the guys than complete the tests on the new software app for the client. 

They don’t have time for the things that will make their lives better in the long-term because they are focused on things that will give them pleasure in the short-term. 

What they don’t know is that these series of short-term decisions for pleasure may compromise their welfare in the foreseeable future. 

Time is a commodity whereby if you invest early and wisely, will yield attractive dividends in the future. 

5. They Are Lazy

Perhaps we should call them for what they are.

Lazy.

“I don’t have time” because:

  • “I would rather sleep.”
  • “I want to see how many ‘likes’ my most recent post on Facebook got.”
  • “The Broncos are playing on TV.”
  • “I already set my plans for the rest of the day.”
  • “The task is too hard – I’m not ready for it yet. Let me think it over.”

You probably have met people who talk big but don’t get anything done. For them, image is more important than substance. They like to present themselves as game-changers but in reality, they perform more like benchwarmers. 

If you want to accomplish something, you will find time for it. Talking about it will not get things done. You have to back up your words with action. Better still, talk less and do more. 

Conclusion

Can a person overcome the unproductive habit of saying or thinking “I don’t have time”? Yes, but it will depend on the person’s willingness to make changes in his mindset. 

  • Overcome your fears and just do what needs to get done. You can only worry about the things you can control such as your level of preparation for a high-level business presentation. Ultimately, the final decision will not rest on your hands but someone else’s. Therefore, you can only focus on doing your best. 
  • Forget about what other people think. It doesn’t matter what you do, people will have opinions because their perspectives are different. Prioritize the decisions that may have a positive impact on your business, career, and the people who matter to you the most. 
  • Change the way you frame your thoughts. Instead of “I don’t have time” think “When can I start?” Replace “I have to” with “I want to”. Don’t think about how hard it is to start. Think about how good it feels to finish.

As the saying goes, “If you are not moving forward, you are moving backward.”

Time waits for no one. It will keep ticking forward. If you cannot keep pace, you will be left behind. 

Unless you change your mindset and learn to appreciate the value of the commodity known as time, you will only have yourself to blame if your business does not succeed. 

If you don’t have time, make time.

Do you know anyone who likes to put things off? If so, please share this article to your community and tag your friends who tend to procrastinate. 

If you enjoyed our blog and would love to have amazing content for your website, let’s meet and talk strategy over coffee!

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Email remains the most important medium of communication. It is fast, easy, and very convenient especially in this day and age of mobile technology. You can check your email anywhere and in any place. All you need is an Internet connection. 

If you own a business, you must have an email address. However, should you get a generic email – one that has an address such as @yahoo.com – or should you create an email has your own domain as its address? 

The answer is actually quite easy. You should definitely opt for an email with your own domain name as its address. 

It will not matter that Google is the biggest search engine on the Internet. Having a @gmail.com address will not have the same impact as having a @yourcompanyname.com email address. 

Why? It all comes down to establishing an identity for your own business! 

Here are 5 reasons why you need – and should have – a professional email address.

1. Creates a Strong, Professional Impression

Purchasing a domain name shows that you are deeply invested in your company. You take a professional approach to running your business. 

You want your company to be unique; to stand out from the rest of the competition that still uses common email addresses. 

Put yourself in the position of the recipient of an email. Which one would impress you more? 

  1. [email protected]
  2. [email protected]

There is nothing unique about [email protected]. Once you sign up for a webmail account with an email provider, you automatically get a free address with the provider’s domain name. 

Scammers, cyber-criminals who like to go on phishing expeditions can easily get an email account from Yahoo or Gmail.

However, [email protected] is exclusively only to John Smith as the proprietor of his own company. No one else can have an email address with the domain name @johnscompany unless it is authorized by John Smith. 

2. Enhances the Value of Your Brand

Let us assume that after 6 months of persistent follow-ups, you were finally able to land a meeting with a big-time investor in property development. 

When you get inside the reception area, you see your competitor and he is practicing for his sales presentation. 

You notice that his email is prominently featured in the final PowerPoint slide. His email address reads [email protected]

Meanwhile, your email address reads [email protected]

Given these circumstances, which email would generate the faster recall and longer-lasting impression? Your @gmail.com address or Michael Thorpe’s own professional email address? 

Establishing your brand is very important because it creates recall with your customers, clients, and followers. Your business is your brand. Your brand is your business. You carry your brand wherever you go and in whatever you do. 

A professional email address pushes your branding strategy deeper into the consciousness of your target market. It will make it easier to remember your domain name and to find your website. 

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3. Builds Trust and Confidence in Your Business

Your own car.

Your own house.

Your own business.

What better says that “You’ve Arrived” than ownership?

Ownership implies that you have independence. In order to achieve independence, you should have attained a status that other people have not. Independence makes you different from those who still depend on others.

For prospects, clients, and customers they would feel more confident dealing with someone who has embraced independence in business. An email address that has a common domain name is not unique. 

Let us assume that you decided to run an email campaign. How would prospects respond to an email that had a generic address such as @gmail.com? Chances are it would be ignored or left unopened. 

As we mentioned earlier, scammers and phishers are more prone to use a generic address than their own domain address. 

By using the domain name of your business as your professional email address, you lessen the chances of your communication being ignored as it fosters greater trust and confidence with the recipient.

4. Improves the Level of Communication 

The benefits of having your own domain extend beyond getting a professional email address. Likewise, it will make it easier to manage or organize the different functions of your business. 

For example, if your business has departments for accounting, customer service, IT support, and recruitment, you can assign the following professional email addresses:

By simply designating a specific departmental email address, it will be easier for you to find communication that is related to a function of your company. 

Thus, if you need to find the email thread regarding the latest invoice that was sent to a client, you can simply go to [email protected]

If you want to find out if your team members have any comments or suggestions about the company or the business itself, you can check out [email protected]

5. Encourages Unity and Teamwork

How did you feel when your employer assigned you a company email? We are sure you felt flattered and important. The same can be said about your team members.

Having a common email address encourages unity and teamwork. It makes everyone feel like they are part of your company because the address is unique and specific only to your company. 

Assigning professional email addresses to your team members also makes it easier and more convenient to manage communication within the organization. 

We should note that having your own domain as an email address is one thing. Having a professional local part of your email address is another. 

The local part is the portion of the email that refers to its designated user or the name on the mailbox. 

For example, in the email [email protected], “ted” is the local part. 

When coming up with the local part of your email, choose one that exudes professionalism. The usual practice is to simply use your name – either the full version or just the first name. 

Do not attempt to be cute and funny by coming up with a local part that may be inappropriate. You might end up offending the recipient and giving your company a bad name. 

Conclusion

Working from home or telecommuting is fast becoming the way of employment nowadays. It is not uncommon to meet an entrepreneur working from his home office, his favorite coffee shop, or at the public park. 

If you don’t have your own office space and instead, work from your neighborhood coffee shop, would you give out your business address as The Neighborhood Coffee Shop at XYZ Avenue along 123 Main Street? 

Of course not! In the first place, the coffee shop is not your business address. Secondly, The Neighborhood Coffee Shop is not your business name. 

Therefore, it is important to have your own business name. If you don’t plan on having an office, it is even more important that you should put up a website for your business. This way, the domain name will function as your business address. 

Thus, you can issue calling cards or prepare business collaterals with your domain as the online address of your company. It will greatly enhance your branding strategy as a business that is committed, trustworthy, and legitimate.

Likewise, you can send and receive communication from third parties to and from an email address that has your own domain name on it. This makes you appear more professional to everyone who comes across your communication. 

Before you can have an email address, you need to have your own domain name. We can help you set this up and build a fully-optimized and 100% mobile-responsive website for your business. 

If you want to learn more about our services, give us a call or drop us an email. And if you are in the area, let us discuss your website and digital marketing needs over coffee!

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Wake up and smell the coffee. 

One of the perks of working from home is that you don’t have to rush through your morning coffee. You can take the time to savor it and relax while you let the caffeine do its job and wake you up.

When you’re working from home, dealing with the early morning traffic is a thing of the past. 

You no longer have to fight for a parking space or patiently line up at the building elevator. 

Say goodbye to office politics and the 9- to- 5 grind. For many home-based workers, they are their own boss and they own their time. 

It’s easy to get lost with all of the comforts and convenience of working at home. In fact, if you do not get moving soon, you might find yourself crawling back to bed! 

10 Tips On How To Be More Productive When Working From Home

There are a few drawbacks when working from home. All of the comforts – the bed, the sofa, the T.V, the kitchen, and even your cat – can be serious distractions from work. 

Then, there is “The Great Unknown” – the unforeseen or unexpected occurrences that take place without warning such as:

  • Your next-door-neighbor mowing his lawn.
  • The incessant ringing of the telephone or the doorbell. 
  • Your neighbor’s dog barking at your cat.

The truth is, there is no perfect place to work. Your office is what you make of it. Just like your brick-and-mortar office, you have to make sure the conditions are set to guarantee a productive workday.

Here are 10 tips on how to be more productive when working at home:

1. Get the Workday Started the Night Before

Effective time management is a crucial component to achieving productivity on a daily basis. By planning your workday the night before, you eliminate the “guesswork” which wastes precious time. 

Plan out the following day’s tasks and activities before ending the night. It only takes a few minutes and this simple tip gives you the following benefits:

  • Reduces stress because you already know what you are going to do the next day.
  • Improves your focus; knowing the tasks that have to be addressed gives you the opportunity to manage your energy levels and prepare yourself mentally for what needs to get done.    

You can write down the tasks on a whiteboard on your home office wall. When you wake up in the morning, you will feel more inspired to hit the ground running because there is no more guesswork. 

You will know exactly what you need to do!

2. Set Realistic Targets

Goal-setting is a proven technique to improve productivity. It improves motivation; gives direction and clarity which help you drive your energies toward accomplishing specific tasks. 

However, it is important to remain realistic when setting goals. It is easy to get carried away by the idea of accomplishing many tasks. When you have too much on your plate, you will end up not finishing most of the items. 

Worse, what if most of the unfinished tasks were the essential ones – the tasks that contribute directly to your business’ bottom-line? 

Productivity expert Chris Bailey suggests picking out only 3 goals to accomplish per day. According to Bailey, the “Rule of 3” allows you to focus more energy on accomplishing these goals even when things are not doing so well. 

3. Use Focus Blocks

Another proven productivity technique is the use of focus blocks. This is a process where you group your work hours into clusters or “blocks”. Each block consists of 90 minutes of uninterrupted work followed by 30 minutes of rest. 

The science exists to back up the effectiveness of the focus block. 

A study by sleep research expert, Nathan Kleitman showed that we can maintain maximum mental alertness for only 90 minutes. Some people can extend their mental focus for up to 120 minutes. 

There are also studies that show getting in some sleep after work can improve memory, cognition, and overall performance.

The use of the focus block can also support the “Rule of 3”.

  • Identify the 3 goals that you want to accomplish.
  • Allocate 90 minutes per goal.
  • Set aside 30 minutes of rest after each goal. 

By integrating focus blocks with the Rule of 3, you may end up accomplishing 3 tasks in only 320 minutes or fewer than 6 hours of work per day.  

4. Start the Day with Your Most Dreaded Task

At this point, you may be asking yourself, “Which task should I work on first?”

We will give you 2 ways to approach task-making. The first one is to start with your most dreaded task. 

This is the task that lets out all the air when you wake up in the morning. It makes you want to nurse that mug of coffee even longer. However, just like an infected tooth, if you do not see the dentist, it will only get worse. 

Get it done right away. The sooner you can accomplish this dreaded task, the better. You will be less stressed. Consequently, you will have a clearer frame of mind and have a more positive disposition to work on the other remaining tasks. 

5. Prioritize Tasks Based on ROI

The second approach is to prioritize tasks based on ROI or Return on Investment. Which tasks offer the highest return for your effort? 

For example, you can prioritize the tasks that generate the most income for your business. How much do you want to earn per month? Determine your preferred income level then list your tasks based on which ones can help you achieve your targeted financial goal.

Another way is to prioritize the tasks that can contribute the most to advancing your career. 

For example, you may have a client who does not pay you the most but has been with you the longest. Therefore, you should prioritize this client because the work is more consistent and sustainable compared to the others. 

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6. Organize Your Work Area

“If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another.

  • Naval Admiral William McRaven, Commander of U.S. Special Operations

That was a quote from the unforgettable commencement speech given by Admiral McRaven at the University of Texas. 

A clean and organized bedroom gives you a more relaxed environment to rest and therefore, better quality sleep.

The same can be said about your workplace. 

A cluttered workplace is a stressful workplace. You will waste precious minutes looking for things that you need right away. Having stuff cluttered all over your workstation creates distractions. 

Take some time to clean up your workplace before retiring for the evening. Organize your workstation. Put key documents in their proper filing category. Throw trash in the appropriate receptacle. 

By organizing your workplace the night before, you set the conditions for productivity the following day. 

7. Dress Up for Work

Sure it is a nice feeling to work in your pajamas and bunny slippers. However, working in your sleepwear may also entice you to go back to bed. 

If you put on sleepwear for bedtime, why not put on office wear for work time?

It may sound strange to wear a tie and slacks at home, but doing so triggers emotional cues that remind you, “Hey! It’s time to work!” 

Likewise, wearing office clothes while working at home professionalizes your approach toward a home-based career. You might be surprised that wearing office clothes will help you stay more focused and motivated at work. 

8. Go Someplace Else to Work

There are days that you won’t have the energy to be more productive when working from home. For some, the distinction between home and the office has become vague. 

The home has become associated with work and they find it increasingly difficult to relax and unwind under their own roof. 

If this happens to you, simply go someplace else to work. 

“Home-based” means you are not conducting work in a traditional work environment such as a commercial office space. Home-based workers are also called telecommuters and remote employees. 

You don’t have to work at home. As a telecommuter or remote employee, you can work wherever you want – the coffee shop, the public park, a hotel lobby, or at the beach fronting the ocean waters. 

Some home-based entrepreneurs pack up their bags and travel to another country to resume their work! This is one of the biggest attractions of the home-based lifestyle. 

Find a place that gives you motivation and inspiration as sources of energy. Sometimes all it takes is a change in environment to get your engines revving again.  

9. Detach Yourself From All Forms of Distraction

When you are working from home, distractions lurk in every corner. You can easily be tempted by the T.V or by the couch. While working, you might think you are hearing the Pastrami sandwich in the refrigerator calling out your name.

In your own computer, you have many downloaded distractions from social media to your favorite entertainment websites. Unmitigated, submitting to these forms of distractions can cost you precious productive hours. 

Before commencing on your work for the day, detach yourself from all forms of distraction:

  • Use a different computer for work. Make sure the settings will not grant you access to social media platforms and irrelevant websites. 
  • Keep your mobile phone locked away in another room. You can check your messages during your 30-minute break.
  • Put your landline on silent mode and leave a message on the recording machine. 
  • If you are living with other people, give them strict instructions not to disturb you during work hours. Ask them to attend to anyone who rings the doorbell. 
  • If you drink coffee while working, have your mug of java hot, ready, and on the table before starting a task. 

As for bathroom breaks, if you can hold it, have them during your 30-minute rest period. 

If you think this is unreasonable, WaterSaver, a company from Chicago restricted bathroom breaks to only 6 minutes per day. According to WaterSaver’s CEO, the company lost 120 productive hours due to extended bathroom breaks!

 10. Outsource Non-Essential Tasks

Does your to-do list include the following tasks?

  • Filter email
  • Set appointments
  • Set calendar
  • Finish payroll
  • Pay bills
  • Do follow-up calls

If so, you are working for your business, not on your business. 

These types of tasks are called non-essential tasks because they are administrative in nature and do not directly contribute to your business’ bottom-line. Non-essential tasks are best outsourced to third-party service providers that can handle the job.

For example, if you own a website, outsource web development and management to Mountaintop Web Design. 

We can monitor your website to make sure all the plug-ins and security features are updated and running well. 

At the same time, if you want to implement a digital marketing campaign for your business, we can do that for you as well. 

We have a team of experienced SEO professionals, content writers, and social media managers that can develop a campaign to give your online presence a massive boost on the Internet. 

If you want to learn more about outsourcing, read our article “How Outsourcing Tasks Can Save You Tons Of Money – And Build Your Business”.

Conclusion

Working from home is a wonderful, life-changing decision. You have taken more control over your career and have a great opportunity to attain financial independence. 

However, working from home only means a change in the environment. You still have to put in the time and the effort to achieve your goals in order to become successful. 

Just like your days living the 9-to-5 grind in the concrete jungle, you should find ways to stay productive even when working from home. 

The 10 tips we discussed will certainly help you achieve productivity. If you have other tips that you want to share with our readers, please feel free to discuss them in the comments section. 

And if you enjoyed this article, go ahead and share them with your friends and family!

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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.

the journey to success is similar to climbing a mountain