Keeping on top of all the assignments that stem from running a company can be challenging – even when you have a whole support system behind you. But when you’re a solopreneur, it all comes down to how much you can accomplish on your own. For the most part, this means maximizing your effectiveness and minimizing distractions.

If your goal is to bring your small business to the next level (and maybe even expand), you will need to find a way of staying in control of all the challenges you face daily. The following strategies help you do exactly that. By implementing them in your daily work routine, you’ll find the perfect way for you to achieve your goals without losing precious time, energy, or resources.

Strategize

If the word strategize reminds you of going into battle, then you’ve already got this whole business thing under your thumb. Because that’s exactly what business is – a war for survival in a cruel, dog-eat-dog world. The only way to make it out alive is to know very well what you’re doing. 

For most entrepreneurs, this means putting a lot of effort into their products or services, designing a great website, maintaining a strong social media presence, and paying close attention to customer service and quality control. And although not many like to think about it, it also means creating an effective exit strategy that you can implement in the case of unexpected circumstances (or simply more exciting projects on the horizon).

A good business plan can also help you determine your goals, and even more, turn them into to-dos you can tackle on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. Finally, don’t forget about the importance of your calendar and good project management software.

Don’t underestimate the beneficial effects of rest

One of the biggest mistakes entrepreneurs tend to make is that they work themselves to the bone. In the long term, this can lead to some pretty serious consequences. Burnout affects up to 44% of workers, which is alarming when you think about the negative effects it has on physical and mental health. 

To avoid it and achieve a better work-life balance, it’s important that you get enough downtime. This means limiting the hours in your workweek, taking the occasional vacation (even a staycation will do), making sure you’re eating healthy, exercising on a regular basis, and practicing some form of meditation. Aside from getting you to take regular breaks from your company, these habits are also beneficial because they can help you sleep better.

Keep your eye on the prize

Sometimes, the easiest thing to do is lose focus. And as a solopreneur, you definitely won’t be short on everyday distractions that will require your immediate attention. This is especially important if you work from home –a concept that always seems so convenient until you find yourself sitting at your desk at 2 AM because you haven’t been able to get any work done during the day.

Practicing self-discipline is key. Be conscious about removing distractions. For some, this will mean scheduling a specific time of day for replying to emails. For others, it’s silencing their phone or cutting down on multitasking. 

Another great thing you can start implementing today? Setting short-term and long-term goals. Defining these will help you focus on the big picture, while still allowing your vision to be flexible enough to embrace any positive surprises you encounter on the way.

Use all the tools (and help) you can get

Although, as a solopreneur, you don’t have any employees, there are still ways in which you can save time on mundane tasks. 

For example, you can use automation tools for things like invoicing, tracking expenses, or social media strategies. Even basic programs such as Microsoft Excel can go a long way in helping you get things done more efficiently, and often more accurately.

Another thing you might want to consider would be to outsource menial tasks or assignments that need a skilled worker such as an accountant. While you could take care of all your finances on your own, perhaps there are better ways to spend your time than going through receipts each month.

Conclusion

For your business to succeed, it is important that you approach it with both wisdom and willingness to do hard work. 

Luckily, as a solopreneur, you already have the drive and passion that are at the core of a satisfying career. Combine them with a few smart productivity practices, and you’ll be well on your way to becoming not only effective but, more importantly, satisfied with where your business is headed.

Other than “to lose weight”, “to start a small business” is another popular resolution for the New Year. 

In a survey on small business conducted by Guidant Financial, it was revealed that 27% of Americans were more encouraged to transition from corporate life and begin a career as a small business owner. 

If you are planning to start a small business this year, here are 5 challenges that you might face in 2020.

1. Cultivating a Productive Culture Within the Organization

You cannot run a small business on your own. You need to hire good people to help you manage the different areas of your business. Take note, we said “good people”, not the “best people”.

When companies say they want to hire the “best people” for their business, nine out of 10 times, Human Resources is probably focused on the information stated on the Curriculum Vitae.

There is nothing wrong about hiring candidates with the highest educational attainment, longest tenure, most citations and awards, and those with the brightest achievements in their career. 

Their accomplishments in academics and career, thus far, put to rest questions on talent and qualification.

However, hiring the best people does not necessarily mean having the most productive people on your team. 

An employee with all the accolades and achievements can become destructive if he is not a good fit for the culture of your organization. 

Think of a talented but wrong-fit employee as an All-Star caliber player who can’t make a team win because he can’t play with his teammates. He does not want to play within the system and is only concerned about accomplishing individual goals. 

On the other hand, you can have a candidate with modest accomplishments but fits perfectly with your organizational culture. 

He is willing to work within your system; play by your rules and “unlearn” skills that he believes are contradictory to your company’s processes. 

It only takes one ill-fitting employee to infect your business culture. 

In contrast, an organization composed of right-fit employees will foster an environment that is productive, encouraging, and nurturing and will put your business on the fast-track to long term growth and sustainable success. 

Our advice: Put greater emphasis on soft skills over hard or technical skills. 

Soft skills refer to the personality or behavioral attributes that best define the candidate’s approach towards work and life, in general. 

There are software programs that use behavioral-based algorithms to pre-screen applicants by identifying those who share the same values as the company. 

The preliminary interview should feature questions and encourage discussions on topics that best uncover the candidate’s foundational values and deeply-rooted attributes. 

Finally, having candidates participate in group work such as projects and discussions will help identify the ones who fit best in your organizational culture.

2. Adopting Efficient Business Models Without Compromising the Quality of Goods and Services

In an uncertain business environment, small business owners should not only train their focus on revenue-generating programs. 

Small business owners might have to develop or adopt business models that promote greater efficiency – lower costs without compromising the quality of goods and services. 

Here are a few ideas for you to consider:

  • Tap Into Global Talent 

Talent is not restricted to any single region in the world. You can find talent everywhere. This is the reason the freelance economy has been growing for the last 2 decades. 

The growth of the freelance economy is tied in with the expansion of the Internet. In March 2000, the Internet was only accessible to 304 million people. Fast-forward to 2020 and there are 4.4 to 4.5  billion people on the Internet every day!

The growth of the Internet has made it possible for businesses to reach out and tap into global talent. 

While there is no significant discrepancy in talent or qualifications across the globe, you can capitalize on comparative advantages such as lower costs of labor. 

For example, in comparison to North America, where the average wage rate for a full-time employee can range from $16 to $20 per hour, you can hire freelancers at one-third the cost. 

  • Integrate Technology-Based Solutions

You can significantly streamline costs by integrating technology-based solutions to your processes. 

For example, instead of using landlines or post/pre-paid mobile phone services to communicate, you can switch to Internet and app-based communication channels.

Communication platforms such as Viber, Skype, and Messenger are effective, dynamic, and cost less compared to traditional channels. 

  • Outsource Tasks

Tasks such as accounting, digital marketing, customer service, and administrative functions are key activities in running a successful business. However, if you have to hire full-time employees to manage each task, your payroll could blow up your monthly budget.

The solution? Outsource or delegate these tasks to qualified third-party service providers.   

In outsourcing, the service provider usually offers flexible payment options. You can negotiate a fixed monthly fee, payment on a per-project basis, or based on performance. 

Outsourcing is a proven way of managing costs without compromising the quality of products and services.

Outsourcing is also a viable solution to the recruitment problem.

In the same survey conducted by Guidant Financial, 22% of small business owners reported that recruiting and retaining employees was one of their most serious challenges to growth. 

If you are having a hard time recruiting talent for your business, you may want to consider outsourcing select tasks to third-party companies or freelancers. 

3. Building Stronger, More Purposeful Relationships With Customers

The idea of building purposeful relationships with customers was put to light by Nobel Prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman in his book “Thinking Fast and Slow”.

According to Kahneman, consumers tend to patronize businesses that have successfully triggered an emotional response from them. They understand the “why” or purpose of your business; not just “what” products and services you sell.

Consumers know “who” you are and subscribe to the same values that your business espouses. 

Yes, customers care about what goes into your product. However, they would be more interested in learning why you developed the product and why you got into this type of business. 

Customers want to see a face behind the brand, not just a logo. Customers love a brand that is fully engaged with its end-users because it makes them feel more important and appreciated. 

Our advice: Get out of the comforts and confines of your office. Be active on social media. Set up a website where your followers can find your products, services, and learn more about your company.

Blog actively; but not just about your business. Share your thoughts, ideas, and opinions with your customers. In other words, become a thought-leader. Let your customers know that your brand is not the business. 

You are the brand. 

4. Fortifying Defenses Versus More Aggressive Cyber-Attacks

2019 rung in the New Year by having 1.7 billion records leaked or stolen in various cyber-attacks all over the world. According to a study by Juniper Research, half of cyber-attacks target small businesses. 

Yet, small business owners spend less than $500 on programs designed to fortify defenses against cyber-attacks. 

Dealing with cyber-attacks is part of your current reality as a small business owner in 2020. There are no signs of slowing down and these attacks will only become more aggressive. 

Unless you take these acts of cyber-criminality more seriously, it will not be a question of how, but when your website, social media accounts, and other sources of online information will be compromised. 

Your website stores valuable pieces of information. Your clients and customers have entrusted their business/personal information to your care. It is your responsibility to safeguard and protect their data from malicious online thieves. 

What will you do if you found out your website has been hacked and all of the confidential information – Social Security Numbers, addresses, phone numbers, bank account numbers, credit card numbers – were all stolen?

Our advice: A single breach of data can destroy everything that you have worked for. Cyber-criminals are trying to stay a step ahead. Today’s latest anti-virus software can be obsolete tomorrow. 

Protecting your small business website isn’t just about getting the latest anti-virus software. You need a holistic defense system; one that can scan, screen, identify and eliminate attacks before they can do damage. 

And it will not break your bank account.

If you want to know how we have protected 100% of our clients’ websites from cyber-attacks over the past few years, give us a call. 

Let’s talk about defense and strategy!

5. Managing Work-Life Balance

One reason why an entrepreneur makes the shift from a 9-to-5 office worker to a small business owner is to have a better work-life balance. But perception is often different from reality. The entrepreneur soon finds himself spending more time at work instead of life.

All the benefits of entrepreneurship – financial independence, managing your own schedule, and having more time with loved ones – become fleeting thoughts; fantasies that may never be realized. 

Small business owners should strive to find a balance between work and life. Putting in more hours at work will not guarantee success. It will only succeed in stressing you out and affecting relationships with friends and family. 

Mobile technology has created a conundrum. Automated processes, software programs, apps, and cloud-based platforms have made it easier to get work done. 

However, instead of clearing out our schedule, we end up doing more things in the same number of hours per day. 

Take a look around you. There are people working on their smartphones while having dinner with family. Couples are answering emails instead of spending quality time with each other. 

Our advice: Productivity is achieved by the quality of hours spent at work, not by the quantity of hours. Set realistic goals – targeting 3 to 4 tasks or projects per day is reasonable and doable. 

In the same way that you schedule time each day for work, schedule time each day for the other important areas of your life – family, friends, self, and silence. 

In your moments of silence, take the time to express gratitude for the day’s successes and failures that have given you valuable insights on how to become better. 

Lastly, be in control of technology, don’t let it control you. Technology is a wonderful thing but it can be disruptive if not managed responsibly. When you’re with family – be with family.

Conclusion

2020 is just another year. If you think about it, 01 January 2020 is just 24 hours removed from 31 December 2019. However, does that mean that the challenges you faced just before you closed the books in 2019 remain the same? The answer is “No”.

The challenges that small businesses face in 2020 are greater and more magnified because with the new year comes new competition, new regulations, new consumers, and new technology. 

The best way to overcome these challenges is to take a more calculated and measured approach to managing a business. 

Think big but start small.

Establish your business culture. How do you want your business to run? Who are the people you would want to work with? What type of working environment do you want to promote in your business? How do you want people to feel about working for you? 

Focus on business efficiency. Look into ways that you can streamline costs without compromising the quality of output. Integrating smart technologies and proven cost-saving processes such as outsourcing can significantly improve business efficiency without breaking the budget.

Prioritize your existing market. Finding new customers is great but don’t neglect your existing customers. They are a wonderful source of recurring business through repeat purchases and referrals. 

Take the necessary steps to buildin strong relationships with them by incorporating an effective customer service process in your business.

Try to mitigate business risk by addressing potential pain points right away. Don’t become a statistic. Fortify your website’s defenses against cyberattacks because you never know when the criminals have trained their sights on your business.

As part of your planning process, give us a call. We can help you map out an effective strategy for starting and growing your small business. In addition to website design and development, we provide digital marketing services that can help promote your business, its products, and services. 

And if you enjoyed this article, feel free to share it with your community!

Every leader has their own version of what the word “good” will mean for them.

As will every employee.

Being a good leader is about more than getting good results – it’s also about team happiness, efficiency, and productivity.

But when your team is faced with a tight deadline, your role as their leader changes, too.

Here is how you can adapt to the situation and still make the most of it.

Have a system in place

The best thing you can do in the first place is to set up a system that all your employees will be familiar with and able to adhere to.

This system needs to encompass everything, including the designated communication channels, attendance and days off, responsibilities, and task delegation – the whole shebang.

The reasoning behind the system is that you, as the team leader, need to be aware of everything that is going on at a glance, without having to make a single call or send out a single email.

This will enable you to predict breached deadlines and the potential for disaster, and allow you to act accordingly as well.

A good project management tool to help you achieve just that is a Gantt chart, which you can customize as much as you need to.

Know your team

Another prep step that leads up to the tight deadline scenario we are discussing, and the most important prerequisite for success in any team, is knowing your players well enough to be able to assemble your starting lineup flawlessly.

Pardon the sporting reference, but you get the picture.

There will be people in your team who are great at what they do and are also great communicators. There will be those who are great at what they do, but have no idea how to communicate. And of course, there will be those who are great team players, but lack the skillset to get the job done at the same level.

Your team needs all of these players, but all of these players need to keep working on what they lack – with your help, of course, and that applies to the best of them, too. And you need to know where each of them stands, and where to place them at a time of crisis.

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Set clear goals and agree on the necessary steps 

When a deadline is tight, the most basic thing will help out the most: a well-laid plan.

Call a team meeting and come to a decision together – you don’t need to come up with the plan yourself. In fact, the more heads involved, the better it will be.

Make sure everyone takes on what they can and what they know. This is where your knowledge from the previous two steps comes in. Don’t let the nice, kind person who always volunteers but never gets anything done on time take on too much. Don’t let the most talented person take on all the work.

You are the leader, so it’s up to you to make the final call. But the more input each individual provides, the better your team will perform.

Communicate

When things are stressful and the repercussions can be significant, it’s important to keep everyone in the loop.

Make it clear with your team that they need to tell you everything, even when they come off bad, or someone else does.

Fearing the consequences, employees tend to hide from their managers when they are struggling with something. And while you will never be able to eliminate this fully, try to enforce a rule that no punishments are handed out as long as the person in question raises the red flag in time.

You can hope to meet any deadline only once everyone is clear on their specific responsibilities and priorities. Your job is to achieve just that. Don’t hand all the info out to everyone: as you hold all the cards, you should know exactly who needs to know what.

Have a Plan B

Deadlines will be missed sometimes. It’s just that simple.

Before that happens, it’s important to have a backup plan in place.

First of all, it’s your job to let the higher-ups know that you won’t be able to do it in said amount of time. But instead of just coming in with the bad news, have a solution ready.

How much extra time will the task take? Can you add in some overtime to get it done sooner? What are the overall outcomes you will have achieved? 

Try to focus on the good, not just the fact that the deadline has been missed.

Depending on the situation, there might be some music to be faced. You will be the one facing it, more likely than not. Don’t take it out on your team, if you are certain they could not have done better. If what it would have taken to meet the deadline is for everyone to perform at a perfect level the entire time, the deadline was never realistic, so don’t forget that.

Wrap up

At the end of the day, when things might feel like they’re getting out of control, always remember to trust yourself like the captain at the helm of a ship. 

Don’t place upon yourself the burden of having to be perfect – good leadership rests on good organization, understanding, and communication. Strive to grow and learn from each experience, and with each new deadline, you’ll be better and better at all of these fields. And your team will definitely appreciate you for it! 

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Buying an existing business is a good idea. If the enterprise has been in business for an impressive number of years, that is a sign of its reputation and stability in the industry. Should you take out your checkbook and issue a downpayment or reservation fee?

No.

When it comes to buying an existing business, don’t take chances and assume everything is in order. Performing due diligence via a financial audit is a smart first step but it is not enough.

Financial records and bank statements will not give you an idea of how the business is perceived by the industry and its market. You should perform an audit on the business’s online presence to learn more about its reputation and approach to managing its activities.

Here are the 6 things that you should look for when performing an online audit on a business:

1. Brand Awareness – Determine the Online Reputation of the Business

You may be surprised by what a simple Google search may yield!

With the Internet accessible to more than 4.5 billion people or 58% of the world’s population, it will be hard to stay hidden for long. News websites, content aggregators, and Internet users regularly upload or share information that captures their interest. 

If the business you are planning to buy engaged in news-worthy shenanigans in the past, trust that your Google search may pull out deal-breaking reports:

  • Was the business engaged in fraudulent activity?
  • Is the business mired in debt? 
  • Is the company facing lawsuits from clients or customers?
  • Is the government after the business for tax evasion?
  • Does the company have a director who is suspected of criminal activity?
  • Are the products of the business the subject of scrutiny regarding their quality?
  • Are the employees treated proper?

You should also check the social media pages of the business.

  • What are they regularly posting about? 
  • What topics or issues appear to be of interest to them?
  • How is the lead-in to the content presented? Is it in a professional manner?
  • How does the company moderator interact with the commenters? 

70% of recruiters screen the social media content of job applicants to assess if the candidate is a good fit for the company. 

You should do the same with a business before you buy it because your company will assume its brand. The message of the brand must align with your business’s purpose, values, and vision.

A good website to visit is Glassdoor.com which allows current and former employees to post reviews, comments, and information on their employer. If the business you are planning to buy is listed in Glassdoor, you may get helpful information about the company.

Of course, there is always the possibility of reading reviews made by disgruntled employees. After going through a few posts, you may have a better idea of what the company’s culture is like. 

2. Uncover the Relationship of the Business with its Customers

One of the greatest benefits of the Internet is that it creates avenues for customers to engage with the business. Among the most popular avenues are social media platforms and chat messaging.

If the business you are planning to buy has social media accounts – and it should – visit their pages. When a business opens a company page, people who follow or like the page will be allowed to post comments. 

Keep in mind that there is no such thing as a perfect business. It is not realistic to expect every consumer to like the product or service. Then, there are the unfortunate incidents. No matter how stringent the quality control processes are, mishaps are bound to happen.

The usual course of action is for customers to file a complaint. While some customers will be discreet and choose email or chat messaging as the medium of communication, many will post the complaint on the business’s social media page.

When reviewing the social media page of the business, assess the following:

  • Are the majority of the comments or posts from irate customers?
  • Did the company respond in a respectful manner?
  • Did the company respond within an acceptable time-frame such as 24 to 48 hours?
  • Do the engagements between the customer and the company result in extended communication threads?
  • Was resolution eventually achieved?
  • Did the business provide a process for the customer to follow?

The new term for customer service is relationship management. Businesses should take great care of their relationships with customers. 

A disgruntled customer can become a loyal customer if the issue was dutifully resolved. Excellent relationship management will also strengthen the brand of the business. 

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3. Assess the Scope and Depth of the Business’ Online Presence

The scope and depth of the business’s presence on the Internet should play a factor in determining its true worth. After all, you are buying their brand. 

  • What online activities has the business undertaken to build its brand?
  • How much work has been done to increase brand awareness online?
  • How strong is brand recall? 
  • Does the website attract an impressive amount of traffic?
  • Do the social media pages have a good number of followers?
  • How would you assess the level of engagement in the business’s social media pages? 
  • Which channels of communication are in place? Chat support? Social media moderation? Email? Inbound call service? 
  • How invested is the business in ensuring excellent customer service? 
  • Does the business have a blog page?

If the business has not done much or anything at all to enhance its online presence, that means you will have to do a lot of the heavy lifting to give the brand the traction it needs on the Internet.

All of that heavy lifting may come at a heavy price:

  • If the business does not have a chat support service, you will have to install the feature on the website or on its social media pages.
  • If the business does not have social media pages, you’ll have to set up the accounts yourself. Building a network of followers will take time. 
  • If the business did not blog, you may have to hire a content writer to create compelling blogs.

Building the business’s presence on the Internet will cost you resources in terms of time and money. 

As the saying goes, “Your business is representative of your leadership”. If there is no online presence, you should start to wonder about the people you are dealing with.

4. Existence of Social Proof

You’ve done the feasibility studies, checked the finances, and performed due diligence. In business, there is no such thing as a “sure thing”. Even if the results of the projections are in your favor, it does not mean the business you purchased is a good deal. 

One way to ease your worries about the viability of the business is to look for the existence of social proof.

Social proof is a concept that was introduced by Robert Cialdini, a professor of Marketing at Arizona State University. According to Cialdini, consumers change their behavior based on the actions of others. 

For example, if you see a long line of people outside a donut store, you will be compelled to join the queue because your assumption is that the food must be good. 

Of course, you may end up disappointed when reality falls short of expectation. Still, the presence of an impressive queue was enough to get you to try the donut store – and ring the business owner’s cash register. 

What types of social proof should you look for that attest to the viability of the business you are purchasing?

  • Product or Business Reviews
  • Influencer’s Endorsement
  • User, Client or Customer Testimonials
  • Positive Reviews or Reports From Various Media
  • Social Media Shares of Published Content

When reviewing social proof, take the good with the bad. You can’t please everybody. Consumers have individual tastes and preferences. However, if the feedback is overwhelmingly negative, you might want to re-think your decision to purchase the business. At the very least, use social proof to tilt final negotiations to your favor.

5. Is the Website Responsive?

It’s not enough for the business to have a website. It must be responsive. Otherwise, your business will not be accessible to potential customers who use mobile devices to conduct an Internet search.

How important is it to have a website that is mobile responsive? More than 60% of searches on the Internet are carried out on a mobile device. 

If your website is not mobile responsive it will not set up properly on a smaller screen. The Internet user will not have the patience to zoom-in just to read your content and to navigate around your website. 

What will happen if the website of the business is not mobile responsive?

For the reason that the Internet opens up your business to an ocean of opportunities, you simply will not thrive with a website that is not mobile responsive. Thus, you will have to spend to make the website mobile responsive. 

Similar to building the online presence of the business, you have to bring up the matter of the non-responsive website to the negotiation table. 

6. Is the Business Visible on the Internet?

Does the business post content on its website and social media pages? Blogging is a proven way of building the brand of a business. Its other benefits include driving more traffic to the website, generating leads, improving the search ranking of the website, and enhancing the business’s online presence. 

However, to realize these benefits, the content must be optimized. 

It won’t matter how amazing the blogs read. They won’t be seen unless the content is optimized with the right keywords. 

And it’s not just the blogs. The content on the website must also be optimized. 

Here’s a checklist of what to look for when testing for website optimization:

  • Presence of broken links
  • Optimization of meta tags
  • Page loading time
  • Existence of spelling errors
  • Quality of keywords
  • Assess the quality of the links 

Improving site optimization will take time. If the content published thus far isn’t good quality, then you will have to start from scratch. Poor quality content is described as content that is:

  • Irrelevant
  • Not informative
  • Poorly researched
  • Embedded with irrelevant links
  • Not unique or fresh; risk of plagiarism
  • Presence of spelling and grammatical errors

Poor quality content will affect brand perception. Spelling and grammatical errors will put off readers. Plagiarism will damage the reputation of the business perhaps beyond repair. 

It is strongly advised to run the published content through a plagiarism checker program such as Copyscape before finalizing the decision to purchase the business. 

Conclusion

Buying a business is like buying an old house. 

The value of the property is not on the house itself but on the land it is built on. Of course, the value of the home is considered when calculating the final sale of the property. 

A house that is for sale may look good on the outside but make no mistake, it is a depreciating asset. 

Even if the seller says he spent for repairs, don’t take his word for it. Inspect the house from top to bottom. Bring in an engineer or general contractor to give you a professional opinion. 

If you have to conduct repairs, the cost should be factored in when negotiating for the final price because you will be spending extra money to make the house livable.

Like real estate property, the business you acquired can pay out dividends in the future. However, before buying it you have to ascertain the viability of what you are paying for. 

Otherwise, you end up paying more than it’s worth. If the online reputation is poor and potentially beyond repair, you may never recover the cost of the investment.

Are you thinking of buying a business? Give us a call and we’ll help you run an audit on its website and overall online presence. 

If you enjoyed this article, please feel free to share it with your community or with someone who is planning to buy a business.

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Since we started Mountaintop Web Design, we have made a conscious effort to seek out the best talent available to help us provide top-notch, world-class services to our clients. 

Talent is never the monopoly of one country or one region. In a truly globalized economy and with the scope and reach of the Internet, you can access talent from different parts of the world. Collaborating with people from other nations and cultures has been a rewarding and enriching experience for us. 

In the years we’ve spent working in the trenches with our friends from Southeast Asia, we made it a point to learn how Asian small businesses differ from Western small businesses when it comes to managing enterprises.

Here are some of the interesting tidbits we learned from working with small businesses in Asia: 

1. Family Comes First

Did you know that the vast majority of family-owned businesses come from Asia-Pacific? 

According to a study funded by Credit Suisse, the family-owned businesses from Asia-Pacific have a total market capitalization of $4 Trillion. As expected, China accounts for the largest slice of the pie with 159 companies and $1.38 Trillion in market capitalization.

The rankings for the most number of family-owned companies are as follows:

  • Asia-Pacific and Japan – 528 companies (53%)
  • Europe – 226 companies (23%)
  • The United States – 121 companies (12%)
  • Latin America – 64 companies (6%)

Why does Asia have so many family-owned businesses? 

For years, we’ve heard or read stories of Asian family-owned enterprises being protective of the business’ succession. 

Is there more to this ideology than just to “keep it (the business) within the family?”

The Credit Suisse study found out that family-owned businesses outperformed non-family-owned businesses in terms of revenue growth and profitability. For example, in Japan, family-owned businesses delivered more than 25% greater Cash Flow Return on Investment (CFROI) than non-family-owned businesses.  

A study conducted by Harvard University on family-owned businesses in the Philippines reveals 2 reasons why these types of businesses perform better than their counterparts.

  • In family-owned businesses, management and family are one and the same. The family is the business. Therefore, they do not experience the standard conflicts between management and the shareholders on issues such as governance, returns, and management pay as do non-family-owned businesses.
  • In a family-owned business, the founders remain deeply involved in the business even after they have gone past retirement age. The founders have taken up a greater role as a symbol of commitment, hard work, and discipline to inspire employees to perform at their best every day at the office.

Generally, while the founders are still alive, the other key role in the organization –  CEO – is delegated to outsiders or non-family members. The reason for this is to create a balance between tradition and the demands of globalization.

In time, when the founders have passed on, the business is carried on by the succeeding generations. 

2. Everyone Starts From The Bottom

As discussed in the previous section, when it comes to family-owned businesses, Asia rules the world. 

In the Philippines, 80% of small businesses are family-owned. If you are a Filipino, you are expected to work for the family business after you have graduated from university.

That does not mean you will walk straight to the Chief Executive’s office the day after you receive your diploma. You have to work your way to the top and that means starting out from the bottom. 

A friend of mine from the Philippines said that when he worked for his father’s ship-staffing agency, he had to start out as a Liaison Officer. The job meant heading off to the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) every day to process the documents of the seafarers. 

As a Liaison Officer, days are spent waiting in queues for several hours and going from one department to the next getting signatures and having work contracts approved. 

The job of a Liaison Officer in a recruitment agency is regarded as entry-level. It is usually given to a seafarer who cannot find work and needs to earn money to pay for his expenses while in the city. 

According to my friend, the experience was hard and humbling but gave him a deeper perspective on what overseas Filipino workers go through to find greener pastures in other countries. 

He also gained a better understanding of the culture of the overseas worker. It helped him articulate ideas and establish strong, trustworthy relationships with the seafarer and the shipping principals which were based in Singapore and Malaysia.

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3. Respect Days of Religious/Spiritual Obligation

Asia is a continent where the countries practice a wide range of religions such as Catholicism, Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, Shinto, and Taoism. Religion and spiritualism are a big part of life among Asians. 

The Philippines is the only Christian nation in Asia.  86% of its population is Roman Catholic. The Philippines observes the following religious holidays: Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Black Saturday, and Christmas. 

Filipinos also observe the days of religious obligation as instructed by the Catholic Church. Many businesses do not have work during religious holidays. It is a tradition for employees to be with their families and to maintain the practices that have been handed down for generations. 

For example, during Maundy Thursday, Filipino families visit and pray at 7 churches. On Good Friday, Filipinos troop to Churches at 3:00 pm to hear a special mass and listen to the priest’s rendition of Christ’s “Seven Last Words”. 

Although Asia is home to different religions, spirituality has a big influence on how Asians live their lives and make decisions. Historian Teodoro Agoncillo once described Filipinos as “fatalistic”.  

Filipinos have a favorite phrase “Bahala na” which translated to English means “I leave it to fate”. Another version is “Bahala na si Lord” or “I leave it to our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Applied to business, the Filipino will do his best to succeed but he understands nothing in life is certain. 

The industry can be very competitive and others want to succeed as much as he does. Thus, he will leave the outcome to fate or to his faith in Jesus Christ. If success is for him, it will happen. If not, he will try again. 

Faith gives Asians hope. If everything else fails, he has his beliefs to fall back on. If he succeeds, he gives credit to his faith more than anything else. 

4. Perform Beyond the Value of Your Service

Outsourcing has grown to become a very profitable industry for nearly 20 years. Outsourcing’s jump-off point was the year 2000 when the industry was valued at $45.6 Billion. By 2014, outsourcing hit a high of $104.6 Billion. 

Asia became the global hub of outsourcing. Countries such as the Philippines and India became the primary destinations of companies that wanted to outsource services. 

The biggest benefit of outsourcing for businesses is its ability to lower costs by capitalizing on comparative cost advantages particularly labor. 

For example, hiring a full-time accountant in the United States will cost you $29.63 per hour. In comparison, outsourcing services to an accountant in the Philippines will only cost you $3.33 per hour. 

However, when you outsource to Asia, the saying “You get what you pay for” does not necessarily hold true. The reason why the outsourcing industry continues to thrive in Asia is that the quality of service and deliverables is world-class. 

According to the online job platform UpWork, freelancers from the Philippines are the 3rd highest earners in the world which confirm the continued demand for their services.

In general, Asian businesses do not want to commoditize their services by driving prices to basement-bargain levels. The rates are lower simply because these are in line with industry standards. 

Asian businesses share the belief that once they have proven their worth to the client, requesting for an increase in fees should be within reason. Thus, they provide work that is over and above the monetary value of their services. 

Yes, companies in Asia do respect religious holidays but many will set up small-size workforces to render services to clients during these days of obligation. The businesses don’t mind paying their employees twice their daily wages to make sure the clients’ needs are covered. 

Asian businesses don’t view their clients merely as clients but as strategic partners; one that shares a common interest to succeed in the industry. 

Conclusion

Close-family ties, a strong belief in honorable work, respect for faith and spirituality, and unwavering commitment to provide their best to clients and customers – we learned that Asian small businesses do not separate the enterprise from who they are. 

The popular thought process is to keep life and work separate – who you are at home should not be the person running the business. We should be more professional or formal at work so that our employees will respect us. 

But how is it to be a “professional”? Does wearing a formal tie, dress shoes, a pressed shirt, and slacks and a face-forward appearance fit the bill of a professional business owner? When employees say “Good Morning!” or “Good Afternoon!”, should it be considered as a sign of respect? 

As the popular saying goes, “respect should be earned, not given.” If you manage people and clients from the position of your values – the principles that made you who you are – you are being authentic and truthful to them. 

The employees, clients, end-users, suppliers, and other stakeholders in your business value chain who are aligned with your values would be motivated to help you attain long-term, sustainable growth. 

Put it this way, if you manage your business and attend to the needs of your employees and clients with love in your heart – the same way you feel when you are with family – how can you ever go wrong? 

If you enjoyed this article, please go ahead and share it with your community.

And if you want to learn more about Mountaintop’s services and how we can help your business achieve new levels of success, please feel free to give us a call or an email.

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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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