What is a typical day for you like?

Like most people, you probably spend eight hours working behind a computer. When you are on your break, chances are you are constantly checking your email or updates in social media via your smartphone.

Exercise is a great way to de-stress and what could be better than a run with your favorite tunes blaring in your ears? It was a good thing “Eye of the Tiger” was available for download at the iTunes Store.

It’s nighttime and you want to take your significant other out to dinner. Where to eat? No problem! All you need to do is access Yelp.

If you belong to the 33% of the population, you probably check your smartphone while tucked away in bed. A study by Deloitte showed that 1 in 3 check people their phones in the middle of the night.

You may not be aware of it but your online behavior is causing a build up of digital clutter; the habit of acquiring more and more information that will ultimately serve its purpose, becomes irrelevant and useless. If you don’t get rid of digital clutter, technology will become a hindrance, not an assistance, to life and work.

How Digital Clutter Impacts Productivity

Technology is a wonderful thing. It makes everything easier and more convenient to do. People who were born in the 1960’s still remember the days using the typewriter, calculator and the fax machine. Today you can do everything on a device that will fit the palm of your hand.

But digital clutter can make it seem like the 1960’s all over again. Your productivity can be weighed down by time wasters such as looking for files, clearing out irrelevant email and working with a slowed down computer.

And let’s not forget the distractions caused by social media. People who spend too much time on social media often feel like being in a digital prison: They just have to post.

Digital clutter can lead to a cluttered life. Instead of making everything easier, technology becomes the root cause of non-productivity and stress. The good news is digital clutter is a relatively simple matter to fix.

5 Ways to Simplify Digital Clutter

Take note that we used the word “relative” in our previous statement. If you want to get rid of digital clutter, you must want to make it happen. All you need is to take that all-important first step: Clear out all the clutter.

1. Clear Out Stuff You Don’t Need

If you’ve ever caught an episode of the riveting reality show “Hoarders”, the first step toward addressing hoarding behavior is for the patient to clear out stuff he or she no longer needs.

Are you a digital hoarder?

Your desktop, laptop or tablet could be packed with files, apps and programs that you no longer use. It will be harder to find the documents you need especially if you can’t remember the filename.

Digital clutter will also eat up precious memory and present a security risk. Unused or under-utilized apps especially those that have not been updated can leave your computer vulnerable to hacking.

Where should you start?

  • Email – According to Statista, 39% of Americans check their emails 1 to 3 times a day. This high engagement rate with email is one reason we are constantly bombarded with marketing content, junk correspondence, “phishing” expeditions and malware disguised as innocent communication. If you don’t clear out your inbox of useless email, it will use up your memory, complicate organization efforts and expose you to threats of hacking. Delete or file emails that you have already read, those from people you don’t know and suspicious messages in your Spam folder.
  • Music – The Internet has made it easy to put together an album of songs you grew up with and those that motivate you to work out. But while the classics will survive the test of time, your tastes probably won’t. “Eye of the Tiger” may have gotten you riled up for a 5k run but when was the last time you listened to it? The same goes for your compilation of “Hall and Oates” 1980’s hits. Clear out your hard drive with songs you hardly listen to so you can make space for new sources of inspiration.
  • Pictures and Videos – The saying goes that “a picture is worth a thousand words”. It’s great to share experiences with others and re-live the good times. But you should learn to let go of the past so you can move forward and create new experiences. And what about images that were poorly shot or out of focus? You will not be able to appreciate the images so there is no reason to feel attached to them. The same can be said about videos. Yes, “Ninja Cat” was funny and cute but the cat has grown up and so should your taste. After all with the Internet, it is easy to find old videos and images whenever you get that nostalgic feeling. Delete pictures and videos that no longer have value and store the rest in a file or a separate drive.
  • Apps and Programs – It’s easy to get caught up with the latest apps because we want to make life and work more convenient. If you believe the statistics, the Apple App Store grows by 1,000 new apps every day. This means your latest discovery today can be rendered obsolete by tomorrow. Apps need to be updated regularly and this will be hard to do if you have too many to keep track of. Remove apps that you no longer use to save memory and to protect your computer from hackers. Remember, hackers can use your stored apps as a conduit for their malicious attacks and target your mobile device or PC.
  • Social Media – When you are working, shut off all your social media accounts. The last thing you want while finalizing a report would be to receive notifications from Messenger. As a matter of fact, you don’t have to open an account in every social media platform. If you are using social media to market your business, choose only two networks that are relevant to your trade. It is easier to manage and you don’t have to deal with additional sources of distraction.

 2. Organize Your Files

Once you’ve cleared out the clutter, organize the rest of the files that you have decided to save. Organizing even on the digital level can be challenging especially if you haven’t done this before.

But with a few simple steps, any beginner should have an easy time arranging his or her files in the most efficient and effective way possible.

Here are 3 simple tips you can use to straighten out your PC or mobile device:

  • Create folders for your personal files and then break them down into sub-directories.

For example, you can create a file name “Family” and then have “Birthdays”, “Christmas”, “Vacation” and “Special Events” as sub-directories. You can further distinguish each sub-directory by another sub-directory such as by year. So for “Family” it could be Vacation/2015/Puerto Rico.

  • You can store your files in your hard drive or “C” drive but if for some reason you computer gets infected, everything could be damaged beyond recovery.

Consider storing your files in a removable drive or on a Cloud-Based platform such as DropBox which has high levels of encryption for data security.

  • If you decide on storing your files in your PC desktop, arrange the folders from left to right because this is the normal orientation for reading. Start out with the most important or frequently viewed folders or documents.

It is a good idea to scan and save important files and documents onto these cloud based platforms. Your business registration papers, marriage and birth certificates should be at the top of your list.

3. Use Online Tools

The Internet is ripe with tools you can use to minimize digital clutter and improve productivity. We already presented DropBox as one of these online tools that can be effective for organizing your files and keeping them safe. Here are a few others you can consider:

  • Evernote – This is primarily a note- taking application. But it is packed with features that will make organization a breeze. If you want to learn more about Evernote, you can click to our article “How to Organize Life and Work with Evernote”.
  • Password Manager Programs – If you are like most people who have so many online accounts to manage, you might occasionally encounter some difficulty remembering the username and password to access websites you hardly use. Enter the password manager program which will keep track of all the passwords and usernames you use. You can learn more about password manager programs in our article “Why You Need a Password Manager Now”.
  • Google Drive – This is an effective way of organizing the work you do for different clients. Simply create a folder per client and store all the work you’ve done for each. Then send individual links to each client.
  • Asana – Asana is one of the best project management tools you can use. It is a great way to keep track of current projects and to ensure everybody on your team is on the same page. Other good project management tools you can consider are SalesForce and WebEx.
  • Skype, Slack or Viber –  Communication is an important component of every business. In order to reduce the risk of mistakes or misunderstandings, it is a good idea to frequently stay in touch with your people.

But using traditional phone services will be expensive. It would be more cost effective to use one an online communication tool that has chat and calling features. Skype, Slack and Viber are very popular, easy to install and best of all, free!

4. Patronize Online Services

Today you can transact with almost any service provider online. You can do online banking, pay your utility bills or update public records. As much as possible, use these online services so you can reduce your usage of paper.

Phone companies send your monthly statement online via email. You can pay your bill through their website or PayPal. It is simpler, easier and without the inconvenience of having to drive to the bank.

There is no need to keep paper records. In case you have to, you can simply print out the scanned copy that is usually attached on the email or request for one from the service provider.

5. Clean Your Web Browser

Since you are migrating most of your work or activity online, you will be using your web browser extensively. Bookmarking is an efficient way of accessing websites that you frequently visit.

Make it a point to clean your web browser of links that are no longer relevant. It will be easier to find the websites that you need to use when there is less to scroll through.

Conclusion

As the world becomes increasingly dependent on mobile technology, more people are spending more time online than ever before. We are searching, processing and consuming information at a rate that will only rise exponentially over the next five years.

Collecting data becomes second nature. We don’t give much thought on creating systems that will organize files, documents and apps because as far as we know, “it’s just there somewhere.”

Yup, just like the other argyle sock you found under the pile of unused workout wear. The argyle sock you were looking for a week ago.

If unmitigated, our practice of constantly acquiring data will lead to digital clutter which could be just as bad; or maybe worse, than physical clutter.

We hope we gave you valuable insights on managing digital clutter in your life. Do you have other tips you want to share to our readers? Please feel free to post your comments in the section below.

If you want to learn how to use technology to organize everything you need to do at home and at the office, please do not hesitate to give us a call or an email.

 

Security exists to make sure everything that we hold valuable in life is safe, secure and protected from those with malicious intent. Life has become a long list of passwords and combinations. From locker combinations to PIN codes for ATM, cellphone access to passwords for websites, social media accounts and email. It pays to err on the side of caution but having too many passwords eventually ends up compromising convenience for security.

The solution? Use a Password Manager program.

The Realities of Living in a Password-Heavy World

Here are a few interesting statistics from the June 2015 TeleSign Consumer Account Security Report on digital security concerns and practices which surveyed more than 2,000 people from the United States and the United Kingdom:

  • 75% of respondents use the same password for multiple accounts.
  • 40% of those surveyed reported that they had been hacked or notified their personal information had been compromised.
  • 21% have not changed their password for the past 10 years.
  • 47% use passwords that are at least 5 years old.

Of those who participated in the TeleSign study, 80% shared their concern about being hacked. Yet many of them still continue with their irresponsible practices regarding online security.

Like most consumers, we don’t believe we are vulnerable to crime until we finally become victims. By then, it could be too late. We end up losing more than we gained by following lackadaisical practices.

This kind of disengaged mentality is the reason why the 5 most popular passwords in 2014 were:

  1. 123456
  2. Password
  3. 12345
  4. 12345678
  5. Qwerty

You could be shaking or scratching your head; or maybe even both, but the truth is people did not take password security seriously. When making a choice between security and convenience, they chose the latter.

The fact that 40% claimed they were hacked was proof they should have taken the effort to come up with more challenging and complex passwords.

Imagine the consequences if your email password was stolen. The cyber criminal could easily reset several of your online accounts including PayPal.

But coming up with strong passwords for different purposes is easier said than done. Every program has its own parameters for strength. Some require a minimum of 10 characters. Others demand that the password contain a number, a capitalized letter and a sign.

Gone are the days when post-its on a computer screen would be enough to keep track of your passwords. With the Internet, you need to be more creative with your password and strategic when it comes to securing your codes from the bad guys.

The good news is that with a Password Manager, you no longer have to compromise convenience for additional security.

What is a Password Manager?

Password managers work by storing all of your log-in information for the websites and accounts you use. It makes logging in easier because the Password Manager does it for you automatically.

The Password Manager will encrypt your database file for all your passwords with a Master Key. In effect, the Master Key is the Master Password which you will have to come up with and is the only one you have to remember.

How Does a Password Manager Work?

Let’s say you want to log in to your Facebook account. When you use a Password Manager, you don’t have to type in your details onto the Facebook web page. Instead you type in the Master Password onto the Password Manager which fills in the correct details so you can access Facebook.

You no longer have to spend time thinking of your user name or combination of letters, numbers and signs for your password. Can you imagine not being able to log in to your Skype account because you forgot the password and the client is already online?

There are many great useful online services that we sign up with so we can make life and work easier. But the truth is, how many of these services do we actually use on a daily basis?

It is easy to forget passwords for websites that we hardly use. The same goes for emails. It is not uncommon for people to have multiple email accounts.

Another benefit of having a Password Manager is that it can create passwords for you.

Whether it is for one of your current online accounts or a new one, the Password Manager can generate a strong one for you and there is no need to extinguish brain cells trying to remember the combination. The Password Manager will do it for you.

 Which Type of Password Manager Should You Use?

Password managers are nothing new. The rise in demand for these programs was commensurate with the growth in popularity of the Internet. As more computers were integrated into systems that used Internet- based processes, it became more important to find ways to manage passwords and secure networks.  

There are different types of password managers that you can consider. The one you choose should have the features that would greatly benefit your business. Here are some of the password managers you can find in the market today:

1. Bonus-Feature Password Manager: 

Some operating systems, browsers and antivirus software offer password managers as a bonus feature or added value for choosing their program.

Examples would include those included in Chrome, Firefox and the Norton 360 comprehensive security suite.

If you feel your type of business does not need additional security and you are confident of what these password managers can do, go ahead and utilize the service.

2. Standalone Password Manager: 

These are password manager programs that are not associated with other software. KeePass and Aurora are good examples.

They provide strong encryption and Aurora has other features such as password generation, automatic form-filling and the ability to import passwords to a readable file.

This type of password manager is ideal if you use only one device for all of your computing work.

3. Password Managers with Embedded Security Hardware:

You will need hardware in order to get this password manager to save and encrypt data.

A good example would be Lenovo’s T-Series ThinkPad laptops that have an Embedded Security System mounted as a chipset on its motherboard. Only someone with the Master Password, fingerprint reader or both can access your data.

You should have this type of password manager if you work in a shared space environment where the risk of hacking is very high.

4. Web-Based Password Manager:

This is one of the latest types of password managers. It is a web-based application so you can use it from any Internet-connected device.

Examples would be RoboForm and PasswordSafe which have the same features as Aurora.

If your network consists of PC’s, laptops and tablets, this is the Password Manager for you because it can help you retrieve your passwords from all connected devices.

Risks of Using Password Managers and How to Avoid Them

Using a Password Manager will certainly make work more efficient. Instead of spending time and energy trying to remember passwords and usernames, the Password Manager will do the work for you.

But there are very real risks when entrusting your passwords to a singular system. If you had all of your valuables stored inside your home, what do you think would happen if a thief found your master key?

Here are a few tips on how to keep your Master Password secure regardless of the type of Password Manager program you are using:

  • Take steps to ensure the physical security of your computers at the home or at the office. For example, use computer locks or keep the rooms tightly secured before you leave your home or office.
  • Make sure you have a password to access the user account on your computer or mobile device.
  • Change your Master Password frequently.
  • Set a screen lock on your PC or mobile device.
  • Do not entrust your Master Password to anyone.
  • Regularly update your antivirus, malware programs and firewalls.
  • Enhance your security with a biometric program such as fingerprint reading in case you forget your Master Password.

You may also want to consider the old school approach in securing the protection of your Master Password. After all, given its importance, you should take precautionary measures in the event you somehow forget the combination.

Write down your Master Password on a piece of paper, place it in a sealed envelope and just like the recipe for Krispy Kreme’s donuts, Col. Sander’s Kentucky Fried Chicken and the Coca Cola formula, keep it under lock and key at a personal or bank vault.

How to Get Started With Your Password Manager

Once you have made your choice of Password Manager program the only thing you need to do is create your Master Password. It must be as strong as possible and offer virtually no chance of being uncovered by any hacker. Therefore, take your time coming up with one.

The most important takeaway in this article is to understand the value of managing and keeping track of your passwords given the sheer number of activities you may have on the Internet.

We hope you enjoyed reading our article on the importance of having a Password Manager. It has been a proven way of protecting websites since the 1990’s and will continue to evolve into better and more efficient programs throughout the next few years.

If you want to have one installed or have more questions on this valuable software program, please do not hesitate to give us a call or an email.

 

Key Performance Indicators or KPI’s are pre-determined benchmarks used to measure or track the effectiveness of processes currently implemented to achieve your business objective.

KPI’s are also alternatively referred to as metrics.

The KPI’s of one business will be different from another. Determining the KPI’s would depend on the industry, type of organization and what the business hopes to accomplish.

A small business owner retailing fashion apparel would have a different set of KPI’s compared to a company that is publicly listed in the stock exchange.

For the retailer, his objective would be to increase sales revenue. There are several ways the business owner can approach this objective. These approaches involve implementing specific processes and functions that were designed to improve the level of sales.

But not all of these processes will generate the same results. Some may not even work at all. Some may even run contrary to your objective and produce worse results.

On the other hand, the publicly listed company’s objective would be to increase its stock price. Applying the KPI’s of the small fashion retailer would not help the publicly listed company accomplish its objective because improving the stock price involves considerations other than just increasing sales.

The set of KPI’s established by a business will also vary in terms of importance. A company that provides customer service will prioritize KPI’s that measure turnaround time (TAT) and ratio of resolved versus unresolved issues.

Meanwhile an owner of a fast-food business will most likely place more focus on metrics that track food cost, profitability and customer turnover.

The Importance of Having KPI’s for Your Business

KPI’s provide you the basis to analyze if these processes or functions are helping you stay on course toward achieving your goal. In the absence of a system of measuring performance, an organization’s management team would have no meaningful way of evaluating the effectiveness of its current strategies.

A company may end up allocating more resources to fund a process that is constantly under-delivering results. Management would have no reference point to determine what changes need to be made to improve its operational system.

Metrics and performance benchmarks are also necessary to keep employees focused on the company’s goals as well as their personal improvement.

For example, a company that provides moderation services use KPI’s that measure the employee’s ability to identify potential violations and their accuracy in citing the specific guideline.

A third metric to consider would be work ethic which is composed of timekeeping records, performance evaluation results, tests and number of infraction notices received.

The result of the KPI evaluation would give the company empirical basis for retaining, promoting or terminating the employee without risk of being accused of unfair labor practices.

Business owners and top level executives can use KPI’s to identify potential outcomes that could pose problems in the future. Foreshadowing threats will give organizations more time to develop the appropriate courses of action.

Types of KPI’s

While the kinds of metrics a business may use could be different from the ones used by another organization, generally, there are only 2 types of KPI’s:

  • Lagging Indicators – Measures results of business activities that have already occurred. Examples of Lagging Indicators are quarterly profit and revenue growth and other versions of financial statements.
  • Leading Indicators – These are metrics that provide guidance on future results. Examples of Leading Indicators are sales bookings and customer surveys.

Businesses that are looking to develop a set of KPI’s must strive to find a balance between lagging and leading indicators.

Another factor to consider is the difference between quantitative and qualitative indicators.

Quantitative indicators have a numerical basis; its result is confirmed or validated by a number or figure that corresponds to actual performance. Qualitative is much more abstract and subject to interpretation.

A good example of a qualitative indicator would be statistics on the number of terminated transactions on an E-commerce website’s checkout counter. If the number of terminated transactions is high, it could be an indicator of poor User Experience (UX).

 How to Develop KPI’s for Your Business

There is no strict rule on how to develop KPI’s for your business. However, we have a system which you can use as a reference to help you come up with your own set of metrics:

  • Identify – Conduct a thorough review of your business model and pinpoint your objective. Identify a set of KPI’s that you believe would best measure the performance of your company or a specific department.
  • Create – Once you have identified the KPI’s, develop a system of measuring performance and displaying results.
  • Evaluate – Even CEO’s need help evaluating KPI’s. If you have a team, distribute a copy of the KPI results to everyone and ask each one to contribute their analysis.
  • Change – If the team has arrived at a consensus on the end result of the KPI’s, identify which processes and functions are producing the lowest ROI. The options are to revise parameters of the processes, reduce its level of involvement or outright discontinuation.
  • Reassess – Come up with an objective reassessment of the KPI’s and your proximity to the stated goal or objective.

Let’s put this all together by using our earlier example on the moderation services company. For purposes of the discussion, let’s call the moderation services company, Benchmark Global.

  • Identify – Benchmark Global has a client from Australia that is involved in the entertainment industry. The client has social media platforms that allow chat and posting of images.

The client has instructed Benchmark to reduce the number of complaints from users. The complaints range from offensive content and inconsistent tagging of inappropriate posts.

  • Create – Benchmark has identified “Statistics”, “Accuracy” and “Work Ethic” as the KPI’s.

Statistics refers to the volume of inappropriate posts and offensive content tagged by the moderator. Accuracy refers to the moderator’s precision in tagging the post according to the appropriate guideline. Work Ethic refers to moderator’s overall attitude while on duty.

The questions to be answered were the following:

  • Statistics – “How many messages or content did the moderator tag?”
  • Accuracy – “Were these messages tagged according to moderation guidelines?”
  • Work Ethic – “Were there extraneous factors that contributed to the drop in moderation quality?”

The Head Moderator has reviewed all the trouble tickets that covered these complaints and has asked the Quality Assurance Officer to confirm the validity of the claims by cross-referencing the tagged post to the appropriate moderation guideline.

The Performance Analyst will review the historical performance of the moderators involved with the posts in question and will try to find inconsistencies, trends, patterns and potential pain points.

  • Evaluate – Benchmark’s moderation management team is composed of the Head Moderator, Performance Analyst and Quality Assurance Officer. They  have applied the following weights on each metric:
    • Accuracy – 60%
    • Statistics – 30%
    • Work Ethic – 10%

The company has decided to focus on improving on quality of work instead of increasing the volume of tagged posts. Benchmark theorizes that as quality improves, the volume of tagged posts will increase accordingly.

  • Change – Benchmark has seen that accuracy may have been compromised because a good number of moderators were consistently late for work and the rate of absenteeism has increased significantly. The company has decided to revise the weights as follows:
    • Accuracy – 50%
    • Statistics – 30%
    • Work Ethic – 20%

Supervisors were instructed to tighten up on time-keeping and to penalize habitually tardy moderators. Company policy had outlined specific courses of action to take during incidents of tardiness and absenteeism.

These courses of action included distribution of memos and an adjudication process if warranted.

  • Reassess – Benchmark’s moderation performance slightly dipped last quarter as evidenced by the decrease in accuracy but an increase in statistics. the company is confident it can recover lost ground with the newest adjustments in KPI’s.

It identified deteriorating levels of discipline as one of the possible causes. If moderators are routinely absent or late at work, the quality and consistency of moderation will suffer.

The inverse relationship between accuracy and statistics led to one conclusion: Moderators had gotten sloppy at work.

By implementing disciplinary rules as the supervisors should have done in the first place, moderators may start taking their duties more seriously.

In order to stay on course, Benchmark may consider re-training the moderators and/or terminating those who exhibited unprofessional behavior at work.

KPI’s should always remain dynamic or flexible because business conditions can change without warning. The processes and functions which did not contribute to the success of your campaign this year may become valuable next year.

The normal course of action is to use business analytics to develop your set of KPI’s. Analytics can be data collected from your website, social media pages and online marketing programs.

You can read more about analytics in our article “Why is Analytics Important in Marketing?

Conclusion

The important thing to remember when running a business is to always stay on top of your performance by keeping track of your numbers. A website is a must if you want to be competitive in the industry. It is the hub of all of your online activities.

Ask your web designer or developer to pull out your site’s analytics on a monthly basis and discuss the numbers with you. In time and with consistency you will become more proficient in analyzing your numbers.

The same goes for marketing analytics. Consult with your Digital Marketer and determine which online platforms and networks are generating the highest ROI.

A very important rule to remember is to keep your metrics simple. You can get lost in the number of processes you can use to measure business performance.

When it comes to KPI’s, more isn’t better. If there are too many indicators to review and evaluate, you can get confused and find yourself veering off- course from your original intent.

We hope you enjoyed our article on KPI’s and found it highly informative. If you would like to know more about metrics and performance benchmarks and how it applies to business, please feel free to give us a call or an email.

 

Technology exists to make life and work easier and more convenient. But some days it seems that technology exists to make sure we do more things in the same amount of time. We’re in a constant cycle of making lists, taking down notes and cramming information in our smartphones and other devices in an effort to remember what we need to do. Yet, we end up forgetting or misplacing information. Enter Evernote.

Evernote is an online note- taking application. It is packed with many note management tools but you don’t have to use all of them. Choose the one that fits your needs.

Whether you run your own business, work for a private company, if you are a student or a stay-at-home parent, you will find great value in having Evernote in your life.

We only have 24 hours in a day. Factor in sleep, then we probably are awake 16 to 18 of those 24 hours. For some people, 16 to 18 hours is not enough time in a day to get everything done.

The problem is not the quantity of tasks they need to accomplish. The main issue is time management. The root cause of poor time management can be linked to lack of organizational skills.

Evernote and the Evolution of Note Taking

If you could find a way to organize your tasks effectively, you can be productive and accomplish more tasks in the amount of time you have every day. One of the skills you need to develop in order to be more organized is note taking.

Let’s look at some examples where note taking comes in handy:

  • You are in a lecture and the presenter recites a litany of key statistics, figures, events, dates and significant developments. Note taking will help you organize the salient points of the presentation.

You can highlight the areas which require more research. You can organize the notes so you can develop a more effective study plan.

  • You are the Project Manager of a remote team whose members work in different parts of the world. This means you have to consider time zone differentials when meeting or collaborating with the group.
    • One of the best ways to establish close collaboration with a remote team is by sharing notes. Whenever you meet, take down notes from the discussion. Organize them in a well-structured format then share it with your team members. Ask them to add their ideas to those indicated on your notes.
  • You are in a conference call with an important client. He will sign up your services but you have to provide assurances that you can do the job. The client discusses his requirements to qualify you as a service provider. A smart approach to note taking will ensure you do not miss any details from the client.
    • Note- taking is also essential for managing tasks at home. If the spouse wants you to pass by the supermarket so she can prepare this Sunday’s dinner of Bouillabaisse, you better make sure you have the correct ingredients in your shopping cart.
  • And what about your health and fitness regimen? With note- taking, never forget a workout or an exercise that your personal trainer wants you to do. There is a big difference between doing 10 sets of 3 repetitions and 3 sets of 10 repetitions.

Evernote can do all of this for you!

15 Benefits of Using Evernote

We’ve used Evernote with great success to help us run Mountaintop. It started out as a project management tool. But as we grew our company, we began to appreciate more of the benefits of using Evernote not just for business but for everyday life.

1. It’s Free and Easy to Use

Evernote is freeware. You can download it on your desktop or mobile device. All you need is a gmail account to set up Evernote. And if you don’t like it, just delete it from your list of programs.

Evernote also has a user friendly interface. Unlike other project management tools, Evernote is very navigable. The reason is the company has done research on the best and most effective ways to take down notes.

Everything about Evernote is a result of the research. The orientation of its interface was designed in what the company believes is the most effective format for note taking and project management.

2. You Can Sync Evernote with Multiple Devices

Even though you decided to download Evernote on your desktop, you can sync it with other devices such as your laptop, tablet or smartphone. With Evernote, you are not limited to just one device.

You can access, retrieve or store files from the same central account regardless of the device you use. This makes Evernote a valuable tool when you are working from remote locations or frequently mobile.

3. Attach Files to Your Notes

You can make your notes more effective with visual aids. Evernote allows you copy and paste files directly and this includes images.

Do you need to attach a PDF? No problem! Evernote will simply display the first page then include a mini navigation bar so you can review the contents of the PDF.

4. Create File Categories

Because Evernote is applicable to every facet of life, you may find yourself losing track of notes. However, Evernote has the awesome feature of allowing you to categorize your notes into “notebooks”.

The notebooks are always displayed in the Evernote interface. You can also adjust this if you want more viewing space. This is an effective way to keep everything organized and within plain sight all the time.

5. Save Web Pages

Research is a big part of what we do. If we come across online resources that we could use as references, Evernote has features that allows us to copy parts of the web page or the entire web page itself as a note. All of the page’s contents; images and text are held intact.

Then you can categorize these references according to content. It makes it easy for us to search for the correct reference for the topic or industry that we have to conduct research on.

6. You Can Integrate Email

Email is the most utilized medium of communication and Evernote has taken that into consideration. With Evernote, you can email notes to contacts. Those who receive your email will see the message “Sent from Evernote” above your email.

Having email integration means you never have to leave Evernote to go to your webmail. It saves time and makes work more productive and efficient.

7. Avoid Distractions… Work Offline With Evernote

Don’t you hate it when the Skype icon starts flashing because of message notifications or activity in a shared group account? And the same goes for other messaging platforms like Viber and Facebook Messenger. It can throw you off track when you are focusing on completing specific tasks.

You can make changes or entries in Evernote even when you are offline then get them synchronized once you are connected to the Internet.

8. Share Notes

If you work with a remote team, this is a big plus for you. Talent is never confined to one city, state or global region. Technology has allowed us to bridge logistical differences and work with the best people in the business regardless of where they are located.

Evernote makes remote work easier by letting you share notes or folders effortlessly with team members. Did someone just say remote work does not compare to shared space collaboration? Evernote took care of that.

Ask your teammates to comment, share opinions and suggestions on your notes. This is collaborative effort done in real time!

9. Take Snap Shots

Evernote has a built-in feature that allows you to take snapshots from your PC or smartphone. Let’s say you receive materials from a supplier. You can take a snapshot of the invoice and delivery receipt then store it in a categorized notebook. This will help you organize documentation from suppliers and creditors for accounting purposes.

10. Capitalize on its Optical Character Recognition Program

Let’s go back to our previous example.

Evernote can scan the snapshots of the invoices you had taken for readable text then converts it into searchable text. This is Evernote’s OCR or Optical Character Recognition program at work.

When you are reconciling expenses, you can easily pull out documents that fall under specific suppliers or creditors.

11. Track Your Productivity

Studies have shown that in the United States, the average worker only puts in 90 minutes of productive time per day. In an 8 hour schedule, that’s a productivity rating of only 19%.

If you want to increase your level of productivity, you should learn to keep track of your time. Use Evernote to schedule reminders for 30 minute breaks every 90 minutes of focused, uninterrupted work. Each 90 minute focus block represents total time spent on a task.

This way, you can accomplish 3 to 4 tasks and increase productivity by 300% in an 8-hour work day.

12. Create Journals

Journals are a great way to keep track of ideas or staying within your goals. Some people use journals to chronicle processes and experiences.

Here are a few good examples of why you should keep a journal:

  • When you are testing theories or business models before applying them to your enterprise.
  • When you are in the process of developing new products and services for your business.
  • When you are trying to be more fit and keeping track of your diet.
  • When you want to stay motivated.
  • If you want to chronicle your travels and life experiences.

13. Never Forget Important Data

Sometimes it seems that life is a series of numbers. We’re covered  by passwords, personal identification numbers or significant dates. It can be a challenge trying to remember all of these types of numerical information.

With the exception of passwords, store some of the information in a confidential file in Evernote. If you are in the filling out forms that require an identification number, you can easily retrieve the data from your mobile phone.

14. Never Lose an Idea Ever Again!

All it takes to trigger an idea is inspiration. And inspiration can strike anywhere. You could be at the grocery store or at a family reunion when that light bulb begins to spark.

If you have a brilliant idea, the last thing you would want is to lose it. Evernote has a voice memo feature that allows you to make audio memos which you can email to yourself.

15. Record Important Meetings

A big part of our work at Mountaintop is data gathering and the preliminary stage is when we meet clients. We never want to miss the important details because every bit of information is crucial when designing websites or conceptualizing digital marketing campaigns.

Evernote has made the data gathering process simpler, faster and more efficient with its recording feature. We can even record phone interviews! Once we open our PC, the audio is there waiting to be transcribed.

And if you have an Android phone, Evernote phone will take the extra step and transcribe the audio for you.

Conclusion:

How many list-type articles have you come across that exceeded 10 items? Believe it or not, there are more than 15 benefits of using Evernote. We could actually write a “Part 2” and still come up with a complete article.

It only goes to show the impact Evernote can have on your business and personal life. You can trust that Evernote will continue to push the boundaries of project management and introduce more dynamic and usable features over the next few years.

Did our article enlighten you on the many benefits of Evernote? Did you come across other features that were not covered by our article? Please share your ideas in the comments section below. We would love to hear from you!

 

Failure is a thought that drives fear in the hearts and minds of many people. In fact, it can have a paralyzing effect. But what if we told you failure was a good thing? That instead of being afraid of failure, you should embrace it like a long lost friend?

If you want to see the magnitude of failure unfold, watch a sporting event like the Olympics. For every heat that a Usain Bolt or a Michael Phelps wins, multiple losers are sent packing their things back to the hotel room. At the end of every event, there can be only one winner.

The Olympics best represents a harsh truth in a world that has grown to be highly competitive: There will always be more losers than winners.

Quite a frightening thought, isn’t it? You invest time, money and other resources only to come up short at the finish line.

But here’s the silver lining: Not all who fail are losers and not all who succeed are winners.

Confused? Read on!

The Reality of Failure

We all love a happy ending.

The guy gets the girl. The blackmailed, young lawyer exposes the corrupt firm and gets his life back. The Quarterback makes a miraculous “Hail Mary” pass to win the Superbowl.

But life is not a Hollywood script. Everyday we write our own story. Each page adds to a chapter in our lives until we close it and start a new one.

We are not guaranteed a happy ending; but we have the power to write one for ourselves.

Entrepreneurs are popularly referred to as risk takers. They have made a conscious decision to take charge of their own career and find financial freedom. Entrepreneurship is a huge, significant and often life-changing declaration of independence.

They risk the comfort of a steady monthly salary with benefits to build a career where the level of income equates to total productivity. But more often than not, this cannot be achieved from the get-go.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 50% of small businesses fail within five years. 96% are no longer in business within 10 years.

These figures are enough to strike fear in the hearts and minds of many aspiring entrepreneurs.

What is the secret of those who survived and continued to thrive after 10 years?

Surely those 10 years were not all smooth sailing. There would most certainly be moments where the thought of quitting crossed the mind of the proprietor. Obviously the decision to push forward paid off for some.

In business as in life, every decision you make will result in only one of two possible outcomes: success or failure. Not every decision will be the right one. Even if you have the most talented people in your payroll, mistakes can happen.

What matters is that:

  1. You make a decision regardless of the outcome.
  2. You have alternative courses of action in place should the decision run contrary to your preferred outcome.

When confronted with the prospect of failure, you only have 3 choices: Fight, Flight or Freeze. The decision you make can very well set the precedence for the rest of your career.

In the next section, we shall explore the reasons why you should never fear failure. Instead of running away from failure, you should run to it and welcome it with open arms!

5 Reasons Why You Should Not be Afraid of Failure

If you’ve ever attended a seminar on success, the speaker will focus his or her talk on one area: Failure. Why? Because it is difficult to understand much less appreciate the meaning of success without acknowledging the value of failure.

Have you heard of one-hit wonders? They are talented people who found success right away but were unable to sustain it for a number of reasons.

For some, they could not handle the pressure of higher expectations. There was no benchmark for failure. The bar was set very high from the get-go and they had no sense on how far they could possibly fall.

It is often said that you cannot achieve success without failing first. But it is not the act of failing that sets the wheels of success into motion. It is how you perceive failure that will determine whether you will savor the sweet taste of victory or relive the bitterness of defeat.

Here are 5 reasons why you should not be afraid of failure:

1. Failure is Your Best Teacher

“The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.”

  • Henry Ford

University prepares us to face the world and all of its challenges. It tries to establish the conditions to get us ready when we embark on our respective careers. We go through progressively higher levels of learning as we become more proficient in our chosen fields of expertise.

But everything remains theoretical until we apply our knowledge in the real world; in real-life situations. That’s when failure takes on a different meaning. Everyday at work is a competition.

As a private 9-to-5 employee, you are competing with everyone else for that promotion. As an entrepreneur, you are competing for market share.

Sure it is human nature to be upset and frustrated whenever you fail. But failure signifies a flaw in performance or execution. Once you have gotten over the disappointment, go back and review what you did and find out where you went wrong.

This is why failure is your best teacher. It helps you identify your potential weaknesses so you can work on them. And failure is a teacher who will not quit on you.

Failure will be there every step of your journey to give you an extra set of eyes; or a filter to spot your mistakes. The only way you can appreciate the value of failure is to embrace it; accept its reality.

2. Failure Helps You Reach Your Best Potential

“It’s not the mountain that we conquer; but ourselves.”

  • Sir Edmund Hillary

Not everyone who Michael Phelps beats in swimming goes home a loser. Many set personal bests or national records for their country. They may have fallen short of the podium but they walk away a better version of themselves, physically and mentally.

You will not succeed unless you test yourselves against the best. You may get the worst beating of your life, but the experience can trigger exponential growth if you approach the challenge with the right attitude.

It all starts with setting realistic goals. You may not beat the champ but at the very least you will improve your performance. You may not have gotten the job, but you will relish how far you’ve come. You may not have won the bid, but pat yourself on the back for being one of the last two bidders.

People who are afraid of failure tend to operate within their comfort zones. If you want to grow, you have to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. In time, everything becomes easier.

 3. Failure Improves Your Focus

“I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots and lost almost 300 games. 26 times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life.

And that is why I succeed.”

  • Michael Jordan

The phrase “Failure is not an option” is attributed to former NASA Flight Director Gene Krantz who successfully led the agency’s operation to save the crew of the ill-fated Apollo 13 space mission.

People who are not afraid to fail shine their brightest when the stakes are high. They are willing to take the chance because they have full confidence in their ability to get the job done. That is why they are called “clutch players”.

They understand the magnitude of the risk involved. But instead of making them fearful, it heightens their focus so they can look past the possible consequences. In their minds, there is no doubt they will succeed.

Without accepting the reality and consequences of failure, you will never take chances. And without taking chances, you will never experience success.

4. Failure Makes You Tougher

“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”

  • Ralph Waldo Emerson

Psychologists studying the mindset of world class athletes who rebounded from a significant loss came to one conclusion as to why they were able to recover and start winning again.

They said these athletes immersed themselves in the experience of failure. They did not brush it off; instead they wallowed in it and allowed the pain to consume them until they grew numb to it.

Once they have gotten past the pain of failure, they are able to perform at a higher level because nothing is holding them back. They have gone through the worst experience possible.

What else could top that?

This is the same mindset exhibited by Howard Schultz when 217 of 242 investors rejected his idea of Starbucks. Or by JK Rowling after 12 publishers wanted her vision of a school for wizards to vanish.

The more they fail the more resilient they become. Dealing with failure becomes natural as breathing air.

5. Failure Keeps You Grounded

“It’s fine to celebrate success; but it’s more important to heed the lessons from failure.”

  • Bill Gates

What makes billionaires like Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos going despite his massive level of success?

He doesn’t stop and admire his handiwork. Instead he keeps going; Bezos continues to find ways to make Amazon bigger and more dominant in the industry. Not all of Bezos’ ideas were successful. Do you remember his drone delivery system? Neither would Bezos if he had a choice!

But the drone delivery system was the by-product of his relentless drive to provide consumers the highest level of customer service.

Bezos’ drive to succeed was not influenced by his desire to acquire more wealth but by a need to innovate. His ideas may fall short or fail to deliver, but he will not stop trying.

Bezos sees opportunities in failure. At a time when brick-and-mortar retailers are closing up shop, Bezos is opening physical locations of Amazon!

7 Inspiring Stories of Failure

Their names have become synonymous with success. They have transcended their industry and have grown to become icons. People love them; they are widely admired and respected because their works have touched the lives of billions across the globe.  

But the road to entrepreneurial success was never easy for them. It was paved by several moments of failure.

  • Walt Disney – Disney endured several business bankruptcies and was once told he was “not creative”. His own family even ridiculed his idea for “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”.
  • Arianna Huffington – The founder of the most popular online publication was once rejected by 36 publishers. Huffington has a net worth of $50 Million.
  • JK Rowling – Divorced, depressed, penniless, writing in coffee shops all while raising a child, Rowling was rejected by 12 publishers before landing a deal that made “Harry Potter” the $15 Billion brand it is today.
  • Howard Schultz – 217 out of 242 investors turned down the idea of coffee shop franchise. But Schultz’s resilience eventually brought 25,085 Starbucks coffee shops into our lives.
  • Sir Richard Branson – Branson’s first business failure came in 1968 with his publication, “Student Magazine”. He once famously said he has failed more times than he succeeded in his career. His net worth? $5.1 Billion.
  • Bill Gates – The world’s richest man once launched a service called Traf-A-Data which did not work. So he founded Microsoft.
  • Harland Sanders – It is hard to believe that Col. Sanders recipe for Kentucky Fried Chicken was rejected by 1,009 restaurants. Today there are more than 20,000 KFC outlets worldwide.

There are more inspiring stories of people who turned failure into success. He or she could be your friend or family member. Everyday there are people working hard to achieve success.

What is worse than failure? Not taking the risk; becoming a dreamer forever instead of a doer. Don’t worry about the outcome; achieving long-term, sustainable success is a marathon not a sprint. What you need to do is to take that first step and turn your dream into a reality.

Did you enjoy reading this article as much as we did writing it? Do you have personal stories of failure that you want to share to our readers? Please add your comments below.

We would love to be inspired by you!

So how do you start your mornings? Do you begin your day with a prayer, 10 minutes of exercise or do you just press the snooze button to get an extra 5 minutes in bed? Or do you belong to the 60% of the population who check their emails from their smartphones first thing in the morning?

In a digitally connected world, email has become a valuable tool for business. Communication has always been a vital component for success and email has made it more convenient, accessible and available. In fact, one of the first things you should do when you are starting a business is to open an email account.

3 Benefits of Email

In business, time is money. You should be accessible to clients, end users, suppliers, associates and those within your organization. Email makes it easy for people to relay concerns, inquiries or business-related matters to you for immediate attention.

1. Real Time Communication

How does email work? Sending electronic mail is really a simple server-to-server process.

The first thing you need to do is to get an email client. This is a program that allows you to create and interact with other email clients on the Internet. Examples of email clients are Gmail, Yahoo! Mail and Hotmail.

Once you press “Enter” your email will be uploaded on the SMTP or Simple Mail Transfer Protocol. It is a server that communicates with the DNS or Domain Name Server.  The DNS functions like a phone book for domain names and server IP addresses.

When the SMTP finds the recipient’s email address, it will deliver your email and its attachments.

Total time of interaction will only take a few nanoseconds! The recipient will no longer have to wait 24 to 72 hours as would have been the case if snail mail was used.

In some cases, there might be delays. It could be due to your recipient’s Internet Service Provider (ISP). The recipient may be in an area where there is no Internet coverage.

It could also be that the recipient’s inbox has reached maximum capacity. If this happens, the email service provider will send a notice to the recipient to clear space in his or her inbox to accommodate new messages.

2. Streamlines Cost of Operations

Some of our readers may remember the days when you had to print out copies of letters and their attachments or large sized documents and had them delivered through courier service or air mail. Not only was this process tedious; it was also quite expensive.

If you didn’t want to use air mail, you could use the fax machine which was likewise time consuming. The cost of thermal paper would also add up.

Email has not only simplified the way we transmit communication. It has also helped streamline our cost of operations. Signing up Gmail as your email client will not cost you a cent.

You can attach documents to your email; even scanned copies of a multi-page legal contract. Nowadays, clients will accept a scanned copy of a notarized contract as a binding agreement.

Email will improve efficiency, as you will get more things done in less time and with less cost.

3. Easy to Organize and Manage

An email client has features that allow you to easily organize and manage your communication. For example, with Gmail you can categorize your emails as:

  • Important
  • Confidential
  • References
  • Prospects

You can also customize labels for each email group. If you want to organize the communication you receive from clients, simply create a label and move all related emails to that folder.

No need to scour through a filing cabinet for files and communication. You can even access files while on transit via your mobile phone.

2 Important Tips on How to Choose an Email Address for Your Business

Choosing an email address isn’t rocket science. But it shouldn’t be done without thought or purpose either. In ways, your professional email address is like a handshake. It may seem inconsequential but it will actually tell the recipient a lot about you.

Here are 2 important tips for choosing an email address for your business:

1. Get a Domain Name

If you are bidding for a project and indicate [email protected] as your email address, you might end up a few steps behind the race if your competitor’s contact details read [email protected].

Rule number 1 in business communication is to always have your own domain. If purchasing a domain name will take you over budget, then maybe you shouldn’t be in business. Of course, you should streamline costs but the domain name should not be subject to a budget cut.

The rest is easy. Your domain name should be the same as your business name. In our case it is mountaintopwebdesign.com. For top level domains, always choose “.com” which means commercial. “.org” is usually associated with non-profit organizations.

If for some reason your domain name has a duplicate that uses “.com”, you can opt for “.net”. We would caution against using “.biz” or “.info” as these domain names are frequently identified with spammers.

2. Be Simple and Remain Professional

People tend to remember faces but forget names. Thus, you should use every opportunity to make sure your prospect or client will remember yours. When creating an email address for your business, simply use your name.

Whether you use your full name or first name is entirely a matter of personal choice. For some, they prefer using their name as it is indicated in all of their business collateral.

In our case, we decided to go with a personal yet more informal approach by using only our first names. In my case it is [email protected]. From our experience, it is shorter and easier for our clients to remember.

Don’t try to be cute or overly creative when creating professional emails. If you enjoy cooking Mexican food, that would be a great topic of conversation with your client during a lull in the meeting.

But sending communication using the email address [email protected] will surely leave a bad taste in your client’s mouth.

 4 Valuable Tips on How to Write Effective Emails

Coming across a poorly written email is like eating ice cream and discovering your tooth enamel has cracked open. It is a painful read; you wonder why the sender didn’t bother to review his email before sending it to you.

People tend to be less conscientious when it comes to writing emails because they often hear the advice, “Keep it short and direct to the point.” While that may be true, it is not an excuse to overlook lack of structure, valuable content, grammatical errors and spelling mistakes.

If you are looking to create a good first impression on a client or a potential employer, take the time to craft a great email.

Here are 4 important tips on how to write an effective email:

1. Take Your Time

Keeping your email short and direct to the point does not mean writing it in break neck speed. It takes time to articulate ideas and formulate thoughts so you can deliver the message in a clear and concise way. This applies even when you are participating in an email thread.

Being prompt in sending a response is a sign of a true professional. But it does not mean you have to reply within seconds of receiving an email. It is generally acceptable to respond within 24 hours upon receiving communication. Use the time in between to gather your thoughts, conduct research or verify information that is requested by the sender.

What you need to keep in mind is that writing an email is not a task but another form of relaying communication.

2. Email Should Have Structure

As a medium of communication, you have to make sure its content is delivered clearly and effectively. Like all forms of content, your email must have an introduction, a body and a conclusion.

  • Introduction – You can start out with a greeting to set the mood such as “It’s been awhile since we last communicated. I hope everything is well with your family and business.”

You could also set the context of your email, “I remembered our conversation at the convention last month and realized your company may provide the services we need.”

  • Body – This is the meat and potatoes of your email. Get into detail and provide as much information as necessary but present it in an organized manner.

One of the best ways to present information is through the use of bullet points. Not only does it organize the salient points of your email but it opens the space and makes it look clean.

  • Conclusion – Unlike the conclusion of a blog or a post, there is no need to summarize the key talking points of your email. When concluding an email, your focus should be to firm up the course of action you want the recipient to take.

If you are requesting for information, emphasize to the recipient that he or she can reach out to you any time to clarify details.  If you want to meet up for coffee to discuss the email further, suggest a time and date that would be convenient for the recipient.

Lastly, always end your email with a greeting or well- wishes and include your signature at the bottom left hand side.

3. Fact Check and Proofread

Before sending out an email, take the time to review its content. Here are some things to look out for:

  • Spelling – In addition to words used in your email, you should also check the spelling of important details such as the name of the recipient and the company.
  • Grammar – Even if emails are considered short-form communication, the recipient will surely be put off by poorly worded content. If you’re not sure, ask a trusted set of eyes to review your email.
  • The Details – If you wrote pertinent information such as figures, dates, names and places, make sure these are accurate. Do not click “Send” until you are 100% sure of the information you are providing.

The same goes for the attachment that comes with the email. Before transmitting the email, click the attachment and do a quick double check to see if this is the one the recipient needs.

It will also be worth your time and effort to verify if all information in the attached document is updated and corresponds with your email.

4. Review Before Sending Out

One of the most overlooked aspects of an effective email is its tone. For sure you’ve heard the advice, “Never write an angry letter.”

Here’s a short story that was shared by a friend of mine:

The Crewing Manager was so displeased with the shipping company’s decision to rehire the services of a Captain who was involved in a near mutiny that he sent a scathing email to the General Manager.

The email was laced with profanity, threats and gossip material that teetered closely to being branded libelous statements. Not only did he email the GM but he furnished copies to the directors.

Within 24 hours of receiving the email, the Crewing Manager was fired. He told my friend that when he clicked “Send”, a huge feeling of regret overwhelmed him. He described it like “being hit by a tsunami.”

The rule for setting the tone for sending out business communication applies also to emails: Always act in a professional manner. If you felt emotional when writing the email, save it first as a draft.

Once you have simmered down, retrieve the draft then re-write its content. When you are less emotional, you will be able to think clearly and articulate thoughts better.

Conclusion

An email may be short in length and content but written effectively, it can be one of the most powerful mediums of communication. Every aspect of your email contributes to the successful delivery of your message: from your choice of program to the address to how you compose its content.

Did we open your eyes to the value of the simple email? Do you have some email stories you want to share or have other ideas on how to write an effective email? Please comment below.

If you want to learn more about effective email writing, give us a call or better yet, send us an email! We would love to hear from you.

If you are on Facebook; and who isn’t nowadays, you may notice some ads popping up in your newsfeed promoting products and services. Some of your friends may be posting pictures of merchandise they are selling. Above it, you will find text that reads more like marketing copy. Most, if not all of the proprietors selling items on social media do not have a website.

They believe that Social Media Marketing (SMM) is all they need to sell their products and services. After all, when you post in social media:

  • You have an immediate audience for your content.
  • There is probability of your content being shared by someone who knows someone who is interested in your product or service.
  • Social media gives you the medium to directly engage with people who post comments on your thread.
  • It’s free! Other than perhaps having professionally-done product shots taken or having your ads sponsored, posting in social media will not cost you a cent.

Given these benefits, these entrepreneurs believe they don’t need a website to help them run their respective businesses.

But are they really better off without a website? Or are they undermining their ability to succeed?

Social Media Marketing – Is it Enough?

We decided to find out why many of these entrepreneurs chose not to have a website that would have professionally represented their business.

Here are the 3 most popular reasons we gathered. We also included our professional opinion on each reason to give you our perspective as a web design company:

1. Building a website is costly; not only do they have to pay for the domain, website design and programming but it has to be maintained regularly.

The cost of a website will depend on its purpose, function and features. You can see the different types of websites you can consider for your business in our article, “What Type of Website Does Your Business Need?

Personal websites, company websites and blogging websites are comparatively inexpensive. On the other hand, e-commerce sites, work collaboration websites, search engine directories and information websites will cost more because it will entail a greater degree of work and present the user with advanced features.

As far as maintenance is concerned, many web design companies such as Mountaintop Web Design offer site management services that are reasonably priced. We are also flexible and willing to customize options to meet a company’s needs if necessary.

Always keep in mind that the website is your online business address. Having it professionally managed is no different than paying for the regular upkeep and maintenance of your brick-and-mortar office.

2. SMM offers a more convenient way to market products and services. You don’t have to worry about hacking, updating plug-ins and having your account infected by viruses.

This observation is far from the truth. In 2013, more than 2 million passwords from popular social media sites including Facebook and Twitter were stolen and posted online.

Once your social media account has been hacked, you can have private information, content and images stolen or distributed for sale.

Some hackers have malicious intent. They will post unauthorized, inappropriate content that could ruin your good reputation and substantially damage the credibility of your company.

Social media sites are websites. They are susceptible to the same risks as a business website or an e-commerce website.

Facebook has been working overtime to fortify its security because it has been under attack from cyber criminals that want to use the platform for their phishing operations.

Because of their sheer volume of users, cyber criminals love to target social media. They can use it to upload malware, virus programs and other diabolical software that could compromise your privacy, your business and the safety of your computer.

3. People prefer to visit social media over websites.

As mentioned in the preceding section, social media sites are websites. So technically this point is not valid.

However, statistics show that of the 3.5 Billion people who scour the Internet daily, 2 Billion go to social media. This makes social media seem like the Pacific Ocean; the largest ocean in the world. You can cast a net anywhere and you are assured of a large haul.

Or are you?

The truth is, people go on social media for different reasons. Not everyone goes to social media to find products to buy or services to hire. A 2013 survey cited the following reasons why people use social media:

  • Social interaction
  • Passing time
  • Entertainment
  • Share or express opinions
  • Relax
  • Connect with old family and friends
  • Build networks

The benefits of including an SMM strategy in your business development agenda cannot be overlooked. Statistics have validated the importance of SMM in a digital marketing campaign. We’ve also discussed the value of SMM in our articles “How to Drive Traffic to Your Website” and “The Basics of SEO”.

But if you believe SMM is all you need to build your business, you could be undermining its maximum potential to capitalize on the opportunities available on the Internet.

Instead of casting your net in the Pacific Ocean, you may find yourself climbing Mount Everest.

We were not surprised with the results of our research. We have clients who initially put all their eggs in the SMM basket.

Eventually they realized there were limitations to SMM. Even though their efforts generated results, these were not sustainable. Their stream of income became inconsistent and they could not grow their business.

 The Website – Harnessing the Power of Organic Search

According to the principle called “The Virality Coefficient”, your primary contact list will not help you gain traction. Momentum will be gained only from those who belong in your primary contact’s network.

So assuming you have 1,500 Facebook contacts and 20% of them like or share your post, you’re hoping their respective networks will likewise spread the word on your products and services.

But what if they don’t? What if upon initial posting only 5% share your post? As you can see there is a limit as to how far social media can take you.

While we cannot question the influence of social media on consumers, the fact of the matter is your exposure is limited only to your contacts. And not everyone will be interested in what your business has to offer.

Thus, SMM is better off as a component within a digital marketing campaign than the primary strategy in a business development agenda.

The fact is, despite the pull of social media, organic search remains the number one driver of traffic to business. In a study conducted by BrightEdge, organic search accounted for 51% of all traffic generated.

Social media? 5%.

And you need a place to drive all of that traffic. If you were selling physical products on Facebook, how will your buyer finalize the transaction? In an e-commerce website, you have a shopping cart where a buyer can complete a sales transaction via PayPal or credit card.

Also, how can a prospective buyer trust you when you are selling your goods in social media? Would you buy a smartphone from someone who operates his business from a laundromat? What is their assurance that you are a legitimate proprietor and not a scammer?

If you want to run your business online, you should have a business address. Your Facebook company page is not your business address because it carries Facebook’s domain name.

A website provides you a business address. It will give you a domain name just like ours is www.mountaintopwebdesign.com. When followers see your post and they want to know more about your business, they will know where to go.

Once they click to your website address, they will find all the information they need to make a decision on whether to patronize your business or not:

  • Home Page – Your overall branded value proposition; what you are about.
  • About Us – Your purpose; who you are and why you decided to start this business.
  • Services – Your products and services; what you offer, your strengths and main differentiators in the industry.
  • Blog Page – Your expertise; what your opinions are on the industry, users’ needs and wants.
  • Portfolio – Your work; what you have done so far for your clients.
  • Contact Us – Your whereabouts; how people who are interested in your services can contact you.

A website is designed and programmed for one thing: to optimize growth opportunities for your business.

You can read up on the benefits of having a website in our article “0 Benefits of Having a Website for a Small Business”.  Our focus in this article is to show you why social media is more effective when used as a key process in a digital marketing campaign.

Let’s look at these 2 scenarios:

Scenario No. 1 – Restaurant Business Owner

You’ve worked hard posting images of your food and happy diners in Facebook, Instagram and Google Plus. People are actively engaging with you; majority of the comments are positive although there have been a few sparse complaints.

Those who have not tried your food are curious to know more about your restaurant. They decide to click on the URL that is posted in your business page.

They land in your Home Page and are treated to a 360 degree view of your restaurant! Your main menu items were photographed by a professional and are presented in vanishing slide format.

They click on your “Our Menu” page and they see an interactive menu where they can scroll for choices and prices. Below it are the testimonials from customers and the reviews your restaurant has so far received from reputable food critics.

They’re sold on the idea of trying your restaurant. So they visit your “Our Location” page and find an embedded Google Map. It will show them how far they are from the restaurant and the time it will take to get there based on the hour of day or night.

Scenario No. 2 – Interior Designer

You’ve been posting images of your designs on Facebook and Instagram. You also share tips on how to set up your one-bedroom apartment on a budget and why high ceiling homes are here to stay via Twitter.

People love your content and some have earmarked you as a prospective architect for their upcoming projects. They want to know more about you so they click on the URL posted on your business page.

When they land on your website, they are treated to a Home Page that is minimalist in design; simple yet elegant, black and white images with clear lines and open spaces. It is a reflection of your design sensibilities.

Your branded value proposition is stated in understated Helvetica font, “Beauty Lies in Simplicity, Form Lives in Functionality”.

In your “Who Am I?” page, visitors get to read a short bio. It comes with a professionally taken photo of you smiling in a white, long sleeved shirt that is folded ¼ up from the wrist.

Then they visit “My Portfolio”. In there, they can see all the homes and offices you have designed in slide format. Right below it are testimonials from all of your happy clients.

If they are interested in hiring your services, they can send you an email through the address indicated in your “Let’s Meet” web page. Or they can automatically send an inquiry by filling out the entries in the form provided.

Conclusion

Social media has been proven to be an effective tool for marketing and promoting your business. But on its own, it will be limited by its shortcomings. In a sense, by relying only on SMM, you are undermining the growth potential of your business by basically shutting it out from the rest of the World Wide Web.

A website allows you to consolidate all of your online marketing efforts so you can capitalize on every available opportunity. Most importantly, it will give your business a professional presence on the Internet.

We hope you enjoyed what you just read and were able to take away some valuable information.

If you want to learn more about how a website can help your business, please give us a call or drop us a quick e-mail. We will get back to you right away!

A moment of inspiration is all it takes to have an idea. You could be in a coffee shop or on your third mile on the treadmill when the light bulb comes on. Every entrepreneur will tell you they have the greatest idea since the can opener but the question is, “Where will you go from here?” Will you execute the idea or will it remain a dream?

There is nothing wrong with dreaming but unless you act upon it, dreams are all you’ll ever have. And that is what makes entrepreneurs special; they work to live their dreams and make it a reality.

An idea is like a seed. It can be planted in your head but unless you nurture it with planning, action, and implementation it will never grow and bear fruit.

My Story

My lightbulb moment came after successfully building my first website. Sure it presented several challenges but I loved every minute of it.

There were times when design or programming issues left me feeling stumped. But these types of situations encouraged me to push beyond boundaries. Every challenge I overcame served to make me a better web designer.

I also discovered there was a strong market for web design services because the Internet was growing in popularity and influence.

The Internet evolved from technology that was only accessible via dial-up before broadband came around in 2004. In 1995, the Internet was available only to 16 Million people. By 2004, more than 745 Million people could use the Internet.

Today there are more than 3.6 Billion users of the Internet every day!

At the time the light bulb came on in my head, I was still learning the intricacies of web design. In my research, I was surprised to learn that despite the growing presence of the Internet, less than 50% of small businesses owned websites.

I thought, “If nearly 50% of the world’s population was on the Internet every day, wouldn’t you want your business to be accessible to them?” The Internet offered many advantages for entrepreneurs and small business owners:

  • 24/7 operation.
  • Availability of free, downloadable business tools and software.
  • More efficient avenues for marketing and promoting your business like social media, blogging and link building.
  • Low start up capital.
  • Low maintenance costs.

The website is your window to the Internet. It makes your business accessible to everyone. It’s like having a storefront display in this place called the World Wide Web.

In addition to standard research methodologies, I also spoke with many small business owners in my community and asked them their thoughts on the Internet and websites in general.

It turned out majority of small business owners knew what a website was but were clueless on how it could help their business become profitable.

That was the moment a seed was planted in my head. Eventually I would nurture the seed to become Mountaintop Web Design. It was a venture that allowed me to build a career out of my passion for web design.

As an entrepreneur, I now have the means to help other businesses accomplish their goals of achieving profitability by providing quality web design and digital marketing services.

6 Important Lessons for the Entrepreneur

Entrepreneurship is never a sure thing. Nothing is ever guaranteed. Some people quit their day jobs to start their own business only to regret it afterward. It can be a rude awakening. Statistically, 50% of small businesses fail within the first 4 years and the survival rate gradually declines every year thereafter.

Yet despite the daunting numbers, 98% of the businesses registered every day are considered small scale enterprises. No wonder entrepreneurs are considered the new engines of growth of the economy!

But what does it take to be an entrepreneur? What qualities set apart the doers from the dreamers?

1. Accept the Reality of Failure

If you want to be an entrepreneur, you have to accept the inevitably of failure. It will happen somehow, somewhere and without warning. There are more failures than there are successes.

Failure is a constant companion in the journey. But it is not there to destroy us. On the contrary, failure exists to teach us how to get better.

Rather than wallow in self-pity, use the experience to improve your overall proposition. Go ahead and ask the “Why’s”, “How’s” and “What’s” but spend more time looking for answers than uncovering questions. The more failures you endure, the closer you get to achieving success.

Failure is not your enemy. It is your best friend, your teacher. Do not fear failure; embrace it as a prerequisite for success.

2. Learn How to Execute

Even if you have acquired funding, an idea will not take fruition unless it is properly executed. An idea that is poorly executed will result in losses even as early as the start up stage.

It is not uncommon for other entrepreneurs to have a business idea that is similar to yours. A good example would be the ride-sharing industry. Uber created the market in 2008. Since then, the industry has opened up to other players such as Lyft, Sidecar, Curb, Grab and Didi Chuxing.

Sidecar crashed and burned in 2015. Grab partnered with Lyft and Didi Chuxing formed an alliance with Ola in order to challenge Uber’s dominance.

Uber’s execution of its business strategy set the standard for everyone else to follow. While its market share may have eroded due to the collaborative efforts of its competitors, Uber still reigns supreme.

3. Let Your Passion Drive You

As an entrepreneur, I can say from experience that passion is the strongest driver in business. When you love what you do, there is no problem that is too difficult to solve. There is no situation you cannot handle. There is nothing you will not do to make the product or service better.

Passion makes time irrelevant; it makes the hours and days go by much quicker. Tim Ferris used to spend 14 hours working every day on his supplement company BrainQUICKEN. He admitted it was not the most efficient way to get things done but logging in the long hours was what he wanted to do.

The most important advice I can give you is that If you want to start a business, it must be something you are passionate about. But passion alone will not ensure your success.

You must take the time to conduct thorough research about your business. Create a business plan as a reference point. If you don’t know how to make one, commission someone who can.

4. Understand that Sacrifice is Part of the Journey

Those who have crossed over from the 9-to-5 office grind to entrepreneurship thought they would have more control over their work schedule. To a certain extent that is true. As an entrepreneur, there are no log-ins and time clocks to record your work hours.

But the reality is the sacrifices are much greater. As an employee, you work within an assigned work shift and are paid a fixed salary every 15th and 30th. As an entrepreneur, you have no fixed work schedule. Your income will depend on your company’s performance.

You will discover there are times that you have to work more than 48 hours a week. I have struggled with the internal conflict of trying to be productive all the time. I have even had to make the choice of missing time with family and friends.

At certain times, I felt like I needed to put in more hours working so I could finish more websites and be available to take on more projects for clients.

The bottom-line is entrepreneurs need to learn to find balance between life and work. Having a business that pays the bills and measures income with productivity is a great thing. But always remember that you should work to live and not live to work.  

Life should never just be about work. You could lose your business but your family and friends will always be there for you.

5. Be Open Minded

In Eric Reis’ book, “The Lean Start-Up” he noted that entrepreneurs “live in a vacuum”. They believe their idea is great and flawless. Allowing yourself to be lulled into this false sense of complacency will have damaging consequences when things don’t go as planned.

As an entrepreneur, you must have an open mind and accept there are things you cannot control. This is especially true in this age of the Internet. Consumers have immediate access to a wide range of information. Their tastes and preferences can easily be influenced by social media, a blog, a post, or an article.

Instead of trying to come up with “The Perfect Plan”, focus on flexibility. Make sure your business model can adapt to unexpected changes in business conditions.

6. Embrace Learning as a Never-Ending Process

If you think you know everything you need to learn about your business, think again. If you did, you would never have to deal with problems every working day and you would be raking in money like Mark Zuckerberg.

Facebook generates $2 Billion every quarter. There are 1.9 Billion active Facebook users which means it accounts for 52% of Internet users every day. Zuckerberg himself is worth billions.

So why does Mark Zuckerberg read 1 book every week? The same number as Microsoft founder Bill Gates?

These billionaires make reading part of their daily routine because they want to keep on learning. Even established industry giants like Facebook and Microsoft encounter problems every day.

For them, learning should be a never-ending process. And it should be for you as well. Strive to improve on your strengths and build your weaknesses by acquiring as much knowledge as you can.

The Entrepreneurial Journey

People like to say “entrepreneurs are only in the business of making money”. Of course, unless you are a non-profit organization, the objective of business is to generate profit. It should go without saying that people go into business to make money. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

But I believe that if your goal of making money has come to a point that it has consumed you, then you may never accomplish it. Those who only think about the money, will abandon ship once the business starts sinking.

I’ve seen graphics that depict the road to entrepreneurial success as a straight line. Nothing could be more further from the truth.

The journey to success is similar to climbing a mountain. You have to prepare and plan months before the climb. It’s not just a physical challenge. It also exerts a toll on your mind and spirit.

Obstacles can arise during the climb that would require strategy and precise execution. It is hard work but getting to the top makes all the time, effort and sacrifices worthwhile!

Everyone wants to climb the highest peak but you can’t hope to achieve that without overcoming smaller mountains first. That is why a mountain is the metaphor for my web design company, we are here to help you make the climb.

When you are looking up the mountain from its base, the climb would seem like a daunting, seemingly impossible task. But all you have to do is take that first step up the mountain to get the journey started. One step at a time; never look down and keep your focus on getting to the top.

Starting a business is an exciting time; but it is also nerve-wracking and filled with anxious moments. Once you take that first step, the climb eventually becomes smoother and easier. The challenges that lie ahead will only serve to make you better. It takes a force stronger than money to survive the challenges of entrepreneurship.

Do you have your own story on entrepreneurship that you would like to share? Please post in the comments section below. Your experiences will definitely help those in our audience who plan to become entrepreneurs. We would love to hear from you!