Technology is a double-edged sword; it can be your friend or foe, depending on who wields it.

Exhibit A is mobile technology. It has made communication more convenient and gives you easy access to the Internet. However it has also made you more accessible to telemarketers.

Exhibit B is email. Compared to the days of regular mail and fax machines, email has significantly improved productivity. You can bridge contacts located thousands of miles away simply by clicking “Send”.

But it has also flooded your Inbox with junk mail from people who may be clicking “Send” from a computer located thousands of miles away.

While advances in digital technology have made life and work more efficient, it has also given us additional digitized nuisance to deal with. The good news is there are tools and processes you can use to manage the number of unwanted calls and junk mail you get.

How to Avoid Unwanted Calls

Telemarketers are just regular people. Like you and I, they have a job to do. Unfortunately, dealing with them can be like dealing with a bad stomach. They can strike anywhere.

You could be in the middle of an important meeting; about to deliver the deal making pitch, when your phone starts to ring or vibrate.

You could have just arrived home after navigating through heavy traffic for 2 hours. All you want to do is to pour a tall cool one, plop your feet up the ottoman and rest your weary head. Then the phone rings.

You could be at home on a Sunday. Everyone is gathered around the television for Sunday Night Football when your phone rings. You decide to answer it and the person on the other line says:

“Good morning sir! How are you doing today? I hope I did not catch you at a bad time. If you can give me just a few minutes, I would like to discuss with you a wonderful opportunity/ investment/ product that would make your life better. This conversation is being recorded to ensure accuracy of all information provided. Interested? Good! But first please take a few minutes to answer a few questions: What is your full name?”

If the spiel just raised your blood pressure a few digits, then you know exactly what we mean when we say telemarketing can be a digital nuisance.

Of course, you have the power to simply say “Sorry, I’m not interested”. But some can be very persistent:

“May I know why you are not interested?”

“You can try our services for free. You have absolutely nothing to lose. If you don’t like it, we’ll simply discontinue the service.”

“Can you refer me to friends or associates who may be interested? I can give you a referral bonus for every successful transaction.”

From that point, exchanges can become testy as the recipient’s stress levels start to approach the danger zone.

The rising volume of complaints from consumers on unsolicited calls from telemarketers led to the establishment of the national Do Not Call or DNC registry.

Everything You Need to Know About the National DNC Registry

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) opened the national DNC registry on 27 June 2003. The bill covering the registry was called the Do-Not-Call Implementation Act of 2003 and was signed into law by then President George W. Bush on 11 March 2003.

Although the registry was opened on June 27, enforcement of its rules only took place on October 1. Initially, numbers registered on the DNC registry had a validity period of 5 years. But an amendment to the original bill, the Do-Not-Call Implementation Act of 2007 made registration permanent.

To be part of the DNC, all you need to do is to register your landline or mobile number.  

However, if you think registering your number will end all unsolicited calls, be advised that the DNC also has restrictions in place:

  1. The registry only applies to personal calls; not to business lines or business to business calls.
  2. You can still receive calls from political organizations.
  3. You can still receive calls from non-profit organizations.
  4. You can still receive calls from groups that are conducting surveys.
  5. You can still receive calls from a company up to a period of 31 days from the date you submitted an inquiry into that company unless it was specifically asked not to call.
  6. You can still receive calls from bill collectors.

You can file a complaint regarding telemarketing practices that are in violation of the DNC registry with the FCC. When filing a complaint, make sure the following details are included:

  • Date of call
  • Number called
  • Name of organization calling
  • Products and/ or services offered
  • If caller has exemption status

Did the national DNC registry have a significant impact on the volume of telemarketing calls made?

According to the 2009 Economic Report of the President, 77% of Americans who registered their numbers with the DNC reported a marked decline in the number of telemarketing calls received. One year after the implementation of the act, the number of calls consumers received per month dropped from 30 to 6.

How to Reduce the Number of Junk or Spam Email

If marketers and other soliciting parties cannot get to you via phone, they will try through e-mail.

E-mail remains the most popular form of communication even among text-savvy millennials. According to a study by The Radicati Group, more than 225 Billion emails are sent every day and this number is expected to hit 246.5 Billion by 2019.

In addition, people check their e-mails multiple times a day which makes it an ideal platform to send junk content. Landing on the Inbox is tantamount to having your foot inside the door. All the recipient has to do now is to click on it.

The popularity of e-mail has made it an attractive target for spamming activities. Spamming is defined as the practice of flooding the inbox with unsolicited emails in an attempt to force the message on someone who otherwise would choose not to receive it.

In the study by The Radicati Group, the number of spam e-mails received has been rising on a yearly basis. Of the 122 Billion e-mails received/ sent in 2015, 12 Billion or 9% were categorized as spam.

But in 2017, out of 126 Billion e-mails received/ sent, 16 Billion or 13% were identified as spam.

If checking e-mail is number one on your daily to-do list, spamming can seriously impact your productivity. Imagine filtering through multiple unopened e-mails per day and most of them feature spam content.

How do spammers get your e-mail address?

Spammers can create lists by searching online for e-mail addresses. Online directories are good sources. They could put up bogus websites for the purpose of luring visitors then securing their e-mail addresses with enticing calls-to-action. They could also buy the mailing list directly from online retailers.

Generally the more often you engage or participate in online activity, the greater the risk of your e-mail address getting acquired by unauthorized parties.

Here are our 3 tips on what to do when you receive e-mail that appears to be spam:

  1. Do not respond to the email because those in the thread will also receive your message and trigger another round of Inbox flooding.
  2. Do not follow stated instructions to “Unfollow me in your mailing list” because this may result in a bounced e-mail message to you and will make it seem your account is active.
  3. Open up your Junk E-mail Filtering feature or if you have a Virtual Assistant, ask him or her to regularly filter your e-mail for you.

Is it possible to totally stop spammers from infiltrating your e-mail? Unfortunately the answer is “no”. Anyone who has an e-mail is a target.

However you can drastically reduce the incidence of receiving spam by following our 6 simple guidelines:

1. Work with your filter 

Most e-mail clients have default filter programs that automatically transfer suspect communication from your Inbox to a “Spam” folder.

However it doesn’t always get it right. If you find a message that reads like spam to you but was not detected by the filter, report it to the client.

In the same manner if the filter transferred communication to the Spam folder that is not spam, notify the client by clicking the “Not Spam” button.

2. Do not click on it

As the kitchen saying goes, “When in doubt, throw it out.” The same policy should apply when dealing with spam e-mail.

Only the sender knows for sure the motive for transmitting it. If the suspicious e-mail uses the address of your contact, verify the transmission from him or her.

Spam emails can be used to deliver a virus or malicious software that could steal information or corrupt your system.

3. Be judicious with your e-mail

The less you expose your e-mail address the better. Unless it is absolutely essential to your business, do not include it in your social media profile. Or you could open another e-mail address specifically for that website.

4. Be selective when participating in online activities

There are sites that attempt to acquire your e-mail address through games and other online activities.

These games prey on the inner narcissist with titles like “Which Hollywood Hottie Do You Look Like?” or “Which Marvel Superhero Best Suits Your Personality?”

While it may seem fun to share with your friends that technology found compelling evidence that you look like Scarlett Johansson or Chris Hemsworth, stroking your ego could end up compromising your privacy.

5. Add another e-mail filter

There are third party service providers who have e-mail filtering software that can augment the capabilities of your client’s default program. One of the best is BoxBe which comes with a guest list feature.

If you receive e-mail from anyone who is not in the guest list, they will be asked to undergo a verification procedure. Those who pass will have their e-mail sent to your Inbox.

Those that did not pass the verification process will be stored in a folder marked “Waiting List” which are all subject to your approval.

6. Change your e-mail address

If all fails, bite the bullet and change your e-mail address. Once you do, adopt the rest of the measures we provided to make sure you don’t get flooded with as much spam messages as before.

Conclusion

The fight to keep telemarketers off your mobile phone and spammers from your e-mail should be thought of as winning the battle but never the war. Big data means big bucks for these unwelcomed guests. They will use technology in the same way you do: To increase productivity.

Your best approach would be to remain cautious on your online interactions and to maintain vigilance when it comes to protecting your privacy.

If you want to know how we can help you minimize intrusions from telemarketers and spammers, please give us a call or an e-mail.

And if you have other tips on data security that we did not cover in this article, kindly share them in the comments section below.

We would love to hear from you!

Technology works to make life easier and work more productive. But sometimes it feels that it has also created a life and work conundrum because technology makes it possible for you to do more things in the same amount of time.

There are days where we just find ourselves dragged down with so many things to do, it becomes difficult to know where work stops and life begins.

The best way to make technology work for you is to embrace all of its possibilities. Software companies understand this because their job is to develop programs that will contribute to greater productivity and better convenience.

According to a 2015 study made by Pocketgamer.biz, software developers create 1,000 new apps everyday. In 2008, the Apple App store had a total of 10,000 apps available for download. By the time of Pocketgamer’s study, the number of apps at the Apple App store had grown to 3.3 Million!

Google Play Store had a total of 3.3 Million apps by September 2017.

Apps have become indispensable because they make it possible for anyone to achieve life and work balance.

Need a ride to work but are worried taxis may not be available? Don’t worry, download Uber on your smartphone and the app will locate the Uber driver nearest your location and send him or her to your place in no time at all.

You can find an app for nearly anything you need to do at work or at home.

Here are eight of the best apps you should have on your mobile device to guarantee a stress- free life:

Top 8 Apps to Make Work More Efficient and Have a Happier Life

1. LastPass

In a technologically-driven world where everything you hold near and dear is stored in a digital platform, the first app you should have is one that protects all of your information.

We wrote about the importance of using a Password Manager in our article, “Why You Need a Password Manager Now”. LastPass is one of the best password management programs you will find in the market.

LastPass was introduced in 2008. It will store and automatically login your username and password credentials for social media, email and other websites that you frequently use.

What makes LastPass better than other password managers? When you are entrusting your information to one digital service provider, security and protection should always be your primary consideration.

LastPass stores your information in a format that makes it difficult even for the National Security Agency (NSA) and the company itself to read.

In 2015, there was a reported breach in security but LastPass’ Two-Factor Authentication (TFA) kicked in which prevented hackers from gaining access to the treasure trove of passwords.

As we discussed in our article , “How to Protect Your Website from Hackers and Spam Attacks”, hackers are relentless. They will stop at nothing to get your information to meet their selfish interests.

Having a password manager like LastPass is a step in the right direction to ensure the protection of your online data.

2. Hootlet

Social media is no longer just a tool for connecting with long lost loved ones, posting images of your vacation or a digital soapbox to share your latest politically- charged rant.

It has become a valuable tool for businesses to generate revenues by marketing and promoting products and services. Businesses also utilize social media to enhance their online presence by posting relevant content, sharing advocacies and engaging their followers regularly.

But it can be time consuming checking 3 to 5 social media platforms for the latest updates everyday. This is where Hootlet becomes an important app for you.

Hootlet is an app from HootSuite, one of the most respected and reputable social media management companies in the world. It was founded in 2008 by Ryan Holmes and is the preferred platform of choice by the Obama administration, Martha Stewart Media, Virgin Group and HBO, among others.

Here is a rundown of what Hootlet can do for you:

  • Share any webpage to all of your social networks with a single click;
  • Schedule the publication of all of your updates;
  • Google search all the relevant tweets;
  • Access Yelp to find the best restaurants in town;
  • Do a Tweet search in any area simply by putting the location on Google Maps.

With Hootlet, you don’t have to visit each and every social media network. Hootlet brings them to you!

3. Evernote

We wrote extensively about Evernote in our article, “How to Organize Life and Work with Evernote”. If you want a refresher course on Evernote, simply click on the article title.

But we can’t stop raving about this amazing app because it is a proven time saver and will greatly increase your level of productivity.

Evernote is generally an online note- taking application but is packed with so many features that you can use it for basically anything you need to do at work or in your daily life.

One of its most valuable features is the Evernote Web Clipper.

People use the Internet to search for information all the time. Sometimes you might stumble upon information that has relevant and usable content but don’t have enough time to properly digest it.

Enter Evernote Web Clipper; a browser extension that allow you to snip off information, have them catalogued neatly and accessible by any device. If there is a section in the article which you find particularly useful, you can highlight it or mark it with arrows and text.

Do you want to share this bit of information? Evernote has features that will let you share any article, text or image via email or social media.

4. MooVit

Public commuters have to go through the daily grind of getting to a transport station, lining up and while queuing hope that a seat will be available by the time he or she gets inside the bus.

But it can’t always be Christmas and you may find yourself standing up for the duration of the long ride to the office.

MooVit is an app that makes the commute a much easier experience. It will give you real time public transport information plus GPS navigation. This way you will know where the nearest bus stops are and more importantly, the least crowded routes!

How does Moovit do it? It coordinates and collaborates with transportation operators to get public transit data and also utilizes crowd sourced user data.

 5. Waze

Looking for your destination no longer has to seem like a challenge from “The Amazing Race”.

Waze claims to be the world’s largest community- based traffic and navigation app. Basically it crowdsources real- time information and road conditions to help you find the best routes to get to your destination faster.

A team of map editors are constantly working to update changes in Waze’s maps so you can have the most effective route available all the time. Those who have used Waze have raved on how much the app has helped them save time and gas money.

You can also use Waze to synch travel times if you and your friends are traveling to a specific destination.

6. Trip Advisor

Are you going on a business trip or on vacation? For sure you would always like to know the best places to stay, dine or be entertained.

TripAdvisor is an app that makes it easy to find what you are looking for and secure the best deals so you can stay on your budget.

Trip Advisor compiles reviews, opinions and photos from its community of over 500 million users. You will know which airlines have the lowest rates, the best hotels with vacancies and fun activities you and your family can do while in town.

You can also share your own reviews and upload photos of your trip to help other community members.

7. Life360

Life360 is a valuable app for those who seek to find a balance between family and work. It can be quite challenging especially for parents who both work, have a tight calendar and whose children follow different schedules.

With Life360 you can keep track of everyone in the family without having to send out the message “Where are you?” every few minutes. For busy parents, Life360 is an app that will give them peace of mind.

For children who are always on the go, sending Mom or Dad a quick “check in” and a note that they are “doing fine” is enough to allay the usual fears and concerns every parent goes through.

8. Udemy

Have you ever wanted to learn how to play the guitar but were discouraged by its 20 frets, cost and total time it may take to strum and pick like John Mayer?

Udemy makes it possible for you to learn guitar, computer programming, photography and other interesting courses at an affordable prices and at your own pace.

Udemy is all about learning. The company’s mission is to help anyone and everyone learn anything.

You don’t have to rack up college debt to be adept at your passion. Many of the courses offered do not cost more than $50. The company also offers some courses free of charge.

Conclusion

These are just eight of the best apps you can use to simplify life and make you more productive. For sure while you were reading this article, software developers are busy at work designing the next big app to hit the market. By tomorrow, another 1,000 apps will make their way to Apple’s App Store or Google Play Store.

It does not mean that you should download every app that makes it to market. Chances are some apps will not be used as often as the others. Having too many apps on your mobile device will slow down its performance and leave you open to being hacked.

In the same manner that apps are designed to simplify your life, simplify your choice of apps. Make an accounting of your daily activities and download the apps with features that meet your needs.

Another helpful tip is to avoid getting apps that have similar functions. For example, if you already have Evernote, you might no longer need to download GetPocket.com which has the similar functions as Evernote’s Web Clipper. However, that being said, we still highly recommend GetPocket.com! Our founder uses both of these daily.

1Password is another good password manager. We use this one as we like the functionality a bit better when we implemented the application. But if you already have LastPass, you should be fine. 

What about you? Which apps do you regularly use to simplify life and generate more productivity at work? Kindly share your experiences with our readers in the comments section below.

If you want to know more about the best apps in the market and which ones you should use to suit your own purpose, please do not hesitate to give us a call or an email.

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!

 

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.

People become entrepreneurs because they believe owning a business means having better work-life balance. You have your own time and if you decide to run your business from home, that saves you the hassles of the everyday commute. But oftentimes, reality is different from perception.

From running the Monday to Friday 9-to-5 grind as a private employee, many entrepreneurs find themselves working 12 to 14 hours, sometimes for seven days a week.

As a private employee, compensation may not accurately measure productivity but at least you were assured of a bi-monthly salary plus benefits. And if the boss wasn’t doing well, he’d make for great conversation over drinks with the fellas at the bar.

Life Challenges of Being an Entrepreneur

The pressures are different as a business owner. You are invested financially and emotionally in the business plus you are accountable for all decisions that have to be made. Thus, the risks are greater.

Revenues are used to pay for operating expenses. Savings are either plugged back to the business as capital investment to improve facilities or set aside as contingency.

Unless the stream of revenues is consistent and above par, you could find yourself with unstable income for an indefinite period of time.

Eventually the pressure to succeed reaches a point that work has taken over your life. More time is allocated for work, rather than other areas: family, friends and your health.

You start missing out on milestones such as your son’s first Little League game or your daughter’s first dance recital. Your lifestyle takes a nasty turn. You find yourself losing sleep, eating unhealthy food and lacking exercise.

Every end of the month, you look at the company’s financial statements and are faced with the same nagging question:

“Does spending more time at work guarantee the success of my business?”

Quantity vs Quality Time

The short answer is “No”. In the first place, there are no guarantees in life or work. As the old saying goes, “Even the best laid plans go awry.” This is especially true in the age of the Internet. Consumers have more access to information and can make more educated buying decisions.

We’re also at the time of globalization. Economies are more interconnected. There is immediate access to regions where comparative cost advantages and economies of scale are available.

Business has gone global and conditions have become much more competitive. Markets have grown more unpredictable. We’ve seen a shift in political structures across the world the last few years which have made the business environment more chaotic and volatile.

Instead of putting in more time for work, find ways to improve efficiency so you can increase productivity.

Time as a Measure of Productivity

“Give me six hours to chop the tree and I will spend the first four hours sharpening the axe.”

Abraham Lincoln

By definition productivity is the measure of output per unit of input. In relation to business, productivity means accomplishing more with less input. In order to achieve greater productivity, you should emphasize efficiency when managing your business.

The best parameter for efficiency is time. Why? Because you cannot change, control or influence time. There is no technology capable of manipulating time. Whether you like it or not, you will always have 24 hours every day.

Time is the one constant in a list of variable factors that could spell the difference between success and failure for your business.

How to Find Life and Work Balance

Your ability to manage time efficiently will not only have an impact on the success of your business but will also have repercussions on the other aspects of your life: family, friends and your health.

Here are 8 of the best time management strategies you can use to find balance between life and work:

1. Plan Your Day the Night Before

American Express CEO Kenneth Chenault always has a busy day but he manages to keep everything smooth and stress-free by doing one simple thing. Mr. Chenault plans his day the night before.

Planning your schedule the night before removes time-wasting guesswork and procrastination that tends to happen during spur-of-the-moment situations. With advanced planning, you will have a crystal clear idea on the things that need to get done and approach them with laser-like focus.

2. Get a Good Night’s Sleep

Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington once passed out and hit her head on a table opening up a cut that required five stitches. She was working so hard that she neglected an important part of her daily schedule: getting enough sleep.

Ever since that incident, Ms. Huffington unplugs all technology and makes sure she gets at least seven hours of sleep every night.

Lack of sleep puts you at risk of acquiring many diseases and illnesses such as diabetes, heart attacks and cancer. It also affects memory, cognition and comprehension. Doctors recommend getting at least seven hours of high quality sleep every night.

3. Start the Day on the Right Foot

Do you start your day with a good breakfast or by checking your email? If you find yourself reaching for your smartphone instead of a cup of coffee and a whole wheat bagel, you are setting yourself up for one unproductive and stressful day.

How do some of the world’s most successful people start their morning?

  • Former US President Barack Obama – Pumps iron at 6:45am
  • Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz – Wakes up at 4:30am to walk his three dogs
  • Microsoft founder Bill Gates – Spends 1 hour on the treadmill while watching instructional videos to work both mind and body
  • Amazon founder Jeff Bezos – Breakfast with his wife MacKenzie and their four children.
  • Media mogul Oprah Winfrey – 16.5 minutes of meditation at 9:30am

Before you seize the day, get yourself physically, mentally and emotionally ready to pursue the tasks you have set out to accomplish. Clearing out the cobwebs before heading to work matters.

4. Learn to Prioritize

We all have someone in our lives who seems to have every waking hour in his or her agenda filled up with things to do. But is a calendar that is packed with “things to do” a sign of success?

Here’s the truth: When you try to do everything, you end up accomplishing nothing.

Learn to prioritize the things you need to do. Often the first item on your agenda should be the one you dread the most. Guess what? Unless you take care of it, you will find it on your agenda every single day. And the situation may get worse unless you attend to it as soon as possible.

Get it over and done with then move on to the next item on the list.

5. Set Clear and Realistic Goals

Goal setting has been proven to be an effective approach to improving productivity. Your goals establish direction and provide guidance to where you want to go.

But for your goals to be effective, they must be clearly defined and realistic.

For example, if you want to improve lead generation it is more realistic to target a 20% increase in one month than an astronomical figure such as 2,000%. In the first place, you may not have the scale, funding or infrastructure necessary to accommodate the demands of a 2,000% increase in lead generation.

By setting clear and realistic goals, you will be able to align your available resources to meet those targets. There will be less time wasted on reviewing strategy, implementing changes and managing risk factors.  

6. Create a Productive Work Environment

You’re busy finalizing the design drawings for a presentation to a big client tomorrow. You’ve hit roadblocks on some areas of the design and are presently reworking key numbers in your calculation.

Then your phone starts ringing. Or you see messages flashing on your PC from Skype, Viber or Messenger. At the most inopportune times, people knock on your door.

Regardless of the type of message or who they are from, these are distractions that can seriously take away precious time and impact productivity.

Before starting your work day, set aside all forms of distractions. Here are some things you can do to create a productive work environment:

  • Create voice mail then put away your mobile phone.
  • Lower the ring volume of your landline but leave a voice message.
  • Leave word at Skype or Viber that you cannot be disturbed during a certain time period.
  • Close all of your social media accounts.
  • Place a “Do Not Disturb” sign outside your office door.

Dedicate specific hours of the day to check messages. This will be discussed in the next strategy.

7. Utilize Focus Blocks

According to studies, the average American office worker only puts in 90 minutes of productive time per day. This means that on a full eight hour schedule, the average American only generates 19% productivity.

The rest of their time is spent on non-productive behavior such as checking social media, taking restroom or water cooler breaks and surfing the Internet.

Yet, America remains the most powerful economy in the world. Imagine if the average American worker was able to increase productivity by 300%.

Is that even possible?

The answer is “Yes” and the best way to achieve it would be to use focus blocks. A focus block is a time period that is committed for the accomplishment of only one task. Based on the study, the ideal length of a focus block is 90 minutes.

The study on the productivity of the average American office worker is also supported by other research which claim most people can maintain 100% focus for only 90 to 120 minutes.

Here is how you schedule focus blocks for a typical work day:

  • Identify three tasks that you want done at the end of the work day. Rank these tasks in terms of priority.
  • Commit 90 minutes for each of these tasks. For example:
Task No:Start:End:
19:00am10:30am
211:00am12:30am
31:00pm2:30pm
  • Once you complete a focus block, give yourself a 30 minute break. You can have a nap, go to the restroom, have a snack, check emails, check social media, return calls and other matters that need your attention.

Assuming you complete all 3 tasks, then your productivity rating soars to 75%. If you compare this with the performance of the average American office worker, you are looking at a 300% increase in productivity simply by using focus blocks!

With focus blocks, you reduced your work schedule from 8 hours to 4.5 hours per day. You reduced time input by 44% but increased output by 300%.

Now that is efficiency!

8. Outsource Non-Core Functions

We discussed the benefits of outsourcing in our article “How We Can Help With a Blog”. If you want to learn more about outsourcing and its benefits, you can simply click to our article.

The most successful entrepreneurs in the world like Tim Ferriss, Michael Hyatt and Pat Flynn were able to grow their businesses by outsourcing administrative and technical tasks to virtual assistants and freelancers. By outsourcing, they were able to dedicate more time to the core functions of their business.

Outsourcing is a proven way to increase productivity and improve efficiency because it allows you more time to attend to the tasks that matter.

Conclusion

As you have read, you don’t have to put in a ton of time every day to become productive and achieve success. It all comes down to effective time management; planning your day so that you can accomplish more in a shorter amount of time.

In our focus block example, you could be working only from 9:00am to 2:30pm every day.

What would you do the rest of the day? Here is a list of suggested activities from your friends at Mountaintop Web Design:

  • Spend quality time with family.
  • Exercise!
  • Take up a new hobby.
  • Try out a new restaurant with the spouse.
  • Watch the latest Hollywood blockbuster.
  • Meet up with old friends over coffee.

The possibilities are endless once you are able to expertly manage your time. Always keep in mind that you should work to live and not live for work.

Did you find our article useful or inspiring? Let us know what you think by sharing your comments. If you want to know how we can help you succeed as an entrepreneur, feel free to give us a call or drop us an email.

We would love to hear from you!

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!