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7 Tips for Productive Conference Calls

7 Tips for Productive Conference Calls

Conference calls sound like a great idea. For a lot of reasons, in-person meetings just don’t work. People’s schedules and locations can make it virtually impossible to get together face-to-face. However, conference calls are far from a perfect solution.

Having participated in countless conference calls, I can confirm that just about everything that happens in this following video has been my experience. Even if you’ve already seen this video, you know how good it is. Watch it (again).

So what is the solution to overcoming the many hurdles surrounding unproductive, awkward conference calls? Mostly it’s organization. When I’m tasked with leading a conference call, I follow these seven simple rules to make the most of everyone’s time – and accomplish the goal of the call.

  1. Create a calendar invitation.

Simple, yet so often forgotten. When a group of people agree on a conference call date and time, someone needs to take the lead to send a calendar invitation to everyone. Why? Because people can’t be trusted to take this step on their own. Inevitably, it will slip their mind and they’ll either forget the call entirely or be scrambling to find the phone number and passcode. Reduce the number of “Hey I can’t find the conference call information, can you resend it to me?” emails you’ll have to answer by letting your online calendar serve as a reminder.

  1. Send reminder emails.

Speaking of reminders, yes you’ll need to do this at least twice leading up to the call. I’ve found that I can greatly increase conference call attendance (especially for large groups of people) by combining the calendar invitation with reminder emails. Key times to remind people are a few days before the call. For example, if it’s a Monday morning conference call, send a reminder email on Friday before everyone mentally clocks out for the weekend. For an afternoon conference call, I’ll remind people that morning so they include this obligation on their list of to-do’s for the day. If you really have a busy/forgetful group, send a final reminder within the hour of the call taking place. That way the call information is right in front of them and they have time to wrap up that other work project that may have gotten in the way.

  1. Have an agenda.

I’ll say it again, organization is the key to running a productive conference call. This starts with a focused agenda. Make sure someone is tasked with creating an agenda for the call and circulate this agenda with each of your reminder emails. When participants can follow along with the discussion items, this keeps them engaged and prevents the conversation from drifting all over the place (mostly). Most importantly, you won’t forget to cover an important item, reducing the number of follow-up calls or emails you’ll need to have.

  1. Designate a note-taker.

With an agenda, note taking is easy. However, the biggest mistake people make is not designating who will take the notes and send these notes to the group after the conference call. The designated note-taker should not be the same person leading the agenda. You want to pick someone who doesn’t need to speak a lot during the call. Also, the note-taker should be someone who pays attention and is detail oriented. It’s easy to miss things on a conference call if you’re not paying close attention and asking for clarification, when needed.

  1. Be mindful of time.

Just because you have an agenda to follow doesn’t mean you can let discussions go on and on and on. Set an expectation for the duration of the conference call. Most commonly this is one hour. Schedule it as such on your calendar invitation so everyone blocks off the appropriate amount of time. Next, stick to that time. If you’re a half hour into the call but only on your first agenda item, you need to wrap up discussion or make the decision to quickly move through your other agenda items. Long, drawn-out conference calls are likely to have attendees drop off or find reasons to avoid future calls. Keep things short and focused.

  1. Set a date for your next call.

Before you adjourn the meeting, be sure to set the date and time of your next call (if needed). Not doing so while everyone is on the call is a huge missed opportunity. This way you can quickly get everyone’s input on availability and avoid the dreaded “reply all” emails of everyone hashing out their schedules. Additionally, you can prompt everyone to add the next conference call to their calendars and you can include the reminder in your meeting recap email.

  1. Email a meeting recap with action items.

Finally there is the meeting recap email. This is possibly the most critical piece of a productive conference call. It’s convenient for the note-taker to be the one responsible for sending out the meeting recap email. This should include a really boiled down summary of the call notes. I strongly recommend assigning names to action items and making this font bold and red. People will clearly see what’s assigned to them. Give these action items a deadline. Finally, remind people of the date and time of the next call.

By doing each of these seven things, you are far more likely to run a productive conference call in which people will willingly participate. Best of all, you’ll actually get things done, rather than spinning your wheels and wasting hours of your work day!

When you participate in a conference call, how highly would you rate productivity on average? Share your favorite tips for making business conference calls more efficient and productive by leaving a comment below!

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The Best Business Sense: Go with your gut and defend it!

The first Monday of each month, I dust off a favorite post from the Bennis Inc Blog archives and give you another chance to enjoy the wit and wisdom that’s been shared. Enjoy this month’s treasure – and if it inspires you – be sure to share it with family and friends!


The Best Business Sense Go with your gut and defend it!

Being a business owner certainly has its fair share of ups and downs. I’ve been able to anticipate and prepare for most of these like the instability of income, unpredictable work hours and the emotional investment in the business. What I didn’t necessarily anticipate was the amount of unsolicited advice I would receive. I rationalize that this stems from the fact that I’m finally in a position of control and therefore people want to help me make the best decisions possible. While this sounds like a great thing, it becomes a problem for so many business owners when the swirling confusion of mixed advice makes it hard for us to clearly see the best path for our business – which can only be decided by each of us alone.

With almost two years under my belt of dodging and deciphering other people’s opinions about my business strategy, I’ve developed a short list of what I call “Simple Business Truths.” Maybe this is my own version of unsolicited business advice that I risk imposing on others, or maybe it’s the master list us business owners should keep near and dear to our hearts in moments of confusion. Regardless, I find the following to be harmless and helpful advice because it advocates that you ultimately go with your gut and forget what anyone else says. And if you ask me…that’s the best business advice you can (or maybe don’t) ask for!

Simple Business Truths:

1. So long as you can rationally defend your decisions, stick with your gut.

Since becoming a business owner I feel like I’ve become much more in tune to my intuition and have really started to rely upon it. I can’t say I’ve never second-guessed myself, especially in the beginning; however, I’ve now had enough examples to know that I should always go with my gut. My rule of thumb for gauging my intuition is to make sure I can also rationally defend why I feel the way I do. Ever since I was a child, I never liked hearing “because I said so” as a sole reason for why something had to be a certain way – and I don’t allow myself to use this as my backbone for decision making now. So long as you can rationally defend your reasons, stick with them!

2. People who try and tell you what to do are likely just as confused themselves.

Entrepreneurs tend to gather in chats and discussion groups like it’s an AA meeting. This provides a platform for sharing their “must-do’s” and all-knowing advice with fellow entrepreneurs. Whether they mean well or mean to intimidate, entrepreneurs taking other entrepreneurs’ advice can be toxic. Or as I often describe it – it’s the blind leading the blind. Let’s be honest, none of us can ever say with certainty that we know what we’re doing! It’s the road of the unknown for a reason. I caution fellow entrepreneurs on how much advice they take from others. This is a very individual journey and no two business models are the same. The variances between your business and someone else’s can make sharing advice as risky as sharing prescription meds.

3. Don’t fall for the next big trend – this too shall pass.

The entrepreneurial journey is already filled with enough hills and valleys; I don’t see the point in adding even more variables by early adopting the latest and most radical business trends before I can observe them in action for a little while. The entrepreneurs who do, often sacrifice the overall strategy and growth plan specific to their business all for the chance to say “I was first.”  If this is what drives your business decisions, you’ll soon enough be able to say you were first to fail or fold as well. The benefits of most trends are fleeting at best. And if they are worth implementing, they’ll stick around long enough for you to do so. Don’t willingly be the guinea pig!

4. Even a friend’s “best advice” could be unintentional sabotage.

Once you’re an entrepreneur, friends and family want to shower you with well wishes and their best business advice. But just like Grandma’s loving attempt at knitting you a Christmas sweater, even the thoughtful ones can be deceptively dangerous. You can always nod and agree, but before you run and implement such advice take a moment to qualify the person and where their expertise lies.

5. Remember – you built the business, you get first and final say!

When I first transitioned into the life of an entrepreneur, it was quite the mental shift. For a long time I still felt like an employee to someone else and would seek out advice from anyone who would provide it. I absorbed it like a sponge! I’ve since learned better and now remind myself that one of the biggest benefits I have as a business owner is first and final say in what decisions are made. Don’t hand this over to anyone else!

If you could add your own 6th “truth” to this list, what would it be? Comment and share some of the best or worst business advice you’ve ever received!

 

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Fear or Inspiration: The Two Motivators That Makes Us Move

The first Monday of each month, I dust off a favorite post from the Bennis Inc Blog archives and give you another chance to enjoy the wit and wisdom that’s been shared. Enjoy this month’s treasure – and if it inspires you – be sure to share it with family and friends!


fearWe see it in the news, read it in a magazine or hear it within our networks almost every day. There’s some new start-up that’s growing exponentially and breaking all kinds of projections. They’re on the fast track to becoming the “next big thing.” It’s enough to make any small business owner or entrepreneur want to throw the old adage of “slow and steady wins the race” out the window.  Who wouldn’t want their business to skyrocket to Facebook-like fame? From my own experiences and observations, I’ve found that for any business that’s progressing and expanding at warp speed, there is most commonly one of two causes for this type of growth. The differences between these causes are paramount to the ultimate success – or implosion – of the business.

Most simply defined, the two motivators for momentum are fear and inspiration. For most businesses, it’s easy to pick out which they’re experiencing. The difference can be seen in whether their actions to accommodate this growth are proactive or reactive. Not all speeds of growth are beneficial if it comes at the risk of ruining your business or losing your sanity.  The ultimate goal for any business experiencing a period of growth should be to run like you’re crossing the finish line, not like you’re being chased.

Running Scared

Especially seen in start-ups, where one good viral marketing campaign can create an insatiable consumer demand almost overnight, the momentum of business growth can make you run like you’re being chased. You’re reactionary. There’s no time to create a sensible growth plan when you’re barely able to keep up with the current demands of the business. You’re not running the business, the business is running you – or after you, rather. Sure it’s momentum and to the outside world it appears that you’re making significant progress, but in reality you’re shooting from the hip with every decision. My political experience has provided me with far too many examples of organizations who function out of fear. Jokingly we called it organized chaos, but this reactionary behavior to everything thrown at us resulted in frequent mistakes and missed opportunities. In retrospect, these situations would have greatly benefited from even just an hour or two of critical planning. This small investment of time in the short term would have given us a more proactive plan to turn to in the long term. For any business or organization that appears to be “running scared,” it’s never too late to pump the breaks and replace this fear with strategy.

Running Toward A Goal

In contrast to the first type of motivator – fear, the motivator of inspiration produces quite a different result within a business. To the outside world movement all appears the same, but inside you can clearly tell a business that functions off of a well thought out growth strategy. Unlike running scared, running toward a goal helps you to make even big decisions with less effort. Your strategy – or finish line – helps you to see the obvious answers. You’re calm, confident and collected because your focus is on anticipating the next step not reacting to the last hurdle. The inspired movers are the business owners who are able to appreciate the growth of their business, not come to curse it. Most importantly, when you have inspiration as your motivator, not fear, you are in complete control of the direction of growth. You’re able to pick and choose the opportunities that best align with your goals. When motivated by fear, you’re more likely to take on every opportunity that comes your way regardless of whether it’s the right fit. I once had someone give me the advice, “Pile as much on your plate as you can. You can always take it off later, but you can’t put it back on.” I was hesitant when I first heard this and have since learned that it’s very bad advice. Be strategic with your opportunities and don’t give into the fear that tells you another one may never come your way – with enough talent and inspiration, they always do!

In thinking about your own business – or even your personal life – which type of growth do you most familiarize yourself with? Are you running scared or are you running toward a goal? There’s no questioning the accuracy of the term “growing pains.” Growth means change and change is often uncomfortable. What’s important to remember is that between the two motivators that make us move – fear and inspiration – one drains us while the other fulfills us.  It’s important to seek out the latter to ensure that even during the most uncomfortable periods of growth that require us to stretch our limits, we have a finish line in sight and a strategy to get there feeling like a champion.

 

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11 Tips to Become a Better Public Speaker

11 Tips to Become a Better Public Speaker

Love it or hate it. Everyone, at some point in their life, will be faced with having to speak to a group of people. This could be a crowd of thousands, or a small group setting. But in order to be effective communicators, which is essential in both personal and professional life, we must embrace, not avoid public speaking.

Truly the best way to improve your public speaking is to do it often. Only then will you be able to assess and refine your skills. This doesn’t necessarily mean booking paid speaking gigs at large conferences. No, this simply means giving a presentation to peers, speaking up in a work meeting or telling a story to a group of friends – but doing so on a regular basis!

The good news is you likely already possess many qualities of a great public speaker, you just need to be intentional about utilizing them. No matter how you would rate your public speaking skills, there’s something to be learned from these 11 tips.

  1. Understand what motivates your audience

Your audience, no matter the size, will have some sort of shared motive. Consider the reason for them to gather together in the first place. Is it a conference? A work meeting? A social function? There is a motive for people showing up to any of these (i.e. something they hope to gain). To prepare for public speaking, give thought to the shared demographics.  Once you’ve pinpointed the shared motive of the group, be sure to speak to this in your presentation.

  1. Know your content – but don’t memorize it

It’s so important to prepare your presentation so that you appear confident and knowledgeable. However, it is absolutely possible to over-prepare to the point that you sound “rehearsed” and not in a good way. By memorizing, word-for-word, what you want to say you risk losing the emotional aspect of your delivery. It can sound cold or robotic. You also remove yourself from living in the moment and adjusting your presentation to your audience’s reaction – a huge missed opportunity! Instead, aim to use your talking points as a reference guide, but don’t rely upon them so heavily that they become your script.

  1. Have back up plans for technology

When it comes to presentations, technology follows Murphy’s Law. I’ve seen so many different hiccups in presentations from a power point presentation that wouldn’t open, to lost internet connection, to a laptop that’s not compatible to the projector – and you get the picture. If you plan to incorporate technology of any kind into your presentation, expect the unexpected. Scout out the meeting location in advance, talk to someone in charge of the room’s technology and most importantly, take matters into your own hand. With a little research, you will find that there are plenty of free resources, like Google Slides, that give you easy access to your audio/visual elements wherever and whenever you need them.

  1. Set the tone of your presentation

Do you want this to feel like a casual conversation among peers? Or do you want your presentation to be highly polished and professional. In my own public speaking, I make sure to set the tone early in my presentation. This can be done by simply opening with such a statement like “I want this to be a fun and informal discussion where you feel welcome to jump in with questions at any time.” A more formal presentation would obviously not begin with such remarks, but might start with a bold attention-getter or an introduction of your credentials to establish your expertise. Setting the tone early will give people a feel for what’s to come.

  1. Get out from behind the podium

This is highly dependent upon your setting, but I feel my speaking is far more engaging when I set away from the podium and give myself the freedom to move around as I speak. First, you feel closer to your audience and as a result you will tend to engage them more. Second, you look less like you’re giving a middle school presentation and more like a confident speaker, which brings me to my next point.

  1. Convey confidence, but be likeable

Confidence is important. So is being relatable and likeable to your audience.  Someone who comes across overly confident risks looking arrogant. As a result, you will create distance between you and your audience and it will be a lot harder to engage them. Smile, make a joke, tell a personal story or share your background/hobbies so people start to feel like they are listening to a real person, not some talking head.

  1. Asses your audience and adjust

This is where you need to understand how to read visual cues such as facial expressions and body language. This is a highly valuable indicator of whether or not your audience is engaged with what you are saying. Does your audience seem distracted? Bored? Annoyed? Their face and body can tell you this. These cues can also tell you if you’re saying things that resonate with your audience. Smiles, nodding heads and people taking notes are positive indicators that you are doing exactly that. If you’re seeing negative feedback, take note and adjust your delivery or move to a new point that you think is more interesting.

  1. Share anecdotes

Everyone loves a good story. Do you have one to share that relates to your message? Practice telling it so you can fine tune your delivery and ensure it remains concise. A story worth sharing is one that elicits emotion. Stories with a funny or happy ending or ones that teach a good lesson will not only wake up your audience, but studies show it will be one of the top things people remember about your presentation.

  1. Anticipate questions

At the end of your presentation, you’ll want to end with the option for your audience to ask questions. Depending upon your audience and the setting, there is likely to be a handful of questions to facilitate discussion. However, that may not always be the case. Even the best presentation can come to an awkward end when the speaker say, “Okay, so who has some questions for me?” and then all you hear is crickets. Rather than slink off stage in silence, step in with your own question so that you’re sure you have at least one more thing to say. I’ve had to do this once or twice and when I do, it usually inspires another question from the audience. Sometimes you just need to be your own wingman!

  1. Stick around after you’re done

So long as your schedule permits, stick around for a little while after your presentation. During the next break, members of the audience may wish to ask you a question in private, offer a thank you or provide feedback on your presentation. These are all valuable opportunities to form relationships and improve your public speaking.

  1. Actively seek more opportunities to speak!

This may be the hardest piece of advice for anyone who doesn’t enjoy public speaking and that’s to get out there and do it as often as you can. There’s no way around it. It’s the only way you’ll get better. I speak from my own personal experience when I say I used to be as nervous as anyone before stepping up in front of a crowd. Now I regularly present to a wide variety of audiences – and not only have my nerves calmed, I actually look forward to sharing my passion and putting on a good “performance.”

How do you feel about public speaking?

Moreover, how would you rate yourself as a public speaker?

Share your public speaking experience and the tips you’ve found to be most effective for improving your skills!

 
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Posted by on May 28, 2018 in Business & Success

 

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A Day in the Life of a Mompreneur

mompreneur 2

For many types of careers, you can quickly gather what a typical work routine might look like. While day to day tasks and interactions will continuously change, more traditional career paths have fairly predictable hours and work locations. Moreover they usually focus on serving one industry or a certain type of clientele.

What I want to share with you, in stark contrast, is the typical day of a mompreneur.

mompreneur.png

More than me choosing the mompreneur career path, it chose me. I began as a solo entrepreneur, prior to marriage and children. When these things eventually came along, I didn’t want to halt growing my business nor did I want to put a pause on personal life. So I buckled up for the wild ride of being a mompreneur – running my own Public Relations firm while raising two young boys, often simultaneously. The result? An utterly chaotic, but flexible, ever-changing, but rewarding lifestyle that suits me well.

How do I get it done in a day? Truly, every day is a different routine. Some days are more work intensive, some are more family intensive. What I’m about to show you is a single snap shot of a recent Monday schedule for me.

4:00am – No, this is NOT part of my normal routine. However my youngest son found his way down to our bedroom and mom duty is 24/7. So I spent the next half hour snuggling, reading, rocking, singing and coercing him back to bed because “the moon is still up…and mommy is TIRED.”

6:00am – Alarm goes off and I slowly transform from zombie to human with a large cup of coffee. I click away on my keyboard to clean up emails that came in over the weekend. I send out a statewide press release for a client and promote my weekly blog post that went live a few minutes ago. I’m wrapping up my last “early morning” work session when…

6:40am – Tiny feet come loudly stomping down the stairs. “Hi Mommy!” smiles my older son. While there is more work to be done, I close my laptop and switch into mom mode. The next hour or so is a whirlwind of making breakfast, making beds, changing two tiny bodies, breaking up fights, packing lunches and finding a moment to brush my teeth.

8:00am – Today I take both boys with me to the YMCA where they’ll hang out in the kids’ room for about 2 hours. It’s free childcare, they burn off some energy and I get some more work and personal time. At this stage in life, my YMCA membership is my ticket to sanity.

8:40am – After getting in some cardio, I take a quick break to knock off a few work tasks before heading into my workout class.

9:00am – Maybe the best hour of my day – I put aside all thoughts of work or kids and focus on re-centering myself with a really good workout.

10:00am – I have ½ hour of child care time remaining that I use to check in on my clients’ social media postings for the day. I also have a standing client phone call every other Monday that takes about 15 minutes. I knock this out and go pick up the kids. It takes us about 15 minutes to make it to the car, but I finally get everyone strapped in safely without forgetting anything. Mom win!

10:30am – We arrive back at home where our live-in Au Pair is now on duty. Karen starts an activity with the boys while I grab a quick shower. I have to step in to address a tantrum, caused by an Oreo cookie, before grabbing my lunch bag, kissing the boys goodbye, explaining (3 or 4 times) where I’m going and when I’ll be home, and then I jump in the car with a deep breath. I made it out of the house before 11am!

11:15am – I drive a quarter mile to Messiah College’s library where I’ve been doing a lot of my work lately. It’s free, comfortable and very close to home. Unfortunately, my home office isn’t an ideal work space when they boys are being watched in our home. Plus, it’s nice to be a new setting for a few hours.

2:30pm – I’m finally caught up on emails and tasks that have come in throughout the morning. I’ve scheduled three client meetings for later this week, booked a great deal on a Mexico vacation for later this year (we’ve earned it!), wrote a new blog post and reviewed my presentation that I’ll give at an educators’ conference in Altoona tomorrow. Coffee break!

3:00pm – I do a phone interview with a client to gain more information for a promotional article I’m writing for them. I wrap up the call and pull together the article quickly, since it’s fresh on my mind. I’m well ahead of my client task list this month, which is good because I have a few additional projects and clients I’ll be taking on later this month that will require extra time. Over the next week, I’ll also spend 3 days on the road presenting to 18 school districts at three different conferences. This is why I work hard to clear my bandwidth as quickly as possible so I can jump on extra opportunities as they present themselves.

4:00pm – I’m in a good spot to put away work for the rest of the day. Most days I head home early to spend some extra time with the boys. Or sometimes I’ll run an errand. Today I need this extra time to catch up some reading for our church group that meets tonight. This is a relaxing way to ease out of the work day.

5:30pm – I get settled back at home while our Au Pair, Karen spends time with the boys outside. I call everyone in for dinner. Before Karen, dinnertime was really stressful with kids wanting to play and mom needing to cook. Having an extra set of hands in the evenings is so helpful – and it allows me to be more present with the boys.

6:15pm – We leave as a family to go to our friends’ house where five couples from our church meet bi-monthly. The kids play with Karen and another sitter downstairs while the adults get some meaningful time to talk and discuss our current book series “Love and Respect.”

8:30pm – We are back home and it’s straight to bed for the boys. It takes a little time for them to wind down, but with enough books, songs, kisses and glasses of water, we close their doors for the night.

9:00pm – For the next hour, my husband and I spend undivided time together. Sometimes this is catching up on our favorite TV show, sometimes it’s sitting on the front porch and talking about the day, other times it’s the necessary evil of taking care of some household tasks or making decisions on things to keep the household running smoothly. No matter how we spend this hour, I’m grateful to spend it together.

10:00pm – No later than 10:00pm, we’re in bed and recharging to run a different, but equally busy schedule tomorrow. Here’s to hoping there’s no 4:00am wake up calls tonight!

Now that’s you’ve seen a glimpse into one of my many different daily routines, does it feel similar to your own or completely different? It’s been nearly a decade since I’ve had a strict 8am-5pm work schedule. Even before kids I remember it not meshing well with my personal work style. I imagine that would only be amplified now. I love the freedom and flexibility of being a mompreneur, but I accept that it comes with unique challenges, constantly changing schedules and a lot of juggling.

What routine have you found to give you the best work-life balance? Is it something you currently have or want to have? Join in the discussion by leaving a comment below!

 

 

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Oh the Places You’ll…Work!

the places you'll work

It’s a Dr. Seuss book that has become the standard gift to give someone for graduation, “Oh the Places You’ll Go!” I have my own copy stored somewhere. I truly haven’t thought much about this book since my own college graduation, but recently the words in that title have never been truer of my professional life.

Sure, since starting my own PR firm nearly seven years ago, I suppose I have gotten to go to a lot of new places. But that’s not what made me think of this book. Rather, if Dr. Seuss were to write a book about my life these last few weeks it would be called “Oh the Places You’ll…Work!”

I have always enjoyed that my career allows me to work from virtually anywhere. Most often I’m comfortable in my home office, or I’d get out to park or coffee shop to enjoy a change in scenery. However, since hiring our au pair, both of my young sons are in or around our home during the day. The convenience of this is awesome, but there’s definitely the drawback that they can and will find me – often at the most inopportune times.

Lately, I’ve had to ditch my home office and seek out workspace away from the home. What I’ve discovered is a treasure trove of free work spaces all throughout my town. What felt like a minor inconvenience, has opened my eyes to some pretty creative ways entrepreneurs – or moms who simply want to drink a cup of coffee in peace – can set up “shop” just about anywhere. Here are my favorites thus far!

College campuses – I’m fortunate to live within walking distance to a small private college, Messiah College. While I’ve walked this campus for years, I’ve never really stepped foot inside their buildings. Once I did, I found a handful of perfect co-working spaces. A college or university is a prime spot for pop-up offices. They have free wifi, plenty of quiet areas, ample outlets, and open desks/tables/chairs to suit your needs. In Messiah’s library, there are even glassed in private work spaces that are first come first serve! Usually there’s a café or coffee shop nearby too. So this has become my favorite virtual office as of late.

The gym – Sounds weird, but it’s efficient! Our local YMCA has free wifi, coffee and a comfortable lounge area in the entrance. In an effort to get out of the house as quickly as possible in the morning, I head to the gym. I usually have a few hours to kill before my preferred workout class, so I’ll pop open my laptop, drink a cup of coffee and start my day. Then I can enjoy a workout knowing my email is under control and I have a handle on my to-do list for the day.

Co-working spaces – As you might have picked up from the theme of this article, I’m just really against paying for office space. A lot of our local co-working spaces come with a monthly fee; however, I’ve learned where in other cities this is offered for free. I often find myself in State College, Pennsylvania for both work and social obligations. Here, they have an incubator/accelerators space called Launch Box. This is a free resource for students and entrepreneurs to work, get mentored and learn from other entrepreneurs. All around it’s just a fun environment! As a bonus, it’s located right down town so grabbing a quick lunch while working is very convenient.

Coffee shops – This is a pretty standard go-to work space for many entrepreneurs. I’ll usually go to a coffee shop if I have a meeting scheduled there. I’ll arrive a little early and get in some extra work time before taking the meeting. I don’t use coffee shops as my regular workspace because they tend to get loud and crowded. Also places like Panera will cut off your wifi after so many hours. All that being said, coffee shops make great workspace options while you’re on the road and unfamiliar with other options in the area.

Libraries – Libraries make for okay workspaces. I suppose it depends upon your local library. This is a great option if you really need to dig deep into a project and require silence. Libraries don’t work so well when you need to take phone calls throughout the day – or you’re like me and tend to be a loud snacker.

Client’s office – I have several clients who graciously offer me unlimited use of their office space. This is ideal when I’ll already be in the area and need some workspace in between meetings. It’s a great way to get regular facetime with your client as well. For me, I get to enjoy working a day or so a week from a very nice office space right across the street from Pennsylvania’s Capitol building. I can take meetings in the conference room or meet up with a friend for lunch. I bill this as my “social” day – which one day a week is usually enough for me!

Outside – I’ve been able to find some really nice outdoor work spaces too. They key is to find shade otherwise it becomes extremely tedious to find your mouse on a screen that has a glare from the sun. It can also get hot and uncomfortable! I like working outside for an hour or so and then heading indoors. It’s a great way to add some variety to your day and get a dose of energy during those sleepy afternoon hours.

And some pretty unusual spaces…

While these are not my “typical” nor preferred workspaces, it’s fun to reflect on some of the outrageous places I’ve been able to accomplish work. Luckily having small children has given me the ability to focus through just about anything, which is what makes this possible! Some of my unusual office spaces include: golf course, casino, carwash, grocery store, mechanic, doctor’s office, airplane, train, car, bus (pretty much every type of transportation), bar, beach and many more I can’t remember!

Do you benefit from having a virtual work environment? Share some of the best places you’ve found to work remotely outside a traditional office or home office!

 

 

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5 Common Legal Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Startup (Contribution from Michael Deane)

The following post comes to us from marketing entrepreneur, Michael Deane, who is the founder three businesses and currently working on his next startup venture. Be sure to learn more about Michael in his biography at the end of this article.


legal mistakes

Alan Moore once said that ideas can change the world.

And isn’t that what all startups start out as? An idea that we hope will change the world?

While we are busy brainstorming and developing theories and ideas, coming up with the next product that will shake the ground we walk on, the business side of our business creeps up on us, and lurks there in the dark, waiting to pounce at the most opportune moment.

As a business owner, I can tell you two things: there will be about a million things you would rather do than read laws and regulations, draft contracts, do your taxes and fill out all the finger cramping paperwork needed to register a company. However – and it’s a big however – without the dull stuff, the fun stuff will not quite pay off as you hoped it might.

In order to hopefully save you some of the potential trouble down the line – here are my five legal missteps to avoid at all cost.

Not Knowing the Difference between a Corporation and an LLC

One of the most common mistakes you can make very early on is not even thinking about the different options to register a company. Naturally, the choice you make will mostly depend on where you live in the world, but the actual legal structures are quite similar, no matter what name they go by.

You can go for a sole proprietorship, a partnership, a limited company, a limited liability corporation, or a full blown corporation. The reason why this is important is quite simple: taxes. There’s also the issue of personal liability, which is again more important than you may initially think.

Weigh your options very carefully before you actually start this process. Some countries offer the option of registering your company online, which involves less hassle than having to walk from office to office to do it. There are also very different fees involved, and the necessary number of signatures can also vary.

As always in business, research is your friend, so do it right, do it early on, and save yourself the legal trouble later on.

Not Bothering to Protect Your Intellectual Property

When I say intellectual property, I don’t only mean secret recipes, production secrets and unique service ideas. Your intellectual property may be something as seemingly simple as a logo or a brand catchphrase. And while it may not seem too important early on, it may become a game changer in later years.

Trademarking any unique designs can protect your assets and save you from intellectual property theft. If you’ve ever seen Dream Girls, you will have heard the two versions of the “Cadillac Car” song – don’t let that happen to you.

If you have also come up with a new production system or even a new blend – patenting it can turn into a valuable asset.

Failing to Grasp the Importance of Contracts

A contract is a legal document in place to protect all of the parties signing it. When you think about it, you would never consider working with a client without one, right?

However, as you are starting out, you may feel it is easier to operate without them. Having to get a client to sit down and read through a couple of pages can be more difficult than chatting about a deal online, and shaking a firm hand.

To save yourself a lot of unnecessary headaches, draft a contract that will protect you – especially in case a client fails to pay an invoice. This happens more than you can imagine, and a contract that ensures you will get paid is a lifesaver.

While there are thousands of ready-made contracts available for download – you will be much better off if you have a template contract drafted by a professional attorney. This way, you ensure that the specifics of your business and the service or product you offer are taken into consideration, and that you are not overlooking a very obvious clause that may not have made its way into an online contract.

Googling for Help

While Google is often our best friend – it is the worst place to go for legal advice. While there are countless blogs and forums that can offer some great business tips, productivity hacks and motivational speeches – don’t ask the internet to tell you how to get out of a particular legal issue.

You will undoubtedly find an answer you will like, an answer you will find helpful and an answer that seems right – but no one can guarantee it will actually do the job.

Take everything you read online with a grain of salt (including this very article) and think things through yourself. We have become so dependent on having all the information in the world at our fingertips that we can forget to use our own common sense to solve a problem.

Being Unclear about Company Roles

Knowing who does what and is responsible for which aspect of the business is not only important from the legal standpoint. The law will need to know who the legal representative of your company is, and who is liable for what. Thinking about this early on is very important.

While there may only be a handful of employees in the company right now – that is likely to change, if the idea I mentioned at the beginning was sound. Figure out who will be the face of the company, who will be responsible for the financial side, and who will be the liable one, in case things go south. This is where the type of company structure you choose comes into play again.

I hope these five tips will help you as you set out to chase your dreams. And that 400 years from now, your idea is still changing the world!


Michael DeaneAbout the Author: Michael Deane has been working in marketing for just under a decade, and has successfully launched three of his own businesses. Today, he runs a small business blog at Qeedle, and is working on his next big venture idea.

 

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