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How To Make Your Startup Business More Efficient Now (Guest Blog by Kiley Martin)

The following post comes to us from Kiley Martin, a Philadelphia-based freelance writer, editor and blogger.


TimeIncreasing the efficiency of operations should be a primary goal of all business owners . However, enhancing business productivity often falls by the wayside when workload increases. People push things off and get stuck in the same old routines.

You might be worried about the need to spend money in order to make your business more streamlined. Especially in the startup world, it’s unavoidable. You’re introducing things for the first time and it will cost time and even perhaps a new position. You’re building something that wasn’t there before.

But spending money doesn’t mean inefficiency. In fact it often means the opposite, especially if you’re investing in the future of the business. If you spend $5,000 to save $5 every time you do a repetitive process, you’ll make your money back in no time.

With that in mind, here are some ways you can make your startup business more efficient.

Invest strategically to reduce costs

When a startup is founded, business owners choose not to invest in a lot of technology or equipment because it may initially increase costs. For instance, you may choose to use a manual fax machine instead of buying an electronic one with Bluetooth access.

However, if sending and receiving faxes are a critical part of your daily operations, using an electronic fax machine would save you time, paper costs, and the hassle of manning the machine when waiting on an important document. So, even though you may have to spend some money and invest in a good machine initially, it will make things easier later on by increasing your time and cost efficiency.

Cost benefit analyses like this are very useful for when you’re setting up your business as they can help you in the long run. Focus on strategic investments that impact your most important operations.

Automate your tasks. Focus on your specialties

As an entrepreneur, you will quickly become aware that just because you own a business, this doesn’t mean you are equally good at managing all aspects of it. You could be well versed in the nuances of how to sell an app, but you might not be familiar with the specifics of app development or coding. This paves the way for task delegation.

Foremost, you need to learn to identify which tasks you can do best and which need to be delegated to other employees so they can do it best.

This concept also applies to menial tasks. Even though you are a business owner looking to cut down costs, taking a full burden of responsibilities will not help your situation. If you spend three hours manually sending invoices to clients, you are spending way less time overlooking the state of affairs for your business.

It would be prudent to get software that takes care of your invoicing so you can pay attention to other tasks that demand your attention.

In the same way, menial jobs like sending receipts or overseeing the delivery of documents could take up mental space, time and energy. Hiring an employee to take care of these tasks or using a computer program can not only make things easier for you, but also streamline your business processes in the long run.

It will also free up most of your work hours so you can focus on other tasks that require your attention.

Furthermore, if you have a website, which you should, don’t spend too much time running it if you’re a website amateur. Allow a hosting service to take the reigns. You’re running a business, not a website or an AP department. You need to invest in these processes so they don’t eat away all your time.

Give feedback and encourage employees

Your responsibility does not end at hiring personnel. The reason why most startups fail is because they are unsuccessful at retaining talent. The employees may feel useless in terms of contribution to the overall venture if they are not encouraged regularly.

Sometimes business owners will stick to brief comments and words of appreciation that mean nothing to the employee. Without proper feedback, they can stagnate their progress.

Therefore, it is important that as a business owner, you develop a keen eye for the work of your subordinates, providing ample constructive feedback where necessary. This will develop your rapport with the staff and provide work fulfillment so they can keep working with you.

Plan your schedule and focus on one thing at a time

Most startup owners work long hours and sacrifice sleep for work. Yet, they always have tasks on their to-do list that still need to be considered. For them, the work never ends.

This does not mean that other startup owners have it considerably easier than you do. It just means that other business owners have learned to manage their time and their tasks.

But how do you end up going about that ridiculous pile of work on your desk? Well, the first thing is to list everything you need to do. Then, list the time you have in a day that you will dedicate to the tasks, and plan accordingly. Do not attempt to take on more work than you know you can do.

The same goes for your employees. Encourage them to direct their focus on single tasks, rather than multitasking. Intense concentration will produce better results and take less of a mental toll, resulting in quality and efficiency.

Do you have a tip for helping a business to run more efficiently? Share your advice by leaving a comment!

Kiley MartinKiley Martin is a freelance writer, editor and blogger from Philadelphia, PA. She has worked with several popular blogs and magazines. She recently graduated from Drexel University. She also enjoys mentoring and connecting with others on new technologies in web development and programming. Feel free to contact her at KileyAMartin@gmail.com

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Posted by on August 28, 2017 in Business & Success, Guest Blogger

 

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How Fasting Affected My Work Flow

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A little more than a month ago, I felt like I needed a “reset” on my health. I’m someone who enjoys staying active and fueling my body with (mostly) healthy options. However, Pennsylvania’s winter weather, the stress of work, and keeping up with the demands of caring for a family and running a household was taking a toll on me, I could tell. I felt under the weather and drained far more than I have in the past. It was time to do something different.

I’ve heard about the juicing fad, and the benefits it boasts. Thanks to a generous neighbor, I even got to preview a few of these “green juices.” I liked them, but I also knew they came with a pretty hefty price tag at about $5 to $8 per juice, and that’s if you bought them in bulk. After a particularly bad 24 hour flu bug, I had enough. I was sick of feeling sick and decided to look into a short-term juice cleanse to see if fueling my body with only raw fruits and vegetables for a few days would do anything to jumpstart my immune system.

There are plenty of raw, cold-pressed juice companies out there. I started with a google search and a quick browse of Groupon. I found one that featured a 3-day juice cleanse that seemed really reasonable. I could commit to three days, anything longer made me anxious about how it would impact my lifestyle – I mean you can only watch your kids suck down chicken nuggets for dinner while you sip on blended spinach for so long.

The juices arrived frozen with very strict instructions for keeping them frozen until you were ready to consume them in the next 24 hours. For three days, I had 18 bottles of various juice blends to fuel me. I could drink as many as I felt like I needed in a day and I could mix in other raw fruits and vegetables as well, if the juice wasn’t enough. Tea and black coffee were okay too, as well as lots and lots of water.

So for three days, I cleared any social commitments that might involve food – why torture myself? Here are the highlights from my first experience with juicing and how it impacted my work flow.

Without food structuring my day, my schedule and my mental capacity seemed to open up

For three days, eating wasn’t a pleasure or pastime, it was a means to fuel my body. I didn’t have to think about what I wanted to eat for my next meal, because it was pretty straightforward and only took a minute or two to consume. I didn’t snack because I was bored, mostly because I wasn’t all that interested in snacking on raw vegetables. I opted for a lot of tea and water to sip on while I was working. This showed me how I was misdiagnosing boredom for hunger, and how much I was really consuming over the course of a day. Without mealtimes (and those routine snack times) structuring my day, I felt like I had so much more interrupted time to get things done.

The change to my health was gentle, yet noticeable

Unlike those crazy fad cleanses that I have heard leave some people running to the bathroom all day, drinking raw, cold-pressed juices was about as gentle as it comes. I can’t speak for everyone, but in my experience, I felt less bloated and like I was functioning so much better after just one day. I felt mentally alert and, for the most part, in a really good mood. Even if this is a placebo effect to knowing you’re doing something good for your body, I’ll take it!

I did not have to give up my routine schedule or activities

I often think people worry that a cleanse means you have to take it super slow, giving up exercise and sleeping all day. That was not my experience. I completed a normal workout my first day and lighter workouts the next two days (solely because of my schedule). I still put in normal work days, took on client meetings and events and kept up with the kids. I made sure to give myself the opportunity for a good night’s sleep, but that’s a smart habit to practice – cleanse or no cleanse!

Instead of focusing on food, I focused on other ways to fuel my body

Over the course of those three days, I stopped looking to food for comfort and pleasure. Instead, I found other ways to get a similar mood boost. I would go for a walk, take a long bath, catch up on a favorite TV show or paint my nails. These activities were so good for my soul, not only my body. I felt like I was finally taking care of myself.

I felt empowered

At times, I definitely felt hungry, agitated and craving my normal foods (even a bowl of oatmeal seemed like a treat by day three!). But those moments were short lived. Knowing it was just three days made it a really reasonable commitment. How many days do I not eat healthy? My body deserved this three day break. I was determined to do this and do it right. At the end of each day, I felt empowered by my discipline and will power to stick with this. The experience caused me to get a little uncomfortable and dig a little deeper. This newly ignited “fire” is still burning and continues to help my accomplish other undesirable or challenging tasks life requires of me daily.

By the end of three days, I was ready to be back to solids!

The first morning off the cleanse, hell yeah I was excited about a hot breakfast! Normal, healthy foods seemed so indulgent. It was awesome! Fruit tasted like candy and I really had no cravings for sugary or greasy foods. Why undo in one day what took me three days to accomplish? The cleanse really helped me to reset my relationship with food and to see areas where I was getting a little lax. Have I indulged since them? Absolutely! Life is about balance. Since this three day cleanse, I have done a “mini reset” where I juiced for just one day if I felt bogged down by sugar, alcohol and caffeine.

Will I do it again?…Yes!

I will, and look forward to, keeping a juice cleanse part of my journey toward good health. I want to stress that for me, this was not about losing weight. That wasn’t my goal. I wanted to nip some bad eating habits in the bud before they caught up with me. I wanted to boost my immune system and retrain my cravings to be for good, nutrient-dense foods, not junk. I learned a lot about my will power of the course of those three days, as well as my tendencies to misinterpret cravings. I see no reason why, anyone who wanted to, couldn’t do a three-day juice “reset” to better their own health!

Have you ever taken on a cleanse, reset or otherwise “challenge” to better your health? Share your experience by commenting below!

Note: This post is not sponsored in any way, so I did not want to call too much attention to the brand of juice. However, I’m sure you’re curious so I used Raw Generation (www.rawgeneration.com). Be sure to use the 70% off coupon they offer. Shipping is steep, so if you think you want to stock it, it’s better to do it all in one order!

 

 
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Posted by on April 24, 2017 in Business & Success, Life

 

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The Power of Picking Your Focus

The Power of Picking Your Focus

After nearly five years and more than 250 blog posts, I’ve learned enough to know that inspiration can will strike in the most unexpected places. The inspiration for this week’s particular post came from a stranger in front of me in line at Panera Bread, who likely has no idea her wardrobe choice that day provided quite the colorful thought process over lunch. Her shirt simply read, “What you focus on expands.”

I can’t recall what cause or organization this t-shirt was designed to support; my mind was already wandering off in countless directions as to how this simple statement has proven true in my own life – even just recently.

I have always had an intensely focused mind. I have no trouble immersing myself into a project and blocking out all other distractions. Though very useful for my particular career path, these mental “blinders” I put up can also cause me to misguide my focus toward negative thoughts that are counterproductive…and at times, paralyzing.

I know I can’t be alone; I think most people can relate to the notion of “What you focus on expands.”

The Positive

The good news is that because what we focus on expands, this means that choosing to focus on positive and productive thoughts will lead to more positivity and productivity in our lives.

Have you ever experienced a stretch of a few days, maybe even longer, when things really felt like they were coming together in your life? The good news kept rolling in and you felt like you had a little extra luck leading your way? I know I have. Now reflecting upon these “charmed” moments, I can see that what I considered good luck was actually the result of having my focus in the right place.

Because I was focused on things that were going right, I was more inclined to find and appreciate even the littlest of things that were blessings in my day. I was focused on the positive and the positive continued to expand.

The Negative

Unfortunately there is also a negative side to these words of wisdom. In contrast to those positive moments in life, I know I can also recall moments (even weeks or months) when I felt down on my luck.

What likely began as some bad news, like losing a client, then spiraled into what felt like the opposite of the Midas touch. Everything I encountered seemed to go the opposite way of what I had hoped. It’s no wonder that since I was expecting a negative response, that is what I received. Even little things, like clumsiness or forgetfulness, seemed amplified.

The Power of Picking Your Focus

The reality is that in both the positive and negative scenarios I just shared, my luck was pretty much the same. The major thing that shifted was my focus. When I was focused on positivity, I was more inclined to see all the little positive moments throughout my day and overlook the negative. The opposite applies for when I am feeling overly negative. In a given day, I likely encountered just as many highs and lows, but how I choose to frame them is what determines my mood.

What I challenge you with today is to stop and really examine your focus. Are you feeling positive or negative? You have the power to pick your focus. Regardless of how your morning started or any residual stress left over from the week prior, you can choose to start anew. There will be days when finding the silver lining feels impossible, but really try to avoid taking the easy way out by choosing to be negative. Remember, what you focus on expands.

I’ll leave you with this thought from Regina Brett that has always cheered up even the most dismal of days…

“If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else’s, we’d grab ours back.”

Are you intentional about your focus? Share your tips or struggles and let’s start a conversation!

 

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Declutter Your Life by Asking These 5 Questions

Declutter Your Life by Asking These 5 Questions

I have shared the numerous differences between my husband and me. Though we are both passionate entrepreneurs and collaborate on many different levels, one area of our lives where we often run into conflict is over clutter.

I am the antithesis of clutter. It makes me anxious and unsettled when I am in a disorganized environment. Because I work from home, it’s imperative that we keep our house tidy so I can function at my peak level of efficiency. Even with small children in the house, organization is a daily routine that works for us. However, as my husband recently came into quite a few boxes of “storage” from his childhood home, we both struggled to find common ground as to what should be kept and what should be let go.

Though it required a couple tough conversations and some stress, particularly on my husband’s emotions, we ultimately came to an agreement. What we both learned from the experience is that there are a clear set of questions you have to ask yourself when addressing clutter. Also, everyone involved has to stick to the same standards.

Whether you’re the clutter bug in your family or the exterminator, consider these five questions the next time you’re faced with the dilemma of save or scrap.

Is it serving an immediate purpose?
We live in a culture that urges us to buy in bulk and store things away for a future time when we just might need it. Having excess is a security blanket that can also smother us if we are not careful. If something has no immediate purpose to us (i.e. will be likely used in the next 12 months – which is generous), why should it take up space in our home and in our lives?

If we can’t reasonably say we will use something within the next year, there’s simply no need to have it. There will be plenty of opportunities to find another one, should we need it. But I’m willing to bet that in 12 months you will have forgotten about this object altogether.

How does its current use bring you satisfaction?

This next question is important because it will likely address your concern about the first question. “What if it’s a collectible or irreplaceable?” First, rarely is something in life both irreplaceable and truly needed. Next, even the most valuable collectibles are merely dust collectors if they’re stowed away in storage, never to be seen or enjoyed.

Challenge yourself by asking “How is this object, as currently used, bringing me satisfaction?” Clutter in an attic does not constitute satisfaction. If it’s in storage because you don’t have a place for it in your home, you may want to carefully consider this next question…

Could someone else benefit more from having it?

If you struggle to get rid of something because you believe it has value, remember that selling or donating the item is a great way to pass its value on to someone else. Really, it’s pretty greedy to keep a collection of books packed away in storage because you enjoyed reading them once. Why not share the joy by passing them on to a friend?

Letting go of clutter gets a whole lot easier – and enjoyable – when you feel like you’re doing a good deed. Whether it’s clothes, a piece of furniture or a baseball card collection, think about how someone else might enjoy the use of this item far more than the “joy” it’s bringing you sitting in your basement.

Is the cost to replace it cheaper than the “cost” to keep it?

If there’s one area where even I struggle with clutter, it’s over the effort to save money. We tend to hold onto something because we believe we might one day need it. My husband and I both came to the agreement that if the cost to replace an item is cheaper than the “cost” (meaning the stress, clutter and risk of it getting damaged or going bad) to replace it in the future, then it’s got to go! I can’t tell you how many times this question has helped me to let go of something I never needed again – mostly because I can’t even remember what these items were!

Are you holding onto it for someone or something else?

Finally, this question hones in on the deep, emotional aspect of clutter. We tend to hold onto something not just for ourselves, but for someone or something else. In my husband’s case, many of his items from his childhood were emotionally connected to his father, who passed away. I don’t discount how hard it would be to let go of items that brought back good memories or someone who is no longer with you.

However, after an open and honest conversation about some of these items, my husband found closure with passing them on to family and friends who would appreciate and use them. Items that represent the past can hold you back from fully enjoying your present. Ask yourself why you really want to hang on to an object. If it’s in an effort to directly or indirectly keep a person “alive” in your life, remember that objects don’t accomplish that – but memories do. Getting rid of clutter doesn’t mean giving up the memories. In fact, with less physical clutter, you’re freeing up space for memories, both old and new, to fill its place.

Do you struggle with decluttering your life? What are your biggest hang ups? Share your obstacles and how you plan to overcome them in 2016 by commenting below!

 
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Posted by on February 29, 2016 in Business & Success, Life

 

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The One Question Every Successful Entrepreneur Must Be Able to Answer

top three priorities

One of my favorite shows currently on TV right now is Shark Tank. It feeds my entrepreneurial spirit and ignites a lot of creative (and sometimes cooky) ideas that I could only wish to have the opportunity to present to this impressive audience of venture capitalists.

All that aside, the reason I really love watching this show is because of the pearls of wisdom these experienced entrepreneurs spout off that have inspired quite a few blog posts – this week being no exception. On an episode from a few weeks back, it was Barbara Corcoran who said “Never have I ever met a successful entrepreneur who is unable to answer this one question.”  The question?

“Tomorrow when you wake up and go into the office, what are your top three priorities?”

This question is deceivingly simple. Try answering it off the top of your head right now. When I tried to do the same, I knew I had the answers, but when put on the spot, I found it hard to quickly put these key priorities into succinct bullet points. This doesn’t mean I’m doomed to fail as an entrepreneur, but it did make me want to sit down and put some thought into my top three priorities right now. Should I ever “bump” into Barbara Corcoran, this would be my answer to her question:

1. Continue to build quality relationships with my existing clients

In the pursuit of new clients, I never want to take for granted the awesome ones I currently have. I’ve already put the effort into earning their business, building a relationship with them and becoming efficient at the tasks I do for them month after month. It is a valuable use of my time to keep these existing clients happy and on board because trying to replace them is far more costly.

2. Selectively target new clients

Once I devote the time to keeping my current clients engaged, I need to continually fill my pipeline with ideal prospective clients. I’m lucky to be in a position where I can be selective with the new clients I choose to take on. I know the size, industry and vision of companies I best serve and these are the ones in which I’ll devote my time to pursuing. Smaller clients or ones that don’t quite align with my services may still find me, and I’m happy to see how I can help, but they are not the ones that I will actively put my resources into pursuing.

3. Find ways to automate my tasks and become more efficient with my time

I’m a consultant and sole proprietor by design. This means I must carefully guard my time and find ways to be extremely efficient as I take on additional clients if I want to continue to enjoy the benefits of the 80/20 Principle. It is my goal to find ways to automate my tasks or become more efficient at completing them so that as I take on new clients, I’m not working more, I’m simply filling the bandwidth my efficiency has opened up.

Whatever your top three priorities are right now says a lot of about the current state of your business/career and your entrepreneurial style. Maybe they even point out some areas where you need to refocus. They should address your immediate needs, but also plan for future growth and strategic change. Having your top three priorities locked and loaded serves a purpose far greater than simply impressing someone who asks. They give you that laser focus each and every day that is at the core of every successful entrepreneur.

Are you able to easily answer this question? Share your personal top three priorities by commenting below!

 

 

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