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Author Archives: The Write Hand, LLC

About The Write Hand, LLC

Virtual Assistant for Small to Medium Businesses ~ Helping you Make time for your Business. And yes, A Girl that Rides a Harley

Website Design tips

Website Design tips

Website design is difficult for many small businesses. It takes up time that most thriving businesses don’t have.  Read on for 5 basic website design tips, and reach out to The Write Hand LLC when you get stuck!

5 killer web design tips that will make your life easier

Originally written by Skillcrush

website design

We all want to have a beautifully designed website and yet, it’s surprisingly hard. So what is it that great designers know that the rest of us don’t?

The key to great web design is really very simple: you’ve got to understand the universal rules of good design and follow them, all the time.

Let’s make sure this never happens to you.

1. Learn the fundamental rules of type design
The key to good web design, says Ryan Shafer, Lead Digital Designers at MTV & VH1, is remembering that the web is really just a bunch of text. “I encourage all budding web designers to embrace that the web is fundamentally about typography design.”

And the great news is that type designers have spent the past five thousand years perfecting text design, and there are a few golden rules that all websites should adhere to:

For headlines:

  • Make them bold and easy to scan

  • San serif typefaces are great for headlines because they are stark and easy to read at larger sizes

For body text, you want to maximize legibility:

  • For lots of text opt for a serif typeface

  • Make the font-size much larger than you think is necessary, we recommend 16 px at minimum

  • Lines should never be more than 50-60 characters long

2. Pick a solid typeface, and maybe one with a touch of whimsy
Now, don’t get us wrong, we love Helvetica as much as the next designer. When it comes to picking a font-face you want to pick something super easy to read, graphic, and maybe something a little, you know, whimsical.

Colin Nederkoorn, founder of Customer.io says that recently, “Proxima Nova has replaced Helvetica Neue as my sans-serif typeface of choice. They probably won’t make a movie about it, but if you want a sophisticated sans-serif typeface that the lay(wo)man won’t recognize, give Proxima Nova a shot.”

Some other good choices are Montserrat and Merriweather Sans.

website design

3. Pick a three-color palette & then stick to it!
When it comes to picking a color palette the key is to pick it and stick (to) it. Consistency is everything when it comes to creating a cohesive color palette for your site.

“I prefer neutral palettes that use a strong accent color in a bold way,” says Mike Fortress designer at Oak Studios. “Perhaps a white background (#fff), a not- too-dark text value with a little hue in it (#45585f), and a strong accent color (#4e5fff). But,” warns Mike, “Be careful with that last color!”

Check out Adobe’s Kuler tool for picking colors, or get inspired by the collection of palettes at Colour Lovers.

4. Make sure your photos are the right size
Remember, the web is pixel based, so if your image isn’t large enough it’s going to look pixelated.

“When you are looking for images on Google or iStock, make sure to get the proper size” says designer Kristina Zmaic. “Photo clarity adds a lot of credibility to a site, even if they weren’t taken by you.”

If the image is too small, don’t use it!

5. When in doubt, give it space
The most important design tip is also the simplest: “Make sure your content has breathing room; give it proper margins will help with legibility and focus.” In particular, says Kristina, it’s important to avoid overwhelming users with walls of text.

“Too much text can be a bit daunting. Text is necessary so make sure to break it up with larger sub headings and legible paragraphs. Considering using icons or images as alternative ways to communicate your point.”

If there is one golden rule of design it’s this: pick your aesthetic and stick to it. Consistency is key. Nothing will tank your design faster than picking one design direction and then switching it halfway through.

Read more website tips here.

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The Importance of Accounting for Small Businesses

The Importance of Accounting for Small Businesses

Accounting is one of the least-loved aspects of any small business. However, it is one of the most important parts of running a successful company. The Write Hand is here to help, throughout all your bookkeeping and accounting woes.

The Importance of Accounting for Small Businesses

Bookkeeping is necessary in any business. As a small business owner, it’s important to recognize that the best practices used by Fortune 500 companies also apply to you. Following basic accounting principles is essential for success in any size business; savvy record-keeping and financial analysis is key to not only monitoring your expenses, but to discovering new avenues of growth. In addition, it ensures you stay responsible for tax obligations to the government and to your employees.

small business accounting

Accounting entails more than just managing credits and debits, and it comes into play more often in everyday business decisions than you may realize. A few examples include:

  • Closely monitoring your accounts receivable to illustrate trends or behaviors in your customer base. It can also cut down on the costs you incur by pursuing late payers.
  • Establishing a detailed budget to help discover inefficiencies within your operations.
  • Sudden changes in vendor costs or sales revenues can alert you to important industry changes.
  • Understanding your financial position in order to spot problem areas that could interfere with loans earmarked for expansion.

As you consider your accounting strategy, review your company’s financial goals. Whether you are a solo entrepreneur or you employ a staff, your survival hinges on clearly stated financial objectives. You may be in business to reap as much profit as you can, or you may be interested in sharing a product or service that you believe in. Either way, experts agree that one of the most common reasons small business fail is because cash flow runs dry. To prevent this disaster, your business should implement policies for efficient record-keeping and a sound financial strategy.

Taxes are unavoidable. Depending where you operate and the nature of your business, the IRS has very specific requirements about the documentation you’re required to file. Submitting improper or inaccurate documentation can get you into trouble, and it can be extremely costly in terms of fees and penalties. Preparing the required tax documentation has its benefits though, and it can give you vital information about the health of your business. Monthly or quarterly financial statements, cash flow statements, and asset and income statements can provide a clearer picture of your business than your bank balance. Understanding IRS requirements and how you can make them work for you can give you a deeper understanding of your company’s financial health.

small business accounting

What information should I be tracking?

If you haven’t had formal training in accounting or are more interested in other aspects of your business, keeping meticulous records of financial data can be a chore. Furthermore, understanding precisely what information you should be tracking can be overwhelming and confusing. Most small businesses should track the following categories of data:

How should I track these metrics?

Though it’s quite common for small business owners to have a spouse or family friend “do the books,” effectively managing your small business’s finances goes beyond bookkeeping. Properly strategizing for your company’s future, as well as meeting your legal requirements, is best achieved with professional accounting methods. This is particularly true if you’re too busy or too uninterested in the nitty-gritty details to analyze the numbers. At this stage, successful small businesses consider either outsourcing their accounting needs or investing in accounting software. Each option has its pros and cons.

For many startup companies, funds are tight and it may be tempting to pursue the cheapest method. Because your legal requirements are only due once per year, you may choose to ignore it all until tax time every spring. Remember, if you choose this option, you’re essentially opting out of receiving crucial data that can encourage success. The short-term solution may not be the best one, and it pays to do your due diligence when making this critical decision.

Read more about accounting and bookkeeping resources here.

Find more accounting and virtual assistance help from The Write Hand LLC.

 

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What Do 65% of the Most Powerful Women Have In Common? Sports

What Do 65% of the Most Powerful Women Have In Common? Sports

Women in entrepreneurship is in constant growth. There is a well-known link between women in leadership and sport participation. As The Write Hand is a women-owned company and Virtual Assistant, we love hearing about women business owners and entrepreneurs. Did you play sports in childhood, high school or college?

What Do 65% of the Most Powerful Women Have In Common? Sportshttp://thewritehand.com/

The link between female leadership and competitive sports has been well-documented. A 2015 study of 400 female C-suite executives conducted by espnW and EY found an undeniable correlation between athletic and business success: more than half (52%) of the c-level execs surveyed played sport at the university level, compared to 39% of women at other management levels. That same study reports that 80% of female Fortune 500 executives played competitive sports at one point in their lives.

The women on the 2017 Fortune list of Most Powerful Women are no exception. Of the 31 MPWs who responded to Fortune‘s query, 20 (65%) played sports competitively in either high school or college; sometimes both. The most popular sport was a three-way tie between swimming, basketball, and tennis (five women each).

The swimmers on our list include are HPE CEO Meg WhitmanGoogle (she’s still at it! See this Fortune profile of the CEO for more), CFO Ruth Porat, YouTube CEO Susan WojcickiMicrosoft CFO Amy Hood, and Fidelity Investments personal investing president Kathleen Murphy. PG&E CEO Geisha Williams</a> and J&J group worldwide chair Sandi Peterson were both tennis players.http://thewritehand.com/

Deloitte CEO Cathy Engelbert, KPMG CEO Lynne Doughtie, and CVS Health EVP Helena Foulkes played both basketball and tennis, among other sports; P&G group president of North America Carolyn Tastad and Murphy also shot hoops.

Four women made their presence heard from the sidelines. Campbell’s Soup CEO Denise Morrison was a member of her alma mater Boston College’s majorette squad, performing for the New York Jets and the Boston Patriots during the football teams’ half-time shows. Apple retail SVP Angela Ahrendts was a cheerleader for her school, Ball State University. NBCUniversal chairman Bonnie Hammer and Wells Fargo senior EVP and head of community banking Mary Mack were both on their respective high school cheer squads.

Other sports played by MPWs include softball, track, gymnastics, lacrosse, and field hockey.

Read more here!

Do you own a company and need help?  Contact The Write Hand today!

 

Is Your Website Content Helping Or Hurting Your Online Marketing Campaign?

Content within your website is the most basic form of marketing for your business.  Throughout my time as a Virtual Assistant at The Write Hand, I have seen websites make or break a company.  Let me help you with your website, content, social media and marketing to take your companies online presence to the next step.

Content marketing has become more popular than ever since its rise to prominence after Google’s “Panda” update back in 2011. Website content can be highly valuable, and crucial for many independent online marketing strategies, but some people have come to see content as purely a good thing.

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In reality, the effectiveness and value of your content depends heavily on the type of content you’re creating, and how you’re implementing it. And the scale doesn’t start from zero, either; in fact, bad content can actually do more damage to your campaign than doing nothing at all.

So how can you tell if your website content is helping or hurting your campaign?

Read full article here.

Why Content Matters

Let’s start by analyzing why content matters in the first place, and the different ways you can gain value from it:

  • SEO fodder. First, content is necessary for a search engine optimization (SEO) campaign. SEO is all about making your website as visible as possible in search engines, which means creating lots of pages that can be indexed and maximizing the value of those pages. Adding new content gives search engine crawlers more material to index, and can make your website more relevant for specific search queries.
  • Reputation building. Content is also valuable for building your brand reputation and proving your expertise to new and recurring visitors; it’s your opportunity to impress people. High-quality content will make people appreciate, respect, or trust your brand, and the best content has the potential to go viral, attracting even more traffic to your site and earning links that boost your domain authority.
  • Conversion attraction. Content is also an opportunity to convert your audience, or get them to take a desired action. If you’re writing about how to choose a bicycle to buy, for example, you can end your article with a link to your most popular bicycles. In this context, content serves as a traffic director that helps turn your visitors into paying customers.

Three Key Traps

In all three of these applications, content can be valuable, but people tend to fall into three major traps of thinking that prevent them from using content properly. These traps are influenced by biases and inexperienced understanding, and can cause you to unknowingly execute a content campaign that not only doesn’t help you; it actively works against you:

  1. Quantity matters more than quality. Because content has many benefits, some marketers unjustly assume that more content is always better, and then spend their efforts making as much content as possible—rather than making the best content possible. This “quantity over quality” mindset is counterproductive, since even one piece of bad content can damage your reputation.
  2. Content is a means to an end. Some marketers see content as a means to an end, viewing it solely as a vessel to get people to convert. They treat it like an advertising opportunity, rather than an opportunity to provide value or benefit to their audience. Doing so may betray your audience’s trust.
  3. Strategic mimicry achieves similar results. Other marketers see similar brands that have been successful with content marketing and attempt to duplicate their strategies. While in theory, this seems like a sound approach, in reality, it cheapens the content you produce because it means your content lacks originality—and it’s rare to capture the essence that made the original strategy successful in the first place.

How Content Can Hurt

So how can content actively hurt your campaign, rather than improving it or letting it simmer?

  • Thin content and reputation. “Thin” content is content that doesn’t have value for readers; it might be devoid of details or meaningful information, it might be woefully short, or it might be surface-level, repetitive, or a derivative of other works. If a reader encounters this content on your website, they might leave thinking less of your brand, or seeing you as amateurs, rather than experts.
  • Thin content and SEO rankings. Thin content is also bad for your SEO rankings. Google’s algorithm detects the qualitative value of content based on many different factors (which aren’t publicly available), and if it determines that one of your pages is low-quality, you could suffer a mild penalty throughout your entire site.
  • Marketing spam and distrust. If readers think your content has been contrived for the sole purpose of attracting more visitors, or for earning more conversions, they’ll come to see you as a spammer, and may distrust any content you publish in the future. Remember, your primary goal in content marketing is to provide value for your audience.
  • Improperly targeted content and alienation. If your content isn’t targeted to the right audience, you could end up attracting the wrong types of people—and pushing away the readers you need the most. You might see decent traffic figures, but your conversion rates and profitability will be way off from where they could be.
 

17 Apps Every Entrepreneur Needs in 2017

17 Apps Every Entrepreneur Needs in 2017

Being an entrepreneur with my Online Business Management and Virtual Assistant network, I was quite curious when I read the title of this article. But them I was rather shocked when I read the list of apps. I don’t use any of the apps listed and I am a rather successful entrepreneur; go figure. I’m going to check out some of the apps in this article and see how they fit into my life and my company. I’d also like to add a few apps that I find exceptionally helpful…

Pages for FB – I manage a lot of client FB business pages and this app is a one stop way to keep them all straight without having to go to my own FB; this keeps me from getting side-tracked by my own FB shenanigans.

Groups for FB – Similar to Pages but as the name implies it helps you manage all the groups you’re in on FB. Again, I can manage these groups or post in these groups as needed without getting sucked into the FB vortex.

RoboForm – I have a boatload of logins and passwords for myself and all my clients. This is a password and auto refill app that helps me keep everything straight and gives me access to all my passwords across many devices. The security is above great and highly recommend this app.

HootSuite – With all the client social media we manage, HootSuite is a wonderful tool I can use from my laptop or iPhone. We are able to make social media posts to a boatload of social feeds such as FB pages, FB groups, LinkedIn, LinkedIn groups, Twitter, and so much more. You can setup your posts immediately, a future date, or even allow HootSuite to choose the best time for the most traffic.

DropBox – I have loads of information that has to be saved for myself and clients. This is a cloud based platform for saving all your files. Once you set it up, it functions just like your folder in Windows; no need to go to the web-based platform unless you have a unique reason to do so. For iPhone, with one tap you can download your pictures and save them at any time. This is awesome considering how many photos I take. I save them and then delete the ones I don’t need access regularly; saving value space in my phone’s memory.

BaseCamp – I recently purchased a subscription to BaseCamp and I swear it’s a fabulous project management tool. Whether using it on my laptop or my phone; I can be in constant communication with my team. BaseCamp is a wonderful way to setup clients and projects while assigning tasks and so much more. It keeps me and my clients project well organized and keeps my team on task and on schedule.

17 Apps Every Entrepreneur Needs in 2017

If you’re like most people in business today, there always seem to be a million things on your to-do list and you don’t know where to start.

You need to conduct research, streamline collaboration, increase communication, sell your wares, reach your fan base, log your time and keep track of your accounts, to mention just a few. How the heck will you do it all? Well, there’s an app for that.

In fact, there are quite a few. Here are the top 17 apps every entrepreneur should be downloading to make the most of each day.

1. Accompany
Touted as a virtual “chief of staff,” Accompany does all the research necessary to prep you for big meetings by emailing you a concise briefing beforehand. It provides you with all the pertinent information you will need to succeed in any situation. Accompany works by connecting to your Google or Microsoft email account, your mobile calendar and your Facebook and Twitter accounts. It examines your personal data and goes through biographies and other information online to create summaries of each of your contacts.

2. Pocket
This “save for later” app allows you to file away useful articles, interesting videos and any other content that you want to hang on to for future use. When you find something you want to view later, simply put it in your Pocket, and you’ll be able to access it from your phone, tablet or computer, even without internet access.

3. Slack
This team communication tool gathers group exchanges into one place, making information instantly available and searchable wherever you go. This cloud-based collaboration application began as an internal tool used by a now-defunct online game. Slack is currently the fastest-growing B2B application, used by over 4 million active users every day.

4. Motivation Daily & Positivity
If you are looking for a daily dose of motivation to keep you on track to achieve important goals and big dreams, this app is for you. It comes in a streamlined, simple format, which includes perfect quotes to keep you focused when you’re tempted to slack off. Whether you’re pursuing health and fitness goals, prepping for a major project at work or school, or just need some inspiration, this app will help get you there.

5. Buffer
As a powerful social media publishing tool, Buffer streamlines the process of reaching your fan base by making it easy to schedule content on social media. It helps increase your reach by ensuring you get the most out of each post. With one click, you can share content across multiple social networks and ensure that it’s posted at the optimal time so more followers will see your updates.

6. Salesforce1
Salesforce1 empowers you to connect directly with your customers and run your business from your phone. It channels all your customer information into a single, integrated platform, enabling you to build a client-centered business that includes marketing, sales, customer service and business analysis. This gives you a more complete understanding of your customers, allowing you to drive your business’s success and make smarter decisions from anywhere in real time.

7. Square
Square credit-card processing works for any size business, and is easy to do from anywhere. Square allows you to accept Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express, all for one low rate. Once you sign up, they will send you a free magstripe reader (their newest reader even takes chip cards). Or you can use your iPad in a Square Stand for countertop sales. The Square Register app also includes other useful tools to help you manage every area of your business.

8. Toggl
Toggl is an insanely simple way of tracking and logging your time that eliminates the need for timesheets. This app allows you to track time from a browser, computer or smartphone so you never again lose a minute of billable time. You can organize your time by project or tag, and mark as billable. If you forget to turn it on, just enter the time later.

9. Trello
Trello is collaboration tool organizes your projects into boards, lists and cards so you can better prioritize work and life. At a single glance you can see what’s being worked on, who’s working on what and where in the process a project is. It makes project management–which can include work assignments, family chores or travel plans–easy and enjoyable.

10. MobileDay
This one-touch dialing app gets you into all your conference calls on time and unflustered. With MobileDay, there’s no more searching for misplaced conference call PINs or passcodes. The app auto-syncs with your iOS or Android calendar and plugs you into your calls with one click, so you can connect to that business call from anywhere.

11. Workflow
Workflow allows you to connect the best features of your applications, so you can combine multiple steps across a number of apps into a single tap. With Workflow you can create shortcuts, manage your media and share content. It has been lauded as the “Swiss Army knife” for completing complicated tasks, and basically feels like you’re designing your own app (but much easier).

12. Box
Box offers a simple, secure way to share files and collaborate with coworkers, customers and partners. It allows you to centralize your files, keep your team on track and simplify workflow, not to mention ditch email attachments. You can create, edit and review documents with others in real time from anywhere and on any device, and can view full documents without needing to download the file first.

13. Wunderlist
Wunderlist helps you tick off your personal and professional to-do list by getting your life in sync and making it easy to share your lists. A cloud-based task-management application, it makes sharing grocery lists, working collaboratively on projects or planning household activities and vacations easier. It syncs with your phone, tablet and computer so you can access your lists from anywhere.

14. CloudMagic
If your inbox fills up quicker than a sinking ship takes on water, you need CloudMagic. This email management application is known for its searching capabilities, cross-platform capabilities and user interface. It can scour all of the email you’ve ever received to locate exactly what you’re looking for. It supports multiple accounts, and even includes a feature called Cards, which connects services like Evernote, Pocket, Trello, Salesforce and Microsoft OneNote. This makes it easier for users to get the information they are looking for without leaving their email.

15. Wave
Wave helps you create and send professional invoices, estimates and receipts in seconds. It keeps your business organized and running smoothly by tracking income and expenses effortlessly, with receipt-scanning tools and bank connections. It includes a suite of online small-business software products, including direct bank-data imports, invoicing and expense tracking, customizable charts of accounts and journal transactions.

16. HelloSign
HelloSign is the easiest and simplest way to handle contracts or other agreements on the fly, because it lets you view and sign without visiting the office. This app also eliminates the burden of needing to print, sign and scan a document to be sent back. It allows you to just use your fingertip to sign any PDF file and forward it to the necessary party.

17. 1Password
Do away with all those sticky notes with your passwords scrawled on them. 1Password allows you to collect all those codes in one safe place online. This app keeps all your passwords and important information protected behind your Master Password. It has extensions or plug-ins for all the major browsers, and can securely store other things, like credit cards, bank accounts and licenses. You can save all the entries from a webpage form, so you can remember answers to security questions or other information.

 
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Posted by on August 29, 2017 in Entrepreneurship

 

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5 Referral Marketing Strategies

5 Referral Marketing Strategies

As a service provider/business owner, I understand the importance of gaining referrals from my clients. Referrals lead to new clients for me. I love making my clients happy and when they refer me, it expands my network. Check out these strategies to generate referrals..

5 Referral Marketing Strategies

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Referrals should be one of the top marketing strategies professional service providers focus on.

Why? Because referrals are likelier to translate into more clients than leads generated through other marketing methods. According to this study, the two biggest factors that increase the probability of referrals are visible expertise (34.7 percent) and a professional relationship (24.4 percent).

There are two types of referrals — experience and reputation — and your marketing strategy should target both.

Experience referrals are a direct result of working with your business. A previous client is a prime example of an experience-based referral.

Reputation referrals come from people that have heard of your business. Someone who has previously seen your advertisement or engaged with your content online is an example of a reputation-based referral.

Here are five marketing strategies to help generate more referrals for professional service providers.

1. Become an industry thought leader.
Many professional service providers have experts on staff, but they are not known names outside of their own firm. There are a few simple things you can do to position yourself as an industry thought leader.

Start by contributing consistent content on your company blog. Most service businesses will have several team members — those that take the initiative to publish helpful content can use it as a stepping stone to secure contributor and guest blogging positions on relevant industry websites. The exposure these websites provide will often be your number one source of reputation-based referrals.

2. Publish case studies and results.
Publishing case studies and results on your company’s website is an easy way to increase referrals two ways. First, the subjects of the posts will often want to share it with friends and family members, which can spark instant referrals. Second, when someone visits your website but doesn’t convert, there is still a chance they can be a valuable asset in terms of future referrals. They might not have engaged with your company, but if your published results and case studies were impressive, they might refer your business to someone that needs your service in the future.

“Publishing our case results directly on our website shows potential clients that we are results-driven, and it also helps attract referrals. If someone lands on our website looking for representation in a practice area that we don’t focus on, there is a good chance they can provide us with a referral down the line if they are impressed with our published case results,” explains Marc C. Brotman, Partner at Brotman Nusbaum Ibrahim.

3. Make your client list public.
Many people don’t want to list their clients publicly or simply can’t because of non-disclosure agreements. If the only thing preventing you from making your client list public is fear of your competition attempting to poach them, you need to reconsider.

When someone is deciding whether or not to do business with your company, a client list can give them the confidence to move forward. Also, a potential customer might reach out to a client on the list and ask them about their experience with your company. This is very simple to implement and it can be an easy way turn your client base into a referral machine. Make sure you receive written permission from any client you add to the list.

4. Focus on your specialty.
You will attract more referrals if you focus more of your marketing and branding efforts on your specialty, rather than a wide range of services. When I first launched my marketing agency more than seven years ago, we did everything under the sun. With dozens of services, we were not known for one specialty over another.

Over time, we reduced the number of services we offered, and today we only do one thing: performance-based digital ad buy management. We were also heavily involved in influencer marketing from the beginning, so we launched a separate agency to handle that part of the business. Our referrals have increased dramatically now that we have two agencies, each specializing in one thing.

5. Feature your clients in your marketing.
Steve Kappel, President of Coldwell Banker Kappel Gateway Realty explains the benefit of client-feature marketing, saying, “Including a client success story in your marketing can send you referrals two ways. First, the client will typically share the marketing piece on social media, introducing your company to his or her friends and family. This can send highly qualified leads, in the sense they are already comfortable with your company because of the close connection. Second, success stories show that your company is good at what you do. In our case, someone might see our marketing and refer a friend to use that is in need of a real estate agent.”

Featuring clients and sharing your company’s success shows that your service solves the problems a potential new client is facing. You can attract reputation-based referrals from people you don’t even know if the marketing featuring previous clients is done right.

 
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Posted by on August 15, 2017 in Marketing and SEO

 

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How to Manage Team Dynamics as an Entrepreneur

How to Manage Team Dynamics as an Entrepreneur

How to Manage Team Dynamics as an Entrepreneur

FOR FULL ARTICLE CREDITS: click here

As a biz owner, I know what it’s like to go from a start up which is a one woman team to an actual team with other team members helping me. This article gives some neat tricks on how to keep your team strong. Enjoy and share! 

Back in 2009, at a street festival in Cambridge, Mass., Todd Horton founded KangoGift alongside a team of four. What started as a concept of sending a gift to a friend via text message has since evolved into an HR software company helping to improve employee-recognition programs.

“We were successful because we were aligned to a common goal,” Horton, now CEO, told me. “We were in constant communication. We were excited about the potential and the unknown.”

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Horton and his team had earlier developed a website; they then leveraged a booth at the street festival to spark interest in their company and identify local businesses as potential partners. In the end, the team wrote 3,000 lines of code, struck deals with five local businesses and processed over 200 gifts that first weekend. They launched KangoGift in 30 days.

“When building a team, entrepreneurs need to keep in mind that people want to work on something bigger than themselves,” Horton said. “It could be a social mission — or feeling like they are working on something cutting edge that will offer an emotional benefit to people.”

Often, it’s easy for a small startup team to work together effectively. As KangoGift’s experience illustrates, founding teams can be united and driven by their shared vision for the company. However, once the company begins to add new team members, this ease of collaboration can be difficult to maintain.

Here are five approaches to teamwork you should consider:

Start thinking about teams early.
“Sometimes, when a new company is expanding, instead of building a team, an entrepreneur simply hires people for their individual technical expertise,” Rick Gibbs, performance specialist at Insperity in New York City, told me. “As a result, not much thought is given to the idea of this ‘group’ being cohesive or having the ability to work together.”

As the team begins to grow, this can lead to conflict, especially if the employees have to come out of their bubbles and work as a team yet have little in common with anyone else.

“Often, there are groups of very smart, capable people who simply clash because relatively little attention has been given to the idea of what it means to perform well on a team,” Gibbs said.

How to avoid this issue? Build a team-oriented culture from the get-go. During the interview process, hink about how job candidates might perform on teams — as opposed to hiring for individual skills alone. Especially in a startup,your first few hires will work more closely together than a more established company, so it’s essential to consider new hires’ experience with teamwork.

Also, during the interviews, ask candidates to describe specific examples of past projects they completed on a team. Include current team members in the interview process to ensure they get on well with new hires.

The tech: Building a startup team that will work well together can start with referrals, and one tool that makes referrals easier is Boon. Boon’s matching algorithms identify candidates and engage the right employees, custom rewards and gamification to inspire action. Integrations and analytics dashboards provide clarity and integrity to the program.

Foster transparency and trust.
Because startup teams can consist of people who have varying strengths and weaknesses, “Transparency is the key to success,” Seattle-based Prime Opt career coach Michella Chiu told me.

When leaders aren’t transparent with their team members, morale decreases. In fact, according to a 2015 Work Management Survey by Wrike of nearly 1,500 business professionals, 52 percent of employees listed missing information as a top stressor at work.

Transparency and trust go hand in hand. If teammates don’t trust one other, the work environment goes from being collaborative to competitive. This hurts everyone’s productivity. Set a good example by being open and honest with all team members. Communicate and share information that impacts the group.

Build a culture of trust by encouraging all employees to contribute.

“Hire great people and get out of their way,” Jacob Shriar, director of content at Officevibe in Montreal, told me. “Trust them to do good work and give them the autonomy they deserve.”

Shriar and his team recently traveled to Prague for a project, which was ultimately successful, he said he realized, because of the deep levels of trust and respect within the team.

Chiu,the career coach, agrees. “Build a solid system or set of procedures to facilitate better communication,” she said. “Make exchanging ideas easier for everyone.”

When everyone inputs ideas to the team’s successes, trust increases, not just between team members and leadership but among one other.

The tech: Social Chorus allows companies and team members to not only easily communicate in a way that helps them work together, but also to stay connected with and informed about the company.

Know how to direct energies.
When employees are asked to do something that doesn’t come naturally to them, they’ll likely expend extra energy. This can quickly lead to burnout. However, when teams are built around their complementary strengths, everyone can focus on what comes easily to him or her individually.

“It’s less about strengths and weaknesses than it is about identifying the areas an individual has the most energy for,” Karen Gordon, CEO of 5 Dynamics in Austin, Texas, told me. “This is where productive collaboration can be improved.”

Gordon explained that her company had developed its “5 Dynamics methodology” as a way of looking at work as a process, where each step requires full focus, one at a time:

Understand the complete situation, see relationships and develop creative solutions.

Build a team and excite its members about the idea.

Develop a plan using data. Create schedules, budgets, timetables, clear roles and rules. Predict problems that may arise.

Hold the team accountable for implementing the plan, then measure its performance.

Assess performance of the previous Dynamics by measuring external success and internal satisfaction within the team. Make changes to the process to improve both of these areas next time.

Build a diverse team with varying skills. Then, identify tasks based on each employee’s strengths, where he or she will excel and still feel challenged. Look at the needs of employees individually rather than focusing on creating efficiencies with blanket solutions.

“This will create a team environment that avoids burnout, fosters positivity and success and offers pathways for communication that were previously unknown,” Gordon said.

The tech: Avilar’s competency management tools identify and close critical employee skills gaps that could derail organizational success.

Show gratitude.
The greatest team in the world can become unproductive if the team members aren’t appreciated for their hard work. Acknowledge impressive outcomes of teamwork, even if it’s through a simple “thank you.”

“Any number of us working for a startup could easily find work making far more money for much bigger names, but we chose something that inspired us beyond those frills,” Divya Menon, founder of Bad Brain, in Los Angeles, told me. “When a company is truly grateful for that work and people go out of their way to write you a heartfelt text on Saturday about the work you put in, you realize how much more important that company is than just a salary or a bullet point on a résumé.”

According to Officevibe State of Employee Engagement in 2017, 63 percent of employees surveyed said they didn’t get enough recognition.

“I think it comes from a place of stress and fear, but startups have to realize that people sacrifice a lot of stability and notability to try and help out with a ‘cause,’” Menon said. “A startup is a risk for something we all believe in and think the world should have. Entrepreneurs should be really keyed into what their employees gave up to be there and let them know, meaningfully and frequently, how much it means to them.”

Encourage employee-leaders to recognize their teams in authentic ways. Lead by example to establish a culture of recognition. Thank employees often for the work they contribute individually and as a team.

 

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