• Ooma puts some oomph in phone systems for small business

    Ooma Call LogOne of the few universal requirements for a small business is a phone system – or at least some way for customers to call you. Without it any business is cutting off the single most used way for potential customers (and thus potential revenue) to reach your business.

    Until recently, small business options have been limited to three basic choices. The simplest is to just use your personal phone systems for your business (home phone or mobile phone). This is fine if you are a one person business with no plan to grow further and if you are fully capable of separating your business and personal life.  The second option – and the one used by most businesses - is to call the local phone company and get business service at a minimum cost of $35 a month or so plus paying for equipment and for any additional service (long distance typically is not included in basic business plans). The third option is one of the newer VoIP business plans that is based in the cloud (essentially all operated and

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  • Ultimate Guide to Delegation

    Delegation

    How often do you find yourself complaining about how busy you are? Stop to think about it. Contrary to popular belief, work overload is not necessarily a badge of honor. It’s a sign that your team is potentially mismanaged — that you’re hoarding work while your direct reports are hungry to learn and grow into new responsibilities.

    It doesn’t matter whether you’re a CEO, middle manager, director, or team leader. You need to get comfortable with delegating. In addition to delegating work, it’s equally valuable that you delegate leadership responsibilities and strategic vision.

    It sounds scary, but you know what? Your team is more than capable of making great judgment calls. That’s why you hired them. If they make mistakes, they’ll bounce right back. Plus, they’ll love you for the encouragement and for pushing them forward.

    Utilize Your Resources Optimally

    Teams are powerful — there’s strength in numbers, but there’s also power in diversity. Don't be afraid to use the four magic words in

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  • David Gardner

    ColorJar Co-Founder David Gardner will answer questions from readers at 3 p.m. ET (12 p.m. PT) Thursday, December 5th here on the Young Entrepreneurs blog. David will appear live via video chat broadcast as part of the Young Entrepreneur Council’s StartupCollective initiative, a mentorship program.

    David Gardner is the Co-Founder of ColorJar, a digital agency that specializes in positioning strategy and creating custom websites and apps. David was honored at the White House in 2011 as one of the Empact100 'Top 100 Entrepreneurs Under 30 Years Old'. In 2013, David was elected a World Economic Forum Global Shaper. He is a mentor for Tech Stars Chicago and Impact Engine and speaks nationally on positioning strategy and entrepreneurship at places like Google, IBM, Notre Dame, and C-E-O. He previously founded an India-based startup that received an acquisition offer from AOL. David was an All-Ivy League basketball player and two-time team MVP for Dartmouth, and went on to play professionally

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  • 8 Ways to Stay Sane at Work During the Holidays

    The web is overflowing with advice for how to be more successful and productive at work these days. You’ve seen the headlines: Five Things Super Successful People Do Before 8:00 am, How to Be Productive Rather than Just Busy, Four Career Decisions That Successful People Make, Nine Beliefs of Remarkably Successful People, The Most Successful Leaders Do 15 Things Automatically Every Day, and so on.

    Forget about unbridled success and hyper productivity, let alone before 8:00 am. At this time of year, between making revenue targets, dealing with frazzled shoppers, fulfilling orders by Christmas, and balancing work hours with holiday celebrations, a lot of business owners are just hoping to make it to the New Year without having a nervous breakdown.

    Some good advice for how to do that comes from Jennifer Gauld of the Steelcase brand turnstone. As an interior designer, Gauld is no taskmaster or operational guru. Her ideas are all about creating a work environment enables you to stay focused,

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  • Generating repeat customers and referrals is the most effective, affordable way to build your business. It costs very little to keep a customer and solicit referrals compared to other marketing techniques. Further, repeat and referral customers require less work to convert to a sale because they’re already conditioned to like you. That’s why all marketing plans should include strategies for encouraging repeat and referral business.

    One strategy to generate repeat customers and referrals is through follow-up. Follow-up marketing tactics work by keeping your name in front of your customers, clients and prospects, so when they’re in need or know someone in need of your services, your name comes to mind. Here are some strategies for developing a follow-up marketing plan.

    1. Have an email list or newsletter. Despite overfilled inboxes and spam, email is still an effective way to share information and special deals with your customers and prospects. Give an incentive for email list sign-ups,

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  • All Your Customers Want for Christmas? Good Service and Great Deals

    Many small businesses rely on holiday season sales to meet the year’s revenue targets. Most consumers just hope their holiday shopping experience won’t add to their stress at this busy time of year. Unfortunately, many of them are not counting on it.

    Nearly half of shoppers say customer service is worse during the holiday season, according to a recent Zogby Analytics survey commissioned by CorvisaCloud, a cloud-based call center software provider. More than 1,000 adults were surveyed. While only 8 percent of shoppers say “customer service” is the number one force that drives their choice of retailers—77 percent say “great deals” or “low prices” motivate them most—how they’re treated does not go unnoticed.

    Only 14 percent say customer service is better during the holidays. That’s based on comparisons with their experiences throughout the year: 34 percent of those surveyed claim they contact a customer service department at least twice a month; 48 percent manage to keep those interactions

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  • Groups are smarter with women, MIT research shows

    If you want to create a team that works intelligently, put more women on it than men. According to studies conducted by Thomas Malone, Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management the founding director of the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence, putting a bunch of smart people together doesn’t make a smart group. But populating a group with more women than men, or even exclusively with women, does tend to result in a group that works more intelligently.

    Malone shared his findings recently at the Techonomy13 conference in Tucson, Ariz., where tech industry elites were invited to spend three days considering the most important topics in our technologically advanced society. According to Malone, “It’s becoming increasingly important to think of businesses and organizations in terms of how intelligent, not just how productive or efficient, they are.”

    There are many tests and standards for measuring individual intelligence. But, Malone says, until now there has been no way

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  • A 3-step strategy to make your first million

    POP QUIZ: What’s the difference between a professional salsa dancer and a millionaire?

    The answer: Nothing. They both know how to use simple mental “hacks” to become highly successful at a new skill.

    Learning any skill (even salsa dancing) gives us the chance to set measurable goals and test our approach over and over again until we finally see success. You just need to experiment with enough approaches to find the one that works best.

    Here's a great example from my friend Lewis Howes, who taught himself salsa dancing -- and in the process, devised a 3-step strategy to make his first million.

    **********

    How salsa dancing helped me make my first million -- by Lewis Howes

    I’m 6’4 and 225 lbs, and when people look at me I’m sure the last thing they’re thinking is, “I bet that tall white dude is a good salsa dancer.”

    But, with all humility, I'm not bad for a white guy. And, the lessons I learned along the way to becoming good on my feet are the very principles that helped me make my first million

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  • Is there a Top 25 team that doesn't have a DeMatha player on it? – ESPN Announcer

    After my startup Speek raised a large round of seed funding, we began to build out our full-time staff. This was a key undertaking, as every hire was critical to improving or degrading the natural culture the company had already started forming. As we went through this process, I couldn’t help but think back to another great culture which I’d been lucky enough to be a part of.

    I went to DeMatha High School in Hyattsville, Maryland. There is no place of which I am prouder. At DeMatha, they've figured out how to instill the expectation of greatness. Winning isn’t a bonus—it's presumed.

    At DeMatha, All-Americans, Merit Scholars, and nationally recognized musicians surrounded you. Every morning over the loudspeakers you heard about championships won, awards earned, scholarships signed. No one ever said, “Man, I really hope we win it all this year” because it didn’t need to be said. Anything less than winning it

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  • Southern small businesses safest loan bets, data show

    WAIN Street has been charting Relative Credit Quality of small businesses in four U.S. regions monthly for 3 years. A value of 1 indicates that the credit quality is the same as that of the US. A value greater than 1 corresponds to the credit quality being better than the overall US.

    Thinking about investing in a small business? Do not head West; go South.

    At least that’s the takeaway from new data published by WAIN Street, a company whose monthly index predicts the likelihood of 18 million small businesses in a variety of sectors and geographic regions to default on financial obligations. The index aggregates micro-level indicators of credit performance such as bankruptcy and delinquency concerning U.S. businesses with a headcount of fewer than 20, but excludes sole proprietors and businesses with a single owner/operator.

    WAIN Street publisher and financial analyst Vidur Dhanda reports that, overall, his Business Default Index—quoted as a seasonally adjusted, annualized default rate—showed an improvement of 0.06 percent between September and October, but says the improvement was narrow with a near equal number of businesses improving and deteriorating in credit quality.

    “The improvement is remarkable considering the drama in D.C. at the start of October,” Dhanda

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