Time saving strategies legal matters

6 Tips for Optimizing Your Time as an Entrepreneur

The life of an entrepreneur has countless rewards, and just as many challenges. One of the biggest difficulties that business owners and CEOs express to me lies in finding the time to get to everything that they want to do. If you get to the end of the day feeling frustrated because you don’t know where the time went but you feel like you didn’t accomplish enough, then you’re not alone.

There are a number of things that I’ve found have helped me to walk away from my work at the end of each day feeling satisfied that I’ve used my time to its best purposes. Here are my top five, in no particular order:

1. Time Saving Strategies with Legal Matters

There are two professionals that all businesses should consider when just starting out: an accountant and an attorney. There are obvious reasons for hiring these professionals but the hidden benefit is the right partners will save you time. Consider this scenario: a court representative is standing at your door serving you with a summons – and you don’t have an established partnership with an attorney. Big mistake. The time to find a good business lawyer is before you are sued. Save yourself time (and money) on any potential legal problems and formalize your business zoning compliance, copyright and trademark advice and business incorporation and registered agent service.

2. Stop Taking So Much Pride in Multitasking

The truth is that if you’re multitasking constantly then you are not giving your full attention to anything, and that means that something is likely to suffer. Not only that, there’s also the problem of becoming so habituated to multitasking that it never really stops. If you’re constantly checking your emails while you’re on a call then it’s likely that you’re going to sneak a peak at the Blackberry when you’re in a meeting, and you’re liable to miss something important. There’s nothing wrong with multitasking, but it needs to be abandoned when you need to focus on what’s truly important. Recognize what those priorities are, as well as what is really just an unimportant task that can wait. There’s no doubt that life feels easier when you have eliminated the sixty message in your Inbox, but when you shift your attention from the task at hand to something that’s unimportant, you make the bigger task take longer.

3. Recognize Your Own Needs

When we’re trying to figure out the best and most efficient use of our time, we have a nasty tend to want to follow somebody else’s lead. Just because the captain of industry whose face is on the cover of Time Magazine only needs four hours of sleep per night doesn’t mean that it’s going to work for you. Everybody has their own individual life demands that include the basics like how long it takes to get to work and how much sleep they need and the other important things like how much time they want to spend with their family and whether they want to exercise on a daily basis. If you take a good, realistic look at each of these things and acknowledge them for their importance, you can sit down and build a unique system for your own life that makes sure that everything is getting its due. Failing to do this will end up making everything suffer to a relative degree. If you don’t give yourself enough time to sleep then your ability to focus, learn and remember will suffer. If you don’t put 100 percent into your work project, then at the end of the day you won’t enjoy your time with your family because you’ll be thinking of what you wish you had accomplished. It’s not a question of balance – it’s a question of optimizing each piece of your life in recognition that it is all important.

4. Save time by abandoning technology time wasters.

If you receive an email or text that is unclear or requires more than one follow-up question, then put down the device and either call the person or march over to their office and have a real conversation. We have come to rely on our devices to such an extreme that we fail to recognize when they are slowing us down. There are just some people — and you need to recognize that you may be one of them — who don’t communicate well digitally. If you can get a lot more done in a shorter amount of time by sitting down face-to-face then by sending off a dozen emails, then do it.

5. Tracking your time will be an eye-opening experience.

If you constantly find yourself wondering where your time went, then stop asking and go to the effort of finding out. Whether you keep a notepad in your pocket and just jot down the different things you are doing each day or decide to journal it electronically on a calendar in your phone, if you take the time to track your activities in detail, you will be amazed to see what you’re doing — and you’ll have a map of what can be cut out in order to improve your time management. If your focus is on spending your time the way that you want to, then you need to understand how much of your time you’re spending working and how much time you’re wasting. It’s a good idea to keep track beyond your work day. If you know how much time your workout actually takes up, you may find that once you add in the extras like changing, saying hi to the guy behind the counter or stopping for a smoothie on your way back to the office adds on an extra half hour, and then you know where you can shift things around.

6. Get enough sleep.

There are a ton of other excellent recommendations that I could make, including taking scheduled short breaks every hour or two to clear your mind, or creating an advanced calendar of big goals so that you can use them as anchors for creating your calendar, but I’m a firm believer in the importance of sleep and the failure of too many entrepreneurs to make this essential body function a priority. No matter how well you believe you function on five or six hours of sleep per day, the truth is that there is a very small percentage of the population able to operate at peak capacity with less than seven hours of sleep per night. Adequate sleep improves your focus, your cognitive performance, your ability to accurately interpret the emotions and intentions of those around you, and your ability to remember. Your energy level will be higher and your mood will be elevated as well. By contrast, not getting the sleep that you need will make every single task you take on feel more challenging. When you’re creating your to-do list for the day, always plan your schedule so that you are able to get between seven to nine hours per day, and you’ll find that the rest of your tasks will fall into place a lot more easily.

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Corporate Team Building

5 Ways To Get Pessimists To Participate In Team Building

Team building exercises can accomplish a tremendous amount in a very short period of time. They can energize employees, improve communication, and transform a disconnected workforce into a unified team. The goal of a team building event is to build quality connections, enhance communications and establish trust, but this mission can easily be waylaid by pessimists within the group who make it clear that they think little of the exercise.

There is little more frustrating then investing your time and resources into planning an activity that is built on optimism and then having it met by negativity from the pessimists in your group. Though it may be tempting to simply ignore the griping and attempt to work around it, as a leader it’s important that you remember that those pessimists are on your team for a reason. If encouraged, they can bring their own particular strengths and skills to the team’s goal, or draw attention to resentments and dysfunctions that you are not aware of.

Here are five tips for turning pessimists into willing (and maybe eager) team-building participants. 

Embrace the Dissent

Every team is made up of a variety of personalities that bring different talents to the project. Though the pessimist may be viewed strictly in terms of their skepticism and negativity, it is important to remember that their views may be based on knowledge or insight that can be of use. According to Jon Katzenbach, author of Wisdom of Teams, “An irritating member adds a dimension to teaming. As long as he or she is not strong enough to derail progress, he or she may offer thoughts that otherwise wouldn’t come in.” Encourage the pessimist to provide input but that part of their responsibility is also to offer alternative solutions. This makes the team member feel that they are being heard and valued, and once they offer detours instead of simply putting up roadblocks they may be more accepted and positively viewed by the group as a whole.

Give Hard Evidence of the Power of Team-building

Pessimists are known for expressing their skepticism, and there is no doubt that they are unlikely to dive right into something that they are unfamiliar with and give you or the team-building exercise the benefit of the doubt. Instead of nagging, cajoling or dragging them along, show them that you have respect for their opinion by providing them with evidence of past success. Though some pessimists simply respond with knee-jerk negativity, many have developed their point of view as a response to previous disappointments. Show them the worth of what you’re doing – just the fact that your opinion matters will likely make them more willing to engage.

Explain how the exercise will address their perceived needs.

Far too often, pessimistic employees will view a team-building exercise as something that is being done for the benefit of management, or because somebody read an article saying that it was a good thing to do. The exercise must be presented as a way of showing concerns about their needs and an effort to improve their environment – and being specific about what those needs are will make it clear that you are not as disconnected and disengaged as they thought. If somebody believes that something is truly being done for them, they are more likely to get on board.

Make them accountable for their action, or inaction

People often express their disapproval or skepticism for team-building by hanging back and not providing full or enthusiastic participation, and sometimes you just need to call them out on it — albeit in a positive and upbeat way. Make it clear that you expect every team member to be accountable and that there will be consequences for failure to participate in the form of a consequence bowl. Give each team member three note cards and ask them to write down their name and some small item ($5 to $10 limit is suggested) that they would enjoy – maybe a Starbucks card or a box of donuts for the team. Nothing embarrassing can be included, nor can one assign one of their actual work tasks to a colleague. All the cards get put into a bowl, and if a team member fails to participate in the team building exercise, they have to pick a card and perform the task. The message is plain – if you fail to participate, you affect the entire team and thus you have to make it up to them. Delivering on the content of the card may actually encourage more communication between team members.

Build the team in a non-traditional way.

Sometimes the problem for the pessimist is less about the effort to build the team then wishing that their time was being better spent. There are plenty of ways to encourage teamwork without having to engage in relay races or trust and communication games. Offering an alternative, such as participating as a group in a community fundraising event, is something that everybody can get behind, and if you really want to engage a particular pessimist, ask them what their favorite charity is and put them in charge of the team. Whether the goal is raising money, building a house for the homeless, cooking meals or raising awareness, you can grow your team’s engagement, communication and respect for each other while at the same time doing good.

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company-culture

5 Inexpensive Ways To Improve Your Company’s Culture

A lot of managers and business leaders make the mistake of underestimating the importance of their company’s culture. They believe that if the work is getting done then everything is fine, regardless of the negative impact of morale or office politics. They could not be more mistaken. To understand the importance of a good culture, simply understand this equation:

A good culture = success

If that sounds overly simplistic, think about this. Harvard Business School Professor Emeritus James L. Heskitt recently published a book called, The Culture Cycle: How to Shape the Unseen Force that Transforms Performance. In it he explains that almost half of operating profit can be attributed to the working environment that employees operate within.

“Organization culture is not a soft concept. Its impact on profit can be measured and quantified. We know, for example, that engaged managers and employees are much more likely to remain in an organization, leading directly to fewer hires from outside the organization,” he writes. “This, in turn, results in lower wage costs for talent; lower recruiting, hiring and training costs; and higher productivity (fewer lost sales and higher sales per employee). Higher employee continuity leads to better customer relationships that contribute to greater customer loyalty, lower marketing costs, and enhanced sales.”

That’s pretty straightforward, and provides food for thought. Everything in that list — lower recruiting, hiring and training; higher productivity; better customer relationships and loyalty; enhanced sales — is exactly what every organization is working towards. So how can you influence your company’s culture? First, understand what culture really is. It’s not a question of whether you’re giving your employees free coffee in the morning or letting them work from home as much as it is creating an understanding that everybody is working together in order to be successful. That means that you need to create an office culture that fosters stronger relationships between all team members and makes each person understand that they have value, that they are appreciated and that they are an important part of the team.

Much of this comes from the priorities and every day processes that are observed by your employees: the rewards, whether formal or informal, that are given for the behavior that you want internalized within the company’s day-to-day operations. The key to managing employees towards a positive company culture is not different from the way you run your family. You provide positive feedback for the behaviors that you want until an overall value set is internalized. David Packard (of Hewlett-Packard) famously established 11 simple rules for creating a positive business culture that I’ve summarized below:

  • Think of the other person first
  • Make the other person feel important
  • Respect the other person’s differences
  • Show sincere appreciation
  • Eliminate negativity
  • Stop reforming and correcting; instead suggest a better way
  • Be empathetic
  • Don’t let first impressions mislead you
  • Pay attention to the nuances of your own behaviors and responses
  • Be genuinely interested in your staff
  • Constantly practice these rules

These types of values and behaviors come from within and filter down within an organization, and if your current office culture does not reflect this kind of mindset, then making change can take time. Communicating the importance of a positive culture to those responsible for managing employees is a start, but it is essential that there is consistency in how it is enforced. Writing new guidelines for has nowhere near the impact that true leadership will, and there are a number of inexpensive ways that you can create change that will immediately get the message across and build stronger relationships and trust within your organization. Here are several of our top suggestions for small changes that can make a big difference in your office culture:

Shake up your seating arrangement

If your office’s physical structure allows it, establish a regular schedule of relocating where staff members sit every few months. Keeping the same people grouped together over an extended period of time limits interaction and the exchange of ideas and reinforces the establishment of cliques that can create negativity. When you force people to sit with one another they open their minds to each other and new perspectives and understanding can form.

Take teamwork to a whole new level

No matter where you are or what you do, your staff can find a 5K charity run, a “cook for a friend” program, a local gym offering a “get in shape” program that you can get on board with. Even something as simple as organizing a softball team and encouraging the rest of the staff to attend games and cheer the competitors on is a great way to have staff and management let down their guard and start working with each other towards an entirely different common goal. Doing so will work wonders within your organization and build cameraderie, as people begin to see each other in a different light and respect strengths and abilities that they had not been aware of. It also can give you a great excuse to host celebrations that continue the good feelings all around.

Involve more people in the interview process

It’s traditional to limit the responsibility for interviewing prospective employees to your Human Resources staff and the managers who will be directly involved with a new hire, but consider the benefits that expanding that process holds. Not only will you send a clear message to your staff that you value their opinions, but you’ll also provide yourself with a completely different perspective on how well an applicant may fit into your organization, or will relate to your staff. Does a management candidate respond less respectfully or less seriously when being asked questions by an admin then by a senior manager? Is that type of attitude going to help or hurt your company culture? Taking this step requires some training regarding the questions and answers that can and cannot be provided, but is well worth the effort.

Emphasize the positive

Meetings are a necessary evil, but you can use them to your benefit. Make it a requirement that as each person speaks, they share something positive that has happened to them, whether work-related or otherwise. By insisting on some kind of good news you create an association with positivity that can quickly become a habit. Even if it initially feels forced or corny, it will eventually become something that people will look forward to and may strengthen and personalize work relationships.

Celebrate the wins

Whether it’s a new contract that somebody finally got signed or a successful fund-raiser for the charity that you’ve decided to support, make sure that you take the time to celebrate the wins, both large and small. Maybe it’s as simple as making sure that there is a cake and flowers for somebody’s birthday or getting out of the office for a happy hour to celebrate a big sale, take the time to recognize accomplishments and get everybody involved in the celebrations.

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effective-communication

The 4 Habits Of Highly Effective Communications Professionals

One of the most challenging aspects of running an organization that has many members is finding a way to effectively communicate to all of them and get them to communicate with one another. Effective communication is more than just sending along a message or information: it is making sure that your message has meaning and relevance to each individual or group that receives it so that they can act on it appropriately. Developing and enhancing your ability to communicate and your understanding of what makes a message most effective is key to your success as a leader. You can improve your own ability to orchestrate operations across teams of many roles and levels by following these 4 habits of communication professionals.

Be Authentic

Whether your communications are internal or are aimed at those outside of the organization, communications professionals maintain that authenticity is key. You’ve seen examples for in media appearances by sweating CEOs, and have probably experienced it for yourself in a number of personal interactions — you can tell when somebody is trying to sell you something versus being forthright and honest. Even if what you are saying is absolutely true, if it comes across as a type of propaganda your audience is going to automatically doubt your integrity and look for a hidden agenda instead of tuning in to the message. Being authentic has a lot of important pieces to it. It means not talking in corporate speak but instead communicating via an open dialogue that feels personal and engaging. It means making a point of being simple, concise and specific. The more clear and detailed your message is (without getting into the superfluous), the more people will trust it. And finally, leave your ego out of it. Good communicators rarely talk about themselves. Instead they talk about the needs and goals of the people to whom they are speaking.

Know your audience.

Developing an awareness of your audience’s aspirations and emotions allows you to speak directly to them rather than to your own interests and agenda. The more you are aware of the mood and dynamics of your audience, the more you can target your message so that it will speak to what they want to listen to and actually hear. This includes taking into account the opinions and feelings of those who may not necessarily agree with you. This is not to say that you need to change your position or theirs, but that the more you understand and exhibit your empathy, the more you are likely to be able to communicate well with people who hold opposing views. Communication should always be a dialogue in order to be effective, and that means that it is just as important to know when to talk as to know when to be quiet and listen.

Know what you’re talking about or let somebody else who does know do the talking.

One of the best ways to lose the respect and attention of anybody that you are trying to engage is to exhibit your lack of command of your subject. You’ve seen politicians do it, you’ve listened to people at cocktail parties wax eloquent on topics that they clearly know nothing about – don’t be guilty of doing the same thing within your organization. You will immediately lose all credibility the moment you start to force yourself into the position of being an authority on something you know nothing about. Either take the time to truly learn and develop your understanding of a topic or else find the appropriate person within your organization to speak to a subject and cede the floor to them.

Use the right medium, and use it regularly.

Today we have so many different methods of communicating available to us, and it’s easy to fall into the habit of choosing your favorite and using it constantly, even where it isn’t appropriate or may be counter-productive or a waste of time. Think about the message and its goal and choose the best way to communicate it that will work for everybody. Sometimes it is best to utilize a team meeting where everybody can come together and share ideas or provide feedback. Sometimes an email or newsletter will prove most effective. Suit the medium to the message, as well as to the particular group that you are trying to reach and you will find that people appreciate your respect of their time. It’s also important to remember that constant communication enables the message to remain the focus, as well as to provide updates. Nothing can be more frustrating to individual departments then having been brought into a project and then having no idea how other departments are faring or what the current status is.

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Entrepreneurs Share the Best Advice They’ve Ever Received

If you are a budding entrepreneur, or even if you’ve been in the game for several years, one of the most valuable assets you can have is a network of mentors to help guide you along the way. No matter how sure you are of yourself or how successful you’ve been, there are always going to be times when you could use a little guidance, some advice on how to make a course correction, or maybe just a pat on the back when nobody else seems to recognize what you’ve accomplished.

I can’t set you up with your own mentors — you’ll have to find them for yourself — but I can offer you some lessons that working entrepreneurs say have been the most helpful to them. Watch and learn.

This video from Entrepreneur magazine presents a group of entrepreneurs who were asked to share the best advice they’ve ever received. Though only one – a former athlete who gave props to his coach – actually says where the advice came from, it is clear that the advice provided was invaluable. It not only captured their attention, but in every case it has propelled them to their success, sustained their vision and has helped them to evaluate what they are doing each and every day. There are some real gems here, and a remarkable number of repeats of the same basic but all-important lessons that, once learned, make the difference between achieving your dreams and falling short. Here are some of my favorites:

  • Never take “No” for an answer from somebody who’s not the final decision maker.
  • When you’re talking, you’re not learning.
  • At the end of the day, you’re running the business. You’re the expert. You know what’s right.
  • Never accept failure, keep going at it until you succeed.
  • It’s easier to get forgiveness then to get permission.
  • Move the needle 100%, not 10%.

It was surprising to see how many people indicated that the most important advice that they had received was some version of “roll with the punches.” It’s pithy and simplistic, yet telling. It speaks eloquently to the disappointments and setbacks that are inevitably part of being an entrepreneur, and of the importance of sticking with your vision, believing in yourself, and continuing to look to the future. The former athlete in the group quoted his coach when he spoke of the struggles that he had gone through as he built his business. “Men will always fall. Men are not judged by how hard they fall, but by how high they can bounce back when they hit the bottom.”

The group embraced they advice they’d received regarding giving back to the community and paying it forward. One voiced it simply enough, saying that he’d been told “giving back is the best form of satisfaction.”

Finally, a piece of advice that gets to the heart of what being an entrepreneur is all about: “If where you’re at now isn’t important enough to be successful at it, get out and do something else.” It’s an important lesson in constantly evaluating, reevaluating, and appreciating.

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