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5 ways productive business owners fight through distractions and stay focused

[BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR] No, multitasking isn’t something you should brag about. Retrain your brain to stay focused and boost your productivity with these simple tips.

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business owner staying focused on work without distractions

As a small business owner, you have a lot on your plate. And if you aren’t careful, daily distractions can prevent you from accomplishing what you need to get done. But how do you stay focused?

Practical suggestions for eliminating distractions

Research suggests that the average human attention span has fallen from 12 seconds in 2000 to just eight seconds today. For perspective, that’s shorter than the average attention span of a goldfish! And if certain offenders are worse than others, business owners would have to be near the top of the list.

It’s not that the human brain is less capable of focusing today than it was a decade ago. The problem doesn’t lie within – it can be found without. It’s the direct result of the onslaught of new distractions competing for our limited focus.

As a business owner, your responsibilities run deep and wide. And if you aren’t careful, you can easily become overwhelmed and rendered useless. Here are some practical ways to fight back:

1. Centralize communications

As a business owner, it’s not uncommon to have half a dozen communication channels open at one time. Between email, phone, SMS, Slack, and social media messages, you find yourself constantly tending to notifications across a spectrum of isolated platforms. The result is constant back and forth movement that’s difficult (if not impossible) to keep track of. One way to fix this is by centralizing communications.

There are numerous ways to centralize communications, but a social intranet is a fantastic option – particularly if you can find one that integrates with G Suite (or whatever collection of tools you use).

2. Block distracting websites

We all have our favorite go-to websites. These are the sites that we mindlessly browse when we’re looking to kill time or avoid doing work. News sites, blogs, and social networking sites are all good examples. And though there’s nothing technically wrong with any of these, they become problematic when they keep you from important tasks.

If sheer willpower isn’t doing it for you, try using some sort of website blocking tool that prevents you from visiting these websites during work hours. (Here’s a list of some of the top options.)

3. Create email time blocks

Email is a time killer! The average business owner receives well over 100 emails per day and, if you aren’t careful, managing your inbox can become a full-time job.

One of the best techniques is to create email time blocks. These are blocks of time – between 15 to 60 minutes – that you dedicate exclusively to email. And then during the rest of the day, you log out of your email account and reserve your focus for other tasks.

You might think this sounds impractical, but it’s really not. A 20-minute email block early morning, late morning, early afternoon, and late afternoon is enough to keep you in the loop without totally eating away at your schedule.

4. Silence your phone

Your phone is another attention magnet. By silencing your phone for large chunks out of the day, you can keep your focus on the tasks that matter. (If you have an assistant, ask them to filter your calls for you and only pass along the ones that are urgent and necessary.)

5. Avoid multitasking

 As Americans, we love to brag about multitasking. We flaunt our ability to juggle multiple tasks at once like it’s a badge of honor. But no matter how skilled you think you are at multitasking, there’s simply no evidence to suggest you’re getting more done. In fact, all of the research indicates you’re preventing yourself from being as productive as you could be.

As Travis Bradberry writes for Forbes, “Multitasking reduces your efficiency and performance because your brain can only focus on one thing at a time. When you try to do two things at once, your brain lacks the capacity to perform both tasks successfully.”

Bradberry points to additional research from the University of London that found multitasking also lowers your IQ and leads to long-term cognitive impairment. In other words, it doesn’t just impact short-term focus. It also inhibits long-term results.

Reclaim your focus and boost productivity

Focus can be difficult to cultivate. But if you want to enhance your productivity and output, it’s a critical element in the equation. From centralizing communications to eliminating your reliance on multitasking, a quick and thorough response is a must.

Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. When he's not consulting, glued to a headset, he's working on one of his many business projects. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Business Entrepreneur

4 tips for acquiring a business: The why and how

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) Acquiring a business can be a key part of your business’s future growth, but there are some factors you should consider before signing the deal.

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A meeting room with people shaking hands over acquiring a business

Growing businesses have multiple levers that can be pulled separately or in unison to continue scaling and expanding. And while many companies choose to grow internally, there’s always the option of acquiring other businesses to supercharge results and instantly expand.

Why Acquire?

Acquiring a business is certainly a complicated path to expansion, but it’s also a highly attractive one for a variety of reasons. This includes:

  • Increased market share. If you’re acquiring a business that happens to be a competitor, you can instantly increase your market share. If you currently own 20 percent of the market share and the competition has 15 percent, you suddenly catapult to 35 percent. That might make you the industry leader overnight!
  • Expansion into new markets. Sometimes you acquire a business outside of your industry or niche. In this case, it allows you to expand vertically or horizontally. This can improve top-line revenue and/or reduce costs and benefit profit margins.
  • Advanced tech and IP. In some situations, an acquisition is about acquiring a specific piece of technology or intellectual property (IP). This may prove to be the final boost you need to accelerate growth and initiate further expansion.
  • Talent acquisition. One of the secondary benefits of an acquisition is the opportunity to welcome new talent into your team. Whether it’s a seasoned executive or a highly effective sales staff, this is one benefit you can’t ignore.

Mergers and acquisitions aren’t the correct solutions in every situation, but they often make sense. It’s ultimately up to your team to sit down and discuss the pros, cons, opportunities, drawbacks, and possibilities of pursuing this option.

Helpful Acquisition Tips

Should your business choose to move forward with the acquisition route, here are some essential tips to be aware of:

1. Assemble a Talented Team

Don’t do anything until you first develop an acquisition team. This is a very important step and should not be delayed. (Many businesses make the mistake of starting the search and then forming a team on the fly, but this results in missed opportunities and foundational errors that can compromise an otherwise smart acquisition.)

A good acquisition team should include an experienced mergers and acquisitions advisor, a responsible executive, an attorney, an HR professional, and an IT expert. You’ll also want to bring on a public relations professional as soon as possible. This will ensure you control the messaging that customers, investors, and even employees hear.

2. Do Extensive Due Diligence

With the support of a talented dream team, you’re equipped to find the best acquisition opportunities. As you narrow your targets down, you’ll want to identify and implement a very detailed due diligence process for acquiring a business. This may include an extensive, objective analysis that consists of a letter of intent, confidentiality agreement, contracts and leases, financial statements, tax returns, and other important documents.

3. Make an Initial Offer

If the due diligence checks out, then it’s time to work on formulating an offer for acquiring a business. While the first offer almost certainly won’t be the offer that gets accepted, it’s the single most important offer you’ll make. It frames the transaction and sets the tone for the rest of the negotiations. It’s generally a good idea to offer no more than 75 to 90 percent of what you’re willing to pay. It should be low enough to leave room to inch up, but not so low that the other party could potentially see it as an insult.

4. Negotiate

Your first offer won’t get accepted. But unless you’ve totally insulted the other business, they should come back with a counter. Now is where things get really interesting. Negotiations ensue and it’s time to counter back and forth. The offer consists of a variety of elements – not just a price tag – so consider all of these variables in your subsequent counters.

Adding it All Up

As valuable as an acquisition can be, the process is often filled with friction. It’s up to your team to make the transition after closing as smooth as possible.

It’s very important that you respect the products, services, employees, and customers that the acquired business has. If you come into an acquisition and attempt to shake things up on day one, you’re going to get backlash. There’s nothing wrong with making changes – you now own the business – but be diplomatic and patient. Build trust, work together, and gradually introduce changes.

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Business Entrepreneur

Survey reveals sad truths of being a freelance designer in 2020

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) Freelancing comes with pros and cons but 2020 has made it more challenging for freelance workers to make ends meet.

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Over the shoulder view of freelance Black man working on laptop on the couch.

The Australia-based platform 99designs recently conducted a survey of 11,000 freelance designers from around the word. Here’s what they found:

  • One third had difficulty finding steady work in 2020
  • A quarter had at least one project cancelled or put on hold
  • 27% of the freelance clients have cut their budgets

This one is really sad:

  • 22% of the freelancers said a client had ghosted them, presumably when it was payment time

We know for a fact that freelancers and gig workers have been hit especially hard by the pandemic, as the government benefits do little to support them. So, it comes as no surprise that:

  • 42% of respondents answered that they were actively looking for work and;
  • 32% are considering leaving the design field all together after their negative COVID-era experience

Another factor to note is that these statistics are not unique to freelance designers. Freelancers in all creative sectors – from writers to videographers – are facing similar troubles.

The problem isn’t that there is no work; it’s that many agencies and companies are laying off full-time employees to hire short-term freelancers, which is naturally the cheaper alternative.

Freelancers don’t have access to company benefits and can be paid lower. Additionally, since the job market is now flooded with freelancers, many employers are demanding more work for less pay – and the market saturation gives freelancers little room for negotiation.

Something else to note: 70% of these respondents identified as male. We know that women, especially women with children, have been far more negatively impacted by COVID, so these statistics are at best a little skewed.

At the end of the day, this is not good news for freelancers – many companies have gotten a taste of the extra cash they could be saving by hiring freelancers and will likely not be hiring full time staff again. Now, there are more freelancers than ever. This means that work will be difficult to secure and, once it is secured, it will be near-impossible to negotiate an appropriate wage, as there is a line of freelancers who’d be willing to take the gig if you decline.

I won’t be surprised if freelancers start to form unions and demand proper benefits and wages from clients post-pandemic. For their sake, I hope they do.

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Business Entrepreneur

Talking entrepreneurship and sextech with Liz Klinger [INTERVIEW]

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) A conversation about entrepreneurship and sextech with female entrepreneur Liz Klinger, CEO of Lioness, the FitBit for your sex bits.

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Lioness app, the first of its kind in the sextech entrepreneurship world.

“We had this observation that a lot of people had questions about sex, but there weren’t many resources for them”, said Liz Klinger, Co-Founder and CEO of Lioness, the smart vibrator and app brand that helps you visualize, track and analyze your orgasms. “We wanted to have a way for people to explore and learn more about themselves, because there is not a ‘one size fits all’ answer to questions about pleasure.”

Klinger has always had an interest in sex. After a brief stint in investment banking, she began selling sex toys at various “parties” where, she describes, someone would always come up to her after the presentation and ask her in-depth questions that she had no idea how to answer. At least I’m not the only one obsessed with this stuff, she remembers thinking.

The idea for Lioness came from AI – sex toys can be hard to use, complicated, or just plain intimidating. So, what if there was a toy that adjusted you and what your body wanted?

After a bit of prototyping and collecting feedback, it was clear to Klinger what her users wanted: Data. People wanted to see what their bodies did and use that data to better understand themselves.

The Lioness vibrator and accompanying app does just that. By using biofeedback and precision sensors to visualize your orgasm via the app, users can easily track their experiences. When you try something new, you can see how your body reacts to it.

But Lioness isn’t just a vibrator.

Last year, the company launched a research platform where users can choose to participate in medical or scientific studies, as well as ask those questions we all have about sex. Additionally, the Lioness site provides many “Sex Guides” for users; the thorough, no-nonsense sex-ed we wish we had growing up. This is Klinger’s dream come to life.

More recently, Lioness is launching “(S)explore” – a premium version of their existing Sex Guides to tackle the less popular, more personal questions users have. This feature is set to launch on Black Friday.

By 2021, Lioness hopes to release a remote-control distance feature for the vibrator (gasp!). There will also be a 2.0 update for the app, in which users will be able to access new visual experiences, such as a heatmap that adds pigmentation to your most pleasurably moments (here for it 100%).

When asked about how COVID-19 has impacted her business, Klinger was happy to tell me that Lioness and other ecommerce companies in the field are going strong, largely unaffected by the nation’s stunted market. If there was ever a time to experiment with pleasure, it’s during lock down, right?

Unfortunately, many other brick and mortar sex shops, like the ones Klinger got her start doing sales for, are suffering during this time – much of the adult market didn’t qualify for PPP loans.

I know I’m not alone when I say that I love seeing women like Klinger fighting the good fight by paving the largely untouched way in SexTech. Lioness is radical in the sense that it takes something so internal and pleasure-based (and, unfortunately, overlooked) as the female orgasm and externalizes it. By using data and tech, Lioness, in a way, validates an experience that is so foreign to so many of us.

There’s a reason there are a million and one fertility trackers, but Lioness is the first of its kind.

When I asked for her words of wisdom as CEO in SexTech, Klinger told me:

“If you’re a woman, or someone who isn’t the typical start up person, it’s important to focus on your customers first, above all. You’ll get all this different advice and feedback from investors and people in the industry but at the end of the day you have to focus on your customers and what need are you fulfilling for them. If you focus on that, no matter how difficult the business side of it will be, that is how you will stay afloat.”

It seems like 2021 will be a big, exciting year for Lioness. I’d also like to add that the potential uses of the Lioness technology outside of recreational pleasure are endless – I just can’t wait to see what they come up with next.

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