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7 signs that your company is too comfortable

When a company gets too comfortable, the minor details are lost and what was once success becomes a failure. Here are the signs of any company becoming too comfortable.

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too comfortable

Companies of all size make this common mistake

No matter the size of a company, what commonly happens when you hit a certain stride is that comfort sets in. It isn’t always apparent, and it doesn’t always end in dramatic tweet-offs or Yelp battles, rather results in dissatisfied consumers and clients.

On this topic, Omar Aqel has observed seven signs that your company may be too comfortable and in need of a change. Aqel is the Co-Founder of PTel, one of the original no-contract wireless companies in the United States, and Co-Founder of newly created GIV Mobile, a new no-contract wireless service dedicated to giving 8 percent of a monthly Unlimited Everything Plan to charities of the customer’s choice.

Aqel asserts that no business leader should ever quit learning, so in his own words offers the following seven signs based on his company’s culture that will reveal whether or not your own company is too comfortable:

1. Letting Emotions Make Decisions for You:

Work can be stressful at times but that is no excuse for allowing emotions to get involved. Oftentimes employees or even managers make the mistake of letting heated conversations between themselves and customers reach the point where they act out of emotion. For example, by denying a customer the courtesy of waiving a shipping fee because the customer was rude, he or she potentially lost that customer’s business.

If nothing else, letting your emotions get the best of you once makes it easier for them to get the best of you again. We teach our employees to understand our customers first before seeking to be understood themselves. It’s very unlikely customers are contacting us with the intent to be spiteful. More than likely, they are looking for someone to help them with their problem. Remember, your hurt feelings will last a minute. A lost customer will probably be forever.

2. You Forget You Need Every Customer:

We train our employees to treat each customer as if they were our most important one because I honestly believe that’s true. The moment you lose this mentality and take the customer for granted is the moment your company begins its decline. On top of making each customer happy, this objective creates happier employees. If a customer representative denies a customer’s request to waive a fee, a charge, etc. this could be considered “good” for our bottom line. Objectively, our employee saved us money.

But the customer representative doesn’t get anything out of it, right? Instead, they got an uncomfortable, maybe even heated, conversation. By telling our employees to treat each customer as the most important customer, we give them the freedom to do right by them. With this practice, our employees never hesitate to pick up the phone, making happier employees and in turn happy customers. Your business will never fail if the customers are happy.

3. Companies Don’t Give Back:

Many companies these days make an effort to be charitable to their communities and employees. However, this giving often time dries up with added success. Whether or not a company becomes too busy, I believe companies stop being charitable at their own risk. For GIV Mobile, giving to charity is the cornerstone of our business.

I believe it’s our responsibility as a company to give back in an effort to better our community and in turn, the world. Giving back fosters a community of “people doing good,” which is what our company stands for. On top of boosting morale, giving back also helps us appreciate how much we have.

4. Outsourcing Customer Support and Becoming Out of Touch with Customers’ Concerns:

Everybody knows that many U.S. companies outsource their customer service call centers to different countries with the benefit of reducing overhead. However, there is a reason these call centers have developed a negative stigma. Oftentimes customers will call these centers looking for assistance and end up on the phone twice as long just trying to explain their situation. Outsourcing customer service to another company comes with the risk that the employees will not have the same level of knowledge or care as your own employees.

Our customer service representatives are part of our company in more ways than one. We do our best to treat our customer representatives like family and instill in them a sense of pride at GIV Mobile. If they can’t answer a question they will find the person who can. Our customer service representatives want to do everything in their power to make sure the customer hangs up happy. Companies should constantly research if their customers are truly happy with the customer service they are being provided – if not, immediately make appropriate changes so that the next time they call, they are 100% satisfied.

5. They Don’t Regularly Train Their Employees:

A lot of lip service is paid to training when a company is first established. Often there are training regiments and procedures in place to audit an employee’s performance. However, when a company grows quickly or aims to cut costs, training sessions can become less of a priority or even an inconvenience. When a company allows training to fall by the wayside, they are communicating that the service they are providing is just “good enough.” The real issue isn’t a busy schedule; rather the attitude that “good enough” is acceptable.

6. Lack of Discipline, from Top to Bottom:

The art of discipline cannot be overvalued in any company. A manager might avoid using discipline for fear of being seen as the “bad guy,” but more often than not he or she will come off as lazy, incompetent or apathetic. This can cause employees to lose respect for them. A lack of discipline can also translate into a lack of feedback, causing employees to feel stressed by not knowing whether or not they are doing a good job.

Discipline often gets harder the higher one climbs up the corporate ladder, but if a CEO can’t find it in his or her heart to discipline the managers, one can hardly expect managers to do the same for their people. Discipline always starts at the top.

7. They Forget to Thank Their Customers:

A friend of mine once told me an interesting story: her father never threw out his trash at a fast food restaurants unless the lid had “Thank You” written on it. Quirky, to say the least, but that story had a significant effect on me as a businessman. We always thank our customers. When customers call in, e-mail us or even if they are returning a product, we thank them.

Of course we want to show our customers gratitude, but by thanking them we are constantly reminding ourselves, as well as the customer, how valuable he or she is. Your customers don’t have to give you their business. If you’re selling socks, so is someone else. At GIV Mobile, we remind ourselves that appreciating and thanking our customers is essential to maintain a long-term relationship.

The takeaway

Becoming to comfortable is not synonymous with complacency – sometimes overlooking the simple details can cause a decline in the perception of your brand, and as Aqel said, every customer counts. Revamp your efforts today to keep your business successful.

Marti Trewe reports on business and technology news, chasing his passion for helping entrepreneurs and small businesses to stay well informed in the fast paced 140-character world. Marti rarely sleeps and thrives on reader news tips, especially about startups and big moves in leadership.

Business Entrepreneur

11 productivity tools for entrepreneurs that work from home

(BUSINESS) We asked remote professionals what some of their favorite (and most necessary) productivity tools were for the home office, and have 11 ideas that you might not have tried yet.

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Working from home comes with its perks – comfortable pants (sweat pants*), working at your own pace, and not having your boss breathing down your neck are only a few. But staying productive and on-task can be a challenge when the only one watching is you (and your cat [who requires frequent cuddle breaks]).

We asked remote workers how they collaborate, stay on top of their work, and get shit done. Here’s what they said are their most reliable and necessary work-from-home tools:

First, let’s check out collaboration and team productivity tools:

Time Doctor

timedoctor780x433
Manage a remote team? When you need them focused on that time-sensitive report you needed yesterday, we’ve got a solution.

We use our own time tracking tool which we find essential for remote work and remote teams. It has everything you would need to give you an analytics of your workday and managing remote teams,” says Carlo Borja, Online Marketing Head of Time Doctor. This includes real time updates, gentle nudges to get you and your employees back on track, and a free trial run.

Azendoo

azendoo
Stop miscommunication in its tracks.

One of the best tools that we use to keep in contact and make sure everyone stays on task is Azendoo,” says John Andrew Williams, PCC, Founder and Lead Trainer at Academic Life Coaching, “It is an amazing tool that allows you to assign tasks to members of your team, leave comments and messages, and organize everything based on projects. It has truly been the best thing for us to improve our productivity and stay connected when we all work remotely.

RealtimeBoard

realtimeboard
What about brainstorming and collaborating with your team in real time? “RealtimeBoard is an online whiteboard and super simple collaboration service for marketers, developers, designers and creatives worldwide with user list exceeding 675k. It’s frequently used for project management, user experience planning, creative concepts visualization, story mapping, brainstorming, etc,” says Anna Boiarkina, Head of Marketing at RealtimeBoard.

Popular Favorite: Slack

slack780x433
Without question, it is Slack! With our marketing team spread from San
Antonio to San Francisco, Seattle and Madison, we couldn’t do our job
efficiently without this messaging communication tool,
” says Marcia Noyes, Director of Communications with Catalyze, Inc.

Noyes adds, “Before I took the job with Catalyze, I wondered how I could possibly stay on top of the very technical subjects of HIPAA compliance, digital healthcare and cloud computing, but with Slack, it’s easier than email or being there in person at corporate headquarters. I don’t think I could ever go back to being in an office. With this tool and others, I get so much more accomplished without the commute times and interruptions from water cooler talk and discussions about where to go for lunch.”

Now, let’s move on to tools and tips for your health:

A treadmill desk

treadmill desk
Slump no more.

Gretchen Roberts, CEO of Smoky Labs, a B2B digital and inbound marketing agency says that her treadmill desk helps her fight through the afternoon slump. “The endorphins that are released from the walking get me right into a feel-good mood again, same as a conversation and piece of chocolate would.

Not only is it great for you, but it keeps you awake and alert so you can fight the urge to take a “quick nap” right around 3pm. Good weather not required.

Lumbar support

lumbar-support
Then there’s always the issue of your health. We asked Dr. Barbara Bergin, M.D., Board Certified orthopedic surgeon her thoughts on how to best furnish your home office, and she had a few simple ideas that go a long way.

Invest in a good chair, a McKenzie lumbar pillow (because no work chair has the perfect lumbar support), and a drop down tray for your keyboard and mouse. If you have short legs which don’t quite reach the floor, either adjust your chair (which means adjusting everything else) or get some kind of a platform on which to rest your feet. I recommend those old bench step aerobics steps.

These are all suggestions that are easy to implement and positively impact your health (and wallet, when you consider chiropractic visits, massages or even surgery).

And some of our favorites – tools to manage time, data, and communications:

ClockingIT

clockingIT
In a similar fashion to Time Doctor, ClockingIT is a time-tracking application that logs everything you do. This allows you to keep track of how much time you’re really spending on a project (or time spent off-task on a project).

I work from home exclusively as a freelance communications and marketing manager. One of my clients, Simon Slade, CEO of SaleHoo, introduced me to ClockingIT. ClockingIT, a free project management system, is now a tool I can’t work from home without. It provides an easy way for me to log my time on different tasks and communicate project updates to colleagues without sending cumbersome mass emails. I like ClockingIT so much that I’ve created an account separate from SaleHoo’s, just for myself, and I use it to manage my work for other clients as well.

This would be a great tool for freelance designers and writers who need to keep track of time so they can appropriately charge their clients.

Zoho Vault

zoho vault
Throw away the Rolodex. With all of the social media information, websites, passwords, and logins a company might need to remember, there is a better way. Molly Wells, an SEO Analyst with Web301 believes in the power of Zoho.

The one tool that I can’t work at home without is the one that stores our many clients personal information. Links to live websites, production websites, their social media usernames and passwords. All of our own websites logins, social media logins along with all the tools we use. Rather than storing all of these on our server or on pen and paper, we use Zoho Vault. It’s a lifesaver for accessing information while at home or on the go. All of our passwords are all in one place.

Cloze

cloze
Winner for most comprehensive all-in-one freelancing app goes to Cloze, which does… pretty much everything.

As a freelancer, the tool I absolutely can’t live without is Cloze,” explains JC Hammond, “Cloze is a contact management app and website that is perfect for freelancers because it is highly customizable, links email, social, phone and notes in one place, lets you track interactions and statuses of projects, companies, and people and even delivers an informative “Morning Briefing” to help get your day off to a great start.

She thinks one of the most useful tools is the email read receipts and the ability to link with your cell phone provided to track calls. It also schedules and posts social updates to Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook and other platforms. Because it’s designed for individual or very small team use, it’s easy to use and a user can efficiently run their entire day from the app.

Uberconference

uberconference
When it comes to phone conferences, meetings and client phone calls, Jessica Oman, Planner-in-Chief at Renegade Planner loves Uberconference.

She says, “As a business plan writer who in 2014 made the transition from leasing an office to working from home, I can say that Skype and Uberconference are the tools I can’t live without! Uberconference is especially wonderful because it easily allows me to record calls, use hold music, and connect with people who either call in from computer or phone. It allows me to have a 1-800 number too. It’s like having a virtual assistant to manage my calls and I love the professional feel of the service.

My Tomatoes

mytomatoes
And finally, a quick and simple idea – a timer. Jessica Velasco, Senior Editor at Chargebacks911 works exclusively from home. She uses the Pomodoro technique of time management: work for 25 minutes, take a 5 minute break, work for 25 more minutes.

She says, “I use My Tomatoes. I like this particular timer because the countdown is shown in my browser tab. I can be working on other things and quickly glance over to see how much time is left. I like to race the clock; see how much I can get accomplished before the timer goes off. I also use it to limit my unproductive moments. Fun things like checking social media must end with the timer dings.”

Got a favorite?

All of these tools are yours for the taking, so why not give them all a shot? Then, even if you’re wearing your most comfortable pants (sweat pants*) – with all of the right tools, you can run your business from home like a boss, and give people the impression that you probably showered today.

*no pants


This article was first published in 2017.

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Business Entrepreneur

Entrepreneurs thrive because they are easily distracted?!

(ENTREPRENEUR) If monotony and boredom at work- well bores you, it’s possible you may fit with the other entrepreneurs with a quick and constantly changing career.

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When Bill Gates was a kid, he knew he liked messing around with code. He couldn’t have known how it might evolve, but he was willing to live in the distraction, focusing on details when needed, but always learning, moving on, taking risks and growing in the process.

Some of the most successful folks among us are not content to sit and make widgets every day. They cannot thrive in a detail and focused work environment. So, it may come as no surprise to know that people who are more easily distracted are also more likely to thrive as entrepreneurs.

According to this study, if you are intelligent and get distracted more easily, those two qualities combined will likely enhance your creativity. And, that creativity and ability to use distraction as an advantage can be channeled to create new things, jobs, companies, etc.

For those of us who are more easily distracted, who enjoy doing different things every day, and who like learning, a recent article in the Harvard Business Review suggests a good option is to find a career path that provides the right amount of distraction and which is a great fit for your personality. If you do that your talent is more likely to be apparent because you are playing to your strengths. Also, if you are working in your sweet spot you will be more productive and motivated.

Maybe not surprisingly, the top job for those who live in distraction is entrepreneur. The term “easily distracted” often comes with a negative connotation, but considering an entrepreneur is taking risks, making things happen and creating companies, ideas, products that may have never existed, this spins that idea on its head. Entrepreneurs are the chief cooks and bottle washers of the world. They ideate, create, hire and inspire. None of that is possible in a monotonous work environment.

“Unsurprisingly, meta-analyses indicate that entrepreneurs tend to have higher levels of ‘openness to experience,’ so they differ from managers and leaders in that they are more curious, interested in variety and novelty, and are more prone to boredom — as well as less likely to tolerate routine and predictability,” according to the HBR story.

Other careers that are great fits for those of us (me included) who enjoy distraction are PR/Media Production, Journalism and Consultant. What these fields all have in common is, there is never a dull moment, switching from task to task is pretty commonplace, and you will do well if you can be a generalist – synthesizing information and weeding out the unnecessary.

Not sure where your strengths lie? Here’s a quick quiz to give you some feedback on how curious you really are.

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Business Entrepreneur

6 entrepreneurial tools for startup productivity

(ENTREPRENEUR NEWS) Whether you’re a small business or startup, improving efficiency means more money and less stress. Here are six tools to help do just that!

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Truly great entrepreneurs are also well organized and know which tools will help them see their ideas to fruition.

That can be key for getting a startup business off the ground. Good ideas and a strong entrepreneurial spirit aren’t always enough on their own. Sometimes you need the right mix of technology and tools to keep the more mundane and tedious tasks from bogging down your efforts.

Here are six tools almost any entrepreneur can use to help keep productivity high when starting a new business:

Lawtrades: For legal help

For most entrepreneurs, it’s not the most exciting thing in the world, but making sure you have your legal ducks in a row is important for any startup. Lawtrades helps with that while trying to keep costs down — music to the ears of any startup business owner.

The service is a legal marketplace of sorts designed specifically for startups and entrepreneurs. It connects business owners with legal professionals that it claims don’t charge “bloated law firm hourly rates.”

Lawtrades offers a number of services, including business formation, employment and labor, contracts and agreements and intellectual property.

Do: For productive meetings

Anyone who has started a business knows that it doesn’t happen without a multitude of meetings. Do is a service that can help make your meetings productive so you can waste as little time as possible.

The app allows you to plan and share an agenda to make sure everyone is on the same page. Other features include the ability to track accountability by showing you which points and/or tasks have been covered.

1Password: For easy password management

Starting a new business likely means starting and managing lots of online accounts. The 1Password app from AgileBits helps you save time by remembering passwords and other information for you.

The app helps you generate strong and unique passwords for your many accounts, and secures them behind one safe password known only by you. The app doesn’t only work for passwords — it can also help remember other information such as credit card numbers, safe combinations or street addresses.

Kanbanize: For product development

If your startup involves a specific product or set of products, Kanbanize helps you develop them with your team without bogging down the process. The software allows you to post and share boards that include product information and progress, and you can choose which people see which information.

For example, if you want to update investors on the status of your product development, you can share certain boards with stakeholders and no one else.

Evernote: For organization

There are many applications available that aim to help team productivity, but Evernote is one of the best.

The software allows you to collaborate with your team all within one workplace, keeping projects and other work together. You can also give feedback on ideas and share notes while syncing the data across computers and phones.

There are many other features as well, including in-app chat functionality and integration with Google Drive.

TaskHusky: For web development

Almost any new business will want some sort of business, but a staff of web designers and developers isn’t always an option for startups. That’s where TaskHusky comes in.

TaskHusky is an on-demand service for small businesses that need help with one-off tasks with the Shopify, Bigcommerce or WordPress platforms. The company has a simple three-step process: You create a task and pre-pay, a TaskHusky team member is assigned the task and gets to work and the task is completed and is sent back for your approval.

The takeaway:

Smart entrepreneurs understand they can’t get everything done on their own when it comes to starting a new business. These six tools may not be everything you need to launch and maintain a startup, but they will go a long way to helping you keep productivity at a high level.

#productivity

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