FWS Weekly Business Roundup n.3

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Small Business Tools, Resources and Articles

It’s the beginning of June and it’s finally warming up here in the great Northeast.  There’s less than a month of school left for the kids.  Summer vacation plans are all the buzz at the virtual watercooler, and everyone is prepping for the great Summer business slowdown as offices become ghost towns and beach resorts is where things are happening.

What better time is there to start looking at some of the tools you use, and to leverage some great ideas and inspiration from others to improve your small business.  Welcome to the Fair Winds Strategies Weekly Business Roundup, third edition.

Managing Projects and Lists in a small business →

I’ve been using Trello for a long, long time.  First of all, it’s free, and it’s a great small business tool.  You create a “board”, and then create multiple “lists” on the board.  You then populate the lists with “cards”.  Each card can contain checklists, group comments, attachments, due dates, people, voting and more.  As cards are updated, members of the board are updated.  

Let’s look at a quick example of how I use it.  When we work with clients, we have a 200+ question checklist we go through to assess our client’s business.  How do we add questions to that list, but do it in a team way?  In Trello, we have three lists – general discussion, proposed questions and approved questions.  Everyone adds the questions they like to the proposed questions list and the rest of the group comments and votes on the questions.  The questions with the highest votes then move into the approved questions list, and ultimately get added to our questionnaire.  The general comments list allows people to have discussions about other things – like questions to remove or change.  This is just one of our boards.  We have dozens.

Brainstorming Domain Names →

I’m always looking for interesting domain names, but these days there are so few good ones available.  How do you come up with new ideas.  What if your brain is tapped out and you want suggestions from others?  Well, check out namestation.com.  They have several different domain name “generators” that will come up with unique names and also tell you if they are available.  And, if you’re stuck, it’s really cheap ($35) to start a name “contest” and let others suggest names for you.  

Map Out and Error Check Your Website →

This is a pretty cool free tool that I actually helped build a couple of years ago.  It will crawl your website and give you a list of pages on your site, title tags, meta descriptions, internal page errors (like if you link to a page that’s missing from your site), external link errors (if you link to a page on another site and that page no longer exists or has moved) and lots more.  It will help you understand whether your site has problems, and what problems need to be fixed.  As a small business it’s pretty expensive to hire an outside team to do this, and why bother when it’s free?

Get a Virtual Phone System →

Since we’re virtual, our people are all over the place.  We don’t have a physical location to put a phone system.  Even if we did, why spend the money installing and maintaining one?  We use ringcentral.com which gives us our own number – or multiple local numbers around the country – and one of those call trees.  You know – “Press 1 for sales, Press 2 for…”.  Each of our people has an extension, and when someone dials that extension it transfers to the employee’s cell phone or whatever phone they designate (or even tries multiple phones).  If nobody is around, a voicemail message is left and is sent as an email to our worker.  It even has the ability to send a call to multiple people (pressing 1 for sales rings multiple phones and the call is transferred to the first person that picks up), and to block calls from those annoying telemarketers  It’s inexpensive and it works.  

Quick Market Research →

How do you get quick feedback from 100+ people on a question?  Use a service like PickFu.  You create a quick list of questions, make the questionnaire live and then wait for the results.  Which logo looks best?  Do you prefer dialing a local number or an 800 number?  On a scale of 1-10, how important is it that the staff from your technology consultant has certifications?  It’s not free, but it’s far less than doing a $10,000 market research study, and another great small business tool.

Social Media Strategies →

I don’t know about you, but I’m still trying to figure out the best approach to leveraging social media.  I found this article pretty interesting and it has some excellent tips on how to increase your social media audience – and make your social media presence more valuable.

The True Cost of Hiring Yet Another Manager →

I love the Harvard Business Review.  Great articles backed by real studies and statistics.  This article is another great winner and is wonderful for a small business making a transition to a medium sized business.  Managers delegate and make work for others, so each time you add a manager to your company you are increasing the amount of work that has to be done.  Do you have enough staff to keep up with the additional workload?  This article talks about the ramifications of hiring management and how to and how to “liberate your people from the organizational mire”.  Definitely check it out.

The Top 10 Ways to Remove the BS From Your Business →

Guy Kawasaki is a great business leader and is always writing informative articles with lots of great ideas.  I’m all about removing BS from business, and Guy’s tips in this article are spot-on.  One of my personal pet peeves are meetings where more time is spent reviewing what has been done to date as opposed to making decisions on what to do moving forward.  You can send the history in an email, and then dedicate your time to productive brainstorming.  This is just one of the tips he and I both agree on, and there are many others in this great article.

Website Inspiration and More →

I love our website but I’m always looking for new ideas – and I’m also interested in knowing how I can make it better.  Awwwards (punny name) is a great site for getting website design inspiration, but it’s real strength is the fact that you can cheaply submit your own website for review by their teams of experts.  They’ll look over its design, creativity, usability and content and give you scores and recommendations on how to improve it.  Plus, if they like it, it will be featured on their site – increasing the traffic to yours.

72 Interview Questions to Ask a Sales Rep →

One of our own articles, here are a bevy of questions to ask an account executive during an interview.  These questions have been put together over a period of years and don’t just focus on the sales rep’s skills, but also their motivations and cultural preferences.

The Current Ratio – What Does Your Financial Statement Actually Say??

The first article in a series of articles about understanding your financial statements, this entry focuses on the Current Ratio – a ratio used by banks, acquirers and others to understand your ability to pay for short term obligations.  Take a look, and make sure to come back next week for the next installment.

And don’t forget – we write these blogs because we like to share our experience and common interests for business success.  If you have an interest in working with us, be sure to call us or fill out an information request form.  We’re a small business too and depend upon you to help us succeed.

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Chris is Managing Partner of Fair Winds Strategies. Prior to this he was the Chief Innovation Officer at Internet Marketing Ninjas where he managed M&A activity, legal work, and also focused on the use of technology and other solutions to lead innovation and growth. Before IMN, Chris led the sale of his $10mil information technology company, twice an Inc500 fastest growing company in the US, to an investment banking firm in NYC. He has a strong passion for sailing, and had the opportunity to spend two years travelling from Lake Champlain to the southern Bahamas and back with his family.

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