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7 Tools and Apps for Managing Your Professional Network

7 Tools and Apps for Managing Your Professional Network

For anyone in a relationship-intensive business, managing professional contacts is extremely important, and can be quite time consuming. The below tools and apps help make managing your professional network more efficient and effective.

1. Rapportive

Rapportive

    Rapportive is a plug-in for Gmail that provides rich contact profiles right in your inbox. Rapportive has a number of benefits. First, it adds color to the generally very dry task of sending and receiving e-mails. Second, it makes it easier for you to research people you’re talking to by providing you with links to all of their social profiles. Third, it helps you find e-mail addresses of people you want to cold e-mail. If you have their e-mail address correct, it will display their profile.

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    2. Yesware

    Yesware

      The primary benefits of Yesware are e-mail tracking and e-mail templating. Yesware tracks the e-mails you send and reports who opened your e-mails, when they opened them, and what links they clicked on. E-mail templates drastically reduce the time you spend sending e-mails. Templates are especially valuable for e-mails you’re sending to multiple people, such as sales e-mails, update e-mails, and general network or pipeline management e-mails.

      3. Doodle

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      Doodle

        Scheduling meetings between busy people can be quite tedious and time consuming, often involving several e-mails back and forth trying to find mutual availability. Doodle streamlines scheduling by providing users with a personal page that displays times at which the user is busy and available. It automatically pulls data from calendars that are synced to it, but respects users’ privacy by only displaying “busy,” instead of displaying the name of the event listed in a user’s calendar. Instead of exchanging several e-mails back and forth to find mutual availability, send your Doodle page, and have your buddy pick a time-slot and add an appointment to your calendar directly from your page.

        4. PrepWork

        Prior to meeting with someone, it’s very important to research the person to find appropriate talking points and avoid wasting their time by asking questions that you can get answers to by searching online. People appreciate when it’s clear that you’ve effectively prepared for the meeting. It can also surface some talking points that you may not have known about, such as past companies they’ve been with, or shared interests outside of work. PrepWork sends you briefing e-mails each morning for each person’s e-mail address stored in an event you have on your calendar for that day.

        5. Job Change Alerts

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        Job Change Alerts

          Job Change Alerts sends you daily e-mail alerts on position and headline changes by your LinkedIn contacts. Building and maintaining professional relationships requires consistent and repeat communication. Learning about someone changing jobs or roles gives a great reason to reconnect with someone by congratulating them.

          6. Newsle

          Newsle

            Newsle sends you e-mails every time your connections are in the press. Newsle is a great way to keep up with what your contacts are doing and gives you a great reason to send someone an e-mail. You could even go the extra mile by sharing the article they were covered in via your Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn page. Promoting your contacts’ work is a great way to be helpful, which is an excellent way to build professional relationships.

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            7. Followup.cc

            Followup.cc helps you avoid forgetting to follow up and stay in touch with people. To build a relationship with someone you need to do more than just meet them once. You need to have repeated contact. Followup.cc allows you to get reminders sent to you as e-mails by sending e-mails to any date, time, or duration of time. For example, putting the address [email protected] in the to, cc, or bcc fields will return the thread to your inbox on August 18. When an e-mail conversation with an important contact comes to an end, I send the thread to [email protected] to get a reminder to re-connect with the person in one month. When sending e-mails that have action required, I blind copy the appropriate time interval to get reminded to follow up. Keep reminders and to-dos out of your head and off of a list that you have to reference back to, and get them in your inbox where they will be at the center of your attention.

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            Published on December 13, 2018

            How to Start a Company from Scratch (A Step-By-Step Guide)

            How to Start a Company from Scratch (A Step-By-Step Guide)

            If you’ve ever thought about starting and running your own business, you’re not alone. Being your own boss, having flexibility with your schedule and keeping more of the financial rewards that come with business ownership are all good reasons to own your own company.

            But as you might expect, it’s not all vacations and fat bank accounts. According to the SBA, 2/3 of businesses survive at least 2 years and approximately 50% survive 5 years.[1] So why is the failure rate so high? At least for the businesses that fail early on, lack of, or poor planning can be a major factor.

            So how to start a company?

            Starting a business from scratch doesn’t have to be hard or complicated, but it does take planning and work. Here are the first and most important 9 steps to take when your are starting a company from scratch.

            1. Do an Honest Evaluation of Yourself

            Do you work better in a structured or unstructured environment? Does a daily routine reduce your anxiety? What kinds of things are you good at? Does public speaking or making presentations make you nervous? Are you good at accounting and numbers? Can you handle the rejections you’re bound to get when selling or cold calling?

            These are all important questions to ask yourself, in fact it’s a good idea to get other peoples opinion about their perception of you in each of these situations.

            Whatever the answers you come up with for your evaluation, remember that’s all it is, an evaluation of where you are now. Think of it as a way to identify both your areas of strength and weaknesses.

            You maybe good at public speaking which can help when raising money, but bad at accounting which just means that you’ll need to find some kind of help with that area of the business.

            2. Evaluate Your Idea

            If your business idea involves a new product or service (or even an enhancement to an existing product or service), it needs to be evaluated. This is technically called market research.

            There are firms that specialize in doing market research for new products, but if you are on a tight budget, you can do this yourself.

            First, if you can build a prototype for people to use, touch and look at that’s the best option. If a prototype is not possible or it’s a service business, then offer a highly descriptive presentation of the business plan complete with it’s unique benefits and how it’s different from the competition.

            Then listen! Remember that this is not about others liking your product, this is not your baby that they are talking about. You want honest market research that gives you the best chance for a successful business. Take notes, when someone tells you that they didn’t like a feature or some aspect of your idea tell them ‘Thank you”.

            After several rounds of market research with different groups of people, you should see patterns emerging about things that they both liked and didn’t like. Use this information to tweak your product or service and do another round of market research.

            Keep in mind that you’ll never come up with a universally loved product, your job is to produce a product or service that appeals to the broadest range of your target market.

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            3. Make a Business Plan

            I know, I know this isn’t the “fun” part of starting your own business, but it is an very important step in creating a successful business!

            Basically, you can think of a business plan as an outline or blueprint of your business. A good business plan should have the following elements:

            • Executive Summary – This should lay out the businesses product or service and the problem that it solves for the consumer.
            • Market Evaluation – This should talk about the market you are serving. Is it an expanding market, and how does your product better fulfill the consumers in that market.
            • Market Strategies – How are you going to penetrate the market and sell your product.
            • Operational Plan – How will the company run from day to day? Who are the key employees and what are their specific rolls. Do your key players have specific goals set for them in advance?

            A final word on making a business plan: while lying is never acceptable especially when you are using the business plan to raise money, it is acceptable to “put your best foot forward”.

            Playing up the positives while minimizing the negatives is almost expected in a business plan.

            Besides, banks as well as professional investors will both do a more in-depth analysis before investing any money into your idea.

            4. Decide on a Business Structure

            You have many options here, and discussing them with your accountant or financial adviser is really the only way to know what’s right for you. But just to give you a quick rundown of the types of business entities and their pros and cons we will briefly go through them:

            Sole Proprietorship

            This is a common way for small businesses to get started.

            The pros being:

            Relatively low costs to set up (usually a business license and sales tax license).Owners normally do not have to set up a special bank account, they are allowed to use their personal one. Any income earned can be offset by other losses (check with your state!). You as the sole proprietor have complete control over all decision making. 

            Finally, sole proprietorship’s are relative easy to dissolve.

            The cons of using a sole proprietorship include:

            You as the sole proprietor can be held personally responsible for the debts and liabilities of the company. Some benefits, such as health insurance premiums, are not directly deductible from business income.

            If you need to raise money, you are not allowed to sell an equity stake in the company. In that same vein, hiring key people maybe more difficult because you cannot offer them an equity stake in the company.

            Partnership

            A partnership is formed when two or more people decide to start a business. Although there is no legal requirement for any documentation to form a partnership, it is my advice that you never enter into a partnership without having a partnership agreement. (Remember, spending $1500 now can save you $150,000 in legal fees later!).

            The pros of a partnership include:

            Being relatively easy and inexpensive to start. Hiring key employees can be easier as you are allowed to give equity ownership to as many partners as you want.

            For tax purposes, partnerships are relative simple as any income is treated as “pass through” meaning that each partner pays tax on their individual portion of the partnerships income (As of this writing, always check with your tax adviser).

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            As far as the cons go:

            It can be difficult for some general partnerships to raise capitol. Because it is a partnership, the actions of one of the partners can obligate the entire organisation. All profits must be shared according to the partnership agreement regardless of the amount of work done by any single partner.

            Some employee benefits may not be able to be deducted on income tax returns.

            Limited Liability Company (LLC)

            This is a very popular business entity for small to medium sized businesses. The reason for this is the cost of set up is not prohibitive and there is a separation between the owners and the company.

            The pros of an LLC include:

            Limited liability for the partners, unlike sole proprietorship’s and partnerships where the owners are held responsible for all of the companies debts and liabilities, an LLC provides some protection against certain debts and liabilities that are solely the companies.

            Simple taxation, just like the sole proprietorship and partnerships, income is considered “pass through” and is only taxed once on an individual level.

            There is no limit on the number of shareholders in an LLC. An LLC requires fewer fillings and administrative requirements than a corporation.

            Corporation

            A corporation is much more complex and expensive to set up. And a corporation is legally considered an independent entity that is separate from its owners.

            The pros of a corporation include:

            Complete separation between the owners and the company. Because the corporation is considered its own legal entity, owners can not be held personally responsible for any debts or liabilities of the company.

            A corporation can raise capital much easier just by selling more shares in the company.

            Cons of corporations include:

            Much higher administrative costs than any other business entity. Corporations generally have a higher tax rate. Dividends are not tax deductible for corporations. Income paid in dividends is taxed twice, once by the corporation and again by the shareholder.

            Again, this is just a short summary of the pros and cons, always check with your tax adviser about what will work best in your situation.

            5. Address Finances

            Again, not one of the “Sexier” parts of starting your business from scratch, but very important nonetheless.

            So, you’ve done your business plan and an estimate of your start up funding should be included. It should include the amount of funding you’ll need to get you through your first full year of operations.

            Now, how do you get that money?

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            Self Funding

            If possible, self funding is the easiest. You won’t have to go to banks and investors with hat in hand, or give up ownership or control of your company. But as we know, this is not a reality for most people. But don’t worry, there are still plenty of options available.

            Friends and Family

            They can be a good source of funding your business if they can see and understand your vision.

            Remember that business plan? Pass them out to everyone you know. Then follow up, be prepared to tell them the total amount of money you expect to raise, the minimum investment you are looking for and what you will give in return for the investment.

            For example, you give a friend your business plan and follow up with him/her a few days later. You can explain that you have secured funding for $80,000 of the $100,000 you need. You are selling a 2% share in the company for every $2,000 investment. How many shares would he like?

            And when he/she tells you no, thank him/her and ask if he/she can think of anyone off the top of his head who might be interested? Tell him/her you really appreciate his/her time and if he/she does come across someone who might be interested to let you know.

            Banks

            These guys are happy to lend you money when you don’t need it, but all of the sudden they get stingy when you actually need a loan! This is where preparation comes in.

            It’s a good idea to go over your business plan with an expert and maybe even have it rewritten by an expert before you approach either a bank or professional investor. Both will want to go over your business plan with a fine tooth comb, verifying all the numbers and data you provide.

            You should also brush up on everything in the plan so that you can answer any questions they have with authority.

            Crowdfunding

            Finally, there is crowdfunding through sites like Kickstarter or GoFundMe. Crowdfunding helps to build interest, community spirit, and a customer base. It’s also an efficient way to raise funds. You can take a look at these tips to find out more:

            6 Crowdfunding Tips To Get Your Project 100 Percent Funded

            6. Register with the Government

            As stated earlier, different types of business entities have different filling and administrative requirements. At the very least, you’ll probably need a business license as well as a state sales tax license.

            Unless you are forming a corporation, there are many good resources on the web that will do everything for you at a minimal cost.

            7. Assemble Your Team

            Remember when we evaluated your strengths and weaknesses? Here is where we fill in the gaps!

            Do you hate sales and cold calling? Great! There are people who love selling and wouldn’t want to do anything else.

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            Bored to death with accounting? There are a ton of small accounting firms out there that will take care of that for you.

            What about marketing? You can hire someone in-house or out-source that too.

            Your job is to keep on top of all the different aspects of the business to make sure they are all running smoothly and getting the results you need. If not, it’s your job to figure out the problem and implement a solution.

            Check out this guide and learn how to delegate effectively:

            How to Delegate Work (the Definitive Guide for Successful Leaders)

            8. Buy Insurance

            No matter what kind of business you start, you need insurance! Yes, I know, no one likes to buy insurance, but it can literally be the difference between having a minor inconvenience and declaring bankruptcy.

            We live in a very litigious time, even a minor slip and fall at your place of business could bankrupt you without insurance. If you need help finding a good agent, check with your local trade organizations or fellow business owners.

            9. Start Branding Yourself

            Has anyone ever ask you for a Kleenex or a QTip? We all know what they are because of branding, Kleenex is just a brand of tissue and QTip is just a brand of cotton swab. It doesn’t have to be as widely known as Kleenex or QTip, but you can make your brand a common name within your niche.

            I once owned a manufacturing company that developed a product that was so popular that my competitors started co-opting my brand name for their products.

            If you aren’t sure how to kickstart branding yourself, check out these ways:

            5 Ways to Build your Personal Brand & Make More Money

            The Bottom Line

            Starting a business from scratch can be one of the most rewarding experiences a person can have.

            But do you know what’s even more rewarding? Having a business that succeeds, is profitable and provides a good source of income for you, your employees and their family’s.

            More Resources About Entrepreneurship

            Featured photo credit: Tyler Franta via unsplash.com

            Reference

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