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Four Types Of Business Tools You Haven’t Tried – But Should

Four Types Of Business Tools You Haven’t Tried – But Should

It’s a new year, which means it’s a new chance to take your business to the next level. Now that the initial resolution rush is over, you’re likely left staring at a long list of tasks and goals, without knowing where to start. Don’t worry–this list of business tools has you covered, even in areas you may not have thought about before.

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    Communication

    Communication can make or break your company. The way your business is perceived by customers or clients and potential customers or clients is one of the defining factors in whether you’ll fail or succeed in the long term, and how you and your employees interact with and are reached by people is a huge part of that. Most tips for this area focus on social media and email communications; phone tools often get left out. So with that in mind–

    Free: Google Voice is probably the most useful free solution out there–it will let you create a business number that will redirect to your phone(s) of choice, without you having to plaster your personal phone number all over the internet. It also transcribes your voicemails, which is very handy (when it works right–sometimes the effect is more comical than useful).

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    Paid: Grasshopper is something like a more full-featured version of Google Voice, with the added ability to make the default phone number that people call a toll-free number. If you’re looking to go 110% pro with your business communications, the Hastings Humans are a good place to start–you can have them handle receptionist duties, answer calls 24/7, and take orders from your customers, among other things.

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      Delegating

      Communication is all about how customers are perceiving you; delegation is all about making sure your business is running as efficiently as possible. If you’re trying to do everything, chances are that you’re not getting near as much done as you should be–and the work you’re doing that’s outside your zone of genius is definitely not going to be your best work.

      Free: Unfortunately, free delegation tools are pretty thin on the ground. Delegating is all about getting someone else to do the things that you’re not good at or don’t want to do, and that means you have to pay them.

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      Paid: Two great places to start are FancyHands and Zirtual, both of which come with multiple plans to fit different peoples’ needs. FancyHands is a little more focused on life-related outsourcing, Zirtual is a little more focused on business-related outsourcing. Both of them are geared towards general needs–if you need a specialized task done, check out the contractors at Upwork, oDesk, or the old standby: Craigslist.

      Not sure where to start? Check out these 9 tasks you should be outsourcing and the lazy geek’s guide to outsourcing everything.

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        Security

        Data breaches are big news when they happen to big companies (like the Target fiasco this last Black Friday), but small businesses aren’t exempt by any means. Cyber crime is on the rise and if your business gets attacked, it could be expensive.

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        Free: There are a lot of free ways to increase your security–here’s a list of ways to secure your online privacy. If you and your team members follow all of the steps, you’ll be at least a little bit ahead of the hackers. And if you use WordPress, the Better WP Security plugin is a great place to start.

        Paid: If you manage a team and work largely out of the cloud, CloudEntr can save you from the dreaded “login credentials” spreadsheet that’s rarely updated and is a huge security risk when a team member leaves. One click lets you remove their access, without you having to change every single team account password. Carbonite can help you securely back up your data, and Prey will let you find lost devices before someone uses them to access sensitive data.

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          Productivity

          You probably have tried productivity tools before, of course–what business owner doesn’t want to be more productive? But the usual productivity app lists focus on task management tools, which are great, but not the be-all end-all of productivity.

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          Free: SelfControl will let you block distracting sites (including the productivity black hole that is Facebook) and your email inbox for a predetermined amount of time. IFTTT‘s slogan is “put the internet to work for you,” and it can streamline and automate a lot of your processes using “if this, then that” rules (hence the name). For example, you can set it to email you every time there’s a new result for a search on Craigslist. FocusBooster is a free Pomodoro timer that works on both Mac and Windows, and makes it easy for you to utilize the Pomodoro method of productivity.

          Paid: Zapier is similar to IFTTT, but with more business-related apps available in the library. Concentrate is similar to SelfControl, but lets you set up different routines for different activities (for example, a “writing” routine vs. a “designing” routine). VitaminR is a full-featured tool intended to not only train you into better productivity habits (reducing task switching, for example), but also letting you see data about what conditions lead to peak productivity levels for you.

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          Last Updated on October 18, 2018

          10 Key Characteristics of a Highly Successful Entrepreneur

          10 Key Characteristics of a Highly Successful Entrepreneur

          When it comes to starting your own business and pursuing your dream of becoming an entrepreneur, it can be advantageous to go all in and embrace the flexibility of finally quitting your day job.

          Keep in mind, though, that it takes a special kind of person to take the business world by storm: a person who has cultivated the key characteristics of entrepreneurial success.

          People with these characteristics are likely to succeed, whereas people without them have difficulty moving forward with even the most brilliant business ideas.

          These characteristics of an entrepreneur are so important that I’ve decided to cover all 10 of them in detail so that you can start your business with your best foot forward.

          1. Successful Entrepreneurs Practice Discipline

          Plenty of business experts claim that you can’t get anywhere as an entrepreneur without vision or creativity, but that’s simply not the truth. Instead, the one quality that no entrepreneur can be successful without is discipline.

          To build an idea into a business, you have to have the discipline to spend time slogging through the least fun parts of running a business (like the bookkeeping), rather than taking that time to do something fun.

          Andrew Carnegie, one of the most financially successful Americans of all time, grew up working dull and difficult jobs in factories. Despite going to bed hungry some nights, he continued doing his best work. He was eventually hired by a railroad company and continued to move up the ladder until starting his own successful businesses. Carnegie is a fine example of an entrepreneur dedicated to discipline and hard work. He truly earned his dreams of prosperity and success.

          When you’re the boss, there’s no one to keep you at work except yourself — and there’s no short-term consequences for skipping out early.

          Sure, if an entrepreneur plays hooky enough he knows that the business just won’t happen, but it’s very hard to convince someone that ‘just this once’ won’t hurt (and to keep ‘just this once’ from becoming a daily occurrence).

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          2. Successful Entrepreneurs Keep Calm

          Things go wrong when you run your own business.

          Most entrepreneurs go through crises with their businesses — and more than a few wind up with outright failures on their hands. But when you’re responsible for a business, you have to be able to keep calm in any situation. Any other reaction — whether you lose your temper or get flustered — compounds the problem.

          Instead, a good entrepreneur must have the ability to keep his cool in an emergency or crisis. It may not make the problem easier to solve, but it certainly won’t make it harder.

          Honestly, losing your calm is a quick path to becoming the kind of person who gives up in the face of adversity. Instead giving in to frustration, remember classic entrepreneur Benjamin Franklin.

          Franklin kept his calm as he experimented and tweaked his inventions again and again in pursuit of success. He didn’t give up during his many failures – he chose to innovate. You can choose innovation, too.

          If an entrepreneur can handle failure without frustration or anger, s/he can move past it to find success.

          3. Successful Entrepreneurs Pay Attention to Details

          Restricting your attention to the big picture can be even more problematic than ‘sweating the small stuff.’

          As an entrepreneur, unless venture capital has magically dropped out of the sky, a small expense can be a killer. It’s attention to detail that can make a small business successful when it has competition and it’s attention to detail that can keep costs down.

          Attention to detail can be difficult to maintain — going over ledgers can be tedious even when you aren’t trying to pay close attention — but keeping your eye on a long-term vision is just asking for a problem to sneak in under a radar.

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          After a business grows, an entrepreneur might be able to hire someone to worry about the details. In the beginning, though, only one person can take responsibility for the details.

          Skeptical about the importance of details? Look no further than Howard Schultz, who grew a small coffee shop called Starbucks into one of the most globally successful coffee businesses in the world through his extreme attention to detail.

          He is famous for taking all aspects of growing a business into account, paying attention not only to financially smart business decisions, but also focusing on socially responsible business decisions. Details can take you far.

          4. Successful Entrepreneurs Embrace Risks

          No entrepreneur has a sure thing, no matter how much money s/he stands to earn on a given product. Even if a product tests well, the market can change, the warehouse can burn down and a whole slew of other misfortune can befall a small business.

          It’s absolutely risky to run a business of your own and while you can get some insurance, it’s not like most investment options. Even worse, if something does go wrong, it’s the entrepreneur’s responsibility — no matter the actual cause. In order to deal with all of that without developing an ulcer, you have to have a good tolerance for risk.

          You don’t need to channel your inner frat boy and take on absolutely stupid risks, but you need to know just how much you can afford to risk — and get a good idea of how likely you are to lose it. If the numbers make you uncomfortable, the risk is too great.

          Embracing risks is essential for growth and additional success, as well. Walt Disney, for example, could have stayed comfortable with his advances in the film and animation industries, but decided to expand his brand with a new dream: a theme park that soared above the competition. Without taking this risk, the incredibly successful Disney theme park empire would never have come about.

          An entrepreneur has to be willing to accept pretty big risks, with some level of comfort.

          5. Successful Entrepreneurs are Balanced

          You can take any characteristic too far. There’s a point at which attention to detail can become obsession or calm can become unemotional response.

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          As an entrepreneur, you have to be able to balance your characteristics, getting the most of them without going over the edge. But balance for an entrepreneur goes far beyond keeping your characteristics in check, though.

          Just as an entrepreneur doesn’t have a boss to keep them at work when necessary, they don’t have one to send them home when they’re done. If you are working for yourself, you have to decide how to balance your work and home life — and if you have a day job to add into the equation, balance just gets more complicated.

          Oprah Winfrey, one of the most successful and influential entrepreneurs out there, understands the importance of balance. Winfrey has a lot going on; she runs her own media kingdom, acts, produces films, publishes print, and more. In an interview with Fast Company,[1] she talks about her efforts to balance priorities and self care, saying that she must ask herself what is truly important in each limited day.

          You may or may not have as much on your plate as Oprah, but learning how to balance whatever you have going on in life will certainly help you farther along down the road as you learn to be a great entrepreneur.

          6. Successful Entrepreneurs are Passionate and Motivated

          In order to develop any of the above characteristics, you must have a foundation of passion. Staying disciplined day after day during the building of your business takes unrivaled motivation.

          Before you start any business, ask yourself if you can sustain true excitement about your idea during even the darkest days ahead of you. If the answer is yes, then good for you! Nurture your natural motivation by taking these action steps throughout your business journey:

          • Commit to making short and long-term goals. Check in with them often to stay on task.
          • Have a plan in place for the inevitable days when you feel discouraged. Make a list of things that will help keep you motivated and focused.
          • Share your ideas with trusted individuals who are just as excited as you are. They will help keep your enthusiasm rolling even when you are feeling down.

          By being prepared for apathetic days and holding fast to your authentic passion, you can actually enjoy your journey to success.

          7. Successful Entrepreneurs Adapt

          Remember this one word: flexibility. Seasoned entrepreneurs know that change is not only a part of life, but also a part of the business world. Expect change and choose to adapt.

          As a new entrepreneur, it will be tempting to cling to your original business plan with no exceptions, even if you notice it isn’t working. Good entrepreneurs know that it’s okay to make smart, informed changes in order to ensure efficiency.

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          8. Successful Entrepreneurs are Marketing and Sales Experts

          No matter what kind of business you are starting, a knowledge of marketing and sales will save you many headaches. A passion for creating a beautiful handmade lifestyle product is not enough to run a successful lifestyle brand; it is critical that you understand key business principles in addition to your natural skills or great product line.

          Not sure how to start? Taking business courses is a great idea, but you can also easily brush up on sales and marketing through free online resources. Check out these 10 Sales Skills Everyone Should Master To Be Successful to begin now.

          9. Successful Entrepreneurs Have Strong Money Management

          Along with sales and marketing skills, money management is a very useful tool in the box of the entrepreneur. Understanding how to best manage your money can be the difference between early success and early failure in the business world.

          If money management isn’t your strongest skill, prepare to hire a financial expert to help you with any tricky business that comes up. Financial guidance and knowledge is never a bad idea.

          10. Successful Entrepreneurs Ask Questions and Continually Improve

          Pride is a natural human quality, but it’s important to humbly conduct some constructive criticism every now and again on both yourself as a leader and your new business as a whole.

          Assess how things are going and be willing to make positive changes if necessary. Here’re 15 ways to cultivate lifelong learning.

          If you are always improving, then how can you ultimately fail?

          The Bottom Line

          Let me remind you of one important fact: the qualities of an entrepreneur listed here are not exclusively available to some people and elusive to others.

          Although some people may have natural strengths and weaknesses, these qualities can be learned by anyone interested in taking up the entrepreneurial challenge. It might not be easy to change old habits, but it is absolutely possible to cultivate these characteristics in yourself.

          Whether you’re a business owner or an aspiring entrepreneur, with hard work, you can train yourself to develop the qualities that truly determine the entrepreneurial spirit and future success.

          Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

          Reference

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