In the thralls of startup battle, efficient teams figure out how to maximise their precious resources. Bootstrapping time, money and personnel effectively can be the difference between the teams that survive to battle another day, and the ones that don’t. In this chaos we call entrepreneurship, tools can provide infinite value, and finding the ideal tools can be the “saving grace.”
By the way, I watched a lot of Independence Day war movies this weekend, and it clearly rubbed off on my writing.
Recently, I created a private Facebook group for startup founders. We share insights and ideas, answer questions and work together to get better at entrepreneurship. The question, “What is one tool you couldn’t live without?” was asked last week. These are some of the responses to that question.
1. Bidsketch – my recommendation
This tool has saved me hours of compiling and creating proposals for my digital marketing company. Plus, I can see when a proposal is viewed, and can have the client sign digitally.
2. Awesome Screenshot Tool – recommended by Naomi Simenoff Gold
“I use it for product troubleshooting, screenshot pics for my blog and a bunch of other activities. I use it hundreds of times a day.”
I use this tool all of the time too, especially when grabbing screenshots of my Entrepreneur articles trending number one on the site (thanks to all of you)!
3. Invision – recommended by Cassy Bee
“It helps me rapidly prototype, collaborate and get feedback from others on designs, features, etc. It’s great for quick mockups.”
Invision is my favourite tool of the year. I use it all of the time, and it’s super beneficial when you’re testing an app idea vs. guaging interest pre-development.
“For obvious reasons!”
I don’t personally drink coffee, but I consume one to two gallons of water per day. I live by this motto: if I’m not hydrating, I’m dehydrating. (There’s a sarcastic undertone in that statement.)
Visit any of your local Starbuck’s or Pete’s, or 7-Eleven if you’re real desparate.
5. Evernote – recommended by Raakesh Sharma
“Brilliant to capture anything, anytime.”
Check it out here.
6. Lead Pages – recommended by Donna Wassing
“It’s fun, creative and useful for creating landing pages.”
7. Dropbox – recommended by Mark Novosel
“It backs up everything and has saved me in the past when I’ve deleted a file version on my computer that I still needed!”
I use Dropbox when organising web and mobile app projects, sharing files and helping my mom build her startup (Seriously. I have a post coming that addresses this topic).
8. Product Hunt – recommended by Terry Li
“A curation of the best new products.”
Product Hunt is great not only to find new tools, but you can use it to see what type of new products are being released to the wild for your own product development knowledge. It helps give a good pulse on the tech space.
9. Basecamp – recommended by Allan Clinton
“We use it daily. Without it, project management would be difficult.”
10. Pen and paper – recommended by Rakesh Govan
“Sometimes the most complex ideas and strategies are formulated using these tools.”
I use pen and paper for web design mockups, taking notes with clients and mocking up my dream home.
11. Wrike – recommended by Braden Kale Heckman
“I trialed 44 different solutions for project management and Wrike is the very best!”
Might as well take Braden’s word for it – 44 trials is a lot.
12. Slack – recommended by Emily Butler
“Slack is the best tool, ever, for collaboration.”
Emily has never exaggerated in her life.
13. QuickBooks – recommended by Crystal Manias
“I’d have no idea who owes me what, or how my company is actually doing without it.”
I used to use QuickBooks, but now just use Bidsketch and Paypal.
14. Gunnar glasses – recommended by Dilyar Askar
“Gunnars to protect my eyes from long hours of working online.”
I’ve heard good things, but have never used them personally.
15. Music – recommended by Peter Fishering
“My music, Jeff Lorber Fusion, Ronnie Laws, Miles Davis, The System and so many others.”
I love music when I’m working. I have a much different taste. I listen to Pandora, SoundCloud and Spotify all throughout the day.
16. My dog – recommended by Ariane Stekol
“Maybe not a tool (per se), but definitely my dog. Someone needs to look at you with love and belief knowing that you can do it.”
Ariane is totally right. I love my dog too, and early on, she was my company’s mascot. So go rescue a dog at your nearest pound!
It’s been said that the journey is just as rewarding as the destination. I believe this holds true with startups. Yes, it can be a vicious battlefield out there iterating the perfect product, finding the elusive trove of users, uncovering the cache of paying customers, negotiating with sophisticated investors and managing and leading partners and employees, but it’s your battle. Learn how to enjoy every moment of it, and the battle will provide you peace.
You can request an invite to my private Facebook group here with more than 6,000 other entrepreneurs honing their skills, providing strategy insight and sharing battle stories.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
How to Calculate the True Monetary Value of Your Time
As an entrepreneur, your time is precious. To protect it, you must know exactly what it’s worth.
Do you know the value of your time? Ken Segall, creator of Apple’s famous ‘Think Different’ ad campaign for agency Chiat/Day, said he got thrown out of a meeting once by the founder of his agency, Jay Chiat.
“Why are you here?” he asked Segall and the art director, who’d shown up with everybody else. “We’re just responding to the invitation,” said Segall. Chiat told them to get lost. “Go create something,” he said.
Jay Chiat knew the value of his creative people’s time. He knew it wasn’t worth it for them to go into that meeting when they could be putting together the next big ad campaign. They were more valuable to the company doing the creative work that made it run than attending a meeting.
That’s what knowing the value of your time can do for you; it tells you what’s most important. Time is the one resource all of us have, but it’s also painfully finite in nature. You can’t bank it — all you can do is invest it wisely.
As an entrepreneur, if you don’t know the true monetary value of your time, how are you going to prioritise your business and your life? What does it take to find the monetary value of your time?
Invest your time
Be aware that your time is likely to appreciate in value. If you’re a founder or running a successful business, your time’s value will increase as your business does. Sooner or later, the monetary value of your time is going to surpass the importance of money. It’ll be more important for you to invest your time in moving the business forward because your time is going to be worth more. So, invest your time on process early, lest you spend it later putting out fires.
Crunch the numbers
Entrepreneur James Clear decided to approach this problem systematically — he talked to everyone from poker players to executive coaches to figure out what the optimal method of measuring his time’s value was.
Then, he sat down and tracked every hour for three months. The upshot of that time investment was a very clear process that you can use to lay out what your time is worth.
First, figure out the amount of time you spend to earn money. That’s not just time spent working. Are you commuting? That’s time you’re using towards work that’s not going elsewhere. School? That counts. Drop the kids off at school? Add it on.
If it’s related to the time you spend earning money, add it on. Clear’s estimate guesses that most full-time employees and entrepreneurs spend around 2 500 hours a year on this (his exact estimate for himself came out to 2 742).
Then, figure out how much you earn in take-home pay per year. That calculation should be pretty simple, though if you’re a business owner, it’ll be a little more complex as you figure out taxes and withholding.
Divide your total earnings by the hours you spend to earn it. That’s your time’s value.
Surprised? It’s probably lower than you expected, especially if you calculated the extra hours devoted to things like dropping of kids at school or commuting accurately. We don’t often think of our work value in terms of total hours spent.
Create a system of checks and balances
You don’t want to just rely on that, though. Maybe you’re being underpaid (or underpaying yourself, if you’re an entrepreneur — don’t laugh, it’s more common than you think). Maybe another factor is throwing it off, or your math has an error.
Consider a few other factors:
- What do other people make to do your job?
- What would you pay someone else to do your job?
- What could you make on the open market if you were to go find another job?
Run those numbers against each other to determine an average. For entrepreneurs, this changes everything. Once you understand this number, it’ll change the way you approach everything in your business and your life.
Know what your own time is worth. Remind yourself of it constantly. If you do, you’ll find yourself more productive, more efficient, more satisfied, and more successful.
So, what are you waiting for? Invest wisely.
(Infographic) 9 Productivity Mistakes You’re Making In The First 10 Minutes Of Your Day
From setting goals to drinking coffee, these bad morning habits might surprise you.
There are a number of things you’re probably doing every morning that are actually hindering your productivity.
If you’re an avid coffee drinker, you might be surprised to find out that drinking coffee between 8 and 10 a.m can make you more stressed throughout the day. That’s because caffeine early in the morning interferes with the time that the stress hormone, cortisol, is peaking in your body. It’s best to get your fix between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
When you get into the office and try to jump right into the top of your to-do list, you might find yourself confused and not very productive. When you don’t let your brain empty and refresh before starting a project or task, it loses a sense of control, becomes overwhelmed and ultimately, makes you less productive. Something else to avoid is checking email or social media right when you wake up. Typically, after checking your inbox, it takes a person at least 25 minutes to get back into a productive state. If you start your day off reading and responding to email after email, it will take you a long time to get back on track.
Another surprising mistake is setting self-imposed goals. Setting goals and deadlines for yourself might seem like an obvious productivity hack, but it turns out, that’s not the case. Instead, share your deadlines with others and you’ll feel more pressure and responsibility to get things done.
Check out resume.io’s infographic below for more productivity mistakes you’re likely making in the first 10 minutes of your day.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
Workflow And Business Efficiency – 5 Strategies You Ignore At Your Peril
Emails alone don’t cut it as an efficient way to communicate with team members. You’re not still depending on email, are you?
An inefficient business can cost you a lot more than just growth – it can affect your revenue, too. According to a report by IDC, your business runs the risk of losing 20 to 30 percent of your revenue due to inefficient systems.
Unfortunately, many companies still struggle to implement the right systems to improve their workflow. Others have it worse, because they have no systems. In those situations, projects take ages to be completed, more time is spent on menial tasks and teams never seem to get enough done during work hours.
If that describes your company, your company’s profits may start to plummet, too.
Every successful business, then, has clearly defined systems to help the business run like clockwork. Improved workflow, better management and business efficiency save time, increase the bottom line and ensure a higher profit margin.
In fact, in an article on ContractZen, Tim Cummins, president of the International Association for Contract & Commercial Management, wrote that, “The average corporation could boost its bottom line by almost 10 percent if it invested in improving the quality of contracting.
For many companies – especially those in more complex, project-based industries – the prize could be much higher – perhaps as much as 15 percent.”
Related: Become A Life-Hacker
Unfortunately, some companies fail to provide systems that put users first, taking a negative toll on those companies’ workflow and efficiency. The good news is that they’re only five strategies away from turning this around:
1. Automate all you can
From email lists, bookkeeping, invoicing and contract management, to social media posts and payrolls, almost everything can be automated. For a business that aims to be more efficient, automation is a must.
Automation doesn’t just save you time, it can be the one strategy that can guarantee explosive growth and higher conversion rates. According to this Lead Generation Marketing Effectiveness study, 63 percent of companies polled that were outgrowing their competitors said they had automated their marketing.
Automating monotonous tasks that have to be repeated several times during the day helps you be more productive in tasks that require your personal attention.
2. Invest in customer-relationship management software
It’s not uncommon to find businesses that are barely able to keep up with their leads. Some waste hours hunting the low-quality leads instead of focusing their energy on those ready to buy. Here, a customer relationship management (CRM) solution linked to these businesspeople’s network phone system is a great way to enhance customer communications.
Customers value businesses that provide excellent customer service. A CRM solution increases the ability to keep track of customer information, monitor leads and provide efficient delivery. Businesses can provide for their customers’ needs faster and make effective business decisions. With CRM, businesses can also keep their focus on quality leads that will drastically improve conversion rates.
3. Set up a task-management system
Emails alone don’t cut it as an efficient way to communicate with team members. Email makes it difficult to carry everyone along. However, setting up task-management software like Slack, Trello or Asana makes it much easier to have everyone’s tasks in one place and ensure that everyone is carried along in the project.
Task-management software helps members of a team track their progress and ensure that everyone is working on their tasks.
4. Sync your calendar with that of everyone else on your team
How many times have you had to reschedule appointments because you didn’t know you had other meetings lined up for the day?
Aside from leaving negative impression in clients’ mind, this error makes you less productive. Having to go back and forth until you have settled on an appropriate date can be cumbersome especially when different time zones are involved. So, do this instead: Sync your personal calendar with your work calendar, and make sure that everyone in your team is synced to the latter, too.
This will ensure sure that everybody is “on the same page” in terms of appointments and deadlines. Google Calendar can help you do just that. Once everyone is synced up, any change in the calendar will be seen by everyone so they can manage their own appointments.
5. Block out chunks of time
Constant interruptions hamper your workflow. Imagine having to deal with turning over a project on a deadline while you’re stuck in a series of meetings throughout the day. It can get very difficult to focus on completing your most urgent tasks.
Block out chunks of time on your calendar for uninterrupted work. It’s better to schedule a series of meetings in one day than to spread them throughout the week.
If you’re creating content, block out one day to create all the content you’ll use for the week. That way your business will run more efficiently.
Related: 3 Reasons You Should Embrace Change
Wrapping it up
With the right strategies, you can turn your business around to make it efficient and lucrative. Automating your processes, setting up the right software and remaining focused on the tasks at hand will go a long way to help you do this. But just as with every good strategy, you need to remain consistent and give it time to do its magic.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.