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Mary Wu, Social Media Consultant

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Category Archives: Small Business

How to “Social” your Media

Memorable_Jaunts_Indian_Women_Entrepreneurs_Feb_2014Karthika Gupta, a photographer I know, recently did a blog post titled “Entrepreneurial Lessons From The Field.” She shares some lessons that she learned from three female entrepreneurs living in India. Karthika pointed out that these women are running businesses without some of the tools that most businesses take for granted, like business cards and websites. However, even without the use of a computer I feel we have lessons to learn from their “social” media.

 

Know your customers. While these three women business owners in India have gotten to know their customers through frequent personal interactions, that might not be an option for people in virtual industries. However, even in our technology driven world, we can understand our customers by trying to understand their needs. We can engage with our clients (and potential clients) on their social media pages. We can subscribe to their newsletters and know what promotions they are offering (and even share those promotions).

If some of your clients live near you, you can get to know them better, perhaps over a cup of tea.  (more…)

Work/Work Balance

IMG_5364There are a myriad of articles about work/life balance. Evie Burke, my productivity coach at One Insight Closer, wrote one; six months ago I wrote one, and if you do a Google search for “work life balance,” you’ll find over 300 million results. Obviously this is a fairly popular topic.

But sometime entrepreneurs may run across an issue with work/work balance. You might be doing work for 2 or 3 clients and working on your own business. It’s wonderful to be busy and doing work for multiple people, but you can’t bring home the bacon without finding time to do invoicing, and the IRS wants you to do your taxes in a timely manner. So how does an entrepreneur achieve a work/work balance?

(more…)

How Can I Find You

Beautiful Girl Looking At A Hand Mirror And SmilingWhen I’m looking for help, whether it be a plumber, a graphic artist, or an oral surgeon, I am the type of person to do background research before making a phone call. If I’m going to be spending my hard-earned money with you, I want to know that you are a knowledgeable and trustworthy businessperson.

“Back in the day” if you wanted to know about businesses, you asked neighbors, friends, and coworkers, or you looked in the Yellow Pages. Now if you want to know about a business, you ask neighbors, friends, and coworkers — except you don’t actually “ask” them in person; you can reach all of your friends, neighbors, and coworkers with one Facebook post. (more…)

What Stays The Same

English: Skidmore College Artstor

English: Skidmore College Artstor (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This morning I was reading the news about a “Gigafactory” that the auto company Tesla will be building by 2020. This is being designed to reduce the costs of the batteries in electric cars. If you’re interested, you can find out more about this in the “Related Articles” section. Earlier this week there was an announcement about the Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute in Chicago (on Goose Island).

We see the huge changes happening in technology in our time (I mean seriously, a refrigerator-sized 3D printer – how cool is that?) We’re looking at these changes on spaceship Earth, traveling at 108,000 km/h. It can, at times, make it seem a little hard to keep up.

Today I’d like to spend a few minutes talking about the things that don’t change. (more…)

What’s Your (On-site) Backup Plan?

Last week we talked about online backupsID-100179303. I’d like to continue that discussion this week with on-site backups.

Type the phrase “how to backup your computer” in Google and you will receive “about 235,000,000” results. I’m going to assume that you don’t want to go and read them all. I listed a few of the more interesting ones in the “Related Articles” section.

Backups are like exercise. There are many articles about how to exercise and when to exercise and why to exercise, but the best exercise for you is the one that you’ll do. It’s the same with backups. We all should be doing them, we all need to be doing them, but unless you find something that you’re going to keep up with, it’s rather useless.

On my current computer I use the Carbonite Mirror Image to backup to a hard drive. This is kept safely off-site (bank safe deposit box). On my former computer (Windows XP), I used a program called Rapid Backup. When I was looking for a backup program for my Windows XP machine, I did my usual method for finding software. I went to Tucows Downloads, typed the appropriate search term in the box, and found a program that was shareware with a high popularity and a high “cow” rating. I love free software, but I also like to know if it’s tested virus and spyware free (as it is on Tucows — but be wary of the ads).

In addition to that, just to make sure I always have (almost) instant access to customer files, I have my “Documents” directory and my “Downloads” directory copied to a thumb drive, which is also held in my bank safe deposit box. (Luckily my bank is 1/4 mile away, and an easy walk or drive).

One thing every person needs to assess is what their most important files are, and make sure that those files are accessible in an emergency.

Related Articles

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

(Oh, and if you think all that I do seems to be too much, I’m sure some of my IT friends would be telling me some steps that even I am missing).

What’s Your (online) Backup Plan?

ID-100179303There’s a quote you may have seen on refrigerator magnets and coffee mugs: “Life is all about how you handle Plan B*.”

A few months ago the next town over had some major flooding. This brought to mind businesses (and individuals) that might not have a backup plan. If you lose your home and your computer and your external disk drive how can you retrieve all of the information you had?

There’s an interesting article from Popular Mechanics  about a test done to data where they took a hard drive and stuck it in salt water for a few days. They were able to send the data to a retrieval service to the tune of $1200 for a normal consumer.  When I look at my hourly rate and compare that to my overhead costs (and I don’t pay rent), I realize that $1200 isn’t really an item I want to make room for in my budget. So TODAY I want you to figure out your backup plan.

This week, we’re going to discuss online backup services, and next week we’ll talk about backing up at home. Something I’m hesitant to admit is that I was …… less than stellar in my backups in my personal life. *ALL* my photos were on my computer AND online in Picasa but everything else (documents, software, etc.) had haphazard backups at best. I’m not proud to admit it – but I realize it’s normal.

There is an ABUNDANCE of information on the Internet about Online Backup and Cloud Storage. Which one is best for you? What’s the difference between Online Backup and Cloud storage? I’ve put a few of the articles that I’ve found most useful at the end of this post. (Let’s appreciate for a moment the number of useless articles and one blatantly plagiarized article I had to muddle through to bring you 4 quality articles.)

But instead of rehashing those articles I’ll tell you what I use (in the online/cloud world) and why.

  1. Google Drive. I’m unabashedly a Google Gal. As I mentioned earlier my photos have been backed up online (for YEARS) in Picasa folders. Google Drive doesn’t only keep files online; you can also share files (with colleagues or clients or friends). For instance, a friend and I are planning a program coming up at our church. Within 5 minutes of planning that I started up a spreadsheet on Google drive and share it with her. It’s a convenient place to put notes and keep things scheduled. And it’s always available as long as you have an Internet connection.
  2. Dropbox. Another online service where you can share files with friends, colleagues, or clients. I’m assisting some clients with an event, and share files on Dropbox is very convenient. Things can be written by one person, proofread by a second person, and edited by a third person.
  3. Carbonite. I could tell you that I went to Carbonite because it ranks highly in most reviews (which it does). I could tell you I chose Carbonite due to the UNLIMITED storage (hard to resist). But what drove me to look at Carbonite was because I kept hearing about it (which either means that people are talking about it, or it means I spend too much time listening to podcasts like Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me or The Nerdist).  (OKAY — once I got there the unlimited thing was quite tempting.)

Next week we’ll talk about backing up your files at home, and there will be a call to action to do SOMETHING to protect your files.

*Me, I’m glad there are 26 letters in the alphabet – because sometimes in life I’ve gone well past Plan B

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Business Card Organization: Make it Easy for Less Than $5.

Among business people and entrepreneurs and solopreneurs there are a few people that are highly organized in all matters. Then there’s the rest of us that struggle with organizing different projects (whether they be files on the computer, photos in the photo directory, or things cluttering the desktop).

In this post, I will not attempt to organize your entire life (though I do know some organization experts), but I will give you some hints on handling business cards. (One small step for an entrepreneur, one giant leap for your desk surface).

First, we’ll need some business cards. That shouldn’t be a problem if you’re out networking. You may have gotten 30 at the last speed networking event you went to.

Next we’ll need two simple items that you most likely have in your home, a Sharpie and some zipper sandwich bags. You might be wondering what these common items might have to do with organizing business cards, but bear with me.

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Before you head out to your networking event (or immediately when you arrive home), write the name of the event you are attending on the sandwich bag. For instance, you can write “Chamber Luncheon” or “Women in Business Breakfast.” While you are at the event (or when you leave), place all the cards from that event in the sandwich bag.

You might be asking, “Why am I putting these in a bag?” Remember what I said earlier about those of us that are less organized? If you are the type of person that ends up with a purse, pocket, or briefcase full of cards at the end of the week, and you don’t remember where they all came from (it happened to me in a former business venture), you will appreciate having them grouped by occasion.

Now that you’ve gotten home and you have all your cards in appropriate “files” (even though the files are, for now, sandwich bags), you can arrange them as best suits your needs. I have a Google Drive Spreadsheet file listing the name of the contact, all their information, and the event and date where I met them.* After you have entered all the information, you can take your business cards and put them in a small business card file, you could dispose of them (since you have the information), you can put them in an attractive basket on your desk, or you can do what I do and put them in the plastic shoe box. (Confession time, the reason I put mine in a plastic shoe box is because we use those for organizing many things in my household, so there’s always one or two extras around here; plastic shoe boxes are not required).

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There have been a few times when a number I don’t know has shown up on my caller ID, and a quick look at my spreadsheet has helped me identify the person calling.

Next week, we’ll talk about what to do with the contacts once you’ve entered the business cards.

*If you’re using an iPhone or Android app to “file” your business cards, it’s still a good idea to make a note of when and where you met a person.

Help is always given to those who ask

ID-10069211This week I’ve celebrated National Small Business Week by writing about 5 different entrepreneurs. They are all wonderful people and I’m glad to have them in my corner.

But you may ask, “What if I want to hang my own shingle, who can help me out?” You may also ask, “I’ve already got my business but I need some extra help.” Well I’d like to share a well-kept secret for you.

The US Government – you know, those folks in Washington that tend to waste our time and our money – every now and then they manage to get something right. One of the things they’ve managed to get right is to have two different groups under the umbrella of the U.S. Small Business Administration. One is SCORE (which used to be Service Core of Retired Executives but they changed the name after they determined it makes the advisors sound too old) and the Small Business Development Centers.

Both services offer volunteer mentors, both services offer business counseling and both offer free or inexpensive workshops or webinars. SCORE seems to have a website that’s easier to navigate.

One thing to remember about both of these services is since they are under the umbrella of the Small Business Administration, part of the funding comes out of your tax dollars. So if you’re a tax paying citizen, you’ve ALREADY paid for them.

Remember, when you’re staring at the blank business plan or you’re down to your last cup of coffee, call the Small Business Development Center or SCORE. They’re from the government and they’re here to help you.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

The Magic’s in the Music

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This week I’m celebrating National Small Business Week. I’m going to take the 5 “work” days of the week and give 5 “shout outs” to local small businesses. John Donne said that “No Man is an Island,” and this is more than true in business. Even a solopreneur (an entrepreneur who works alone) needs a support team; collaborators, brainstorming partners, or someone to tell them to keep on keeping on when they’re staring at an empty cup of coffee and a blank idea sheet.

What does the life of a typical musician look like. Well I actually have no idea but for one musician her life looks like, Director of Children’s Choirs at her church, instructor at two high schools, private lesson in her home, instructor at a nearby community college, playing with a small combo, not to mention continually learning through classes and private lessons and playing with the local symphony orchestra.

(Excuse me while I go take a nap)

For any business, be it a coach or a gift basket designer or a photographer or a graphic artist or a musician, when you look at what they do and think “gee, that looks easy” remember many hours go into perfecting any craft or skill. So even if you don’t need use of someone’s particular skills, keep your eyes and ears open, because you just might know someone that needs some gifts or music or design or coaching or accounting services or contracting or … and if you know and trust someone, refer your friends to them.

 

Graphic Greatness

This week I’m celebrating National Small Business Week. I’m going to take the 5 “work” days of the week and give 5 “shout outs” to local small businesses. John Donne said that “No Man is an Island,” and this is more than true in business. Even a solopreneur (an entrepreneur who works alone) needs a support team; collaborators, brainstorming partners, or someone to tell them to keep on keeping on when they’re staring at an empty cup of coffee and a blank idea sheet. 486853_4633643880534_1113124574_n

Today I’d like to give a shout out to part of the graphic design group of my church (and my life, and all of Naperville), Suzanne Wills of Suzanne Wills Design AND Buffington Design and Illustrations.

Suzanne is from Ireland and I think some of the magic of that island has followed her here to the states. Suzanne is self-employed, helping people with design and illustrations and websites (she did my logo so we know she’s fabulous). She also works for a design firm. She ALSO helps out a local friend who had a family change in their print shop. She ALSO sets up the graphics for worship services. She’s ALSO an avid gamer and a runner and a bass player. So I’m fairly convinced that she has a time turner hiding somewhere so she can manage it all.

Sometimes the small business owner inspires us simply by us being able to look and say “if she can do all THAT, surely I can make a few follow up calls.”

Suzanne, thanks for the logo, thanks for the inspiration, and I owe you a Guinness.