Top 10 Productivity Tools for Entrepreneurs

As an entrepreneur, your time is very valuable. With endless tasks and to-dos, and countless distractions on a daily basis, don’t you wish you could get more done? These productivity tools, apps and services will help keep you focused on your goals without losing your mind.

  1. StayFocusd is an extension for Google Chrome that will help you work uninterrupted. StayFocusd keeps your attention from straying towards distracting websites, apps and activities.
  2. OffTime helps you manage the time you spend online. OffTime automatically unplugs your connection to online distractions so you can spend more time on the important things.
  3. Calendly is an online productivity tool that makes it much easier to connect with contacts to schedule meetings, calls, or interviews. So you can skip the emailing back and forth and set your meeting with just a few clicks.
  4. Inbox When Ready for Chrome keeps your inbox out of sight by default so you can focus on getting work done rather than being distracted by email notifications.
  5. Boomerang is a Gmail add-on that schedules when you send and receive emails. This tool also reminds you to follow up with previous emails and hides messages in your inbox until you need to see them.
  6. Todo Cloud is a task management service that allows people to collaborate on things they need to do. Todo Cloud integrates calendars, contacts, emails and geolocation services to boost your productivity.
  7. Google Drive gives you 15GB of free cloud storage to save photos, videos, music, files, pdfs, presentations, spreadsheets, and any other digital documents. You can access these files anywhere, anytime, from any device. You can also keep these documents private or you can share them with contacts.
  8. RescueTime analyzes your daily habits and tells you when you’ve been too distracted. This productivity app updates you on how much time you’ve spent on different websites, doing certain tasks, how much you’ve accomplished and if you’ve achieved your productivity goals.
  9. MeetEdgar organizes and republishes your best content across connected social media channels to drive more traffic to your website. MeetEdgar automatically posts status updates and shares content at pre-determined times each day.
  10. OneTab for Chrome is an extension for Chrome to reduce browser clutter. It frees up to 95 percent of memory by converting all of your tabs into a list instead of a bunch of loading pages. You can restore the list as individual items or as a whole anytime you’d like.

Start using these tools, apps and services to work, play and live better!

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How to Create a Social Media Plan – Part 2

  1. What is the budget for your social media plan?

Most business owners invest their time rather than money into social media. A study shows that businesses spend $10k or less on social media per year. Although most social media is free, it’s important to still reserve a percentage of your marketing budget for social media. Review your marketing plan and budget, and integrate your social media plan into it.

  1. Who is going to implement your social media plan?

Before you decide to be the one implementing your small business’s social media plan, ask yourself how many free hours you have on a weekly basis. You also need to be aware that social media is one of the biggest time-sinks ever invented. It can be easy to get hooked on social media and spend too much of the time you don’t have. Think seriously about your time commitments and decide whether or not you want to take on the task of putting your social media plan into action.

Once you’ve answered these five questions, you will be ready to start figuring out how to use social media to accomplish the goals you’ve set for your social media plan.

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Entrepreneurial Resiliency

A few years ago an article entitled “SME’s were the light in the recession storm” was published by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.

In spite of providing interesting insight on the position of small businesses during tough economic times, one term in particular stood out to me when reading the article: “Entrepreneurial Resilience”.

Anyone that has completed research on small business start-up will come across questions such as:

  • Are you adaptable?
  • Do you like to make your own decisions and try your own ideas?
  • Do you make sound judgments?

Having resiliency from the moment of becoming an entrepreneur is key; as you cannot predict what will come your way, whether in the economy or specific to industry.

As a small business owner, you are the manager of every department. As difficult as it may be to separate personal life and business life (which can be a fine line for an entrepreneur, and even employees) tough decisions need to be made with careful consideration.

But according to this article, entrepreneurs have succeeded in making strategic decisions to preserve their goals and mission statements, although noting that some small businesses “did not come out unscathed”.

Resiliency

In the early stages of business start-up you must be sure to control what you can to optimize resiliency:

  •  Stress relief (sleep and eat well, exercise)
  •  Make personal time ( for hobbies or spending time with friends and family)
  •  Set your core goals (your business plan will help you define this)

When doing additional research on entrepreneurial resilience, I came across an interview with Sara Blakely, owner of Spanx. Her personal testimony of resilience discusses how to rise up from challenges, especially in the beginning stages of business start up.

Blakely’s story emphasizes how staying grounded, being persistent and receiving motivation from those around you will allow you to achieve your dreams.

To read both articles, please visit:

SME’s were the light in the recession storm (Canadian Federation of Independent Business)
Sara Blakely on Resilience (Entrepreneur.com)

 

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How to Create a Social Media Plan – Part 1

You many have social media accounts for your business, but are you using them to their full potential? Social media for business is meant to connect with your customers and increase your sales. To get the most out of it, you have to have a plan.

Ask yourself the following questions to create a social media plan that will benefit your business best.

  1. What social media is the best fit for your business?

You don’t have to have a presence on every form of social media; you have to have a presence on the ones your target market is using. A great way to find out is to just ask. If you get a lot of traffic on your website, create an online survey or ask them as they leave your store to get the most accurate respone. Entice customers with prizes or other tangible benefit to fill out the survey. Once you know which ones are used more frequently, create accounts if you haven’t already and familiarise yourself.

  1. What are you social media goals?

Now that you’ve determined which social media is the best fit for your business and you’ve created accounts, you need to decide what your purpose is for being there. Do you want to use social media to; increase your referrals or leads, build on your word-of-mouth, increase sales, become known as an expert, provide customer service? Once you decide, set one or two specific goals that can be measured and prioritize them.

  1. How will you measure the success of your social media plan?

This is a step that is often left out. What good is all your effort if you don’t track and measure the success of your social media? Success is measured by the cost and return on investment (ROI), the same as any other marketing efforts. To make measuring return on investment easier, use your social media account to drive your target market to your website then analyse your website statistics. Google Analytics is a great tool that makes it easy to see how your site engagement goals are being met.

To be continued…

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Building your Brand Online

Today online presence is an important part of a successful business. Without it, you are disconnected from a lot of potential customers.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when you’re building your online brand.

  1. Have a vision for your brand.

Think you have a great business idea? Be confident in what you have to offer and have a clear vision and plan for where you want your business to go in the years to come.

  1. Choose a unique brand name.

Choosing a name that is long, hard to pronounce or doesn’t relate to your business is a common mistake. Choose a brand name that will stand out and be memorable.

  1. Get help with your website.

Setting up your business website properly is key to getting your business out to customers. Leave it to the experts, it may seem like an expense, but it will save you time and money in the long run.

  1. Send out a clear message.

It is important to be active on social media like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, but make sure you keep things relevant to your business. Keep your business and personal social media sites separate.

  1. Google yourself.

Google is the most common search engine, so Google yourself and see where you rank. If your website doesn’t show up on the first page, there is a good chance you won’t be seen. This is where SEO and setting up your website properly comes into play.

  1. Proofread your copy.

Don’t underestimate the importance of proofreading your content before publishing. Not only does it make your business look unprofessional, but it also reflects poorly on your brand.

  1. Mention others.

The purpose of social media is to network with others so use it to build a friendly and supportive community where you can share information instead of pushing your product or service.

  1. Mention what you have to offer.

On the other hand, don’t assume people know what you do, especially if you have a unique brand name. Make sure what you have to offer is clear on your website and all social media.

  1. Join the conversation.

Customers like to see a personal side to the business. Engaging in discussions is an effective way to promote your product or service without seeming pushy.

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How to register for a BN and BIN number

There are many steps to complete when opening a small business in Ontario. Two of the steps which solidify your business operation are obtaining a Business Number (BN) and a Business Identification Number (BIN). Depending on a variety of reasons (including your location), registering online for these two numbers may be a more convenient process.

Firstly, you might be thinking “what is the difference between a BN and BIN number?” According to Canada Revenue:

The Business Number (BN) is a 9-digit business identifier used in Canada to which businesses can register program accounts with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).

The Business Identification Number (BIN) is a 9-digit number used by the Ontario Ministry of Consumer and Business Services to identify provincial business accounts and should be used for communications with the Ontario government about your business.

Obtaining a BN Number

A BN number is obtained through Canada Revenue. During business start-up, you will most likely need to register with Canada Revenue for either GST/HST registration, and/or as an employer to hire employees. Canada Revenue Agency maintains an online service to register for this number. You may wish to first complete the online checklist to make sure you have all prepared to register for your BIN number.

Obtaining a BIN number

A BIN number is obtained when you register your business name through Service Ontario. Registering a business name is an important step to complete early on. Service Ontario offers an online search and registration function which individuals registering as a sole proprietor or partnership can utilize. Business Name registration costs $68 (including name search). At this time you will receive a Master Business License (MBL), which will have the BIN number. A BIN number can be used as proof of business registration.

For more information on BN and BIN numbers or to register, please visit Service Ontario

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Starting a Business: The First 90 Days

Once your door is open, the first 90 days of being in business set the foundation for success, make them count!

Here’s what to expect during the first three months of business;

First Customer – You aren’t in business until you have your first customer. This should be a priority during your start-up. Reach out to other business owners, friends, and family for referrals.

Master Selling – Sales are essential for business success. Take time to learn and apply new selling skills, using those new skills to close the deal with customers.

Make a Profit – Without profits your business will fail. Determine when your business will start to make profit and ensure your focus is on making profit.

Evaluate Pricing – During the first three months in business your assumption about prices to charge and expected profit will be challenged with reality. Take a good look at your price strategy. Don’t make the common mistake of offering the lowest price.

Set Quarterly Goals – It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day. Set short term goals to keep your business on track. Attaining these goals can mean the difference between failure and survival.

Reward Yourself – Recognise the energy and time spent to get your business off the ground and reward yourself. Taking time away from your business will recharge your motivation and ensure success for the next 90 days.

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