A Simple Way to Stay Organized

This weekend, we tackled a huge project – we moved from one webhost provider to another. What made it especially complex, was we had to factor in multiple domains, websites, and email accounts. Since some of the websites belonged to our clients, we also had to be mindful of minimal downtime.

We thought we were being clever scheduling this webhost migration on Super Bowl weekend. Maybe not such a good idea when your football loving husband is your IT guy. Luckily, he timed everything just right, so he could still watch the game.

Whilst we were in the midst of exporting and importing all the critical files, I constantly needed to log in to the various webhost providers, websites, and email accounts. There was no time to run around looking for the right usernames and passwords. Everything I needed was always at my fingertips.

You will probably laugh when I tell you what’s my secret for staying so organized. I use a recipe box. Yep, that’s it. Just a simple little 6” x 3” recipe box I bought at Office Depot. Inside is a stash of index cards. My cards are filed in alphabetical order and include details on everything needed to run our business. “Zoom” is the program we use for our videoconferencing. It’s filed under “Z” and includes: the website URL, our login information, details on our different meeting rooms, and even the dial-in number and pin for telephone attendees. Just one little index card contains everything needed to effectively use Zoom.

Up until now, my recipe box has been the best way I’ve found to stay organized. With so many different internet accounts to keep track of, having this easy-to-use system has been great. However, as much as I love my recipe box, I am now embarking on a change. This month I will be heading to Spain for 3 weeks on a working holiday. As I work from abroad, I will need access to all the note cards in my recipe box, but since I’m traveling light, the box has to stay home.

So now, I’m in the process of taking all the index cards in my recipe box and putting them online. To do this, I’m using the Apple Notes app. If you’re a Mac user, you might already be familiar with Notes, a standard program on every iPhone, iPad, and Mac computer. What you might not be aware of, is that Notes automatically syncs across all your Apple devices. Once I discovered that nifty feature, I began to see Notes in a whole new light.

The more I began using Notes, I saw it had some other features I wasn’t aware of. Like the ability to organize all your notes into separate folders. I learned that notes can contain more than just text. Notes can include photos, drawings, and even hypertext links. Also, if you’re a Siri user, you can have her type your notes. Simply activate Siri and tell her “Take a note.” Siri will ask, “What do you want the note to say?” Just start dictating and when you’re done, you’re even given an option to make edits. Cool huh? It’s like having your own virtual assistant.

The best Notes feature I discovered, is you can secure access to any given note by locking it. When a note is locked it can only be unlocked if you type in the password your previously entered or use Touch ID (if you have one of the newer iPhone models). Making a note secure is a really good idea if it contains confidential information you wish to keep private. As I’m transferring all my business-related index cards into Notes, I am making them all password protected.

It’s nice when you can find simple solutions to working with today’s complex technology. I have found that the more organized I am, the more productive I become. I count my lucky stars that I no longer have to scramble around looking for passwords and other key information. I guess you could say that my little black recipe box + Notes is the secret sauce for staying organized.

If you would like to learn more about working with Apple’s Notes, I highly recommend reading this excellent article: Notes App: The Ultimate Guide. It contains everything you need to know to become a Notes Ninja.

P.S. Just in case you’re wondering, the migration from one web host provider to another was successful. Although it was a lot more complicated that we thought it would be. The trickiest part was all the email accounts. Luckily, since it was Super Bowl Sunday, I think everyone was so interested in watching the game, they didn’t notice the down-time. Touchdown!

By Gillian Whitney

Communications Consultant



Coaching A Dinosaur

One often expects that all business people are savvy with technology tools. But as I have been coaching entrepreneurs, I am often surprised to learn that it is not always true. Many are still living in the dinosaur age, the age before today’s technology. Some still use outdated phone devices to communicate for business. Or even if they have a smart phone, they are not harnessing all the benefits it offers.

One of the biggest issues is struggling with technology tools and its vocabulary and how it all fits together. It is hard keeping up with the evolution when you are busy running a business. Without that knowledge, how can your business run efficiently, so you can save money and get more customers? An additional downside is that it also can hurt your everyday life as well. Less time for family, less money, and less time for you. What do you do?

I just had a coaching session with someone who is starting a business and discovered he was still using a flip phone. I found out in an extraordinary way. I was sending him text messages and he wasn’t getting them. I didn’t think to ask in advance if he had texting. After a chuckle with each other, my first advice was for him to take the leap to an iPhone. What will his iPhone do for him that was never going to be available on the flip phone?


A Smart Phone will help him be more productive:

  1. Access the wide world web anytime, anywhere
  2. Access his emails – multiple platforms both personal and business
  3. Access social media sites and allow him to post on the fly
  4. Project and time management apps
  5. Respond to messages of customers quickly with text, emai,l and Facebook Messenger
  6. Use Google Maps so he doesn’t miss an appointment by getting lost
  7. Take photos and videos and upload them to social media sites
  8. Take notes
  9. Record audio
  10. Watch webinars and online courses
  11. Listen to podcasts
  12. And more……

It will help him develop his business faster. His response to this list, “Holy Cow, where have I been?” After he purchases his phone, I suggested he ask a friend, a peer who has one, to teach him how to use the new phone. I recommended he not ask the young nephew to help. His nephew only knows this world and may not be able to help a dinosaur become evolved. When my client asks, “What is Siri?”  the nephew will probably say “you’re kidding, right?”

Keep in mind the flip side benefit of this. Many of his customers are using smart phones. If he doesn’t understand their experience how will his marketing reflect connecting with them using the same technology. His email platform and website should all be designed for a Smart Phone experience.

What’s the takeaway? Learn. Listen to podcasts. Watch YouTube training videos.  Get an up to date phone. Find out about apps that will make your business easier. Make sure your marketing can be viewed correctly on your customer’s phone.

Keeping current on technology developments and how to apply them to your business is critical. Don’t be a dinosaur. It will COST YOU Money in Sales.

P.S.  Quick story. I was just traveling to California from Arizona. Stopped for our last gas stop before we crossed the border. I pulled up my trusty “Around Me” app on my phone and figured out who had the cheapest gas. It was a difference of 50 cents per gallon. Your phone can save you money every where you look.

By Janet Elie

Internet Marketing Specialist



December is National Write Your Business Plan Month!

Is Your 2018 Business Plan Finished???

We are two weeks away from 2018 and besides St. Nick checking to see if we have been naughty or nice (kidding), he is finishing up his business plan for 2018. Are you?  If I asked for a show of hands on who has not, my guess is that many people would raise their hand and say, not yet. These are the most common responses: “Too busy now”, “I will get to it later in January”, or “Its really not that important”. Lots of other reasons I am sure. But, it is one of the most crucial things we as business people need to do every year. Here is my perspective on it and from someone who has faithfully completed a business plan every year before January. By doing this exercise each year, you have an opportunity to make some powerful decisions about what you want to do in the new year.

Whether it’s changes or new goals, this process will allow you to crystallize some new and old objectives. Allow yourself to review last years business plan. Did you meet all your objectives? If you didn’t, think through why. Were they unreasonable? Did you not like doing them? Did you not have enough time or money? Take notes from last year’s plan and use that knowledge to craft this year’s new plan. Try to find some new ideas that will really make a difference. More importantly, where do you want to be this time next year and how are you going to get there? How painful it will be if those objectives you missed last year, are still on your list not done this time next year. Either make an intention to get them done, or figure out some other options. Something is holding you back, figure out why. What can you really do to inspire your planning for 2018.

I would hazard to guess that there are many people who don’t feel a business plan is necessary. Perhaps what holds that person back is a structure, or template. Maybe not sure how to executive one. The good news is only time and patience are needed. No MONEY required.

The Small Business Association (SBA) has put together this great article which quite frankly says anything I could say and much better. It’s great. With templates and the key ingredients of your plan, this article provides you with everything you need to create a great 2018 business plan. Click this link and begin the process to complete your 2018 business plan. Let 2018 be your best year yet.

By Janet Elie

Internet Marketing Specialist



Cultivating Better Communication Skills

My son recently graduated from college with a degree in Computer Science. Last month, while he was applying for his first full-time job, he needed to put together a 12-minute introductory video. In the video, he was required to discuss his educational background and professional experience, as well as “say a few words” about himself. While this task wouldn’t be easy for most people, it was even harder for him because he’s an introvert. Yet despite the difficulty, my son put together a really good video. Even better, he did it so well that he landed the job. Hurray! Later, he confided that he could not have done it without the help of Toastmasters.

For those of you unfamiliar with Toastmasters, it’s an international organization dedicated to helping people cultivate better communication skills. When my son first started college, he quickly discovered how uncomfortable he felt giving class presentations. While he had no problem putting his thoughts down on paper, speaking them out loud felt awkward. One night my son decided to come and check out my Toastmasters club. After just one meeting, he could see the members of my club would make excellent mentors. Several years later, everyone in the club has helped my son gain more confidence in his speaking ability. While my son is still an introvert, he is now totally comfortable whenever he’s asked to “say a few words.”

While Toastmasters is a wonderful organization for introverts, it’s also great for extroverts. At Toastmasters, members learn that becoming a better speaker requires evaluations that identify your strengths and weaknesses. In order to be a good evaluator, you need to become an active listener. Being a better listener can help every business professional better serve their clients.

Toastmasters has been around for a long time. The organization was founded in the United States in 1922. Today, Toastmasters is now an international organization, comprised of 352,000 members in over 141 countries. Most Toastmasters clubs meet weekly, or every other week, for 1-2 hours. Using a system that helps individuals learn-by-doing, club members help one another advance their public speaking and leadership skills.

Here are the reasons I think every business professional should consider joining Toastmasters:

1. Overcome Public Speaking Fears
The most positive and supportive audience in the world is a Toastmasters club audience. Speaking regularly in front of a group will help calm your nerves and communicate more effectively.

2. Become a Better Public Speaker
Club members progress through a series of speech projects.  Each project is specifically designed to help improve the ability to write and deliver speeches.

3. Become a Better Listener
By watching other members give speeches and evaluating their performance, you’ll become a better listener. Evaluating speeches forces you to pay attention and listen carefully. In addition, meetings include a grammarian report where word usage is scrutinized and everyone’s “ahs” and “ums” are counted. The reports help you become aware of using distracting filler words.

4. Gain Leadership Skills
Leadership and communication skills are related. As you gain more confidence in your ability to communicate effectively, your ability to lead will also improve. In addition to improving their speaking skills, Toastmaster club members can elect to take on leadership roles within the club. These opportunities help strengthen and grow the club.

5. Think Fast on Your Feet
During each Toastmasters meeting, there is a portion known as “Table Topics.” During this part of the meeting, club members respond to questions on a general topic. This impromptu speaking opportunity helps prepare you for the times in your life where you need to “speak off the cuff”.

6. Expand Your Network
Toastmasters is an excellent way to meet new, interesting, and successful people. Each club has a diverse range of members, ranging from young adults to retiree, from students, to working professionals, to business owners, and retirees.

If this sounds interesting, I urge you to visit a club near you by searching the Toastmasters club database online. If you live in an urban area, you may find you have several clubs to choose from. Instead of signing up with the first club you visit, be sure to shop around and choose the club that best fits your schedule and/or personality. Every club is unique and different. I like to visit new clubs when I’m traveling. It’s a great way to meet new people – anywhere in the world.

Once you find a club you like, signup and become a member. You will find that the membership dues are very reasonable (less than $100 a year). There really is no other public speaking program out there that will provide you with such an incredible return on your investment.  Best of all, Toastmaster meetings are fun to attend, which may be the greatest reward of all.

By Gillian Whitney

Communications Consultant



Summer Fun, While Making a Difference!

Summer is officially here.  Hurray.  During the long hot summer months, many of us like to go away on vacation, or stay home and have a little down time.  Right now I am in Las Vegas, Nevada, on vacation.  Since it’s really hot here, I find that I’m staying inside more than I’m going out.  To keep myself amused, I sometimes kick back and play a game on my computer.  It’s one of my guilty pleasures.  However, I have found a computer game that is not only entertaining, but is also making a difference in the world.  Let me introduce you to FreeRice.com.

At FreeRice.com you are given a series of trivia-like questions to answer.  Quiz topics range from: Vocabulary, Grammar, Literature, Famous Paintings, Flags of the World, Countries on a Map, World Capitals, Math, Chemistry, and Language Learning (German, Spanish, Italian, or French).  For each question you get right, the UN World Food Program will donate 10 grains of rice to help end hunger worldwide.  Ever since the game launched in October 2007, thousands of FreeRice players are responsible for feeding millions of people.  FreeRice.com is a non-profit website that is generously backed by a number of different sponsors who pay for the free rice.

While playing the game, you can set the level of difficulty of questions, which allows people of all ages to play.  So, if you have children, nieces, nephews, or grandchildren, this is great computer activity to do together.  I especially love the “WARNING” on the website:

WARNING: This game may make you smarter.  It may improve your speaking, writing, thinking, grades, job performance, etc. 

Freerice.com reminds me of a wonderful children’s picture book, One Grain of Rice: A Mathematical Folktale.  This was a book I loved reading to my boys when they were little – many years ago.  This book not only was a really good story but was a great illustration of exponential growth – think compound interest!

So, you might want to check this book out as a gift for a child you know… or even for yourself.  After all, smart entrepreneurs need to fully understand how everything around us can grow beyond belief – one grain of rice at a time.

By Gillian Whitney

Communications Consultant