Monday, December 15, 2014

Begin your work day on a productive note

Every entrepreneur, business owner, and manager aspires to enhanced productivity. The reasons for this are obvious: greater productivity is conducive to not only increased profits, but diminished stress and more free time too—highly esteemed desiderata for most people. But, like community engagement, leadership or employee morale, productivity is not necessarily an easy concept to pin down. In the abstract, we all want it. But if we are serious about realizing it (and enjoying its many benefits), we need a clear process and concrete steps by which to make it happen.

One of the simplest and most effective ways to bolster productivity is by setting yourself up for it with good habits—including proper nutrition, regular physical exercise, and plenty of sleep. If you undertake your work feeling groggy, or having eaten poorly, your performance will invariably suffer. Formulate a daily routine and follow it—this will save time and help you develop automaticity, a prerequisite for completing quality work, day after day, while expending minimal effort. Another exercise you may find useful is to create a concise and easy-to-follow action plan, with achievable objectives, first thing in the morning.

Most of us start the day with correspondence—which sets us back

Commonly, people who work in an office environment begin their day by checking e-mails, replying to voicemails, responding to memos, or otherwise answering requests and inquiries. While it is important to stay abreast of the needs of others and maintain correspondence, beginning the day by engaging with external priorities can cause you to become sidetracked. Various psychological studies indicate that, despite the widespread appeal of “multi-tasking,” in reality, human beings can only fully concentrate on one assignment at a time—and our attempts to multi-task tend to compromise the quality, efficiency, and timeliness of our work. Furthermore, it can be challenging and time-consuming to mentally re-engage if you allow yourself to be temporarily derailed.

The chef’s method

Where confronting your daily workload is concerned, you can derive a useful lesson from the way a chef initiates the process of creating a meal. At the outset of each session, a culinary professional typically determines what ingredients will be required and in what quantity (in other words, her actions follow the format of a cooking recipe), and then measures them out. She then contemplates the procedure that lies ahead: does it involve whipping, or beating, or mixing? What utensils are required? Finally, she assembles and organizes all of the necessary components, so that she can command them at precisely the right moment.

Officially, the term for this ritual is mise en place—which roughly translates from French as “everything in its place.” The principal advantage of deploying this approach for any project (not only gastronomic ones!) is that, once all the necessities are in their place, you can proceed with minimal hang-ups or delays. You won’t need to rifle through shelves or drawers searching for the items you need, nor will you spend nearly as much time thinking about the particulars of the project as you carry it out. As a consequence, you’ll be able to devote your energy and focus exclusively to the task at hand.

Budget ten minutes for a planning session at the start of the day

Your own, individually tailored equivalent of the mise en place needn’t be time-consuming; set aside about ten minutes at the start of each day. In your mind’s eye, envision the errands you hope to accomplish over the next eight hours, think about the instruments and steps involved, then outline them (in writing) as specifically as possible. Assemble the tools and information you anticipate that you’ll need in advance, and arrange them in an orderly manner. Your goal should be to minimize friction, and ensure that you’re able to complete your work smoothly, without stoppages or interruption.

If you prepare yourself in advance, using the mise en place approach, you’ll find that relatively laborious tasks will become simpler—and comparatively easy ones will become a cinch.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Post Date Your Incorporation for January 1st 2015

Did you know that you can choose the incorporation date of your business? Many people choose a specific date of incorporation for personal or financial reasons. So why not make your date of incorporation the first day of the year?

Order your business incorporation through from now until December 29th to request a January 1st 2015 incorporation date. We’ll do the paperwork as you relax during the holidays. Simply make a note in the order comments that you want a January 1st 2015 incorporation date (or any other post-date you’d prefer).

Please see the table below highlighting the jurisdictions that offer “post-dated” incorporations.

Click here for more information and to place your order for your incorporation.

If you have any questions or need help placing your order please call us at 1-866-906-2677.


Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Large and Small of the Canadian Video Game Industry

Matthew Jackson has been working in video games ever since he graduated from Montreal’s National Animation and Design Centre (Centre NAD), but he admits that it’s his passion for video games that has made him successful in the business – a quality he believes is an absolute requirement for anybody working in a collaborative and creative environment like video games.

Like a lot of people working in the video game industry, Matthew got his start working on various projects for some of the larger video game producers with offices in Quebec such as EA and Behaviour Interactive – companies which boast hundreds, even thousands of employees – and has built an impressive resume along the way. Lately, Matthew has been working on his smallest project to date as the lead game designer for a small developer called Tuque Games who are currently working toward the launch of their flagship project, World War Machine – a post-human action RPG revolving around the perpetual war between surviving machines.

Although he admits that it’s the smallest game he’s ever worked on, his ambitions for what the project is capable of achieving are lofty. Tuque Games, which is made up of a core staff of about 20 people and a small handful of freelancers, doesn’t have the same resources or budget strength that larger video game producers might, but Matthew admits that those factors don’t necessarily yield a better experience for their audience – the gamer.

“I heard a famous filmmaker once say about films,” Matthew ponders,  “that when making a big budget film there’s a tendency for it to settle toward mediocrity to the point where it’s just as hard to make a really bad movie as it is to make a really good one – there’s always enough good ideas balancing out the bad ones. With a smaller project like World War Machine there exists the possibility of breaking free of that mediocrity and achieving something really great.”

Since starting work on World War Machine Matthew has noticed other differences between working for a smaller company versus one of the big studios: “Well, I imagine it’s the same with any small business,” he says “and it’s one of things I enjoy most about working on a smaller project, that I’m not locked into just one aspect of the game design process and have to actually view the whole project now from many different angles and contribute in many other areas. I also now have the ability, and with that I also have the responsibility, to make what I think is the most fun game possible.”

Working on a game like World War Machine has also brought with it its own set of challenges. One such challenge has been funding. In the early stages of development, World War Machine was part of the Square Enix Collective’s curated crowd sourcing campaign. By offering would-be gamers a quick insight into what the game would be all about and allowing them to vote on whether or not the idea seemed worth funding, World War Machine received a 90% ‘yes’ meaning that of the people that voted for the game, 90% claimed that they would fund it. Unfortunately, through Indiegogo, Tuque Games was unable to raise the $50,000 they were seeking.

He further points out: “Square Enix Collective itself has evolved and now has agreements with other crowdfunding websites, so other games have now gone through the same process as we did and have achieved their crowd funding goals through KickStarter which just happens to be the more popular crowd funding site.  The main goal of the crowd funding campaign was more about marketing and getting the name out there, so us not achieving that funding goal wasn’t the end of the world.”

Some of these challenges, however, have been offset by certain other factors that Tuque Games is able to benefit from. One such benefit was a funding program achieved through the Canadian Media Fund which “fosters, develops, finances and promotes the production of Canadian content and applications for all audiovisual  media platforms”. Matthew also points out the benefits that operating in Quebec has had whereby companies can get a provincial tax credit to pay part of employees’ salaries for video game related enterprises.

Although there is no fixed release date for World War Machine, Tuque Games is in the final phases of production and hopes to launch sometime in 2015.

For more information about World War Machine visit:

For more information about the Square Enix Collective and crowd sourcing please visit:

And, finally, to learn more about the Canadian Media Fund go to:

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Benefits of Giving Back

There are few satisfactions in life that can match the feeling of helping to make the world a better place. And while there are many ways to accomplish this, ranging from modest to ambitious, supporting a cause you believe in can bring a tremendous sense of fulfillment, in addition to improving the lives of others. But that’s not all—involvement with charitable work can be a boon for your business too.

Read on to find out why.

1.  Goodwill. Which business would you rather patronize and support: one that participates in community-building projects, sponsors events and fundraisers, and sends volunteers to help out—or one that does none of those things? All else being equal, most people would choose the former. By showing an enthusiasm for helping and giving back, you demonstrate that you are invested in the success and welfare of the community. This will not go unnoticed or unappreciated by local residents, and may help to secure and expand a loyal customer base.

2.  Networking. Advertising and marketing have certainly evolved over the decades, but few offer better results than does the oldest medium around: word-of-mouth. Volunteerism is a great way to spend time with like-minded people, many of whom may be able to offer referrals, or become prospective clients themselves. There is also some overlap with item 1. (above): the more you show enthusiasm for assisting and empowering others, the more likely they will be to do the same for you.

While devoting your time to a worthy cause, keep your eyes open for talented and proficient volunteers. Charity events are a great way to meet skilled, ambitious professionals who care deeply about the health of their communities, and are comfortable with both individual tasks and teamwork. These are qualities that typify excellent colleagues and employees too.

3.  Association with reputable causes. Again, this point partially ties into items 1. and 2., respectively. A business that associates itself with well-regarded causes is likely to attract clients and customers with shared values. Furthermore, organizations will often show appreciation for the support of their donors by mentioning the names of those benefactors at their events.

4.  Employee morale. Some companies earmark a few hours of each week for employee volunteerism, and (in the case of a team-oriented project) allow employees to vote on which charity or non-profit organization they would prefer to serve. Not only will this enhance the perception of your workers toward their employer, it also has the potential to attract new, community-oriented prospective employees to your business.

5.  Tax deductions. In many jurisdictions (including Canadian provinces), funds donated to charity by individuals and businesses may be eligible for tax breaks. If you host a fundraising event, and cover the cost of meals or other expenses for that event, those costs can also be written off in some cases. Make sure to obtain and hold onto all receipts!

6.  Personal growth. Charity work can be an enriching experience for you as an individual as well. You’ll have the opportunity to hone a wide range of skills, and undertake duties that would not normally be part of your day job. By helping those less fortunate than yourself, you’ll be reminded that your own challenges, important though they may be, pale in comparison to the problems other people face—and we could all use a bit of perspective sometimes. You may even be inspired by individuals who have dealt with tragedy, confronted significant obstacles, and succeeded at overcoming long odds in life.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Handling Conflict in The Workplace

In all long-term relationships, including professional ones, interpersonal friction is bound to arise. For many people, the natural (and comfortable) response to confrontation is to avoid it entirely, but this is not always the most sensible option. If you believe that a dispute may have an adverse impact on your workplace, it is generally wiser to intervene early and decisively, before the issue has time to fester.
That said, conflict is not necessarily a bad thing. The same qualities that contribute to individual professional success—like drive, ambition, creativity, and self-confidence—can cause members of a team to butt heads on occasion. Knowing how to manage this discord, and even channel it in a constructive direction, is an indispensable leadership skill.
Keep the following tips in mind:
Hear out all sides before drawing any conclusions. If a conversation is particularly heated, it may be useful to separate the parties involved, allow each to articulate her own position and objectives, and make a note of the key points each individual raises. Listen attentively, ask open-ended questions, and avoid taking sides during this process. Once all parties have had a chance to make their case, try to identify points of potential compromise, as well as areas that appear irreconcilable. This will allow you to map out workable solutions (and alternatives) that you can then discuss with each of the adversaries.

Identify the low-hanging fruit. Many conflicts are the product of trivial disagreements, inadvertent miscommunications, or misunderstandings. By listening carefully, you will be able to identify concerns that you can easily address.

Keep your eye on the ball. In emotionally potent situations, it’s easy to point fingers. During an impassioned argument, there is a common tendency to bring up the faults of one’s opponent, regardless of relevance to the matter at hand, purely in order to score points or inflict damage. But senseless bickering will only beget more of the same. In order to resolve a dispute favourably, maintain an assiduous focus on the source of the disagreement, avoiding distractions and ad hominem recriminations. If you find two or more members of your team engaged in an acrimonious exchange, you may find it useful to call a temporary ceasefire, and allow the contenders to cool off, before gently directing them back to the heart of the matter.

Maintain a sense of self-awareness if you become engaged in a conflict. This is another area in which emotional intelligence comes in handy, particularly an understanding of how your feelings affect you physically and psychically. Self-awareness is a precondition for keeping one’s passions in check at a stressful moment, which in turn is crucial for evaluating the facts and claims in a dispute, reasoning, problem-solving, and negotiation.

Conflicts can create opportunities, not just headaches. If approached calmly and rationally, disputes can yield novel perspectives, ideas, and solutions that may not have arisen in the absence of confrontation. When most people hear the saying, “Two heads are better than one,” they imagine a relationship that is largely collaborative and amicable. But real life tends to be messier than what we envision in our minds’ eye!

The key is to channel potentially antagonistic sentiments toward constructive goals. This can best be achieved by listening, keeping the conversation as respectful as possible, and focusing on concrete sources of disagreement and objectives, rather than personal failings.
This point is worthy of re-emphasis: if you believe an interpersonal issue is serious enough to generate animosity or discomfort in the workplace, it is almost always better to address it quickly and comprehensively, than to allow it to progress and harden.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Dealing With Disruptive Innovation

 Harvard business professor Clayton Christensen is renowned for formulating the theory of disruptive innovation—which describes novel products or services with the potential to revolutionize an industry, and displace incumbents from their market position. In his 1996 book The Innovator’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail, Christensen reflects on corporate decisions that, though ostensibly rational, failed to anticipate and profitably respond to make-or-break technological advances. He draws a distinction between sustaining innovations, which enhance the quality or effectiveness of an existing product, and disruptive innovations: technological developments which can displace a popular product altogether, especially by offering a more affordable, more accessible, or more versatile alternative.

For example, when personal computers (a potentially disruptive technology) first appeared on the consumer market, it was not entirely clear that they would supplant typewriters as the principal word-processing tool in our society. Thus, typewriter manufacturers faced a pivotal choice: to stick to their area of expertise and strive to create better and more reliable typewriters, or to shift their business model dramatically. Some firms—notably the American conglomerate Smith Corona—opted for the former, and found themselves manufacturing machines of excellent quality, the demand for which rapidly dried up.

While there are no sure things in business (after all, the penchant for innovation and dynamism is one of the key selling points of a market capitalist economy), there are some pragmatic steps companies can take to avoid being “disrupted”:

Know—and expand—your market. Maintaining relationships with customers/clients while striving to attract new (and especially less affluent) ones is key. Engage with your clientele, welcome their feedback, keep tabs on their wants and values, and consider ways to serve them better. Customer loyalty—the result of a reputation for professionalism, ethical practices, and high-quality products—can help keep your enterprise afloat as you integrate new technologies into your business model.

What are your competitors doing? Although spying on rivals is an obvious faux pas, you can derive plenty of information by building an amicable rapport with competitors in your industry. Is there a technique or technology they might introduce that would keep you up at night?

Apprise yourself of trends and innovations. The upside of innovation is that it helps us solve problems, spares us effort, and tends to build on itself. Stay abreast of the latest trends, both within your industry and in society at large. Are there any new ideas or technologies you can make use of? What aspects of your operation would you like to run more smoothly? (Don’t overlook the possibility that you could devise your own innovative solution!)

Harness the innovativeness of a start-up while running an established firm. In The Innovator’s Dilemma, Christenson refers to discovery-driven planning, which involves real-time strategic adjustments, learning-by-doing, and a bit of trial-and-error. Accordingly, firms and their managers should be willing to take calculated risks, adopting innovations that may not work out perfectly on the first attempt.

Bear in mind that there is no such thing as a monopoly on good ideas. Start-up firms tend to be nimble and creative not only because their founders may feel they have nothing to lose, but also because there is little hierarchy between workers and managers, or entrenched operational protocols, to obstruct the free flow of ideas. Don’t be afraid to ask employees what they think, and encourage equal-opportunity communication in the workplace.

Intimidating though it may seem, disruptive innovation needn’t be a threat to your business. With the right approach and attitude, you will be equipped to not only respond to potentially disruptive innovations, but to place yourself at the leading edge.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Celebrating Small Business in Canada

This week we celebrate small businesses in Canada during Small Business Week!

To show our appreciation for entrepreneurship, we’re offering dollar business incorporations on October 22nd and 23rd. Incorporate for only one dollar to save your business time and money by letting us do the paperwork for you!

Small businesses create thousands of jobs every year and employ over 7 million people nationwide, making them essential to a strong economy. Incorporating your small business gives you the peace of mind of limited liability and perpetual existence, and the credibility that comes with the incorporation status.

Take advantage of this incredible deal we’re offering for only two days!

Incorporate your business for only $1 by using the promotional code CC1INC14 in your shopping cart before placing your order.*

*Plus government fees and optional products and services. Non-profit incorporation is not included in this offer.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Restoring your attention span

The rapid march of technology in our times is truly remarkable, and shows no sign of abetting. Smart phones exemplify this trend: over the past decade they have become as ubiquitous as credit cards—even the majority of schoolchildren in our society seem to own one. In fact, the presence of smart phones in our lives has become so prominent, that many of us strain to recall how we managed to function with landlines and dial-up internet just fifteen years ago.

While the advantages of this development are clear—extraordinary connectivity with the people in our lives, and an unprecedented repository of knowledge at our fingertips—the pitfalls are less frequently acknowledged. (Leave aside, for the moment, the capacity for governments to track their citizens’ movements and communications as never before.) A growing body of research suggests that one pernicious effect of the newfangled gadgets has been a diminution of the average person’s attention span. In other words, as the number of visual and auditory stimuli in our environment increases, our ability to concentrate on one single element of our surroundings tends to suffer. This can put a serious damper on both our productivity, and our ability to think deeply about things.

To enhance and regain your concentration, try the following:

Remove clutter and distractions. If you face an important task that you anticipate will require your undivided attention for an extended period of time, remove as many of the unneeded stimuli from your environment as possible—particularly those which tend to distract you. Switch off your phone temporarily, close unnecessary windows on your computer desktop, and remove superfluous items from your workspace. This requires a bit of discipline, but the effort is usually worth it.

 Ambient sound. This is not a recommendation that necessarily applies to everyone. Some people are best able to concentrate in silence, others find that a bit of music or bustle (as in a coffee shop) actually enhances their productivity.

 Go for a walk, jog, or bike ride. A bit of light exercise in advance to tackling a demanding task will facilitate the flow of oxygen to your brain, and induce the release of the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine—both of which will, among other benefits, help you concentrate. A brief stroll has the added advantage of giving you time to collect your thoughts, and temporarily remove yourself from sources of stress in your work environment.

Make time for sleep. It may seem obvious, but too many people with demanding schedules tend to sacrifice sleep on the altar of progress. Now that the aforementioned smart phones have afforded us the ability to communicate with each other anywhere, anytime, and through a variety of channels, the temptation to forgo sleep is particularly acute. However, remember that fatigue will invariably detract from your productivity the following day—while a chronic lack of sleep can have detrimental effects on your health, quality of life, and career longevity. Set firm ground rules for yourself and your co-workers: if they e-mail you at 1:45 a.m., they shouldn’t expect a reply before morning.

Keep healthy snacks on hand. The contribution of proper nourishment to your ability to concentrate is significant. Fruit, granola bars, yogourt, and nuts are preferable to sugary items like doughnuts, candies, and milk chocolate. Eschew sugary drinks like pop and from-concentrate juices, and aim to limit your coffee/caffeine consumption to no more than a cup or two per day. (See Make time for sleep, above.) Less caffeine generally translates into fewer trips to the bathroom and more time for productive effort.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Emotional Intelligence: Another Kind of Smart

In addition to integrity and resoluteness in decision-making, great leaders often possess an intangible knack for mobilizing people of disparate backgrounds, personalities, and values toward common goals—maximizing the potential of the team.

How do they do it?

Over the past three decades, researchers have identified emotional intelligence as a crucial component of professional success, self-actualization, and exemplary leadership.

What is emotional intelligence?

Emotional intelligence, sometimes abbreviated as EI or EQ, is a term that first appeared in the 1980s, and came into popular usage after a 1990 essay by social psychologists Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer. EI encompasses motivation, emotional self-management, and the capacity to ascertain and appropriately respond to the feelings of others.

In business, EI has numerous practical applications: for example, knowing how and when to ask for a raise; expressing one’s own thoughts, feelings, and ambitions in a tactful and effective manner; soliciting and evaluating input from colleagues; managing stress, both personal and environmental; boosting morale; and avoiding procrastination.

People with higher EI scores tend to have a competitive edge

Studies indicate that, on average, individuals with higher EI scores enjoy higher salaries, and in some areas, can even outperform rivals with higher intelligence quotients (IQs) than themselves.

Israeli-American psychologist Daniel Kahneman has noted that people with higher EI are also perceived differently by those with whom they interact. Prospective clients and partners prefer to do business with professionals they like and trust, and subjective likability and trustworthiness both correlate to EI.

It’s possible to both measure and modify EI

A quick internet search will yield a series of EI tests, ranging in length and complexity. A simple one can be found here. Your results should give you a rough idea of where your own strengths and weaknesses lie.

Although EI is partly a function of innate features like personality and genetics, many experts agree that EI can be more readily modified than IQ.

How to improve your EI

One key component of EI is emotional self-awareness: the ability to identify one’s own feelings, the physical reaction that attends them, and the precise reason for that sentiment.

You may find that it helps to keep an emotional journal. Write down the thoughts that occur to you and the physical sensations you associate with particular emotions. Note that certain emotional states tend to trigger the same physical response consistently; for example, stress often leads to shallow breathing, tense muscles, and an elevated heart rate.

By recognizing and addressing these physical symptoms (through breathing exercises, for instance), you will increase your chances of managing intense emotions and their impact on you.

A few other tips:

   Daily meditation can help immensely in dealing with anxiety, anger, and negative thoughts, and empower you with mental techniques for dealing with them.

   Listen: Give others your undivided attention, allow them to finish what they’re saying, and leave time for them to think and respond to your statements. Pay particular attention to body language. Ask clarifying questions—your goal should be to attain as complete an understanding of your interlocutor’s ideas and point of view as possible.

   Figure out exactly what you want, then decide how best to articulate it, and why it is important to you. Know how to ask for something: I’d like...please.”

   Empathize: How would you feel if you were in someone else’s position? Reflect on instances in which you felt you behaved empathically, and others in which you believe you could have done better.

   However, don’t ruminate excessively over your past shortcomings—after all, the past is beyond your control. Acknowledge your errors, try to make amends to the people you feel you’ve wronged, and commit to avoiding similar mistakes in the future.

   Respect and openness: Encourage others to share their thoughts and concerns. Emphasize that open, honest, respectful dialogue is an important component of the professional atmosphere you hope to cultivate.

   Stop procrastinating. If you find a task difficult, unpleasant, or time-consuming, break it up into smaller parts. Create a to-do list, and remove unnecessary distractions from your work space. Try the Pomodoro technique: 25 minutes of work, interspersed with short breaks of about five minutes. If you’re the type who thrives on time pressure, but would prefer to finish a project well in advance, impose (in writing) a deadline on yourself, and stick to it.

Nearly everyone would benefit from better EI, especially those with leadership aspirations. Put some effort into improving your EI, and the results may pleasantly surprise you.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Write Way: Effective Business Writing

It’s hard to overstate the importance of effective writing to the success of a business endeavour. The words you choose to describe your idea, product, or service can make or break a prospective transaction, and attract or repel clients. Furthermore, proficiency in writing can make the difference between being perceived as a consummate professional, or an overweening amateur.

The basics always matter

In the era of spell-check, it’s easier to avoid egregious spelling errors than it was in the past. But there is a pitfall: when we rely on technology to correct our mistakes for us, we risk indulging in complacency—which can yield errors of a different kind. Nowadays, “correct” misspellings crop up frequently, like the following:

Delivery service is available in over one hundred countries, on six contents.

...a conveniently located house with an ensuite bathroom and specious kitchen.

Some misspellings/grammar mistakes are distressingly common, even among highly educated people:

The French Revolution lead to the ascendancy of Napoleon Bonaparte.

It is always important to chose one’s words wisely.

For more on grammatical faux pas, see this page at Copyblogger, and this (more advanced) one at Lit Reactor. Where spelling is concerned, this comic strip at The Oatmeal is both humorous and instructive.

Proofread your work, twice

As an entrepreneur, you are certainly conversant with time pressure and tight deadlines. But there is no substitute for carefully proofreading your work. Pay particular attention to your company website and social media, the foundations of your brand. Don’t underestimate the value of a disinterested second pair of eyes; ask someone you trust, with strong spelling and grammar skills, to peruse your work before you publish it. A credible reputation for attention to detail is a priceless asset in the business world—sloppy writing, on the other hand, is a red flag.

Aim for clarity and economy of words

If there is a rule of thumb for effective writing, it is that clarity and economy of words nearly always yield a superior final product. Whenever you write something, ask yourself: “Could I convey this concept more clearly, or in fewer words?” You may be surprised at how often the answer is “Yes.”

Think of yourself as a journalist who is attempting to shoehorn information into a limited word-count, highlighting the most salient details.

Show, don’t tell

Adjectives can be useful and illustrative in proper measure, but many prospective customers are wary of being “over-sold.” Accordingly, err on the side of too few adjectives rather than too many; emphasize the tangible properties and past successes of the product or service you offer. Testimonials from satisfied customers can be useful in this regard. What particular want or need does your product fill? How, exactly?

Know, and cater to, your readership

Understand the level of familiarity of your prospective clients with your product. Avoid jargon wherever feasible, and use your discretion in clarifying ideas and defining terms.

Clients will invariably ask questions, and some queries may arise repeatedly. Keep a list of those that recur, and set up a FAQ page on your website.

Read in your spare time

One of the surest ways to enhance any skill is to learn from others who excel at it. Read widely—news, press releases, literature, magazine articles. Reading will help you expand your vocabulary, learn new figures of speech, build linguistic precision, and gain general knowledge. Staying abreast of current events and the latest advancements in your industry is useful for networking purposes, too. The more you can impress people with your expertise, and your ability to articulate it, the more your prospective client base will grow.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Establishing Success in 10 Seconds

It’s an old cliché that you only get one chance to make a first impression, but unlike with the opposite sex, if practice made perfect it means that all that time spent practicing amounts to dollars left on the table just trying to get it right. You can read over the volumes of thick tomes dedicated to unraveling the mystery as to what to say to make the perfect first impression, or simply be aware of the fact that a first impression of you is made even before you open your mouth – the implications this has for business are unfathomable.

A couple of compelling theories to consider

In a study out of Harvard, published in Psychological Bulletin in 1992 by Ambady & Rosenthal, it was found that there is strong evidence supporting peoples’ ability to quickly and accurately judge others. So when people tell you that they are “excellent judges of character”, statistically they are, if unwittingly, telling the truth. What Ambady & Rosenthal concluded was that you could know someone for a few seconds, or for a year, and your impression of them would be the same.

In a much less scientifically controlled environment, Art of Charm founder Jordan Harbinger explained on the Bulletproof Executive’s podcast recently, in the context of men seeking women at a night club, that a group of women will develop an impression of a man the moment he walks into the club – or as he charmingly puts it, “the moment he appears on their radar” – and not when he musters the courage to approach them.

What do these examples mean for business?

Haven’t put it together yet?

For years, a lot of emphasis has been put on the importance of, and how much you can know about someone, from their having a firm handshake. Well the truth is just about everything in business, from networking, to the job interview, to landing a major deal relies heavily on everything you do before you even shake on anything.

It was often said that a firm handshake projected confidence and self-assuredness - traits that bosses and CEOs looked for in those they wanted working for them or wanted to make deals with - but the truth is the level of your confidence has been established by others not when you first shake, but when they first lay eyes on you. That means that a job, a contract, or a major deal is signed off on courtesy of communication that is non-verbal; communication that is not interactive, or even intentional.

Networking and unlocking the secrets of non-verbal communication

As superficial as it may seem, success anywhere happens in about 10 seconds and comes down to a few exterior traits. So no matter how lovable you may be, or how brilliant your ideas are, it’s essential to at least master a few surface qualities so that these deeper traits have a chance to see the light of day.

In much the same way that a handshake was once regarded as the way to communicate confidence and self-assuredness, people like Ambady, Rosenthal, and Harbinger are now proving that what you wear, how you enter a room, and how you walk and carry yourself have the ability to project the same thing. Neglecting these facts could be the difference between a payday and planning on not making the same mistake next time.

Ten seconds. That’s all it takes. So don’t wait to work up the courage to connect because statistics show that the longer you wait the more your opportunity to make a perfect first impression slips away. Establishing contact the moment you appear on someone’s radar is just another way to project the confidence they are looking for. So don’t waste time second-guessing your lovability, or your great ideas, because you, in fact, wear those on the outside.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Unraveling the Talent Myth

In July 2002 the New Yorker published an article called TheTalent Myth by Malcolm Gladwell. In this article Gladwell explores the shortcomings of a widely recognized management system put forward by a management-consulting firm called McKinsey & Company who advocate a three-tiered management process known as differentiation and affirmation. In this process of differentiation and affirmation employee performance is rated resulting in each employee being placed in one of three categories A, B, and C. The A’s, or talent group, are to be challenged and given generous bonuses as well as new tasks, new responsibilities, and new titles. The B’s are to be encouraged and affirmed, whereas the lowly C’s need to be let go.

The Problem… or Problems

There are a couple of flaws in this way of thinking that seem obvious. First, is that managers are encouraged to engage employees to do what the employees want and not what the employees are good at or have experience doing. Another flaw, which Gladwell points out, is that companies who are prisoner to the talent myth often move employees into new jobs with greater frequency than companies that are not tied to the same mindset, often spending less than a year at a particular job within the company. The result is that one employee’s range of responsibilities is changing so frequently that it becomes impossible to judge true performance.

Lastly, there is little correlation between a person’s IQ and job performance. The reason for this is the fact that IQ doesn’t measure a person’s competency to what Gladwell calls “tacit knowledge”. For Gladwell, it’s the difference between a school environment, where everything an individual is rated on involves working by themselves (writing an exam or an essay), versus a corporate environment where virtually everything is accomplished by coordinating many individuals around a singular goal.

Let the System Shine

It was McKinsey & Company’s belief that the best and most successful companies were those that adopted the talent mindset – the belief that the intelligence of a company was rooted in the intelligence of its employees. Successful companies were those that went out of their way to seek what they perceived as talent and that fostered that talent by molding their company to the interests of their most talented individuals.

As Gladwell points out, some of the most successful companies were those where the system, not its employees, was the star. As Gladwell writes:

“The talent myth assumes that people make organizations smart. More often than not, it’s the other way around.”

You Learn More on the First Day

My own experience has been that no amount of schooling has ever adequately prepared me, or anyone I know, for what it’s like to actually be out on the job. I’ve heard the old adage “I learned more on the first day on the job than I did in 4 years of university” so often that it’s become cliché. Coming out of college labeled as talent is a great thing and is capable of opening a lot of doors, but talent in school is only one type of talent.

The people I am constantly seeking are those that have broader, even hidden, talents. Someone who graduated from university with less than stellar marks, but did so while holding down a part-time job, or involving themselves in a bevy of extra-curricular activities, is just as impressive as an ‘A’ student. Also, with so much time spent together on the job I tend to try to surround myself with people who have complimentary talents or people that I genuinely like. Operating a business, especially a small business, becomes a shared experience and the people you work with become your family. No matter what might be on their CV, if everybody in the company is not on the same page, it will not be successful.  

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Part-Time Entrepreneurship

If you’re not ready to take the leap and quit your current job to run your own business full-time, you can still enjoy entrepreneurship on a part-time basis while maintaining the security of being an employee with an income. But, to do this, you need to keep the following points in mind:

Say Goodbye to Personal Time

Having a full-time job and a part-time business leaves very little time for yourself. You’ll need to make sure you can handle putting most of your time an effort into work and this will mean you’ll probably have to skip out on vacations or even spending a relaxing weekend with friends and family! But that doesn’t mean you’re cut off from the rest of the world – just plan your down time wisely. But there’s always an upside. Get your friends and family involved in the business by giving them tasks based on their skills. This gives you the benefit of “free” help for your business while spending time with those you love.

Don’t Let it Interfere With Other Responsibilities

It’s important to keep your two jobs separate and not let them overlap too much. Don’t risk losing your current job by working on your side project during work hours. Try to keep your mind on the job at hand and leave your business to off-hours. This may mean that phone calls and emails have to go unanswered until after 5. Keep yourself disciplined by scheduling blocks of time to complete your own business tasks in the off-hours to keep your mind on your job when you’re at work.

Use Technology Wisely

There are so many websites out there to make life easier for the small business owner. Whether it be setting up e-commerce on Etsy or Shopify, building a custom website through SquareSpace, or getting payment processing on Square, all of this can be done on your own for a lot less than it would cost to hire a professional. Do some research online to find software to help you manage your business. It may take a bit more time to set up, but it will save you money in the long run and will be much easier to maintain over time.

Be Patient!

Anything part-time is going to take a little longer. But be patient – it won’t always be part-time! Count yourself lucky to have a source of income as you work towards your goal of being a full-time entrepreneur and use this goal as a motivator to work hard during your spare time to achieve your goals. The harder you work in the early stages, the better the pay off will be in the end! 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Skill Building on the Commute

Last week proved to be revelatory as, for the first time in over five years, I was forced to drive to my workspace. The circumstances that made the drive necessary are inconsequential, but as I stared at the city skyline from the highway with the car idling in park, and being forced to breathe in exhaust fumes on a particularly smoggy summer day from all the congestion, I learned a few things.

Practice Gratitude – and math!
The first thing that occurred to me as I watched a particularly ornery man make obscene gestures and honk at a car that had changed lanes in front of him while moving at a mere 5 kilometers an hour, was that I was so thankful that this was not my life. My being on that stretch of road during rush hour was a rare inconvenience, but for so many people it is the norm. In total, I lost over 3 hours of my day in traffic. If that pattern was a daily certainty it would mean roughly 15 hours a week, 60 hours a month, and, based on a 50-week per year work cycle, 750 hours every year lost in traffic. Even if I retired early at 55, a 30-year professional career could mean as much as 22,500 hours of my life spent behind the wheel bumper-to-bumper with other cars.

This is where my mind wandered on that fateful day, wondering how different my life would be if I hadn’t developed my career in such a way as to be able to do my work from anywhere. In case anyone is doing the math, because yes, that’s the kind of time I had while in traffic, those 22,500 hours could represent and, are equal to: 937.5 days, or just over 2.5 years of your life. I wondered what my price would be to devote that much of my life to a daily commute.

Learn a Language

For a while I couldn’t get over how depressing the situation I was in was. But then I decided to look at it a little differently. Although the most important thing is to always be mindful when behind the wheel and to arrive at your intended destination safely, it’s also very possible to do something passively, and productive, while you drive. I figure most people listen to the radio just as I did, but when I heard the same song twice during just one leg of the commute I thought that the practice couldn’t be sustainable.

I’d be hard pressed to recall any of the facts from any of the courses during my four years at university, but one thing that I do recall is that lectures were always one hour and a half – much like the commute. Audio learning CDs and downloads are now available for just about any language you can think of. Bilingualism is becoming a rare skill and it’s hard to think of a better way to improve one’s marketability than by learning a foreign language. Better yet, it can be the gateway to many life altering and rewarding opportunities as languages can take you around the world.

The Learning Doesn’t Stop at Languages

Over the past decade podcasting has become an enormously popular way to share and absorb information. Anyone with an itunes account can download engaging and informative podcasts about everything from health, to history, to science and technology, sports, politics, and spirituality. There is truly no shortage of topics and ideas to stimulate your mind if you only gave them a chance. I would wager that any devoted listener to Dan Carlin’s hardcore history could easily become conversational about world history with any university tenured history professor in just a couple of months. Many podcasts are free, or cost as little as $0.99. You can even download university lectures from some of the world’s most renowned universities. You don’t get course credit, but it doesn’t set you back nearly as much as actually attending the classes.

Dictate the Next Great Novel

What an age we live in! With the right set of tools you can actually dictate all of your ideas onto a voice recorder while at the wheel and then have a computer program turn your dictation into text. A little further down the line that text can become a manuscript, and, if you play your cards right, that manuscript can become a bestseller with movie rights, and can be your ticket out of traffic forever.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Finding New Ways To Network

Finding new clients and attracting new customers doesn’t have to be all about advertising your business. Sometimes it’s about selling yourself through networking. But networking events tend to get a bad rap – most people don’t look forward to boring business events full of schmoozing and faking interest in others. But attending those awful local events isn’t the only way to network. If you cringe when you hear the mention of “networking”, why not try a new way to create business relationships?

Start a Meetup

Networking events are said to be the best way to meet new contacts and create business relationships. With so many to choose from, it can be hard to know which will be most beneficial to your needs. So why not start your own? Create your own event and send invites on social media to reach out to people you already know and ask those people to pass along the invite to others who might be interested. Make sure you find an open and comfortable space and have refreshments available to make your event feel friendly and welcoming. As the host, you’ll be responsible for making your event is successful so go out of your way to introduce yourself to as many people as possible and ask lots of questions (while networking the whole time)! Starting your own meetup allows you to create the ideal networking event – not the stuffy boring kind that everyone dreads! If you’d rather do something informal, try starting a book club or a wine tasting event. This will provide a more intimate environment for discussion and, with the right group, can turn into potential relationship building in the future.

Find a Volunteer Opportunity

Not only does volunteer work give you a feeling of great satisfaction, it’s a fantastic way to meet like-minded individuals who are looking to give back to the community. Being in a group who are passionate about volunteering can really bring people together and eventually forge close bonds. There’s a sense of trust established as people are working towards a greater good. Another way to volunteer and get your work noticed is to offer your services for free to a non-profit.

Have Your Business Card Handy

You never know when you’ll run into someone who could become a potential client, so always have your business cards ready to hand out. If a casual conversation at a pub turns to work related discussion, providing a business card with your answer to “what do you do?” can turn a chance meeting into a future business venture. The business card might get tucked away, but is a good reminder for when services might be needed later or it can be passed along to a friend. To make a larger impact, splurge on an interesting and creative design for your cards as a statement piece.

Strengthen Your Existing Connections

Sometimes it can be hard to find the time to keep in touch with co-workers, employees, or clients from the past. But reaching out every once in a while is a great way to keep your name (and business) top of mind. A simple email to catch up or even a social media message keeps the relationship even after years have passed. LinkedIn provides a great way to keep contact information of those you’ve worked with in the past, and makes it easy to find those you may have lost contact with. You’ll also have an easier time meeting new contacts simply through keeping up with your old ones. Now that’s networking!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

How to Burn the Candle at Both Ends and Stay Healthy

After packing a 40-hour workweek into just three days, and with several projects still to get through in the four remaining days, I had to take a deep breath and think about how I was going to make it to the end of the week and still have my sanity. Every so often, no matter what’s on our plate, it’s important to make time to look out for number one and make sure that all those hours, and all that pressure, don’t catch up to you and knock you down. One of my favorite health podcasts recently took the opportunity to address this very question about how to stay healthy while doing shift work. While the podcast is specifically addressing people who work off hours, most of the tenets of health outlined in the podcast are universal.

It’s all about the Melatonin

Melatonin is a hormone that’s naturally produced by the body that regulates the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle. During the day melatonin is naturally low and high at night, and is a result of millions of years of evolution of our bodies working in harmony with light and dark cycles. This rise and fall in melatonin secretion is related to our circadian rhythm and what happens when we work late into the night is we expose ourselves to artificial light which disrupts melatonin production, raising cortisol (also known as our stress hormone), and interfering with our body’s natural rhythm. The health effects of this hormone disruption are significant.

Some frightening statistics

Every cell in the body seems to be affected by this disruption and shift work is associated with a wide variety of problems including insomnia, depression, and gastrointestinal disturbances, as well as an increased risk for cardiovascular disease, decreases in fertility, increased risk for diabetes and other metabolic disorders, increased risk for cancer, and an overall increased risk of death. More specifically, rates of prostate and breast cancer in men and women who do shift work rise 40% to 70%. There’s also some evidence suggesting that one’s risk of stroke rises by 5% for every year of doing shift work.

The deeper problem

Obviously it’s not as simple as just hormone secretion. What we find is that people who do shift work, or who work late into the night, also adopt a number of poor lifestyle habits.  For example, shift workers are more likely to eat at restaurants or eat poor quality fast food instead of cooking at home. They’re also less likely to seek an adequate amount of exercise. Mixing poor lifestyle habits with hormone disruption appears to be a recipe for poor health.

What can you do?

Well the obvious answers here are to make sure you’re eating a healthy diet, getting adequate sleep, getting enough exercise, and, when possible, obeying our body’s natural rhythms. Less obvious is a handy trick called light control. That is, first, ensuring that when you’re sleeping during the day that you’re blocking out all light sources and sleeping in total darkness. Second, while working at night it’s important to use the right kind of lighting, and when working at night you should be using very bright LED lighting at full power. The idea here is essentially to trick  your body that night is day and day is night. Chris Kresser also recommends that when leaving work in the morning when the sun is beginning to rise, that shift workers filter out blue wavelengths of light by wearing amber tinted glasses. By filtering out these blue wavelengths you are sending signals to your body that nighttime is coming, even if it’s not.

Get more information about this podcast by following this link: