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Comments Off on Five Tips for a Profitable 2013

Five Tips for a Profitable 2013

Guest post by Jennifer Vessels,
CEO, Next Step Consulting

Start the year by taking charge of your success. While economic uncertainty continues there is positive growth and momentum in many markets. Minimize your uncertainty by developing a plan for a profitable 2013.

Next Step’s five proven growth tips are:

  1. Evaluate your staff and upgrade employees to “A” players that can take your business to the next level of profitability.
  2. Study your operating processes to find bottlenecks, waste and inefficiencies.
  3. Build incentive plans to drive revenue and profitability.
  4. Reinvent marketing to communicate the unique value you bring to the target market.
  5. Measure your customer experience to improve overall satisfaction and increase revenues with existing and referred customers.

Sign-up for our free upcoming webinar:
Economic and Business Model Changes Needed for Cloud

Growth and change can be challenging. Next Step can help you meet these challenges and achieve your revenue goals for 2013. If you are interested in finding out more about how we can help, click here to read more about the services that we offer.

Our services that lead to growth include:

  • Team Building
  • Sales Productivity
  • Employee Engagement
  • Executing Marketing Programs
  • Customer Satisfaction
  • Strategic Planning

For more information about the author or Next Step Consulting, please visit

Comments Off on As the Year Winds Down: How to Do it Better Next Year!

As the Year Winds Down: How to Do it Better Next Year!

Excerpted from a post by Kat Simpson

If entrepreneurs are honest with ourselves, we’ll admit there are always more opportunities than we have time for. The goal is to identify one or two that you will pursue next year.

Do any of these match up to your thoughts?

  • Be More Organized
  • Take more leaps of faith
  • Get out of my comfort zone
  • Make a plan and stick to it
  • Get more aware of my numbers
  • More FBA; Less eBay
  • Join the global shipping program
  • Join Amazon
  • Diversify
  • Organize
  • Find new Sources

Now the way to do this is NOT to look at the above list and say, “Yes, I’m going to do all of that!” NO! The way to do this is to look at YOUR business, YOUR goals and what your next year looks like. Are you moving in 2013? Are your children going off to college? Do you have small children?  What does your LIFE look like and what does your business need to look like to be successful for you?

Sit down with a year’s calendar and block off all the Holidays, trips and plans you already have. Look at the business conferences you’d like to attend and see what fits into your schedule and your goals. Now you have a better idea of what success looks like for you and what time you have to devote to it. Don’t frustrate yourself with Ten Big Goals that in your heart you know you don’t have the time and energy to pursue. Choose the one or two that will have the biggest impact on your bottom line; what success means to you.

Have you never really had a plan? Just put stuff up for sale and hoped for the best? Making a serious plan is the goal I would encourage all entrepreneurs to have, even ‘accidental entrepreneurs.’ After all, if you don’t have a plan, how will you know where you are headed?

Read the full article…

Comments Off on Improvements Make Linked-In a Better Experience

Improvements Make Linked-In a Better Experience

Users can now add comments and “likes” to articles on LinkedIn Today. And the new “Trending in Your Network” tab filters all of the professional news articles on LinkedIn Today and gives you the most popular ones in your professional network.

LinkedIn has also “started to roll out a simpler and easier way to navigate Homepage experience that offers quick access to the relevant information and updates that help you be great at your job.”

Commenting & Liking: Sometimes the commentary about a news article can be just as insightful as the article itself. To that end, articles on LinkedIn Today will now include social gestures which will enable our 161 million member professionals to engage and create a dialogue around the news headlines that matter most to them, as well as learn what is currently trending online. This means, members will be able to see a snapshot of what’s top of mind among their professional networks.

Trending in Your Network: LinkedIn Today was built on the premise of providing a relevant, customizable news experience based on key news and updates trending in your industry and the other industries you choose to follow.  Starting today, we will begin rolling a new tab called “Trending in Your Network.”  By simply clicking on this tab, members will have yet another filter to sort through all of the professional news articles and industry updates, based on those articles that are currently the most popular among members of their professional networks, regardless of their industry.

These two new features, together with the existing customizable news feed, allow members to not only narrow down the most timely and relevant information needed when needed, but to also gather valuable insights about other like-minded individuals within their professional networks and beyond.

Full details on the Linked-In Blog…

Comments Off on 8 Core Beliefs of Extraordinary Bosses

8 Core Beliefs of Extraordinary Bosses

The best managers have a fundamentally different understanding of workplace, company, and team dynamics. See what they get right.

by Geoffrey James,

A few years back, I interviewed some of the most successful CEOs in the world in order to discover their management secrets. I learned that the “best of the best” tend to share the following eight core beliefs.

1. Business is an ecosystem, not a battlefield.

Average bosses see business as a conflict between companies, departments and groups. They build huge armies of “troops” to order about, demonize competitors as “enemies,” and treat customers as “territory” to be conquered.

Extraordinary bosses see business as a symbiosis where the most diverse firm is most likely to survive and thrive. They naturally create teams that adapt easily to new markets and can quickly form partnerships with other companies, customers … and even competitors.

2. A company is a community, not a machine.

Average bosses consider their company to be a machine with employees as cogs. They create rigid structures with rigid rules and then try to maintain control by “pulling levers” and “steering the ship.”

Extraordinary bosses see their company as a collection of individual hopes and dreams, all connected to a higher purpose. They inspire employees to dedicate themselves to the success of their peers and therefore to the community–and company–at large.

3. Management is service, not control.

Average bosses want employees to do exactly what they’re told. They’re hyper-aware of anything that smacks of insubordination and create environments where individual initiative is squelched by the “wait and see what the boss says” mentality.

Extraordinary bosses set a general direction and then commit themselves to obtaining the resources that their employees need to get the job done. They push decision making downward, allowing teams form their own rules and intervening only in emergencies.

4. My employees are my peers, not my children.

Average bosses see employees as inferior, immature beings who simply can’t be trusted if not overseen by a patriarchal management. Employees take their cues from this attitude, expend energy on looking busy and covering their behinds.

Extraordinary bosses treat every employee as if he or she were the most important person in the firm. Excellence is expected everywhere, from the loading dock to the boardroom. As a result, employees at all levels take charge of their own destinies.

5. Motivation comes from vision, not from fear.

Average bosses see fear–of getting fired, of ridicule, of loss of privilege–as a crucial way to motivate people.  As a result, employees and managers alike become paralyzed and unable to make risky decisions.

Extraordinary bosses inspire people to see a better future and how they’ll be a part of it.  As a result, employees work harder because they believe in the organization’s goals, truly enjoy what they’re doing and (of course) know they’ll share in the rewards.

Read the full article and see video…

Comments Off on Four Reasons Why You Should Daydream More Often (Really!)

Four Reasons Why You Should Daydream More Often (Really!)

From the A.C. Grace Company Blog
© 2012 Health Realizations, Inc.

“I  was trying to daydream, but my mind kept wandering.”
— Stephen Wright, American actor, writer,  comedian

Daydreaming, long associated with the procrastinator or the lazy student in the back of the classroom, has gotten a bad rap — unfairly it now seems. For a while daydreaming was often looked down on as something to be done only in extreme moderation, and even then only on a rare summer day, preferably in a hammock.

It turns out this pastime may actually be good for you.

“If your mind didn’t wander, then you’d be largely shackled to whatever you are doing right now,” Jonathan Schooler, a psychologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara said in The Boston Globe. “But instead you can engage in mental time travel and other kinds of simulation. During a daydream, your thoughts are really unbounded.”

A daydream, it turns out, is actually your brain’s “default” mode, a fundamental element that allows you to imagine, create and process thoughts. This is great news given that daydreaming may take up a full one-third of our waking lives!

Four Top Reasons to Daydream Intentionally — Starting Today

A daydream is much more than just a silly fantasy to keep you from getting bored at work. Following are some very real benefits that daydreaming has to offer, and if you’re interested in securing some of them for yourself, well, you know what to do.

  1. Activate your brain’s “executive network.” This is the area of your brain associated with high-level, complex problem-solving. According to new research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the less people were aware their minds were wandering, the more this “executive network,” and also the “default network” associated with easy, routine mental activity, were activated.

What this means is if you’re trying to solve a complicated problem, engaging yourself with a simple task, then letting your mind wander, may help.

  1. Improve your relationships and social interactions. When you daydream, your ability to think abstractly flourishes. And most often, we think abstractly about “what if” scenarios relating to people and social situations in our lives, which may help you to be more empathetic in real life.
  1. Boost your creativity. People who engage in more daydreaming score higher on experimental measures of creativity, according to research by Jonathan Schooler, a psychologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
  1. Increase your success. Daydreaming about achieving a particular goal you have, such as winning an upcoming marathon or getting into grad school, can actually help you achieve it. This type of daydreaming, sometimes called visualization, helps you to become more self-aware, and may actually count as “practice” to your brain that helps you during the actual event.

Read the full article with references…

Comments Off on Do You Require Facebook Passwords for Applicants You Interview?

Do You Require Facebook Passwords for Applicants You Interview?

by Dave Thomas,

As media reports have shown us lately, more employers are asking job interview candidates to provide them with Facebook, Twitter and other social media log-in information in order to view private accounts during the background check process.

So, how much damage can a personal Facebook or Twitter account do to someone’s chances of getting a job? To those that think not much, think again.

As more job candidates are discovering, a questionable tweet or sharing a picture of one in a drunken predicament can have very damaging effects on one’s ability to get a job and/or even get in an interview for that matter.

But before your small business decides to spend time on the personal social media accounts of those you are considering interviewing, think about the possible legal ramifications of such actions.

While this is still a very gray area in terms of legalities, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other groups are letting both the potential employee and the employer that they are watching this recent trend.

Did Maryland Officials Go Too Far?

Much attention was directed recently at the Maryland Department of Corrections, where officials asked applicants and even a number of those already employed there to willingly provide their Facebook passwords. According to prison officials, they wanted to view the private accounts to be sure none of the potential guards and some of those already working there did not have any gang ties

Read the full article

Comments Off on How to be Optimistic, Even if Times are Tough

How to be Optimistic, Even if Times are Tough


There are a variety of reasons why you should want to be optimistic. This positive state of mind has been verified as a successful strategy to prevent mental and physical illness, and people who practice optimism regularly do better at work, school and sports, are less depressed and have better personal relationships.

What’s not to like?

Well, if given the option most of us would gladly choose to stay positive all the time. But then this pesky thing called reality keeps getting in the way. The economy is slumping. Jobs are hard to come by and those of us who have one are waiting on-edge for the next round of lay-offs. Some of us are having trouble making basic ends meet, and others are already unable to and are drowning in debt.

To put it lightly, many of us have a lot to complain about. But then again, many of us have a lot to be thankful for too, no? This is the simple difference between someone who is optimistic and someone who is pessimistic; it’s all about mindset.

“Of course, optimists get stressed,” says David Snowdon, a professor of neurology at the University of Kentucky in a Prevention article. “But they automatically turn the response off much more quickly and return to a positive mental and physical state.”

The good news is that you, too, can learn how to turn on that “happy” switch, even when times are tough — and here’s how.

    1. Be grateful for what you have. Your mother may have told you this when you were young, and it’s still a basic rule to live by. Instead of focusing on what you don’t have, focus on what you do have. The simple change in attitude can do wonders for your mental state, and expressing gratitude regularly has been linked to better health, well-being and progress toward your goals. A simple way to get started is to jot down 10 things you love about your life every day.
    2. Do something kind for someone. Studies show that doing five good deeds a day can make you happier, and volunteering has been linked to a heightened sense of well-being. If you need some motivation, watch someone else do something kind. Just witnessing the act has been found to boost your mood and make you more likely to do nice things as well.
    3. Communicate positively. When you speak or write, always phrase things in a positive way. For example, instead of saying to your spouse, “You’d better not be late for dinner,” try, “I’m really looking forward to having dinner with you at 7:00.”
    4. Turn adversity into opportunity. A failure or a hard time is only a bad thing if you let it be. Realize that successful people fail, and have likely failed many times to get where they are. So when you do fail, embrace it. Turn the failure into a positive by figuring out what went wrong, then applying what you learned to your next endeavor.
    5. Read all eight techniques in the full article…

Embrace and Support Your Positive Self with the #1 Most Recommended Relax

There’s no need to worry; do the so-what if’s.

  • See the possibilities of all sides
  • Do a series of “what if’s” “So What” (there is truly nothing worse than manifesting fears, creating stress)
  • Realize that even extremes may not be pleasant, yet not as bad as fears
  • Strength comes from overcoming fears by focusing on the positive

You instinctively know how to relax instantly:

  • Let go: Eliminate Stress Immediately
  • Calm Your Mind
  • Soothe Your Emotions
  • Create a State of Deep Relaxation in Your Body (nose to your toes)
  • Meditate: Gain complete relaxation in a natural, effortless way

Select soothing background Music to help you relax each day.

(© 2012 Health Realizations, Inc.)


Comments Off on What Great Companies Know About Culture

What Great Companies Know About Culture

excerpts from a blog post on Harvard Business Review by Deidre H. Campbell

Life for small businesses may have more in common with the big companies than you may think. In a recent post on the Harvard Business Review, we found a case made for company culture that applies in any organization with more than one person involved. In this article, there is referenced a direct correlation between employee investment and the balance sheet.

As Prof. James L. Heskett wrote in his latest book The Culture Cycle, effective culture can account for 20-30 percent of the differential in corporate performance when compared with “culturally unremarkable” competitors.

To better understand the ROI, the author’s company, Burson-Marsteller, teamed up with the Great Place to Work Institute to ask senior executives from top-ranked companies about the value of a positive work environment. The survey garnered responses from 20 of the top 25 companies in the global workplace ranking. Here’s what those companies do in common:

They invest more in their employees. The response came back resoundingly: It’s simply good for business. Rather than cutting back or eliminating programs, 30 percent of top-ranked companies are investing more in work-life programs, such as flex-time, health benefits, and employee perks. The remaining 70 percent have held steady the level of investment.

They’re upgrading. Old-fashioned benefits like health insurance, family leave, and flex time ranked only 15 percent when considering most valued HR offerings. Traditional onsite benefits, such as cafeterias, childcare, massages, and volunteer opportunities ranked a mere 5 percent when determining what benefits provide stability during economic uncertainty. Instead programs that offer the most stability, as reported by 75 percent of respondents, are those that communicate brand mission and provide career development opportunities.

They recognize that culture is critical to talent retention. When asked which elements of workplace commitment most benefit daily operations, companies ranked culture at 80 percent and recruitment/retention at 70 percent. Competitiveness, customer loyalty, innovation, and productivity — while critical to daily operations — trailed behind with each under 20 percent. In a world where competition for talent is global, star performers seek companies with values that mirror their own.

They know their audience. These companies recognize which stakeholders will watch their every move. For this audience, it’s imperative to communicate the company’s commitment to being a great workplace. 70 percent of respondents ranked customers as the most important external audience to understand this crucial point. 35 percent cited investors as the second most important external audience. This means that employees and senior leadership alike should ensure that the brand is understood inside and out by customers and other stakeholders. This blend is special, valuable, and demonstrates the holistic view we have of ‘doing business’ in the world.

Becoming a great workplace is the result of long-term investment in employees. As was shown, this kind of investment will increase productivity, improve recruitment and retention, and save costs — all positively impacting the bottom line. In challenging economic times, we are reminded that companies should not only be a great workplace because it is the right thing to do, but because it is good for business.

Comments Off on Sites That Answer Your Tech Questions

Sites That Answer Your Tech Questions

Most of our readers are not technology specialists, but we all have to make technology decisions every day. How do you base your decisions when you don’t know the criteria?  We found a nice little list and have shared a portion of it here with you.

There are encyclopedia sites for quick answers, and there are video sites for extended screencasts. All of these are free.

Technology Education

  1. Wikipedia. Wikipedia is a collaborative encyclopedia website. Wikipedia has more than 82,000 active contributors working on more than 19,000,000 articles in more than 270 languages. As of today, there are 3,792,002 articles in English. Wikipedia can provide you with an overview and history of a technological subject, as well as a list of references to learn more on your subject
  2. is an education tool on information technology. It contains over 4,500 individual encyclopedic definitions and topics, as well as a number of fast reference pages and learning tools. The topics contain approximately 12,000 hyperlinks between the topics and other reference sites.
  3. HowStuffWorks. HowStuffWorks offers easy-to-understand explanations of how the world actually works. The site also provides consumer opinions, and access to independent expert ratings and reviews. All of the information you need to make a purchasing decision.
  4. Best Tech Videos. Best Tech Videos is a user driven social content website dedicated to finding the best educational videos for developers, designers, managers and other people in IT. Videos are submitted by the community, and then approved by moderators. The site has nearly 11,000 videos and over 6,000 hours of content.
  5. TechXtra. TechXtra is a search-engine for subject-based information in computing, mathematics, and engineering resources. It cross-searches from 31 different collections, including content from over 50 publishers and providers.
  6. Cisco WebEx. In addition to being a conferencing tool, the Cisco WebEx platform offers hundreds of educational webinars. The majority of the webinars are business and computing-related, though there are a variety of other subjects, including health and fitness, and arts and culture.
  7. YouTube. YouTube hosts videos on all aspects of technology. For example, there are approximately 1,000 technology videos just on the Google Developers Channel
  8. InfoWorld. InfoWorld provides technical analysis on key products, solutions, and technologies for buying decisions. It seeks to explain to senior technology decision makers how these technologies work, and how to use them to drive business.
  9. iTunes U. iTunes U is a distribution system for educational videos on a wide variety of subjects, including business and technology. There are over 350,000 free lectures, videos, and other resources already on iTunes U.
  10. AlphaGalileo. AlphaGalileo is an independent source of research news for technology, business, science, and applied science. Access news information, library and multimedia resources, broadcast media, and technical blogs. 
  11. provides free access to a collection of online encyclopedias and published sources like Oxford University Press and Columbia Encyclopedia. It contains nearly 200,000 reference entries and more than 50,000 multi-media topic summaries.
  12. is a search engine designed to answer questions. In addition to its search capabilities, it has a Q&A section where you can ask direct questions that are answered by Ask’s Q&A partners. Q&A categories include computers, technology, and business and finance.




Comments Off on Teaching Good Customer Service

Teaching Good Customer Service

By Dr. David G. Javitch

Is customer service important? Is customer service every employee’s responsibility?

The clear answer to both of these questions is a resounding yes! And more important, the major responsibility for creating a customer friendly atmosphere begins with you, the boss. Not only are you responsible for teaching first-rate customer service skills, but as their leader, you must demonstrate these behaviors and be a role model for your employees. Without positive examples from you, they’re not likely to improve.

But just why is customer service so crucially important to the success of your company?

Whether or not your employees work specifically as customer service people, as the head of your organization, you must instill in all your employees one key strategic thought and direction: If you’re going to create a positive and productive business environment, everyone must speak and relate to customers and potential customers as if each person were their paycheck. Because, in fact, they are.

Tell your employees to seriously consider this startling truth: If customers don’t keep coming back and purchasing your company’s products or services, there will be no company. And obviously, if there’s no company–or if you’re forced to downsize–many of the people working for you now may lose their jobs.

I bet you’ll have your employee’s complete attention.

Read the full article at Entrepreneur…