Project Mindsets – Seasons of Change in Business

Drawing Compass and PencilsThere are many small businesses who practice project mindsets, some to rhythms of clockwork and calendars.

During the current season, there are plenty of small businesses deploying teams in the early hours of the morning riding snow blowers and spreading salt. In a few weeks, those same teams may see a different light of day riding lawnmowers and spreading mulch.

Different seasons, different projects. Different mindsets. Not a change of mind, a change of focus.

Restaurants prepare foods to fit various day parts. Retail stores adjust displays and advertising due to change of seasons. Accountants gear up for deadlines based on their clientele.

Having a mindset is slightly different than having one’s mind set – and it’s not just a space in the middle.

Maybe with your business, there are new revenue streams to explore. A change in demographics may have taken place with new construction or a change in the business climate. Vendors, laws, tools, attentions – all dynamic with changes of seasons – may lead to change in your practices or projects.

If we look in the dictionary – which has itself become a dynamic resource, often changing with each generation – we find one current definition for mindset to be:

mindset (noun): the established set of attitudes held by someone. “the region seems stuck in a medieval mindset”.

Use of the word: mindset (provided by Google Books)

Having a Project Mindset (an attitude for change) is different than having a Mind Set (an attitude for non-change).

Do you have a project mindset? What project is knocking on your desk?

Where Common Interests Abound, Friendships are Quickly Found

Where common interests abound, friendships are found - and potentially business relationships, too.

- A Financial Planner and a Commercial Real Estate Developer each share a love for fly-fishing.

- A Massage Therapist and an Accountant find out they share a hobby of making jewelry.

- An Auto Mechanic and a Back Doctor each have a Private Pilot license.

Two Golfers share Interesting Conversation on Fairway

Important are the friendships, yet with the common areas of interest, so might the friendship bring forth referrals, transactions, long-lasting conversations.

I once wrote Commonality Found Brings Defenses Down. Still true, but the more I see these types of discoveries, it’s not just that defenses go down, but friendships rise up.

I watch with interest the pace at which conversations – and relationships – go deeper when a common, non-business interest comes into view.

New High-Tech and Old High-Touch – Both Bring Value (Clips)

While some are excited about the possibilities of wearable technology like Google Glass, there are those that think it’s kind of creepy. I tend to be with the first camp. Here’s a firefighter who is also thinking about possibilities, developing a tool that could end up saving lives:

While high-tech is great, high-touch still brings a lot of value. I began using this format of journal keeping late last year and love it. It’s called The Bullet Journal:

Who’d’ve thunk it.  In one post, wearable tech and old-fashioned pencil and paper – both with big value. It’s like The Jetsons meet The Finstones (which actually happened in a TV-movie in 1987):

As a youth, Saturdays were filled with visual candy of cartoons in the morning and movie matinees in the afternoon. In 2014, we’ll be sharing Saturday videos from TED, subscriptions from YouTube, and other videos shared via feeds.

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Imagination as an Overcoming Device (Saturday Clips)

Sometimes our problems need to be seen in  new lights, new materials, or simply at a different speed before we realize how to overcome our life challenges.  Here are four examples of discovery using a shift in thinking:

Adam Savage takes us through two historic examples of scientific discoveries that came from simple, creative methods anyone could have followed

Janet Echelman found inspiration after failure and immense challenge by taking a walk after her paints went missing

Jonathan Fields was getting great exercise, but full-speed ahead was actually killing his productivity. So he dialed it back a notch and listen to what happened:

Kung Fu Panda learns of the Secret Ingredient to Secret Ingredient Soup

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As a youth, Saturdays were filled with visual candy of cartoons in the morning and movie matinees in the afternoon. In 2014, we’ll be sharing Saturday videos from TED, subscriptions from YouTube, and other videos shared via feeds.

5 Trademark Myths Debunked

Written by Josh Gerben

Facts Over Myths Written in ChalkFor many small business owners and entrepreneurs, trademark law can often be a tricky and misunderstood area of their business. Since there is an expense involved, many business owners wrongly feel this is a part of their business they can put off till later.

However, if not secured correctly, there is potential your trademark and brand could be taken advantage of, which can be detrimental to your business down the road. Below are five common trademarking misconceptions among business owners and why you should take correct action on these myths before they come back to haunt you.

Myth 1: I don’t need to file my trademark because my business is small and just starting out. 

Fact: Even small businesses who are just starting out should register their trademarks with the USPTO. Registering your trademark helps protect the investment you are making in your business¾ and in your business name.

Myth 2: It’s smarter to file the trademark application myself to save money.

Fact: You could end up LOSING money by filing the trademark yourself. If you apply for a trademark and it turns out there is another trademark similar to yours already registered (for example), you will be out the $325 government filing fee…with nothing to show for it. Or, you could apply for a trademark someone already has common law rights in and end up in a costly legal battle. It is always wise to consult with an attorney to conduct a professional search and give you a professional opinion before filing your trademark application.

Myth 3: Once my trademark is registered I don’t need to do anything else to protect my trademark. 

Fact: After your trademark is registered it is your responsibility to monitor the marketplace to make sure nobody else is using your trademark. If you find out someone IS using your trademark, you must enforce your rights by notifying the infringer. In addition, your trademark must be renewed every 10 years (and between the 5th and 6th year) after it is registered.

Myth 4: I can change an existing trademark just a little bit and call it my own. Cha-ching!

Fact: Actually, in most circumstances you can’t. The purpose of trademark law is to protect the investment business owners make in their companies and to protect consumers from confusion in the marketplace.  Therefore if you were allowed to, say, sell Reebokz brand shoes (even though the well-known Reebok shoe company exists) this would hurt both Reebok and customers who may be confused into thinking your product is made by Reebok.

Myth 5: It’s better to register a snazzy logo than just the words themselves.

Fact: While in some limited circumstances this is true, generally you receive broader protection by applying to register “just” the words. This is because once your logo is filed, you cannot change it at all; if you were to change your logo even slightly after filing, you would lose all rights in your trademark. If you file for just words, however, those words are protected no matter what color, size, or font they are in.

About the Author

Joshua Gerben is the principal of the Gerben Law Firm, PLLC, a firm that focuses specifically on trademark law and services related to trademarks. Gerben Law works with individuals and businesses looking to protect their assets through search, application and registration processes. You can learn more about trademarks by visiting Gerben Law Firm’s trademark university.

Benchmarks are not Hurdles in Friday Flutterings

Hurdles Ready for RaceBenchmarks Are Not Hurdles – not at first. When we wait until the last part of the timeframe to reach our benchmarks, then they become brick walls, don’t they? Do what you like least, first. Soon, you will end up beginning to like those things, too.

… Cracking Eggs on a Flat Surface is Best – I read this around the holidays, and have practiced it daily since. No shells in the eggs. And here’s a video to show it to be so, along with 23 other things you might be doing the wrong way.

… Evernote is the Best App I’d Love to Start Using More Often … But Probably Won’t. I have the apps, I’ve used the apps. I’ve downloaded and read the Essentials Ebook. I love it, but it’s a wide-body jet to me as I bicycle along the path of productivity.

… Is Chaos Simple?  A quote from Mason Cooley: “No chaos, no creation. Evidence: the kitchen at mealtime.” Hmm (and mm-mmm, good). And yet …

… Sites too Busy won’t get shared. Ads & Popups are not just annoying to some people, but to most people. And I understand a subtle pop-up towards the end of an article or in the corner. But there are some sites that have too much. And I’d rather miss the great content then read the advert streams (and I certainly won’t share that site with others).

… Derek Jeter isn’t gone yet, and I already miss him. And I’m not a Yankees fan. He played the game right. Baseball and life.

… A new Ebook for Whistle Stops Weekly subscribers comes out this weekend. Are you among the readers?

Previous Friday Flutterings:

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

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17 Most Suggested Tools and Accounts for Small Business

Level Tool to Find BalanceMany small business owners work from wherever they are sitting or standing at any given moment.

Recently, we shared our 29.5 Most Suggested Mobile Apps to Small Business Owners for those in constant motion. The tools and accounts shared here are for those stationary works areas – the desktops at home and work.

Ideally, they will sync up to your mobile apps to make work seamless across devices.

Many times, these are an introductory tool or account. This list is neither comprehensive or necessarily “best” but they are fantastic at getting people comfortable using new tools.

Domain Names and Hosting

  • GoDaddy – They work well with and understand small business (and have for years) with superior customer service always available. Bluehost is the next most popular in this area.

Content Creation and Syndication

  • WordPress (words) – I was on Typepad for a long time. Mostly because the folks I used for web dev didn’t want to use WordPress. It’s now the standard and market leader in building web sites (with or without blogs).
  • Genesis / StudioPress (website framework and themes) – The complete package. There are plenty of other themes, and I still use the now outdated but still fantastic Standard Theme (for now.)
  • YouTube (video) – There are so many ways to create videos, your business should be using this platform. If not creating content, curating playlists.
  • PressGram (photos) – Mostly because you can publish right into WordPress and always own your content. Every small business should use Pressgram.
  • PodBean (audio) – For podcasting, this is the place I recommend – though a starter sample at BlogTalkRadio is a good idea.
  • FeedBlitz (syndication) – Great support and knowledge base – and works well with podcasting, too.

Content Curation

  • Feedly - A wonderful app to get small business owners into a productive habit of reading what’s important to themselves and their customers.
  • Prismatic – A bit different in that the community seems to vet what gets placed and how high, but that’s a good sign in many cases. Lots of choice, great for research.

Social Media Accounts

  • Google Plus – While this is a moving landscape, it’s uphill without being steep. Great for search purposes, connecting, and the community is super helpful. If a small business is new to social streams, we start here.
  • Twitter - In short, this is the shortest distance to small victories.
  • Facebook – Whether you love it or hate it, have a presence here is a must. Probably a dollar a day in advertising, too. Still a valuable place to hang a shingle
  • LinkedIn – Potential keeps rising, newest add-ons are spotlighting a particular portion of your company and  full blog-like writing component for profiles.
  • Pinterest – Still rising in popularity, especially as small business owners are finding new ways to visually share their business and things their customers value.

Social Media Sharing Tools

  • Buffer App - The go-to tool, especially if you’re at a workstation. Great for scheduling one-time shares and things you find.
  • Hootsuite - A go-to tool for heavy mobile users and bulk scheduling.

Newsletters and Email Marketing

  • Mailchimp – Especially for business owners just getting started with building their list.

Other tools and accounts

There are a lot of accounts and tools available, many more advanced and powerful than those above, which is why we suggest KnowEm as a place to at least reserve your company name if there’s a possibility of using a tool.

Again, while this is not an exhaustive listing of tools we recommend, it’s a listing of tools we suggest most often. What’s right for your company? It Depends.

Photo via morguefile by dhester

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How SmallBizTracks Works: Next Steps and Follow Through

Man Stepping onto Railroad TrackContent Marketing does more than just lead into a sales call. Content Marketing includes the sales, the service, and the follow-through. At SmallBizTracks, it’s one of the things we teach our customers to apply – and it’s also part of how we service what we sell.

As we complete a project (track), we make sure the small business we worked with has a few things in hand and at the ready:

  1. A completed Scope document, which also serves as a “punch list” during the project
  2. A Cheat Sheet when appropriate, showing the owner or client how the new piece works and how to measure success
  3. Potential “Next Steps” which shares suggestions on a few tracks we suggest will continue building a better business presence.

Believing in the word “building” as a continuous motion as opposed to “build” or “built” as in finished. The Next Steps page is one of the most important documents we share during our project work as a look ahead so preparations can be made. Occasionally, we will also share additional Next Steps pages as new tools or techniques get launched or discovered.

These follow-ups are, more than anything, keeping an open door and a clear path to communication and conversation. Too many times, I’ve heard small business owners say they don’t want to ask dumb questions, or bother their web folks, or get invoiced for a simple question.

Next steps and continued conversation are keys to building a better business presence. It’s how we Stay Ahead of the Next Big Thing.

Photo via morguefile by sideshowmom

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29.5 Most Suggested Mobile Apps to Small Business Owners

mobile-deviceWorking with many sizes, types, and locations of small businesses and industries, making a blanket statement such as, “Here are the Must-Have Apps for Small Business” is as likely to strike a chord as it is to miss the barn.

We suggest mobile apps based on potential needs, operating systems, and personality types.

One of the prerequisites – or at least strongly desired aspects – of any of these apps is that they can be used and synched from any device a small business owner might use, e.g., phone; tablet; laptop; work station; or home desktop.

Here are SmallBizTracks29.5 Most Suggested Mobile Apps for Small Business Owners:

Communication Apps for Small Business

  • Skype  - Especially helpful because it eliminates geographical borders and can share screens. Makes face-to-face meetings easy without being toe-to-toe.
  • DropBox – Immediately have access to items shared with you or with yourself on any connected device. Much handier than fumbling for a thumb drive.
  • Google Drive – There is a lot to like, especially the real-time collaborative features.
  • One Drive – Somewhat new to the suggestion list. Looks especially great for storing and sharing photos.
  • Quick Voice – Record your voice as your driving or presenting. Great for meetings, too.
  • MailChimp – If you’ve prepared a newsletter or mailing and need to edit or publish, you’ll be glad you have this app.
  • DocuSign – This is becoming more popular of a suggestion and widely recognized as a leader in electronic signatures.
  • Hangouts – Especially good for the solopreneur or owner-on-the-road and for small business owners looking to use video consulting as an additional revenue stream.
  • Evernote – Another document sharing app, but more favored for it’s staying organized capability.

Content (Creation and Curation) Apps for Small Business

  • Feedly – This aggregator of feeds and news is indispensable, not just to keep up, but for saving and sharing.
  • Instapaper – Create folders and save for later reading.
  • Pocket – Another way to read items later, I usually use Instapaper for temporary saving and Pocket for permanent saving.
  • Prismatic – A great tool for keeping tabs on what’s new and items popularly shared across social networks.
  • WordPress – While this app can create content (drafts preferably), the main purpose for suggesting this is incoming comments (positive or negative)
  • PressgramEvery small business should use Pressgram. If there is any visual value, Pressgram is a must have app.
  • AudioNotebook – Just started using this app, great for meetings as it captures your text notes and the audio of the meeting.

Social Media Apps for Small Business

  • Google+ – Most of these social apps are known, and G-plus has much eye candy and brain benders while you’re waiting on … (train, appointment, hold, etc.)
  • Paper (Facebook) – The newest app, but in a magazine-style format. This one could get addictive.
  • Pinterest – A quick re-pin here and there, but also great for kickstarting ideas
  • Hootsuite – Use mostly for Twitter interaction and quick re-tweets

Aside: I don’t often recommend using a mobile app to for extended periods of engagement on social media. A better focus for those periods is at a laptop or desktop. While that’s the style I suggest, it may work fine for you.

Recreation and Re-Creation Apps for Small Business

  • Kindle – Whether it’s to read a chapter or search for a quote in your library, this is really a must-have.
  • Audible – Long drive or commute, but not in the mood for music? Listen to a book.
  • IMDb – Great app to find quotes from movies to include in your presentation or post
  • YouTube – Watch a TED video, add to a playlist, learn a technique, or mark a popular video to watch later.
  • Pandora – Soundtracks make for great writing music. If you have speakers, create a mood for your office or store.

Finance Apps for Small Business

  • PayPal – Especially if your selling services or products online.
  • Square – Whether taking a credit card in person or over the phone, this has become an indispensable app for the one-person company.
  • Fresh Books – Invoice on the go, I rarely generate from this app, but I can always look to see where a client stands.
  • Expensify – Great app to manage receipts, track time, or collect taxable data during the year.
  • (Bitcoin apps) – Apple has removed all bitcoin apps as of this writing, though some will return. Coinbase is the one I recommend on the Android system (this is the .5 app).

Links are not provided in this post since we don’t know what type of device you’re using. There might be an addendum to this post later to share links to various app stores so you can quickly find these for your device.

The apps listed above are not the limit or only apps we suggest, simply those we suggest most often.

Photo via PicJumbo

How SmallBizTracks Works: Accounts, Plugins, and 3rd Party Vendors

Puzzle Pieces Coming TogetherDepending on the type of project (track) you have SmallBizTracks working on for you, there are likely to be one or more applications, plugins, or social media accounts added to the mix to help grow your business presence.

We always discuss these add-on tools before implementing them. Some of these accounts, plugins, and third-party vendors may require your own account or login, and while many offer a free trial, at some point may require a small monthly subscription fee after the trial period.

The way we most often handle these cases is that you have complete control over these accounts, though we help get you started in this manner:

  1. Decision – We agree on whether the tool, account, or plugin is right for your business.
  2. Ignition – SmallBizTracks creates the account under your name with a password we can share during development (that you can change at any time).
  3. Application – SmallBizTracks provides you with a cheat sheet of links, contacts, and tips on how to use these tools.

If a credit card is needed up front or after a trial period, you input that. That information is not accessible to us without your permission (we prefer it that way). The account is always yours and we don’t need to transfer ownership at anytime.

The themes, vendors, plugins, and applications we recommend go through a rigorous testing, research, and vetting before we make a positive recommendation for its use.

Photo on morguefile by FidlerJan

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