Small Business Solutions | A David Creation - Part 7

Getting Things Done: Great To-Do List App

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ThingsBlackberry and Palm devices always did a great job including a good and easy to use task manager application. On the old PALM, you actually had a button for “To-Do’s” right on the front of your device. Making list were easy and checking them off was even more fun! Now that the technology age is so much more advanced since the early Palm Pilot models of the late 1990s, we think we need better programs to manage our crazy schedules. Books have been written about how to manage your time more efficiently, including the popular “Getting Things Done” book by David Allen.

The iPhone, being the latest and greatest mobile device on the market does not come with a standard task manager program. Apple left that particular App to the App creators! If you do a search for a good “to do” list for you iPhone, it will be hard finding one that is easy to use and even reminds you when things are do. I’m still in the testing stages of finding a quality task management App for my iPhone, but so far, I like the App called “Things.” This App cost $9.99 from the Apps Store on your device. However, if you are familiar with the Getting Things Done method or have your own creative way to organize your list, Things is probably a great little program for you to try. I know it is $9.99 but if it really does help you organize your busy schedule better, I’m sure it is worth it. Things allows you to quickly jot down thoughts and to-dos. It then saves them into a folder called “Inbox.” The next step, when you have the time, is to go into your Inbox and categorize and priorities your recent to-do items. Things then will organize your items into separate folders such as: Today, Next, Scheduled and Someday. All items can also be tagged. I use the “tag” function as the categories for the companies I am working for on an ongoing basis.

Two final “cool” features are the Projects section and the ability to email your items to yourself or someone else. The projects area gives you the capability of naming projects and the items that need to be done to accomplish the overall goal.

To learn more, visit Things and watch their short video on how it can save you time and money!

Check Your Business Voicemail Greeting

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One of the areas that is almost always overlooked the most for small business owners is their personal greeting message on their business cell phones. Here is the typical message you hear on a mobile phone, for example, “This is Brandon. I’m not available at the moment. So leave me a message after the beep and I’ll get back with you shortly…” (Remember that the tone of voice usually sounds boring too). Think of your voicemail message as a way to separate yourself from your competition. This is the perfect opportunity to leave a good impression on a potential client or leave a greeting that is just different than the norm. Your callers are not stupid. You don’t need to remind them that they have reached your voicemail or about the “beep” sound. They know how to leave a message. Besides, voicemail and the “beep” have been around for over 30 years.

The key to a good voicemail greetings is to be different and get right to the point. Here are a few better examples for Brandon, “This is Brandon from Brandon’s Paintworks. When leaving your message, let me know the best time to call you back, and I will do so promply. Thanks for calling” or “This is Brandon. Your call is important to me and I promise to get back with you in less than xyz mins…”

One final tip about your voicemail message: Smile when recording your greeting and speak clearly! You’d be surprised at how many people will comment about your positive attitude when leaving a message. When I learned this concept a few years ago from another marketing professional and switched my voicemail greeting to sound more positive (and that I “welcomed” their call), I had many people say things like, “Wow! That was a positive greeting.” or “Whoo…what a great message…you sound chipper.” It is this simple: never leave the impression that a customer’s phone call is not important!

LinkedIn for iPhone

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LinkedIn, as I have explained in an earlier post, is a fantastic networking tool for business owners and business executives. It really is a “must” if you are trying to grow your business and seek to build connections and relationships locally or nationwide. LinkedIn‘s recommendation tool is also very helpful. You can ask friends, co-workers, former employers, etc. to write a brief recommendation and use that as a selling point when you are meeting with prospective clients.

LinkedIn has been accessible for the smartphone industry for quite awhile at They have not released a Blackberry Application as of yet but have a good App for the iPhone. I still cannot understand why so many companies build applications for business people using the iPhone first and not the Blackberry. The iPhone is an incredible device, but there are still thousands, if not hundreds of thousands more Blackberry business users than there are iPhone users. The iPhone has around 50,000 and counting Applications (Apps) while the Blackberry has 5,000+ apps available. Whatever the reason behind why LinkedIn created an iPhone App first, I do not know! I will say that the App is easy to use and very nice looking! My only thumbs down opinion of the iPhone LinkedIn App is that it does not have an “inbox” installed. In other words, you cannot send and receive messages within this program. You still have to get on the mobile website or check your inbox from a regular PC or Mac. Hey…we can’t have everything at our fingertips…Yet! I’m sure this feature will be installed on a later version.

In the mean time, I hope a Blackberry App for LinkedIn will come out soon! It has been over a year since the iPhone App was released.

Quick Tip to Using LinkedIn in Your Business

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I have been using LinkedIn for several years. I must admit, a few years ago, I had no idea what it was for or why a company should be a part of it. That was really before the days of Facebook and Twitter, which revolutionalized the now buzz words “Social Networking.”After jumping on the bandwagon of social networks more in recent months and the last year, I have come to recognize the power of these sites, if you utilize all they have to offer.

One thing I have noticed from my industry (painting), is paint contractors are not utilizing LinkedIn. They sign up and then turn off their potential connections. In order to connect, the person try to connect has to know their personal email account associated to LinkedIn. It is rather annoying! The whole purpose of getting on LinkedIn is to connect with potential customers, decision makers, fellow business owners, and so on.

So one simple little tip that I hope is helpful: if you are going to sign up for Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and the any other social network/media, make sure people can connect with you as easily as possible! It is that simple!

CRM Navigation Evaluation

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As I have mentioned in a recent post, I have been evaluating “on demand” Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software to offer to my clients in the last few weeks. In the old days, CRM worked great on a desktop computer. However, I have discovered that in the painting industry, many owners are working more remotely and spending less time in the office. It is hard to be able to use a CRM that is sitting on one computer at the office when you are in and out of the office so much. So, I really feel that a good CRM on the Internet is the best way to go these days. The problem is finding the right software company to use.

There are some VERY quality CRM programs available on the market but only a small hand full are actually easy to use. Most of the software is either too basic (not enough features) or too advanced (way too many features). Small painting companies simply do not have the time to use a full feature CRM program like the one’s I’ve researched. So the key is finding one that is easy to navigate, easy to use and is customizable.

Speaking of Navigating, I was intrigued by 3 quality CRM programs this week and their top Navigation bars. These are all big companies that have a lot of time, energy and money invested into there programs. I was testing these programs out this week (SugarCRM, SalesForce and ZoHoCRM) and realized one major problem with one of the programs Navigation buttons. I had a very hard time on Sugar navigating my way from Lead to Closing the job. Once they walked me through it, it was not difficult, but when I tried it the first time, it was a little troublesome. I also did not know the difference between an Account and a Contact, as most paint companies just called them “contacts.” One of the reasons I was so confused is because of the way their Navigation bars were located. The Navigation menus are read from Left to Right and SugarCRM starts with the following: HOME, DASHBOARD, CALENDAR, ACTIVITIES etc. Now, there is really nothing wrong with this format and structure at first glance. It is nice to start things out with looking at your overall picture (Dashboard) then your Calendar to check your schedule. When it gets tricky is when the phone call comes in with a lead. You then have to scan and look carefully for the LEAD menu. Then when you want to view Accounts it is not directly next to the LEADS. In a perfect world, this is the order in which they should be viewed when a phone call comes in with a lead: (left to right)  LEAD, ACCOUNTS, CONTACTS, OPPORTUNITY, etc. Check out the way SalesForce and ZoHo laid out their Navigation menus and see the difference. Salesforce starts with HOME, LEADS, ACCOUNTS, CONTACTS, OPPORTUNITIES, etc. Isn’t that the perfect order of a sales call? ZohoCRM was second best and almost identical. However, they changed the typical CRM term “Opportunities” to read “Potentials.” That was the only word that was confusing if you’ve used ACT! or other CRM programs in the past. By making up a new word instead of just keeping the standard “Opportunities” it does cause the user to think about what it might be.

Now maybe SugarCRM has a way to reorganize their layout but on first glance, they definitely confused me. However, I would say Suguar had a lot of strengths (besides the navigation issue) that make it one of the best CRM programs on the market.

CRM Navigation

I sharing with you this little evaluation and tip so that you know there is always a better way to do things in your business. For example, it does not hurt to get a second opinion in your marketing efforts before you go to print or design something online. All three companies mentioned above have there reasons why they designed and laid out their navigation buttons this way. However, one company (Salesforce) listened to their customers the best and designed the easiest navigation system I’ve seen on the web. Now, this does not mean I endorse SalesForce as the best CRM because of their great navigation bars, but that, my friends, is another article for another day.

If you need help on evaluating your marketing pieces in the future and enjoy doing most of the work yourself, ask me about my “Startup” consulting program.

Buy a Mac. Toss Your PC

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I just spent two hours last night trying to troubleshoot a family members brand new Windows Vista PC computer. I can’t tell you how much a pain it was to get the new email working and contacts transferred safely to Microsoft Outlook. When it was all said and done, we then proceeded to send small groups of emails to friends telling them she had a new email account. The reason we did small batches of emails is so we would not be labeled as a spammer! Well, this morning, the PC is in trouble! I received a call that she cannot send email. I told her to call Verizon who quickly said, “not our problem…sounds like it is a Windows problem…call them…” I don’t know who’s problem it is! All I know is that I spent another hour troubleshooting it for her to see if I could figure it out. I turned off the evil Norton software, thinking that was the culprit. I got the email to receive but not send. Therefore, my conclusion is that Windows or Verizon thinks the email is a spammer! I suggested to call Verizon again and don’t let them hang up! I really think it is a combination between Verizon and a PC.

I can’t tell you how many problems I face while using a PC. I’ve used PC computers for 20+ years and switched to a Mac a year ago. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made! You don’t need Norton or any virus software. That alone makes your computer run 10x faster! When you install a program, it is not rocket-science. The little Mac brain figures it out! When you want to use a new Internet connection, Mac says, “Hmm…I think he wants to use this connection. Done!” There is just less headaches with a Mac the more I use it. I still use a PC several times a week and spend half my time waiting for things to load or finding information. So, if you have not purchased a Mac and are on the look out for a new computer, it is worth the up front cost to switch to a Mac: I guarantee it. You will save money on tech support too!

One last thing: I heard of my first complaint from a Mac owner. I don’t remember the exact complaint as it was VERY minor. When he purchased his Mac, he could not figure out a certain program or function. He tried to get help from one Mac geek at the store who said, “I don’t think you can do that.” He then was frustrated and returned the computer! Ah…but then again, he did not take the time to learn what a great machine these computers really are! If you get a Mac, there is a learning curve, but it is worth it.

Blackberry for Mac is Coming to Town

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Some of us cannot switch to the iPhone because we are on another carrier other than AT&T. There are also some of us who just like the Blackberry better as well! Regardless of why you have a Blackberry instead of an iPhone, you may be quite frustrated if you try to sync your Blackberry using your Mac computer. At the office, you just plug your device into your PC and let the Blackberry Desktop run its course. Mac users at home have a more challenging experience with their BB as there is not a Research in Motion (RIM) product compatible with a Mac (to date). There are after market software to sync, but they just can’t compare with the PC’s Blackberry Desktop.

This is all about to change, says a recent article from BusinessWeek. I am not sure why Mac and RIM are talking, because the Blackberry is a direct competitor of the iPhone. Whatever their reasons are, this article might excite you to keep your Blackberry just a little longer, if you are a true Mac user.

SalesForce CRM vs. SugarCRM

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I am currently evaluating two Customer Relationship Management (CRM) programs for small business owners. Once I am done with my test, I will post my results. The “standard” for small businesses use to be a program called ACT! by Sage. It is still a decent program, but it is not available online. Because businesses are trying to save money, an online CRM program is the way to go. This way, a business can manage sales staff remotely and be kept up to date on their sales process! There are tons more functions in a CRM program, but the more functions, the more it cost.

So, I will keep my customers and visitors updated on my discovery of what I feel is the best. I may find that they are both great programs and the final decision will be one’s budget. To be continued…

How to Read 20 Books in a Year

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Books BlogI have heard from several business leaders and from a few Christian pastors time and time again that one of the ways a person can be successful in his or her field or life is by reading good books. One man, a CEO of a successful hospital in San Diego, told me to read at least 1 good business book per month. If you are like me, you love learning new things but find that reading a book from cover to cover can be quite difficult to do while running a small business. There are times you’ll find me having 3-4 good books by my bedside but will stay there for months! I get through the first few chapters, get distracted by another good book and add that to my stack of books “I’m currently reading.” Before I know it, I’m reading 12 books a year like I was told but have only tapped into the first few chapters of all 12 books!!!!

Why is it that I cannot finish these books? You can call it laziness if you’d like. Maybe I’m too easily distracted or find some books boring. I would say that my number one reason or excuse is simply, “I don’t have the time!” Can you relate?

So, how can I (and you) overcome such a hurdle and read good books? Last week, I heard an online sermon from author and pastor John Piper that told his hearers how to read 20 books in a year!

The facts

  • Lets say the average person can read 250 words per minute, which is around 2 normal-size paragraphs.
  • The average book is around 200 pages.

The solution

  • Important: Read 15 minutes per day.
  • Don’t read more than 15 minutes a day or you’ll burn out!
  • Reading for 15 minutes a day will result in reading a minimum of 3,750 words
  • Reading for 15 minutes a day for 365 days will result in having read at least 1,368,750 words
  • If an average book as around 350 words per page, you will have read 3,910 pages or 20 (2oo page) books

So, can you read 20 books a year? Will you take the challenge? If you are a fast reader, read for no more than 15 minutes a day, you might be able to read 30-40 books a year! You can even accomplish this task even easier by listening to audiobooks! Give it a try. I am!

  • The average book

The New Blackberry Tour from Verizon

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BlBlackberry Tourackberry recently came out with another new Blackberry for Verizon customers. It is called the Blackberry 9630 Tour. You are probably wondering why they would introduce a new non touch-screen when they came out with the beautiful looking Blackberry Storm late last year. The main feature of the Blackberry Tour is that it is a “world” phone. (This means you can travel in over 100 countries and use this phone to make calls, send emails, search the web and text.) I believe it is replacing the 2 year old “World Edition” Blackberry from Verizon. That too was a wonderful device but lacked the camera feature.

The Blackberry Tour also looks very similar to ATT’s Blackberry Bold. The bold is a little easier to type on and has a better quality screen than Verizon’s World Edition and Curve. The new Tour device has a really nice look and feel to it and has a similar interface as the touch-screen Storm. The screen quality is far superior than the BB Curve too. If you own a Curve or World Edition from Verizon, it will be very tempting to break your contract and buy the new Tour once you get your hands on it. The typing is easier, the screen quality and has a 3.2 Mega Pixel camera!

The only downside I can see to the Tour is the size! Why is the world would Blackberry build a new phone this late in the game that is so heavy and bulky? It is almost the same size as the Blackberry Storm, which has always looked way to big to me. Why do I think it is big? Because the iPhone’s thickness is half the size! If Research in Motion can cut their thickness in half, they will have a phone that might get closer to competing with the appearance of the iPhone. However, the applications on the iPhone are still far easier to use and don’t lock up as much as the Blackberry. The Blackberry still has a rough time with its browser, while the iPhone loads with ease.

If you are a small business owner and need help with your mobile devices, I’m hear to help. I can help decide what device might be best for you and your staff.

Schedule your free 30 minute marketing call. Contact David Today!