How Does The Free CCleaner Compare With Other Registry Cleaners?

September 27th, 2017 | Posted in Computer, Data Recovery, Uncategorized

CCleaner, a registry repair tool that comes in both a free and a paid version, created by the Piriform company, is known for being a blazingly fast registry cleaner. In fact, we’ve timed it on our office computer, and it finished a registry scan in just under 15 seconds. It only picked up one error. Our first question was: How thorough a scan was that?

Other registry cleaners that we’ve run on our computer have taken anywhere from a minute or more (many in the two to four minute range) to more than six or eight minutes, and in some cases up to 14 minutes. Our natural curiosity wonders how a scan that only lasts for 15 seconds can possibly be as thorough as a two or four or six minute scan.

Obviously, CCleaner doesn’t scan as many files as these other cleaners. How can it in fifteen seconds? And our results have born out these findings. Other cleaners, like RegCure, have ended up picking up more errors and empty entries in their scans than CCleaner. RegCure picked up eighty-six errors on the same machine in which CCleaner only picked up one. But then that’s attributable to the variation in the search algorithm used. Each utility has its own definition of parameters for choosing what it ranks as an error in the registry. Some, choose to error on the side of caution, and therefore pick up fewer errors.

While we like the free version of CCleaner, we just can’t get over the fact that it only picks up a fraction of the errors that other utilities pick up. And it does this on a regular basis. What counts, though, is the fact that your registry hasn’t been damaged by the cleaning, and you’re still able to use it without having to restore the backup of the old registry. In other words, it doesn’t disable the use of the computer.

One of CCleaner’s main selling features is that it can do more than just clean the registry. It comes with a system cleaning function (to clean up old and unused system files and logs), a Tools function (with tools to uninstall programs, manage your system’s start-up menu, find a missing file, restore the system to an earlier date, and a drive wiper), and an Options tab (that allows you to manage cookies, an include/exclude function for files to be cleaned), and an Advanced settings tab (which, among other things, allows you to restore the default settings as well as nine other items).

While we cannot give CCleaner a one-hundred percent recommendation with regard to its registry cleaning ability, we can say that it may be a useful program to have with regard to its other capabilities if you don’t already use another program that will easily access these other maintenance options.

In the final analysis, all we can say is that CCleaner may be a program you might want to consider having around as an additional registry repair tool. It’s main attractiveness, for us and perhaps you also, comes in the added feature functions it can perform. However, we don’t consider it to be powerful enough to be a frontline tool for keeping your registry unclogged. Use it as a backup or an adjunct, but not as your main registry utility.


4 Websites That Will Make Your Kids Smarter

September 25th, 2017 | Posted in Internet, Uncategorized

Being a modern parent means embracing the power of online education and teaching your kid to use the Internet in a productive manner. Try to show your kid that the world web is not only about watching funny cat videos and sending emojis on Facebook with the next four amazing educational websites.

1. Skillshare

Skillshare is a creative community where you can master new skills or gain expertise in various professional areas ranging from creative writing and web design to music and game creation. It’s a productive way to keep your elder kids busy during the breaks and let them develop their creativity, while gaining new experiences. For instance, you can take a screen writing course by  James Franco or learn marketing basics from Seth Godin.  Skillshare is an awesome way to test and try various career options and make sure your kid chooses the right college major.  It’s one of the best educational websites available. The community is free to join and enroll to a limited amount of classes per month, whereas going premium (8-10$ per month) will let you access all the classes, plus unlock offline access to supporting materials and videos.

Besides, the service can be highly beneficial for both parents and kids! If you have expertise in a certain area and can convert it into a series of easy-to-follow videos, maybe you should become a Skillshare educator yourself? Some of them claim to make around 1.000$ per night.

2. The 11+ Tutors in Essex

The Eleven Plus Tutors in Essex  team offers an innovative new service with virtual lessons conducted with the help of BigBlueButton virtual classroom technology.  It allows students to collaborate with the mentor online via chat and webcam, plus interact with all the resources in real time.  Along with their VLE, the service offers conventional 1-to-1 private tuition.  These sessions are targeted at primary school children to help them successfully pass the 11 Plus exam and gain a prestigious grammar school place. If you opt for a private session the tutor will visit your child at a suitable time, whereas exam preparation sessions are usually held online. Your child will be mentored by a fully qualified teacher with a respective degree and certifications.

Also, the service offers amazing creative writing classes where your child will master common writing techniques establish their own writing style and increase overall literacy. Learning to write compelling essays is one of the key factors in passing any examination successfully and entering a prestigious school afterwards

3. Duolingo

Duolingo is an incredible free language learning website (and app) that gives actual results fast. My kid started to read and translate short stories in French within just a month! I love the gamification elements included into each lesson with points added for each activity that could later be redeemed as special boosters. There’s a limited amount of lives (attempts) to pass each assignment and an instant in-lesson grading system.

So far you can learn French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Italian, Dutch, Irish, Swedish and  Danish language with Duolingo (plus English if you are not a native-speaker). This year, the developers plan to add Russian, Polish, Turkish and Romanian languages.

4. BrainPop

BrainPop was launched back in 1999, yet it’s still one of the best educational resources out there! Fun interactive classes are available in numerous subjects from sciences to basic engineering. Learning goes in fun and engaging manner with knowledge presented in form of short animated movies and quizzes. The most difficult concepts are broken down to simple points and topics introduced by the website characters.

BrainPop has been successfully used in numerous schools around the US and gotten numerous praises from parents homeschooling their kids, along with top accolades from prestigious educational institution and the government. Prices vary depending on the type of subscription you choose.


Web Design Trends

September 23rd, 2017 | Posted in Uncategorized, Web Design

This year is halfway done, and we are already looking toward the future of web design. What new trends will pop up? Which ones will finally be laid to rest? One can only predict, but we have some strong tell-tale signs of what we will be seeing in the year 2016.

Overall Prediction: More Unique Experiences

With Responsive Web Design becoming even more ubiquitous, laying out webpages has fallen into the same predictable patterns. A 3-up stack of boxes to point out sales features here, a 9×9 grid format on a photo gallery there, we’ve reached a point where the majority of “pretty websites” all look the same.

“We’ve reached a point where the majority of “pretty websites” all look the same” (CLICK TO TWEET)

Next year, I predict we will see more well-thought out and unique user experiences. To achieve this, designers can integrate personal touches for a more unique feel, such as custom-created illustration work, hand-drawn artwork, a new way to incorporate a grid, or even an unconventional way of storytelling to their users.

Prediction 1: Unique Way of Using the Grid

Curious Space’s website is a great example of adding a pinch of organic freedom to an ordered grid layout.

You’ll quickly notice the photos of this website stacked on top of each other. Stacking them isn’t a problem, as when a user rolls over on an image, the Z-index of the selected image shifts, so it is pushed to the top of the pile of photos.
Upon scroll, the haphazard arrangement of their logo falls into place to spell out their company name.

Prediction 2: Custom-Drawn Illustrations

We’ve all thought it – “Why should I draw another [name of object] icon, when I can just grab it off an already existing vector pack from the web?” This line of thinking does save time and budget constraints, but how about integrating custom-made illustrations, or other artwork into the project budget in the first place?

Sites like  Creative Freedom Guide, For Better Coffee, DConstruct Conference, or Ice & Sky all integrate custom-made / hand-drawn illustration work that greatly aid in telling their story and leaving a memorable experience for their users.

Prediction 3: Better / More Access to Great Typefaces

We should all be thanking Google for its  free font collection. Because of the company’s library, utilizing a great looking typeface on a limited budget can be achieved. With varying styles, weights, families, and the like, there is sure to be quite a few typefaces that are suitable for any website.

Prediction 4: Cinemagraphs

Did that picture just….move? I love cinemagraphs because like videos and photography, it enhances the desired mood for a website and gives it an additional layer of wonder, mystique, and elegance. Unlike videos, it won’t eat as much bandwidth, and unlike photos, it provides “something more” than a simple still shot. This technology has been around for a while already (since 2011), and I hope to see it integrated into more websites in the future.

Prediction 5: Websites Through the Use of Storytelling

Storytelling through means of a website can be quite a complex endeavor. Nike and Lidyana did a great job with  this website.

Best viewed on a high-speed internet connection, the website takes you through the morning workout routines of a young woman. The opening sequence is of her waking up in the morning. After she gets settled into her routine, the user has a choice of seeing her do different types of exercise activities, such as yoga, running, weight training, and the like. If the user clicks on one of the activities, they are then presented with the young woman performing said activity.

The user is then presented with hot spots on the body of the young woman while she is working out, with links to Nike products she is wearing during her routines. This is a great way to showcase the product in-use, as well as providing the user with direct access to view the product details. If the user clicks on a hot-spot, the products she is wearing load in from the side, while pausing the video.

Through this type of interaction, the user can quickly run through all of the activities with the young lady, while browsing the products she is wearing, without even knowing they are shopping!

Earlier mentioned websites such as For Better Coffee or Ice & Sky also do a great job of integrating storytelling on their websites. Something as simple as teaching a user how to make the perfect brew, or being educated on the history of Antarctica can be fun, interactive, and a great learning experience!

Prediction 6: Semi-flat design

Flat design has slowly morphed over the past few years to semi-flat design. After Windows launched its Metro style, the design world became inundated with this trend. Unfortunately, this style did come with its usability pitfalls. This trend has slowly morphed into semi-flat design, largely in part due to both Android’s and Apple’s releases using this type of style. By integrating depth and dimension through the use of subtle shadows, card / tile concepts, and well-thought out transitions to help guide and orient users, semi-flat design aims to eliminate the problems that flat design had created.

Continuation of Earlier Trends

Prediction 7: RWD

Let’s face it, after the implementation of RWD, there was no turning back. There will only be more devices sold on the market, so embracing and integrating responsive practices on websites will make the web sphere a better place for all.

Prediction 8: Parallax

A couple of the websites mentioned earlier already utilize parallax on their websites. As mentioned in a previous GRAYBOX article, parallax is a type of effect applied to the speed and movement of background imagery. The background of the website moves at a different speed than the rest of the page, thereby mimicking layers of depth on the page. As computers and related technology get better at handling such effects on the web, access to viewing these unique animations will only increase.  Scroll For Your Health is a great example of a fun, interactive, and educational way to present information on different fruits, while employing parallax.

Prediction 9: Lazy Loading

On websites that feed content continuously, Lazy Loading aids in viewing immediate website content without waiting for the entire page to load.

This is especially helpful for websites that are highly visual, such as  FacebookInstagram, or Pinterest. In a society where information is constantly being fed into our lives, lazy loading helps to simplify viewing of said content by loading only small chunks at a time.

Pinterest

We’re excited to see what new trends, styles, and stories next year will bring for us, and what trends and movements will fade out within the next year and beyond!


How To Easily Build Your Own Website

September 21st, 2017 | Posted in Software, Uncategorized

Nowadays, you don’t have to be a tech wiz in order to build a website. In fact, you don’t even have to be tech-savvy. Website building is no longer reserved for the technology experts who know the ins and outs of computers and can write code. There are easy to use website builders such as Wix.com with ready made templates. With drag and drop editors, and endless choices of templates and functions, anyone can create a professional and great-looking website within minutes. If you can fill out a form, you can build your own beautiful and functional website exactly to your taste!

In the past, professionals and individuals looking to create a website have been forced to hire expensive professional graphic designers and computer programmers to do all of the work for them. Not any more! Building your own site is simple, and will save you tons of money. You won’t even have to install any programs onto your computer, because most website building companies are accessible via web browser.

The basic premise of these website builders is easy-use for the average Joe. These companies have recognized that more and more people without the skill to build sites are interested in doing so, and they’ve provided the solution. These new site builders are as simple as the word processor that you use at home. They make use of pre-set templates that you can choose, which immediately give you a general outline for your desired website. You can start with a basic template and then just follow the simple instructions to customize the design of your site to your taste. You control everything, including the backgrounds, colors as well as interesting textures. A simple site can literally be done in a matter of minutes! Here’s the:

Simple Step-By-Step Process:

  • Choose a template
  • Choose images
  • Upload your text and multi-media
  • Customize it
  • PUBLISH!

It’s really that easy. These easy to use website builders will provide you with all of the technological advancements and options that an expensive professional would charge you a small fortune for. And that is not all! Nowadays it is estimated that people spend up to 40% of their Internet time on their mobile devices. The leading Website building company Wix.com even gives you the ability to make your site mobile compatible, giving you the best of all worlds. That’s certainly not a market you want to miss out on and a feature that professional site builders will charge extra for.

So what are you waiting for? Don’t be intimidated. Head over to Wix.com and find out for yourself how easy and simple building your dream website can be!


How Hackers Can Crash Your Phone Via Wifi

September 19th, 2017 | Posted in Internet Security, Uncategorized

Among the many tools at the disposal of hackers is the ubiquitous “denial of service” attack (DoS), which is basically the sending of endless traffic to a specific site until it crashes from the overload.

Many people believe that hackers direct this kind of attack only at corporate websites and servers – that’s incorrect.

Online security experts have now researched and proven that it’s possible to attack iOS devices in a similar way, causing both individual applications or an entire mobile phone to malfunction.

Mobile security firm Skycure released the results of its research on the subject at a recent industry conference, showing exactly how hackers can potentially target any device using the iOS operating system.

For hackers, the process is as simple as setting up a wireless network for phones to connect to. Once linked, a hacker can launch a script aimed at any particular device, which will cause it to crash.

Skycure’s latest finding go hand in hand with previous studies it conducted, which revealed attackers could similarly create a Wifi network and cause devices to automatically connect. With all of these findings combined into a larger picture, it becomes clear that large targeted attacks could happen in highly populated areas. A determined hacker could set up shop in Times Square and  crash thousands of mobile devices in a short amount of time.

Unfortunately, there is nothing one can do to avoid this type of attack, except stay away from all unknown, unsecured Wifi networks.


Starting a Fashion Line: How to Research and Implement a Flawless Business Plan

September 17th, 2017 | Posted in How To Grow, Uncategorized

Starting a fashion line requires a large amount of research, especially for the new designer.

The first type of research you’ll want to do is market research. Browse the web for potential competitors, and compile them into a list. You’re going to have to research the following points about each of your competitors:

Mission Target Market (Demographics of their customers) Experience Sales Strategy (Retail or Wholesale?) Median Price Range Marketing Strategy (Social Media? Paid Advertising?)

Keep all of this info neat and organized, because you’re going to put it into a polished business plan later in the game.

Starting a fashion line requires researching your own target market, too. You need to define this group in its entirety. Find out the following things:

How much money do they make? What is their disposable income? Where do they like to shop? Where do they “hang out” online? How much money do they spend on clothing? What are their needs, are customers? How are their needs being met in the current market? Why will they be inclined to purchase your product?

In addition, you will need to start searching for suppliers. These are the people that will make clothing production possible. Starting a fashion line is easiest when using a full-service company that can create your samples from your sketches, and translate those samples into patterns, and finished products. Researching these companies in advance will give you a better idea of your options, and allow you to think about the type of supply chain you would like to have. Ask yourself these questions as you research:

Do I want to outsource, or produce in the USA? Where do these suppliers source their fabric from? What are the working conditions of overseas suppliers? How much experience do they have? What is their lead time? Who are their other clients? How will I import products back to the States? What type of company do I want to support with my business? What is the company’s stance on the environment, the planet, and bottom-line profits?


Know More About Flexible Working

September 15th, 2017 | Posted in How To Grow, Uncategorized

Working flexible hours, or flexi-hours as they’re often called, is a practise which has been increasingly used by many companies since the early 1970’s. With the advent of the digital age, home-computers, and the internet, a greater number of companies are looking at ways to increase company profitability, while improving job satisfaction amongst their employees.

Improved Company Employee Relations:

Many companies have turned to flexible working to better relations with their workforce, retain staff, and reduce sick-time. We live in an age where family responsibilities and work commitments have to be prioritised by many employees. These additional concerns can induce greater levels of stress, reduce output, and promote higher levels of sick leave. All of which have a negative financial effect for the company.

For many employees, the chance of working from home, beginning their working day a couple of hours earlier, or later, can make all the difference when juggling work and family commitments.

Even on the shop floor. If staff have to spend an hour or two commuting to work on crowded roads or packed trains, they’re not going to be in the best frame of mind to put in their most productive day’s work. The option of starting earlier or later, and finishing the same, may be all it needs to reduce travelling time, relieve stress, improve morale, and increase output.

Reducing Costs:

Work from home is the ideal situation for a large number of today’s workforce. Given the opportunity to do so, they provide higher levels of commitment and increased output. Working their own flexible hours they are more likely to start earlier or finish later should work load require, while taking thirty minutes off to take the kids to nursery school.

Many couples have found one partner working full-time, and one part-time, is the ideal way to manage family and work commitments. To take full advantage of this, companies are ‘sharing’ many office positions, allowing two members of staff to share the same job, desk, and computer, while splitting the working week between them.

The greater the number of staff able to work from home reduces the need to expand to larger premises with all the additional costs involved. While employees working fewer hours, so as to attend to personal or family needs, will feel greater company loyalty, and provide higher output.

Moving from Normal to Flexible Working:

Changing company practises from the normal 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. or 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. hours, to a flexible mode of operation, requires consultation with staff on all levels, including the factory floor. Most company bosses agree that, although the move can be challenging, it is not insurmountable.

Of prime concern to any business is keeping good customer relations. Maintaining continuity of commitments and delivery dates, while endeavouring to satisfy employee flexible working practises, can prove demanding in the early days. With the change in working practises, employees need to be kept up to date on company policy. They need to be aware of customer needs and those of their work colleagues.

While some may be allowed to work from home, others may not, and this could cause resentment between staff. The reasons need to be adequately explained as to why one can and one can’t, to avoid any build up of ill feeling.

Should the move to flexi-hours require certain staff members taking on additional responsibilities, adequate training needs to be put in place to provide a more versatile workforce.

A major change in Working Practises:

Although moving from normal to flexible working practises is a major change within any company, it doesn’t need to happen all at once. Many companies today work a mixture of both, bringing in flexible working where possible, while maintaining a normal working week where it is not.

Good communications are the key to any major change in policy. Discussing all concerns with employees; why the company wishes to move to flexible working, the employees job security after the move, and why some can go flexible and some can’t. Treat the workforce as a team with a ‘we’re all in it together’ attitude, and face concerns using a team approach, will usually resolve these genuine concerns.

The Boss remains The Boss:

From a management point of view, seeing half the workforce going flexible doesn’t mean you only have half the workforce to worry about. Ensure staff, with their new found independence, realise they still have a boss to answer to – company commitments to follow – and a work ethic they are expected to adhere to.

A win-win situation:

Carried out correctly, a move to full or partial flexible working can be a win situation for both company and employees. The company gains from reduced costs, saving money on having to obtain larger premises. With a less stressed, happier workforce, productivity increases, time off sick reduces, and a greater number of skilled staff are able to be retained. Many professionals these days actively seek flexible employment, accepting lower remuneration in return for greater time with family, or to pursue outside interests.

Employees benefit from a better balanced lifestyle. The difficulty of juggling home and family with a need to provide an adequate income is removed. They become happier, more relaxed, and family relationships improve. For all concerned, a win-win situation.


New MindManager for Windows offers valuable ease-of-use enhancements

September 13th, 2017 | Posted in Reviews, Software, Uncategorized

MindManager 15 for Windows offers some practical new features and enhancements that will help you to be more productive and well organized than ever before.

The most significant new features of MindManager 15 include a vastly expanded selection of map parts, project management improvements, a new set of hand-drawn icons and a reorganized and simplified template view. The developer’s objective for this new version was to make it easier for new users to get started with the program, while also responding to customer requests for enhancements to existing features.

Here’s what’s new in MindManager 15, and the significance of these new features and enhancements to business users of the program:

Expanded map parts

I’ve always been a fan of this feature of MindManager, because it makes it easy to build common types of mind maps using drag-and-drop functionality. My biggest complaint with it was that there weren’t enough map parts and they didn’t address enough key business uses of mind maps. In addition, the thumbnail images were so small that it was hard to see what each map part looked like.

Mindjet has remedied these past shortcomings in MindManager 15, which includes 50 new map parts. These “plus and play” map components are divided into categories, including brainstorming, project planning, business analysis and meeting planning. In addition, you can select any topic in one of your maps and save it and all of its child topics into a new map part. This could potentially save you many hours of work if you repeatedly create the same types of mind maps.

Improved templates view

In previous versions of MindManager, the templates view required a lot of scrolling. In version 15, Mindjet has regrouped them into six topic-focused folders – management, meetings and events, personal productivity, problem solving, project management and strategic planning. This gives you a concise, high-level view of the types of templates that are available. You can then open a folder to view all of the templates it contains.

In addition, it displays blank templates for creating radial, right, tree and org chart maps, and continues to give you access to Mindjet’s online MapsForThat gallery. Any templates you have created are stored in a new My Templates folder. This new compact layout makes MindManager’s templates view much easier to use.

Hand drawn icon set

In addition to the standard set of icons that ships with previous versions of MindManager, version 15 now includes a set of over 600 hand-drawn icons. They are available in four colors. Mindjet VP of Products Michael Deutch says he was inspired by a post on this blog about the Vector Doodlekit, a third-party collection of hand-drawn icons and symbols, to include a similar set of resources in MindManager 15. The goal is to enable users to create mind maps with a more organic, hand-drawn look.

Project management enhancements

In previous versions of MindManager, if you had a project that was going to start significantly earlier or later than you planned, you had to manually change the start and end dates of each task. In version 15, a new “move project” command simplifies this process. By changing the start date of the overall project, MindManager 15 automatically adjusts all of the task date ranges. You can also use a new command to eliminate slack time in the GANTT view of your project. This can help you to ensure that your project gets done at the earliest possible date.

New topic “quick add” buttons

As part of Mindjet’s goal to improve the usability of MindManager for new users, version 15 now includes small nodes, each containing a plus sign (+), that stick out of the top, bottom and side of each topic. Clicking on one creates a new linked topic in that direction. Deutch said that new users sometimes get stuck trying to figure out how to add new topics to their mind maps. These quick add buttons make it easy to see what to do next. In addition, they enable any users of MindManager 15 to quickly add topics without having to mouse back up to the program’s ribbon toolbar each time – nice!

These new buttons each require a small amount of extra vertical space, however, which can potentially cause printing and page fit problems for some users. If you don’t want them to be visible, you can turn them off in the program’s options. Very smart!

Auto-creation of slides

A new command in MindManager 15 enables users to have the program auto-create slides. If you need to quickly present a mind map to your colleagues, this can be a big time-saver. A new map theme included in this version contains font sizes and settings that are optimized for display on a screen, too.

Whither MindManager 15 for Mac?

Deutch said a Mac version is now under development; Mindjet hopes to release it by year-end. He said the company is driving toward a new development platform that will make it easier to develop one set of code and deploy it to all platforms (Windows, Mac, mobile and web). That sounds like an ambitious goal, but Deutch believes it’s achievable in the next year or two.

MindManager + SpigitEngage?

During Mindjet’s briefing for MindManager 15, I asked for an update on the company’s acquisition of Spigit, a developer of enterprise idea management solutions. Can we expect to see some connections between MindManager and SpigitEngage? Deutch said the Mindjet team has done some research to figure out where the two applications could potentially connect. Clearly there are steps in the innovation process where visual thinking could have a significant impact. The next step is to determine where such integration will offer the greatest benefit to Mindjet and Spigit customers.

Conclusion

MindManager 15 for Windows represents a well thought-out evolution of the program’s comprehensive feature set. The usability enhancements – such as the new templates view, quick-add buttons and the expanded map parts gallery – will be especially appreciated by new users. Experienced users of MindManager will appreciate some of its more powerful new features, like move project and remove slack time for projects.

For more information about and pricing for MindManager 15 for Windows, please visit Mindjet’s product page.

Watch this blog for a review of MindManager 15 in the next month or so, where I will take a deeper look at the new and enhanced features of this excellent program.


15 Tips for Your Start-Up

September 11th, 2017 | Posted in How To Start, Uncategorized

A lot of people walked into new year with a big dream– to start a company doing what they love.

I’m here to tell you it’s absolutely possible. And I’m here to tell you it’s not scary. In fact, I only wish I’d started sooner.

In 2005, I got together with some friends, put $72 on my debit card, and started up my first company. We had no idea what we were doing. But we learned quick, grew quick, and in 2008 we sold that first company.

Flash forward to 2011. I joined up with another friend to jump in as a partner on another start-up. And while we always wish we were doing a little bit better– what entrepreneur doesn’t– we’re doing great.

I don’t have a business degree. I don’t really want one.

As I learned in Good Will Hunting:

See, the sad thing about a guy like you is, in 50 years you’re gonna start doin’ some thinkin’ on your own and you’re going to come up with the fact that there are two certainties in life: one, don’t do that, and two, you dropped 150 grand on a f***in’ education you could have got for a dollar fifty in late charges at the public library!

With that in mind, I wanted to share some tips for those thinking of taking the plunge, I’ll save you the buck fifty at the public library.

15 Tips for Start-Ups

  1. Follow your passion– the money will follow. A lot of people are passionate about making money. But the simple reality is that money will follow what you’re passionate about. You don’t stay up late dreaming about working for the man, do you? If this is a dream worth chasing, it better come from a place of passion.
  2. Don’t worry about having the biggest or best idea, worry about delivering quality. Over and over again people have beat me to the market with their better financed ideas, bigger brand name, or deeper marketing budget. But I win out in the long run for two primary reasons: quality of productand quality of business model.
  3. Google Everything. Really, everything you could ever need to know about starting a business is available online for free. “How do I…” is something I Google a lot. Read a few articles, follow a few links, there’s tons of free and fantastic advice out there already.
  4. Ask the government for help. In both Michigan and California, where I’ve been involved in start-ups, I’ve found people working at the city and state levels to be extraordinarily helpful with questions If I can’t find the answers to by Googling stuff, I ask an expert. Think about it like this… it’s in the best interest of your state for you to start a business so they really want to help you. Politicians LOVE to talk about job growth and business start-ups– so you aren’t bothering them to ask your questions. In fact, most states have an Economic Development department just for this purpose. Ask them lots and lots of questions. They will help you! And even if you’re doing it wrong I’ve found that they’ll help you get it straightened out before you’ve got a big problem.
  5. Don’t hire a lawyer. There are things down the road which you might need a lawyer for. But most start-ups really don’t need to go through the hassle. In a lot of states, you can file all the necessary paperwork yourself. I’ve found LegalZoom to be a great resource for things that do require an attorney. When we started up and eventually sold our first business in Michigan I never hired a lawyer. (Though I did ask advice of a friend who was an attorney.)
  6. Pick a business structure as soon as possible. Sole proprietorship, LLC, corporation, non-profit… the list goes on and on. It all starts with a simple question: “Who owns this thing?” I don’t care which one you pick, just pick one.
  7. Get right with the state and federal government right away. Get an EIN. And don’t you dare pay someone to do this for you. You can do it online. It’s free and takes 5 minutes. You’ll need that EIN for about 100 other things… get it.
  8. Separate your money. Don’t ever use your personal accounts for business. Even if you’re a sole proprietorship and all the money is ultimately yours anyway, it’ll help you to not get emotionally attached to or get tempted to start using that money for personal business.
  9. Don’t quit your job. I’m of the opinion that you should keep your “side business” on the side of your main job for as long as possible. Heck, if you could keep doing whatever you’re doing right now and make 50% more money on the side forever… do it.
  10. Don’t pay yourself until you absolutely have to. This is so simple but so many people mess it up. The more you can re-invest in your business out of your profits before you have to pay yourself, the better. Buy equipment, buy more product to sell, invest in marketing, invest in employees, or just stock pile profits for a rainy day. Everything but that last option is good for your taxes while helping you build your business. Always take free money.
  11. Jump when you get to about 200% of your monthly income needs. The scariest part in starting up is needing to make money to feed your family. My advice? Put off jumping, if you can, until you have the first 2 months of income in your business bank account. (On top of your personal savings.) I’ve found that if you don’t jump off when you have the money… your little start-up will sputter along but never take off. But if you do jump off the cliff and need it to work… you’ll put in that much more effort. Just give yourself a couple months buffer if you can. (I keep at least 2 months reserve income in a business savings account at all times. Took me a while to get there, but it’s a HUGE confidence boost and allows us to take some risks without worrying about going homeless.)
  12. Take accounting seriously from day one. I kind of suck at my own personal finances. For instance, I balance my checkbook annually when I do my tax return. But I’ve learned the hard way that you can’t do that with your business. I’d suggest setting up basic accounting from day one using a Google Spreadsheet (super basic) or something like Freshbooks. (a little more complex) I actually track one of my business accounts with a personal edition of Mint. I’d highly suggest doing it all online.
  13. Anywhere you can automate, do it. I eliminate tons and tons of paperwork (read, busywork) simply by picking stuff that automates. For instance, when someone buys something from our online store, the store software automatically puts that transaction into our accounting software, our payment processor automatically deposits that money in our bank account, the transaction is automatically logged and our system automatically tracks their purchase, sending them a follow-up email a few weeks later to make sure they’re happy. The same is true with our payroll system. I login to process payroll, but that system handles everything at the bank, with our accounting, the state, and IRS all automatically.
  14. Don’t do a business plan. People get hung up on this because it’s a ton of work. You only need a business plan if you plan on borrowing money from a bank or the Small Business Administration. I’ve never done one. To me, it’s kind of like a resume… I don’t have one of those either. I feel like if I do things right I don’t need either. While I do think the exercise of a business plan is ultimately necessary (and useful) I just don’t think you should start with one because you really don’t know what your plan is when you’re just starting out. I think it’s way more important to get whatever your product is to market first, start the money flowing, then worry about formalizing who you are and how you do business later on.
  15. If at all possible, bootstrap. Every business idea can’t get started for $72 and sweat equity, I get that. But I think most of the time you can figure out ways to get things going, generate some cashflow, without taking on a bunch of start-up debt. That won’t work if your big dream is to open a bar. But it will absolutely work if you want to start selling at the local farmers market. I think it’d be way better to seek a personal loan from family or a friend than to take on a start-up debt from your bank or the SBA. (Which would put you in a hole financially, plus all the effort of getting the business plan done, etc.) Basically, you don’t want to be owned by debts when you’re just getting going. Further down the line debts or a line of credit will be useful. You just don’t want to start-up being owned by the bank.

So those are my tips for those taking the plunge in 2015. I’d love to hear what you are planning to start-up.


When Client Communications Become Crisis Communications

September 9th, 2017 | Posted in How To Grow, Uncategorized

Any situation that is threatening or could threaten to harm people or property, seriously interrupt business, significantly damage reputation and/or negatively impact the bottom line.

Developing a Strategy for the Unexpected

Businesses spend thousands on everything from research and development to sales strategies and marketing plans.  While cultivating clients, managing social media and buying advertising is necessary, there is one equally important area many companies seem to forget – crisis communications.   Whether this is because management just does not want to deal with a crisis until it happens, or because they do not foresee any public relations issues with their business/brand, failing to develop a crisis communications plan can be a company’s greatest threat.

Do you remember the Tylenol drug tampering crisis?  Those of you old enough to remember it probably had forgotten about it until now.  And, those of you who are younger may not realize that back in the 1982, this popular brand of over-the-counter medication was the subject of a horrible event dubbed the “Chicago Tylenol Murders”. A number of poisoning deaths in Chicago were attributed to the victims taking Tylenol, which had been laced with potassium cyanide by an outside source.  This crisis not only took Chicago by storm, but also shocked the world.  The fact that this atrocity did not destroy the Tylenol brand and has now become a distant memory is likely related to how the company handled the crisis.

Johnson & Johnson, the makers of Tylenol, faced the crisis head on by immediately alerting the public to stop using their product until the extent and source of the tampering could be identified. They took further steps to remove the product from store shelves and cease production. Although the company experienced a temporary set-back in sales, they scored big in the area of consumer confidence.  Thus, the brand is still thriving today, while the incident has become a model for corporate crisis communications planning.  In a nutshell, what restored consumer’s faith in the product was the fact that Johnson & Johnson did not immediately place “blame” on the culprits and portray themselves as victims; instead, they worked with authorities to help ensure public safety.  The Department of Defense has prepared an interesting analysis and case study of the crisis if you are interested in learning more.

There is much to be learned about how Johnson & Johnson handled this tragic event.  Having a plan to address the unexpected is vital to the longevity of your brand.  Even “squeaky-clean” companies can fall victim to unforeseen public relations nightmares. Situations which can occur in any company include:

  • Disgruntled employee spreading false rumors
  • Social media attack campaign
  • Sexual harassment claims
  • Accident involving and employee or customer
  • Hacking or stealing of customer information
  • Workplace violence
  • Wrongful termination lawsuit
  • Frivolous lawsuits

If your business is located in an earthquake or hurricane zone, you would have a disaster plan, correct?Having a crisis communications plan is equally important to protect your company and ensure its survival.

If you do not have a crisis communications plan, you are in luck as we are going to discuss some basic plan elements.  And, if your business has a plan, kudos to you! Feel free to use the following section to review your crisis communications plan elements and make adjustments if necessary.

Establish a Core Crisis Communications Team

A crisis communications team should be identified.  This core team can be comprised of various staff from throughout your company or organization.  Your company president, public relations director, legal advisor and human resources director should all be part of this team.  Other members may include department directors, supervisors and employee relations managers.  Try to identify staff from a cross section of employees.  Depending on the size of your company, an ideal core team is usually made up of 5-10 employees.  This team must be willing to drop everything on a moment’s notice and jump into action. Prompt response, investigation, and action are critical in any crisis.  If someone is not willing to work 24/7, then they are not good candidates for this assignment.

Identify a Spokesperson

All information concerning the crisis should be communicated through one official spokesperson.  This person should be confident and trained in how to handle media as he or she will likely be in front of cameras and answering questions at press conferences. The spokesperson should also be someone who appears reliable and trustworthy.He or she should be the only person providing information to the media and public about the event. All calls and inquiries should be directed to the spokesperson, and he or she must be accessible to media 24/7.

Develop Strategy for Internal Communications

Key messaging about the situation is imperative to help decrease rumors and misconceptions.  The crisis communications team needs to communicate – sooner than later – important information to the employees and board members as soon as possible.  Depending on the situation, this could be very sensitive, so the expertise of human relations, public relations and legal staff will most certainly come in handy. Who, what and how information is disseminated to staff needs to be determined.  Staff and board members should also be instructed not to discuss the situation with the public or media and to direct any inquires to the spokesperson.

Develop Strategy for External / Stakeholder / Customer / Client Communications

Your customers and stakeholders will need to be kept in the loop as well.  You will need to identify readily available means to communicate with them, whether it be through e-mail, e-newsletter or personal contact.  The crisis communications team will need to develop an official statement as well as possible questions from customers so responses can be thought through and prepared.

Practice Your Plan!

No company can anticipate every crisis.  However, you can examine your business unit and others like yours to determine issues most likely to occur. Conducting a “mock” situation with your crisis communications team can help you be better prepared in the event of an emergency. Where will the team meet to discuss and strategize?  How will each team member address his or her assigned duties?  Will the assigned team be able to work well together? Think of this is a sort of “fire drill”.  Understanding and practicing what to do in the event of a crisis is critical to helping ensure proper handling of the situation.

Having a crisis communications plan is the first step in being prepared for a sensitive situation. Remember, honesty tends to win out in the end. If you try to cover something up or are not truthful, it will show.  In most cases, a consumer can forgive a company who makes a mistake and owns up to it.  The public tends to have a more difficult time when they feel deceived.

If you do not have full time human resources, public relations and legal staff, consider outsourcing these individuals during a crisis.  Identifying and retaining experts in the event of a crisis can also be helpful.  And, since Social Media has evolved into a a major form of communication, consider having an expert help with the management and monitoring of social channels. As with any disaster, preparedness is key to ensuring the survival and sustainability of your company.  Good luck!