Category Archives: Small Business

Website Lessons Learned from Williams-Sonoma

Is your website as classy as your brand?

For Williams-Sonoma, Inc., the goal is to match great looking Web pages with top-shelf analytics to keep track of customers.

“Data science is brand building here,” said Mohan Namboodiri, VP of Customer Analytics for the San Francisco-based retailer. “We have a heritage of scouring the world for fantastic products,” he told the audience at the Teradata 2013 Partners conference earlier this month in Dallas. “We bring that same sensibility to doing our data analytics.”

While Williams-Sonoma began with a traditional brick-and-mortar store and a mail-order catalogs, the company has “come of age online,” he said.

Namboodiri explained that there are several routines and techniques the company uses to track customers. Here are some of the highlights:

Williams & Sonoma

Segment users by persona

  • Williams-Sonoma groups site visitors into various usage clusters and behaviors. These groups can help Namboodiri’s team understand what different online shoppers are trying to do and how they’re using the site. This both helps inform site navigation and improve conversion rates.

Use cookies to model and score customer behavior

  • Each browsing session is tracked with a unique cookie to determine what customers are doing. Data is used to provide feedback to personas; allowing the company to group customers and test the performance of the personae.

Guide customers based on their actions

  • Various triggers have been programmed to respond to particular customer actions. For example, if a visitor searches for an item that’s put on sale in its stores, he would be guided to the best way to buy. “It could be borderline creepy, but it is a sale and so saving customers money trumps that,” he said.

Apply online data to retail forecasts

  • The more online visitors buy a particular items, the more the company stocks them at retail outlets. This information impacts Williams-Sonoma’s supply chain and even inventory decisions of stores in particular neighborhoods. Namboodiri’s team analyzes these purchases over time to help improve each store’s inventory moving forward. Given the number of different furniture styles, colors, and options, you can imagine this can be quite critical to having the right goods in the right stores.

Like any great Web storefront, Williams-Sonoma recognizes that design and analytics will always be a work in progress. That’s why Namboodiri and his team constantly experimenting with other ideas to keep things fresh. At the Teradata conference, there were no shortage of great ideas. By developing a website that elegantly weaves together design and analytics, good things happen for both company and customer.

 

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Which designer and developer tools are better? Pencil Case knows

PencilCase AppFor designers and developers, their tools mean everything. Without the right software, apps, programs and websites could never be perfect.

Of course, to an artist and a coder, nothing is ever perfect, but the right tools may help make the job or project easier, helping creators to produce their best work possible.

Enter Pencil Case, which rates tools for designers and developers, so creatives and coders can “discover, collect and share” resources such as Dribbble, GitHub, InVision, and more.

A peek inside the beta

An email invite to the Pencil Case beta reads:

“Pencil Case is a free-to-use web-based app which aims to help designers and developers – just like you – ensure they’re always equipped with the best tools. Create lists (known as ‘pencil cases’) and save up to ten of your most valuable resources inside each one. We track how popular each resource is and display the results in a searchable chart, so everyone can see what’s popular and what’s new, and who’s using what. This helps you find the best tried-and-tested resources, determined by like-minded creatives, with a focus on quality over quantity.”

The web-based app currently hosts 523 resources, and it allows members to “suggest a resource” that isn’t yet listed.

Search “editing” and Pencil Case provides 23 results for tools under the slightly narrower category “image editing.” When ranked according to popularity (the number of times a resource appears in members’ pencil cases) we get:

  1. Adobe Photoshop
  2. Adobe Illustrator
  3. Sketch
  4. Pixelmator
  5. Adobe Fireworks
  6. Slicy
  7. Enigma64
  8. Pixel Dropr
  9. Retinize It
  10. Adobe InDesign

Click on any of the listed resources to expand, revealing a short summary of what it is and why it is awesome, Then jump to the product’s website, “view” what Pencil Case has to say about it and which members added it to their cases, or save it to your own case.

A better pencil case

This isn’t kindergarten anymore. And although the name evokes innocent memories of primary school, Pencil Case is no doubt a service for big kids.

In April, Pencil Case had nearly 500 members . As the community grows, the number of showcased resources will increase and the site’s rating quality will improve.

Although Pencil Case’s web-based app is a bit limited, Edward Williams, the site’s founder, assures users, “We’ll be constantly updating the website so visit regularly and follow @pencilcaseapp on Twitter for updates.”

Why care?

Designers and developers are often so overwhelmed with information and choice that it can be difficult to decide what tools to use for their next project.

Apps like Pencil Case will make it easier for creatives and programmers to discover the best tools on the web, so instead of spending egregious amounts of time finding and researching tools that will take your project to the next level, you may soon be able to identify the right programs that will help you build better.

Request an invite for the Pencil Case beta at its website. Or get direct access thanks to Erlibird.

 

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SMBs and iOS7: Tips to Adapt to the New Look and Feel

If you’ve spent untold hours developing a good mobile app, how do you react when the operating system changes the way it looks and works almost completely?

That’s a question that small-business owners have to answer when it comes to iOS7. Love it or hate it, the radical aesthetic and functional changes to Apple’s mobile working environment are here to stay, and for businesses with iPhone or iPad apps, it’s time to prepare users for app redesigns as well.

iOS7

Image Source: Apple

But SMB customers aren’t always early adopters, and if they’ve come rely upon your mobile app as a go-to service, you don’t want to lose them while they’re catching up to the technological times. So, how do you please everyone, without (a.) falling behind the forward leaners or (b.) outstripping the more cautious among your clients?

We turn to some experts for tips and advice on what to do to adapt to the iOS change and also keep your users happy.

Version Shock: 3 Tips for Avoiding It an iOS7 World

Recent reports suggest that nearly 1/3 of Apple users still haven’t upgraded to the newest version of Apple’s operating system. Some people just aren’t ready for the change, and there were even early reports that the operating system made some users feel sick to their stomachs.

On the other hand, as a business owner with customers that fall into that other ~70%, you can’t let the change-resistant overstate their case. So, how to walk a line?

Here are some tips, with guidance from developers at Roambi, one company that has been building business-productivity apps for iPhone since the very beginning of the App Store.

  1. Make sure the current version of your app is up-to-date. It may be hard to do while your app-development team is working to create the newest version of your app, but it’s important to perfect the existing version of your app before moving on to the next version. Any bugs or glitches should be fixed now so that you can focus on the next iteration of your app.
  2. Notify your customers. Not everybody is an early adopter, and this newest version of Apple’s operating system represents the biggest design shift from Apple yet, so make sure your customers know why you are changing your app and have an idea of what to expect. Sending an email to your user base or making a video tutorial with FAQs will be essential.
  3. Listen to your users. Even Apple’s newest edition of its operating system wasn’t perfect the first time around. Be prepared to receive feedback from your users on your new app and make notes on what can be improved for the next time you want to push an update.

Whether it’s you that codes for your small business or you work with tech-savvy team, if you’re ready to sink into some deep app-redesign, avail yourself of this set of key project notes from Apple’s development pages — including further advice on keeping iOS6 support intact.

Create and innovate, and with a quiver full of these tips you’ll know you’re aiming for the bullseye when it comes to new adopters, but still hitting the mark for your users who want to stick with iOS6 a little longer.

 

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After the Shutdown: SMBs Weigh-In on the Showdown (and Who’s to Blame)

Government ShutdownThe rhetoric isn’t over, but the U.S. government shutdown is, for the moment, at an end. With a late-night vote on Oct. 16, the House of Representatives dragged itself across the finish line of a 16-day endurance lap that was meant to test the resolve of the President, the Senate, and — to their chagrin — the American people.

Throughout the process, we heard a lot from politicians about closed monuments and parks, and about the outrage prompted when those resources weren’t available. But what really happened on the ground? What about the business owners that felt the shutdown’s impact?

“The shutdown is about more than national parks and zoos, landscaping and passports,” says Crystal L. Kendrick, president of The Voice of Your Customer. To her, the larger concern about federal offices going dark was “the effect of this shutdown on federal contractors, medical research, and federally funded social services.”

Now, as the dust clears, small-business owners are ready to talk. Here are the stories of several, and what they experienced as the federal government drew the shades for over two weeks in 2013.

Federal Contracts: Hitting Pause on Cash Flow

The Voice of Your Customer works with clients to penetrate niche markets via surveys, focus groups, and media campaigns. Part of its business comes from U.S. government contracts.

“As a result of the government shutdown, our contracts and work assignments were put on hold,” Kendrick says. “Additionally, our invoices were not being processed. What is more is that few federal RFPs have been released since 1 October, so the future workload of federal contractors will be affected as well.”

And the effect ripples across not only Kendrick’s company, either. The freelancers with whom she works will feel a pinch as well.

“We have delayed spending with our contractors and other suppliers,” she says. “We now have idle resources and delayed receivables. We have assigned our staff to other internal activities and we are using other resources to manage our cash flow.”

Bureaucratic Freeze: Licenses, Taxes, and Loans Take a Hit

If you’re a freelancer in need of that new permit, or you’re resolving a complicated tax scenario, the shutdown likely created new problems for you. So says Michael Raanan, president of Landmark Tax Group.

“The shutdown had a significant adverse affect on my business since my tax practice is dedicated to resolving IRS tax disputes,” Raanan says. “No IRS live assistance was available, no paper tax returns were being processed.”

And all those wage levies, tax liens in need of removal, and IRS approval for licenses and escrow issues? All on hold.

Similarly, if you had a loan application in with, say, the U.S. Small Business Administration, you can almost certainly expect that process to be slowed by the backlog caused by the shutdown.

The Finger of Blame

It’s clear that partisan wars are fought by more than one side. But small-business owners and U.S. citizens have shifted in how they answer the question of who bears the blame for the 2013 shutdown.

A Manta flash poll of 1,000 small-business owners allocated blame for the shutdown like this:

  • Congressional Democrats: 12%
  • Congressional Republicans: 22%
  • President Barack Obama: 30%
  • Tea Party: 8%
  • Both Democrats and Republicans: 24%
  • Other: 1%
  • Don’t Know: 3%

By Oct. 13, a Pew Research poll, its findings not confined to small-business owners, showed different results when it came to assigning blame.

  • Republicans: 46%
  • Obama Administration: 37%
  • Both: 13%

Steve Silberberg, owner and head guide at Fitpacking, a company that takes hikers on trips to national parks and forests, placed himself squarely in the mid-October 46%.

“I consider Congressional Tea Party members to blame for the shutdown,” says Silberberg, focusing on those members’ efforts “to defund the Affordable Care Act and convince me that it will place undue burdens on my business. They shut down my business.”

 

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A New Market Gets a New Measure: Independent Workers Earned $1.2 Trillion in 2013

A New Market Gets A Big Financial BoostThe independent workforce is up nearly 10% from 2011 — that’s some 18 million professionals generating over one trillion dollars, according to a new report. These independents, contractors, consultants, and freelancers are not only making a living for themselves, they’re providing work to others. To the tune of $96 billion.

How is that possible?

Here’s the math: more than a quarter of independent workers hire other freelancers, and this year’s MBO Partners State of Independence Report says that these approximately 18 million indies are putting the equivalent of 2.3 million fellow freelancers on the books. To a large extent they’re doing this virtually. The 2013 report reveals that the new virtual team-up is big business, with independents assembling into collaboration teams to meet customer demands.

“This year’s report shows the tremendous economic impact of independent workers,” says Gene Zaino, chief executive officer of MBO Partners. “And [it] validates that independence is more than a viable career path; it’s a job creation engine.”

And there’s no sign of slowing down. By 2023, it is projected that more than half of all private-sector workers will have logged hours as independent pros.

But who are these workers and where are they taking us, exactly? Let’s see what else the study’s numbers have to say.

  • Mainstream Presence: Independence is driving what looks an awful lot like a structural shift. MBO Partners’ 2013 workforce index, a measure created to track the private sector, shows an 8.2% growth since the base year in 2011. And the study’s authors expect growth to hit 24 million by 2018. As it stands, nearly 10 million households can credit at least half of their income to the work of independents.
  • Economic Engine: Independent workers have generated close to $1.2 trillion in total income in 2013. They also spend. When it comes to non-payroll/contractor outlay, on average, they’re putting down about $8,500 per year per solo worker — that’s $150 billion, annually.
  • The Confidence Factor: Sixty-four percent of the indies polled reported a high level of satisfaction with their work style — that’s down a bit from 2012, but still greater than in 2011. The study shows that 77% plan to continue as either sole proprietors (63%) or expand to a larger business model (14%).
  • Multi-generational: Of the 17.7 million independents, 1 in 5 are Millennials (21-33 years old), 36% are Gen X (34-49 years), 33% are Boomers (50-67 years), and 11% are matures (68+).

And here’s one more interesting detail from the report. Independence has a new name, or a bunch of them.

That is, according to MBO Partners, just 3% of independent workers chose freelancer as their primary title. Instead, the survey got responses that ran the gamut, from self-employed to business owner, contractor, consultant and entrepreneur. Seems the independent professional is building a whole new kind of persona. And they’re taking a seat in their own kind of corner office.

 

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Mobile Freelancer, Mobile Entrepreneur: 5 Budget-Friendly Approaches to Your Business Workflow

Freelancers and Mobile ToolsEntrepreneurs and freelancers manage their businesses online just as much as every other kind of owner and corporate project manager, but they often find themselves working with a limited budget.

“We can’t always hire someone to keep certain information organized and structured,” says Sean Mahoney, president and CEO of AndPlus. “Custom software and the use of mobile applications on the devices we carry each minute of every day offer the single and best opportunity for us to place the time spent usually organizing into running our businesses.”

From payroll and ops to low-cost personal-assistant apps, from idea-banks to team-collaboration tools, let’s look at some of the options that can work for the independent entrepreneur and freelancer on the go.

1. Focus on Cash Flow: Apps like Freshbooks ($19.95/month) and Outright (free; $9.95/month premium version) allow you to see your cash flow day by day as it relates to payroll and operations.

2. Task Flow is as Important as Cash Flow: Use task reminders as if they were a personal assistant. A shortlist to check out includes Wunderlist (free; $4.99/month premium version) , Wrike (free; $49–$199/month premium version), and Any.do (free).

3. Consolidate Your Creative Materials: Combine all of your notes, pictures, and recorded audio in one place, using an app such as Evernote (free; $5/month or $45/year premium version). No matter where you are during a day, all of your creative materials are searchable. This can be a life saver at a meeting, during an impromptu pitch, or in any situation that depends on your ideas being instantly at hand.

4. Keep Your Comm Lines Open: Communicate with your team on a platform that allows mobile and desktop interaction. A good place to start: Yammer (free; up to $8 per user premium version).

5. Customize When Ready: At some point, as either your budget grows or your workflow exceeds the free and low-price apps we’ve just considered, you’ll probably want to push your entrepreneurial/freelance toolkit into the customized space. Many of what are the most common actions online professionals needs to deal with every day can be integrated into personalized mobile applications quickly and easily.

“We now are allowed to move forward with our lives and running our businesses in the way we feel is most productive, not the way we feel we’re forced to,” says Mahoney.

The bottom line is, even without a massive line to draw upon, small-business and solo entrepreneurs can create dynamic management tools that put them on the same playing field as their bigger-budget counterparts.

 

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3 Critical Pieces of Advice for Business Owners from Mixergy.com’s Founder, Andrew Warner

Mixergy - Advice for EntreprenuersFor Mixergy.com, Andrew Warner has conducted more than 900 interviews with business experts, founders, and executives. He has also worked with successful professionals to craft over 100 different courses that teach members proven methods for growing a business.

A talented interviewer, Warner extracts experiences and wisdom from interviewees who explain step-by-step how they grew their business and overcame obstacles, and what viewers can learn from those experiences.

Mozy once helped Warner recover his files when his Macbook Pro decided to retire itself, now Warner is returning the favor by sharing the three ways entrepreneurs and small business owners can build better businesses:

1. Become an interviewer

Warner’s interview with Heidi Roizen is the first thing he mentions. Roizen is a world-class example of a someone who knows how to network. And she attributes much of her success to her ability to build relationships.

At her first job, Roizen took it upon herself to edit the company newsletter.

Why?

Because it gave her access to the CEO, allowing her to build that relationship and consequently meet other important and influential people.

Warner says, “If you’re an interviewer, you can get in more doors than if you send a note saying, ‘I’d like to do a business deal with you.’ People sit down for interviews, and then naturally — it happens to me all the time — they will want to do business with you.”

As an interviewer, Warner built a relationship with Roizen. He has also established strong connections — even friendships — with the 900 other entrepreneurs, including me, who have sat down with him for an hour long conversation to share our experiences, expertise and mistakes with viewers.

You don’t have to edit a company newsletter like Roizen did, or conduct in-depth video interviews as Warner does. You can interview incredible people even as the author of a personal blog.

You will be surprised how many people will open up to you, and how those new connections will help you succeed.

2. Diffuse the “counter mind” and empower the “true mind”

Warner, like everyone, battles self-doubt.

“Anything that we do, that’s worthwhile. There’s a part of us that makes us doubt ourselves. So I might come here to do an interview with you, and in my head I’m thinking, What if I don’t have anything as interesting to say as Gary Vaynerchuk? What if I’m having an off day? What if I say something really stupid?

With so much emotional stress and hesitancy, how could anyone accomplish anything meaningful?

“The same thing happens when you read a book about sales. They’ll teach you exactly what to say. They’ll give you the scripts. They’ll show you the process, and then, you’re supposed to pick up the phone and you won’t even do it.”

Warner calls this paralyzing mentality the counter mind. Conversely, there is the true mind, which requires we give it more head space so we can be ourselves.

“If you can diffuse [the counter mind] and bring out the true mind, then you can walk into a conversation and people can pick up on the fact that you’re comfortable. You can learn how to do something and actually go and do it because you’re excited about the rewards of it.”

3. Systematize workloads

Small businesses often struggle to grow. Sometimes, that is because a business is limited by what its owners are capable of.

“We founders tend to do everything. It’s our companies and we’re really good at doing everything and so we end up doing it all. And then we get overwhelmed, and we hire someone and we say, ‘You, do this. Solve this problem for me.’ And they can’t do it right, and so we take it back on our shoulders.”

In the early stages of Mixergy, Warner believed he couldn’t possibly delegate the tasks of pre-interviewing entrepreneurs, editing the videos and managing the business’ finances. So he assumed those responsibilities, overwhelming himself, only to realize that it was he who limited the firm’s potential.

Warner decided to finally hire a professional video editor, but the relationship didn’t work out. Warner confirmed his suspicion that he was the only one capable of running and supporting his company, and so he video edited once again.

Yet, it wasn’t that Warner was the only qualified person to do the job.

“The mistake I made was: I didn’t explain to whomever I was hiring how to do the job right. I didn’t systematize my job so that anyone else can do it.”

Warner, remembering his interview with Derek Sivers, concluded owners should: “[observe] how you do something, tell everyone else how you do it, and then let them do it that way.” He created Mixergy’s “manual,” a step-by-step guide for how to do the different jobs.

And he has been successful in growing the company.

“I gave [the manual] to our [video] editor, and now the editor is better than I am because in addition to doing what I do, he’s improved the job. But at least he started by editing the way I do it.”

Warner no longer has to be Mixergy’s sole work hero. The company has grown to nine people. With eight other capable team members, maintaining and updating the “manual” is more important than ever.

“Here, if someone can’t make it, if someone wants to take a vacation, the manual is there. The next person can pick up their job and do it.”

 

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SMBs and the Online Workforce: Long-Term Relationships are the New ‘Gig’

Freelance Opportunities Are GrowingThere might have been a time when hiring freelancer online meant short-term contracts and cost savings for companies, but new research shows that employers are thinking differently about what web-sourced workers mean to a project.

Business owners are hiring at higher salaries and for longer-term arrangements, according to a new report by Elance. The study shows that 50% of the employers it polled are now bringing on online workers to handle multiple projects, not just one. And pay over the past year has increased by 69% year-over-year.

“I’m still re-hiring freelancers from just about every project I’ve done,” said Bill Calhoun of BillCalhoun.com. “Once you get your feet wet and establish a trusted relationship, it’s easy to hire again and again.”

Let’s look further into the numbers, and see what else the Elance study shows about owners such as Calhoun.

One of the trends in online hiring is that business owners are using web-based searches and platforms to find specialists in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Elance’s survey showed the following:

  • Demand for data scientists and statisticians is up 200%.
  • The demand for mobile-app developers increased 49% with continued growth in demand for iOS, Android and HTML5 skills. Demand for software application developers was up 62%.
  • The demand for networking and security experts saw remarkable growth with an over 300% increase in hiring.
  • The rise of 3D printing is pushing demand for computer-aided design experts in the U.S. The number of 3D-printing related jobs was up over 200% while the overall demand for U.S. based CAD talent grew nearly 70%.

“The ability to hire the best available person online and on-demand is becoming an essential strategy for agile businesses of all sizes,” said Fabio Rosati, chief executive officer of Elance.

If the numbers in the report bear a message, then, it’s that owners’ staffing strategies are more fully embracing the online workforce. And that leads to stories like those of freelancer Dave Russell.

“In early 2012 I was given a life-changing opportunity to work with a brilliant company,” Russell said. “It was initially just a 30-hour contract, but we got along so well that we continued working together—I was even invited out to Mountain View, California to meet everyone in-person . . . I’ve not only improved my skills, but I’ve also had the pleasure of meeting and working with incredible people.”

The concept of hiring-up via the Internet has become an everyday practice, and pay and contracts are enjoying the parity that comes with increasingly proven success.

 

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What’s it like inside the highly selective, invite-only Young Entrepreneur Council?

Young Entreprenuer Council LogoThe exclusive founders-only club is not shy about naming names.

A quick scroll through its member directory shows that Joe Fernandez (Klout), Jennifer Fleiss (Rent the Runway), Adam Goldstein (Hipmunk), Jake Nickell (Threadless), Neil Patel (KISSmetrics), Shane Snow (Contently), and Slava Rubin (Indiegogo) are all part of the family.

To date, the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) has received more than 14,000 applications to join the group. Yet fewer than a thousand people can proudly carry the YEC member label. [Full disclosure: I joined the YEC, as the co-founder of Blank Label, more than two years ago.]

It was never about recruiting big names or keeping numbers artificially low for vanity’s sake though.

Scott Gerber, Founder of the YEC, envisioned an organization, created by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs, that provided founders with the resources and tools they needed to keep growing. And that meant only accepting more candidates when the YEC staff was capable of providing more members with a wide variety of services such as virtual and in-person networking, online forums, VIP access to events, PR opportunities, exclusive discounts on business products and services, and an outlet to “give back” as a #StartupLab mentor.

The YEC in action

Much of the value from organizations such as the YEC comes from networking. If you’re looking to expand your network, someone will put you in touch with relevant contacts. For example, I met Matt Wilson, co-founder of Under30Media, through YEC in New York and got access to the launch party for Under30Experiences, a new kind of travel company. If you have specific problems, the group can direct you to someone who has been-there-and-done-that and may even have a foolproof “how-to” manual for resolving the issue.

YEC also provides its members access. The organization has brought members into highly exclusive events including one at the White House. The YEC also hosts private lunches and dinners with angel investors, venture capitalists and government officials.

It all comes from the comfort and support intrinsic in knowing you are not alone. Gerber says, “you don’t have to go search for yourself, and not really know where to start. You can rely on us not just to find who would be right for you, but also make warm introductions on your behalf. So ultimately we turn you into a superconnector without having to put all of the time and effort, and frankly, trust for every person that you’re meeting because we as the intermediary have done all of the work for you by vetting the community.”

Increasing value to members

Gerber discloses that the YEC is preparing to offer more back office services. He says that the group is about to launch national healthcare, with bookkeeping and accounting will soon be available too.

“Our goal is to also help our members to save money [and] to have the most efficient services possible to support their businesses.”

If time and money are the two most limited resources founders have, the YEC looks to help save its members both.

Although the YEC does not publicly state how much annual member dues are, Gerber is confident the fees are fair, given the services the YEC offers. In my experience, I’d agree. Most small business owners could easily afford the cost, and they would be able to justify it because of the value they get in return.

“At the end of the day, we are building a brand for the long run,” says Gerber. “With one core goal always remaining constant, and that is to help entrepreneurs worldwide and empower them in a variety of different ways.”

Alternative organizations

I love the YEC, but I am biased.

There are several other organizations business people can join that offer similar value. These include Sandbox, Young Presidents’ Organization, Entrepreneurs’ Organization, and Founders Card. Each has its own advantages, but I can’t speak to personal experience.

The point is: Whether you’re a founder, executive or manager, you should know that you don’t have to run your business alone. There’s a community somewhere with entrepreneurs who may happily extend a helping hand.

 

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Make email social with smail.fm

When Google recently rolled out new updates for Gmail, users were very vocal.

Some hated them. Some love them. Some decided to poke fun.

Of course, there was a time when email wasn’t so controversial. When it was introduced, email revolutionized how we interact. Now it doesn’t impress us with the speed of communication. Now it’s a source of stress.

The Berlin-based developer AppGestalt is hoping to make email social (again) with its smail.fm project. AppGestalt describes smail.fm as “a fun and easy way to talk to your friends with all the advantages of email like forwarding and threading.” While the project is still in pre-beta, the smail.fm homepage prominently features a screenshot of what future users might expect.

Snail.Fm

With the smail.fm client, you can compose a message, search your archives, and read messages that are organized by contact and aggregated in a clean, IM-like form. Correspondence with a certain individual is presented in a thread that displays all the messages you’ve received and sent, with the most recent messages appearing above the fold. The thread also identifies who said what and when the message was sent.

The beauty of this is that emails from an individual you care about no longer get lost in the mess that is your inbox, because you can say goodbye to easily misplaced single messages. Every message your best friend Jacob ever sent you, and every reply you sent, will be right there when you open up your correspondence with him.

smail.fm’s email threads will be particularly useful to busy professionals who won’t have to cross their fingers hoping their current email solution’s search function will, without fail, pull up the emails they are desperately looking for.

Email users should be excited for projects like smail.fm that propose a new method of communication that organizes messages around the people in your network.

Sign up for early beta access with smail.fm at its website.

 

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