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7 Tips to Give a Kickass Business Presentation

 Business presentations don’t have to all be the same, and being in the audience during one doesn’t have to be sleep-inducing. It is possible to make every business presentation entertaining, informative and enjoyable for all parties involved.

Experts shared their best tips for creating and giving a killer presentation that will engage your audience and help you land the sale.

“A good business presentation … has one main point and everything is structured around that point. It doesn’t rely heavily upon PowerPoint or slides filled with text, and it allows time for discussion and asking questions.”

“No secret sauce, tech or gimmicks. What makes any presentation engaging and effective is to put the bottom line up front and then provide whatever backup data may be needed. I’ve seen many presentations where the story is dragged out and tension is built, as if the person was trying to make a movie. But … people are busy and need to deal with the issue and then move on.”

“Focus more on what you will say and how you will say it rather than on having the coolest slides. Not everything you say should be on your slides. No more than three sentences per slide. Present your best data, or no data at all – but not all your data.”

“The true meaning of the presentation is to engage with people and persuade them to your point of view, not just deliver chunks of information. Every presentation, no matter the subject, must be tailored specifically to the people you are talking to. If you tell an anecdote, don’t simply repeat the same story wherever you are – not only will it become stale, you’ll also fail to make a connection to the people you’re addressing.”

“What makes a good business presentation is practice, practice, practice! It’s just like sports. You have to repeatedly practice your presentation to improve it.”

“Authenticity is engaging. Too many presentations are technically proficient but lack heart. If you are not genuine, there will be an unbridgeable gap between you and your listeners. Authenticity is the most important element of an effective communication in any context.”

“A high energy level (is) the most important step to take in presentations. This applies to any type of speaking, any size audience and any topic. If you seemed bored or tired, that vibe will translate to your audience.”

Tips to Protect Your Data from Hackers

 Protecting your data is especially important during tax season, when sensitive information about your business and your employees is susceptible to attack by would-be identity thieves. Faux calls and emails from attackers posing as representatives of the IRS or even managers within your organization are commonplace and can lead to the theft of information from unsuspecting employees. Luckily, there are steps you can take to bolster your security during this time of increased vulnerability.

As Eric Cernak, U.S. cyber and privacy risk practice leader at Munich Re, noted, W-2 phishing attacks are just one popular method of thievery amongst digital ne’er-do-wells. Ransomware is also increasingly popular amongst hackers, he said. In a ransomware attack, hackers generally infiltrate a system and encrypt large swaths of a company’s data. They then demand a payment in cryptocurrency, usually Bitcoin, in return for decrypting and returning the stolen data.

“These types of attacks can be costly for a (small business) in terms of productivity and dollars,” Cernak said. “Additionally, with the current value of virtual currency, ransomware attacks are costing small businesses more and more in terms of real dollars, not to mention the interruption to their business income and cost to restore files should they decide not to pay the ransom.”

While these types of attacks are particularly prevalent during tax season, cybersecurity is no seasonal game – it’s a 24/7/365 defensive slog, said Adam Levin, chairman of data protection company IDT911, which is now known asCyberScout. He added that small businesses might feel as though they aren’t a prime target because of their size, but that hackers often target small businesses to gain access to bigger companies they work with. As a result, every business large and small must remain vigilant.

“As a business you are a defender, and as a defender in the cyber world we live in, you have to get everything right,” Levin said. “As an attacker, you just need to find one point of vulnerability that might only be open for a moment or two, but then you’re in.”

It sounds scary, and indeed it is, that a breach of your business’ system could lead to a complete destabilization of your entire company and, in the worst case, its total failure. That’s precisely why developing a culture of security, constant monitoring, testing for vulnerabilities, retesting and constantly adapting is so important. As hackers are always evolving and adapting new techniques, so too must businesses in order to adequately defend themselves.

“The first thing a business has to develop is a culture of security from the mailroom to the boardroom,” Levin said. “That involves employee training, and a sense of employee responsibility for security.”

While implementing secure systems and utilizing effective monitoring tools is a must, Levin said, humans are often the easiest vulnerability for hackers to exploit. Educating employees, then, is imperative.

“This has to be an almost daily event,” Levin said. “The system is only as good as the weakest link, and humans tend to be the weakest link.”

By keeping several best practices for security in mind, you can reduce the odds that your business becomes a victim of a cyberattack. Moreover, you can implement policies and technology to mitigate the damage of any successful attack, turning a potentially catastrophic event into nothing more than a minor irritation.

Based on our expert sources’ insights, here are eight steps you can take to better secure your business data right now.

1. Secure your computers: Using up-to-date software and effective monitoring tools is essential to maintaining a secure browser. Ensure that software updates are installed promptly when available.

2. Use two-factor authentication: Multi-factor authentication is a key strategy to avoid falling victim to an attacker using stolen credentials. Oftentimes, two-factor authentication means the employee logging in will receive an additional authentication request, often via smartphone, to confirm their identity.

3. Avoid recycling passwords: Once you change a password, change it for good. Browsers often store passwords insecurely, and reusing a password increases the risk that a user’s credentials will be compromised.

4. Train your employees: Create a culture of security. Make sure each employee understands where they fit in the big picture. Security is not just something for the IT department to worry about, but should rather be a team effort.

5. Always encrypt data: Encryption thwarts many would-be snoopers and hackers because they cannot access your encrypted data without the proper keys. Encryption and other services, like virtual private networks, are important aspects in protecting your information.

6. Back up data: You’ll want to back up your data in case of a ransomware attack. However, it’s important to note that the devices storing the backed-up data should not always be connected to your network. Otherwise, they could be compromised during an attack. If your system is attacked, you can wipe your hard drives and then download your backed-up data, avoiding a catastrophic incident.

7. Manage portable media: When employees use their own mobile devices on your company’s network, it creates new opportunities for hackers. Mobile devices are also more likely to be lost or stolen outside of the workplace, further increasing the odds of security being compromised. If you’re a BYOD workplace, ensure employees are conforming to your company’s security protocols. Minimize mobile device use, or ensure all data stored on these devices is encrypted.

8. Destroy unnecessary information: Make sure you destroy any sensitive documents you no longer need. Hard copies of tax documents or financial information can be used to determine possible avenues of infiltrating your system. Any connected devices in your office should be secured and routinely cleared to ensure safety.

7 Business Ideas for Food Lovers

Farm-to-table restaurateur

If you’re an avid home chef, you know fresh ingredients make the best meals. Nothing says fresh, healthy and local like a farm-to-table restaurant. What’s more, owning a successful farm-to-table restaurant helps support local farmers, thereby strengthening your community through the love of healthy, fresh foods.


If you frequently find yourself whipping up a batch of cookies to stave off boredom, why not get paid for it by opening a bakery? Pull out grandma’s old recipes (or create your own) and find desserts that you can replicate perfectly every time. Of course, retail space and equipment can cost a small fortune, so if you want to launch your bakery sooner rather than later, accept orders online and deliver or ship to local areas. This is a great business to run in your spare time, as you can fill orders during evenings and weekends. The best part about being in the baked goods business? You’ll never find any shortage of volunteers to help you eat your mistakes.


Have you ever hosted a dinner party or holiday meal and found yourself barely able to enjoy it because of all the preparation? If you’re a skilled home cook that can create delicious meals for a large group of people, you can help alleviate the stress of planning and preparing food for parties as a caterer. While bigger events like weddings and Sweet 16s might be hard to handle without a team, you could likely handle smaller home gatherings by yourself or with a business partner. Make sure you have enough kitchen space to prepare the meals and the means to transport the food to your clients. Go the extra mile and offer to help clean up after the party for great customer service (not to mention the fact that you’ll probably earn a nice tip).


Is liquid food more your speed? Consider launching a bartender-for-hire service. If you love mixing up cocktails and serving parched patrons the drinks of their choice, this just might be the gig for you. Offer to work events or parties to help bring that extra level of luxury and professionalism to your clients shindigs. With a low overhead and a slight learning curve — if you aren’t already a master mixologist — you can get your bartender business up and running in no time.

Food truck

Want to open a restaurant without paying for retail space and tons of kitchen equipment? With a decent set of wheels and a small-scale food prep station, you can. Decreased startup costs, competitive pricing and lower risk of failure are just a few of the reasons why food trucks are a great alternative to brick-and-mortar restaurants. Pick a specific type of food or cuisine you’re familiar with and work on perfecting recipes in that category to sell at your mobile eatery. Focusing on a particular specialty can help you stand out from the competition and aid in your branding efforts.

Personal chef

Another way to tap into the “busy family” market is by offering personal chef services. This business requires you to plan and prepare weekly or daily meals for your clients, so strong cooking skills and a working knowledge of nutrition and special diets (if applicable) are a must. While you don’t necessarily need to have graduated from culinary school, taking a few cooking classes will boost your credibility. If you’ve ever fantasized about working for a celebrity, this might be your ticket in: A lot of high-profile individuals employ personal chefs to maintain a healthy diet with their round-the-clock work schedule.

Nutrition coach

There’s no question that obesity is a growing problem in America, and many people who want to lose weight and eat better simply don’t know where to start. You don’t necessarily need to be a registered dietitian to offer meal plans and diet counseling. Read some nutrition books or take an online course, and use that knowledge to recommend delicious and healthy recipes to your clients that they can easily prepare at home. With the right combination of practical information and personal support, you can help people get their health — and their relationship with food – back on track.

7 Green Business Ideas

Green finance

Money isn’t the only thing that has to be green in the world of finance. Green finance is focused on supporting local, community-level projects, particularly with an emphasis on sustainable, ecologically-friendly agriculture. Green finance is also typically concerned with providing educational opportunities, funding for artistic endeavors, and projects that support local ecology. As opposed to more conventional companies in the world of finance, green finance is preoccupied with the idea of social profit — while monetary profit remains important, the real goal of green finance is to support beneficial projects that provide value to the local community and ecology. Oftentimes, when conventional lenders shy away, green financial institutions can fill the void to help realize a positive project that otherwise would not exist.

Organic catering

A great way for eco-friendly foodies to share their passion for both food and the environment is to start an organic catering company. Cater local events and business luncheons with foods that are made from organic and locally grown ingredients, and offer free-range meats along with vegan, gluten-free and paleo-meal options and you’ll appeal to nature lovers and health and wellness enthusiasts alike. Be sure to keep environmental impact to a minimum by avoiding using plastic and paper goods as much as possible and composting food waste. And if you already own a catering company, switching to organic, eco-friendly foods could be a great way to boost business.

Organic or recycled fashion

Organic cotton, reused fabric scraps and evenplastic bottles can all be starting points for a green fashion line. You can create silk screen artwork on eco-friendly T-shirts, or design handbags and accessories made of recycled materials. Many distributors brand themselves as “organic,” “fair trade” and “eco-friendly,” so do your research on their practices to make sure you’re sourcing your fabrics from reputable organizations.

Green app developer

Want to help others help themselves go green? Build an app. From reference guides to activity trackers and games, green-app developers can create apps to help users learn more about going green and guide them toward achieving their sustainable lifestyle goals. Your app can cover green living as a whole or focus on niche areas — such as energy conservation; recycling and upcycling; eco-friendly products, and green living — at home or at work. It can be as simple as an app listing local green businesses, or something complex and interactive that users can enjoy on a day-to-day basis. You can also build educational apps to teach children about going green and help them grow up to be environmentally conscious citizens.

Air duct cleaning

Dust, debris and other particulates that collect in ventilation systems can make a home much less energy-efficient. Help homeowners save money, gas and electricity by cleaning out their air ducts. You may need to purchase someequipment to get started if you don’t have a portable vacuum, and a strong working knowledge of heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) is a must. Spring is a great time for this business: Seasonal allergy sufferers will be more than happy to pay you to remove allergens from their air ducts.

Handmade all-natural/organic products

Soaps, cosmetics and cleaning products are just a few of the household products that can be made using common organic materials. Sure, anyone can find a recipe for a sugar scrub or vinegar-based cleaning solution and do it themselves, but if you package and sell them in sets, your customers can have those all-natural products at their fingertips without having to use their own time and resources. Local markets and events are a good place to sell, or you could start anonline store.

Green waste management

Most homeowners have pickup bins for standard recyclables like paper, glass and plastic, but they often don’t make the effort to properly recycle electronics and batteries, which can be extremely harmful to the environment when left in landfills. Offer to pick up all the e-waste that’s been collecting in their garages — old televisions, broken laptops, defunct cellphones — and bring them to your local electronic recycling facility. Charge per item, by weight or a flat fee plus travel to and from the location.

Trash compacting is another type of business helping to take the waste out of the waste management industry. In the U.S. alone, garbage trucks consume roughly 1 billion gallons (3.7 billion liters) of diesel fuel every year, according to InformInc. Companies likeBigbelly Solar are working to change that by using solar-powered trash compactors that reduce the frequency of collections, thereby also reducing emissions and fuel consumption. Trash compactors also reduce litter overflow, a common problem among public trash receptacles.

Retailers Turn to AI to Integrate Marketing Channels

The study was conducted by Sailthru, a cross-channel management platform company. When discussing what marketing channels best met marketing goals, 56 percent of businesses surveyed said their websites generate the most online revenue, with email marketing and mobile coming in next at 18 percent and 7 percent. Social media trailed at 4 percent.

Even so, email, social media and digital advertising nearly tied as the favored channels for acquiring new customers. For retention, email, followed by mobile, showed the most promise, retailers said. Thus, retailers intend to invest more in social media advertising, email automation and mobile marketing in 2017.

“Email is a tried-and-true digital marketing tactic. Revenue attributed directly to email varies between 30 to 50 percent for our retail clients,” said Marielle Habbel, director of customer strategy and optimization for Sailthru, in awebinar discussing the results.

Habbel found it surprising that revenue generated by mobile was so low, considering how pervasive it is, and that social media, while very popular, did not show the return on investment that other channels produce. However, she said the one of the most sought-after innovations for 2017 is integrating social and mobile with email to create more powerful campaigns.

To do that, and to improve personalization of the customer’s buying journey (another goal of companies), Habbel said businesses need to incorporate artificial intelligence programs.

“There’s no way to bring the automation to life or bring the personalization to life without the AI,” she said.

Most retailers (66 percent) already use AI in some way, with 37 percent using it for search and 33 percent using it to improve product recommendations for customers. Programmatic advertising and data analysis tied for third at 26 percent each.

Seventy-three percent of retailers felt ready for cross-channel campaigns. The rest said their companies faced roadblocks, including organizational or customer data silos that prevented smooth collaboration, and a lack of integrated technologies. In addition, more than a quarter felt their departments didn’t understand how to create a cross-channel strategy to maximize resources.

Even with successful companies, one of the resource challenges for retailers is finding and retaining human talent. Habbel noted two issues: a high turnover of employees in marketing resulting in time spent training people on software, and a difficulty finding employees who are comfortable with both story and technology.

“There’s a small (number) of people in the market that are able to combine those two skill sets,” she said.

Marketing experts agree that “story,” or content marketing that goes beyond advertising messages, is vital for successful online campaigns in email or social media.

Online marketing has shown itself successful: 81 percent of retailers met or exceeded their marketing goals in 2016, according to the survey. As companies look to the future, marketing will continue to grow, particularly for those who have already had a taste of success. Retailers will push their efforts into cross-platform integrations and personalization, particularly to incorporate artificial intelligence programs with people able to bring in the human element through content.

7 Tips for Building an Effective Business Website

Creating a website isn’t especially difficult with the many website creation tools available. Whatever software you choose, keep these design principles in mind.

In 2016, OuterBox reported that more than 62 percent of shoppers made purchases using their cell phones, and the 2016 stats show that over 90 percent of shoppers use their smartphones even while in retail stores for comparing prices and looking at product reviews. Further, 40 percent of consumers will go to a competitor if they have a bad experience with a mobile website.

“If you plan on running a successful eCommerce website, or any website, you absolutely must cater to mobile users,” wrote Justin Smith, CEO of OuterBox, in his company blog.

You need to have a domain name that describes your business or is your company name. You can even have multiple domains that point to the website. To learn more about what makes an effective domain name, read our article on choosing the best domain names.

If your business depends on people being able to contact you or call your sales team, put that information where they can find it easily.

“Your contact information should be visible, preferably at the top of the home page, so that visitors don’t have to search for a phone number or address if they want to contact the business,” said David Brown, CEO of

If you use social media to connect with customers, then be sure to put links at the header or footer, where they are easily found.

Dan Veltri, co-founder and chief product officer of Weebly, advised limiting your top-level navigation menu to five clearly labeled tabs with related pages organized under them. You should also have a clear way to get back to the home page no matter where your readers land. Very often, a search can take your reader to a page other than the home page.

Paul Bolls, an associate professor of strategic communication at the Missouri School of Journalism, said that readers need to be able to put information in context. If a site has too much information, it overloads the mind, making it unable to retain the new information. Be sure you use a balance of text and graphics that present a clean page.

One way to keep it simple is to cut the social widgets, such as a Twitter feed on your site. Ask yourself if you are adding information your reader cares about, advised Michael LaVista, CEO of Caxy Interactive. If your widget content does not support the purpose of the page, remove it.

It should go without saying that inaccurate information will turn off consumers, whether it’s a wrong number, outdated product information or simple grammatical errors. Not only should you proofread each page before it goes live, but you should periodically check each page, especially after making updates anywhere else.

A study by SOASTA, a website creation company, found that 88 percent of Americans surveyed said they have a negative association with brands that have buggy websites and apps, and 83 percent said slow websites cause them to have a negative reaction to a brand or company. Further, 28 percent of respondents said they will go to a competitor’s website if the first website they visit takes too long to load.

Make sure your website runs smoothly by keeping the software updated, optimizing videos and images for quicker downloads, and using a website host that can handle your bandwidth demands.

4 Strategies to Build Audience Engagement

No matter what industry your business falls under, engaging a targeted audience is critical. Whether it’s prospecting for new leads or communicating with previous clients, audience participation keeps your brand fresh in customers’ minds.

Engagement can mean a lot of different numbers, such as page views, email opens or Twitter interactions. While you don’t need to analyze every single metric, you should focus on specific measurements that work toward achieving an established goal. Business News Daily spoke with some communication experts about digital strategies to help small businesses get started.

Audience engagement is a key part of marketing, and with any advertising campaign, you need to understand your target audience. Who follows your brand? Who would you like to follow your brand?

“Sometimes your current audience is different from the group you originally wanted to communicate with,” explains Chevon Drew, senior communications manager at Race Forward and Color Lines.

“A business can manufacture and market baby wipes to parents for five years, experience an increase in sales and attribute it to parents wanting more wipes when it truly could have meant their audience changed from solely parents to parents and the limitless numbers of people now using wipes to remove makeup in the era of Instagram,” she added. “That’s an example I fabricated, but it illustrates the thinking behind doing less assuming and more surveying.”

Depending on how big a business is, the marketing and communication departments can be completely separate. However, they should always meet when discussing revenue generation.

“It’s important to make sure that your audience engagement initiatives align with your company’s overall goals,” explained Elizabeth Riley Boyer, director of marketing and communications at ThinkCERCA.

She recommends following the OKR framework, which is an acronym used by Google, Intel and other major corporations. OKR stands for company “Objectives” and measurable “Key Results.” Each objective should align with a company’s mission and values, and each key result identifies a way employees can work together to reach an objective.

“For nearly all businesses, you probably have some sort of revenue metric that you’re tracking,” Riley Boyer added. “At ThinkCERCA, we have some great data on platform usage leading to great student achievement results, which, in turn, leads to increased customer renewals and expansions. So my team is currently looking at launching and growing engagement initiatives that support increased platform usage among teachers and students.”

An average day for Drew involves tracking which links receive the most retweets from Twitter and shares on Facebook and analyzing open rates for their organization’s email marketing lists.

That’s why Christina Ochoa, social media strategist and founder of The Social Butterfly Gal, recommends hiring a tailored professional, well versed in the online realm. To best serve her clients, she uses analytics and powerful visuals to market on Instagram.

“Digital strategy can be time consuming and overwhelming,” she said. “Small business owners should hire someone who knows the digital world, can respond in a timely matter and [be] one [who] isn’t afraid to try new things when it comes to strategy or content.”

However, since social media is accessible to the public, an experienced professional doesn’t have to already work in the industry. Their own following and content can show how well (or not) they grab an audience.

Digital media is constantly changing. It was only last year that Instagram offered the analytics feature to any business account. Fortunately, it’s easy to carry out experiments, because posting a tweet takes a matter of seconds.

“Our audience engagement editor is constantly testing subject lines and [the] best times of day to send a tweet,” Riley Boyer said.

Plus, it’s easy to get wrapped up in what a brand should sound like and lose your unique voice. Sounding overly promotional makes content feel less relatable. Especially when a company first starts out, you’ll need to develop your voice over time.
“Too many feel social media needs to be so straightforward,” Ochoa added. “Don’t be afraid to be real. That’s how people will feel connected to you and want to follow you!”

Healthy Workplace Conflict Can Help Your Business Grow

The world is rife with conflict, from terrorism to Facebook fights, so it may seem wise to try to remove conflict from our places of employment. Eliminating conflict may make for a more peaceful workplace, but it can ultimately hurt a business’s growth.

“When conflict exists, it generally indicates commitment to organizational goals, because the players are trying to come up with the best solution,” wrote productivity expert Laura Stack in an Aviation Pros article. “This, in turn, promotes challenge, heightens individual regard to the issues and increases effort. This type of conflict is necessary. Without it, an organization will stagnate.”

It fosters creativity. Stephen Hecht, co-author of “Nonflict: The Art of Everyday Peacemaking” (Two Harbors Press, 2016), calls it the co-creative process, where the disagreeing parties come together to find a solution that meets everyone’s needs. This involves understanding each other’s needs and then imagining together the best-case scenario and determining how to meet that vision.

“Most people define conflict with a negative connotation, but conflict is when two different ideas come into contact with each other,” Hecht said. “If you deal with conflict in a constructive way, there is opportunity.”

It encourages a deeper investigation of the issues. “Because the disagreement was expressed, a more thorough investigation will be conducted,” Stack wrote. “When the group makes a decision, it will be based on additional information that probably wouldn’t have been obtained had the conflict not occurred.”

It can signal unclear guidelines. When the goals or procedures are not clear, employees may conflict with each other under the honest assumption that their way is the correct one.

“A major cause of workplace flare ups is lack of role clarity,” wrote Mark Schnurman in “Take the time up front to clarify expectations. A brief conversation initially can save a lot of time and angst later.”

It may signal that people feel underappreciated. Producer Sylvie Peltier, president of Red Letter Films, said that oftentimes in her industry, conflict comes from people’s unmet need to be heard and appreciated. She finds this especially true for people who are hired in for a specific project.

“If you are able to acknowledge their strengths and make them feel appreciated, they’ll play nice with the rest of the team,” she said.

Not all conflict is going to be good, of course, and there are times when a leader has to be a parent, said Brit Poulson, psychologist, leadership development expert and author of “The Clarity Compass” (Vision Creation Inc., 2017). Take initiative and directly address the issue if it gets too heated among your team.

“Step into the role of authority the employees need you to take,” he said.

Here are a few things you can do to resolve “bad” conflicts and reduce the occurrence of unhealthy conflict in the future.

Hire the right people. Sometimes conflict comes from personalities that don’t mix. “There’s not a lot you can do to change people’s egos,” Peltier said. “In the short term, you can only do damage control, but in the long term, don’t keep those people on the team.”

Give everyone a voice. Poulson noted that while not every idea is the right one for the company to run with, even seemingly “bad” ideas can spark creativity that results in new suggestions that will work.

Understand the parties involved. To handle conflict constructively, some thought must be given to the person’s background, how they communicate and their particular approach to the problem. This framework can help you better understand and address their position.

6 Android Apps to Plan Your Workday

Calendar: aCalendar (Free)

The innocuously named aCalendar might be the best overall calendar app for business users on the Android platform, striking a great balance between ease of use and powerful features. The app hits all the basics, making it easy to toggle between day, week, month and year views, and it has plenty of options to set reminders and notifications for important engagements. But it also offers a slew of business features, like the ability to schedule a meeting and invite meeting attendees straight from the app.

Wunderlist (Free)

Wunderlist can help make sure that your best ideas don’t slip away. It’s a powerful to-do-list app that lets you quickly jot down ideas and agenda items so you don’t forget them. You can add text and attach photos, PDFs and presentations with a few taps. Plus, there’s a handy folder system to help keep projects separated. Even better, you can share you lists with colleagues for easy collaboration.

Day Planner: Jorte Calendar & Organizer (Free)

As a full calendar application, Jorte trails Business Calendar in overall design and ease of use. But for business users seeking an application to keep track of daily tasks, Jorte might come out on top. What makes this calendar app stand out is the ability to tap any day of the month and view your full agenda for the day at the bottom of the screen, without navigating away from the main calendar view. The feature lets you easily browse your daily schedules over multiple days quickly and easily. Overall, Jorte is a solid calendar app for Android devices that syncs with Google Calendar and lets you view and tweak your schedule in a variety of ways, set reminders and more.

Smart Calendar: Any.Do Cal (Free)

Any.Do Cal builds on the basic calendar app concept, but adds extra context to your events by pulling in information from your contacts list, maps app and more. For example, when scheduling a meeting or appointment, you can add contacts from your phone’s address book to the event. That lets you easily send out invitations and reminders via text or email. Or if you’re running late on the day of the meeting, you can fire off a message to let them know. Any.Do Cal can also access your smartphone’s GPS sensor so you can input the location of a meeting or event. Then when it’s time to go, you can access turn-by-turn directions with a single tap. In other words, the app streamlines the process of planning and attending meetings, making it a boon for busy business users. It also syncs with the original Any.Do app, which lets you create short- and long-term to-do lists.

Project Manager: Wrike (Free)

Wrike can help you get projects off the ground and see them through to the end. The project management app makes it easy to create a new project and assign team members with a few taps. From there, you can create, assign and schedule smaller tasks, and send and receive messages through Wrike’s built-in inbox. Other perks include the ability to attach images and files to your project right from your phone via cloud storage platforms like Google Drive or DropBox, or straight from your phone’s storage. Other quality-of-life perks include a daily checklist so you can make sure to stay on track.

Personal assistant: Google Now (Free)

Google Now isn’t exactly an app. Instead, the software is baked into the operating system of all newer Android smartphones; to access it, tap and hold the home button on your smartphone, then drag your finger up to the Google logo. It’s essentially an intelligent personal assistant designed to know what you need before you ask for it. The service works by monitoring your activity within the Google ecosystem and pushing relevant notifications to you as they’re detected. The service can notify you of traffic delays, flight delays, weather, upcoming appointments, package shipment information and much more. It’s more powerful than other notification services because of its tight integration with Google search and your existing Gmail and Google Calendar accounts. The information provided by Google Now can help business users handle unforeseen delays as well as planned appointments.

5 iPhone Apps to Manage Your Business Contacts

Simpler Pro Smart Contacts (Free)

Your iPhone comes with a stock address book, but why settle for that? Simper Pro Smart Contacts is a better way to keep track of your business contacts. It offers powerful search capabilities, letting you find contacts even if you can’t remember their names. The app will also help you clean up your contacts list, with the ability to purge old contacts, and clean up duplicate items in your address book. Plus, you can back up your contacts to Dropbox or Google Drive with one tap.

Apps to plan your workday

Are you busy running your small business? Juggling dozens of daily tasks isn’t easy. A wall calendar and a pen-and-paper to-do list can help, but there’s a smarter way to plan your workday: By using your Android smartphone. With the right apps you can plan your day, week, month or year – and really get things done. Whether you need to remember an appointment next month, or a business call later today, there’s an app for you. Your Android phone comes with a basic calendar app out of the box, which integrates with Google Calendar and lets you schedule appointments, set reminders and jot down a basic to-do list. But the stock Calendar app can’t do it all. Other apps have more options and deeper functionality to help you stay on top of things. Here are five of the best.

Day Planner: Jorte Calendar & Organizer (Free)

As a full calendar application, Jorte trails Business Calendar in overall design and ease of use. But for business users seeking an application to keep track of daily tasks, Jorte might come out on top. What makes this calendar app stand out is the ability to tap any day of the month and view your full agenda for the day at the bottom of the screen, without navigating away from the main calendar view. The feature lets you easily browse your daily schedules over multiple days quickly and easily. Overall, Jorte is a solid calendar app for Android devices that syncs with Google Calendar and lets you view and tweak your schedule in a variety of ways, set reminders and more.

Project Manager: Wrike (Free)

Wrike can help you get projects off the ground and see them through to the end. The project management app makes it easy to create a new project and assign team members with a few taps. From there, you can create, assign and schedule smaller tasks, and send and receive messages through Wrike’s built-in inbox. Other perks include the ability to attach images and files to your project right from your phone via cloud storage platforms like Google Drive or DropBox, or straight from your phone’s storage. Other quality-of-life perks include a daily checklist so you can make sure to stay on track.

Smart Calendar: Any.Do Cal (Free)

Any.Do Cal builds on the basic calendar app concept, but adds extra context to your events by pulling in information from your contacts list, maps app and more. For example, when scheduling a meeting or appointment, you can add contacts from your phone’s address book to the event. That lets you easily send out invitations and reminders via text or email. Or if you’re running late on the day of the meeting, you can fire off a message to let them know. Any.Do Cal can also access your smartphone’s GPS sensor so you can input the location of a meeting or event. Then when it’s time to go, you can access turn-by-turn directions with a single tap. In other words, the app streamlines the process of planning and attending meetings, making it a boon for busy business users. It also syncs with the original Any.Do app, which lets you create short- and long-term to-do lists.

5 Common Leadership Mistakes

Being a leader comes with a host of responsibilities, including being a good influence on those you work with and who work for you. Whether you’ve recently landed your first leadership role or you’ve been managing employees for years, there are always lessons to be learned and improvements to be made.

Because a leadership role is important, you owe it to yourself and your staff to always be sharp. This means being wise enough to recognize your weak points, and humble enough to work on correcting them.

Here are five common mistakes that leaders at all levels struggle with, and how you can fix them.

Holding any position of power can be good for your ego, but don’t let that position of power create a false sense of security. It’s important that your employees know you’re not above your shortcomings.

“Leaders must not be afraid to recognize their own failures,” said Joe Chiarello, owner of two Murphy Business & Financial Corporation franchises. “We all fall down at some point, but what really matters is the way we pick ourselves up and learn from our mistakes. This is what helps us grow and makes us stronger.”

Leading by example and having transparency with your team if you do something wrong or make a bad decision can go a long way.

It’s easy to let your feelings about a situation influence the choice, and sometimes it makes sense to do so. But in business, using emotions as your sole justification for any choice is a bad practice. Your team needs to see the facts and logic backing up your choices if you want them to trust you.

“(When you’re) making decisions based on emotion … the team may not truly understand the rationale behind the decision being made, and in many cases, rationale may not exist,” said Christopher Ayala, partner at manufacturing company Gardner & Co. “This can lead to confusion, uncertainty of future roadmap plans or the validity of the decisions over time, slowly chiseling away at the effectiveness of the leader.”

When it comes to making a decision, he suggests taking a deep breath, stepping back and holding your tongue, then thinking.

Making emotional moves can lead to authorizing decisions without a full understanding, too. You don’t want to make decisions because you feel you have to. As a leader, you may find yourself in a position to make choices about things outside your area of expertise.

As a leader, you should be sensible enough to not make a final decision without consulting the people in your company who do have experience in these areas.

“While you may not fully understand that particular subject area you need to authorize; you do understand logic. Use this opportunity to understand why this recommendation is being made and what fail-safes your team has built into the process should the result not be what is expected,” said Jay Deakins, founder and CEO of Deacom. “A thorough cross-examination will confirm that there is a solid foundation for how the proposal was made and that all considerations were carefully explored.”

One of the most difficult adjustments a new leader has to make is learning how to handle disagreements or problems that arise within the group. You may want to come off as fair and balanced but avoid calling people out for their negative behavior to avoid potential conflict. Doing so will hurt your whole staff more if you don’t nip an issue in the bud.

“Managers often veer away from confrontation and try to avoid it at all costs. But when performance or personality issues go unaddressed, they fester and set an overall tone that minimizes the urgency of correcting mistakes,” said Mark Feldman, vice president of marketing at Building Engines. “If there is (an) issue, it’s best to address it right away when the situation is fresh.”

Feldman notes managers incorrectly assume that a problem is the result of incompetence or poor performance when in actuality it’s often a result of a misunderstanding of expectations.

“Create an environment that encourages continuous feedback, and be exact with dates and expected outcomes,” he said.

Leaders are typically hired or promoted to their positions because they know what needs to be done and how to do it. This may be accompanied by the mentality of “if you want something done right, do it yourself,” which can be a dangerous attitude to have when managing a team.

Completing or tweaking your employees’ work because it’s not to your liking — or, similarly, failing to delegate tasks — not only creates more work for you, but also hinders your team from reaching its full potential.

“When leaders take on the responsibility of completing a team member’s work, they are actually doing the team and themselves a disservice,” said Nancy Mellard, national leader of CBIZ Women’s Advantage. “(It) is breeding ground for disengagement.”

According to Mellard, by getting into this habit, a talented team member may bring a project to only 75 percent completion, assuming the leader will finish the rest. As a result, performance will move in the wrong direction, while the leader takes on more responsibility for the team’s overall project demands.

“As leaders, we must push our teams to go beyond the satisfactory. It’s different than delegating — it’s challenging your team to take it upon themselves to perform better each time, and working alongside them to facilitate the process,” she added.

“Empowerment is a tremendous tool — trust your staff’s expertise and their ability to do their job. Give them clear direction and parameters, (and) be available to them,” said Linda Lefebvre, owner of the My Salon Suite Ottawa franchise.

You’ve been entrusted with a leadership position because someone else trusts your judgment. Consistently second-guessing yourself can rub off on others, and before you know it, no one trusts you. Don’t be afraid to obey your gut instinct when it’s right.

“While it’s important to listen to others, employees and clients alike, sometimes this can be very dangerous to an innovative startup. If you truly believe in what you are doing, it’s OK to listen only to yourself sometimes. (Be) loyal to your internal compass,” said Moran Zur, CEO of SafeBeyond.

4 Tips for Working with Your Significant Other

Share an entrepreneurial drive with your romantic partner? You might think launching a startup together is the perfect way to merge your personal and professional lives. But lovebirds, be warned: Going into business with a significant other may not be exactly what you’re expecting.

When serial entrepreneur Nicole Bandklayder co-founded jewelry e-commerce company Bijouxx Jewels with her fiancé, David Pomije, they already each had their own startups. While they were familiar with the world of entrepreneurship, she admits they were a bit naïve about what it would be like to start a business together.

“I liked the prospect of spending more time together, but being together all the time while working is not the same as being together for date night or other romantic ventures,” said Bandklayder, who serves as CMO of Bijouxx. “You really have to be in the right mindset to work and always be on the same team.”

If you’re thinking about going into business with your sweetheart, here are four smart survival tips to help you keep your relationship and your company healthy.

If you think you and your sweetheart are going to be working side by side and sharing responsibilities, you may want to think again. When Randy and Angie Stocklin, the husband-and-wife team behind e-commerce company One Click Ventures, started their business, Angie Stocklin thought she’d be working on common tasks with her husband, she said. She quickly learned that their very different strengths meant they were better suited to have separate responsibilities.

“At the end of the day, our varied strengths and divided responsibilities made us a stronger team, because it allowed us to become experts and excel at different areas of the business,” Angie Stocklin said in a 2014 email interview. “We didn’t have competing strengths and therefore quickly learned to rely on the other person to carry their portion of the responsibility.”

Meg LaFaivre, who co-owns a Bottle & Bottega franchise with her husband, Paul, said they approach their business handlings much like their marriage and parenting: divide and conquer, and play to their strengths.

“Although we work together, we have separate responsibilities which helps to keep us focused,” LaFaivre said. With both marriage and entrepreneurship, there are highs and lows. Going through the process as a team however, provides unique insight and appreciation for the accomplishments.”

Scott and Roxanne Bobowicz, WIN Home Inspection franchisees, said that as small business owners, they now have the freedom to do more with their children and work together to sustain a balanced schedule. But it is indeed work: There are going to be times when a business dilemma makes its way to your dinner table, or when a personal disagreement follows you to the office. These crossovers are hard to prevent completely, but you should both actively try to maintain a line between your work and home lives.

The couple advised setting boundaries as often as possible and to try to have operating hours.

“When we first launched our business, we would answer our phones any time and any day of the week,” said the Bobowiczes. “While there are still some instances where people call us directly – like a realtor calling us at 9:45 p.m. on a Friday to discuss water quality testing – we’ve made these interruptions more manageable.”

Any entrepreneur knows how time-consuming running a business can be. When you’re working with your significant other, it can be even more challenging to find the time to devote to personal activities, such as side hobbies and spending time with other family members and friends. But doing so is important to the health of your personal relationship.

“It’s hard to separate work and home life,” said Mike McEwan, who co-founded boutique daily deals website with his wife Megan. “We have found the best way to balance this is by putting our marriage and relationship first. We check in with each other a lot. It’s not always easy, but I find it best when I put Megan’s needs and concerns above whatever is happening at Jane.”

“Once the business day is over, always try to take off your [business] hat and spend quality time together,” added Pomije, Bijouxx Jewels’ CEO. “A good balance is necessary to make your business grow and succeed.”

Entrepreneurship isn’t a 9-to-5 job — it’s a lifestyle choice. A couple who wants to go into business together needs to realize what this entails and prepare to devote themselves to it.

Meg Schmitz, FranChoice Chicago franchise consultant who mentors couples looking to get into business together, said it’s important to truly know yourself and your spouse before taking the plunge into entrepreneurship as partners. In her consulting work, she includes the spouse at the start of the business investigation and covers each of their interests and concerns about financial investment, impact of the business on lifestyle, management skills and preferences, how young or old their kids are, and long-term financial goals.

“Some couples work very well together, and know and respect their boundaries and complimentary skills. Others work together, not necessarily happily, and are at odds about aspects of running the business,” Schmitz said. “If you have a good marriage, put that first.”

Randy Stocklin noted that if you have a strong relationship, complementary skills and shared goals, building a business together can be a very rewarding experience.

“You have to be honest with each other on all three of these points,” he said. “If you … are prepared to face difficult situations together, you have a much better chance [of succeeding].”

“If you put your mind to anything, you can do it, especially with a partner,” added Megan McEwan of “It makes it so much more fun to build a business with a partner instead of doing it by yourself. We are able to help each other see from another perspective and then make the best decision.”