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Monthly Archives: December 2016

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 Jane.com 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 Jane.com. “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.”

7 Easy Online Business Ideas

When you dream of opening your own business, you might envision four white walls and a mess of boxes to unpack in a commercial space. However, it doesn’t have to be this way. With today’s technology, you can start and run a business online, often with little to no cost.

By focusing on your strengths, you’ll be able to build a client roster and get your online-based business started. Here are 15 great ideas you can run with.

Do you know the ins and outs of search engines and have skills in platforms like Google Analytics? The owners of a lot of smaller companies don’t realize how much of an impact search engine optimization (SEO) can have on their business. Educate those business owners on the power of SEO to help transform their websites into a more SEO-friendly property. Use your skills to show business owners how to read and use their analytics data the right way, and how to properly use keywords and structure content to get more traffic.

If you possess a great deal of business experience and knowledge, why not create a business that helps aspiring entrepreneurs find success? You can use your skills to help new business owners get off to a good start and help experienced entrepreneurs keep up with demand. To show off your knowledge and skills and bring in clients, you can also write articles about business on platforms like LinkedIn.

There’s an audience for everything, whether it’s making dollhouse furniture or creating organic dog food. With a specialty e-commerce store, you can reach those customers who are seeking your specific products. All you need is a web-hosting service with an integrated shopping cart feature or with e-commerce software, and your business will be operational in no time. You can even work with vendors to ship products to customers on your behalf, which means you don’t need to own a lot of inventory.

Larger companies can hire an agency or full-time staff member to run their Facebook and Twitter accounts, but small businesses often have to handle their own social media marketing. With so many responsibilities, business owners are often too busy, overwhelmed or undereducated about the importance of social media to spend time developing and implementing a great social media strategy. As a consultant, you can help them determine the best tactics, posting schedules and content for their target audience. As their follower count grows, so will your business.

There’s nothing more off-putting than a poorly designed website, and often, it kills credibility. If you know HTML and have a good eye for design, you can launch a service to create attractive, easy-to-use websites for small businesses. Put your skills to good use for business owners who want to take their online presence to the next level. Build a comprehensive portfolio, and then create your own website to show it off and attract a steady stream of clients.

It’s a tough truth to swallow, but a standout resume and cover letter can make all the difference when you’re applying for a job. While listing career accomplishments might seem like an easy task, the fine art of “humble bragging” eludes some of us. Find work by helping others to get hired with the aid of stellar resumes. Capitalize on the increasingly important social media branding bandwagon and offer to fix LinkedIn profiles as well.

Do you have impeccable organizational skills? What about cleaning skills? Can you quickly and efficiently carry out these tasks? Maybe it’s time to put those skills to good use by becoming an online personal assistant or task manager. Companies like TaskRabbit or Zirtual allow you to sign up for tasks you want to complete — including data research, virtual assistant or running errands — and begin building clientele.

7 Best Photo Editing Apps

Photo editing apps are a must for businesses that use smartphones or tablets to take photos.

Smartphone and tablet cameras are better than ever, turning Average Joes into instant professional photographers. Still, smartphone and tablet snapshots are far from perfect. Photos can come out looking flat, dull or otherwise lifeless. Whether you share photos on social media or use them on your website or online store, a quick editing session with a photo editing app can make a world of difference in attracting customers with beautiful works of art.

To help you wade through the sea of photo editing apps available at app stores, here are some of the best for iOS and Android.

Sometimes, your shot is picture perfect — except for that one little blemish, glare or unwanted object. If you simply need to touch-up a photo, check outTouchRetouch.

TouchRetouch lets you quickly and easily remove all sorts of elements from a photo, such as shadows, lights, people, buildings, wires, spots in the sky, backgrounds and more. All you have to do is highlight areas you want eliminated by tracing it with your finger, and then tap Start. TouchRetouch does all the hard work for you.

The app also lets you perfect faces by retouching imperfections, evening out skin tones and smoothing the skin’s surface. And unlike many retouching apps that distort images post-edit, TouchRetouch maintains the quality of your photos so it’s not obvious that they have been edited.

Other features include a clone stamp tool to fill in any gaps, match backgrounds or duplicate elements, as well as unlimited undo and redo, 1:1 view and social media sharing via Facebook, Twitter, Picasa and Flickr. In-app video tutorials are also available to help you use and get the most out of the app.

Ask any Instagram power user or iPhone photographer and Snapseed is likely on the top of their list. Snapseed, by Google, is a free iOS and Android app that offers a slew of professional-level photo editing features.

To polish photos, the Auto Correct feature enhances colors, exposure and contrast in a single tap. The Tune Image feature tweaks brightness, ambience, highlights, shadows, saturation and other effects, and the Selective Adjust feature also lets you highlight and focus specific areas. Other features include frames, texture and tone adjustment, and sharing via email, Google+ and more.

Another great feature is the Brush tool, which lets you selectively edit different parts of a photo, for instance, manually adjust the saturation or exposure of a single object in a frame and not the entire photo.

The app also comes with several filters and effects to give your photos a unique look and feel. This includes classic Black & White, Vintage, Drama, Grunge and Retrolux, which adds scratches, film styles and other embellishments to give your photos a retro vibe.

Get Snapseed from the Apple App Store and Google Play.

VSCO is another favorite photo editing app amongst for iPhone photographers. VSCO — which stands for Visual Supply Company — is an all-in-one camera and photo editing app.

VSCO’s main draw are its wide range of filters. The app lets you adjust the strength of each filter manually by using a slider, giving you full control over its intensity. In addition to filters, you can further edit photos by fine tuning its exposure, contrast, sharpness, saturation, highlights, tin, temperature and fade.

In addition to editing tools, VSCO comes with a neat Sync & Edit feature that syncs your workflow across devices. For instance, you can take a photo and start editing it on your iPhone, and then finish your work on your iPad. VSCO also maintains the quality of your images by keeping high-resolution versions of your photos even after many rounds of editing on different devices.

VSCO also offers a robust organization system using its Photo Library. There you have the choice of displaying photos you’ve taken using the VSCO camera, photos you’ve edited and your favorite photos, as well as add existing photos from your phone’s native photo gallery.

If you’re more of the creative type, Mextures is right in your wheel house. This photo editing app lets you apply all types of textures to photos, such as grains, light leaks and gradients. There are more than 150 original textures to choose from, and it also comes with an unlimited number of layers for easy editing and blending of effects.

For fast editing, Mextures also comes with 200 “formulas” to instantly apply premade edits to other photos in just one click. Users can also save their own edits as formulas for future use.

In addition to textures, Mextures also offers basic editing tools, such as exposure, contrast, highlights and shadows, sharpness, saturation, tint, black and white, fade and other adjustments.

Adobe Photoshop Express takes the basic photo editing features of Adobe Photoshop and packs them into a mobile app.

Designed for on-the-go photo editing, Adobe Photoshop Express is an entry-level photo editing app that offers a handful of features for quick edits and automatic fixes. Basic editing tools include crop, rotate, flip and red eye removal. You can also enhance photos using slide controls to adjust clarity, contrast, tint, exposure, temperature and more.

The app also supports panoramic photo editing, has social media integration, and comes with frames, borders and more than 20 filters to add special effects.

Adobe Photoshop Express can be downloaded for free at the Apple App Store and Google Play marketplace. In-app purchases deliver additional features, such as the Looks pack for additional filters and the Nose Reduction pack to remove grains and speckling.

If you’re looking to mainly add text to your photos and also be able to edit them, PicLab has you covered.

PicLab lets you easily get the message across with three easy-to-use tools. You can add text simply by tapping the text tool and start typing — and then choose from dozens of fonts — or by “writing” on photos with your finger or stylus. You can also choose from PicLab’s collection of pre-made messages, which include greetings, quotes, stickers and more.

Like other phot editing apps, PicLab also offers plenty of options to enhance your photos. Adjustments include brightness, contrast, blur, exposure, saturation, temperature and tint. There are also a ton of overlays available, such as borders, shapes, light effects, textures and patterns to change the look and feel of your photos.

A popular alternative to iOS cameras, Camera+ does more than let users take photos like a pro. It is also a powerful photo editing app equipped with several tools to transform images into works of art.

One of Camera+’s standout features is the Clarity function — in one tap, Clarity corrects colors, adjusts contrast and brightness, and enhances details to bring life to dull, washed-out photos.

Other features include digital flash to brighten dark photos; scene modes to create true-to-life photos based on your environment; brushing and layered effects; and borders and captions to for a personalized touch. Camera+ also comes with standard photo editing tools, such as rotation and cropping.

The iPad app offers advanced editing tools to correct tone, remove red eyes, straighten crooked shots, change white balance, adjust sharpness, and create vignettes to add faded edges.