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Moving Forward: Advice for Every Business Owner

Our economy has gradually reopened over the last few weeks and it may seem that life is returning to some degree of normalcy. Can I be honest? Our world is still far from normal and as a business owner I am constantly thinking of the best way to move forward.

I know I’m not alone here. You’ve had the thoughts too. How do we prepare our businesses to survive and thrive in the face of such unknown circumstances?

On the latest episode of The One Thing podcast with Geoff Woods, Keith Cunningham was featured as the guest and he had some great suggestions I’m sure you’ll find useful. Here is what I took away that you can bet I’ll be using to inform the way I move forward in planning and strategizing for my business in the coming months.

Release Your Grip On The Past

Don’t allow your past to disconnect you from the ever-unfolding future. This makes you delusional and delusional is the very opposite of what you need to be to progress. Delusion represents a lack of clarity, insight and direction.

The past is gone, never to return again. How your business functioned is gone, forever changed. It’s time to move on. It’s time to evolve.

Position Your Business For the New Normal

As we’re in the midst of grappling with the impacts of COVID-19, here is one question that you are surely considering: How do we build our business to withstanding disruption if economic blackout is a potential going forward?

What happened one time can easily happen again. We’ve witnessed history these last few months as we’ve been confined to our homes, with the world we know coming to a screeching halt.

What is the defense you need to build up to best prepare your businesses for similar occurrences in the future? This is the time for reinvention, for re-imagination of how fluid your business can be in changing world dynamics. Just don’t get too high off the ground during all this transformation – you must continue to stay vigilant.

Be a Skeptic

Question everything. Look at the facts at hand and give yourself an opportunity to assess what your feelings are regarding the current state of our world. Don’t feed into mass opinions, but don’t disregard them either. The key is to observe. Your observations will shape your decisions. Your decisions will impact your business.

The results of this pandemic will be unfolding for longer than most of us can realistically fathom. It’s easy to make the mistake of being overly optimistic, but the truth is we will likely be dealing with the impact of this pandemic for years to come. Exercise caution. Examine every asset of your business and look for any opportunities to minimize risk.

Audit Your Business

If you haven’t already done so, now is the time to take a good, hard look at your business. Identify any dead weight that you can do without and drop it like it’s hot.

  1. Trim the financial fat.
  2. Identify inefficiencies.
  3. Eliminate excess capacities that may be weighing down your business.

Establish Equilibrium.

Create a plan that addresses defense and offense strategies. This is a long game and your business’s survival will take you operating on both sides. This means planning for progression, but it also means preparing for adversity. Equip your business with the balance that it needs to emerge from this pandemic bigger, stronger, and better prepared.

What You Need To Start A Successful Social Media Page

Some understand it, but most over complicate it. While social media will demand consistency and strategy in order to see any real return from your investment, it shouldn’t be overwhelming.  It can be challenging to identify what the essential components of a successful social media page are, but the best advice I’ll offer is to keep it simple. By focusing on the components outlined below, you can create an efficient content machine.

Content Planner/Team

The first order of business is to designate an individual or team to handle the overall theme and strategy of your social media. What message are you hoping to tell? What is your objective for posting? What action do you want your followers to take when they visit your page?  It’s perfectly fine if all your team consists of is you. It isn’t necessary to hire someone to build an engaged following on social media, but you will have to allocate time regularly for content planning. Scheduling blocks of time for content generation is essential to producing a quality social media page, though the length of time will vary according to your overall objective.

Graphic Content

Graphic content will make up the bulk of most content planning and should be aesthetically pleasing, concise, and fit the overall theme of your page. There should be congruent color and design schemes that form a fluid representation of your brand. Graphics should be original and crafted to grab the attention of your ideal customer.

Video Content

This is your opportunity to educate your audience and provide a deeper view into what your brand represents. According to Hubspot, 54% of consumers prefer to see more video content from brands they follow.  With so many companies vying for the attention of consumers in the crowded digital space, video allows you to quickly capture the attention of your intended audience. Video content can cover a wide range of genres that include explainer videos, video interviews, tutorials and much more.

Written Content

The engagement is in the captions.  Photos and videos may capture the initial attention of your audience, but your captions build a community. They form the basis of your relationship and relatability with your followers.  They also present an opportunity to go more in depth and shape your brand voice that will ultimately, continue to attract your audience.

Social media doesn’t have to be complicated. By sticking to a focused plan, you have the chance to tailor this avenue of digital marketing to your liking. The most important key to remember is to be consistent in your messaging in order to strengthen your overall voice and brand identity.

The Rise of Fake Social Accounts: Why they are a cause for concern and how to identify them

There has been an exponential increase in fake accounts across various social media platforms. Facebook, for example, has reported that approximately 5% of their worldwide monthly active users during Q1 2019 and Q4 2018 were fake accounts. Many of these fake accounts seek to cause harm, and are often used in spam campaigns or are financially motivated. The situation is similar with Instagram and Twitter as well, and all social networks constantly work on developing solutions for the detection and removal of fake accounts.

The rise of fake users poses a huge problem for everyone. Part of these fake accounts are created by hackers, cyberbullies or cyberstalkers to gain access to people’s sensitive, private information. Another part are politically-motivated accounts used to distribute fake news stories. Some of these accounts market fake products through social media ads, directing people to illegitimate websites that sell those same fake products. Other fake accounts are created by so-called social boosting services, used by various people to rapidly increase their following and, thus, their earning potential.

So how can you know if a certain social account is a fake account? Luckily, these accounts are fairly easy to recognize. Here are a few tips on how to identify them and avoid the dangers that come with them:

1. Unusual numbers

If an Instagram or Twitter account follows thousands of people, but has very few followers, and almost no content, that’s a red flag. Similarly, if an account has a large following of thousands of followers, but very low engagement such as 5-10 Likes per post, that’s a cause for concern as well.

2. Profile photos that look like stock images

Accounts that use stock images or celebrity pictures as their profile photos, or accounts with no profile photos whatsoever are most likely not genuine. A quick reverse Google Image search can be very useful in spotting fake profiles that use this tactic.

3. Lack of activity

If an Instagram, Facebook or Twitter account has no activity, and no sign of any posts, but still engages with other users’ posts by liking and commenting using meaningless spam comments, such as a set of emojis or captions such as “great picture”, it’s very likely that it’s a fake.

4. Shady content

If an account posts a random combination of images, such as photos of various people, then a beach photo, then a food picture, followed by a generic quote, it’s likely that it’s as shady as the content on it.

So if you come across social media accounts that use these tactics, your best bet is to report and block them immediately. Less followers is so much better than fake, and potentially dangerous, followers.

The Hacker in Your Home: Bootleg Streaming Devices

Bootleg streaming devices are becoming more popular by the minute, as they promise free, unlimited entertainment content, including TV shows, brand new movies, and elite sports games, which would otherwise be available only through a paid streaming service. These bootleg streaming devices can also include compromised versions of legitimate streaming devices such as Amazon Fire TV Sticks and Kodi boxes.

For years, consumers have been utilizing these devices to stream their favorite shows free of the exorbitant costs often associated with cable packages, but, as the saying goes, there’s no such thing as free lunch. According to​ ​research by the Digital Citizens Alliance (DCA)​, most of these streaming devices are targeted by hackers and packed with pre-installed malware that greatly compromises people’s cybersecurity from the place where they should feel safest -their homes.

The illicit, pirated devices, which are not available in stores, but can be bought online on eBay, Craig’s List or Facebook Marketplace, are used just like legitimate devices such as Roku box or Apple TV; they are plugged into a TV and connected to a Wi-Fi network. However, once connected, the malware in the bootleg device’s hardware, or accompanying apps such as Mobdro, FreeNetflix, Exodus, or Krypton, starts collecting users’ Wi-Fi usernames and passwords, unbeknownst to them. From there, sensitive data, such as the users’ photos, videos and financial accounts, becomes vulnerable to security attacks from other devices connected to the same network.

The cybersecurity threat for these bootleg streaming devices should not be taken lightly, considering that there are more than 12 million active users in North America. Unaware of the security risks, people plug in the pirated streaming devices and provide access to their networks, opening the door to a series of cyberattacks. These cyberattacks are dangerous not only for the users themselves, but for cybersecurity overall, since they enable hackers to access millions of devices, from smart TVs, to phones, tablets, and even smart home components such as thermostats or refrigerators.

So if you’re looking for a streaming device and you come across one that looks too good to be true, it probably is. Save yourself the headache and stay away from pirate devices, even if it means spending the extra money. Legitimate devices and streaming services are the only safe way to enjoy entertainment content at home.

Five Time Management Hacks that Will Preserve Your Sanity

Most of us feel like time is rarely on our side, but the truth is, that may be due to faults of our own. The good news is, that means we have control over those faults. Sure, we can’t actually extend the amount of time available to us in a day. We are all confined to the same 24 hours. However, there are techniques to get more out of every minute of the day. Of course there will always be different strokes for different folks, but I challenge you to not find at least one of my tips that add value to your time management approach.

The first one is a big one, but it’s important, no matter how much you are tempted to do otherwise

Focus your attention completely on whatever or whomever is in front of you.

In a world that is brimming with constant distraction and noise, this can be challenging to stick to. The older you get, the more your mind seems like a hodgepodge of to-do’s, upcoming engagements, and random thoughts that all need your immediate attention (obviously). However, I believe focus is key in better time management due primarily to 2 reasons:

  • It allows you to get more done in less time
  • It prevents you from having to backtrack and relearn something you missed out on because you weren’t mentally present to actually absorb the experience or lesson the first time around

It can also be helpful to take the guess-work out of what you already anticipate to be apart of your day or week

Build your routines around recurring tasks.

When you notice there are key areas you are regularly giving attention to, develop a proactive approach. Build those tasks into your daily or weekly routine so that space has already been carved out for them. This will result in you feeling less overwhelmed by the number of tasks you plan to accomplish and, overtime, they will become easier for you. Your mind will have grown accustomed to completing them regularly so it will require less effort on your behalf. Consider it as a form of muscle memory. Since your brain is a muscle it becomes more efficient with completing tasks that are familiar and planned.

Delineate a time limit in which to complete a task and stick to that time frame.

People either love or hate time management hacks. Chances are, if you’re one of those who hates them, you might still find that you love the Pomodoro Technique of time management. ​According to The Muse​, the PomodoroTechnique is a time management system characterized by 25 minute work “sprints” called pomodoros with 5 minute breaks in between. Additionally, there is an extended 15-20 minute break after the completion of 4 pomodoros. The purpose of these sprints is to focus on completing tasks without distraction and a heightened sense of urgency. Success is measured by the number of completed pomodoros and, thus, the level of efficiency with which your day runs. Benefits of using this technique include better time management, increased concentration levels and maintaining productivity throughout the day.

Batch related tasks together.

This might seem like a no-brainer, but it’s more suitable to productivity to work on tasks that are related so that your mind is not constantly switching gears. The average person views multitasking as a strength and upon first glance, it’s understandable why that is so. Doing more at once equals completing more at once, right? Not exactly. MIT neuroscientist, Earl Miller, ​breaks down exactly why we should refrain from multi-tasking​. Our creative capabilities are exceeded when we are given extended time to focus on one task and, therefore, it is in our best interest to develop personal work environments that allow for that. Constant switching between tasks is mentally draining and may have a lot to do with why you end your work day feeling as though you’ve run a marathon. Greater task completion does not necessarily denote quality task completion. Which is really more important?

Embrace outsourcing and automation.

Think of 3 things you spend time on regularly that could either be outsourced to someone else or automated. The hour that you spend cutting the grass, the 2 hours you spend grocery shopping, the unnecessary time spent deciding what you are going to wear each morning. If you are in a position to do so, delegate tasks you don’t have time for, such as lawn care, to an outside company. Costs that positively impact your well-being by saving you time are worth what you pay for them.

When I speak of automation, I’m not only referring to the use of technology to make your life easier, I’m also referring to your own ability to automate certain decisions within your mind. When the average adult makes ​35,000 decisions per day​, the more that we can get off of our plate, the better, right? By automating repetitive decisions, you put time back into your day. Sticking to the same meals or take out by weekday takes the brainwork out of that aspect of your planning. Deciding on a weekly or biweekly rotation of outfits and arranging them in your closet in that way also saves a lot of time. I could also take it a step further to say that minimalism in general allows for less-decision making, but we’ll save that for another day.

So there you are. There’s my two cents on how to maximize the hours you have so you can actually get around to completing that to-do list. Who am I kidding though? Does anyone ever actually complete a to-do list?