eBooks: The New Darlings of Small-Business Branding

    eBooks: The New Darlings of Small-Business Branding

    In the world of small business marketing, it sometimes seems like there is a never-ending tension between the “what’s hot now” social media to do and the actual way to execute for maximum business benefit. Consider for example all the small businesses that have a Twitter account because they know they “should” but are really not using it effectively. The current darlings of small business branding — eBooks — are no exception.

    Despite their meteoric rise in popularity — American publishers reported that in February of 2011, eBooks ranked as the #1 format among all categories of trade publishing — I still find that many small business owners are confused about the part eBooks play in their overall marketing plan. Here are the four most common questions I get asked about using eBooks to build a small business’s brand.

    1. What exactly is an eBook?

    In short, an eBook (electronic book) is an electronic document that can contain text, images, audio and video. They can be viewed on a personal computer, smartphone and eBook reader, such as a Kindle, and are sold through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and dozens of other outlets.

    One important distinction to note, however, is that only eBooks that are created as PDF documents and downloaded as such retain their formatting and graphics. eBooks that are not downloaded as PDFs fall into the category of e-publishing, and when viewed on a Kindle, iPad or other device, they are simply a straight translation of the text only. Currently the Kindle and other such devices can only support the text from these documents, not graphics.

    Most of my small business clients find that because they are creating eBooks primarily for branding and marketing purposes, they use the PDF format — being able to include graphics, format, audio, video, etc is a distinct advantage.

    2. How could an eBook help my small business become better known?

    eBooks can be the perfect calling card for potential customers. Offering an eBook free on your website in exchange for a prospect’s email, providing a link to a free downloadable eBook via your newsletter, or even having a link to your eBook in your email signature line provides a much greater opportunity to show your client your knowledge, expertise and point of view.

    3. What’s the basic process for writing a small business eBook?

    Step #1 Choose a topic: Brainstorm ideas that that use your expertise, knowledge base or specific information and/or research. Consider smaller slices of bigger topics for eBooks. Books that can fit into the “how to” topic area are some of the most popular.

    Step #2 Create Your eBook Outline: Decide what five to ten basic topics you are going to address in your eBook, and then outline the three main points you are going to make under each of those topics.

    Step #3 Begin Writing Your eBook: Oddly enough, the easiest part of eBook publishing is getting the finished product up and running for distribution. Many can be uploaded with just a click of a few buttons. But where most entrepreneurs face a challenge is in finding the time, or having the writing chops, to craft the eBook in the first place. I get weekly calls from small business owners asking me to ghostwrite their eBooks because, although they have great content and ideas, they don’t have the writing skills.

    Even if that’s the case, it’s no excuse, since there are scads of eBook-savvy small businesses whose sole purpose is to ghostwrite, edit, design and publish your eBook.

    Step #4 Edit and design your eBook: A few things to keep in mind:

    Unless you were an English major, hire a proofreader to go through your manuscript to check spelling, grammar and punctuation.

    Unless you were a graphic design major, hire a designer to create the layout, cover and formatting of your book.

    Unless you are an illustrator, hire a graphic artist to add pictures or drawings to your eBook.

    Consider embedding video in the eBook.

    4. How do I get word out to my customers about my eBook?

    Like any other marketing effort, creating something stellar is just the first step. Once your eBook is ready, your next job is to tell everyone. Some of the best practices include: writing about your new small business eBook on your blog, providing excerpts of your eBook to other blogs with a link back to the full eBook download, issuing press releases about your eBook, promoting your eBook in your newsletter, and offering your eBook as a follow-up to any webinars or live presentations.

    If after reading this you are feeling like writing an eBook sounds like a whole lot of work, you’re right. A professional, well-written, content-rich eBook requires a fair amount of effort and energy. But think of it like this: As soon as that eBook baby is born, it’s done and out in the world, helping to build your small business brand.

    Have you used an eBook to build your business brand? What results did it produce? We would love to hear about your experience.

    The Challenge of Hiring Linksters

    The Challenge of Hiring Linksters

    Picture this: An 85-year-old company founder startled by the scantily clad intern sitting on his desk texting her mom or an angry parent calling to ask why her son’s schedule was changed, impacting the family’s summer vacation.

    Born after 1995 (age 17 and younger), Linksters, also known as “The Facebook Generation,” comprise 18 percent of the world’s population. Millions of Linksters and those on the cusp (ages 18-19) will be working in small businesses as office assistants, interns, busboys, lifeguards and camp counselors — and they are wildly different from the 20-something Generation Y employees who preceded them.

    “This group is characterized by the fact that they are still living at home, and, unlike previous generations, they are typically best friends with their parents,” say multigenerational workplace experts Larry and Meagan Johnson. “They live and breathe technology, are more tolerant of alternative lifestyles than their predecessors and are very much involved in green causes and social activism. Bottom line, though, is that they are still very young and inexperienced.”

    Larry and Meagan Johnson are a father-daughter team and authors of the new book “Generations, Inc.: From Boomers to Linksters — Managing the Friction Between Generations at Work” (AMACOM, 2010). They say smart small business owners need to learn about Linksters’ unique generational traits and how to keep these young employees engaged, happy and productive. Along these same lines, recent research from Robert Half International shows that nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of hiring managers polled said managing multigenerational work teams poses a challenge.

    Here are 10 ways to get the most out of your Linkster employees:

    1. Ride herd on them. They have short attention spans and lose interest if the work is boring. If there’s a way to incentivize task accomplishment, do it.

    2. Provide them with job descriptions. Linksters need clear direction about what you expect. This includes basics, such as when you expect them to arrive, number of hours they are to work and duties of the job. They are used to being told what to do, in detail and explicitly.

    3. Treat them like valued coworkers. Linksters are used to a steady diet of connection and communication from family and friends. If you have a company party, be sure to invite them. Same with meetings, where appropriate.

    4. Lead by example. Linksters are still trying to figure out how to act and behave. They will look to older co-workers and managers to shape their workplace identity and demeanor.

    5. Orient them to the obvious. Be specific about expectations that may seem apparent. For example, teenagers are used to having their parents cover for them. Make sure they know the consequences of showing up late, taking lunch breaks that are too long or texting on the job.

    6. Welcome them with open arms. Let your people know the Linksters are joining your team, and ask everyone to welcome them. Pair Linksters with buddies — good role models with good work ethics. Call Linksters the night before their first day. Remind them of dress code, arrival time, items to bring, traffic, snacks and water, where to park, whom to contact once they arrive and quitting time.

    7. Know what songs are on their iPods. Young people have a language that’s distinctly their own. Make an effort to get to know their culture.

    8. Create micro-career paths. If you have a young person manning the cash register, give her other tasks that help her understand different aspects of the business from time to time. This keeps her challenged, engaged and feeling valued — and sets her up for more responsibility.

    9. Re-examine your uniform policy. Part of being young is having a heightened interest in how you look. Are you asking your Linksters to wear embarrassing uniforms? Are they comfortable? Are they outdated? Try to remember what being a teen felt like.

    10. Thank their parents. Linksters are young and may still live at home with parents. Invite their parents for a visit, call, express appreciation for raising a great kid and thank them for helping to get your young employee to work on time, well rested and prepared.

    Have you hired any Linksters? How has that worked out? We would love to hear your comments.

    Using QR Codes For Small Business Marketing

    Using QR Codes For Small Business Marketing

    While on vacation seven years ago, entrepreneur Rico Elmore couldn’t find a pair of sunglasses that would fit on his not-so-small noggin. Elmore’s hefty-head experience spawned an ah-ha moment, and today he is the proud proprietor of Fatheadz Eyewear, a company that makes oversized sunglasses and extra wide eyewear for folks with large heads.

    Always looking for ways to innovate, Elmore has recently been using mobile marketing, and QR codes in particular, as part of his plan to engage customers.

    QR codes (Quick Response Codes) are commonly aimed at mobile phone users. If you have a camera-equipped smartphone with a QR code reader, your phone can scan the image of a QR code to display text, contact information, connect to a wireless network or open a web page in your phone’s browser.

    “In early 2011, I was flipping through an outdoor retailer trade publication when I saw a QR code in the magazine,” says Elmore. “I thought it was very cool and decided to look into how we might start using them in our marketing.”

    Within 60 days, Fatheadz had integrated the use of QR codes into their campaign involving the ongoing sponsorship of race car drivers.

    “For all of our sponsored drivers, we give them a ‘Hero’ card they can autograph and give out to their fans,” says Elmore. “We put a QR code on the back, and when the fan scans it on their mobile device, up pops our web page.”

    Once on the website, fans can see information about their favorite race car driver, including which sunglasses they wear — and buy them. Elmore says the QR code campaign has increased web traffic by a whopping 10 percent.

    What’s next? Elmore says he plans on expanding the use of QR codes to prospective retailers by printing them on business cards and other marketing collateral and then linking them to product videos on his site.

    Dan Hollings, an expert on mobile marketing, says that video is one of the most effective uses of QR codes.

    “The key is to create a short video (under three minutes) about your product or service or some useful information relating to your product or service,” says Hollings. “Then post the video on your website, YouTube and Facebook and link a QR code to it that brings the visitor to the video. It’s as simple as that.”

    Even though QR codes are relatively simple to set up and use, many small businesses don’t know where to begin. To start, check out Qr.net and createandtrack.com, just two of the hundreds of sites that offer QR code creation.

    Once you’ve created a code, Hollings says you can then easily link it to a video, your website or a podcast. Once you know where you want to send your potential clients, the next step is to promote it. Publish your QR code on your business cards, flyers, DVDs, brochures, mailers, signage or any other material you give to potential clients. Hollings says he’s even seen them placed on complementary coffee mugs at conferences.

    Still feeling a bit shy about bringing QR codes into your marketing mix? Get your feet wet by using one yourself. Now that you know what to look for, you’ll see them everywhere. So download a QR reader on your smartphone and scan away. Who knows, you might just end up with a pair of your favorite racecar driver’s sunglasses.

    Has your small business been doing anything with QR Codes or other forms of mobile marketing? We would love to hear your comments.

    ‘Ruby Sparks’ Reminded Me That Persuasion Marketing Sucks

    ‘Ruby Sparks’ Reminded Me That Persuasion Marketing Sucks

    “Ruby Sparks” Reminded Me That Persuasion Marketing Sucks

    “Yup, instead of changing himself, he’s going to try and change her.” That’s what my friend Randy turned to me and said during a pivotal plot point in the new film “Ruby Sparks”.

    Now I don’t want to be a spoiler and give the big reveal away, so I’ll stay away from the details, but suffice it to say that the scene that followed was painfully hard to watch.

    Why? Because, as Randy so pithily put it, what we all do when faced with a person or circumstance we don’t like is try to change it or them.  As fruitless as this exercise often is, we are sometimes so fixed on our point of view, being right or getting what we want, that we continue to waste vast amounts of time, emotional energy and even psychic efforts trying to force the situation. 

    Although “Ruby Sparks” deals with this dynamic in a one-on-one romantic relationship, I see this played out daily in my work as a branding and marketing consultant and leadership coach.

    I observe high-powered entrepreneurs, C-suite executives and marketing managers attempting to get others to tow the line and do what they want them to do. I’d be less than honest not to suck it up and say I’m just as guilty of this fruitless exercise in trying to force the outcome I want from time to time as well. 

    But I’m not as bad as I used to be. Over the past year, I’ve actually made a conscious effort to learn to stop persuading and start inspiring, to stop trying to make things happen and leave more room for allowing, to say what I want and need authentically and vulnerably, but then let the chips fall where they may. I’m far from perfect at this, but I am evolving.

    I think this evolution is also at play in the larger world of branding and marketing.  Old-school marketing was about persuading clients, pushing them as to why they should hire you or buy your product. New-style marketing is about inspiring potential customers to come out and play, pulling them toward you — of their own free will.

    As luck would have it, besides seeing the movie, I happen to be reading a fantastic book called “Igniting Inspiration: A Persuasion Manual for Visionaries” by John Marshall Roberts.

    “I view persuasion as a fading 20th Century art for those who don’t yet know how to grasp and apply the basic laws of human inspiration,” says Roberts.  “Does this mean persuasion is somehow ‘bad’?  No, but it’s just not as much fun as inspiring, and not nearly as effective.  In the end it all boils down to this: persuaded people do things because they are seeking some extrinsic reward. Inspired folks do those same exact things because they intrinsically want to.”

    Marshall’s book clearly delineates a three-dimensional view of human nature:

    The material dimension of human beings. This includes the body and all material things in the universe. These things are brought to the mind via the five senses.

    The mental dimension of human beings. This consists of thoughts, feelings and ideas.  These thoughts — especially the re-occurring ones — tend to occur within a specific context (usually not conscious), based on certain hidden assumptions.

    The spiritual dimension of human beings. This is the pure potential we all have. It’s the source of intelligence and life energy and underlies the material and mental realms.

    Roberts’ very on-point point is that if we view our customers, clients, co-workers and others from the material plane, we see them as objects to manipulate and will engage in actions to pursue or, even worse, force the outcome we desire.

    However, if we think about these same people from a spiritual dimension, we realize that speaking to bigger truths, larger purposes and deeper insights results in inspiration.

    Just think of the last time you were forced to do something.

    How about persuaded?

    Now how about inspired to take an action?  

    I’ll bet the price of a movie ticket that the qualitative difference between how you felt about doing whatever it was you did changed substantially based on which of the three areas your answer falls into.

    So how do we inspire? Pretty much in the same way that “Ruby Sparks” protagonist and novelist Calvin Weir-Fields (played by actor Paul Dano) discovers in the film. We allow other people to be who they are, and address our actions to that higher part of them.  That’s easier than it sounds, especially when we live in a business world chock-full of the persuasion-as-power model.

    One side note: Calvin’s brother (played by the always-captivating — and sexy — Chris Messina) has a scene where he encourages Calvin to turn toward the dark side and try and make Calvin’s love interest, Ruby, do what he wants. The point being that it’s important to surround ourselves with people who recognize the value of building our branding and marketing on inspiration, rather than persuasion, if we are to have any hope of succeeding. 

    Wondering if your brand needs an inspirational brush-up? I’m holding a contest for a free 30 minute Lightning Strike Strategy Session to the five people who email me with a compelling case for why they need to crank up the inspirational language and message of their brand. To apply, fill out the contact form on my site and let me know your business, your brand, what your inspiration goal is and why you think your brand needs some inspirational polish.

    Karen Leland is a best-selling author, marketing and branding consultant and president of Sterling Marketing Group where she helps businesses implement modern marketing, hone their business and personal brands, and create winning content. Apply to win a free 30 minute Lightning Strike Strategy Session by filling out the contact form here and letting Karen know why you think your brand needs some inspirational polish. For questions or comments, please contact her at karen@sterlingmarketinggroup.com.

    Why Your Personal Brand Wants You to Take Time Off

    Why Your Personal Brand Wants You to Take Time Off

    I recently returned from a conference that was wall to wall with smart, successful, type A movers and shakers from the worlds of government, academia, business, entertainment, the arts, sciences, publishing and social profit.

    Being around all those high-powered brains made me mindful about how our personal brands — be we small business owners or award-winning academics — can benefit from vacations and time away to rest and renew, regroup and redefine who we are today.

    These folks — as busy and in demand as they are — were for the most part not checking their iPhones under the table every 10 seconds during a speaker’s talk, and many were essentially off the technology grid for a few days. In short, they gave themselves the luxury to step back and think about the way they and others walk through the world, personal brand and all. In contrast, consider two studies out this June. The first from Career Builder.com determined that:

    • Three in ten workers contact work during their vacations.
    • Twenty-three percent of workers reported at least once having to skip the family vacation to work, while their family went without them.
    • Thirty-seven percent of employers say they expect their employees to check with work while on vacation.

    And even for those who manage to wrangle some time away, how they spend it can have an impact on the degree to which they refresh.

    Another survey by Cambria Suites reported that of all the respondents who have ever taken a family summer vacation, 65 percent of Americans say there is “nothing better.” However, 24 percent say they usually need a vacation upon returning from the group getaway.

    This may be in part because that same research showed that kids ask their parents “Are we there yet?” an average of nine to 13 times during a seven-day trip, depending on the ages of the kids involved. As enriching as these family trips are, they can sometimes occupy our brains in ways that may not fully allow us to contemplate the bigger pictures of our lives.

    Here are a few good reasons why taking the right type of time away might just be the best thing that ever happened to your personal brand.

    Keep your personal brand fresh. Exposure to ideas, activities and other people outside your usual circle can stimulate your brain, give you perspective and provide you with an opportunity to learn and grow. Even activities that may seem irrelevant to your personal brand have the potential to grow it by broadening your horizons. In addition to being content worthy of tweets, blogs and other social media, those stretches make great small-talk starters, jumping-off points for deeper conversations, and fodder for presenting new ideas. Some ways to start the conversation include:

    • I learned something interesting about myself this past week.
    • I want to tell you about a new experience I recently had.
    • I met a really fascinating person recently, and they taught me…
    • I had an idea while away that I wanted to share with you.

    For example: Last December, my husband and I tried out snuba diving on the island of Lanai in Hawaii. I’ve never been able to scuba dive since my claustrophobia has always gotten the better of me. But snuba diving involves shallower dives using all the usual equipment required for breathing under water, but places the air tank, connected via a long tube, on a float on the water above. The whole experience left me exhilarated, empowered and with a great metaphor to use with my marketing and branding clients about the power of finding options that utilize the best of both worlds.

    Play with your personal brand. Time away, whether it’s for a conference or a cruise, invariably brings us face-to-face with new people who will predictably ask us, “What do you do?” Since we presumably never have to see these people again, it’s the perfect opportunity to try out a new way of talking about or expressing our personal brand. The ability to experiment with new ways of being — with very little at stake — can get us out of the rut of who we think we are and allow us the freedom to explore another side to our personal brands.

    Learn from how others present their personal brand. In the same way that relative strangers can provide you with a place to try out your personal brand, being around others lets you learn from how they present themselves. Imitation is the highest form of flattery, so listen for how others share their ideas, present their accomplishments, or describe their passions. If you see something that inspires you and feels authentic, incorporate it at will.

    One of my recent lessons in this area came from listening to the humble way a much-lauded and awarded particle physics scientist spoke about the power of teams — not individuals — to create breakthrough results.

    So the next time you sit down to plan a weekend away or a summer vacation, remember: it’s not just your body and brain you’re rejuvenating but also your personal brand — it deserves a holiday too.

    Karen Leland is a best-selling author, marketing and branding consultant and president of Sterling Marketing Group where she helps businesses implement modern marketing, hone their business and personal brands, and create winning content. For questions or comments, please contact her at karen@sterlingmarketinggroup.com.

    Conferences: A Time To Work ‘On’ Your Small Business, Not ‘In’ It

    Conferences: A Time To Work ‘On’ Your Small Business, Not ‘In’ It

    I make a point of attending at least two professional conferences every year. Despite my last-minute qualms before getting on the plane, I’m always happy — post-conference. My mind-chatter pre-conference goes a little something like this:

    “How can I afford to take this time off when I’ve got so much to get done back at the office? Is this conference going to give me a return on the money it’s costing me to travel there, take a few days off and stay at the hotel? Will the information I learn and the people I meet result in any real business development and acceleration?”

    “No matter how much I dread the long flights, early wakeups and late nights associated with conferences, every single one of them has been profitable,” says Charles Tran, founder of CreditDonkey.com. “I’ll meet people that I think I’ll never relate to, but then, surprisingly, six months down the road, our paths will cross, and that random contact is now a great way in the door.”

    So what’s the best way to make sure you get the value you should from a conference? When doing your due diligence consider:

    Are the speakers of a caliber likely to offer new insight or highly useful information?
    Are the breakout sessions and topics on target with my current interests and level of learning?
    Do the types of attendees fit with my business development goals?

    If the conference meets the above criteria, then it can be a great chance for you to step back from working “in” your business and work “on” your business instead.

    “Live conferences allow the entrepreneur to clear one’s head of distractions and begin mapping out a framework, vision and an implementation strategy to grow one’s business, increase profitability and become a more competitive enterprise in today’s economy,” says Charles Gaudet II, President of Managed Marketing, LLC.

    How to make a conference worthwhile:

    Create a connection strategy: Jasmine Bina of JB Communications says conferences provide a great excuse for cold-calling people you’d otherwise have to get an introduction to. “Find the attendee and/or press lists and scan them for people you’d like to meet and get in front of; then call and set up meetings beforehand,” suggests Bina.

    Give yourself a technology holiday: Set up your email to send an automatic reply that states you will be away at a conference and will respond by X date when you return. If you have staff get them to handle emergencies in your absence, and instruct them to only contact you when they aren’t able to handle a situation.

    Finally, leave your BlackBerry, iPhone and other PDA devices in your hotel room when attending conference sessions. If the thought of this creates so much separation anxiety you can’t breathe, then commit to only checking your email, voicemail and text messaging thrice daily during the conference — am, pm and at lunch time.

    Apply to speak: Most conferences use a combination of paid keynote speakers and non-paid industry experts for their breakout sessions. If you’ve got the goods, find out the process for applying as a session speaker at a conference you want to attend. If you’re chosen, they probably won’t pay your travel but will most certainly comp you for the conference. Being a speaker also has a cachet that will garner you access to other high-level participants at the conference. One hint: Make it clear in your proposal that your speech will be high on content and low on self promotion. The thing conferences organizers fear most – and attendees hate – is someone who hawks their wares from the platform.

    In a world where virtual meetings rule the day, the benefits of getting out there and pressing the actual flesh of your peers are beyond measure. So do your research, get out your calendar and make a date to attend a conference. What you learn and whom you meet might just move your business to the next level.

    What are your tips for getting the most out of a conference? We would love to hear your thoughts.

    This post was originally published at Karen Leland’s Featured Small Business column on The Huffington Post.

    Could Your Small Business Benefit From a Strategic Off-Site This Summer?

    Could Your Small Business Benefit From a Strategic Off-Site This Summer?

    It’s summer! Flowers are in bloom, cropped pants are being taken off their dusty shelves and small business owners, grumpy from the cold winter months, are looking forward to the future.

    What better time to take your staff away for a day or two of deep discussion, meaningful deliberation and donuts? While strategic off-sites and planning sessions are often considered the purview of Fortune 500 companies, small businesses can benefit tremendously from a focused foray out of the office.

    If you and your team could use some concentrated time to sort out a strategy, solve a big problem or step back and innovate, a summertime off-site may be just what the doctor ordered. Getting away from the office, and the usual interruptions, can revive your enthusiasm for a business or project and rev up your focus. The trick is to make the most of your time away.

    Spend at least one day away: If possible, make it two. Even though you save money by eliminating overnight accommodations with just a day’s outing, you miss out on the opportunity to socialize and informally discuss work-related issues in the evening. Greater group bonding also seems to occur over a two-day period.

    Go easy on the PowerPoint: While certain data is no doubt important to communicate, back-to-back PowerPoint presentations and endless ramblings in a half-lighted room invite drowsiness. Instead create an agenda that incorporates group exercises, discussion, role-play, hands-on working sessions, demonstrations and interesting outside speakers. Whenever I conduct strategic off-sites with a client, I use the “once an hour” rule. Once an hour, I make sure and include an activity that requires participation by every person at the off-site. This might mean paired or group sharing, role-play or another interactive exercise. It keeps everyone involved and prevents a few stronger players from dominating the entire day.

    Leave some breathing room: A tightly packed schedule with no downtime leads to information overload and off-site burnout. Don’t jam each day so chock full of activities that attendees never get a chance to catch their breath and reflect on what’s being discussed. Keep in mind that much of the value of the retreat will happen in side discussions outside the room. By allowing for these conversational spaces, your off-site will be even richer in results.

    Build in flexibility: Don’t be so tied to an agenda or timeline that a hot, heavy and important discussion gets shelved so that you can stay on schedule. The point of the retreat is to draw people in and get them to think, act and participate in new ways.

    Play: While you want your off-site to be productive, you don’t want it to be a grind. Setting up activities for play is an important part of the package. Ideas include: a golf outing, dinner at a popular restaurant, a visit to a museum, theater tickets and the spa.

    Sidebar: Off-Site Checklist

    Here are a few things to consider to make your off-site a success before you even arrive:

    • What is the purpose/theme of the off-site?
    • Given the purpose, who should be invited?
    • Who will select the site, make the arrangements and coordinate with the site management?
    • What kind of “welcome” packet do you want the attendees to receive on arrival?
    • Do you need audiovisual equipment? If so, who will be responsible for this?
    • Who is your contact person at the site? Is this the person that any deliveries should be addressed to?
    • Will you have any presentations during lunch or dinner? If so, is the catering department aware of your plans?
    • Do you want organized entertainment in the evenings? What will it be, and who will organize it?
    • What time is staff expected to arrive? Do they need driving directions? Is a meal being served upon arrival? Are you offering vegetarian food to those who need it?
    • Once at the site, who will be responsible for overseeing arrivals, room allocation and registration?
    • How do you want to begin and end the off-site?
    Bust Your Bad Small Business Eating Habits

    Bust Your Bad Small Business Eating Habits

    Are you the type who walks by a Dunkin’ Donuts shop without so much as a sideways glance — but find yourself in the Monday morning meeting intensely reaching for a sugar-glazed cruller (pastry)?

    Most of the small business owners I know are so busy running the shop, selling the goods and servicing the customers, that when it comes to eating on the job, their intestinal fortitude flies out the window. With the number of business functions certain to increase over the coming months, here’s a few tips on how to bust bad eating habits typical of small business owners.

    #1: Morning meeting carbo load – Despite your best intentions, you give in and indulge when it comes to eating something doughy and sweet at the morning meeting.

    Habit buster: Dr. Audrey Cross from the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, advises that one way to ward off this temptation is to eat a balanced breakfast.

    “A large percentage of Americans skip breakfast and instead have a cup of coffee with some milk and sugar,” says Dr. Cross. “This is not enough calories to maintain mental function in the morning.” She cites a number of studies that indicate that people who eat breakfast perform better in tasks that relate to mathematical computations, memory and logic. “A good breakfast consists of protein and a little bit of fat,” says Dr. Cross, “for example, egg whites with breakfast meat or low-fat cereal with skim milk and fruit.” She explains that the combination of protein and fat leads to longer levels of sustained energy, which helps fight the urge to grab a high-sugar item.

    #2: Mid-afternoon munching mania – It’s 2:00 p.m. and you have been too busy to stop for lunch. Now you are so hungry you can’t focus. Your solution is to grab the first thing you can find – a candy bar from the vending machine or a leftover piece of birthday cake in the lunch room.

    Habit buster: Tom Weede, author of The Entrepreneur Diet (Entrepreneur Press), explains that when workers put off lunch (or skip it altogether) their blood sugar levels become unstabilized, affecting their energy and ability to focus.

    “Turning to candy and other simple sugar solutions for a quick fix sets you up for an unproductive cycle of rising and falling blood sugar levels,” says Weede. Instead, he suggests not relying on what’s available at work but rather keeping a supply of your own snacks. Some of his top recommendations include apples and almonds, string cheese and fruit and peanut butter with crackers.

    #3: Late-night dining indulgences – It’s 8:30 p.m. and you’re meeting a client for dinner. You know that eating a heavy meal with a few glasses of wine this late at night is not the best thing. But it’s been a long day and you deserve a nice dinner on the company dollar.

    Habit buster: Dr. Cross suggests that selecting lighter foods such as fish or chicken without a heavy sauce is the best option.

    “Many business people think that if they eat a heavy meal (pot roast with mashed potatoes and gravy, for example) this will help them to fall asleep,” says Dr. Cross. “This is true, but they are also more likely to wake up at night with indigestion and then have trouble getting back to sleep – which effects their performance at work the next day.”

    Weede points out that it’s not just the content of these late-night dinners that presents a problem, but the size as well. “Restaurant plates today are 1.5 times the size they used to be,” says Weede. To avoid overeating he suggests splitting a meal with an associate, asking the kitchen to cut the meal in half, ordering the lunch portion or just choosing a few appetizers instead of a main course.

    As for alcohol, both Dr. Cross and Weede agree that the best bet is not to drink any alcohol within two to three hours of going to sleep.

    If you have any tips on how to eat healthily when running a small business, we’d love to hear them.

    This post was originally published at Karen Leland’s Featured Small Business column on The Huffington Post.

    Use SlideShare To Tell Your Small Business Story

    Use SlideShare To Tell Your Small Business Story

    I recently gave a talk to a group of new authors on how to promote and market their books. Instead of taking the time and expense of providing handouts (not to mention all the trees saved), I decided to create a SlideShare presentation and offer it, post-conference, to the participants.

    If you’re not familiar with the tool, Wikipedia likens SlideShare to “YouTube, but for slideshows.” Bottom line, it’s a free online slide hosting service that allows you to upload PDF, PowerPoint and OpenOffice presentations for public viewing. SlideShare also allows voice sync, so visitors can hear a narration of, as well as see, your presentation.

    My initial dabble in SlideShare got my marketing and branding brain humming about other ways the tool could be used to tell a small business story. Just a few of the ways I’ve found to do this include using SlideShare presentations for SEO optimization and conference presentations and as a value-add on LinkedIn. I checked in with a few other small business folks to get their take on integrating SlideShare into the overall business yarn, and here’s what they had to say:

    “I use SlideShare for my presentations at conferences,” says Robert Pease of Gist Inc. “I put the slide deck together and make it available both before and after the conference via a link.” Pease says he finds a short, ten-page, visually oriented (not text heavy) deck in SlideShare an easy way to demonstrate his expertise and knowledge.

    Steve Drake says he’s been using SlideShare for two years and views it as part of his overall content management strategy for his business. “I’ve posted thirty-one presentations, which have been viewed an average of 1,407 times. One presentation was viewed 14,663 times,” says Drake. Drake says he actively promotes his SlideShare posts via links to Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.

    Josh Mendelsohn, Senior Product Marketing Manager for Constant Contact, says that SlideShare is a great platform for sharing small business expertise. To get the most social media juice from SlideShare, Mendelsohn suggests tagging your presentations with relevant keywords so users can easily find your content easily when researching a specific topic.

    Bill Elward of Castle Ink considers SlideShare to be part of his search engine optimization efforts. “Google loves to index SlideShare content,” says Elward. “So build a small presentation about your business that includes a live link to your site. Chances are excellent that Google will crawl and index your SlideShare presentation.”

    In my experience, SlideShare is still a bit of a stepchild when it comes to Internet marketing. It’s not the first social media tool that comes to most small business minds, but it is an effective one. If you haven’t already, pick a topic, put together a ten-slide PowerPoint, post it on SlideShare, promote it and see what happens. It might just make the story of your small business a bit better in the telling.

    Have any tips on using SlideShare or a presentation you would like to share? We welcome your comments.

    This post was originally published at Karen Leland’s Featured Small Business column on The Huffington Post.