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What is crowd sourcing? January 27, 2009

Posted by Jeremy in Business, Business Solutions, Efficiency Process, Efficient Technologies, Green Business, Resourcing, Social Networking, Tools, Virtual Office.
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Okay, I am going to share information that I am finding as I try to understand the concept called “Crowd sourcing”.   Here is what I found as a base definition on WikiPedia:

Crowdsourcing is a neologism for the act of taking a task traditionally performed by an employee or contractor, and outsourcing it to an undefined, generally large group of people or community in the form of an open call.

So from a basic perspective utilizing many resources to do a task.  It’s a very interesting concept and I am wondering how it can be best utilized.

I will keep you up-to-date as I try to figure out how to best utilize it…

Please feel free to help me understand and post a comment!  Have you crowd sourced something?  Have you provided crowd sourcing services?

Simplicity in the 2009! January 19, 2009

Posted by Jeremy in Business, Business Focus, Efficiency Process.
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A couple of months ago, I wrote a post about the book “Simple Architectures for Complex Enterprises“.  It is a fantastic software architecture book written by Roger Sessions.  His whole premise is how to better serve clients through use of simpler solutions for complex problems.

The idea of simplifying is something that I definitely think that all businesses should be considering going in this year.  By really thinking through what you are doing and focusing on what’s important in your business you can cut costs, make customers happier, and probably generate more business.  You might even make your life less complicated.

I have a friend, Lisa at Call That Girl! who recently decided to stop doing LinkedIn training seminars.  Why? Not because they aren’t popular.  She decided to do it because she needed to focus on her core business and simplify.  That is what she has found is required for her to excel in 2009.

I am trying to finalize the business plan for my company (Borea Systems, Inc.) and one of things that I am trying to keep in mind is the simple acronym KISS.  I want to focus my business on what it is that I do.  It needs to stay focused and simple in order to not have a bunch of competing priorities.

Is 2009 the year for simple?  Let me know if it is part of your plan to make things more simple this year.

You Don’t Know! January 16, 2009

Posted by Jeremy in Business, Business Focus, Business Solutions, Efficiency Process, Tools.
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We track data for everything in today’s world.  We have thousands of fields worth of data on our clients, customers, employees, acquiantences… everyone.   How are you using that data?  No… I mean USING that data.  Is there a report that is generated once a day that no one looks at?  Do you have a screen that you can look at if you are interested?

Shouldn’t you be using that data to make more sales, improve expenses, or whatever?  If you aren’t using the data to make things better, why are you storing it?

Found a great blog post about this kind of thing that you will enjoy called The 1 Secret Small Businesses Must Know In Order To Survive And Prosper.  In that article the author makes the statement:

You don’t know what you don’t know.  Failing to realize this fact and make adjustments is a very good way to ensure you make mistakes.

That is absolutely true.  You have all of the data you need available to you but are you using it?  You definitely should be.  Imagine the impact of being able to analyze the information that you have available to you.  Examples:

  1. Which vendor is providing us the best cost/benefit?
  2. Which salesperson is most successful?  Why?
  3. Which customer would be most apt to take on that new add-on for added revenue?
  4. Which customer has provided us with the best referrals?

Those are just a few of the potential questions.  What other questions can you come up with?  Do you have the data to find out?  Why aren’t you?

Game Changers January 15, 2009

Posted by Jeremy in Business, Business Solutions, Efficiency Process, Efficient Technologies, Green Business, Tools, Virtual Office.
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There are going to be changes to the way we do business over the coming years and I believe that mobile technology in phones is going to be a huge game changer in that realm.  It all started with email and SMS and now we are entering a new dimension.

Mobile/Phone Computing

This is probably the biggest market for growth in the business sector over the next year, at least from an efficiency standpoint.  There are many new “toys” that are available or will be available in pretty sort order.

The first one I have to mention is the business favorite Blackberry.  With the release of the Bold and the Storm, Blackberry is staking it’s claim on trying to be the leader in the SmartPhone for business market.  Many applications are going to be written for the platform and it has the potential to change the way you do business if it hasn’t already.

Obviously, the iPhone is going to be a huge player.  Right now, it trails the Blackberry for business use but if I had to bet it will make a serious run at the BlackBerry.  iPhone really changed the rules when it comes to user-friendliness and “cool”.  It is definitely a cool customer and has huge potential to revolutionize.

Palm has apparently restaked it’s claim on the PDA market with the Pre.  I haven’t actually seen or played with this system but from the reviews I have read, it may just put Palm back on the playing field.  Many had written Palm off, but remember how successful the Treo was in the day?  Pre may get them back there.

I haven’t been able to try out Android from Google yet but I have some great things about it.  Some of the applications that are being written for it are awesome.  Utilizing GPS positioning and data mashing to provide best prices in the area,  nearest restaurant, etc., etc., etc.

Of course we can’t leave out Microsoft’s Windows Mobile offering.  We all know that they won’t be far behind.  They have a huge installed base, a bunch of big name partners, and pile of cash.

The Game Will Change

No matter which system reigns supreme or which vendor falls the fact remains that the game is changing.  Mobile phones are going to change the way we do business.  It won’t be long and we won’t remember a day that we couldn’t get information at our fingertips no matter where we were.

How can you optimize your business and services to take advantage of these new wonders?

Make Confetti! 4 Tips to limit paper usage January 13, 2009

Posted by Jeremy in Business, Business Solutions, Efficiency Process, Efficient Technologies, Green Business, Tools, Virtual Office.
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One of the things that I see in most businesses when I work with them is that the use of paper as a medium has not decreased.  In fact, I wonder if to some extent the ease of printing hasn’t actually caused it to increase.  Growing up in a household that was funded by the production of paper (Dad worked at a paper manufacturer) I would say thank you!  Ha Ha.  Seriously, I think that there will always be some demand for paper but through intelligent use I think that you can decrease your use, thus lowering your cost of doing business.

Idea #1: Use your document management system

Store all of your electronic documents in a management repository.  Whether that is a Windows file folder, Sharepoint server, or what ever utilize it.  Make sure that people use it and have access to what they need.   I have seen so many instances where the system existed and things were still printed because the people who needed it didn’t have access.

The type of system that you use will probably really depend on your needs and your budget.  Simple folder based systems will store documents but aren’t designed for easy searching of the documents.  More complicated solutions allow for searching and indexing.  Some systems will also add intelligent routing and document handling so the document will end up on the right screen at the right time.

Idea #2: Invest in a projector

If I had to guess I would say that 50% of all printed documentation is printed to hand out at a meeting.  That is a total guess on my part but I bet that the percentage is pretty high.  How many times have you printed 10 copies of some documentation so people can review them during the meeting?  And… how many times do they get pitched after the meeting?

The better solution: invest in a projector and display the necessary documentation when you need it during the meeting.  This will drastically cut back on your cost of printing and supplies and also the amount of paper in your office and garbage.

Idea #3: Invest in a scanner

Probably the single largest source of paper in many offices is the U.S. Postal Service.  Mail is a huge generator of paper in your office.  I would say invest in a scanner.  If you scan mail as it comes in and then put it in the document management service that you have available you get many benefits.

  • No more mail that gets lost.
  • You have a record of correspondence.
  • Your employees can get mail even if they are out of the office
  • Virtual office employees have access
  • With intelligent routing systems even someone being on vacation doesn’t stop the mail being dealt with

Idea #4: Store your faxes

Instead of printing faxes send them to your document management system.  This will allow you to not have to print documents that don’t need to be printed.  It also gives you all of the benefits listed above for mail.   If you are really looking to take the leap there are services available that could allow you to get rid of the fax machine all together.

Now we can make confetti!

The more that you can keep the paper in electronic format the easier it is to track and find.  Also, it makes your office more easily accessible from the virtual world.  You will decrease the cost of doing business when it comes to office and printer supplies.  Also, you will decrease the amount of products that you sending to the recycler or landfill.

If you have other ideas of how to limit paper usage and expense in your office post a comment.  If you need help with the document management and intelligent routing please let me know!

Thinking Differently Required January 9, 2009

Posted by Jeremy in Business, Efficiency Process, Efficient Technologies, Green Business, Payment.
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Sometimes we wonder why things are done like they are.  Sometimes we just accept things as “that’s just how it’s done”.  Other times it just drives us crazy.  The blog post on the Trust Matters blog yesterday fits one of the those drives us crazy times.  I happen to agree with the author that the same thing is also a pet peeve of mine.

Trust Matters Blog: Keep Your Damn Receipt!

Rant

The fact that I always get a receipt drives me nuts as well.  As Mr. Green points out there are times when it makes sense.  Such as I want to return it or it’s a business lunch etc.  Do I really need a receipt when I buy a fountain drink or a candy bar?  Do I really need a receipt at McDonald’s?  No.

I will throw out one other pet peeve with receipts.  Do I really need 45 pieces of paper every time that I eat out?  It amazes me in a computerized world that I seriously get 7 feet of receipt paper to pay the bill at Applebee’s or Chili’s.  I really don’t need all of that.  I can understand that the credit card companies still want a signature but other than that why all the paper.

Options

I appreciate it when someone/gas pump/ATM asks if I want it.  I usually say no but it’s nice to have the option.  I think that it makes no sense for me to get a receipt.  Do I actually balance them up against my card statement?  Or worse, what if I paid cash?  I typically end up just throwing away/shredding all of those little pieces of paper.

I would really like to see another set of options added.  They are all electronic options.  My post a few months ago about the Apple Store outlined what my vision would be like.  Here would be some of the potential options:

1. Sign the receipt electronically

2. RF Based CC payment at location (table, gas pump, grocery store)

3. Pay with cell phone

4. Question asked: How would you like your receipt?  (E-Mail, SMS, etc., or via tree)

I think that the time has come to expect the ability to have these options.  The systems already exist.  This is not sci-fi type technology.  Applebee’s already has the PDA that I can sign on for Car Side To Go.  Why not at the table?  Not only are these more green options, NO ONE wants the paper receipts.  AND… if they do give them the option.

Thinking Differently is Required.  No more because that’s how we’ve always done it!

Thinking outside the box January 6, 2009

Posted by Jeremy in Business, Efficiency Process, Efficient Technologies, Green Business.
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Here’s a great example of rethinking the standards and finding ways to be more efficient.  A company has created a device that allows restaurants to turn their old frying oil into biofuel and then use it to generate energy on site in a co-generation methodology.  This is a great idea.

Out of the Fryer and into the Vegawatt: Used Vegetable Oil Helps Power Restaurant

Co-generation is an excellent concept for businesses who are looking to save on the cost of energy.  I think that people are finally starting to understand that the “green” concepts we hear so much about are going to have to make financial sense as well.  When scenarios arise that you can save money and be “green” you will find that many more businesses will make the leap.  Co-generation is definitely one of those places.

Your Website Efficiency December 19, 2008

Posted by Jeremy in Business, Efficiency Process, Efficient Technologies, Payment.
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Stumbled on to this article.  It has some excellent tips on how to optimize your site for sales.  SEO is important but turning hits into sales is also very important.

http://www.conversationmarketing.com/2008/12/5-things-ecommerce-site.htm

The key is what I described a few articles ago.  Make things convieient and efficient and good things will happen!

Efficient Payments December 17, 2008

Posted by Jeremy in Business, Business Solutions, Efficiency Process, Efficient Technologies, Green Business, Payment.
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Getting Paid Quickly.  This is something that every company dreams of.  Like it or not getting paid for services is one of the most important things that companies have to deal with.  Even though it’s important, it is very difficult to most businesses.

An article that I recently ran across called “5 Ways to Get Paid Faster” discusses some excellent ways to get paid faster and more consistently.  He brings up a couple of points that I want to key on.

Electronic Transmission

First, he says “Forget regular mail”.  I think that this is an excellent point for two reasons. He outlines the a reason of loss of control.  I am not quite a sure about that because you can’t completely verify that an email is delivered any more than you can a letter.  I would outline a few of reasons of my own.

  1. Speed.  Email is delivered virtually instantaneously.  It’s a lot easier to verify that the email was received later in the day than to remember to verify that a letter was received a few days later.  Also, makes due on receipt mean more when they get it the same day the invoice is generated.
  2. Convenience.  You don’t have to run the letter to the mail box.  How often do you forget to grab the outgoing mail and just do it tomorrow?  This allows for delays in sending the invoices.  If they are electronically generated and sent it will be easier to do more often.
  3. Green.  It’s much more energy and resource efficient (thus green).    There is no paper used, no need for transportation, no need for gasoline, etc.  By utilizing, electronic means you have decreased the need for use of resources.  It is simple but if enough people use this method, it can make a difference.

Automated Follow-up

The second point to highlight is “Have a system to follow up”.  This is an excellent point.  As I described in the email point, how easy is it to forget to verify payments when you are busy with everything else.  Your day gets hectic and you forget to run the report of outstanding payments.  Before long, it’s been 30, 60, or 90 days.  On the other side, how easy would it be to forget sending the check.  You can probably multiply the ease by at least 5 compared to your ease of forgetting.  Also, most people don’t like to follow up so they don’t.  If you put the three problems together you can see the benefits to automation.

  1. Convenience.  You don’t have to remember, it happens automatically.
  2. Consistent.  Because it happens on schedule the reminders always go out on time.  This will also act as a prod to your customers.  They may have forgotten but when the reminder comes in they will have to remember.
  3. You don’t have to do it.  The system does the dirty work.  It is set on specific rules.  The reminder will go out.  You don’t want to follow up, it will.

I would extend on his idea.  You should really consider utilizing automated systems to send invoices and follow ups.  This allows all of your payment systems to be consistent.  This will reap benefits.  Many of the times, consistency in billing will lead to consistency in payments.  If the systems are automated, it will not require that you intervene.  So if you are busy, the roads are bad, you’re on vacation, etc the invoices and reminders will still go out.

Electronic Payment

I would add one other bullet point to his list.  Allow electronic payment.  This allows your customers to deal with the payment conveniently.  Here are some ideas:

  1. Allow payment via your website (credit card and check)
  2. Setup recurring payment options for recurring billing arrangements
  3. Accept credit cards or ACH via telephone
  4. Consider utilizing E-Check options to speed check processing

Grand Total

You provide a service to the customer.  You want to be paid for your services.  Your employees want to be paid.  If you can make your billing fast and consistent and the payment very convienent you will see faster and more consistent payments.

Being More Productive December 16, 2008

Posted by Jeremy in Business, Efficiency Process.
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Great article about being more productive. It discusses simplifying your life. Good read.

http://blogs.openforum.com/2008/12/16/double-your-productivity-tough-economic-times