behind the scenes CEO – the mentors

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Mentors, as Wikipedia states:

“This is the source of the modern use of the word mentor: a trusted friend, counselor or teacher, usually a more experienced person.”

One of the most important lessons that I have learned, and that I try to teach, is that “The wise learn from other people’s mistakes and fools from their own.”

 

I would not necessarily take it that far, but I prefer to say that if you do the same thing over and get the same results, that’s insane. A “smart” person learns from their own mistakes, but a wise person learns from the mistakes of others. Pushing things to failure and not succeeding builds character and invaluable experience.

To an entreprenuer or experienced business person, helping others succeed is a way for them to continue to validate themselves as well as find potential new business ventures. Take a moment to ask successful friends of the family or hit your social network. Find a more experienced person – same industry is a plus but not necessary. There are many lessons that can be learned that are true regardless of business-type or industry. Learn to take advice at face value and evaluate it for yourself. Many larger cities have investment groups and startup “accelerators”. Do yourself a favor and go to a “pitch night” – the connections you make with like-minded people will be invaluable.

The tools of productivity – Connecting and building your “Online Resume”

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There are a few tools I use for connecting to my vendors/customers/business-related relationships. I’ve already talked about how much I love google apps for businesses, and one plugin that I CANNOT live without, is Rapportive.

With Rapporative, it makes it easy for me to watch each email that I get, and connect with that person in my own social media. I have tried (over the years) to keep facebook for more of friends/family, but I enjoy sharing that as well.

 

The two means of social networking that I would recommend, is Twitter and Linked In.

Twitter allows me to reach out to my friends/customers/vendors and show them that I am real, as well as let them see a bit of my life. This is all part of my “radical transparency” idea. LinkedIn allows me to build my “Online Resume” which customers and vendors can view all the information about it.

 

The tools of productivity – SLEEP

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One of the things that I deal with is lack of sleep. You know, it’s getting past your normal time to start falling asleep, you check your email just ONE more time – 3 hours later you find yourself starting a new company, listening to great late-night radio, getting a lot done – and losing those precious hours of sleep.

Take that motivation and use it – that’s fine! However, you have to realize exactly what the consequences are, and how to get back into the swing of a normal schedule.

Here are a few ways that I’ve found to combat this when I want to.

1. Quality of sleep

The average American spends 194,821 hours of there hour 649,401 life sleeping (roughly 1/3). Get a good mattress – it’s a great investment. Most of the higher-end mattress stores will allow you to try a bed in-home for 30 days, and they’ll even deliver it! This had made a world of difference for me. You don’t know until you try.

2. Sleep testing

Go to a sleep doctor – this is very important. They will measure how effective your sleeping actually is, and most insurance providers cover it (as common sleep “disorders” such as sleep apnea are terrible for your heart).

3. Be prepared for sleep

I often will put away my laptop(s), put my phone on Phone Calls Only (no texts/emails) and starting winding down with a small snack along with book reading. Sleeping in a dark room and waking up with natural light is a great way to wind down and boost up. Staying with 1.5 hour cycles (REM cycles) – you will wake up feeling better. This is why 30 minute naps _never_ work for me, but 1 1/2 hour naps are where the money is at. Try to wakeup without an alarm clock (if you can). Do not have clocks in your room. See where your natural sleep rhythm is, and use that to your advantage.

4. Use technology

Many computer monitors put out a very high (or “hot”) light and colors. This blue light triggers your brain as if you were looking at the sun, secretly taking you out of that “sleepy” mode. Flux fixes this: it makes the color of your computer’s display adapt to the time of day, warm at night and like sunlight during the day. This has helped me fall asleep much faster and easier – give it a shot. It’s free and no hassle. Install it once and forget about it.

5. Sleep debt

I don’t care what anyone else tells you – you WILL have a sleep debt if you consistently go without enough sleep. I used to think that I could just catch up on the weekend, right? Wrong. You need to gradually payoff your sleep debt – 1 hour increments works well for me. If I rack up 5 hours of sleep debt throughout the week, I will add 1 hour increments to each additional night of sleep to get “back on track”. The downside to having sleep-debt is that you cannot “sleep it off” in 1-2 nights. You will be left not feeling alert, be much more prone to sickness, weight gain, etc etc. I use a log, next to my bed, to measure the amount of sleep debt I have, and what I need to payback. You laugh – but it works. I just logged that I’ll have 1 hour of sleep debt to sleep-off this week!

6. Limit your caffeine

Caffeine is a great way to remain alert, at times – but I never have caffeine late at night. I am fine just “pushing through” when I am tired, and I can keep myself alert. The benefit to this, is that I do not have to time when to go to bed based on my caffeine intake. Everyone is affected a little bit differently, but I would always find myself not being able to fall asleep even 6 hours after caffeine. The importance of being efficient in what you do, is time management. Whenever I am ready to go to sleep – I want to go to sleep immediately. However, this isn’t always how it works out when I have had too much caffeine. Watch your caffeine/sugar intake 6 hours before you plan on sleeping – you’ll be gold.

 

There you go! Get out there and be more efficient.

The tools of productivity – Accounting/Invoices made easy

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One of the struggles we faced, and many other businesses face, is when you want to focus on the business, and you view accounting/invoicing as a very tedious task (I hate it!)

For both of these tasks, no one can beat Freshbooks.

One of their Mottos is: “Every customer should look like a Fortune 500 company, based on the image sent by invoices, bills, or other accounting communications, no matter what size the company is.”

You have to realize, that when dealing with a SaaS or just a simple “Service”-based business, people are investing in YOU when they purchase your service.

Perception is reality, don’t forget it.

I owned a Merchant Account (Credit Card Processing) business for over 4 years – they can definitely be a pain. I’d highly recommend First Data but ONLY if what you are doing is not considered “high risk” in any way. If it is, I’d recommend Merrick Bank

Congrats – now you have a fully functional solution with some of the best software vendors in the industry! Get out there and kill it.

Short&Sweet

/B

The tools of productivity – Customer Support

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The best way to make your time count, and stretch your ability to maintain control and order – is to have a functional, flexible, and efficient support model and process.

I have personally ravaged through many support systems and methods. One “method” was giving out my cell phones to clients with free reign. Pro: great initial relationship building. Con: terrible for self-preservation and scalability!

Systems – I’ve combed through many support systems. The one that came out on top, hands down, was Zendesk. Zendesk is a Hosted solution (never worry about inhouse IT management, scalability, upgrades, backups, etc).  Zendesk has some notable features that I use extensively.

The first feature is the built-in support tab on your website.

This makes for a great built-in feature on your website or service.

 

Now to get into the meat of Zendesk, and why it stands above the rest – seamless integration. When a ticket comes in, the email automatically gets routed to the best person for the ticket, based on infinitely extendable ticket routing and Ticket Management.

An extremely important part of Support, is Reporting & Analytics.

 

Bottom line – I was able to triple my productivity with Zendesk. Integrating into our billing and actual software systems makes for quickly solved support tickets and happy customers!

Turntable.fm Auto-Awesome

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So, I’ve been into playing music to my friends/fans in this TurnTable.fm Room (Cinnabon). (What is TurnTable.fm? Check it out here)

VentureBeat has a good article about how TurnTable.fm got started, the funding they wanted – and a Business Insider article on their actual funding.

It’s a great way to find/listen to good music to listen to during the day. Part of this new-found hobby is learning the proper etiquette of the community. One of the etiquettes is to auto-vote ‘Awesome’ for each new song that a DJ plays (giving him more points/credibility/avatars). Unfortunately, when the work day gets started, as per my series on Productivity – I do not want to constantly be watching and clicking ‘Awesome’ on each song. Instead, there is a great way to automate it. I give you: TurnTable AutoVote (Javascript)

If you find yourself getting into the site (which you will) – definitely checkout the TurnTable Extended chrome extension.

The tools of productivity – Focus/Corporate Culture

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Jason Fried (from 37 Signals) talks the separation of socializing, distractions, and productivity. They  all happen in the day. The key, especially for a creative individual, is to not break focus.

I’d recommend checking out Jason’s TED talk on why work doesn’t happen at work

To expand on an excerpt – I’ll ask a few questions, as a diagnosis of the non-productivity disease. Do you suffer from any of these?

  • Not feel like there is enough time in the day?
  • Working at night/on a plane/with music helps you to be more productive?
  • Lack of motivation because you feel are burning the candles at both ends?

Here are 3 simple steps that I use to remain focused/preserve my corporate cultures for creative individuals.

* Wiring in

This tactic has gotten some real traction after the Facebook movie – a tactic called “Wiring In” (def). I prefer Techno or Dubstep as a music style to keep concentration. I tend to lead towards Techno/Dubstep as the lack of words or lyrics of the song do not break my concentration. Wiring in enables me to be focused and not-distracted – completely regardless of my surroundings. This will inevitably lead to longer-straights of productivity. It’s amazing how many people work many hours, trying to feel productive and satisfied.

* Task diversion

This one is simple – in a day, you have tasks that require immediate attention, and those that have to be done “eventually” (though may need to be finished in the same day). I break up each one of my days – in the morning, I will catch up on conversations, email, make phone calls, finish my things that “need to be done eventually”. After lunch, this is where crunch time happens for me. Try to keep focused on a task for at least 15 minutes. If you are constantly breaking your focus, it’s hard to “get back into the rhythm”

* Use email/messaging on a schedule

Not many of us, contrary to our own belief, are not 100% needed 24/7 in a properly functioning company. I recommend passive communication (not in the traditional sense, but rather communication methods that can be easily multi-tasked). At my company, we only use instant messenger and email communication – even if we are in the same room. Some people may find that odd, but the fact is, we have been able to scale to a multi-million dollar organization handling, at one time, hundreds of clients with just 3 people. Headphones go on, all other distractions are drowned out (email shut off/inter-office phone calls stopped/instant messenger turned off) until I reach a break point.

Try these out, even for a day – you will see the difference! Report back your findings 🙂

The tools of productivity – a guide to straightforward self-management #1

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This is a quick introduction to a few posts I’ll be doing on productivity.

* Google Apps

Google Apps was the turning point in my self-management. From the Google Mail interface, I have easy access to Tasks, Calendar, Filtering and Documents.

These simple functions tie together with a number of smartphones, including

Blackberry, iPhone, and of course, Android.

What problem these solutions have solved:

* No more clients missed because they went from “hot” to “warm” to “cool” – not following up in a timely matter, or something like missing a demo can be a critical turning point. If you do not run into this problem, great – you aren’t pushing yourself hard enough 🙂

Upcoming tools (which all integrate with Google Apps!)

  1. CRM – the best customer relationship manager I have found
  2. Advanced Task and Project management
  3. Marketing and Followup through drip-email marketing
  4. Accounting automation – a tax, invoicing and payment solution
  5. Support – an all-around support solution that scales

Trading $JAMN

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I had a few good trades on $JAMN as you can see here: http://profit.ly/user/bkruse/trades

 

It was really ridiculous that this pump and dump is now down to $1.10

 

I wish there was a centralized location to where there was always a way to have a 1:1 relationship for shorting on any stock. If there are 160 million shares that can be traded, there should be 160 million shortable shares. Locatestock.com has done a good job of being able to find hard borrows, and using them all day. I will update with plays I am going to be shorting, but for now, moving to a few new brokerages. $4,594.74 in profits – could have been better.