Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Importance of Having a Good Routine

I can't even begin to tell you how many self improvement books I've read over the years. My friends would tell me that I need many many more. :-) But little by little, I've picked up a few important things over the years that I feel have been helpful in my everyday business life.

One of those things happens to be the creation - and adherence to - a good morning routine. Aside from the captain obvious tasks of showering, shaving and breakfast, there are certain routine items that I endeavor to do on a daily basis each and every day that I feel get me in the mode for a highly productive day. Granted, there are some mornings that doing each and every task is nearly impossible, but for the most part it is good to revert back to these items that I will list below. I encourage you to create your own list of tasks to accomplish each morning, so that you can finish most days like I do...with a sigh of relief.

My morning routine:
  • Read - I am a reading machine. Typically I start off with 3 chapters of the Bible. For me this is important to connect with something other than the 8,000 other priorities that come up during the day. Quite frankly, all that other stuff doesn't mean anything. It's best to start with something that is uplifting, and will remind us of the importance of living a good, decent life.

    After that, I like to read a lot of technology articles. I use ZDnet off my iPad to keep up to date on trends in the industry, as well as Mashable for Social Media, TechCrunch and even LinkedIn articles that are shared.

    Sometimes I'll get into a good book on Kindle - the latest was 18 Minutes - Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done.
  • Finances - I'll check how healthy the business is doing, and review a few charts that show past and future trends. This is also an important step, because it gives me a bird's eye view of how the company is doing, and helps to identify what needs to be focused upon in the short and long term. There are a variety of tools for this. such as your own online bank account, as well as your accounting software such as Quickbooks, Peachtree or Freshbooks (online).
  • Projects - At the beginning of the week, I'll review the projects that need to be accomplished in that given week. But moreover, that review occurs once a day as well. The reason is similar to the above: to get an overall picture of what needs to be accomplished on that day, and where each project stands.

    Microsoft Project is great for this sort of work. Combined with a good tasklist, it keeps things grounded in reality throughout the day.
  • Calendar and Tasklist - I use Google Apps for my calendar and tasklist. The benefit is that the items can be reviewed on any laptop, and especially on my best tech friend, my iPad. The important thing is to continually review them throughout the day, and stay focused on what needs to be done now...and next.

    If a phone call comes in or an email needs to be addressed, I've gradually gotten into the discipline of putting necessary items on the tasklist or calendar, rather than jump to that task immediately and lose focus. Very important.
  • Social Media - Before you say Facebook is a waste of time, I'll say that I agree - IF you are in the wrong network. But for me I am connected with lots of business associates, so it makes sense to put out a little post in the morning saying hello, and scanning the news feed to see if I can help my friends in any way (even with a link to a good resource).

    Of course, LinkedIn is a great business-minded Social Media network. If you are connected with people that legitimately interact with you, instead of simply writing once "Hi, I'd like to add you to my network on LinkedIn" and then never hearing from them again, then it's ok. :-)
That's the general routine that I like to adhere to these days. There are certainly a whole lot more routine items you can use. The main point here is that you should find a set of tasks that will help you to start, then roll through your day in a manner that will make it more enjoyable and less worrisome.

Announcement: We are moving to Tumblr! All the old blogs will remain here, but new blogs will be written and posted to our Tumblr account. Details forthcoming in the next few weeks. Thank you for your readership all these years! =)

Thursday, March 14, 2013

What You Should Be Showing On Your Website: A Depth Chart

A few days ago, my colleague and I got into an  "energetic discussion".

One of our clients was very gung-ho about adding tons of Slideshows to their new website. Unfortunately, this is a bad way to attract search engines, and an even worse way to keep interested potential clients on a website.

However, since my motto is typically the customer is always right, I capitulated to the wishes of our customer, and asked our developer for this project to look into which slideshow system would be best suited (design and features) for this website. Shortly thereafter, he asked me to call him. Here's how the conversation went:

    "Tom, why did __________ hire you?"

    "Because they knew we were gonna build them a great website."

    "Do they trust your expertise?"

    "Well...yeah, I hope so."


In my warped, 'life is a beautiful place with happy puppies and kittens' brain, I consider this a pep talk. :-)

Truth be told, he is 100% right! When a potential customer comes to a website, there is a certain expectation that they have, one that if not available, will be a barrier to doing business with the customer. Today I'm going to talk about a simple, 1,2,3 depth chart for your website, which is considered part of best practices for engaging your users and continuing them into the sales funnel that you are creating.

Level 1: Home and Landing Pages - This is the place where your content should be clear, concise and abbreviated. If you are dazzling your first time visitors with slideshows or video, this is the best place to do it. Just make sure that the content is not overkill, with too much text, too many pictures, or too many moving items. It should be clean, crisp and easy to read, and most importantly, focuses the visitor in on just a few products, services or solutions that are your best sellers.

Level 2: Category-level and summary pages - Once a visitor clicks through on a menu item, such as a list of services, they should see a decent number of the offerings from your business or organization. Even if it is a blog post, they should see a nice listing of the many blog posts that you have written for your audience. If it is an eCommerce site, you should have categories of items, that if the user clicks, will take them to the next logical level (subcategory) of items. Example: If I am on a clothing website, and I want to buy a pair of jeans, I might click on the jeans and then next expect to be seen some subcategories of jeans, such as loose fit, tight fit, etc.

Please note that level 2 pages can be a group of pages 2, 3, 4 or more in depth, but the point is that on this level, you are guiding people to an end result, which is...

Level 3: Here is where the customer is looking for the bottom-line about a product, service, solution or even blog post. If they have navigated this far into your website, they are their to get very specific, very detailed information. It could be do-it-yourself guides, whitepapers or an explanation of your process used when taking care of clients. The main thing to remember is that here you are dealing with people that are looking for facts and figures. They are very close to calling you, buying something, or signing up.

...and as I learned a few days ago, don't put slideshows on level 3. :-)

The post-script to this story is that I decided to go back to the client and negotiate with the client, giving them the reasons our developer laid out. Thankfully, based on his expertise that I was able to convey, the customer decided to move the slideshows to a place where it would not prevent their future users from clicking through and continuing the sales funnel.

I also was able to prevent the developer yet another headache that he might have gotten from banging his head against a wall after  dealing with me. ;-)

Thursday, February 21, 2013

10 Do It Yourself Website Promotion Tips You Can Use Today

Below is an email I sent out to my networking group ProMetroNet ( today. As I was writing it, I realized it might help some of you that are struggling with combining online and offline efforts.

Oftentimes, if you are intimidated by the web or worried about promoting your business in a manner that is out of your time-tested comfort zone, you may not embrace new methods of building your business operations.

The following 10 simple tips are a down to earth set of practices that you can do yourself to increase the visibility of your Feel free to reach us on our social pages to ask questions about any of these items, we will be happy to e'splain, Lucy. =) God Bless.


Hi folks.

Good meeting today. Thanks for giving me the time to speak. Hopefully the tips I discussed will be useful for your business.

As a follow up, here are the tips I mentioned in the meeting today on how to do some really simple everyday things you can do to advance your business - both online and offline.

If you liked anything I discussed today, please write a little testimonial about us! If you are on Facebook, please go right now to [Like] our page, and then on the right side please write a recommendation for us. One sentence is fine.

(If you prefer LinkedIn, go to


Ok, here are the top ten items:

1. Always ask for Email address or social address during initial client assessment/intake
2. Send brochure / sell sheet by email within 24 hours (Even an MS Word Document works)
3. Email Signature line - always add some sort of event or promotion or good deed you are working on
4. Send invoice by email / mobile device, instead of giving a paper copy
5. Ask for testimonials after you do a good job...but ask them to post on their Facebook/LinkedIn page! They will be showing it to their 150-350 friends
6. Yelp, BBB, Angie's List, Blue Book - make sure you are listed in those locations
7. Write Press release of good work you've done, send through PR Newswire
8. Write do it yourself tutorials, post to your website. Great way of bringing back people to your site
9. Deals on Facebook, Yelp. Create them and post them, point to your website
10. Qr code on print ads - put them on your print publications

Most of these items are do-it-yourself. Of course, if you need help with anything, Rockland Web Design's team can help. We offer low hourly rates, quick work, and measured results. Check us out at


Tom Ossa
Web Strategist
Rockland Web Design
Sent from my iPad

Thursday, February 7, 2013

How a Company or Marketing Person *Should* Ask for a Link to Their Website

Nanny Classifieds - The Ten Most Popular Mommy Tweets
Now this is a website with whom we want to link!
Yesterday I got a request from a blogger, Abby Nelson, to link to an article she wrote about what working Moms post on Twitter. You can check it out here: The Ten Most Popular Tweets by Real-Life Working Moms. Below is the text from her request:
Hi, Tom.

I just posted an article on my blog called "The Tem Most Popular Tweets by Real Life Working Moms, and Why You Might Tweet Them Too". (Link) I figured I'd bring it to your attention in case you thought it might be interesting enough to drop a quick mention on your site about it, as I'm trying to increase the readership of my blog.

Either way, thanks for your time!"

Not for nothing, but I get a lot of these requests, and typically we ignore 99.716% of them. (By the way, 84% of all statistics are made up spontaneously.) But I really liked the way that Abby approached us.

This particular request was a bit different for several reasons, and we thought we should quickly outline three reasons why we chose to link to her blog at Nanny Classifieds. I figure many of you that are reading this would want to have links coming into your website, and want to know the best way of going about it, read on:
  1. Authenticity - Abby is clearly not like most people requesting links. She doesn't throw some random BS at us saying "I love your blllooooog (misspelled), and this is very happy useful information - for more useful information, please visit my blog" Instead, she said she is trying to increase the readership of her blog. Honest.

    She also left the decision up to the person that owns the blog. Some people simply expect the person they are contacting to fulfill their wishes. Um, no. But Abby simply said "in case you might be interested." Excellent.
  2. Relevance - We are a web design firm that performs Social Media Campaigns. Twitter is certainly part of that mix, so an article about Tweeting is certainly relevant to our audience, and we would want to share it!
  3. Quality - When I read the article, I was impressed. It was well-created, and the topic was clearly well thought-out. Plus the blog it self looked really nice, I was happy to show my audience another cool techie that takes pride in her website's appearance.
I gotta head to a meeting now. But I just want to thank Abby for a great blog and a great request. And for you readers, keep the above suggestions in mind when developing your website's or blog's link strategy. If you need help, we can assist you with one of several very cost effective Social Media Programs. Give us a call or contact us at Rockland Web Design.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Using Web Marketing During Hurricane Sandy - A Case Study (kind of)

(I said "kind of", because I'm not doing any major documentation as a case study should entail. This is simply a quick story, one in which I was deeply involved.)

If you live on the East Coast, you know the devastation that Superstorm / Hurricane Sandy caused. In my own town, several roads were severely affected - such as River Road, Beach Road, and Ba Mar Community. Over 60 families needed to evacuate their damaged or destroyed homes at the height of the crisis, and we were blessed to participate in the initial relief effort. Read the entire story here.

But once the basic needs were met, we turned our heads to organizing a long-term relief effort. This is where Rockland Web Design's ACE Web Marketing System that we've been evangelizing for the past several years comes into play. And what better way to deploy the system than to help people in need?

Before I explain how we applied the system to our work to help the Superstorm victims, I will identify what the system entails. You can also learn more about it at Rockland Web Design's site.

The ACE Web Marketing System consists of:
  • Website: Control the content of your website with new and compelling offers, events and services that your company knows will be needed.
  • Blog: Continually update your blog with new information about things that you are doing within your business, or even just general ideas about your industry. Something. Anything!
  • Newsletter: Short and sweet - letting people on your email list know that you've created these cool new posts on your website and blog. (Some of you might be reading this as a result of our newsletter - ahem)
  • Social Media: Only do this step after you post new materials to your website, but once you are done, go on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, and interact with your friends! Comment on their interests, likes, dislikes, events, happy and sad know, like a regular human being. I'll repeat that - like a regular human being.

    (Every once in a while (no more than 20% of the time), remember to promote your offerings, and link back to your website and blog posts)

  • Search: The great thing is, if you have done all the steps above, search will happen. You create a buzz about new offerings on your website, and talk about your blog, people will start searching for you, especially in a local area.
So how does this apply to Superstorm / Hurricane Sandy?

Soon after the crisis, we decided to do some fundraising for the families that were displaced by the storm. You can read about the entire story here, but I'll quickly go over the same exact points I presented above, except to show what was done in each example for this effort.

How we applied the ACE Web Marketing System:
  • Website: We created a donation portal, through the North Rockland Business Alliance, called From there we developed several very important pages:
    • Donation page: To send money online to help the families
    • Events pages: To show the local fundraising efforts at restaurants, bowling alleys and bars.
    • Request help page: To allow families a method to ask for assistance.
    • Items donation forms: To allow the community to donate clothes, toys, furniture and more

  • Blog: Halfway through the effort, we wrote that blog post that I mentioned above, about our efforts to help the local market. Click here to read it.
  • Newsletter: We wrote a newsletter - a very short one - and asked over 1000 people on our newsletter list to donate, and linked them back to the website.
  • Social Media: In our area, we have a great Facebook Group called the North Rockland Community. This community was started by my friend Diego Aviles, who is a vibrant and active member of the local community, always helping to connect people.

    There are over 2000 people in the group, and many took to that group to post their wishes to help those affected by the hurricane.

    We studied this information, and when the time was right, we posted information about the donation and relief efforts we were doing through the North Rockland Business Alliance. The thing to emphasize here is that we continually pointed them back to the website, to give the audience a consistent, consistent message. This way, our information did not get lost in the fold. All we had to do was keep providing the link at the necessary times, when people asked for it. That's the point of a website - to create a branded, consistent message.

    Mind you...we did not just make the information about ourselves. Several entities, such as Immaculate Conception Church, Trinity United Methodist Church, Wayne Hose Fire Company, and of course Stony Point Town Hall were referred to continually throughout our communications. The key was to make it a two way conversation, so that people felt comfortable that there were humans on our end that empathized with those families that needed help the most.

  • Search: The great thing was, we got unbelievable traffic! Google and Bing hits quadrupled, and even media outlets such as the Rockland Journal News, Rockland County Times, and News 12 began inquiring about the efforts.

  • Net result: We raised about $30,000 for the families! Shortly thereafter we began distributing the funds. Families got $200, $350 and $500 checks written directly to them. We also were able to partner with the Stony Point Seals - who jump in the Hudson River each year on Super Bowl Sunday - to raise many thousands more! You can learn more about this Yerar's plunge at The Stony Point Seals Website.

    In addition, the North Rockland Business Alliance's business mission for 2013 was revitalized, and many former members and prospective members came back to the organization to participate.

    Finally, the NRBA became part of Rockland County's new Disaster Recovery Coalition, to help create a long term recovery plan for all of Rockland NY, in the event of future disasters.

    To me, it proves that the ACE Web Marketing System that we painstakingly refined over the past several years works. To learn more about the ACE Web Marketing System, go to our website Rockland Web Design.

    I must emphasize that what I'm describing here is certainly not the only reason why the results occurred. As always I like to say that God had a hand in helping us to do what we could, and guided us as it got stressful. There were so many good people that helped out during the effort. I have an anonymous friend that I am grateful to, as well as several that I can name publicly, such as Lionel Mathis, Alison Bimbo, Robert and Patricia Manfredi, Mark Engelman and Chelle Cordero from Stony Point Ambulance Corp, Trinity United Methodist Church, Stony Point Center, Jean Talamini, Christian Church of Rockland, Supervisor Geoff Finn and so many more.

    So this case study is only covering a very small about of what happened. And the work will continue for many, many months to come. There are still many families in need, and in some way shape or form we hope to reach as many as possible. Right now, the best thing you can do to help is to learn more about the Stony Point Seals.

    For your purposes, and for your company, organization or cause, remember to apply The ACE Web Marketing System, or a variation of this system to your work to do good in your community. Always remember who you're working for (those in need), and why you're doing what you do (to help). Aside from a nice system to help organize it all, that is really the driving force behind all the good things that you will do.

    Tuesday, November 6, 2012

    What We've Been Doing the Past Week: Hurricane Sandy Relief Efforts for Stony Point & North Rockland

    Hurricane Sandy Aftermath. Photo Courtesy of Thomas McGuire
    One of the things on people's short list during a hurricane crisis is NOT this: "Golly, I wonder how my website should look tomorrow."

    Maslow's hierarchy of needs never included internet access. It includes the most basic of life-sustaining components, such as food, water and shelter.

    We realized this even before Hurricane Sandy hit the east coast. So, after ensuring that Rockland Web Design customers' websites, hosting, email and customer relationship management services were up 100% of the time during the crisis, we turned our heads to helping those in need.

    We soon learned what an unbelievable need it would be.

    Phase 1: Volunteering at Stony Point Ambulance Corps

    Sunday night some of us headed down to the Stony Point Ambulance Corp...which was designated temporary shelter for people who would inevitably need to leave their homes while the Hurricane was visiting New York.

    In a matter of just 24 hours, many families -- over 60 people -- arrived for food, shelter and clothing. Some even needed to be airlifted from their homes as the waters from the Hudson River increasingly overflowed. We remained at the Ambulance Corps for 5 days, helping our new friends to gather donations from the North Rockland Community, hand out food, and assist in organize meetings between the Town Officials and the residents of the area. It was a daunting but humbling task, and because of the experience I feel even more connected to this wonderful community that I've called home for nearly all of my life.

    Nancy Pena Kohout entertains the children of families
    affected by Hurricane Sandy
    So many businesses and volunteers helped in the effort, which is ongoing. As an example, Dana K9 Scent Detection came in with dogs to make sure that all the donations were safe for distribution to the people affected by the storm. John K. Grant donated 50 brand new pillows. B's Nest Deli brought breakfast and lunch every day, Pizzarena brought italian food every night. Nancy Pena Kohout entertained the chlidren with games and music each evening.

    There is much more, I've thanked a few below, but I will write another blog post with the list of as many people / businesses that I can remember.

    As things started to get a little more manageable, I turned on my trusty laptop, got a hold of one of my buddies that does database administration, and worked with him to build a comprehensive volunteer and donations database, one which will help to get the right help in the right hands. More on that further on in this blog post.


    Phase II: Volunteers, Donations and Benefits

    The initial safety efforts are winding down, but the cause to help the families that have been permanently displaced from their homes is just beginning. In addition to the temporary shelter that has been kindly provided by the Stony Point Center, we have begun to participate in the organization of several benefits that will raise money for the families. These include donations, gift cards, benefits and fundraisers that will spring up over the coming weeks.

    The first step was to set up a central location where all donation and volunteer efforts could be garnered. As we have a close relationship with the members of the North Rockland Chamber of Commerce, we figured this was a logical place to start. 

    Please share this website with your colleagues: : Sponsored by the North Rockland Business Alliance (Chamber of Commerce), this is a collaboration with the Town of Stony Point to raise donations and volunteers for direct aid to the families, as well as hold several fundraisers and events that will help ease the distress caused by Hurricane Sandy:
    Donate to
    • Direct Relief Campaign: Raise $10,000 in direct aid to the families displaced by the Hurricane
    • Volunteer Database: Collect volunteer names and information, route volunteers to suitable tasks that need to be performed
    • Donation Database: Collect data on types of donations that have been given to the town, cross-reference with those who need certain types of supplies (i.e. diapers for children, clothing for adults of various sizes, gift cards for those needing specific groceries)
    • Benefits: We have several benefits that are forming:
      Benefit Friday 11/9! Click for details
      • Lynch's Restaurant: An elegant evening at Stony Point's newest restaurant, which will feature fine cuisine, live music and more. 
      • Hi Tor Bowling Benefit: Bowl all night at this family-friendly event. Percentage of revenue will be donated to the benefit. 
      • 2 more in the works...we can't say where yet though. ;-)
    • Donation Canisters: We are placing donation canisters all over North Rockland, in support of our effort to raise $10,000 initially. Finally, we have begun talking about helping with a Thanksgiving Dinner which will be specifically for the families affected by the Hurricane. This is also in the nebulous stage of planning, but has a lot of energy behind it. So we are hopeful!
    For real-time updates, you can visit: 
    • North Rockland Community on Facebook: Run by Diego Aviles and Ellen Donovan, this is the place to get up to date info on Hurricane relief efforts, gas availability, benefit and volunteerism info, and more.
    • Rockland Chamber on Twitter: Yes, I know you probably don't use Twitter. Just keep it in mind for the near future, ok? ;-)

    I'd like to thank the Academy...

    I should emphasize that this is definitely, definitely not something that we are involved in alone - we are just helping out. As I like to say, we're simply happy to be at the table with so many good people. I'd like to thank several of them here, and please forgive me if I forget a few names:

    Stony Point Volunteer Ambulance Corps (Mark Engelman and Chelle Cordero)

    You tweaked my perspective on life a little more. Thank you for opening up the Corps to so many wonderful people. You provided leadership for people that you didn't even know! Your team over there is amazing, and I hope to be working with you in the near future. (By the way, Chelle is an accomplished author. Please check out her website

    Supervisor Geoff Finn:

    Supervisor Geoff Finn, Town Board Member Luanne Konopko address
    some of Stony Point community that were affected by Hurricane Sandy
    Working the channels between the displaced families, government agencies such as FEMA, and volunteers from all over North Rockland. It was certainly a difficult line to walk, since there are so many requests and positions to fulfill in a short period of time. But he was able to do so with both a heightened energy and grace that impressed me. I'm still not sure how you did it all, but you have my kudos for your efforts without a doubt.

    Also a very warm thank you to Executive Assistant Bernadette Kilduff for communicating our nutty ideas to Mr. Finn when he had a moment to breathe.

    Town Board Member Luanne Konopko:

    Luanne works tirelessly even when there isn't a crisis. In my opinion, she is a non-stop humanitarian who cares about her town, and backs it up with action. In addition to her efforts on the Economic Development Committee and several other efforts to revitalize Stony Point, she was on the front lines every day during the height of the crisis, and kept an open ear to any needs that had to be met. She's still out there working, so if you see her, thank her. If you don't, please take a moment to read this, it's a direct result of her efforts.

    (By the way, Luanne...I have your DVDs and books that you left for the people at the shelter to watch. I think we saw you in The Incredibles - lol)

    Diego Aviles and Ellen Donovan:

    Diego and Ellen drove the social media channels with unbelievable skill. On the North Rockland Community alone, over 2000 people in the community were kept up to date on the latest developments related to the Hurricane, donation efforts, volunteer efforts, the gas crisis (thankfully a temporary one), and are currently communicating all the various benefits we are collectively attempting to promote. Thank you so much for your help...and for your guidance on how to choose the right courses of action.

    The Stony Point Center:

    Kindly opening their doors to the displaced families after the hurricane, Rick Ufford-Chase and staff such as Paula Sandusky are doing a phenomenal job in ensuring that the families are comfortable as they begin the process of rebuilding their homes, lives and families. In my opinion, the Stony Point Center was the perfect, peaceful retreat for such an endeavor. Notably, they cleared two buildings that were slated for corporate conferences in order to accomodate the families. Beautiful.

    The Families:

    I think it's important to thank those who directly dealt with their adversity. Regardless of the circumstances, I feel blessed to have been in the midst of such brave people whose struggle to return their lives to some sort of normal, is just beginning.

    Over the past week, I've seen incalculable strength in the eyes of these people who have lost the most. One person that was with us was so grateful for even the most basic of amenities, a hot meal, a place for her family to stay, even a hug. You can see she is a caring soul. And she is just one of many.

    Even now I want to cry, because her gratitude was a blessing to all of us; it helped me to remember how lucky we are, and how far we still need to travel for others. (Yup, 'scuse me while I get a tissue)

    Lionel Mathis and Robert Manfredi

    Every once in a while we meet up with people that simply have the same heart and mindset as ourselves. Lionel and Rob were two people who fit that description throughout the Hurricane Crisis. The three of us worked unbelievably well together,  and jumped head-first into any tasks that needed to be performed. As a cohesive unit, we performed tasks as basic as cleaning the floors and distributing food, to organizing donations from the community and now spearheading the benefits that are popping up all over North Rockland!

    We met over the weekend to watch the football games, and I have a slight suspicion that we will be working together in the coming months, and perhaps on other endeavors after this work is done. =)

    The North Rockland Facebook Community:

    If I mentioned everyone that I got to know throughout this crisis, I'd be here until the next election! But you all know who you are, and I look forward to working with you more over the coming months.

    Keith Doran from Total Technology:

    Thank you for assisting me with the creation of the volunteer & donation database. It is begin put to good use. You got my vote for DB Administrator for any organization, any day of the week.


    There is a very dear friend of mine in particular that I know wishes to remain anonymous. If I convince her to let me write her name here, I'll update this post. But she was there from the very beginning, to the very end of our relief efforts. To her I want to say thank you so much for participating, and showing how much you care about others.

    Most Importantly:

    Finally, and most importantly I'd like to thank God for being there for all of us through this crisis. We can't do anything without God's help.

    Back to work! =)

    Friday, June 15, 2012

    How to Work at the Beach

    Ok, the picture in this post isn't exactly the beach. It's the Hudson River, which is approximately 5 minutes from my house. Yeah I do feel blessed having access to this, especially on the weekends. During the week I'm typically in my office dreaming about being there...

    But today I woke up, saw the beautiful weather, and got inspired to go down to the Hudson with my big bag of technology - to see if I could pull off setting up shop there for the day. It worked!

    Now, this is not going to work in every line of work. I imagine if you are a surgeon, you might have trouble getting your patient to agree to have a brain transplant while geese are pooping nearby. But if you're lucky enough to have chosen a field where technology helps to make you mobile, then read on.

    Truthfully, I needed a lot less than I thought I did. It reminded me of the time I went on a Boy Scout camping trip, loaded up with every possible piece of equipment. I started crying after 5 miles of hiking, and the lighter, faster scouts were kind enough to carry my excess stuff.

    So here is what you will need (I think):

    1. Laptop - No getting around this one. Even though you might have a cool iPad or tablet, there is nothing more work efficient than a laptop with all your essential programs loaded up on it.

    You should also have a mouse and mousepad, as well as a backup battery or two. As an alternative, some locations have power outlets. Make sure you check with the park reps and ask if you are allowed to plug in.

    2. A wifi connection - Another absolute necessity. If you have a 3G or 4G data plan you might be able to tether it to your laptop, but there are other ways as well. Sometimes if you are lucky the location has a wifi signal, or a local coffee shop might be close enough to utilize. Either way, make sure you are using any wifi signal you find WITH permission.

    3. Mobile phone - Now, you should plan to not make a lot of phone calls if you are at the beach, especially of you have limited minutes. But certainly you want to ensure that you can call your most important clients. Below I will discuss some alternative ways of communicating during your day at the beach...

    4. Other communication tools - here's the important stuff.

    There are TONS of great programs that will help you stay in touch while you are working at the beach. Here are just a few of them:

    A. Skype: If you have a basic US plan (for just $2.99 a month) you can call anywhere in the US. Use this instead of your cell.

    B. Google Voice: Use it for incoming calls, route them to your cell or to your Skype number so you can answer them easily. When you return to your office make sure you switch your routing back to your normal phone number.

    C. Email: um, this is Captain Obvious, but it had to be said. Oh also Facebook messaging and Tweeting is good. But try to manage all of it in one place, you don't want to keep going back and forth between your laptop and mobile device answering stuff, it is inefficient.

    D. Web based team productivity tools: there are great tools for getting your work done with others in the mix. I personally like Manymoon for project management, Zoho CRM for tracking potential deals, and Dropbox to sync important files with colleagues.

    5. Optional devices - I gotta say, my life has changed since I got an iPad. It really makes the again. Even now I am writing this blog post in Starbucks in New City after my awesome workday. So I do recommend that you get a tablet and see your computing life in a different way. And it will help you get work done while you are mobile.

    6. Shade - As I quickly learned, it is important to find a shaded area to do your work, since the sun will quickly make you squint over your screen. So bring an umbrella or find a shady spot. Also this may help if for some reason the weather turns against you.

    7. Food and drink - because you don't want the parks department to accidentally rake over your lifeless body after you die from starvation for being too work-driven to even take a 10 minute food break.

    ...not that this happened to me.

    8. A plan - you should plan to NOT do certain work at the beach, simply because it won't be effective to do so unless you are back at the office. So before you get to your new spot, have a simple agenda that outlines only the important things you need to, and can accomplish while there.

    9. Notification - You should let all necessary colleagues and clients know you will be working outside of the office. You should also - often and early - let your friends know that you are working at the beach, especially the ones that questioned your decision to build your own business, AND are currently stuck in an office or cubicle. :-)

    10. Zen - This last one might be something you find at the beach, or perhaps it will find you. But if you go to the beach, lake or any other spot that will be enjoyable, make sure you get up every once in a while and observe the beauty around you.

    Even while you are working, listen to the sounds around you. Look up at the ocean or river sometimes. This is what it's all about. No matter if you're crunching numbers, designing websites, performing brain surgery, managing a workforce or writing a law brief, for those small moments that you take in all that is beautiful about the are free.

    Saturday, May 5, 2012

    The Power of Prayer - Business Owner's Edition

    Foggy future? Read on...
    I don't admit this often, but sometimes money is tight.

    I imagine some of you out there reading this can relate. =)

    But something magical happened to me a while back, the story of which I'd like to relate to you. In telling you this, I am opening up a part of me that I do not share with the world very often, mainly because it brings up raw feelings of childhood. But since what happened in the scope of this story is so amazing, I had to share it with anyone that might benefit from it, and possibly allow it to enrich their lives.

    (As a disclaimer, I was not, nor was my Family ever seriously impoverished, but we had to struggle to make ends meet. There are people that suffer much worse than we did. In comparison, I was the equivalent of a spoiled brat. Just sayin so this story is in the right context.)

    So here we go.

    A while back I had a serious cash flow problem in my business. I wouldn't necessarily call it a product of the recession, since I try not to pay attention to that. But I had several bills that were increasingly overdue, and needed to be paid or else the whole setup of dominos would fall over in one cataclysmic kersplat. You get my point.

    Account receivables were pretty bad. I'm sure you know the feeling when business is flat, but the expenses just keep on coming in like a tidal wave. It is a feeling that is like few others, for me a mix of frustrated, paralyzed and resentful that could easily cause some to just give up and let it all go to poo. Yes, poo.

    This one week I had to raise several thousand dollars in a single day. Nothing was really happening that day thus far. It was all quiet, and I was all at the end of my rope. My chest was so tight I thought my heart was going to explode inside of it. I needed to see a light at the end of the tunnel, and I needed it fast. I did have one appointment though...

    So a potential client came in to do his scheduled appointment for an initial consultation on his website. It wasn't a signed project, and I didn't expect it to be a big, profitable project. However I did see it as a possible starting point to the rest of the day. If I got through this and it went well, perhaps I could generate some internal momentum to get some things done that would at least save me from total disaster. At this point, partial disaster would be just lovely.

    I should also side-note to you that although I am no Saint, I do have a pretty cool Faith in God. Not Bible thumping, but I try to pray each day in a Spirit of being thankful, ask for a blessing before meals, and on occasion read some Scriptures. (GenXers and GenYers: Check out the version of the Bible called "The Message". It is plain English, down to Earth, and sometimes kind of funny. Wikipedia explanation here.) I know it's annoying for most, so I keep it pretty low-key (my friends to tend to bust my chops, but it's all good) I also do believe in miracles, but recognize that those huge "parting of the Red Sea" ones don't really show up too often, like every millenia or something. But perhaps little small, tweaking, unnoticeable "nice, thank you God for the bird that is singing in the window this morning" miracles can and do happen. They are just much more personal.

    Anyway, so just before the appointment began, I got down on one knee in my home office, and opened up a quick dialogue with God. I basically said, "God...I need help. I'm on my last thread of Hope. Please - whatever you can do...would be awesome." Note the lack of Hail Mary recitals.

    This pic chosen because he
    has long hair and he looks cool.
    As I closed the prayer, I happened to remember a lyric from a U2 song: "If you wanna kiss the sky, better learn how to to kneel. (On your knees boy)". And at that moment, it gave me some serious comfort, which was counter to the situation at hand. Nothing in the physical realm had actually changed. I was still deeply in short-term debt, and I needed something to happen. But I definitely felt different, as if a weight had been lifted from me. My chest felt a little more relaxed, and I was comfortable enough to do the appointment without feeling the need to close or pressure the client in any way shape or form. (By the way, that high pressure crap doesn't work. Here's why.)

    So I went and did the appointment with the potential. Everything actually worked out fairly well with the consultation, and the client was ready to initiate. So I wrote up a contract and set up the terms, which are typically 2/3 at inception and 1/3 at website launch, plus any additional work done that is requested. I proceeded to explain all details of the contract to the person, and he opens his wallet and asks, "Do you mind if I pay you cash up front for the entire thing?"

    (Every business owner that accepts checks or credit cards knows that there is a small waiting period when you deposit checks or process cards, ranging from 1-4 days.)

    I was flabbergasted. Although this wasn't the entire amount of what I needed to raise, it definitely got things moving in the right direction. Thankfully I was able to maintain external composure and said, "Sure that would be fine. Thank you and I will generate a receipt for you." My original instinct was to cry and hug him, but um, that might not bode well for the client's confidence in getting the project done effectively.

    I relate this story because I have a feeling I'm not the only one who has experienced something magical like that happen. If you are a businessperson, or even a person that has to deal with income and expenses a lot, you probably have had a few times where you didn't know how things were going to work out. Somehow, as you look back, was it as bad as you anticipated it would be? Did you hope for some resolution to the problem? Did something cool happen? I hope.

    The rest of the day - as well as the week - went quite well. I was able to generate enough money to take care of the most immediate concerns, and the rest I was able to effectively renegotiate for more time, because by that point my belief in one single idea had become more powerful than all the fear I had experienced before. My belief in that single idea helped to "tweak" the physical world, but more importantly it helped to change my outlook on what was going on in the present, and what could possibly happen in the future. It was such a simple idea, but I had to embrace it again for the first time like a little boy that somehow knows without being told what it is. And it is an idea that I hope that will help you in your Earthly travels, especially when you are ready to give up on your last glimmer of hope. It's a very comforting idea...

    God is watching. =)

    Saturday, November 5, 2011

    LinkedIn 201 Workshop - Saturday Nov 12, at 2 pm

    Our second LinkedIn Seminar will be at the Haverstraw Library this Saturday November 12, from 2 to 5 pm. Last week we had our first annual workshop on this topic, and went into the basics of creating a profile, filling out your profile, connecting with your business associates, and joining groups. (Please click here to download the PDF file for LinkedIn 101.)

    This week we will be looking at the various applications that you can use through LinkedIn, such as, Slideshare, and other useful tools. We will also cover LinkedIn mobile, to allow you access to your connections from the road, as well as further discussing the psychology of posting to your profile.

    Saturday, September 24, 2011

    Closer to God...through technology?

    A good friend and business associate of mine recently started creating podcasts of individual chapters of the Bible, and posts them at his website I must say, he has a great voice for reading out loud. Everything is very clear to understand and enjoyable to hear...not an easy feat to say the least.
    It also prompts an interesting phenomenon in our culture today, the use of technology to give and receive Religious and Spiritual messages. I find it very encouraging that people are using computers, phones, websites and more to stay close to God, regardless of Religious affiliation.
    I'm no Saint. I have done my fair share of stupidity during my existence thus far, and I'm sure that I'll do more. But cool this like my friend's website help me to stay on target with the fundamental (not fundamentalIST, mind you) beliefs that I grew up with as a kid: 1. Believe in God 2. Obey God. Simple as that. The rest is training.
    Here are some other things I use to stay on the Path:
    + RSS Feeds: I can keep up to date with my friends podcast, right from my phone.
    + YouVersion: Mobile Bible App you can download for your iPhone or Android device.
    + Facebook: There's a few good people that I've friended that update their statuses with Spiritual messages. Always good to see them amongst the 8000 messages about people doing laundry and some think our country sucks and blah blah.
    + Email subscriptions: I subscribe to some nice websites, like Tres Dias, Guideposts.
    Again I must emphasize that I'm nobody special, and this post isn't intended to brag or push anyone. However it is to let you know that if you do have a basic belief in God (or even if you just feel the presence of a Higher Power...), and you want to stay reminded of that Faith, Presence, or stay on your rightly guided Path, consider using one or more of the tools described as above.