Born to Blog

BornToBlogAs a new blogger, I am constantly looking for ways to make improvements and reach a larger audience. I have reviewed a number of resources and my goal is to take away at least one new element from each. I recently read Born to Blog, by Mark W. Schaefer and Stanford A. Smith. Written for those who are just getting started, this book provides excellent information to help newcomers find success. My greatest takeaways are laid out below.

  • Blogs are a noninvasive, trust-building, relationship booster: This stood out to me because, when done right, I have seen how powerful a blog can be.
  • There are five elements to writing a successful post: 1. Create a captivating headline. 2. Give a unique personal viewpoint. 3. Take a personal risk. 4. Create an entertaining spin. 5. Use words that sing.
  • Blogs offer the most potential value for businesses. The benefits include brand awareness, direct and indirect sales, sales support, R&D, PR, crisis management and expanding search engine traffic.
  • There are specific traits of a successful blogger; tenacity, focus on passion, flexibility, consistency and courage.
    • Tenacity in blogging comes down to working for years to start to build something; there is almost never instant success.
    • Without passion, failure is likely just a short time away. The true passion has to shine through in each post. It can’t be “all business.” People want to find out what you have to say.
    • Consistency in blogging means new posts at least once a month; there are many reasons for this and daily can become even easier over time. Every post doesn’t have to be profound, but does have to give some value.
    • Courage is likely the single most important element; sometimes just to hit the publish button.
  • There are three areas where blogging goes wrong; the wrong purpose, the wrong content and the wrong people.
    • Blogging must be done to tell you or your company’s story and share the core values.
    • The content must be real and connected to what you or your company are all about.
    • The people must be authentic and likely working for the company itself; not outsiders.
  • There are eight ways listed to develop readership for your blog. 1. Give away your best. 2. Add your blog to your current marketing efforts. 3. Contribute to other publications. 4. Get active on your reader’s social channels. 5. Use savvy, simple SEO; research keywords, optimize blog titles and post content. 6. Use guest bloggers. 7. Join and sponsor conversations, such as Twitter chats and discussion forums. 8. Reward your readers.
  • Bloggers for a company should come from every level, ranging from entry to C-suite, and training and support should be given to ensure quality and consistency.

These few items are just a portion of the pages of notes I wrote down, but were the ones I felt most applied to what I am doing with my own blog.

If you are looking to start blogging or would like to get a fresh perspective to improve your current blog, I would encourage you to check out the book.

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Purpose: The Foundation for an Organization

pillars-purposeOver the last decade, I have been surrounded by the idea of using a vision, mission, values and purpose to define an organization. I read and heard about what each element represented and the reason it existed. However, it wasn’t until a class last semester that the idea of using them all together really sunk in for me. It was definitely an “ah, ha” moment that helped to clarify how to better use them as a whole.

  • Vision: The vision of an organization should clearly define where that organization is going. This is subject to change over time as realities change with the organization and its surrounding.
  • Mission: The mission is the who, when and how for getting to where the vision has set out. These are similarly subject to change over time and as the direction of the organization shifts.
  • Values: The values of an organization are the “rules of engagement” or norms of behavior. While these can change with time, they should be more steadfast than the mission and vision.
  • Purpose: Purpose is the “why” for the organization; why they do what they do. Unlike the other elements, purpose should never change. The purpose should be the single pillar to guide decisions when conflicts arise. If a newly developed mission doesn’t fit within the purpose, then the mission should change.

In the past, I have looked at each of these elements as individual pieces, not a single flow of items to help guide an organization’s direction and employee behavior. The several posts I have made about Vision and Mission still hold true, but should be looked at within a greater context. The purpose of the organization is the baseline in which everything else should be generated.

For an organization to be truly successful, especially in the startup phase, there must be a shared purpose. A great example of purpose that was used in my class is from the University of TexasTo transform lives for the benefit of society. This purpose clearly describes the basis for everything that goes on at UT and should guide the behavior of those charged with fulfilling it.

When thinking about where you work or your own company, is there a concrete purpose? If you have trouble finding or thinking of one, try to develop one. If you want to take it a step further, if it is where you work, bring it up to your boss for discussion. If you are the boss, then discuss with those you work with to see if a shared purpose can be developed.

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OPEN – Ordinary People, Extraordinary Network

network-treeLeaving my office the other day, I was feeling really excited about a client I had helped out. They were looking for information and I was able to put together data from various people who solved their issue. I said to myself, “I really have an extraordinary network of people to draw support from.” As soon as I said it, I thought back to Ted Coiné and Mark Babbitt’s, A World Gone Social. It was one of those moments where I felt like things had come full circle.

One of the many great items from the book is the OPEN concept; Ordinary Person, Extraordinary Network. The book asks the question whether you would rather have the top expert in the field, or one thousand ordinary people chosen at random. It is an interesting question. There are a few things that come to mind now that I have had time to process my thoughts.

What is an ordinary person? Is that me? I think I am an ordinary person in the sense that I don’t believe I am an outlier in many, if any, categories. This means that I, alone, will not likely solve a major mystery of the world. However, one of the most valuable lessons I have learned is that it is not just about what I can bring to the table myself, but what I can bring to the table with me.

It is through this, and similar experiences, that I have learned  that I truly have an extraordinary network; built through several different times in my life. First, I have two incredible parents who know someone in what seems like every industry out there. I am also a member of Sigma Nu Fraternity and was able to meet hundreds of people who I am personally connected with throughout my time on the General Fraternity staff. My current role in the NSBDC allows me to connect with any of my fellow business advisors in the over 1,000 SBDC offices around the country. My office is also housed at the University of Nevada, so I also have access to immensely intelligent minds spanning many subjects. And, finally, I have a wide network of friends throughout the country.

When it comes down to it, I have an extraordinary network that continues to grow. This offers me a tremendous opportunity to solve problems and get information from the people who know far more than I do about any given subject. Through this network, I feel like an old school telephone operator making connections from one side of the board to the other. This has been a great asset as I look for new and creative ways to solve problems that help others achieve success.

This has reiterated a powerful lesson to me – network and build relationships. I would rather have 1,000 ordinary people with each having a network of their own to help find solutions. While experts know their field, having 1,000, each with their own ideas, offers a level of strength that is difficult to match.

What is the best example of what you have been able to put together as a result of your network? Please add your response in a comment below.

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Related Articles:

A World Gone Social

A World Gone Social: Six Months Later

BYOD: Bring Your Own Device

laptop-phone-BYODFor a class project in the spring, I was part of a team that looked at bringing your own devices to work, instead of a company providing them. We reviewed the pros and cons of both phones and laptops. I use my personal laptop in the office and have remote access to our network, which means I can work from anywhere. The only time I am on my work desktop is when I need to print. I am also using my own phone. By doing this, I am able to be more productive through increased flexibility. Our findings were interesting and provided me new insights.

Cell phones were the first item we reviewed. The benefit of having a work phone with you at all times is that customers and coworkers can contact you, via phone, email and/or text, at all times. This can greatly increase efficiency, as well as customer service. When a company provides a separate work phone, we found that this requires many individuals to have two phones with them at any given time. That often leads to work phones not being taken from work or left at home when it is not during regular business hours, which defeats the purpose.

By allowing individuals to use their personal phone, the benefits can be seen through only needing to have a single phone. Call forwarding can be used so the employee’s phone number is not being given out or used by mistake if he or she leaves the company. There are also services that pay a stipend directly to the cell phone provider to ensure employees are not taxed on the money through a regular paycheck. Specific security measures are also available, at low-cost, which protects company information. Overall, we found the greatly reduced costs through allowing employees to use their own cell phone for work outweighed any risks.

Laptops were also reviewed as part of the project, but the outcome was quite different. In first looking at potential cost savings, there was certainly money to be saved. However, we found the savings, in this case, did not outweigh the potential risks. The security issues, theft/loss, viruses, repair, intellectual property, and commingling of data were too substantial to overlook. The main concern for any firm would be the potential loss of sensitive company data. The small percentage of dollars saved could not overcome the clear issues that were presented.

By undertaking this project, I certainly learned a lot about these different ideas and what benefits and risks arise with each. I certainly enjoy using my personal cellphone and laptop for work, but as a graduate assistant, both were my own choice. When outside of the university setting, I will certainly use this information when presented with the question of bringing your own device to work.

If you have seen specific risks or benefits that weren’t mentioned here, please let me know through a comment below.

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Family, Faith and Work: Prioritizing the Work/Life Balance

balanceThis is going to be a particularly busy week for me. I have three summer courses running simultaneously, several work projects are coming together at once, my fiancé is graduating from her residency program, one of my best friends is getting married and I am traveling 4 out of 8 days. However, this is what I live for. Nothing makes me happier than being busy and having so many wonderful things going on at the same time. The only way I am able to find a perfect balance is through a well-developed set of priorities.

Over the course of my life, I have been taught, and learned on my own, what elements are most important. Some people share these same items, and in the same order, but there are also many who do not. In ranked order, from most important, I value family, faith and work. That has come to mean some very specific things as I have continued through my career. I have also learned it is much easier to say this than implement it.

Family, as well as friends, is what drives me to succeed more than anything else. While I want to help as many people as possible, the motivation to do so is based upon the energy generated through my interactions with those who I love. For the most part, it is not about giving anything up to put family first, but about making shifts to what will allow for both to happen. The only instances when one is above another is when opportunities come along where only one event can be put in one slot of time. That is the test of the prioritization. And, it should be noted that it is not about what happens when as the outcome, but that first moment when you realize there is an issue.

Faith comes next, but also includes my personal values. This, too, is what drives me to do what I do and gives me the strength to push on and find success. I am extremely proud of the moments when I made the tough choice to stand up for something I believe in, not compromising my values, and put my faith first, however, there have also been lessons learned when that was not the case. My goal is always to use those moments where I fell short as a learning experience as it is a feeling I do not wish to have again.

Finally, there is work, which is one of the most time-intensive and important elements of my life. The opportunities I have had in my career have only served to help me define my prioritizes, learn and develop as an individual, and create value that impacts my personal life. My current position with the NSBDC is an excellent example of being able to develop a great passion for what I am doing. Doing this only pushes me closer to my first two prioritizes.

There are so many wonderful things going on in life and I can barely stop to think about it all at the same time. This next week is going to be very exciting and I can’t wait to learn from what transpires, continue to push to become the best version of myself and help as many people as possible along the way.

Think about your own priorities and how you make decisions. Then, think about the ones that went well and those that didn’t. Finally, think about what you learned and how to push yourself to be the best version of yourself.

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Working for the NSBDC

Nevada-color with bandWorking as a business development advisor for the Nevada Small Business Development Center (NSBDC) has allowed me to continue my goal of helping others achieve their greatest level of success. In fact, that is really at the heart of the NSBDC’s mission. Over the course of the last six months, I have learned a great deal and it has helped me to focus on what I would like to pursue in the future.

Since starting, many people have asked me what I do, so I created a video blog below to discuss the NSBDC and my role in the office.

The NSBDC is celebrating its 30th year of helping entrepreneurs and small businesses across Nevada. Funded through partnerships that include the Small Business Administration (SBA) and the University of Nevada, the NSBDC offers its services at no charge. This allows individuals and businesses to receive support they would otherwise not have been able to afford.

As a graduate assistant and businesses development advisor, I have been given a tremendous opportunity to help others. Specifically, I work with clients to provide whatever they need to succeed. This includes creating and reviewing business plans and financials, researching market and industry information, developing marketing plans and creating partnership that include various University departments. The clients I have been able to help range from needing help with financial projections for a loan to move to a larger location to generating a business plan to raise $20 million for a large project.

In addition to working directly with clients, I also write articles for the Reno Gazette-Journal, recruit and train student interns, writing grant proposals and helping to improve the efficiency of the office. Everything I have done for the NSBDC has been a great opportunity to use what I have learned through my MBA coursework, and continue to develop my professional skills.

To learn more about available resources, visit the websites for the NSBDC and SBA. To find a Small Business Development Center near you, click here.

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Being Wrong: And Being Able to Admit It

Wrong-SignI was reading an article that talked about someone being wrong and it got me thinking. This is quite possibly one of the most difficult subjects for me to write about. My own goal in this blog is to help self-identify areas I need to work on when each of those situations arise. For me, being wrong comes in several different forms and the results vary based on the situation.  Hopefully this post can also help you in your own efforts for constant self-improvement.

  • Learning through putting yourself out there: I know that one of the best ways for me to learn in the classroom is to be part of the discussion. Historically, I have always been someone who speaks up and gives an answer. This past semester was more of the same and I spoke up a lot in class. What I said was not always the correct answer and I have learned that is ok; though that was not an easy belief to accept. While I really don’t like being wrong (I have a fear that everyone will think I am less intelligent as a result), it does keep me focused on critical thinking. Whenever I get something wrong, I think about it and then make sure I understand why and move on; hopefully not to make the same mistake again.
  • Being wrong in a conversation: Another method of learning, which can also lead to being incorrect, is through one-on-one conversations. I have these all the time; ones specifically for the purpose of clarifying my own thoughts and to gain new information. I will often talk to one of colleagues at the NSBDC in this fashion. We each have our own areas of interest and knowledge, and are able to use each other to increase our own understanding. This gives me a chance to voice my thoughts and then get new perspective from someone well versed in that area; sometimes that means I am wrong. I use this time to dig deep, understand where I went wrong and truly grasp the new-found knowledge.
  • Being on the wrong side of an argument: For me, this is the worst kind of being wrong. There are certainly times when I am in a discussion and come to believe that my viewpoint is incorrect or not what I had intended. Swallowing my pride and accepting that I am wrong has taken time to become comfortable with. That is not to say it is easy; far from it. However, I have learned that I shouldn’t waste time being committed to something to simply save face. (This is most important when speaking to my fiancé.)

Accepting being wrong is a skill that I will always have to continue to develop. I have certainly come a long way over the past decade, but it is a constant struggle to be able to make course corrections and it will always a learning process.

Think about the last time you were wrong. Now, think about how you would handle that same type of situation differently in the future. Hopefully thinking about it now will make it easy to accept and move on from next time.

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5 Benefits of Using the Cloud

cloud-computingOne of my favorite advances in technology that has benefited me in my career is the emergence of The Cloud. I was first introduced to cloud computing in a previous job when I joined a new team towards the end of 2009. Since that time, I have been using cloud computing in one form or another on a daily basis. My main platform is Dropbox, but I also use Google Drive from time-to-time. Through my years of using these tools, I have developed a specific perspective on a few aspects of the technology.

Access: By using a cloud service, there is a great deal of flexibility given for working outside of an office. I am constantly traveling for work and do not always have my laptop with me. By using Dropbox, I can easily access all of my information on any computer with an internet connection. This makes giving a presentation easy because there is no need to create duplicate copies through emails or flash drives.

Mobility: Not too long after I started using Dropbox, they developed a mobile app for my iPhone. For me, this allowed for an almost exponential increase in functional use. By having access to all of my documents at all times through my phone, I had the ability to provide better customer service because answers that I would have needed to go back and check on were always at my fingertips.

Safety and Security: The nature of The Cloud is that information is not just sitting on one computer waiting to be lost at any moment when a hard drive fails or someone spills water on the keyboard. Backing up is almost redundant because your information is not just on one computer or device. Additionally, files are secured directly through protection from Dropbox. While hacking of their system does occur, I don’t believe the risk to my non-sensitive information outweighs the benefits.

Time Savings: The Cloud has also allowed me to save time on several different fronts. The first is for sharing files with myself on various computers. If I need to print a document, my files are already on the desktop I use for printing. This also saves time when sending a document to someone else. They are provided a link that will remain the same as I make updates; one location to find the latest draft.

Collaboration: Specific to Google Drive, being able to collaborate with others – in real-time – is one of the greatest benefits available. This is particularly useful when I am working with coworkers who are 3000 miles away. Again, this eliminates redundant drafts left out for people to mistakenly use.

The Cloud has greatly changed how I work and my productively. I wouldn’t call myself an early adopter, but I have been using this resource for many years and have tried to maximize the benefits with each new feature. I am certainly interested in seeing where the technology will go next.

If there are any other benefits you find from using The Cloud, please post them in a comment below.

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Working Remotely: Creating Your Own Office

computer-desk-homeofficeFor my third post on the topic of working remotely, I am going to discuss the most important aspect – actually getting work done. Getting out of the office is a unique feeling with endless opportunities. For me, the ideal was taking my laptop down to the beach and being able to watch the waves crash whenever I look up from the screen. After reality hit, I had to think about what was going to be most effective for day-to-day work. My process came together over years of trial and error. It still isn’t perfect, but neither is being in the office. Start with a plan: For some, it can be tough to get into the workday and just start going at it. It is important to remember that you must create your own ritual to follow. I like to get up, check the news, have breakfast, take a short walk (usually to the beach) and then take a look at my to-do list; all happening before 8am. Not being a coffee drinker, that is one step I never added that many others do. Scheduling time for specific items: Something I do, and even did today, is put together a full schedule of how I would spend my time; 8am – 9am emails, 9am – 10am blog, 10am – 2pm grant writing, etc. By doing this, I give myself small goals and little wins to knock off my checklist. This also helps to keep me focused on what is most important for that day through reviewing my entire to-do list. Work when you are most efficient: If you are an early riser and can knock out four hours’ worth of work between 6:30am and 8:30am, then use that time for the most difficult tasks for the day. The time I would otherwise spend on a commute is when I am able to be the most productive. If afternoons are when you start to slow down, then schedule meetings or do research; whatever requires less creativity. Working remotely isn’t always for home: There is a wide spectrum where I do my work. From the beach to my kitchen table, airports, coffee shops, bars and libraries in between, sometimes we don’t get to choose where we work. On any given day, I enjoy getting work down at a high level in the morning, and then going for a walk to a coffee shop or library to get out of the house. Some fresh air and new scenery helps me get a different perspective on whatever I am working on. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter where it is, only that it works for you. These ideas really are for any work environment, but especially when working remotely. Sometimes moving your laptop to the conference room of the office can be just the change you need. Working remotely is all about finding your own rhythm. I am constantly working to perfect mine. Please let me know your favorite place to work, either in the office or anywhere else, in a comment below. Related posts: Working Remotely: Friend or Foe? Working Remotely: Maximize the Benefits Image Credit

The Professional Business Traveler

IMG_0150Over the course of six years, I flew hundreds of thousands of miles on business trips. Along the way I was able to become part of the traveling elite with perks and benefits thrown at me from every direction. It wasn’t until I stopped traveling for work that I began to appreciate some of the finer things a high status level brought. Better seats, upgrades, free baggage and more miles were just some of them.

While I still travel quite a bit, there is always the memory of what I once had. In my video blog below, I will detail what stood out to me the most. For those who also lived this life, please add anything else that stood out to you.

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