August 25, 2019

Options for Organizing Business Cards

You’ve just returned to the office after another networking event.  You dump those freshly-acquired business cards on your desk.  You set aside a few for follow-up emails, and idly finger the rest, admiring tag lines, graphics and logos (or not.) But what should you do with all those business cards?  You’ll give it some thought later, but for now, into the desk drawer they go.

Organizing business cards can be a challenge; most of the obvious approaches have drawbacks:

  • Dumping cards in a drawer or box = an unorganized, unsearchable mess.
  • Storing cards in a business card binder = no way to organize in a sensible way without rearranging old cards as new ones are added.  Who’s got time for that?! 
  • Alphabetizing cards = How? By last name? Business name? Category?  It’s tough to stay consistent, and again, time consuming.    
  • Entering every card you receive into your database = Labor intensive, and you may be left with an address book of strangers.

There are steps you can take to better manage all the business cards that come your way.  After all, the point of taking someone’s card is to take action—to connect, not start a meaningless collection.

Here are some options for organizing business cards:

If you’re strictly interested in an old-school, non-computerized system, consider using an accordion file or binder with labeled dividers.  Organize cards by category, rather than alphabetically.  That is, arrange cards by networking groups, professional associations, geographical area, vendors—whatever categories make sense to you.  This isn’t a perfect system, but it’s better than a shoebox of cards crammed under your desk.

Enter business cards manually in your computer database, whether it be Outlook, an email address book, or a more business-oriented CRM (Customer Relationship Management) program, such as ACT!, BatchBook, or Zoho.

Even better, scan business cards to your computer.  There are several scanning options:

  • A portable scanner designed for business cards
  • A high powered scanner for all types of documents, such as Fujitsu’s ScanSnap (recommended if you really want to go paperless)
  • Shoeboxed (www.shoeboxed.com) a service in which you mail in your business cards (or receipts, or any kind of document) to be scanned and organized to your cloud-based Shoeboxed account.  You can also import contact info to Outlook, Google Contacts, or your favorite CRM.
  • A smartphone app such as CamCard or CardMinder. Snap a photo of a business card with your phone; the card’s image is saved, and data is added to your contacts and /or synced to another program you may be using, such as Evernote.
  • What are the advantages of scanning business cards? You contacts are searchable and easily accessed on your computer or mobile device, so you can throw away or recycle that box of cards with confidence.

No matter what system you choose, be selective about keeping every business card you receive.   It’s ok to discretely dispose of cards that you’re unlikely to ever need.

Finally, when you meet a promising new contact, immediately schedule a time to follow up.  After all, unless you take action, your networking efforts will go nowhere, no matter how well you organize all those cards.

 

 

Back Up Your Business

Japan’s devastating earthquake and tsunami has left the world reeling. 

The disaster gave me a much needed wake up call, since I live in earthquake prone Southern California.  Prior to this weekend, my family had only a rudimentary disaster preparedness kit, and our emergency plan was hazy at best.  There was no excuse for this, given where we live (not to mention my profession.)  We are now better prepared.

In the event of a natural disaster, the personal safety of our loved ones is paramount.  But what about your business?  If your office or work space were obliterated, would you be able to salvage your vital documents and data?

You probably already back up your computer, but if you’re exclusively using an external hard drive, it would most likely be lost in a flood, fire, or other disaster.  That’s why I now recommend using an online backup service, such as Carbonite (www.carbonite.com) or Mozy (www.mozy.com).   I’ve been using Carbonite for a while, and it’s a great reassurance.  It automatically backs up any new files (though you can set your preferences.)  Carbonite is currently $54.95 per computer / per year, and worth every penny for the peace of mind.

How about your paper files, documents, and receipts?  To what degree would your business be impacted if they all went up in smoke?  Consider going (almost) paperless.  There are some powerful scanners on the market that can scan multiple pages, receipts, business cards and photos in seconds.  Check out Neat Receipts (www.neatco.com) and the ScanSnap (www.fujitsu.com).  If you do decide to digitize your business files, remember to back them up—preferably on the cloud. 

What else are you doing to protect your business from a disaster?  Has Japan’s recent tragedy spurred you to take action, either in your office or at home?

Sarah Thacker Adoption Coaching & Consulting Services

Sarah Thacker and Family

I’m very pleased to introduce the first Featured Business “mompreneur,” Sarah Thacker, founder of Sarah Thacker Adoption Coaching and Consulting Services,  www.sarahthacker.com.

I recently had the privilege of participating with Sarah in a coaching program.  Though we’ve yet to meet each other in person, I can confidently say that the world could use more people like Sarah.  She’s smart, generous, dedicated to family, and passionate about her business.

Sarah is uniquely situated to help prospective adoptive parents because she has been through the process twice: she adopted from the US foster system, and later, from abroad.  Both avenues are filled with challenges that don’t necessarily mirror one another.  Sarah knows the ropes, and is ready to assist other parents on their journey.

Q.  What brought you and your family to adoption—twice?

A.  A lot of things, really! One of the biggest factors was when our oldest son was in first grade, there was a boy, Kaden, in his class whose dad was already in jail and his mom was headed for jail. Through a series of events, we agreed to have him live with us for several months. Kaden helped us realize that we could love a child that was not born to us. After a trip to El Salvador and Honduras doing relief work, we realized that there were so many children needing homes; we just needed to go for it. The first time we adopted from the US foster system and the second time from Haiti.

Q.  What was the inspiration behind starting Sarah Thacker Adoption Coaching and Consulting Services?

A.  There is a misconception in the world that once a child is placed in a loving family that there is a fairytale ending, that love is enough. That isn’t true. Adopting is hard work, especially when the children aren’t babies. I read on various blogs and saw first hand in my circle of adoptive friends that many parents were struggling with attaching with their new child, and were confused about how to help their child heal. I’m not a therapist, but a coach: someone to cheer parents on, help them examine their feelings, find the resources they need, and push for a better future.

Q.  According to your clients—and your experience, of course—what is the greatest challenge in the adoption journey?

A.  There are two main things: People who haven’t adopted yet say their biggest challenge is finances. I agree that there needs to be some reform in adoption regarding finances. I also believe that when there is a will, there is a way. It also costs near nothing to adopt from foster care! Also, people who have already brought their children home, state that helping their child heal from their past is a very real challenge.

Q.  Tell us about your upcoming Adoption Discovery Class.  Who did you have in mind when you designed the course?

A. I have a fantastic mentor, Jen Powter (www.jenpowter.com)  who helped me get my business going with a blast! She taught me so much about launching my business, all in six weeks time. I’ve put the information to use and I feel really good about where things are headed. She mentioned in her class that she was teaching us in six weeks what it took her one and a half years to learn. We were on the fast track.

I took that to heart and realized that I wanted to teach people in a few weeks, everything I had learned about adoption. There are over 144 million orphans in this world, and the numbers aren’t going down. I wanted to be able to offer a fast-track to adoption class. I want to get people the information they need to make an informed decision and to inspire them about the possibilities.

Q.  You have five kids ages 11-3…I don’t even need to ask how busy you are!  What’s your strategy for balancing work and home?  Specifically, how do you create the time to grow your business amid all the other demands on your time?

A.   Balancing work and home is something that I am constantly working on! I think one of the keys for me is to be fully present in whatever I’m doing at the time. If my kids are home and I’m spending time with them, I really try to listen to them, to be attentive, to meet their needs. If I’m working on my business, I really try to shut out the outside world and give my business my full attention. That is easier said than done! Since I have a limited time to work on my business, I try to be very intentional about what I work on, trying to focus on things that will really grow my business. I’d love to have an entire full day to work on my business, but the reality is that I sneak pieces here and there, usually in the early morning hours, during naptime, and late at night. And while I’d like to work on my business more, because I love what I do, my kids will only be 11, 10, 9, 7, and 3 this year, and I don’t want to miss a thing. I wouldn’t have had so many kids if I didn’t absolutely love being a mom!

Didn’t I mention that Sarah is awesome? This is an entrepreneur with heart.  Her Adoption Discovery Class starts Nov. 3, and I want to help spread the word.  How about it? Please retweet and share this post, and if you know anyone who has even hinted about adopting, let them know about Sarah Thacker Adoption Coaching and Consulting Services.  www.sarahthacker.com

Littleweird

John Pedigo, Founder of Littleweird

I’m super excited to introduce Timeline Organizing Consultants’ first Featured Business profile….John Pedigo and his homegrown business, Littleweird. 

John is a San Francisco artist with a Haight Street address (how’s that for urban art cred?) He produces and sells screen printed t shirts featuring his original art.  He has a shop on etsy.com, http://www.etsy.com/shop/Littleweird, where you’ll find tees for men, women, and onesies for the kiddos.  Fond of classic cars?  You may as well stop reading now and click on his site—you’re going to love what you find. 

John’s past work life was online—most recently, in the video game industry (yes, more cool cred,)  until he joined the ranks of the unemployed due to a mid-recession layoff.  Never missing a beat, he stepped into his next role: stay at home dad to his then-infant, now-toddler daughter, Sam—the fourth cutest kid on the planet (after my own three, of course.)      

Full-time parenting is a wonderful job.  But exhausting.  Nevertheless, John worked up some entrepreneurial mojo and decided.  He made the commitment to start Littleweird, and it’s been full steam ahead ever since.     

Q.  What was the inspiration for starting Little Weird?   Why now? 

A.  I’d gone to a local DIY fair, indie-mart.com, and saw some of the shirts being produced and I thought to myself, “I could do this.” I had thought about making my own shirts for a while, in fact, I had made shirts for friends in high school and had some experience screen printing.  Being unemployed, I had the time to put together a series of screen printed shirts and stationary, and showed up at the next fair with my own booth. I am doing this now to get some traction with some of my designs that will lead me to something good, I hope… 

Q.  As a home based business, where do you print your shirts? 

A.  Due to child safety requirements (the safety of my hardware, not the child) I do all of my screen printing in my laundry room with the help of my wife. We have a big tub for clean up and I store most of my materials in there. I attach my equipment to a table and spread out on top of the washer and dryer.  (Note: this organizer approves! Always strive to set up a system where you can store your materials out of site when not in use.)

Q.  As both an artist and dad to a busy toddler, how do you manage your creativity?  Do you set regular hours, or work when inspiration strikes?

A.  I do some of my creative work while my daughter takes a nap in the early afternoon, usually about 2 hours. The rest of my creative time comes late at night when everyone in the house is asleep. The printing happens when my daughter is asleep for the night but my wife hasn’t gone to bed yet…I need her help most of the time. (Note: John’s wife, Laura Vaudreuil Pedigo , is the Executive Director of Refugee Transitions and one awesome woman.  I had to give a shout out.)  

Q.  What’s been your greatest challenge as a start up business?

A.  Actually doing it…you can talk the talk, but can you walk the walk? Cheesy, yes…true, yes. I think there are millions of people who would like to be doing their own thing, but think they don’t have what it takes to step out and do it. Once you take action, start buying supplies, thinking about products and buying that first booth rental, you realize it’s not that hard. All you need is a little push.  For me, it was a bunch of inspirational (cheesy, but true) messages that I saw on the web…”Take the shot, who cares if you make it or not”, and “You took the shot that a lot of others are afraid to…”  (Note: there’s nothing cheesy about that finding that “push.”) 

Q.  What, so far, has been most rewarding?

A.  Getting feedback from customers who love and buy your work.  A great day selling shirts comes in a really close second. 

If you’re in San Francisco (lucky you,) be sure to stop by the Littleweird booth at either Indie Mart, or SF Market.  For the rest of us, the etsy site will have to do (p.s. free shipping in the US!)  http://www.etsy.com/shop/Littleweird

Introducing Featured Business Profiles

I’ve been busy lately, beyond organizing offices and the inevitable paper piles.  I’ve been on the hunt, networking like crazy, and turning to the connectors in my life. (Readers of Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point will recognize the term.)  My quarry? Small, primarily home-based business owners who have answered the entrepreneurial call.

 This week, I’ll be introducing Timeline Organizing Consultants’ first Featured Business.  This is my way of giving a brief shout-out to solopreneurs who are out there making things happen, sharing their expertise with the world, and building their future, one day at a time.

Twice a month, you’ll be meeting individuals from all walks of life: designers, artists, educators, coaches, foodies, and many more.  I’m starting locally, but thinking globally—my first few profiles will focus on people I personally know, however distantly.  Expect a heavy dose of “mompreneurs,” a demographic near and dear to me.  These individuals (or partners) will be at different stages in their entrepreneurial journey, from start-up, to gaining-momentum, to out-and-out unstoppable.  Each has a story to tell.  And though my profiles will be brief, you’ll definitely want to click through to their sites, to learn more about their work and their offerings. 

The Featured Business entrepreneurs are not affiliates of mine, meaning, I don’t profit on bringing them to your attention. I endorse their products and services, of course, but more than that, I’m inspired by their creativity, or passion, or chutzpah.  These are businesses with heart and ambition—the most winning of combinations, as far as I’m concerned.

I have about three months’ worth of Featured Business profiles lined up; beyond that, I’m open.  I’m excited about all the business owners— strangers, at the moment—that I’ll be connecting with in the near future.  I’ll be asking for your help, too.  So, start thinking of the inspiring people in your circle who have taken the entrepreneurial leap of faith, and let me know about them.

Thinking on Paper

It’s 6:15 on a Thursday evening.  I’m parked on the soccer field in my battered folding chair.  This is my sixth kid-activity of the week, four more to go.  (A few overlap, mercifully.)  As a busy soccer/flag football/dance mom, I spend several hours per week parked on various fields.  Since I’m also running a business, I grasp whatever pockets of productive time I can, otherwise nothing gets done.  (Except the laundry—all those uniforms.  But laundry won’t grow my business.)

I always bring a notebook and pen to these practices.   (I could bring a laptop, but I’m not that parent.  And yes, I pay attention during games.  Strictly eyes on the field.)  I use this down time to strategize, to brainstorm, and to create.  Writing keeps me on track towards making good on my goals.  It can do the same for you.      

Let’s say you have an idea swirling in your head, keeping you up at night.  It may be something as grand as inventing the next it-product, or more modest in scale, like designing your logo.  So you’ve got this idea, great.  That’s a start. Ideas are the life force of our creativity, after all.  But, unless you actually act on your ideas, you may as well keep them swirling in that head of yours.

So how do you begin to bring some clarity to your vision? How do you wrangle those whispers of ambition, those fragmented goals, and shape them into an action plan? By thinking on paper.

Brainstorming. Brain dumping.  Mind mapping.  These are variations of the same process, basically pouring all of your thoughts on paper, no matter how jumbled.  Doing so will help you a) clarify what you want to accomplish, and b) create a road map to get you there.

 Imagine you want to go into business as a professional dog walker.  You’re excited—you love dogs, and you’re thrilled at the prospect of setting your own hours, and answering only to your four-legged clients.  This is, however, your first entrepreneurial venture.  Where to start?

Grab a piece of paper, and do an interrogative brain dump.  That is, write down every question you can think of that relates to starting a dog walking business.  Write quickly.  It’s ok to be messy.  You may come up with questions like these:

  • Do I need a business license?
  • Where do I get one?
  • Will I need insurance?  What kind?
  • How many professional dog walkers are in my geographic area?
  • What do they charge?
  • Do I need any training or certification?
  • How do I market my services?

And so on.

Once you’ve finished brain dumping, the next step is to group the questions into general categories, such as

  • Business start up requirements
  • Monthly overhead
  • Market research
  • Marketing

 And so on.  Once you have identified the categories, continue the process by brainstorming all the ways you might go about finding answers to your questions.  For example:

Business Start Up Requirements

Do I need a business license?

  1. Call City Hall’s Business Division
  2. Ask local friends who own businesses
  3.  Do an online search

Or,

Marketing

How will I market my business?

  1. Business cards
  2. Flyers at dog parks
  3.  Website
  4. Referrals
  5. Social Media   

Keep going, until you have several possible solutions to all of those questions you came up with.  You have just created an action plan.  This is how your idea–your dream–gets out of your head, and starts to become a reality.       

There’s something incredibly powerful about thinking on paper.  It’s how “I’m thinking about” turns into “I’m going to.”

Go ahead.  Grab a piece of paper and see where it takes you.

10 Benefits of Solid Organization for the Entrepreneur

  1. Ability to  find anything within five minutes
  2. Reduced stress and frustration
  3. Better defined boundaries between work and family time
  4. Organized financial records = peace of mind 
  5. More time to focus on what is truly important to you
  6. Knowing where to place every piece of paper that crosses your desk
  7. Manageable to-do lists
  8. No more forgotten appointments or missed deadlines
  9. Uncluttered space = uncluttered mind
  10. Stuff gets done