Over the last 20 years, I’ve been blessed to not only run my own small business, but to work with hundreds of other small business owners, managers and startup founders. I’m fanatical about helping entrepreneurs to reach their career goals by starting, running and growing successful small businesses. Sometimes they grow into very large businesses – and that’s fun, too! But the crux of my career has been focused on helping to establish and promote companies in the early stages of their lifecycles, and I really enjoy those challenges.
That’s why I was so happy to be honored last week when I was named a Small Business Influencer Top 100 Champion and Expert in the 2013 Small Business Influencer Awards – produced by Small Business Trends, an award-winning online publication, serving over 6,000,000 small business owners, stakeholders and entrepreneurs annually, and SmallBizTechnology.com, a media company that produces online content and live events educating small and mid-sized companies on how to strategically use technology as a tool to grow their businesses. The awards honor those who are influential to small businesses in North America, through the products, services, knowledge, information or support they provide to the small business market.
I’m flattered to be in this list with some former clients (Brainshark, Constant Contact), companies I admire and use daily (Dropbox, American Express OPENForum, Evernote, Etsy, FedEx, Hootsuite, Hubspot, Plantronics, Vistaprint) and industry folks that I admire such as John Jantsch, Laurie McCabe, Dave Kerpen, Larry Kim and Aliza Sherman. Congratulations to all the other winners and honorable mentions, as well as the nominees. I fully support and cheerlead anyone who works in, and strives to help, small business. You can read about all the champions, here.
I simply wanted to say thank youto those who voted for me, the judges and most certainly my team at PerkettPR. They are not only a huge part of making our national clients successful through smart digital marketing and PR, but they are also an inspiration to me every day to keep my own small business innovative, fun and alive.
You can read additional details here, visit the award site or follow along on Twittter by searching #SMBInfluencer.
This week’s “Effective Executive” interview is with Shelli Trung, Founder of reality date-a-thon website, 3six5dates.com. The social experiment follows the adventures of four women in four international cities, all going on about 100 dates each, within one year. Shelli was recently listed as one of Australia’s Top 10 female startup entrepreneurs, and is frequently quoted in the media on Marketing and Branding for startups. She is currently located in New York, discussing partnership opportunities to grow 3six5dates – including turning the dating stories into comics and animations.
How did you come up with the concept of 3six5dates?
I had set myself a goal at the age of 25 to have started my own business by the age of 30. With this in mind, I started researching the range of businesses that would suit the lifestyle I wanted. I knew I wanted to create something fun that would not tie me to a specific location. I love storytelling and was specifically inspired when watching Nora Ephron’s “Julie and Julia,” which is about a woman who cooks through all of Julia Child’s recipes in one year while simultaneously blogging about it. I combined this curiosity with the gap that I felt the TV series “Sex and the City” left behind when it finished up. I didn’t want the voice of the mature, professional, single woman to fade into the background. 3six5dates is an attempt to fill that gap in some way.
As someone who is passionate about female entrepreneurship, can you provide some ways that women can empower themselves and embrace entrepreneurship?
Regardless of whether you are male or female, going out on your own is exciting but can also be scary. Historically, women have let men lead the charge. However, I am seeing more and more women stepping up to the challenge, which is uplifting.
Women need to recognise that their unique talents – such as being excellent relationship builders, natural multi-taskers and the simple fact that women make more purchasing decisions than men – to be great assets to starting a business. The key thing that has really made the difference for me, is to go out and get your support system if you are not surrounded by other entrepreneurs. I certainly wasn’t when I started! But it is this single reason alone that has sustained me through the tougher moments – and there will be plenty of those. Learning to ask for help is another key factor. Women tend to think they can do it all – but they should realise that they don’t have to! Burning out is the fast track to wanting to give up!
Can you tell our audience about any obstacles you faced when creating your Company and how you overcame those obstacles?
At one stage, we were trying to work on 10 projects at the one time and not completing any of them. It was definitely a lack of focus – trying to do too much and accomplishing nothing. We instead now concentrate on – and are committed to delivering – three larger project outcomes every quarter.
How do you manage your busy team of volunteers and what tools have you found to be effective on a day-to-day basis?
I can work pretty much anywhere there is an internet connection. Being a virtual team does come with its unique challenges. We make use of a lot of online tools – many of them free.
We run all our meetings and training through Skype, which allows us to share one another’s computer screens – extremely useful for design work.
All our files are shared on Dropbox and we are also heavy users of Evernote to keep track of tasks. To minimize the number of emails we send one another, we have a 3six5dates private group to relay any team announcements.
Most of my team, including myself, have their emails feed into their phones which has been a great time saver.
As the sole founder of your Company, how do you keep up with the everyday demands?
I have a wonderful team who are very supportive and make me feel like a superstar so I don’t feel like a solo founder!
I think running any business effectively and ensuring you are leading and driving the vision – as opposed to working ‘in’ it – requires that you automate and delegate as much as possible. This means equipping, empowering and trusting your team once they are trained.
What is next for you for the remainder of 2012?
3six5dates has spent the last six months developing strategic partnerships with dating organizations in the US. We have and will continue to roll out cross-promotional activities with them, including comics and animations.
In addition, I am working on launching another startup in Australia called MenuHub with a good friend and co-founder. As the name suggests, it is food-related and early testing has shown extremely positive results so far. I am excited about this new challenge!
The rest of the year looks to be full of possibilities!
It’s no secret that the daily ins and outs of being a web-worker are filled with steady streams of inbound information. Tweets, emails, instant messages, RSS feeds and your Facebook news stream are just some of the sources of links to all sorts of great blog posts and news articles that beg for your attention.
Saving it for later.
How many times have you clicked on a link to find an article that you’d love to read, but just don’t have the time to get to it right then and there? Instead, you leave the browser tab open with the intention of getting to it during lunch or later in the day. Sure, it’s convenient to have all those open tabs at the ready for when you have a free moment – but the tax for that type of convenience is an increasingly sluggish desktop and a “fun” romp through your browser’s history to find all those pages again after it decides to crash.
I’m also shocked at the number of web-workers who still use their web browser’s built-in bookmarking tool to save links for future reference. This method certainly provides easy access to the information while at that specific machine, but requires extra steps or plugins to sync the bookmarks to other machines. There’s also the unexpected machine meltdown that could take years worth of non-backed up bookmarks away to the great beyond.
And the password is…
Along with all the information and great links we like to save for future reference comes the need to create new user accounts on the numerous web-based applications that launch each year (or month!). Unfortunately, the majority of web-workers out there still lean towards using the same password across all their user accounts. While easy to remember, using a single password out in the wild is a recipe for disaster if one of those sites happens to have a security breach.
Imagine the task of trying to remember all the websites you’ve registered with over the past few years and changing their passwords to protect your personal information and identity. Oh, and while we’re at it, writing your passwords on post-it notes and placing them under your keyboard or mouse pad is not a recommended method of remembering them either. Come on, you know you’ve done that before.
Relief at last..
Fortunately, there are a number of great options for saving information for both short term consumption and long term reference. Being able to access stored nuggets of information from multiple platforms and devices is always near the top of my list when looking for software solutions to make my information processing easier to manage. And of course, finding apps that are free doesn’t hurt either!
Here are three of my favorite applications for keeping up with my daily flow of information and helping me remember things when I’m in the thick of it:
Instapaper has become an essential tool in my daily information processing workflow. It’s the perfect application for those who are constantly finding new online articles to read but don’t have the time to read them right then and there. With a simple click of a bookmarklet button, the text of the page your browser is on is sent to your Instapaper account for later consumption.
All your saved articles are then easily accessible from the Instapaper website or the official Instapaper iPhone or iPad app. Android users can currently access their accounts via a compatible web browser as well.
There are several additional options for saving information to your account, depending on where you are discovering the content you’d like to save. Each Instapaper account comes with a unique email address that can be used to forward links and email newsletters for future reading. Instapaper’s popularity has also caught the attention of many iPhone and iPad application developers and has resulted in over 130 apps that support sending pages directly to your account.
Instapaper accounts are free (ad-supported) to create and try and will support up to 10 saved articles. The Pro upgrade is just $4.99, allows up to 500 articles and offers a wide variety of other features, including iPad support.
This app definitely excels at “deferred reading” but is not a solution for long-term information storage. My next pick will fit your needs If you’re looking for something geared towards building a library of information to continually reference.
I was a huge fan of Microsoft’s Onenote prior to switching to the Mac. Its ability to act as a “digital notebook” to store text, images and webclips into definable sections made it an essential tool for creating a growing knowledge base. Since Onenote is not available on the Mac, I explored comparable solutions like Yojimbo to fill my needs.
Then came Evernote. Just as Instapaper became essential for my short-term information saving, Evernote has become the key to my long-term saving needs. Evernote allows you to store text, a web page, a photo, audio and other media. Everything you store is indexed and made searchable. You can also place your notes into different notebooks for further organization. This introductory video shows a few examples of how it can be used.
As shown in the video, Evernote is accessible everywhere via syncing. It supports a huge number of platforms including Windows, Mac, iPhone, iPad, Android, Blackberry, Windows Mobile and the Web. Best of all its free. They do have Premium and Sponsored accounts for increased storage, but the average user will probably not come close to outgrowing the limits of the free version for quite some time.
1Password from Agile Web Solutions is the perfect application for anyone who has ever forgotten a password. My guess is that includes you. It permanently eliminates the need to use the same easily-guessable, weak passwords that you have become accustomed to using, by creating string unique passwords for you that can be easily recalled from your web browser by using a single rememberable password that you define.
1Password also allows you to store other vital information such as credit card numbers that can also be recalled with your “one password” and filled into the appropriate field during checkout time when shopping online. Other items like software license and custom secure notes can be stored in 1Password as well. All information placed in its database is encrypted using AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) and 128-bit keys which would take “millions of years” to be decrypted using a brute force attack.
The following video will give you a good idea of how it works:
1Password was initially developed for the Mac however, versions are now available for the iPhone, iPad and Windows. Free 30 day trials for Mac and Windows are available, and there are a variety of licensing options to choose from to unlock it beyond that.
All three of these applications have become an essential part of my daily workflow. Do you currently use any of them? How have they changed the way you manage your daily influx of information? If any of these are new to you, then I hope you’ll give them a try. Please let us know about your experiences or recomendations via the comments!