SMB Nation Blog

SMB Nation has been serving the Bainbridge Island area since 2001, providing IT Support such as technical helpdesk support, computer support, and consulting to small and medium-sized businesses.

The future of transportation is already here

Apr 13, 2017 / Alex Moura

Let’s shake ourselves out of our four-wheeled stupor, look at the vehicles and devices being developed, and reimagine how we’ll move around our cities, says TED technology curator Alex Moura.

Humanity has come a long way from traveling by horse, but when we consider the future of transportation in cities, too many of us are still stuck in the 18th century. We still envision our streets full of four-wheel chariots (minus the horses), and our future as relying on cars or car-like vehicles, because that’s all we know. Why this myopia? For most automakers and transportation companies, adhering to the status quo is more profitable than experimenting; their business models, even for forward thinkers like Tesla, depend on their keeping drivers tethered with maintenance and service. And builders and urban planners have learned to limit their thinking because existing regulations and clunky political processes have made it nearly impossible to innovate without years of negotiations. As a result, we’re laying the foundations for a transportation future that carries forward the problems of the past.

But there can be another way forward, a new vision of transportation that upsets the four-wheel chariot model. And signs of it are already rolling across the landscape. By looking at some of the most advanced vehicles and devices out there — not just concept cars and prototypes but vehicles that are already in use or being road-tested in the real world — we can start to see a more interesting, less car-based future. Based on this new crop of transportation-related devices, I’m making the following four predictions:

Car

Courtesy of i-Road.

1. Cars will become much, much smaller.

While SUV and truck sales have been on the rise worldwide, that trend has been boosted by low gasoline prices, which can’t last given the finite supplies of fossil fuels. As we move forward, personal urban transportation will be dominated by individual vehicles. In 2015, Toyota launched a trial run of its three-wheeled i-Road electric vehicles — which resemble an enclosed motorcycle and fit only a driver and perhaps a small passenger — through a network of sharing stations in Tokyo. (We road-tested them at TED, too.) The project is now expanding throughout Japan, a nation with more electric car-charging stations than gas stations. In a bid to become the first country to embrace smart transportation systems, government officials have gone as far as trying to create international car-charging standards.

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Dave Ramsey's 5 Budgeting Tips for Small-Business Owners

America's foremost personal finance guru weighs in on small-business budgeting.

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JULY 31, 2017
 
Entrepreneur has an affiliate partnership with Hurdlr so we may get a share of the revenue from your purchase.
You may have heard of Dave Ramsey before—perhaps from one of the 500+ radio stations his program The Dave Ramsey Show is syndicated on, or one of his five New York Times bestselling books. Or maybe from his appearances on Oprah or 60 Minutes.
Regardless, Ramsey’s name is synonymous with personal finance. His show garners 12 million listens a week and millions more have seen him speak in person on the topic.
What he’s not as well known for is speaking directly to the needs of small-business owners and the growing freelance economy. However, his insights on financial success can be just as easily applied to the needs of business owners.
We were able to chat one-on-one with Ramsey to get his wisdom on how small-business owners can boost their profit and peace of mind with simple budgeting strategies.
Hurdlr: You hate debt. Is there any scenario in which you would say it's OK for an entrepreneur to take out a loan to start or expand their business? Or do you recommend always going 100 percent cash?
Ramsey: A lot of supposedly sophisticated and educated people spend an inordinate amount of energy trying to say that debt is good when used properly. Baloney! According to Census Bureau data, 60 percent of all small businesses opened in a given year need less than $5,000 to start. Don’t begin your dream saddled with huge debt.
As for expansion, remember to be the tortoise, not the hare. Slow and steady wins the race. We have expanded our business several times, and each time we systematically save toward a purchase goal and put that very specific amount as a line item in our monthly accounting—almost as if it were an expense.
Note: If you can’t save the money you won’t be able to make the payments anyway. I agree with former A.G. Edwards analyst, Peter Andrew who said, “What kills companies is debt; without debt, companies have the wherewithal to survive.” Debt is a destabilizing force that exponentially increases risk and the probability of fatal failure. 
 
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Keep Your Team on Track by using an Organized Workflow for your Content Marketing

By: Gloria Kopp

If you're often finding that projects are being delivered late, rushed to be completed or just not up to the standard you're expecting, you and your team could benefit greatly from the creation of a clear, organized workflow. Your workflow defines the patterns and processes by which you bring a project from conception to completion, andWorkflow helps ensure that you don't experience these setbacks that exist when there's no organization behind the production process. Follow these steps to start putting together a workflow that is tailored to your team and the projects you're working on, and watch the levels of quality and speed in your work soar.
 
Get on the same page with an Editorial Calendar
It's vital that you lay out all of the work that needs to be completed currently and those projects that are upcoming. An editorial calendar helps you see the overall big picture at a glance, and also allows you to drill down to more details about each individual project. Having this schedule available for each project ensures that the entire team is on the same page, no matter what someone's role is towards the completion of the project, they are able to follow the progress of the team as a whole. It gives each member a certain level of responsibility and accountability, pushing them to stay within the timelines set out. Share your calendar on Trello with your entire team, that way you know for certain that everyone is in the loop with what's coming up.
 
Batch Processing Methods make things more efficient
Speed things up by using batch processing to complete similar tasks, rather than doing each task on its own. You'll get more done in less time, helping to keep your projects on track for completion as scheduled. When you're working on optimizing your SEO, check out Yoast for information and courses on all levels of SEO. Improve your skills in SEO, and you'll find many other tasks much easier to complete. When you're looking to utilize your social media outlets, but don't have the time to dedicate to this task, Buffer is your resource for managing this. Schedule posts ahead of time and track the performance of your content easily.
 
Create A Workflow Checklist to ensure nothing is missed
Checklists are important, because you can set out exactly what needs to be done, and delegate each task to a team member. When you do this, there's no confusion about who is responsible for what, and what tasks are left to be done. Copywriting and proofreading are tedious and time consuming tasks that can be delegated to the professional teams at Assignment Help Canberra and Resumention, for fast, meticulous and quality work.
 
Work backwards, starting with your deadline
When creating your workflow schedule, first determine when your project will need to be completed, then work backwards to set the milestones along the way. It's much easier to set up your timeline this way, as opposed to working forwards towards your completion date. And, deadlines for each task need to be clearly defined with a specific date or time. Vague deadlines, like 'next week', can almost guarantee that the task won't be completed until midnight on the last day of the week. If you've got deadlines for sending out mass email blasts, Mail Chimp is a simple way to set up those emails ahead of time, so that you can be sure those deadlines aren't missed.
 
Prioritize projects
Each member of the team may have different ideas as to what project is more urgent or higher priority than another. It's up to you to prioritize each project and make the team aware of this hierarchy. The most important projects need to have the focus of everyone involved. If there is an overwhelming amount of work to be done, you may want to look at outsourcing some of the content creation to a professional at Essayroo. It's a great way to stay within your timeline for your most important projects and ensure you're getting high quality content.
 
Morning scrums help set the agenda for that day
Before the workday gets underway, a quick scrum can help you highlight the day's goals, get everyone on the same page and remind the team of the tasks that are next to be completed. It can also give you a chance to go over what's already been done and get updates on task deadlines that are approaching, to keep those team members accountable and on track. When video content is on deck for the day, Piksel can help you get this task completed, leaving you with a captivating final product.
 
Bullet Journal your workflow
A simple and flexible way to track and plan everything you've got to get done is by using a bullet journal. This organizational system can be totally customized to whatever suits you and your projects best. Keep ideas you find organized in here too, so you can easily refer back to them. Inbound will find and send you the best marketing articles for you to draw inspiration and ideas from.
 
Stay on track with your workflow plan
It can sometimes be easy to let your focus shift onto something different, but when you've got a set schedule and hard deadlines, it's important to stay on task with the project at hand. If not, you may quickly find yourself in the midst of several projects, but not getting much accomplished at all. It's much more productive to stay focused on one single project at a time, devoting your time and energy to that, then moving on to the next only when that first one is totally complete. Boomessays can help you complete the editing task at hand, so you can start moving onto what's next on your plate. Also remember to stick to the chain you've set out for you and your team. Jumping past steps can lead to confusion, missed tasks and complete lack of organization.
 
Getting and keeping everyone within a team on the same page throughout the completion of a project is vital to the quality and ultimate completion of that project. Organizing your workflow helps you ensure that you can get this done.
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Business 101: A reading list for lifelong learners

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Ready to level up your working knowledge of business? Here’s what to read now — and next.

Business 101, with Nilofer Merchant

First, read these 2 foundational books…
1. The Change Masters
Rosabeth Moss Kanter
Free Press, 1985

“A foundational book for your collection. When a colleague recently switched careers, I lent her this incredibly dog-eared book from college days. Rosabeth Moss Kanter helped coined the idea and term ’empowerment’ in the 1970s, a sure sign she was ahead of her time. Even though The Change Masters was published forty years ago, it’s relevant. Why? Because all progress is made by those that are change masters. Become one.”

2. Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing without Organizations
Clay Shirky
Penguin, 2008

“A few years back, I took out Clay Shirky’s book and found it filled with scribbles. While it’s almost passé now to talk of how Obama organized a large community to sweep into the presidency, Shirky’s book is textbook quality for what will happen next. It points to a new truth: Today, connected individuals can do what once only large organizations could. So look past the timeliness of his stories to see the timeless.”

Then, try these 4 to understand current needs…

1. Opposable Mind: Winning through Integrative Thinking
Roger Martin
Harvard Business Review, 2009

“I’m convinced that the way we create an abundant future of prosperity will require a global redesign of what is possible. And I think Roger Martin’s idea here could be key. When you hold two ideas as opposites, you’ll never find a way for both things to be true. But to go forward and reconcile some deep divides we have, we’re going to have to find new solutions to old problems through new thinking. Martin’s book is like yoga for the mind.”

2. Redesigning Leadership (Simplicity: Design, Technology, Business, Life)
John Maeda
MIT Press, 2011

“The real question is: How will we reinvent the world around us? Well, fundamentally, it will involve having folks take the big step away from just being themselves (the thing we all know best) and join in doing something with others (the people we fear may let us down). John Maeda’s book captures a modern leader’s challenge to switch gears and become a social, collaborative leader.”

3. The Difference
Scott E. Page
Princeton University Press, 2010

“Complex systems turn out to be adaptive and resilient, and therefore thriving, systems. Sounds like something our world needs more of, right? See how a math theorist argues for including difference –- that is, cognitive difference — into our lives, our workplaces and ultimately what we create. The value of this difference is a proven truth, not a feel-good mantra, for how you shape both better ideas and new solutions. It’s going to be central to what happens next.”

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MSFT SMB Partners – Shelter in Place!

IT’s the mean season at Microsoft with targeted SMB-related layoffs in the reorg wave and then the “how does it play out” conversations at the annual partner conference underway in Washington DC (now called Inspire; formerly Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC)). Here’s my take on it: shelter in place until the next quarter starting October 1, 2017. 
 
During the 4th of July week, and the start of FY18, Microsoft made long-anticipated announcements concerning layoffs and reorganizations.image1 Proper PR communications suggested it was in the sales and marketing roles primarily overseas. The reality is different. 
 
Cindy Bates. I can now confirm that Cindy Bates, VP of SMB (US) has left the company. In her role she oversaw Partners, Customers and Distributors. She did not oversee the Microsoft Stores. On an individual basis, Bates is a friend and I’ll know she’ll do fine and land right-side up. Sources indicate she has already been invited to join two Boards of Directors. Say what you must but the departure is significant as she was a legendary force in the SMB practice area at Microsoft. 
 
Cindy Bates Team. Sadly, there are other critical exits underway. Steven Fielding and his team are out. He reported to Cindy and was a key SMB Cabinet member in the PR, communications and messaging area. Other departures are expected and I’ll keep you posted. 
 
SMB State Department. With the Microsoft Inspire conference being held in Washington DC, I cannot resist a political analogy. It seems like Microsoft is dismantling the US SMB business organization. Much like the current president and administration are starving the State Department. So, what does this look like? It means we’ll have SMB embassies without Ambassadors. SMB diplomacy will screech to a halt. One long-time SMB Nation partner from SoCal whom I spent time with here at Inspire is bamboozled about Microsoft’s commitment to the beloved old timy SBS crowd (yes – he wants his on-premises server back). Microsoft’s action were not a vote of confidence.  
 
What’s My Job? Internally my Microsoft blue badge sources indicate that things aren’t clear yet. There are likely two more layoff waves in the next six months. People have new roles as of last week without guidance. It’s akin to the White House being paralyzed over the Russia thing. This will take the summer to sort it all out. 
 
SMB Acronym Missing. I listened intently to all of the keynotes. I personally didn’t hear the acronym “SMB” once. I heard the term “Small Business” and there was even a keynote reference on Day Three to “Small Business Server” but the term SMB has become persona non grata. I stopped counting how many times I heard the term “Inspire” after 100 instances. 
 
Lead Generation. The One Commercial Partner initiative is a highlight. And within this simplification and consolidation strategy, the lead generation service is the crown jewel. Readers might recall I spent two years in a Seattle-based Big Data startup called LeadScorz so I’ll dig deeper into this area and report back. I can tell you an SMB Nation member never met a warm lead she/he didn’t like! 
 
This is my first report from Microsoft Inspire in Washington DC. Keep it right here for more analysis. 
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