This post was updated on April 12, 2018, with updated information and more tips.
Spring is officially upon us. We’re excited about the warmer weather in Chicago and Minneapolis. It’s is often the time when most people like to do some cleaning and organizing. If you’re a small business owner, you may want to consider extending spring cleaning further than your bedroom closet. Cleaning out and auditing different elements of your small business can save you time and money. It can also help you plan for the months ahead.
Below are eight tips for spring cleaning your small business.
As a busy small business owner, efficiency is vital. As your business continues to succeed, you will be cramming more work into each day. Reviewing your processes for proposals, billing, scheduling and other tasks to make sure you’re not spending unnecessary time on them will help you be prepared to manage more clients and work.
If you’re not one to keep your email account(s) tidy on an ongoing basis, take some time to delete old spam messages, newsletters and other emails you no longer need. Think about organizing your inbox for ongoing use too by creating folders for important clients or projects. Gmail and other email clients provide ways to filter emails into folders automatically, which can help you maintain an organized inbox longterm.
If a project has been delayed for quite a while, schedule time with the client to come up with a game plan to finish it. Think of it as spring cleaning for your brain. Being able to get a project off your plate will allow you to focus more on new projects and clients.
Update your web site with current news or projects. If old photos or information is still on your site, switch it out with current content. While you’re at it, make sure your information on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and other social media profiles is accurate as well.
If your web site or branding looks a little outdated, consider a new web site or logo. It has been reported that 30-60% of web site traffic is now coming from mobile devices. If your web site is not responsive (mobile and tablet-friendly), it may be worth the investment to upgrade it.
Take a few moments to review your income, payroll, expenses and other financial information. Is your income where you expect it to be? Are you spending more money on certain services than you should? Simple things like reviewing your cell phone provider plan and adjusting it can result in less cost and better service.
If your computer’s desktop is so full of files that you can’t see your background photo, it’s probably time to clean it out. Files and folders for old projects could potentially be moved onto an external hard drive. Doing so will give you more space on your main drive and will likely make your computer run faster.
The day-to-day hustle of running a startup or small business can cause you to forget about your business goals. Review those goals to ensure that they’re still accurate. If need be, adjust them to better suite current opportunities and trends in your industry.
Clutter can be distracting. Go through files, receipts, books and other items in your office. Consider storing items you haven’t used for a while elsewhere.
Once you’ve gotten rid of the clutter, you may want to give your office a good cleaning. Fortunately for members of Assemble’s Chicago and Minneapolis coworking spaces, our spaces are cleaned nightly by professional cleaners.
Looking for a beautiful short-term office for your small business? Schedule a tour of one of our Chicago or Minneapolis coworking spaces today.
The holiday season is a great time to celebrate the year, enjoy friends and family, and get some much needed rest before the new year. If you’re not prepared for the time off work, it can be more stressful than necessary though. Below are five tips to help you ensure you can enjoy the holiday season.
Ask clients and coworkers about their holiday plans and tell them when you’ll be out of the office. For those you work closely with, remind them more than once. Doing so will ensure that they aren’t surprised when they get an auto-response email or you’re not available to help them.
When you set up your auto-response email, make sure it clearly indicates when you’ll be back to work and what to do when there is an urgent matter. A vague auto-response can lead to confusion and extra work when you return.
Make your holiday plans as early as possible, then add them to your work calendar. Doing so will allow you to schedule projects and meetings around your time off. You’ll avoid having to reschedule meetings or cram in extra work time before and after your vacation.
If you’re planning on taking your work laptop with you, be sure to back it up before you leave. Accidents can happen and it will be a much less enjoyable trip if you lose important work because of a computer mishap. It would be a good idea to backup any external hard drives, tablets and other work devices as well before you leave.
It can be hard to focus on work when you know there’s some time off in store. If you don’t complete projects or leave work unfinished, it will be hard to disconnect during your vacation. Try to stay focused and complete the work necessary to stay on schedule when you return from vacation.
Short-term flexible office space is the perfect working environment for many of us. That’s why Assemble’s members love working on our spaces, and why even large companies are starting to use spaces like Assemble. If you’re an entrepreneur or small business owner and are considering a coworking or shared office space, how do you know what options work best for you? It can be difficult to decide whether to acquire a coworking membership or to have a private office in a shared office space. Below are some things to consider.
If you’re an architect, fashion designer or someone else who needs space to work effectively, a private office may be better for you. Coworking memberships typically require you to take your things with you after your work day. Carrying a bunch of supplies around isn’t always fun. Having your own private office will allow you to leave your work supplies in your office, lock your door, and head home with only the items you need for the evening.
If you’re used to a 9-5 schedule, coworking can work well for you. If you’re looking to work long days, at night or on the weekends, a shared office membership would probably be better. Many coworking spaces only allow coworking members to use the space while community managers are present. Private office members of Assemble are given their own key, so they have 24/7 access to their office.
If your job requires you to travel often, coworking may be a better option for you. If you get a coworking membership at Assemble, it includes complimentary access to our locations in Chicago and Minneapolis. Although you won’t enjoy the convenience of a private office space, you’ll have a dependable place to work whenever your’e in a town with an Assemble location.
If you’re a freelancer, coworking can be the perfect option for working efficiently. If your company is more than just you, it can be tough to work effectively with a coworking membership. Collaboration often requires a private space to talk and review projects with your team. While reserving a conference room will allow you to hold meetings, ongoing collaboration can be tough without a private office for your team to work in.
Still not sure which option is best for you? Schedule a tour of one of Assemble’s locations today. Our community managers will be happy to help you find a membership options that suites your needs.
Chicago Ideas Week Starts Monday, October 16. It features an impressive array of speakers and events meant to foster creativity and innovation. The schedule can be a little overwhelming, but if you’re planning on attending the events below may be a good starting point for entrepreneurs and small business owners.
Saint John has an impressive resume. Before taking on her current role at Uber, she was the Head of Global Consumer Marketing for Apple Music an iTunes. With Uber issues seeming to pop up on a weekly basis, it will be interesting to hear from the person in charge of maintaining a positive brand image. She’ll take part at the “A Seat at the Table: Finding Equal Footing through Storytelling” event on Thursday, October 19 at 7 pm.
Whole Foods has been at the forefront of the natural and organic grocer movement and is now a $15.7 billion Fortune 500 company. Mackey will be taking part in the “A World With(Out)” event on Tuesday, October 17. It will be interesting to see if he discusses Whole Foods’ recent deal with Amazon during the event about a changing world.
Bobbi Brown launched her make up company in 1991, and it has grown into a hugely successful business. She recently left the company to launch Beauty Evolution, a lifestyle platform celebrating confidence, wellness and beauty through empowerment. Brown will be a part of the “Innovating from Within: When the Entrepreneurial Spirit Never Stops” event on October 17, where she will likely discuss her reasons for leaving her successful company to start a new business.
If you’re concerned about your ability to speak in public or to engage your clients during pitch meetings, Sally Lou Loveman’s event on Saturday, October 21, may be one you don’t want to miss. Entitled “Engaging an Audience with Sally Lou Loveman”, the event is intended to help attendees win an audience over and speak with confidence, no matter the setting.
Learn more about all of the events happening at this year’s Chicago Ideas Week at chicagoideas.com.
The business world is always evolving. With technology being at the forefront of many businesses and print advertising declining, you can start to wonder if it’s still necessary to cary around business cards. Are they still relevant and beneficial? The short answer is “yes”, and below are some reasons why you should still carry some around with you.
It is still common for initial meetings to include a business card exchange. If you’re meeting with a potential new client and you’re the only one in the room with a business card, it can be awkward and seem unprofessional.
Simply having your name, title and business information on a 3.5” x 2” piece of paper can give you and your company legitimacy. If your business is fairly new, it can be even more important. Potential clients can quickly see that you have an office location (hopefully at Assemble!), web site and company email address.
Your business card is often the first place potential clients see your company logo. A well-designed card can be that little extra boost that you need to land the project. If you’re in a creative industry, your card can be a great example of your work.
Business cards are still the easiest way to share contact information with people you meet at networking events. It keeps the new business relationship formal and quickly provides all the necessary contact information.
You might be surprised how easy it can be to win free lunch at Chipotle or other restaurants by dropping your business card into the fish bowl!
While the standard 3.5” x 2” card can offer plenty of options for creativity, using a square or other size card can distinguish you from others. Plastic, metal and other materials can also be used to make an impression. Keep in mind that people who end up saving cards often scan them into their computer or store them somewhere. Cards that are different shapes or materials can sometimes get lost in the mix. If the first impression is the most important though, an unconventional card can have great results.
We’re all trying to be as productive as possible during our work day. Whether it be working out in the morning, a constant flow of coffee, or something else, everyone seems to have a habit or two that helps maintain productivity. You’d be surprised how things can actually hurt your productivity. Below are some of them.
The first thing a lot of people do when they get to the office is put their ear buds in and listen to music. Many studies show that listening to music while working actually reduces productivity. Your memory and attention can be weakened because of music. Music can help you feel better while you work, but it doesn’t necessarily make you work better.
Scientists recommend listening to music for 10-15 minutes before you start working. It’ll put you in a better mood and relax you without effecting your focus.
Check out this Business Insider article to learn more.
If you think you’re being an all-star employee by skipping lunch to work on a project, you might want to think again. While you may be able to get an extra hour of work in, you’re quality of work may not be as great.
Your body needs a break sometime during the day to recharge. Stopping to eat a nutrient-rich, healthy lunch will give your mind and body the fuel they need to be at they’re best the rest of the day.
Like skipping lunch, overworking doesn’t make you more productive. Studies have shown that it doesn’t produce more output and can actually be more hurtful for you and your company. Overworking can lead to a to of problems, liked impaired sleep, depression and heart disease. A healthy you is much more valuable to your company than an overworked one!
This Harvard Business Review article has more information on the drawbacks of overworking.
Long commutes can effect productivity in many ways. Commuting can be stressful. It can also effect the length of your work day and can effect your health. Fortunately for those living in Chicago and Minneapolis, Assemble has shared office spaces in some of the most sought-after neighborhoods so your commute can be as easy as possible.
Bringing your dog to work can relieve stress in a few ways. One being that you have your favorite furry friend at your side throughout the day. The other being that you don’t have to worry about them being at home all day or having to pick them up at doggie day care at a certain time.
With more and more office spaces (including Assemble) being dog-friendly, bringing your dog with you to the office can be a mood and productivity booster for you and your coworkers. Of course, you want to be sure that your dog is mild-mannered and friendly. And that your coworkers don’t have allergies or other reasons why they can’t be around dogs.
For many small businesses, summer is one of the slowest times of the year. Whether it’s due to employees taking vacation, clients being less accessible or just a general industry slow down, it’s common for things to slow down a bit. So how do you effectively market your business during the summer? Below are some marketing ideas that may help your business stay busy during the summer.
Take advantage of the great weather by hosting an open house or event for your clients at an outdoor space. A golf outing that benefits a local charity can be a great way to connect with clients while helping a great cause. Hosting a Friday afternoon happy hour is another simple way of getting some face time with clients during the summer season.
Running a giveaway through social media is a great way to keep attention on your company during the summer. Giving away tickets to a Chicago Cubs or White Sox game (or a Twins game for our Minneapolis members), tickets to a concert, free products or even a beach vacation can boost social media engagement and traffic to your web site.
Don’t be afraid to post a photo of you on vacation or you and your coworkers at a beer garden on a Friday afternoon on Facebook or Instagram. It’s okay to let your audience know that you’re human too and enjoy nice weather. They’ll appreciate the small insight into your personal life and will feel like they have a stronger connection with you and your company.
Organize marketing initiatives for the autumn, when customers are typically more attentive than the summer. Prepare email blasts, blog posts and social media content so you’re able to maintain a consistent presence online while you’re busier with other day-to-day business activities.
Assemble’s shared office members are able to attend networking events pretty easily, as we hold them regularly at all of our locations. You may also want to consider attending a conference or event in another city.
This post has been updated on June 23, 2018, with some new tips for staying productive.
Summer is filled with many opportunities to be distracted. From vacations to festivals to the bar down the street with a patio, it’s easy to lose focus on work. While we all need a break from our busy schedules from time to time, staying productive over the warm months can be challenging. Below are some tips to help you and your business maintain a productive schedule over the summer.
It’s okay to enjoy a beautiful Friday afternoon with colleagues or your family. If you’re used to working 45-50 hours each week during the winter, spring or fall, set your summer schedule to 35-40 hours. Adjusting your schedule so your week isn’t so busy will allow you to enjoy the nice weather without stressing about the work you should be doing.
Before putting together a project schedule, reach out to members of the project team to find out if their schedules will be different. Team members with children may alter their schedules a bit over the summer. Others may have planned vacations. Understanding everyone’s schedule will allow you to plan accordingly.
You’re not the only one who wants to get out of the office on a nice Friday afternoon! Offer to take clients out to lunch to review projects or reconnect.
It can be hard to sit in an office on a beautiful, warm summer day. Unplug your laptop and head to an outdoor patio for a couple of hours. You’ll be able to maintain productivity while soaking in some vitamin D.
If your client workload slows down over the summer, focus on your own marketing initiatives. Overhaul your web site, revise your social media plan or evaluate new tools so that you’re in a good place to hit the ground running in the autumn.
Everyone needs a vacation. If you’re able to sneak away for a few days or a week, you’ll likely be able to focus better and be more productive when you return. Check out this blog post for some vacation spots.
Find places to take trips to where you can do some research for your business and relax too. Whether it be an art museum in another city, touring another companies facility or exploring expansion opportunities for your company, a trip can benefit your business and still provide opportunities for you and your family to have some fun.
If employees have children, let them bring their kids to work or work from home sometimes. Keep employee expectations reasonable over the summer, as people are often traveling more often. In some cases, it may not be possible to be as productive over the summer as you are in the fall or winter. Maintaining high employee moral will ensure that you’ll be in great shape after the busy summer is over.
This post has been updated on June 4, 2018, with additional books released recently.
Summer is finally almost here. Even busy small business owners are probably thinking about relaxing a bit to decompress. Nothing beats a good book while you’re relaxing at the beach or taking an extra long lunch break at the park.
Here are our picks for some of the best books to read if you’re running a startup or small business:
As a small business owner, maintaining productivity is crucial. That can be hard with so many distractions these days. Author and professor Cal Newport provides insight into the impact of distractions in today’s world. He also provides four rules to help you stay productive. Check it out here.
Bad Blood details the story of Theranos, a startup founded by Stanford dropout Elizabeth Holmes. Theranos as supposed to make blood testing faster and easier. Initial fundraising valued the company at over $9 billion, but the technology didn’t work.
Writer John Carreyrou originally broke the story of Theranos. Released on May 21, 2018, Bad Blood is already on the Amazon best seller list. Check it out here.
One of the difficult parts of running your own company is being a boss. Author Kim Scott lead teams at Google and Apple. She earned a reputation as a great boss. With Radical Candor, she provides insight into creating a great work environment for employees. Check it out here.
Written by Dan Lyons, this New York Times bestseller examines how people can champion new ideas—and how leaders can fight groupthink. It has been praised by everyone from JJ Abrams (Star Wars, Lost), Peter Thiel (PayPal cofounder), and Arianna Huffington (Huffington Post). Check it out here.
Author and Psychologist Angela Duckworth shows anyone striving to succeed that the secret to outstanding achievement is not talent but a special blend of passion and persistence she calls “grit.” Grit examines what goes through your head when you fall down, and how that—not talent or luck—makes all the difference. Check it out here.
Nike founder and board chairman Phil Knight borrowed $50 from his father to start his company. This candid memoir explains the company’s early days and rise in popularity. Check it out here.
Written by the CEO of Zappos, Delivering Happiness is an inspiring look into a company that isn’t afraid to take a unique approach to business. It’s a great read for those who desire to make customer service and an enjoyable workplace a priority, which should probably be everyone. Check it out here.
This book by Jim Collins is often considered one of the top books in the “business” category. The book focuses on companies that had success in the 90s. Although some of the companies, like Circuit City, are now bankrupt, it’s an interesting read to learn more about the approaches they took. Check it out here.
If your plan is to expand your startup into a larger company, this book is a great read. It studies people like Martin Luther King Jr., Steve Jobs, and the Wright Brothers to determine what they had in common and how they became great leaders. The Tedx Talk by the author, Simon Sinek, is one of the top 20 most viewed on Ted.com. Check out the book here.
Charles Duhigg’s book provides great insight into habits people have and ways to change them. Whether you want to be more productive and healthy yourself or want to learn ways to influence consumers to use your app, product or service, you’ll find some great information in this book. It has been on the NY Times bestseller list for over 60 weeks. Check it out here.
Ever wonder what motivates people to do what they do? Daniel H. Pink’s book tries to explain personal drive and provide insight into how to motivate others. It’s a fascinating read for those interested in understanding more about their own drive and those who are responsible for motivating employees to be productive and satisfied. Check it out here.
Office ergonomics is a term used to describe the way we interact with our office furniture. It relates to our desk, chair, computer and other devices and how they help (or hurt) us in the office setting. The term has become more popular in recent years as many of us find ourselves sitting in front of a computer all day. Spending long periods of time in one position focused on one object can cause issues to our bodies. An ergonomically friendly workstation helps to reduce the stress on your body from working all day.
Bad posture at your desk can result in muscle pain, back pain, eye strain and other physical issues. It can also greatly effect your productivity. Even if you don’t think you’re hurting after a long day of work, it’s a good idea to evaluate your desk set up to make sure it won’t hurt you down the road.
One of the first things you should do is review the height of your computer monitor, as well as the height of your chair. When sitting at your desk, your line of vision should be perpendicular to your monitor. Your feet should be flat on the floor with your legs bent at a comfortable, 90-degree position. Your shoulders should be relaxed with your arms at a 90-degree bend. Make sure your lower back is supposed with your chair’s lumbar support or a pillow. It’s helpful to keep important desk items like chargers and pens close so you don’t have to overreach to get them.
There are many office products designed to help with posture and comfort during the work day. Standing desks are one option. They allow your desk to be raised to a standing position, so you can work part or all of your day standing up. There are alternatives to your office chair that can be helpful as well, like the Technogym Wellness Ball (www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2456750,00.asp).
The company Ergotron has an online tool that helps you determine the proper measurements for your workstation based on your height. Check it out at hwww.ergotron.com/tools/workspace-planner.
One of the easiest things you can do to help your body during the work day is to take frequent, short breaks. If you are a member of one of Assemble’s shared office spaces, try to take a walk around the space once every 1-2 hours. Taking a short break gets your blood flowing, allows your eyes to rest, and keeps your muscles loose.