KarlieRobinson.com

Rural Housewife or Tech Entrepreneur? You Decide

Archive for the ‘Time Management’ Category

Making Progress on Unproductive Days.

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Roadkill on the sinus infection highway.Our scheduled moving day is less than 3 weeks away but were not ready, and barring a miracle, there’s no way we’ll be ready.  Even with the blog and non-essential business activities on hold since April, we’re just not going to make the deadline and it’s one of the most unpleasant feelings in the world.  I made a goal, set a date, and the process isn’t going to plan.

I knew moving to Michigan would be a major undertaking but  I hadn’t considered coming down with two significant colds in May and June.  I think we’ve been picking up  exotic cold viruses while making the 350 mile trek between houses since both colds struck within days of the trips.  (There will be a bottle of hand sanitizer in the car before the next jaunt!)

Most people, when faced with a deadline that can’t be met and an overwhelming number of OTC medications, would simply give up on the whole process.  Admittedly, the easiest thing for me to do right now would be to crawl back in bed with a box of tissues and my cocktail of decongestants, and expectorants but there might be one or two things I can do today.  Things that, in some small way, would bring us a little closer to completing the move.

The point is  I’m trying desperately to avoid stagnation or worse, loosing ground on progress.  So while I’ve been laid up for more than a week and won’t make my goal of July 1 to move, I have still taped boxes together and even packed a few things.

Progress may be slow at times here and in your own ventures, but as long as we find a small ways to move forward on our most unproductive days, we create the success we want to have in our lives.

Written by Karlie

June 9th, 2011 at 1:46 pm

What Tools do you give yourself?

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What's in your Small Business Toolbox.  In my adult life and with my small business, I’ve had to constantly worry that I might miss an important anniversary like a birthday or a contract renewal because I had no frame of reference for the last time said event occurred.

If you ask me about an event, I can tell you who was there, the topic and even small details that usually go unnoticed, but I won’t be able to tell you when it happened and in most cases I’ll probably have the order of events out of sequence too.  In fact, it use to get me in a lot of trouble as a child because I was “telling stories” if I didn’t quite have my details in a nice neat package.

Since it’s obvious that my brain just doesn’t work when it comes to dates, I’ve worked to find ways that my other odd traits could pick up the slack.  Since that’s a cumbersome way to put it, I like to think about it as tools.

Whenever I’m faced with tasks that are naturally difficult for me, I put in a little extra effort so that I can create a work-around for the next time the problem comes up.

It’s safe to assume a Calendar is a tool I use a lot.  I use it to remind me of upcoming events, and as a journal so I can look back and refresh my memory.  I also leave myself little clues so that I can deduce the dates of important events.  You might even think my collection of conference badges as a bit odd, but the ones I have hanging on the wall in front of my desk all have dates on them.

These little routines and trails of bread crumbs may seem like the failings of weak mind, but the reality is that it allows me to focus on the things I can do well.  I don’t panic because I don’t remember, instead I’m confident that I can find the answer quickly.

As a small business owner, you should also be thinking about the tools that will help you be more efficient and reduce your stress.  Do you need tools for time management, Email management or something else?  No matter what it is, putting in the time now to create a tool you can use again and again is well worth the effort.

I’d love to know about the tools you use to keep on track or solve problems in your small business.  Please leave your suggestions or questions below.

Written by Karlie

March 7th, 2011 at 1:42 pm

Keeping your Facebook Fan Page Perky

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By now we all know that social networking is about attraction and that constant blasts about sales and product updates is not that attractive.

For the On-Disk.com Fan Page I’ve decided to post at least one FOSS or Open Source link per day, since I’m pretty sure that sort of content would be most attractive to our customer base. So far, I’d say it’s working. How do I know it’s working? Not all of the fans are friends and family.  I did put a fan banner in rotation on our website, but other than that I’m not pushing the fan page out to my customers.

So when you’re up to your eyeballs keeping the business running, how do you find the time to keep your Facebook fan page perky?

One answer is StumbleUpon.

For me, StumbleUpon started out as the “Entertain me” button, but by using some of it’s features, I’m also able to find neat content for fan pages too.

It starts off assuming you’re already stumbling content that’s relevant to your industry.

The second step is setting your Stumble bar so that you can stumble for relevant content. If you click the image above, you’ll see where and how to select your topics.

From there, just hit the Stumble! button as needed to find a good page to share with your fans.

As a personal preference, I like to us the linking feature on Facebook status updates. While you can just add the link in the “What’s on your mind?” box, I think it looks better to save it for comments and add the link separately.

Written by Karlie

March 25th, 2010 at 8:11 am

Beginning with the finishing touches

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So here’s another general response that pops up all the time when I’m counseling at SCORE.

The question is usually something like “Is $1400 too much to pay for a 5 page website?”

So my answer is usually something like this…

If I knew more about the type of business, the better I could tailor my response here, but in general, you’ll want to go Open Source.

Open Source software is publicly licensed. It’s underlying code is open and available for modification and to top it all off, it’s usually been tested and tweaked a thousand times before you use it so you’re less likely to have problems or need support contracts.

Also, if you find something that’s close enough to what you want your site to do function wise, you’ll only be paying a professional to shine it up for you. So instead of months of custom code that will need complete bug testing you’ll be looking at a week or less to get things up and running.

You’ll also need to think about the site in two ways… What’s behind the scenes managing content, catalog and check-out process – usually the database portion of the website and your admin panel. Then how that data feeds out into your site.

The good news, the graphical layout is really a minor detail once the back end is working properly.

You’ll usually have a template of some sort (Cascade Style Sheet – CSS or XML) for the graphical layout with snips of code to indicate where the various components go. Menu on the left or the right – no problem. Don’t like the colors, again, no problem. Simply tweak the style sheet and all your information will fill in just where it’s suppose to go.

Every page will have a similar look and feel while allowing you lots and lots of dynamic space for content.

You might even be able to find an open source template that you can modify to suit your needs.

For instance, http://on-disk.com/ is http://demo.oscommerce.com/ We have modified the code and the database to meet our needs, but the sky’s the limit on graphical modifications. We’ve kept somethings the same, but there’s no need to be stuck with anything.

Another example is Webpath.net The back end is a custom wiki/blog hybrid that we created a long time ago, but the layout started out as a free template called Invention. I liked the general layout, but wanted it co-branded to the On-Disk.com website so the color scheme and graphical elements needed a quick change.  All in all, the updates took about an hour to complete and most of that was time I spent looking and deciding if I liked it or not.

But these are just examples. You’ll have lots of choices with Open Source Shopping carts, Content Management systems and loads and loads of templates to choose from.

Just think of your business functions in Must, Should and Can features. Knowing what you need will help you sort through options as you research components for your site.

What must the site do from the beginning? What should be included in phase 2. What can we integrate now for future upgrades so that we don’t have to re-write the code?

Have I overwhelmed you? In any case, let’s stop here for now. Comment with questions.

~Karlie

Written by Karlie

December 15th, 2009 at 3:41 pm