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Delegating Effectively

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For the busy professional, delegation is a key to success. But the act of delegation is just one step. You must also consider when to delegate, how to communicate and when to follow up. Following is a brief guide to help you delegate effectively.

When to Delegate?

Every time a task arrives at your inbox, you must determine whether you will do it, delegate it or defer it. The key questions to determine if the task is something that should be delegated are:

Is this something only I can do?

Can someone else do this?

It's as simple as that. If the answer to the first question is yes, then create an executable plan and get it done. If the answer is no, figure out who you can delegate to at a lower cost that it would take for you to do it. Make sure to consider time in your cost considerations.

If you can't think of a person, consider using ThemBid.com to get several bids on the task.

Describe What You Need

Use this guide http://blog.thembid.com/index.php/2007/09/10/describing-your-project-to-a-contractor/ to help you write a clear description. Many times you may not know exactly what you need. That is where a service such as ThemBid.com comes in handy, as the bidders will ask clarifying questions to help determine what you truly need.

Communication

I prefer to delegate to someone both verbally and in writing. Then have them send back a description of what you want in their own words, preferably with an action plan. The level of detail will depend on the size of the delegation. The key thing to remember is to focus on detail and clarity.

Reporting

Many stop the delegation process at the previous step, feeling great that item is no longer on their plate. This is a grave mistake. The task is still your responsibility, and therefore you must ensure that task is completed according the original requirements given to you.

Schedule regular follow up times with as much ceremony that is necessary for the job. Make sure the person delegated to understands that problems should be communicated diligently. You don't want to micro-manage, but you don't want to be consumed with a disaster later either. Experience will help you learn the proper balance.


Please send all feedback, topic suggestions and/or questions to TechTalk@AboveTheLimit.com.  Digital archives can be found at BlackVoiceNews.com and IngleWoodToday.com.

Elmer Thomas Jr. is Co-founder of ATL Innovations, Inc., an award winning web and software development company dedicated to bridging the digital divide and ThemBid.com, a service offering free advertising for businesses and makes finding services and products easy for consumers. You can find out more about Mr. Thomas at ATLInnovations.com and ElmerThomas.com.

TECH TALK

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Elmer Thomas Jr.
I had the fortune of attending a panel presentation at a TechBiz Connections http://www.techbizconnection.org/  meeting, with industry experts speaking on the topic of business planning and execution. As a busy tech entrepreneur, business planning admittedly stays at the bottom of the to do list. These experts give compelling reasons why this is a big mistake and they offer advice on how to successfully write executable plans. Following is a summary of the discussion.

I kept my notes organized by speaker and their points are summarized underneath their names. These are not exact quotes.

Depending on demand, next time I may bring my recorder and offer a podcast of the panel session.

Paul Ulyett - http://www.linkedin.com/pub/0/678/b2b  - Moderator

  • Don't use spreadsheets to run your business, that typically means there is no infrastructure.
  • Think of what your business should look like in terms of processes and systems. Look for ways to automate.
  • Break the plan into small chunks and execute aggressively and measure passionately.
  • The plan should not constrain, instead, it should measure and manage.
  • Summary of key points:
  • Planned reflection time off site, away from the day to day operations.
  • Use lear definitions.
  • Break into manageable chunks.
  • Set realistic goals.
  • Goals should be measurable and the tactics changeable.
  • Base your strategy on facts.

David Luke - http://www.linkedin.com/pub/0/559/94b

  • Top level executives should use scheduled reflection time for strategic level thinking.
  • The business plan should be "connected", meaning that the objectives need to be understood at all levels of the company.
  • Break the plan down into manageable chunks and simplify.
  • Learn how to write goals and strategy. You must learn how to express those goals and strategy realistically.
  • Start with simple steps to gain momentum.
  • Values should be shared across the organization and participation should be encouraged at all levels via brainstorming sessions.
  • Make sure the plan is a living and breathing document.
  • Keep your goals clear, with backup plans in preparation for change.

Tom Fedro - http://www.linkedin.com/in/tomfedro

  • The plan should be simple, realistic and specific.
  • Have guiding principles that can be referred to in times of conflict.
  • Invest time in finding quality advisers.
  • Keep your focus on the primary goals.
  • Gain credibility early by obtaining key customers.
  • Make sure your product or service is solid and scalable.
  • Focus on revenue and customers. These two things trump a plan every time.
  • Make sure you have defined contingency plans.
  • Talk to experts in your industry to determine the viability of your plan.
  • Make sure you get enough funding to support your plan.
  • Know who you are offering your product or service.

John Capano - http://www.linkedin.com/pub/3/b4a/ab

  • Money, time and effort should be measured and tied to job descriptions.
  • Don't let planning tools bog down the process, instead match the tools to your process.
  • Always create your metrics based on the key goals.
  • Spend some time thinking about what to take off your plate.
  • The organization should be connected to the main goals, of which there should be a maximum of five.
  • Everyone in the organization should be focused on execution with respect to the main goals.
  • The strategic plan should be focused on execution with respect to getting from point A to point B, in detail along with supporting goals and strategies.
  • Typically, VC's look at management, then an overview of your plan and then they dig deep into the business plan.

o             Monitor your resources with respect to the plan.

o             Be reasonable, take it step by step and focus on the short term and execute.

Bob Newkirk - http://www.linkedin.com/in/newkirk

o             Define your exit strategy. Are you looking for a lifestyle business or to go public?

o             Ask: Who are we? Where do we want to be? What are we passionate about? What will we be the best in the world at?

o             Implement a system that tracks milestones and activities such as BaseCamp.

o             When you are off course, the problem can usually be traced to lack of resources.

o             Your core ideology should not change (put these items on the front page of the system you use) while the tactics should be flexible.

o             Keep the time frame within six months for the executable plan with no more than five key objectives.

o             Look at partnerships and outsourcing for anything outside of your core competencies.

o             Tie the plan to the financial well being of the executors of the plan via bonuses based on the key objectives.

o             Spend time in research. People like to compare. Find out where the buyers buy and be there.

o             Choose three to five specific goals.

o             Remove babble and stay realistic.

o             Focus on cash flow in the financial plan.

Please send all feedback, topic suggestions and/or questions to TechTalk@AboveTheLimit.com.  Digital archives can be found at BlackVoiceNews.com and IngleWoodToday.com.

Elmer Thomas Jr. is Co-founder of ATL Innovations, Inc., an award winning web and software development company dedicated to bridging the digital divide and ThemBid.com, a service offering free advertising for businesses and makes finding services and products easy for consumers. You can find out more about Mr. Thomas at ATLInnovations.com  and ElmerThomas.com.


7 Steps to Closing Big Sales

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Elmer Thomas Jr.
Sales are a critical factor for success in business. When you have a startup, often you must wear the sales hat among the many others. In this case, I am referring to selling your product or service to a client. Here are some suggestions that will help turbo-charge your sales efforts.

1. KNOW YOUR PRODUCTS AND/OR SERVICES

If possible, you should be your own client. Buy your own product and use it regularly. Justify the value to yourself. If you are not a user of your product, find those that are, and get them to use your product for a test run. Find people that are using your competitor's product or service and investigate the good and bad points.

You need to understand all the benefits and values your product or service provides. Testimonials, case studies and research reports all help in validating your claims.

Make a list of all of the products and services you offer and brainstorm scenarios of benefit and value for each one. Equate these benefits and values to dollars. Discover where other benefits and values, that are similar to your proposition, are priced.

Know the time frames for delivery. Understand the worst case scenarios and the mitigation plans.

Make sure you understand any associated contracts. There should not be a clause in the contract that you do not understand. Know where you have flexibility and rigidity in the contract.

2. GATHER THE LEADS

Using the data gathered in step one, brainstorm who could gain the most benefits and values out of your service. Start with existing contacts and their associates.

Search for prospects in newspapers, magazines, trade journals and online. Check press releases to find companies that are investing in the benefits and values you provide and check out their competitors.

3. DO YOUR HOMEWORK

After you find a lead you will target, research the industry, competition and all the information you can find about that lead (their website is a good start), with a focus on how you can provide value.

Target the CXO level when making your pitch. Find out who the decision maker is; it's often the CFO. With that in mind, make sure you understand the dollar figures associated with your proposition. You will need to describe how your solution will impact their operation in dollars, through either cost savings or increased revenue.

4. GET THE APPOINTMENT

The first call or letter has only one purpose. That is, to get the appointment. Face to face is best, but if that is not possible, get a phone meeting.

Your call should go something like this: Hello Mr. YouHaveMyCash, I am Elmer Thomas with ThemBid.com, Inc. and I have a solution that will save you $5,000 each month. Jane in marketing told me you the right contact. Can we schedule a 15 minute meeting so that I can explain further?

5. CLOSE

Once you get the meeting, follow up on your promise and provide evidence backing your claims. The biggest suggestion I can give that will provide the best results is this; ask for the sale. Amazingly, this small detail is often forgotten. You need to have the attitude that you will be walking out of that meeting with a check.

6. FOLLOW UP

Make sure your customer is satisfied. Take the time to follow up and ask relevant questions regarding the promises you made and the actual results and adjust as necessary. Every bit of feedback you get will result in a greater competitive advantage.  Use this opportunity to build your lead list with high quality referrals.

7. USE A SYSTEM

As you progress, you will find yourself juggling multiple accounts. I suggest you start with a simple excel spreadsheet to help you understand the data that is relevant to your operations.

Identify measurable metrics to help test various techniques. Some example metrics are number of phone calls, number of face to face meetings, number of closed sales and profits generated.

Once you get a picture of the data and activities that need tracking I suggest that you look into a customer relationship management (CRM) system. I currently recommend HighRise http://www.highrisehq.com  for its simplicity and ZohoCRM http://www.zohocrm.com  for the low price and great customization.


Resources For Maximizing Your Conference Experience

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By Elmer Thomas Jr

 

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Elmer Thomas Jr
You already know how important networking is to your business, and your calendar has been populated with several events per month. It's time to make sure that all that money and time you have invested is put to good use. Here are some resources to help you maximize your conference experience.

TRAVEL

These resources help you find good deals on your travel needs.

For organizing and planning your travels, I recommend using Google Calendar http://www.google.com/calendar/  along with either Google Notebook http://www.google.com/notebook  or BackPack http://http://backpackit.com/? referrer=BPBLSZ7 ,  but any calendar and word processor application will do.

PROMOTIONAL ITEMS

Consider some light weight promotional items to carry with you. You can give these to people you network with or leave them at strategic locations throughout the venue.

Depending on the dress code and venue, wear company branded shirts along with other branded items such as, backpacks, mouse pads, hats, etc...

Don't forget to add business cards to your travel checklist.

CREATING BUZZ

Publicize prior to the event on your website and blog. Update your blog during and after the event to draw people looking for more information about the event.

Send out a newsletter to your key clients with a summary of valuable information learned at the event.

NETWORKING STRATEGIES

Read How to Win Friends & Influence People  at least twice and listen to the audio version  while in transit.

Before the event, identify who you want to meet and create an agenda for each person you identified. Read up on the background of each person you plan to meet and their company. If possible, make contact prior to the event and look for ways to help that person or their company.

Keep a pen handy to write key facts on the back of business cards you obtain to serve as reminders later.

FOLLOW UP

Invest in a business card scanner and make sure that you schedule a follow up task for each person. I suggest you check out HighRise http://www.highrisehq.com/  for that purpose.

Finding And Evaluating Deals Online

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Elmer Thomas Jr.
With more of us using online services, such as online banking and bill pay, we have increased the chance of identity theft. I advocate the use of online services as a method to increase productivity; you just need to take the necessary precautions.

Here are some tools and simple steps to reduce the chance that your personal information will be stolen via one of your passwords.

AVOID WIFI PASSWORD THEFT

Whether the router came with your service, or you purchase your own router, it should be protected from unwanted use.

Make sure that you:

1.            Change the default password per the instructions that come with your router. Call the help line for your router if you find reading the manual equivalent to obtaining a PHD in WIFI.

2.            Use WPA encryption. If you have no idea what this means, then I suggest you contact the help line for your router.

3.            Take this free class  http://networking-wireless.classes.cnet.com/protect-your-wi-fi-network-from-hackers/   to learn about protecting your WIFI network from hackers.

4.            Still unsure? Read this computer world http://www.computerworld.com/action/article.do?command=viewArticleBasic&articleId=9037321  article on how to lock down your router.

Don't think it's important? Take a look  http://www.google.com/search?q=list+of+default+passwords   at how easy it is for a thief to find out your default password.

AVOID PASSWORD THEFT IN FIREFOX AND INTERNET EXPLORER

Did you know that if you do not set your master password in Firefox, others can see all the passwords you have had Firefox remember in plain text? Follow these instructions  http://www.security-hacks.com/2007/05/11/firefox-how-to-set-master-password    to setup your master password.

Internet Explorer does not have a master password functionality. Someone who has access to your computer can fairly easily  http://www.passcape.com/internet_explorer_password_recovery.htm    steal your passwords. I suggest you disable the password saving  http://kb.iu.edu/data/ahvh.html    functionality and remove previously saved passwords  http://kb.iu.edu/data/alcx.html    in Internet Explorer and use a password manager instead (see "Use a Password Manager and Generator" below).

USE A PASSWORD MANAGER AND GENERATOR

I personally use RoboForm  http://www.roboform.com/php/land.php?affid=t3525    as a tool to manage and generate passwords. This website  http://www.pctools.com/guides/password/    can generate powerful passwords for you; however, they will be difficult to remember. If you don't want to pay the license fee for RoboForm, I suggest you check out KeePass  http://keepass.info/  .

If you prefer to not use any software at all, check out this solution  http://lifehacker.com/software/top/geek-to-live--choose-and-remember-great-passwords-184773.php .

USE FINGERPRINT AUTHENTICATION

You could use your fingerprint as the master password into your computer. Newer laptops have fingerprint recognition hardware built in. You can get an idea on the cost of USB based scanners here  http://www0.dealtime.com/xGS-fingerprint_scanner , then purchase one from a trusted vendor.

There are three drawbacks I have seen to using fingerprint recognition: 1) I have not found software to make it easy to carry your passwords from one computer to another, 2) if you need to remotely access a computer, you may be out of luck and 3) it's another device I need to carry.

ENCODE WRITTEN PASSWORDS

If you insist on writing your passwords down on paper, at least encode them  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Encryption  . For example, you may keep a portion of every password in your mind that it same for all passwords, but never write down that portion.

If the mentally stored password is 1234, when I create a password "pa1234ssword", I would write down "password2_. The number two at the end lets me know that the numbers in my head go after the second letter.

LOCK DOWN YOUR PC

Here < http://pcworld.about.com/magazine/2204p103id114727.htm  > are 29 tips to help make sure that your computer is sufficiently protected.

LOCK DOWN YOUR MOBILE PHONE

It's easy to overlook this, but be sure to password protect your phone and/or pocket PC. You should be familiar with how to easily lock it after each use. Setup the auto-lock feature, which allows the phone to lock itself after a certain period of time.

It's important to remember that no system or password is foolproof; however, with these methods you add an extra layer of protection.

What methods and tools do you use to keep your passwords safe?


Please send all feedback, topic suggestions and/or questions to TechTalk@AboveTheLimit.com.  Digital archives can be found at BlackVoiceNews.com and IngleWoodToday.com.

Elmer Thomas Jr. is Founder of Above the Limit, Inc., an award winning web and software development company dedicated to bridging the digital divide. You can find out more about Mr. Thomas at www.AboveTheLimit.com

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