True North Strong and Free

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We received an online demo request yesterday from a hospital in Northern Ontario. As usual, we picked up the phone and called the individual requesting the meeting right away. A conversation ensued and a demo was booked. There was, however, one question asked that inspired this blog post: “So, are you guys from the States or what?”. I replied with a quick: “No, actually. We’re from right here in Northern Ontario!”.  Safe to say there was some surprise and excitement on the other end of the line.

That’s right… we’re from Sudbury. We’re from the City with short patio seasons and where a traffic jam constitutes a lineup at the local Tim Hortons. The same city that gave Jeopardy its host and the NHL a whack load of players! Sudbury Saturday nights are worth writing and singing about (at least Stompin’ Tom thought so) and yes, software is built and sold here. Our very first customer was from this very City and we’ve been rewarded with praise and support from local leaders, innovators and entrepreneurs. We continue to grow our Sudbury customer base and while we service organizations all across Ontario, we never forget where we’re from.

There are, of course, challenges; a lot of our demos are given remotely and attending conferences typically means hauling our booth in a truck over a 4 hour drive. However, with every challenge comes a benefit. After all, this is the City that’s home to Norcat, the Innovation Mill that gave us a platform to first demonstrate what the vision and idea behind StaffStat was. This is also the City who’s Chamber of Commerce encourages and allows small businesses like ours to have a voice and get noticed.

I had the pleasure of attending a conference yesterday at Finlandia Village. It consisted of inspired and inspiring speakers, great content and it reiterated the great things coming out of Sudbury. New and creative ways of doing things, research and research grants, answers to global problems and the initiation of conversations and concepts… all happening right here, in the North.

We’ve recently moved from our office in the A Dot (aka Azilda, Ontario) to Sudbury on a nifty little side street that runs parallel to one of the main arteries of the city (which we refer to as ‘Silicon Alley’). We’re not the first to create software out of Sudbury and we certainly won’t be the last. We’re making a splash and we’re making a difference. I can confidently say that we do things a little differently because we’re from Northern Ontario. We love being in the business of software but what’s more, we love being in the business of providing a solution.

melblog

Do’s & Don’ts of Facebook Marketing

With Facebook’s popularity exploding and continuing to soar, I’m sure by now everyone understands the importance and the benefits of utilizing Facebook to grow your business. Using Facebook to market your brand isn’t exactly rocket science, but it can be overwhelming if you’re just starting out. Below is an infographic I have created featuring some of the biggest do’s & don’ts of Facebook marketing. Feel free to bookmark this page for future reference. Good luck!

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Favourite Part of my Job.

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Sales is new ground for me. It’s something I’m not used to and it’s something I’m not sure of. I laugh every day at the fact that I really don’t know what I’m doing quite yet, but I’m loving the learning process. There have been so many things that I’ve learned and gotten used to since starting in my new role that I’ve grown to love. I say that I’ve “grown” to love them because I didn’t always feel that way (trust me).

Cold calling, while it’s the thing that terrifies me the most, allows me to do what I love most: interact and deal with people. I believe that I’ve mentioned in previous blogs that I love dealing with people and I love the customer service aspect of my job. Every single person that you deal with when working in a customer service role brings with them a different personality that you have to get to know and they bring their own unique struggles and challenges that you have to help them with. I’ve also mentioned that, while I love dealing with people, it’s one of the most difficult things that I do on a day-to-day basis. Everyone is different and not everyone is easy to deal with or please. With that being said, I guess you could say that my favourite part of my job is being challenged.

I was never the type of person that particularly enjoyed being given a task that I wasn’t entirely sure how to handle. I will often say to the girls in the office that I miss working for Plan A in some ways because I miss knowing what I’m doing and I miss knowing what I’m talking about. Not knowing exactly what I’m doing or if I’m doing something right or wrong used to make me feel quite uneasy. In fact, it worried me and made me feel stressed out more than anything. I was also never really one to step outside of my comfort zone willingly and be okay with it, but, as I mentioned, being challenged and pushed and forced to step into the waters of the ‘unknown’ is something that I’ve grown to enjoy and look forward to. I like knowing that each day is going to bring with it different challenges and problems that we’ll have to solve through collaboration and discussions as a team to come up with the best possible solution. The idea of ‘not knowing’ doesn’t scare me anymore, it excites me!

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Count to 10

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If you know me or read my blog, you know that I usually prefer to blog about the positive parts of being an entrepreneur.  Today I want to let you know that even though I love it and I am having the time of my life, it’s not always sunshine and roses!  If you ask any entrepreneur they will tell you that it is as stressful as it is exciting.  You’re in charge of making big decisions, leading people towards a vision that YOU are bringing to life and actions that could make or break your business.  Not to mention there’s usually a good chunk of skin in the game.

Here are 6 things that cause me to feel stressed on a regular basis:

  1. Accessing Capital

Operating capital keeps the business alive.  And even if your business is profitable on paper, you still need enough cash flow to pay people, to cover bills and other unexpected expenses. Staying on top of this cash flow is definitely one of my top stressors as an entrepreneur.

  1. Making decisions

The good thing is that the more decisions that you make the easier it becomes and confidently making those decisions becomes second nature.  I’ve become a decision-making machine!  The bad thing is after too many decisions I can get ‘decision fatigue’ that makes even small decisions stressful.

  1. Being a strong leader

As the leader of my organization I need to keep it together at all times…even when I’m scared or stressed or just don’t know what to do!  I have to stay calm and positive and composed even at the worst of times.

  1. Commitments

There just isn’t enough time in the day and commitments pile up quickly.   I love everything I do but sometimes my schedule is packed so tightly that there’s barely time to think.  I find myself wondering if I am giving it my all to the things I’ve committed to.

  1. Finding and keeping great talent

Finding great team members is a gift so when I do I want to keep them—and when I don’t— it can become very stressful.  As a small business the addition or departure of a team member can wreak havoc.

  1. The unknown

It doesn’t matter that I’ve been doing this for 5 years, that I have great mentors, that I have taken every failure as a chance to learn and that I have read or listened to 1000’s of clips that pertain to business:  there will always be unknown and unpredictable situations that are going to happen.  And even though I totally expect the ‘shit to hit the fan’, facing this unknown day in and day out is probably one of the greatest stresses of all.

These are my biggest stresses and although being an entrepreneur comes with it’s share of situations that test your patience and positivity, I wouldn’t change it for anything.  It is still the most exciting ride I’ve ever been on!   Let me know what stresses you out as an entrepreneur by commenting below.

Happy Monday!

SheriSignature

Self Management 101

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“I don’t know how you do it!” is a common statement thrown my way. I’ve written previously about how the plate of life, if kept filled with things we love, can be managed no matter how abundant. We all get 60 seconds in every minute, 60 minutes in every hour and 24 hours in every day. The clock doesn’t grant extra hours to someone because of his or her life circumstances (young or old, healthy or dying, rich or poor…). Once you understand that you can’t control the clock, it becomes clear pretty quickly that time management is inevitably self-management. Here are my personal 7 tips on self-management, which ensure that you’re doing the things that matter, the things that you want and the things that will make you feel accomplished.

  1. First thing’s first, figure out what, to you, constitutes time well spent? Write a list of five things. This is where you should be spending most of your energy and your time.
  1. If you’re not sure where to begin, do a time audit for one week and look at exactly where your time is going. Notice where you spend your time on a regular week day. Notice how you use time at a weekend. Taking the results of your time audit, think about where you might want to redistribute a little of your time. What could do with a little more time spent on it? What are you spending time on that you don’t really enjoy or value? When are the main points in the day you waste time?
  1. If you’re procrastinating on a task, rather than getting frustrated or annoyed, simply ask yourself why you’re procrastinating. Are you scared of the task ahead? Is it too difficult, too easy, or boring? Are you tired? We can waste a lot of energy and time on the things we’re putting off. Figure out the answer and action out a solution.
  1. Who drains your time and your energy? Limit those things knowing that with the time you do have, you’ll get more done in a focused, energized way.
  1. If you’re using social media for business, schedule some of your updates.
  1. Don’t discount the little blocks of time throughout your day! You can actually get an awful lot done in half an hour. Don’t just float because you’ve only got half an hour until your next meeting or appointment.
  1. Do you like the pressure of working to tight deadlines or not? For example, do you only feel motivated to get started on a project the night before it’s due in, or do you prefer to leave yourself plenty of time? Either way is fine, but know which method works for you and use it to your advantage. Either set yourself more deadlines, or make sure you leave time to plan and deliver well in advance.

It boils down to this: If you value your time, other people will do the same. I plug away at the things that matter and go to every meeting with purpose. I do my best to never waste time and when I catch myself going down that road, I stop and evaluate the who, what and why. I readjust and keep on keeping on. And THAT, is how I do it!

5 Lies You’re Telling Yourself Right Now

bigstock-thinking-woman-making-decision-44303686.jpgSometimes, we allow ourselves to ‘make a mountain out of a mole hill.’ Sometimes, we allow ourselves to create a story in our head based on our perception of what we think is happening. Often, we create our own obstacles just by believing the thoughts we create.

  1. It can wait. How many times have you put something off until tomorrow and then found yourself scrambling at the last minute to complete a task? Procrastination is a productivity killer. If you can get something done now, just do it. If it is a large project, break it down into smaller tasks and organize your time to accomplish these tasks.
  1. There isn’t enough time. There is always enough time if you make time and use it wisely. I can certainly say that I have found myself in situations where I felt there was just too much to do and not enough time and I am sure many feel this way. Busy lives make time fly! I have learned to make time for the things that matter most to me and organize my life around that. I’ve learned that in order to be efficient and productive I must cut out distractions and focus.
  1. I can’t do that. What is the best way to create a negative self-fulfilling prophecy? Keep telling yourself “I can’t.” Each and every one of us can do anything we truly put our minds to. “I can’t” is a phrase seldom uttered in our workplace or at home. Always try, and if you find yourself experiencing difficulties, learn how, find a mentor, and use your resources.
  1. I have to hurry. We rush through life on a daily basis often having to remind ourselves to slow down. Nothing is worth a rush! Of course there is a sense of urgency, but far too often we rush to complete a task without paying attention to the details. Take time to slow down. I like to do this on weekends, with family. We often hide out at home away from the world and enjoy each others’ company.
  1. I can’t fail. Many of us are so fearful of failure that some will do most anything to prevent or hide a failure. Struggling, making mistakes, and failure are all part of the learning and the growth process. If you aren’t stumbling now and then, you are not growing and attempting new ventures. Embrace failures and learn from them. There is always an opportunity to be found in a challenge.

We judge ourselves far too often, creating a picture of what we believe is expected, what the world should see. Stop telling yourself what and how you should be and embrace the natural flow of life.

Cheers!

mandyblog

 

My Tips for Hiring Effective Team Members

-var-www-tfc.org-public_html-greyback_core-tmp-cache-thumbnails-900x510_0_0_nocrop_dream_team.jpgIf you know me then you know I love our team.  Our team totally rocks!  It truly does.  But this didn’t happen by accident.  We’ve worked hard to make our team fit so well together and after years of many of us working together we can tell pretty quickly if somebody won’t be a good fit.

So what it is that makes our team shine?  Here are four of the things I look for when I am looking to add to our team:

Emotional Intelligence
Having technical skills is very important but I would say that emotional intelligence is equally important…if not more.   When people are aware of themselves and are socially aware, I find the connections are strengthened on the team…and with strong connections there’s a greater sense of trust on the team.  Yup, emotional intelligence is number one!

Everybody Sees the Bigger Picture…
… And they believe in it.  It doesn’t matter if you’re the CEO of StaffStat or the lead recruiter in Plan A, our common goal is putting out solutions that make accessing staff better, cheaper and faster.  We all get that, and even though our individual jobs are completely different from each other, collectively we are all contributing to the same bigger picture.  Believing what you can’t see is definitely number two!

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun
There isn’t a day that goes by where there isn’t laughter in our office.  Lots of it!  Funny stories, harmless teasing, inside jokes…all can be found in our office on a daily basis.   We’ve used humor to create a positive and fun culture which has helped us  build our brand, attract and retain excellent employees and appeal to  customers.  If you can’t laugh, you won’t be a good fit for our team!

A good mix of people
We have Gen X-ers, Gen Y-ers and Gen Z-ers, ; we have married people with children and single people with fur babies;  we have introverts, extroverts and intro/extroverts.  We have empaths, and bleeding hearts and we also have people who are aloof and pragmatic.  We have dreamers with high levels of creativity and people who use schedules to get the job done;  we have people who are laissez-fair and those who like things tickety-boo.   It’s this mix and accepting people’s strengths and their weaknesses for what they are and utilizing their qualities to best optimize our office that works for us.

These are just a few things that work for our office.  There are definitely more.  Please share what works for your team!

Happy Monday!

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