How To Lead Creative People (When You’re Not A Creative Yourself)

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Creative people tend to be sensitive souls – some might even go so far as to say ‘highly strung’. They don’t always take criticism well, no matter how kindly it’s meant, and can perceive even the smallest piece of negative feedback as an unbridled assault on their competence.

In their work, many leaders who do not come from a creative background themselves have to learn how to motivate agency staff and freelancers. So how can they get these volatile ideas folk to produce truly outstanding work? Here are five top tips for encouraging the sparks of genius to fly:

    1. Praise us! If you want to keep getting great work out of creative people, the secret is not just to pay their invoice promptly at the end of the project (although that helps a lot, admittedly) but also to give them positive feedback if you’re happy with a job well done. You’re our client. We want to make you happy. If we were just in it for the money, we would have done something else instead – like law.
    1. Brief us properly. Sadly the place where most creative projects go wrong is right at the start – ie the part where you’re involved. If you don’t take the time to give us a proper, well-considered brief, either in writing or verbally, you’re effectively setting us loose to interpret what we think you want in the way we think is best. Unless you really are very open-minded about what you want, that’s a recipe for disaster. It’s a bit like saying to a builder: “Hey there, please can you build me a house” and just leaving them to get on with it.
    2. Be specific in your feedback. Saying something ‘doesn’t quite work for me but I don’t know why’ isn’t very helpful to a creative. If you want to get a better result, you need to be able to tell us why you don’t like a piece of work and what might make it better. Don’t be afraid to wrestle with a challenge and make your own input. Creative people value collaboration. In fact, the best results often come out of clients and creative teams working together constructively.
  1. Remember that we have feelings. You might not like the work we’ve sent you but unless it’s obviously sloppy – riddled with spelling mistakes, for example – the chances are that we’ve really labored over it and truly believe that we’ve done a good job for you. So before you embark on a long list of what’s wrong with a piece of work, try to highlight any parts of it that you do like or acknowledge where you may not have been clear on an aspect of the brief. Build a relationship with us – along with everyone else, we try harder for people we like.
  2. Be realistic. About everything. Don’t give a writer a strict word count and then ask them to make lots of points that could not conceivably be made effectively in such a small number of words. Don’t give a designer a day to turn around a complex piece of artwork that incorporates lots of charts. Finally, don’t expect to pay pittance and get outstanding work delivered ahead of deadline. You will just end up with a frustrated creative who produces suboptimal results.

[“Source-forbes”]

7 Things to Consider When Starting a Mobile App Company

7 Things to Consider When Starting a Mobile App Company

The rise of online DIY app builders has made it easy for business minded people to enter the mobile market. White label app building platforms give entrepreneurial minded individuals all the tools they need to start their own mobile app company without the need to add expensive developers to the payroll.

White label is by far the simplest way to get involved in the mobile market. DIY app building platforms give you full control of your business. From branding, to pricing, to sales and marketing, you are completely free to implement your own business model. Easy to use drop and drag interfaces make meeting the mobile needs of a variety of different small businesses as simple as point and click.

If you are looking for a low-risk business option, white label app creation is as easy as they come. And, with the rising demand for mobile, now is the time to do so.

Here are seven things that you should think about to help put your white label app venture on a successful path.

Questions to Ask When Starting a Mobile App Company

What Industries Would You Sell To?

The most important thing you need to ask yourself is, “Whom do I want to sell to?” Are you looking to sell strictly to restaurants, or do you think you can corner the education app market?

This question is literally the most important one to ask because you will need to find a white label platform that offers the right components to drop and drag your apps into existence.

In addition, determining what industry or industries you want to sell to will allow you to start to develop your marketing plan. It’s not wise for anyone embarking on any business endeavor to dive in headfirst and hope. A bit of planning and some foresight are the cornerstones of any business venture — especially one that involves such a rapidly growing market like mobile apps. Think, plan, and then start to play.

How Would You Sell to Your Preferred Industry?

The mobile app market is competitive, so you need to be prepared to do your due diligence. It’s more than pointing and clicking an app into reality and then walking away. Like any business, there are sales and marketing involved to keep your business afloat.

So, you need a solid sales plan in place before you start investing in a white label app platform. If you are new to the mobile app business, you should look for a platform that offers training in sales and marketing relative to the app market. Do a bit of training, and spend some time putting together a solid sales and marketing plan.

You need to learn some successful sales and marketing tactics such as:

  • What is the best way to sell to small businesses?
  • How do you best market your mobile app company?
  • Which pieces of functionality really help a business grow?
  • Where will you find leads to sell to?
  • What should your presentations look like?

The list could go on and on. But the bottom line is very simple — learn what you need to learn about how to sell the product you want to make. This too will help set your white label app venture up for success.

How Will You Brand Your Business?

Your brand is how your clients know you, and it’s incredibly important. Developing a brand takes a lot of research, thought, and trial and error. Do not take this step in the process lightly. What makes it so important?

  • Your logo is how your customers will recognize you.
  • Your tagline is what will make your customers remember you.
  • Your vision is what will make your customers believe in your product.
  • Your mission is what will make your customers trust you.

You cannot take any of these things for granted. You need to build trust and loyalty, and a solid brand is the key to doing so. If you do not invest your time and energy in this step, you are making your business vulnerable to your competitors who have.

Your brand is what you represent. You need to believe in what you are doing so your customers will too.

What Features are Most Important to You and Your Customers?

Now with the foundation in place, you can start to look at the type of apps you want to create. The easiest way to do this is to look through the app stores. Ask yourself:

  • What do my competitors’ apps look like?
  • What are the reviews saying they are lacking?
  • How can I do what they are doing even better?

Don’t be afraid to talk to people in the niche market you want to build your app for. Find out what the people who will actually use the app would like to see implemented.

All too often, we go to the heads of companies to pitch ideas. While the owner of a restaurant may have the checkbook, the servers and the people in the trenches are the ones who will be using the app.  See what they need to simplify their jobs. You are bound to get some good feedback and some great ideas.

How Much Support and Training Will You Need?

Remember, you are not just going to build an app, throw it in the app store and hope it’s successful. There is an entire cycle you have to go through to get your app on the device of the users who will benefit from it. So, you need to take a good hard look in the mirror and examine your strengths and weaknesses. Are you good with computers but bad with sales? Are you an excellent sales person who is totally turned off by technology?

Your technology IQ today may be great, but what will it be next week? You need to ask yourself, “How much support and training am I going to need to stay in this business for years to come?” And more importantly, you need to ask yourself, “In what nuance of this business do I need the most training?”

Then, you need to make sure that you find a white label platform that offers training in the areas you will need assistance with. A good hard look in the mirror is difficult for most of us, but when you are considering investing time and money into a business venture, looking at your faults, flaws and weaknesses and developing a plan to strengthen them is a lot cheaper than paying for the mistakes they will create later.

Are You Able to Design Apps Yourself or Will You Need a Graphic Designer?

While looks are not everything, it would be a lie to say that people never judge a book by its cover, right? We are naturally compelled to lean towards things that are more pleasing to the eye — even if it’s not always the smartest decision.

Do you possess the skills to design the graphics that will make your app stand out amongst the competition? While most white label platforms have templates that you can choose from that will compliment your niche, if you can design something that will stand out, you will be putting yourself in a position to have your app chosen over your competition.

You might want to think about partnering with a graphic designer. While looks are not everything, they certainly are a great selling point.

What is Your Goal for Your End Game?

Ultimately, you need to know what your end game is. Do you expect to corner the market on educational apps, or are you just looking to supplement your income and pay off a few bills?

Starting a mobile app company can help grow your income moderately, and if done right, it can replace your full time career. It all boils down to how much time and energy you want to invest in making it a reality. Make sure that is clearly established in your mind when you start to put your company together.

Conclusion

White label goods and services have been around for decades. In every industry you could imagine, businesses create products that are rebranded by their partners to sell as their own.

The technology industry, and the mobile app sector in particular, is no exception. As consumers go mobile by the tens of millions, businesses are rushing to catch up, and cash in.

If you are planning on starting your own mobile app company, you have to make sure you do a lot of planning and ask yourself some really hard questions. A good solid plan, and a good analysis of the industry in which you hope to compete, can go a long way in setting your white label business venture on the path to success.

Smartphone Photo via Shutterstock

[“source-smallbiztrends”]

How to Know When to Choose a Tablet Versus a Laptop

You may have thought about whether you can get by with a tablet instead of a laptop in your business.

While in some cases, a tablet may absolutely be the right choice, in other cases, it might not fit the bill. When it comes to deciding between a tablet and laptop for your primary business device, it really depends on what you plan to use it for.

Though decisions of this kind usually have to be made on a case-by-case basis, below is a list of situations where it makes sense to use a laptop instead of a tablet and vice versa.

When to Choose a Laptop

When You’re Composing and Editing Lots of Documents

For instance, many tablets don’t run on Windows. So if you’re a big Microsoft Office user, you may have a problem there. Let’s say the majority of your computer needs involve using these or other software like them to create and work with word documents, spreadsheets etc. Using a tablet could mean not having access to the software you use for these functions. Or you may not have access to the version you would have on a laptop. Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint may have advanced features that aren’t available with apps on a tablet or when using Google Docs.

When You Do a Lot of Heavy Data Keying

When you have to key in a lot of data or do a lot of typing, it can be cumbersome to do it on a touchscreen. Even an attachable keyboard may limit how efficiently or how fast you can work if you just flat out have a lot of typing to do due to its smaller size. Save the heavy typing activities for a laptop. A tablet, in this case, may not be right for you.

When You Need Extra Processing Power or Screen Real Estate

You may find it takes more work to build a database, edit images or video, or perform other activities on a tablet versus a laptop. This may have to do not just with the processing power of your tablet, it may also simply be harder to edit video, photos or other documents on a smaller screen. This is especially true with smaller seven or eight inch tablets. Again do yourself a favor. Bring in a laptop with more processing power and a bigger screen.

When Touchscreen Technology Makes the Task Laborious

If you need to do a lot of online research or anything that requires a lot of copying and pasting, it may be time to rethink your decision  to abandon a laptop. This can be laborious work with the typical touchscreen tablet. Also, most tablets allow you to only view one screen or application at a time. If you need to jump back and forth between screens or applications to copy anything or gather information, it’s time consuming.

Even with tablets that allow two apps to run at the same time, you may only be able to choose from a limited number of “approved” options for this purpose.  Even though more laptops are employing touchscreen technology, using one gives you the option to work in multiple screen and the ease of keyboard commands, should you need them.

When You Use Software That Won’t Run on a Tablet

This problem has been previously addressed above as it relates to those who use their devices to compose and edit a lot of documents. Very often the same software they use on a laptop either isn’t available or doesn’t have the same features in its tablet version.

Just remember.  Tablets are app focused while laptops are software focused. There may not be an app for the procedure you regularly use your laptop software to perform. Or your company may use proprietary software that cannot run on a tablet at all. For example, most tablets run on Android, iOS, or Windows RT. If you need a certain piece of software that only runs on Windows, you may need to either look for a Windows 8 tablet or go with a laptop instead.

When You Need a Device Family Won’t Borrow!

Let’s face it. Tablets can be used for a whole lot more than business. They can be used to watch movies and videos, listen to music or play the latest video game, for example. Family members, especially children, are more likely to think of a tablet as an entertainment device and want to use it. If you want to avoid risking important business files inadvertently being disturbed by a “borrowing” family member, get a laptop. (Or better yet, buy them their own tablet!)

When to Choose a Tablet

When Price is a Major Consideration

Tablets tend to be less expensive than laptops, although the difference in price is narrowing. It’s not as much of a difference as it used to be. But when comparing price, consider how you’ll use that tablet.

If you need a keyboard and case so you can use your tablet as a desktop or laptop replacement when traveling, stop and think. Be sure to factor in the extra cost of those accessories. You may also need a larger 10-inch tablet if you need to do keyboard work, compose and edit documents, or do other intensive projects on your device. All of these things may potentially add considerable expense. So you may find the price advantage of a tablet in this case is minimal.

When a WiFi Signal Isn’t Available

Some tablets use a wireless cell network, for example 3G, 4G or 4G LTE. And if you can’t get a WiFi signal, you can use your data connection through the tablet to connect. On the other hand, it may be difficult to find a laptop with built-in cellular network connectivity. So without WiFi, you may be out of luck.

When You Need to Pack Extra Light for Travel

You can often keep tablets packed away through airport security, whereas you may be required to pull out your laptop from your briefcase. Tablets also tend to be lighter than laptops. Although just like with price, the weight difference is narrowing. Laptops and notebooks are getting smaller, thinner and lighter. So this may not be a consideration forever.

When You Use Your Device While Walking Around

Let’s say you use your device for doing checklists or verifications while on the move. Maybe it could be used for filling out insurance claims or checking inventory. Are these the kinds of activities you want to be carting around a laptop or even a notebook to do?

Laptops and notebooks have come a long way in terms of their portability. So you may think nothing of taking one with you to work or even to a coffee shop. Anywhere with a table, desk or other flat surface that can become your office.  But carrying a laptop around with you constantly so you can glance down at it or work from it while on the go is another story. This is a time to consider a tablet instead.

When You Need A POS (Point of Sale) Alternative

For restaurants, coffee shops, retail stores and even street vendors, the tablet has become a vital new tool. And in this case it’s not the laptop or notebook the device is replacing. In fact, it’s the traditional cash register. Card reader attachments and apps allow tablets to do so much more than take credit card payments and keep track of revenue. They also gather analytics. If you need a device to perform any of these functions, a tablet may be your best bet.

When Using Loyalty Programs or Promotional Coupons

You can place a tablet on the counter in your retail store, bakery or other brick and mortar for customers to collect discounts, sign up for loyalty program points or “check in” on social media sites. While these things could be done on a laptop too, it isn’t as elegant a solution — and looks matter.

When Reading eBooks or Doing Other Leisurely Activities

As we  pointed out earlier, tablets are often more fun and convenient for watching videos, playing a game, doing general web browsing and some other entertaining activities. If you need to catch up on your ebook reading while on a business trip, it’s a great option, too. While this makes a tablet a bad choice if family members are going to want to borrow it, the reverse is true for your more casual business use. After all, it’s hard to curl up in bed with a laptop to do some reading. A tablet, on the other hand, is made for this.

When Apps Just Work Better

One case in point is Microsoft’s OneNote. It has more features as a Windows app than it does in the browser-based version. Though it varies by software, sometimes the app version is just easier to use or better. If you use a lot of these kinds of solutions in your business, then a tablet may definitely be the right option.

Still Not Sure Which to Get? Get Both!

There are times, of course, when it’s not necessary to make a choice. Some devices offer the best of both worlds. The Asus Transformer Book Trio runs both Windows 8 and Android, for instance. It costs a bit more, but you will have access to two different operating systems in one device. Another device is the Microsoft Surface Pro 3. It handles like a tablet but has the power of a laptop.

No matter what kind of device you choose for your business, be sure it meets your specific needs. The scenarios above should give you some idea of when certain devices are better than others. But ultimately every business is different. So asking some questions about how you plan to use your technology should guide you in your decision making.

Tablet Laptop Photo via Shutterstock

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[“source-smallbiztrends”]

Consider These Tips When Picking Your First Office Space

Choosing an office isn’t just a matter of taking the nearest available real estate. Here are some tips for finding an office space, especially your first.

No matter what business you’re in, choosing a first-rate office is important. When your work location allows you to focus on tasks, meet clients with confidence, and project a professional image all at the same time, it’s easier to achieve results that can help you take your business up a notch.

However, choosing an office isn’t just a matter of taking the nearest available real estate space. Many factors need to be considered for your property investment to pay off and lower the chances you’ll pick a space that doesn’t fit your needs to a T. For that, you can refer to the tips below.

Tips for Finding an Office Space

Plan Your Business Needs to the Last Detail

By knowing your business needs inside and out, you can narrow down your office space options in no time. Before you decide to bring your business to the nearest center of entrepreneurial activity, ask these questions first:

  • What are the tools, equipment and peripherals you need, at the least?
  • How many employees do you have, if any?
  • How much space do you need to accommodate your equipment and employees?
  • What other amenities, other than the bare essentials, should the office be able to accommodate?
  • Does the office have a space where you can meet clients and other visitors?
  • Is the office conducive to work? Is it free of noise, glare and unpleasant smells? If not, what can you do to make it better?
  • Do you foresee having to expand your space? If so, when do you expect it to happen?
  • Can you afford to pay for the office, regardless of your level of income and expenses? Your benchmark value should be the difference between your lowest projected income and highest projected expenses.
  • Is the location as accessible as possible for you, your employees, your partner companies and your target clients/customers?

If it’s challenging to answer these questions at the moment, try to visualize what your business will be like once it’s up and running. After all, a TD Bank survey says that 76 percent of business owners credit their success to the use of visualization techniques.

One technique you can use is the mind map. Essentially, the mind map starts with one central idea that branches out into several interrelated ideas. For example, you can write the word “business” on a board, encircle it, draw lines emanating from the circle connected to phrases like “location,” “employees” and “equipment” and so on and so forth. The idea is to make a clear yet comprehensive visual model that helps you pin down every possible consideration for choosing an office space.

Mobilize Your Real Estate Team ASAP

Of course, purchasing office space isn’t like plucking SPAM off a Wal-Mart shelf and checking out with the cashier. You have documents to prepare, papers to sign and landlords to negotiate with. It can be hard to handle all this, unless you have a team of experts to help you.

In particular, a real estate broker who specializes in corporate properties can be invaluable. Because they have a thorough understanding of your business needs, brokers can connect you with the owners of properties most suitable to your needs. Plus, if you’re lucky to land a tenant broker, you can cut back on costs since those types of brokers are typically compensated by landlords.

You’ll also need a lawyer who’s experienced with real estate matters. A lawyer can help you iron out any kinks in your lease contract, and ensure that the terms and conditions are as favorable to you as possible. Speaking of which …

Consider Leasing

Unless you have millions of dollars in extra cash, it wouldn’t be practical to purchase your own property outright. That’s why most startup owners prefer to lease instead.

Aside from lower upfront expenses, leasing also lightens the pressure to compensate for your property investment ASAP. The cost of an upfront purchase can take at least seven years to recoup, while a lease contract can last from two to three years. Essentially, leases grant you more flexibility in case your business grows faster or slower than anticipated. Lease payments can also be used as tax deductions, which translates to lower expenses during the life of your business.

Be aware that there are different types of leases you can take advantage of, as follows:

  • Net Lease. Aside from your monthly rent, you also pay a portion of expenses such as taxes, insurance and maintenance.
  • Double Net Lease. Your lease is equal to the sum of your rent, taxes and insurance.
  • Triple Net Lease. Your lease is equal to the sum of your rent, taxes, insurance and maintenance.
  • Gross/Fully Serviced/Fixed Lease. Your landlord pays most or all of your operating expenses, though a portion of these may be passed on to you as a “load factor.”

Again, be sure to consult a lawyer for any vaguely worded provisions in your lease. These contracts are often skewed heavily in the landlord’s favor, so it’s important every term and condition is clear to you.

Consider Shared Office Spaces

You don’t have to shoulder the lease by yourself. If there are other tenants who lease the same office space, you can divvy up your expenses with them. And if those tenants are engaged in businesses complementary to yours, you can also establish strategic partnerships that will benefit everyone involved.

Have a Backup Plan

It’s possible that, even after careful consideration, your choice of office space may not be the best one after all. To offset any frustrations you might have with that arrangement, choose up to five possible offices that meet most or all of your criteria. Any more than five and you’ll end up with what is known as analysis paralysis, or the inability to make decisions due to the overabundance of choices.

With these tips, you should be able to construct a general plan for choosing an ideal office space.

Office Photo via Shutterstock

[“source-smallbiztrends”]