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Monthly Archives: October 2016

Everything You Need to Know to Get Started With Slack

Slack is built for teams, and that’s the premise behind the original structure. It’s free to create one — you need to select a name for the team and a password, and then you can invite other collaborators.

It’s easy to accumulate membership in multiple teams if you’re a freelancer or work with several different organizations that create Slack teams. Even some families have latched on to Slack as a way to keep everyone on the same page. Its growing popularity means that familiarity with Slack is essential whether or not your business currently uses it.

Creating a Slack team is pretty straightforward. You give your team a name (it can’t be reused with an existing team) and you’re off. You can invite others through their email addresses to be members. There is desktop software for Windows and Mac, along with mobile apps for iOS, Android and Windows Phone.

Within a team, you can break things down more specifically with channels. Depending on the type of account you opt for, there will be additional levels of access to your teams for freelancers or other outside contributors who aren’t on your payroll.

At the free level, you have limited app integration and can only search your last 10,000 messages. If you’re a sole proprietor with some occasional help or a very small business that doesn’t need extensive records, then you should be fine. Slack says the unpaid level will always be free, without any sort of time limit to convert to a paid plan.

Larger businesses will want to opt for the standard or plus plans. Additionally, Slack recently established an enterprise grid option for larger companies that want search and other connections across multiple teams and channels.

One of the reasons that Slack has grown in popularity is the number of third-party apps it can integrate. You can connect the service to Google Drive, Dropbox, Salesforce and numerous bots. Slack even offers its own Slackbotthat tries to liven up the conversation or help you find key features. These can extend what you do with Slack to make it more than just a chat room.

One of the most popular connections is with Giphy. By typing “/giphy,” you can throw in a gif that gets the point across in a way that sometimes mere words can’t do. If you manage your team’s Slack account, you can turn this feature off to keep things from getting a little too zany.

Each individual user can customize the design of their Slack application and have visibility of the main chat room. Learning to @mention another user is essential, particularly if you have a ton of different conversations going at once.

The best organizational technique is to group different teams into channels. Whether it’s a different vertical within an umbrella business or just more focused conversations, organizing your channels is key to helping everyone not be overwhelmed by a cluttered mess of chats.

Working in Slack is significantly faster if you learn the hotkeys for the commands that you use the most. The company keeps a running list on its blog. Here are some of the key shortcuts you’ll want to know about.

The shortcuts are very similar on Mac and Windows desktop versions. If you’re using a Chromebook, the Windows keyboard commands will be the ones you want to use.

One of the longest-sought feature upgrades to Slack was the ability to have threaded conversations. They’ve finally arrived, and it appears the wait was worth it, because the solution is really well thought out.

You can tuck away a thread and not bother with it if it’s not one you’re a part of. They were also implemented in the Slack mobile apps to make maximum use of the limited screen real estate.

Cost and learning curve are usually the major factors in deciding if such a critical piece of software should be deployed widely. Atlassian continues to ramp up its HipChat service, and Microsoft Teams may be the more compelling option if your business uses Office 365. But Slack’s funding and ambitions will continue to make it one of the top choices when it comes to keeping your team conversations all in one place.

5 Ways to Improve Work-Life Balance When You Work at Home

When you work in an office, part of your normal routine includes changing out of your pajamas and into work-appropriate attire. Though it’s tempting to work in your favorite PJs, it may not be the best option for productivity.

“It helps if you get dressed as if you are going to work,” Lisa Chui, VP of finance and HR at Ubiquity Retirement and Savings, told Business News Daily. “You don’t have to wear a suit or heels, of course, but don’t stay in your pajamas, either. Dressing in clothes that you would wear outside of the home helps you get into the mindset of work.”

Getting ready is important, especially because the way you dress can affect the way you feel.

“Treat [your home] like a real work environment,” said Sara Davidson, founder of online female entrepreneur school Hello Fearless. “It makes a huge difference when you feel like [it is]. It changes the culture.”

Much like putting on a proper outfit, committing to only doing work in a defined space, like an office or another sectioned-off area of your home, can help to create a more productive work environment.

“It’s critical to commute out of the bedroom to a dedicated workspace that separates work from personal space,” said Bob Higgins, co-founder of board game Linknotize. “Once you’ve commuted to your workspace, treat your day as if you’ve actually left the house. In addition to having a dedicated work area, it is also really important to keep at least one space in the house as a business-free zone.”

“I find that having a dedicated home office space is very helpful,” added Sara Sutton Fell, founder and CEO of FlexJobs. “Personally, I work from a renovated space above my garage, but the people on my team set up their home offices in guest bedrooms, renovated closets, corners of the living room and other creative areas.”

When you do find a space or dedicate a room separate from the rest of the house, treat it like an office, suggests Charles Sankowich, CEO and founder ofFriendthem, a social app.

“Keep the doors shut and avoid distractions,” he said “No TV, no radio and make sure others in the household respect your space and don’t interrupt you. They, like you, have to be disciplined to treat your office like an office.”

Working from home can create a disconnect; both with a “typical” work structure and the team. It’s important to touch base with the team and communicate effectively.

“If your company has a tool like Slack, join in the conversations and try to have some verbal communication, either by telephone or by the computer so that you have conversations,” Chui said. “If you are local but still work at home, try to go into the office for big team or company events.”

Chui encouraged remote workers to come into the office at least once a quarter, and participate in their company’s intranet, if it has one.

Giving your full attention to a specific task, regardless of whether it’s work- or home-related, can be tough with all the distractions that pop up throughout the day.

“I want to give so much to my family and I also want to give so much to my [business],” said Melissa Holland, president and founder of maternity bra line BeliBea. “It can be challenging to divide time between those two, especially when working from home.”

“Set your priorities and stick to them. As someone who has worked from home, I set times for when I work and I stick to them,” said Sankowich. “I don’t deviate from the tasks. I will always to do other things around the house (laundry and such) but I will not let house chores interfere with the tasks at hand and the times that I’ve allotted for work.”

Holland said the most helpful way to accomplish this is to set aside specific times on your schedule for personal and professional to-dos.

“Dedicating time to one area helps me stay focused during those moments and ensure I’m giving my all to the task at hand,” she said.

Another obstacle to work-life balance for home-based professionals is the feeling of being “trapped” in their own home. If you don’t have any urgent errands to run or appointments, you could find yourself cooped up at home for several days at a time.

“Because the normal distractions are not there, it’s important to remember that you still need to take breaks so that you don’t find yourself working nonstop for a long period of time,” Chui said. “It’s important to get up every hour and stretch and walk around, plus take a proper lunch.”

Christopher Conner, president of Franchise Marketing Systems, noted that people who work at home should make time for personal activities outside the house, whether it’s visiting a local museum or taking a short vacation.

“When you are doing something personal that makes you happy, that’s when you get the inspiration and drive to start something new in business,” Conner said.

Stress-Busting Tips for Entrepreneurs

“I’ve become increasingly aware of the relationship between stress and health,” said Lisa Vallee-Smith, CEO and founder of marketing and PR firmAirfoil. “One source tells me that 80 percent of sickness can be traced to stress and its close cousin, anxiety. Because stress is also tied to irrational behavior and poor decision making, the potential negative impact of stress on a business owner’s employees and customers cannot be overestimated.”

With the right time-management strategies, you can create room on your to-do list for well-deserved rest and relaxation. Small business owners and startup leaders shared their best tips for finding “you” time (and a refreshed perspective) as an entrepreneur.

“Whether it is a massage, a morning run or a walk around the block, it is imperative as an entrepreneur that you take care of your body. Stress can do quite a number on you physically and the more you can deal with it upfront, the more productive your work day will be. Have a tool or routine that specifically addresses physical stress. Keep your body comfortable as your day progresses, regardless of how ‘stressed’ you might feel.”

“Entrepreneurs work longer and harder hours than anyone else, but if your heart isn’t in it, then trying to make your business a success is going to burn you out. Are you spending time on the aspects you love or are you finding yourself stuck crunching numbers or micromanaging others? Hiring the right people and building the right systems will help others carry your vision, so you can focus on what you love in and outside of the business.”

“Be fiscally responsible. Budget free time first, much like you would put money into a savings account. Then build a monthly budget around the remainder of your expenses or time spent working. By sticking to your budget, you’re forced to allocate the expenses you can afford and cut unnecessary expenses. For example, you can decline meetings you don’t need to attend, or delegate client questions to team members who are more than capable of handling them on their own. Challenge yourself each day to unplug outside the office and hold yourself accountable to your time budget.”

“I have learned to separate the urgent from the important; the crisis from the unexpected negative surprise. There are truly very few true disasters in life; most are temporary annoyances and distractions that require our attention, but don’t require our negative emotion. Intentional breathing that begins in the belly and fills the chest … provides your brain and your body with oxygen and a sense of renewal that can have an immediate positive impact on performance, not to mention blood pressure and pulse!”

“You have to find the one thing that makes you happiest and do it, and for me, that’s golf. I play when I am home at least four times a week, because I can still do business on the course. I apply the same passion in my work as my play, and they both give me the same thrill and challenges.”

“My business requires so much traveling, so I try hard to stay grounded and healthy no matter where I am. I keep my routine and eat as well as I can to take care of myself. Every day, I try to meditate in the morning, and I do yoga at the end of the day as often as I can. I have very challenging and exhausting days, but when you do what you love, it’s easy to get re-energized and start in again the next day.”

When Building a Business, Make It One that Excites You

The day I turned 15 – when I was legally able to work in Canada – I was hired at the hottest fashion boutique, despite the fact I was too small to fit the clothing. But I loved it – I loved helping people, creating the understanding of a product and I loved that things happened right away, in real time.

It was that same fire inside me that made my past jobs at companies like Buffalo, Dish, Silver and lululemon push me to create something that was truly meaningful to me, which could be used as a tool to make people feel great. I wanted a concept that would allow people to be customers, but also employees and now franchisees.

This was, in part, what pushed my husband, Chris, and I to get skoah off the ground. We wanted to create a place where we could make people feel great by having them understand their skin, what products could help them and why regular facials are an important part of self-care.

Skoah began from seeing a big opportunity in the market to focus on the urban working professional who didn’t have enough hours in the day to visit a full-service spa, where the total treatment time lasted several hours. We also wanted to create an experience that was affordable and recurring.

We had not been to a spa before, so we went to a few local establishments to better understand the business. From the moment Chris and I walked through the doors, we felt uncomfortable and intimidated. The oversized robes pooled around my feet. The common area we waited in was outdated and full of cherubs and whale music. Everyone in the spa whispered, and we were left waiting for what felt like an eternity. When it was my turn for a facial, the esthetician immediately began extracting, causing unexpected pain. There was no discussion, no tips, no advice. Just an individual going through the motions. Chris had a similar experience.

It was at that moment that the light turned on for us. We knew there had to be another way to go about business operation within the spa industry. We had a vision to create a concept that would be less time-consuming and more affordable on a recurring basis. Most importantly the concept would encourage conversation in a cool, down-tempo, modern atmosphere. We envisioned a spa that was not intimidating.

Our first location opened in 2001 in Vancouver, B.C. That store is now 15 years old and still growing. Soon after launching, we noticed fragmentation in the industry in some of the bigger, role model cities like Los Angeles, London and Hong Kong. Consumers were looking for single service providers so they could experience a greater level of expertise. Massage-only studios were popping up and upscale nail, blow dry and eye lash bars were the norm. There was no one we knew of offering facials only and an additional revenue stream of a proprietary product line.

A few years into the business, when we had three locations open in Vancouver and Calgary, we received an email from a lawyer in Boston who fell in love with the concept and wanted to open to open one of his own in Boston. Within 10 minutes of our initial conversation with him, I realized people could care as much about skoah and “Personal Training for Your Skin” as me. He soon after became the first independent skoah facial shop owner.

We were excited to grow via the franchise model for a few reasons. First, we believed we created something special and wanted to see it grow. In many parts of the world, weekly facials are normal, but North America hasn’t caught on yet. Our business model is a membership-based model and about 50 percent of the revenue come from product sales – staggering in our industry.

From a personal standpoint, I love to teach, mentor, develop and support people. That is really what my job is as a business owner. I am able to elevate people who join our system and give them the opportunity to become entrepreneurs.