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5 Holiday Gifts for Small Business Owners November 25, 2009

Posted by Darwin in applicant tracking, business software, small business.
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As we enter the holiday season our minds will start to drift to family, turkey, presents, and relaxation.  For small businesses around the country though, the holiday season often means a ramp up in production and hiring.  Essentially, small businesses can use their mobility to take advantage of times when larger industry shuts down for the holidays.    When millions of Americans are sitting by the fire roasting marshmallows, small business owners will be ardently pushing their companies towards success.

Sounds stressful, huh?  That’s why I’ve created a holiday gift list for small business owners: odds and ends as well as cutting edge products that can take a bit of stress off their backs.

1. Rancilio Silvia Espresso Machine: The Rancilio Silvia has been continually voted by consumers as one of top espresso machines over the past several years.  What can help a small business owner in a time of need more than a hot, steaming espresso pick-me-up?  This well-crafted stainless steel and brass appliance not only looks great, but also makes a top-notch espresso or cappuccino, with an incredible foaming capacity.

2.  Zazzle.com Gift Certificate: Zazzle provides a great interface for a small business owner to create branded paraphernalia like coffee mugs, t-shirts, and business cards.   Although some of these items appear somewhat trivial, having branded equipment can be essential for a growing business that is still searching for its identity.  Having a sweet logo, catch phrase, or design to show off to the world can boost a team’s solidarity and collaborative abilities.   Zazzle’s business card UI is simple but effective, and provides an easy interface for a startup’s first business cards.

3.  Applicant Tracking Software: When a small business begins to grow, an owner will embark on a difficult and complex applicant tracking process.  Finding the best suited talent for a small business requires a great deal of organization and detail management.  Luckily, there are applicant tracking software solutions that can drastically increase the efficiency of a company’s hiring process.  Many hiring solutions are easy to use, effective, and priced at a point that allows small business owners to compete with the big boys in the corporate recruiting arena.

4.  Herman Miller Mirra Office Chair: For those small business owners that work on a computer all day, this ergonomic king of office chairs will offer some necessary comfort and support to their aching backs.  The Herman Miller Mirra was voted by consumers as one of the best ergonomic office chairs with a one size fits all saddle as well as adjustable lumbar support and arms.

5.  Frog O Sphere: The Frog O Sphere is a self-contained eco-system for two dwarf african frogs, sold by Brookstone.  You’re probably asking how the heck frogs can help small business owners.  Budding entrepreneurs spend many, cold, lonely nights in the office, finishing reports, sending out packages, and preparing presentations.  It’s unrealistic to have a dog or cat at the office, but a self-contained and easy to maintain Frog Ecosystem can fill the need for a healthy distraction and great conversation topic.

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Top 5 Software Video Demos November 6, 2009

Posted by Darwin in applicant tracking, business software, video demos.
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video demo picBusinesses have learned over the past decade that one of the best ways to train people in utilizing software is through quick and efficient video demonstrations.  Videos are fantastic resources not only for software training, but for anything: from gardening how-tos to step by step cooking instructions.  Whether it is due to consumer laziness, a new evolution in learning, or a more efficient mode of communication, video demos are a great way to get a lot of information across in a short period of time.

Demonstrating a product’s features in a short amount of time is integral as a business weighs in on whether or not they want to utilize a service.  The efficiency of a demo video often speaks to the efficiency of the software product itself.  Some key indicators of a good software demo are quick to-the-point feature promotions, clear and concise usage examples, a steady well-paced narration, and a call to action on how to take the next step with the product.

I’d like to take this opportunity to highlight several shining examples of great software demo videos.  If you are on the market for any of these products, you should have no problem deciding if you want to use them after viewing these.

Google Wave:

Google’s new sensational product, Google Wave, has certainly created ‘waves’ in the tech blogosphere lately. Do we really know what it does though?  The Wave video demo gives us more than enough, with 15 clear features that round out Wave’s claim to being ‘the next generation of email’.

Dropbox

Dropbox is a great organizational tool that enables multiple users to easily share files across several computers.  The problem is, describing the product is quite difficult through traditional language.  However, the Dropbox team did the right thing and produced a slick Dropbox video demo that quite aptly highlights the service’s strengths and features.

Newton Software

Newton provides a recruiting software and applicant tracking product that allows a business to efficiently manage its hiring process.  Newton’s software is certainly slick, and in a space crowded with wannabes, it needs a good way to differentiate itself for potential customers.  Enter the Newton Software Video Demo, which expertly highlights the applicant tracking system’s features and user interface through a concise synopsis.

Layar

Layar provides next generation augmented reality mobile applications.  essentially, utilizing Layar’s mobile application, a user can access an additional ‘layer’ of data based on the world around them.  For someone who isn’t familar with augmented reality, this is a bit difficult to picture.   However, the team out of the Netherlands created a fantastic Layar Video Demo that highlights what augmented reality really is.

Microsoft Photosynth

Microsoft’s amazing new product allows user submitted photos from various angles to be fused into one comprehensive layer that can be viewed in a 360 degree tour.  The Photosynth demo made a splash when it was first released, and continues to be a great way to demonstrate this amazing tech.

The Future of Collaboration July 28, 2009

Posted by Darwin in applicant tracking, business software, collaboration, enterprise software, futurism, technology.
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collaborationCollaboration:  it’s a term that suddenly became trendy with the rise of new cutting-edge web 2.0 software solutions.  Enterprise collaboration is a type of back-and-forth communication to promote innovation or take a product to the next level.  Collaboration is the glue that holds many businesses together, allowing owners, managers, employees, clients and customers to see eye-to-eye.

Back in the day, collaboration involved calling someone up and speaking on the phone, but nowadays it usually only takes a few mouse clicks to get a point across.  New web applications that span various industries are taking collaboration to a new level, setting a new bar in ease-of-use and efficiency.  The future of enterprise collaboration is also promising, with the potential to streamline and personalize data transfer.

I’d like to take this opportunity to take a look at the present and future of cutting-edge collaboration technology. Where does enterprise collaborative technology stand today? And what sort of advancements can we expect at the turn of the 22nd century?

Today, much of the front line collaborative technology is built on the trail that social networking cleared. Although social networking specifically refers to online communities like MySpace and Facebook, it also can be used as a broad term for any sort of ‘social’ collaboration.  In the past, technology most often trickled down from high-tech business and government projects to mass consumer products (like the conception of the Internet itself). Social networking curiously took the opposite route, starting as a consumer tool for teens and geeks and slowly re-inventing itself as business communication technology.

Not only do businesses around the world utilize their own proprietary collaborative networks, they also are starting to adopt consumer Web 2.0 tools. Google Documents is a great example of this.   It began as Google’s anti-Microsoft word document processing application, but has since evolved into a collaborative tool that businesses and consumers use to share data.

From the Google Docs site: “Google Apps lets us centralize and consolidate information, simplifying our company’s internal communication process and giving us better control over our business.” Alejandra Cifuentes – IT Manager for Takami, Restaurant and Food Services

Various other collaborative software tools allow businesses in every niche industry to efficiently share information across their network of employees.  Newton Software is another great example of an innovator.  As a developer of applicant tracking and recruiting software solutions, one of Newton’s primary goals is to simplify the line of communication between recruiters and hiring managers.  By making this collaborative process more efficient, the whole hiring process benefits.

So what does the future of collaboration hold? The Internet is such a powerful communication tool that it’s hard to imagine any sort of collaboration existing outside of our current ‘www infrastructure.’   Think ahead to when the ‘www’ may no longer be relevant. Perhaps instead of domains and urls, we instead will be accessing information via thought command.  Imagine accessing sites and information just as you currently access your memories.

Speaking of memories, want to play back that first kiss and share it with your closest friends?  Simply access it via your embedded neural chip and send it up  into the cloud, where your buddies can access it and relive the memory along with you.  On the business side of things, meetings can once again get up-close and personal.   Meet, greet and collaborate wherever and whenever you want.  Your client likes the beach?  Set up your meeting on two solitary hammocks in Fiji.   Or maybe have the meeting round-table style in the great hall of a European castle.

Although the future of collaboration might sound a bit intimidating to you and I, it will certainly be commonplace for the coming generations.

Essential online business software for startups May 27, 2009

Posted by Darwin in applicant management, applicant tracking, business software, enterprise software, human resources, recruiting software, small business.
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free businessYou’ve decided to take the plunge.  Finally go off the deep end.    You swing open the door to your manager’s office, walk back to your desk and begin to sweat.  A cocktail of stress and jubilation spills down your body from head to toe.   Your feet start to move and then you are walking, out the door, down the elevator, into the city, and then out into the world.  You’ve decided to start your own business- escape the grind and finally pursue your dreams.     You’re free.  You’re screwed.

Then comes the details.  You need to strategize – figure out what needs to be done to get it rolling.   What kind of paperwork do you need to fill out?  How are you going to find your employees- designers, developers, sales, recruiters?  Where will your office be?  Where can you find advice from those who have already gone through this chaos?  What if you have a patent to submit?  How will you collaborate with your contractors?  How can you keep track of money, prepare for taxes?  What about business cards, business plans, PR initiatives and exit strategies?

These are just a fraction of the questions a small business owner needs to answer when forming a start up.   Fortunately, there are a host of new and cutting edge Web 2.0 software tools that have been created to help answer these questions.  Today’s entrepreneur can utilize a variety of enterprise software applications that will help them get on their feet without giving away an arm and leg of their nest-egg.  I’ve created a list of some of my favorites- feel free to contribute with any others that you know of.

Basecamp: For your project management and collaboration needs, basecamp is a web tool that allows a small business to interface with clients and collaborators.  It has an incredibly intuitive UI that allows an entrepreneur to keep their head on straight while managing several projects at once.

http://www.basecamphq.com/

Dropbox: A nifty web application that rids you of need to carry around USB flash drives or larger external hard drives.    Dropbox allows you to synchronize various computers to common accessible folders.   Its as easy as drag and drop, and allows several collaborators to share files wherever they are, without the hassle.

http://www.getdropbox.com/

Google Docs: Google Docs provides a suite of online MS-office-esque applications that all are extremely accessible and easy to utilize.  Whether you want to create a spreadsheet that tracks potential clients, or an online word-doc business plan, Google Docs allows multiple collaborators to contribute simultaneously, instead of the tediously sending a document back and forth via email.

http://docs.google.com/

Odesk: Odesk is an online web tool that allows a small business employer to outsource work to freelancers around the world.  While an entrepreneur must be weary about those bidding to do work from overseas for a fraction of the cost, very often Odesk provides a great interface for a variety contract jobs.    The online application allows an employer to adeptly track their freelancers, from up-to-date progress updates to an actual live webcam feed of their hire.

http://www.odesk.com/

LinkedIn: LinkedIn is the most popular and free social networking tool for business professionals.  You can essentially post your online resume and qualifications, as well as list your current business venture and why its great.  One useful feature on the social-networking side of things is the ability to get in touch with other local small business owners, who may have helpful advice for you.  It also provides a great forum to let your client’s tell the world about all the great work you’ve done for them through the recommendations engine.

http://www.linkedin.com/

Newton On Demand: Newton provides an online software service for your company’s recruiting and applicant tracking needs.   Easier to use than many of your favorite websites, Newton’s online recruiting software enables your entire hiring team to access, manage and share recruiting information across your entire company.  The great thing about this piece of software is that it is extremely intuitive to use, allowing hiring managers and recruiters to easily collaborate from wherever they are.

http://www.newtonondemand.com/

Zazzle: Whether you want to design your company’s business cards, coffee mugs, or kickball Tees, Zazzle provides a great online tool for enterprise branding.   Although things like these may seem ephemeral when trying to make deadlines, some branding can go along way for your small business identity and marketing.

http://www.zazzle.com/

Twitter: If getting some attention in your niche is what your small business needs- Twitter is a great tool to keep fans, clients and family alike updated with the latest news.  If utilized effectively, Twitter can be a modern day PR agency, minus the headache of management and associated costs.

http://www.twitter.com/

QuickBooks:  This time-tested financial software package is still as relevant as ever.   I recommend getting set up with QuickBooks from day one to track every dollar going in and out of your business.  The intuitive interface and online access makes it a breeze to create invoices, track payments and manage your small business expenses.

http://www.quickbooks.com/