Audiobooks: No More Excuses Not to Read

Reading is important. I tell that to everyone. I read at least one book a week even though I don’t have the time. How you ask??

I recently discovered audiobooks on Itunes. They have a good selection and you can find more on Amazon as well. At first, I didn’t think I would enjoy listening to books rather than reading them. My mind changed quickly.

Listening to a book on your Ipod or phone is easy and convenient. It allows you to perform other tasks simultaneously as well, such as driving or working out.

I like to cycle often. Instead of listening to music during my workouts, I listen to books. Whenever I’m driving or doing a mundane task that requires little brain power, I listen to a book. It’s great and I’m learning so much!

I highly recommend it to everyone. You don’t have to worry about reading glasses, eye strain or books cluttering your shelves!

Social Media Marketing – Visuals Are Key

It’s like they always said in business school when giving presentations, visuals are key. Today’s ritalin popping culture is growing more and more dependent on visuals and short excerpts rather than essays and articles. And the more businesses try to reach their customers over the internet, the more engaging content they must create.

The saying a picture is worth a thousand words could not be truer in today’s market. And if a picture is worth a thousand, then a video (well put together) is worth a hundred thousand.  For bloggers, this means posting more photos in their articles and more videos of themselves. For companies, it may mean more videos of end-users interacting with their products or perhaps photos or videos of company events.

The costs of electronics has taken a nose dive the past few years. Good digital camerasand HD flipcamsare very affordable at around $150. Sites such as Youtube and Vimeo are free services that allow users to upload and broadcast their videos. Flickr is another free site that allows users to upload large amounts of photos for online use and sharing. Clearly, the costs of production and broadcasting are no longer to expensive for small businesses or individuals.

Examples: Check out MoreThanMary.com to see great examples of how a successful blogger does it. Mary has mastered the art of using visuals online and I myself have learned tons from her. Another great site to check out is ShopWatchBuy.com. I just recently discovered this and love its creativity. This site has taken the visual concept to the next level by allowing users to sell their products using their own videos.

So bloggers…stop being camera shy (I totally am, but that’s going to change). As for businesses, start getting creative with advertising via multimedia, and start engaging with your customers.

This is a whole new type of branding, where creativity is more important than the budget. No more giant billboards. No more million dollar Super Bowl commercials. They’re being replaced with amateur videos that cost squat and can reach the hearts of millions.

The All Important P&L

Any savvy entrepreneur knows the importance of the profit / loss statement (the P&L). The P&L is basically a breakdown of all your expenses (fixed and variable) and all of your income, showing you the difference between the two. Hopefully, you’re “in the black,” meaning your profitable with your income being greater than your expenses.

This is a vital business metric that all entrepreneurs should watch and study. I look at mine at least ten times a day. I can recite it by heart.

Profit Loss Statement

Above is an example of a well put together P&L. The numbers seem a bit inflated, but all I can say is…damn…wish I owned THIS business…

In today’s economic environment, when consumer spending is at an all time low, smart entrepreneurs are beginning to focus more and more inward on their businesses since the task of gaining new sales is  becoming increasingly difficult. Leaning down a business’ spending is a huge challenge but can be very rewarding in the end. It takes creativity and sacrifice.

  • How: Quickbooks is a popular accounting program that can help you track your finances. I use it religiously in my personal and business endeavors. I recommend it to everyone I know. It’s simple, it’s quick and it’s organized.
  • Why: Any entrepreneur who doesn’t track what they spend on labor, raw materials, marketing, utilities, etc. should be backhand slapped in the face. Far too many business owners care more about what’s coming in than what’s going out. I call it check writing in autopilot.
  • Example: Every week I have a company that washes our uniforms, aprons, napkins and towels for my restaurant. It was an expense I hated, and it was growing. I was paying out over $3,000 a month for laundry! Every time I looked at my P&L, I got pissed. Not upset…pissed. So what did I do? I went on Craigslist, bought a stackable washer/dryer for $500, bought some industrial detergent and instructed the employees in the back to throw the dirty linens in at the end of each day. By making that move, I now spend $100 a month on laundry. Do the math. That’s a huge savings, and I would have never known it if I hadn’t seen it on my P&L.

For all those that just scan articles to the end…I’m putting this in bold…If you don’t have a profit and loss statement, you don’t have an understanding of your business and you don’t have a chance in hell of making it.

Cool Apps for the Entrepreneur

Here are some cool apps I’ve used which will help any entrepreneur. Enjoy!

freshbooksThis is one of my favorite online apps for small business owners and independent contractors. It allows for invoice creation, tracking and collection. It’s done completely online and its simple to use. Because of its professional look and streamlined operation, this tool will help improve the perception your clients have of you.

Google Calendar

If you’re not already using Gmail or Google Calendar…start. It’s simple in that Google way and very powerful. Cool features include: Users can share their calendars with others and post events on other’s calendars, and it runs on Google’s servers which means it can be accessed from any device or desktop.

Campfirenow.comCampfire is like instant messaging, but designed exclusively for groups. There’s a few sites out there like this. Google Wave is another that just came out, but Campfire has been around a while. There’s nothing to install and it’s very secure. You can share text, files, and code in real time. You can also conduct business negotiations with a group.

remember milkAn very simple app that has saved my butt many times. It basically an online calendar on steroids. Setup it up to remind you about tasks or events via sms, email, instant messenger, skype etc.

mystickiesI love this app! I’m all about sticky notes, so this is a dream for me. It allows you to place sticky notes on actual webpages. Then you can go back any time and look at the notes you left. If you do a lot of online research (bloggers, etc.), this may prove to be an invaluable app.

Wesabe.comThis is a fascinating concept that seems to be working very well. You essentially upload all of your bank-account and credit-card information, and the site maintains a running list of every transaction. Other Wesabe users can observe your spending habits and offer advice on what you should do or change. Scary but effective!

Side JobAnother great tool for the independent contractor or someone who does a little work on the side. This site will hand your tracking, invoicing and reporting. It takes a very tedious task and makes it simple.

InstacalcA great app for anyone that doesn’t have their TI-82 anymore. It is a highly intuitive online calculator that can actually be quite fun to use.