Month: September 2008

New Free Business Forms

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Have you visited the VR Lounge yet to interact with over 1400 people interested in email marketing? If that hasn’t been enough to get you there maybe this will; over 60 business forms for you to download absolutely free!

Here’s a small sample of what you’ll find:

  • Accounting – Pro forma balance sheet, profit & loss statement, cash flow statements & more.
  • Admin – Credit check, fax cover, wire transfer, purchase order, invoice template, expense report template & more.
  • Finance – Lease or buy comparison, calculating present value & more.
  • HR – Job description, application for employment, offer letter, employee termination report & more.
  • Legal – Consulting agreement, confidentiality agreement & more.
  • Marketing – Marketing plan, creative brief, press release template, marketing budget & more.
  • Strategy – Strategic plan outline, SWOT analysis, executive summary & more.

So have fun with them but remember, the forms are to be used only as a starting point. VerticalResponse makes no claim that these forms are legally binding in your state, country or part of the world so first consult your attorney!

Melin gave us the Frisbee, Hula Hoop Idea man, innovator persevered through success, survived failure

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Wham-O, the business Arthur Melin and friend Richard Knerr started in 1948, was based on a slingshot that could shoot food up to a hunter’s falcons. Not many were sold. Next, Melin arranged for a truckload of oysters so he could open an oyster bar in California. Without hoped-for backing, he had to dump the oysters into a nearby bay.

He and Knerr still had Wham-O, and after several other ill-fated endeavors, they bought the rights for a plastic flying disk in 1955. They called it the Plato Platter. It wasn’t much of a hit until the following year when they changed the name to the Frisbee.

One of Melin’s next ideas was the plastic Hula Hoop. It was a big success but faded fast. Wham-O took a big loss on its huge unsold inventory.

A couple of years later, they made the SuperBall, which did well. Melin’s two-handed tennis racket, however, was not a success. But Silly String and Slip ‘n Slide did OK. He and Kerr sold Wham-O in 1982.

Melin’s life proves again that all ideas aren’t winners, but if you keep coming up with them, you’ll find some that are. Lots of people told him his ideas weren’t realistic, but he kept on trying.

Keep his example in mind when you have an idea and someone says it’s not a good one. Maybe it is. You probably won’t make a lot of money on it, (it took Melin 34 years to do that) but you could help your organization save a buck or change something for the better. That always counts.

Email becomes a dangerous distraction

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This article appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald. I thought it was interesting enough to pass on.

Back in the early 1990s, email was a privilege granted only to those who could prove they needed it. Now it has turned into a nuisance that’s costing companies millions. We may feel that we have it under control, but not only do we check email more often than we realize, but the interruptions are more detrimental than was previously thought.

In a study last year, Dr Thomas Jackson of Loughborough University, England, found that it takes an average of 64 seconds to recover your train of thought after interruption by email (bit.ly/email2). So people who check their email every five minutes waste 81/2hours a week figuring out what they were doing moments before.

It had been assumed that email doesn’t cause interruptions because the recipient chooses when to check for and respond to email (bit.ly/email3). But Dr Jackson found that people tend to respond to email as it arrives, taking an average of only one minute and 44 seconds to act upon a new email notification; 70% of alerts got a reaction within six seconds. That’s faster than letting the phone ring three times.

Added to this is the time people spend with their inbox. A July 2006 study by ClearContext, an email management tools vendor, surveyed 250 users and discovered that 56% spent more than two hours a day in their inbox (bit.ly/email4). Most felt they got too much email – by January 2008, 38% of respondents received more than 100 emails a day – and that it stopped them from doing other things.

Karen Renaud, a lecturer at the University of Glasgow, Scotland, and her colleagues at the University of the West of Scotland discovered that email users fall into three categories: relaxed, driven and stressed. “The relaxed group don’t let email exert any pressure on their lives,” Dr Renaud says. “They treat it exactly the way that one would treat the mail: ‘I’ll fetch it, I’ll deal with it in my own time, but I’m not going to let it upset me’.”

The second group felt “driven” to keep on top of email, but also felt that they could cope with it. The third group, however, reacted negatively to the pressure of email. “That causes stress,” says Dr Renaud, “and stress causes all sorts of health problems.”

Dr Renaud’s team discovered that while 64% of respondents claimed to check their email once an hour, and 35% said they checked every 15minutes, they were actually checking it much more frequently – about every five minutes. For some people, checking email is no longer a conscious and deliberate act, but a compulsion they are barely aware of (bit.ly/email5).

Tom Stafford, a lecturer at the University of Sheffield, England, and co-author of the book Mind Hacks, believes that the same fundamental learning mechanisms that drive gambling addicts are also at work in email users. “Both slot machines and email follow something called a ‘variable interval reinforcement schedule’ which has been established as the way to train in the strongest habits,” he says.

“This means that rather than reward an action every time it is performed, you reward it sometimes, but not in a predictable way. So with email, usually when I check it there is nothing interesting, but every so often there’s something wonderful – an invite out or maybe some juicy gossip – and I get a reward.” This is enough to make it difficult for us to resist checking email, even when we’ve only just looked. The obvious solution is to process email in batches, but this is difficult. One company delayed delivery by five minutes, but had so many complaints that they had to revert to instantaneous delivery. People knew that there were emails there and chafed at the bit to get hold of them.

Another solution might be the notification system Growl (growl.info), which puts up a brief message on the screen with details such as the sender and subject line while the user is in other programs. Presently only available for Mac OS X, a version is being tested for Windows though this, of course, causes the interruptions you are trying to avoid. Companies are beginning to take these problems seriously, although the “no email days” favoured by Deloitte and Intel have not proved effective. Deloitte’s “no email Wednesday” was abandoned after a month (bit.ly/email6) and Intel found that there was a “clear incompatibility” between the need of the pilot group to communicate asynchronously with colleagues and the avoidance of email for a whole day (bit.ly/email7). No-email days don’t work, says Dr Stafford, “because they don’t help people to change their behaviour while they are actually using email. Once your email is back, you’re going to respond to it in the same old ways unless you replace your bad habits.”

It’s better to replace email with more appropriate tools. Roo Reynolds, a “metaverse evangelist” who is joining the BBC to work with social media, has moved away from email for everything but the most formal communications. “I use other tools … I’ve got a whole set of contacts who love Twitter and if I want to reach them quickly then that’s where they’ll be.”

Mr Reynolds has even begun to think of email as rude and invasive, preferring to use tools such as Twitter and Flickr. He also uses social networking sites such as Dopplr, which tracks people’s travel, to find out if they are away before he contacts them, and status alerts from instant messenger or Twitter to help him decide if now is a good time to interrupt them. Other tools, such as blogs and wikis, have decreased the amount of email that he sends and receives, while RSS feeds and recommendations from friends and colleagues allow him to keep abreast of the most important news.

For a tool that business depends so heavily on, we put little thought into how we use email. Dr Karol Szlichcinski, a business psychologist, recommends providing guidelines and training to give people “ways of reducing the disruption caused by email, ways of managing email so that it doesn’t run your day. Organisational norms build up, and people come to expect others to answer emails within a given timeframe, whether that email is important or not.”

We may think email is simple, but its ease of use is deceptive. For many, it’s a boon, but for an increasing majority it’s the tail that wags the dog.

Keeping control of the inbox

If you find your mouse straying towards the “check email” button far too often, try these tactics:

- Turn off intrusive alerts. Anything that pops up, flashes, or goes “ding!” will interrupt you when you’re trying to focus and will trigger a response to check your email.

- Set your email client to display just the title and first few lines of the email, so you can easily decide if it is important enough to deal with right now.

- Use other tools. Twitter and instant messaging (IM) are better for asking short questions of chosen groups. Wikis are better for collaborating on documents. Blogs are better for publishing information and having informal conversations.

- Send fewer emails. Do you need to hit “reply to all”?

- Schedule your email. Set aside time each day to deal with your inbox and ignore it for the rest of the day. Most people check first thing in the morning and late afternoon.

Suw Charman-Anderson is an expert in collaboration and communications

Gas prices in 1929

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The retail price of gas was about 20 cents a gallon from 1929 to 1946. Disposable income in the 1930s was about $400 to $500 per year, equaling about $6,000 in today’s dollars. That means 1,000 gallons of gas cost as much as almost 49 percent of disposable income in 1933. To reach those levels today, gas would have to sell for between $14 and $17 per gallon, according to University of Michigan economist Mark J. Perry.

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Positive Attitude

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In my free time from PagePath, I am a High School Youth Minister at my local church. The other day, I was reading an article in a Youth Ministry publication on leadership, and it occurred to me that much of what was said, can apply to management in the print industry. I would like to share some of the bullet points with you on what stood out for me, obviously changing the ideas to leadership in management, instead of Youth Ministry.

There has been a lot written about the power of attitude. And when it comes to leadership and management, attitude means a lot.

Positive mental attitude often gets a bad wrap. It often gets attached to cheesy people who love cheesy slogans. But be careful not to through out the true content with the cheese. Being a leader in management who has a positive attitude is certainly better than one who sees the glass half empty. A positive attitude in leadership:

  • helps you overcome leadership challenges and difficulties.
  • causes you to take responsibility for your actions and life.
  • creates energy–a negative attitude zaps it.
  • leads to action.
  • helps you learn and absorb more.
  • causes you to look for opportunities and potential, not just problems.
  • helps you believe positive outcomes can occur in almost any situation.
  • attracts other positive thinking people into your business and life.
  • helps you discover and focus on your strengths instead of your weaknesses.
  • leads to developing good habits.

Ask yourself this one simple question: How will having a positive mental attitude in management improve your business? Then decide whether it is too cheesy to have a PMA.