There are three types of innovation: innovation that creates jobs, innovation that’s job neutral, and innovation that reduces jobs. Continue reading →

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Sponsored Post You look at your outdated laptop with disgust as you try to work, only to find it takes FOREVER to do anything. It ran fine five years ago when it was the latest-greatest. Now, it boots up slowly and runs even slower with all the RAM-hungry software you want to use on it today. That’s the problem with staying in the dark ages. Maybe you are saving money by not updating your laptop to a newer generation model, but you sacrifice performance. And in the end it could cost you money because of slowness, freezes, crashes and unexpected failure. Your business Internet connection can be viewed similarly to that older laptop. If you choose old tech over new tech when it comes to your connectivity, you are missing out on all of the benefits. When you are considering broadband connections for your business, the following question may pop up, “I have been quoted by my local phone company for a T1 line and a Metro Ethernet provider for Ethernet services — which do I choose? Aren’t they the same?” Really, the only thing about the two technologies that appears similar is that they carry higher speeds than standard Internet connections. Yet, from the technology standpoint there is a clear winner here. It’s the new technology. To see why the new technology is a winner over the other, you simply need to understand what they are. Let me explain first by talking about the products themselves. Then I will get into advantages and disadvantages, before giving my conclusion. What is a T1? A T1 circuit is a dedicated (which in this sense means “not shared”) point-to-point line from your business’ network to the telephone company’s central office and then in some cases to the Internet provider, which could also be your phone company. A T1 line can also be used to link shared data between offices as well. The T1 will require specialized equipment at each location, that you must have the phone company install. This line can carry data at a rate of approximately 1.5 Mbps. You can bond T1′s together to increase the bandwidth to roughly 1.5Mbps for each additional line. Mbps stands for “megabits per second.” Notice we are not talking megabytes. Megabits refers to the transfer rate of data, or stated differently, the download speed. Megabytes refers to a file size. A megabit is one-eighth the size of a megabyte. What does that mean? It means, to download a one megabyte file in one second, you’d need 8 megabits of download speed (or 8 Mbps). This handy Google megabits to megabytes converter demonstrates how that works. What is Ethernet? Some time ago, T1 lines were the common method for receiving a high speed Internet connection. That started back in the day when slow dialup Internet connections were widespread. A T1 line was perceived as a faster and better choice — and sometimes the only high-speed choice available to businesses in a service area. However, Internet demands are growing so rapidly that T1s aren’t able to handle the bandwidth capacity as easily as they used to. That’s why many businesses are turning to Internet using Ethernet. On average, Ethernet service is delivered to a customer with a minimum speed of 10 Mbps (which, to compare, is equal to more than six T1s bonded together). Ethernet can go all the way up to 1 Gbps and beyond, depending on the service provider. One gigabit is equal to 1024 megabits — a tremendous speed advantage! So, as you can see, Ethernet can be orders of magnitude faster than a T1 line. Even better, Ethernet’s high level of bandwidth comes at a relatively low cost since Ethernet cables and equipment are inexpensive. Well-defined industry standards make installation collectively simple and economical throughout the industry. In fact, the cost structure is generally lower than that of a T1 and in a managed Ethernet scenario you would not have the costs of equipment to buy and maintain. How Do I Choose Between T1 and Ethernet? When comparing T1 lines and Ethernet, the important things to note are: Bandwidth Availability Bonding T1′s will be limited by the equipment you own. Bonding up to 7 T1′s would get you to approximately 12 Mbps. However, you can easily exceed those speeds with a single Ethernet connection. Service Level Agreements (Also Known as SLA’s) Both types of services offer high up-time. So on this point there’s not much difference. Reliability Link bonding is a traditional method used for bonding T1′s together, but this technology requires all links to be up at all times to work. One circuit failure (physical or otherwise) will take down the entire data link. Ethernet uses a newer technology called loop bonding. If a single loop fails the other circuits will continue behaving as normal providing you with continued (even if slightly skewed) bandwidth during repair. You may not even notice the failure of a loop. Expansion Capability Adding T1′s requires additional equipment. That could make expanding your capacity a costly scenario. Adding T1’s not only costs you extra equipment (T1 cards that typically your equipment vendor sells you and installs) but it also costs you time. The phone company has to physically install another line to your office, which may take months. With Ethernet, not only do you not need any more equipment, your service provider can bump up your capacity remotely, with a few keystrokes. Quality of Service Generally both offer high quality of service, depending on carrier of course. So deciding to move to Ethernet will not impact the clarity of your VOIP call or your video transmission, for instance. In fact, more available bandwidth with Ethernet may mean more calls can take place without interrupting other Internet-based services. Costs Overall, Ethernet offers much better cost efficiency and in many cases you can get Ethernet in a 20Mbps connection for the same cost as a single T1. Availability The availability of T1 and Ethernet services depend on the physical distance between each location and the central office of the provider you are choosing and also the physical delivery method. If the technology is delivered over copper wire, the distance for availability is considerably shorter than if fiber is the available conduit. T1 technology has been around and in use for a very long time and the telco providers have central offices very well spread out because of phone services, so T1 technology is more readily available. Ethernet is still young and thus availability is smaller. However, as competition mounts and more fiber is being lit across the U.S., Ethernet will become every bit as available. Be sure to thoroughly check out the providers in your location and what they offer. As you can see there are some great reasons to consider the new technology — Ethernet — as and when it becomes available in your area. Ethernet Cable Photo via Shutterstock The post Get Out of the Dark Ages: A New Type of Business Internet Connection appeared first on Small Business Trends .

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We’re all familiar with the phrase “you get what you pay for. ” It’s such a common statement that it’s difficult to pinpoint the exact origin. It’s likely that, as a business owner, you’ve used this exact phrase when discussing the value your business provides to potential clients or to your colleagues. But how often do we think about this phrase when it comes to our dealings with other businesses? Of course, when it comes down to it, it’s all about that bottom line. But it’s also important not to let thinking about our bottom line render us short-sighted. That concern for our bottom line is what can make someone “cheap-out” when it comes to other businesses and service providers – even though they’d never want to receive that same treatment themselves. The Cheaper Way is Not Always The Best Way An example that comes to mind is the popularity of outsourcing, popularized by sites like Elance, oDesk, Guru and Fiverr. These sites let people post a listing for services they need provided (everything from basic data entry to writing and editing to coding an app) and receive bids from providers around the world. Because of the global nature of these marketplaces, they’re often referred to as a “race to the bottom” by service providers – there’s always someone willing to do what you can do, except for less money. And to a business owner, that lower cost can look like a great deal. Despite appearances, it’s not always necessarily the best route, even if it costs less up front. You’re still going to pay a “time fee”. Discussing a project with someone whose English skills aren’t as good as yours can make it difficult to move things along in a timely manner. Back-and-forth emailing can get muddled once a language barrier is thrown into the mix. It’s likely that by the time communications have been resolved and the project is done, you’ve paid at least 2-3x what you would have if you’d gone with a more expensive but more experienced service provider. And that cost doesn’t factor in the time that you’ve spent making sure the project runs smoothly – which can add up to several hours. As an example, if you bill your time at more than $5/hr, that adds up to a considerable expense. Often times, many business owners have come to the end of a frustrating project and wished they’d gone with the higher-priced service or business. The phrase “you get what you pay for” works more than one way. By putting your hard-earned dollars towards something, you’re supporting it and creating the demand for more of it. So, if you use your business’s profits to outsource instead of keeping it local, you’re setting up the demand for more of that same sort of work – which can have long-lasting side effects on a larger economic scale. Not All Is Lost There are still tons of great ways to find actual talent that can get the job done well, and for a reasonable amount. SupplierPay , the new initiative launched by the Obama administration, promotes partnership within the private sector and is intended to boost small businesses by partnering with 26 companies to get small business suppliers paid faster. If you’re looking to outsource to your own remote workforce, Flexjobs (for full time employees) and PeoplePerHour (for contractors or freelancers) are great choices. Where That Leaves You, The Owner By putting our money towards other small businesses like ourselves, we’re going to get what we pay for – more small businesses and actual growth within the private sector. Small businesses already employ half of the U.S. workforce and create almost two out of three new American jobs – so growing our small business sector is absolutely an investment worth paying for. Disappointed Photo via Shutterstock The post Do You Really Still Get What You Pay For? appeared first on Small Business Trends .

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For many businesses, summer is traditionally a slow month. The heat slows our bodies down (I guess that impacts sales), folks are focused on going away for an annual vacation, children are home from school and people want to leave their offices early and have FUN! While some businesses thrive during the summer, others dread the 3 months of heat, beach and vacations because their customers attention is even more distracted then it might usually be. But there are several things you can do to turn up summer sales and look forward to the summer month: 1) Check out Infusionsoft’s “ Own Your Summer ” campaign. Win prizes (including time with Daymond John) and get free education to help you grow your business even more. 2) Send your customers low cost “summer themed” gifts – just to wish them a great Summer. 3) Have your own weekly “Summer party” – to draw in customers and prospects to your business. 4) Survey your customers so you know which ones are NOT going away during the Summer. Get to know them better and maybe even take your best customers to lunch or provide one for them, for example. 5) Invite prospects (not customers) to your office for breakfast meetups (or lunch or evening networking). Have part of it fun (remember it’s summer) and the other part educational as a soft introduction to your products or services. 6) Use the slow time to educate yourself, freshen up your business operations, get to know your employees better and prepare for the upswing that the Fall Season might bring. 7) Partner with other companies on a referral campaign – they encourage their customers to buy from you and you encourage your customers to buy from them. Make sure you track all the activity. Republished by permission. Original here . Summer Photo via Shutterstock The post Heat Up Your Summer Sales With These 7 Cool Ideas appeared first on Small Business Trends .

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If you’re stuck with a boring website design and don’t have the technical skill to improve it, the new Canva Button may be an option. The Canva Button  allows website owners to quickly design their own site elements like headers and banner ads using drag and drop technology. If you don’t have a lot of graphic design experience – and your website shows it – a tool like Canva Button could save you hours of frustration and add a little more visual appeal to your site. Canva CEO and co-founder Melanie Perkins writes on the Canva blog : “Instead of just offering an ‘Upload’ button and expecting users to figure out the rest, the Canva Button enables a website’s users to easily create graphics without leaving their page. We want this to be accessible to everyone so the Button is free and can be implemented with just a few lines of code.” As Perkins has pointed out before, Canva won’t replace professional designers. It won’t enable a non-designer to draw a logo from scratch or create a complex illustration. But it will speed up some of the basic layout functions and make the design process more accessible. Canva has announced partnerships with websites like GoDaddy, Tailwind, Agora Pulse, Post Planner and TabSite that will enable the users of these platforms to implement a Canva Button. But the tool will really work on any other site where you can paste the code for the Canva button. These and other platforms are sites that regularly prompt their users to upload their own content. But when the Canva Button is enabled, instead of having to use a program like Adobe Illustrator to design a custom header or banner ad, you click the blank area on your site and Canva Button takes over. Canva Button recognizes the blank spaces it needs to fill with design work. There are millions of photos and graphics within Canva’s library already, along with hundreds of fonts to use in your design. Using drag-and-drop functions, you move and manipulate objects and text within the design area. Then when you’re finished, you publish your work. Canva is focused on online and collaborative graphic design. The company’s first app allowed users to create promotional and other printed materials, as well as web presentations. Photos that you incorporate into those designs will cost $1 each from Canva. But the company offers template designs for products like brochures, banners, newsletters, and more for free. Images: Canva The post Canva Button: What it Means and Why You’ll Be Seeing it More appeared first on Small Business Trends .

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Reddit is a social bookmarking site and forum considered to be “The Front Page of the Internet.” Reddit is also one of the most popular sites on the Web, with over 114 million unique visitors per month, as of March of 2014. The way Reddit works is essentially, people submit stories about different topics or “Subreddits” and other users, known as “Redditors,” then vote the content up or down. The more votes, the higher visibility for a post and, likely, more comments. It’s important to follow the submission guidelines for each subreddit topic and to get a feel for the community before trying to participate. Redditors also favor original content (OC), so avoid posting duplicate material and, of course, using poor grammar, as the site can be unforgiving. Reddit has become a go-to source for content and has transformed into a powerful online community where even the President of the United States has participated in the Ask me Anything (AMA) question-style of forum. Learn more about the do’s and don’t of Reddit below: [Click image above for larger version ] Republished by permission. Original here . Image: WhoIsHostingThis The post Get Started With This Beginner’s Guide to Using Reddit appeared first on Small Business Trends .

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Having a small business does not mean you cannot have all the latest tech. You can move your small business or home office into the future by installing some of these WiFi devices. Begin making your work life easier by making your office smarter with these smart office solutions below. Belkin Instant Switch The Belkin instant switch allows you to monitor energy usage and control electronics from anywhere in your office. You can turn devices on or off, set schedules, or set alerts to tell you when the shared printer has finished your project. It works with both Android tablets and smartphones. Google Cloud Print You can print anywhere and from any device using Google Cloud Print . You can connect as many printers as you want to your account, share printers, so that others can print from your printers, and print things at your office while you are on the go. Even if without a Cloud Ready printer, you can still get connected. Kwikset Deadbolt Instead of using a key, you can also use WiFi enabled deadbolt locks for doors. For example, there is a single cylinder deadbolt by Kwikset . This one comes with a Kevo fob, or you can access it with your smartphone. PlantLink Do you have trouble remembering when to water your plants? PlantLink sends customized messages to let you know when you need to water or if you have over-watered. It accounts for different types of plants and can create a watering schedule or analyze your watering history. Cubico 40 Self-Watering Planter Or, you can automate your plant watering with the Cubico 40 Self-Watering Planter . This planter automatically waters your plants so that they receive just the right amount of water. You will need to water regularly for the first three months, but then you just keep the reservoir full as needed. It is a great way for busy offices to have live greenery. Doorbot Want to know who is at the door before you unlock it? You can install a WiFi doorbell, such as Doorbot . Most come with night vision cameras and allow you to see and talk to your visitors before allowing them access. Twine You can purchase Twine to monitor your office environment and discover minor problems before they become major ones. Not only will Twine make sure your office thermostat is set right, you can set it up to monitor other things such as orientation and vibrations. You can even purchase separate sensors to monitor for leaks, floods, and opened doors. With Twine, there is no need to head to the office after hours on your days off to make sure everything is how it’s supposed to be. Honeywell Comfort System Honeywell’s Comfort System Kit is one of many programmable thermostats that allow you not only to schedule daily events and special events, but also to access your temperature controls via the Internet. Nest Thermostat Another good thermostat is the Nest Thermostat – 2nd Generation . This one goes a step beyond other programmable thermostats with more advanced A.I. (artificial intelligence) that learns what temperatures you like and when you like them. While I am a fan of the Nest, since Google acquired them, I opted not to install mine. Sonos CONNECT:AMP You can control the music in your break room or waiting room by installing a WiFi stereo system. For example, Sonos CONNECT:AMP lets you stream music from your tablet, smartphone, or computer and to program different playlists for different areas of your office. Philips Hue Lighting Philips Hue offers some pretty remarkable lighting options. You will need to start with a kit, but one bridge can control up to 50 lights. You can change both the color and mood of these LED lights. You can turn them on or off remotely or program them to change color and brightness throughout the day. Qmotion In addition to light bulbs, companies such as Qmotion allow you to automate curtains and blinds. These are programmable and can be controlled with smartphones or tablets. They also offer a manual override. Coolcam Wireless WiFi Security IP Camera Security is another important area you can automate. Cameras, such as the Coolcam Wireless WiFi Security IP Camera , will not only allow you to monitor areas from your smartphone, tablet, or computer, but also send you email notifications when it detects motion. Electric Imp If you are especially tech savvy, you can purchase an Electric Imp and connect anything to the Internet. This device requires basic computer building and coding (Squirrel) knowledge, but allows you to take any electronic device you have in your office and connect it to a cloud-based service for monitoring through your Android or IOS. Ninja Block If you want an all-in-one sensor, motion detector, doorbell, etc. then  Ninja Block will do it all. Theoretically, you can hook it up to everything and, for example, have it turn on any web cameras you have monitoring inventory only when motion is detected in that area. However, it only comes with one of each type of device. Revolv Or, there are also master controls, such as Revolv , to integrate all your office’s automated devices. Revolv specifically will connect your iOS with Sonos (speakers), Schlage, Kwikset, Yale (locks), Philips Hue, Insteon (lights), GE, Leviton, Belkin Wemo (switches), Nest, and Honeywell (thermostats). Ivee You can also take it a step beyond with Ivee . This alarm clock allows you to monitor doors, locks, and even who is in the building with you using voice activated commands. Since you are working with both WiFi and sound, it takes a few seconds to execute commands, but it provides you with great, hands-free convenience. Many of these tools come with a little bit of a learning curve, but can save you time and effort in the long run. Some of them could save you money on your utility bill making them worth the curve. If you have an automation tool that you love and use — it might be an app, it might be the hardware itself — I would love to hear about it. Office Photo via Shutterstock The post 17 Tips and WiFi Tech for Making Your Office Smarter appeared first on Small Business Trends .

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For those who wondered whether advertising on Twitter was a good bet, this may settle the question. The microblogging platform got a surprise 30 percent boost in stock value following the announcement of $283 million in sales, $277 million from Twitter Ad sales, on Tuesday. That’s a 129 percent increase in ad revenue compared to a year ago. The growth was better than projections. Questions have been raised about the value of Twitter advertising in the past. That’s especially last year as prices for Twitter ads continued to fall and the site’s growth seemed to have stalled. But stats posted for Twitter’s second quarter earnings report of 2014 show the number of monthly active users is growing again. That number hit 271 million, up 6.3 percent over the previous quarter, Nasdaq reports . It’s better growth even than the 4 percent seen in the first quarter of the year. Though it remains sluggish compared to the site’s past growth, Business Insider says . Still, Twitter ads seem to be getting results, if the money spent on them this quarter is any indication. Mobile Key to Twitter Ad Sales Growth Twitter has also invested heavily in mobile advertising, which may be one key to its explosive revenue growth. A reported 80 percent of the platform’s ad revenue came from mobile last quarter. In 2013, Twitter announced plans to acquire MoPub , a mobile advertising service, for $350 million. And more recently Twitter announced plans to acquire mobile advertising technology firm TapCommerce for $100 million. The company has also worked to give advertisers better data on the performance of the ads they buy. Twitter first began experimenting with giving users access to their analytics in June 2013 . In the beginning, access was limited to advertisers. But since then,  Twitter has started rolling out analytics even for those who don’t buy ads. Advertising like Twitter’s sponsored tweets has also been shown in the past year to have rather remarkable reach. In Sept. 2013, Chicago-based business man Hasan Syed managed to reach an estimated 50,000 people in the UK and New York area, for example. Syed paid Twitter $1000 to promote rants to all British Airways’ followers about how the airline had lost his dad’s luggage. Twitter Photo via Shutterstock The post Twitter Posts $277 Million In Ad Sales, 81 Percent From Mobile appeared first on Small Business Trends .

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Richard Watson is an author, futurist and scenario planner who helps organizations to think further ahead. Lynda Koster interviews Richard about the new release of his “Timeline of Emerging Science & Technology”. A ‘first look’ conversation for the Innovation Excellence community. Continue reading →

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You may want more feedback from your customers. But if you’re like many small business owners, you’re a bit foggy about how to go about setting up a system that collects it. Thankfully, help is at hand. Online survey software provider QuestionPro will present a one hour webinar Aug. 6 at 8 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time/ 11 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time. The purpose of the event is to walk businesses through the process of collecting helpful customer feedback for themselves. QuestionPro marketing director James Wirth says the event was inspired by response to his recent presentation at Bizapalooza , a three day online event with free webinars for small businesses July 9, 10 and 11. After his presentation on “feedback hacking 101″, Wirth says he soon heard from small business owners who wanted to learn more. Wirth explains: “After participating in [Bizapalooza] this year, we received some feedback, which was basically: ‘Ok I get that I need to actively gather feedback, but how do I get that quickly implemented?’” The upcoming webinar, entitled “6 Steps to a Complete Customer Feedback Program,” is the result. Wirth says the plan for the webinar is simple. The idea is to take a still-to-be-announced mystery small business guest through the process of setting up a feedback program. QuestionPro will then distribute templates for setting up a similar system to all small business owners in attendance. The templates will be divided up based on industry. After the presentation, Wirth hopes small business owners and entrepreneurs will be able to take the templates and start using them to build feedback systems of their own. He explains: “If they’re ready to, they can roll up their sleeves and use this for their business right after the webinar.” Also on hand will be Small Business Influencer Panelist Rieva Lesonsky, who will talk to small business owners about the importance of getting customer feedback while growing a business. Event Details What: Webinar: 6 Steps to a Complete Customer Feedback Program When: August 6, 8 a.m. PDT/11 a.m. EDT Who: Hosted by QuestionPro, featuring Small Business Influencer Panelist: Rieva Lesonsky and special guest: Mystery Small Business Where: Register here Image: QuestionPro The post Webinar: 6 Steps to a Complete Customer Feedback Program appeared first on Small Business Trends .

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