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While word of mouth attracted new users, it was not until it won Best Family Web site in last year's WebAward competition that things took off for the Family Cookbook Project.

Small Businesses Benefit From Web Competition

Small Businesses Benefit From Web CompetitionWhile word of mouth attracted new users, it was not until it won Best Family Web site in last year's WebAward competition that things took off for the Family Cookbook Project.With its Web site, Family Cookbook Project, the small business helps families and groups create and print personalized cookbooks to share and treasure. The simple-to-use site automates the process of gathering and formatting recipes into a family heirloom. "We were very excited to win a WebAward from the Web Marketing Association, but we had no idea the visibility it would create for our site," said publisher Richard Lowell. "All of a sudden we went from being a good, useful Web site that people talked about to their friends to having the credibility of being an award-winning Web site."The international WebAward competition sets the standard of excellence in 96 industry categories by evaluating Web sites and defining benchmarks based on the seven essential criteria of successful Web site development. The factors the Web Marketing Association says are critical to a site's success are: design, innovation, content, technology, interactivity, copywriting and ease of use. The goal of the Web Marketing Association is to provide a forum to recognize the people and organizations responsible for developing some of the most effective Web sites on the Internet today. Entrants benefit from a Web site assessment by a professional judging panel and the marketing opportunities that go along with an award-winning Web site. "As a small-business owner, I need to leverage every marketing dollar I have," Lowell said. "Participating in an award program like the WebAwards not only created a wonderful marketing opportunity, but we received valuable feedback that will help us make our Web site even better."

Office Team Building Exercises

Office Team Building Exercises

There are many different kinds of office team building exercises that can be used to help improve your companys internal communications, morale, trust, and cohesiveness. Team building exercises are undertaken in a spirit of fun, but also play an important role in strengthening your ability to function as a unit.Team building exercises can be used occasionally, such as to augment your annual general meeting, or on a more regular basis to help maintain productivity. They can also be used as a form of crisis management, such as to help address fears during a period of change, or as a response to a need for radical restructuring in order to meet the challenge of a new competitor, for example. Team building is useful for introducing new employees, strengthening ties between existing staff, or as a fun way to bring together individuals who dont often interact. Having your team members work together in any endeavor that takes them out of the ordinary office realm can be an interesting exercise in communication and cooperation. To facilitate this, consultants often organize activities that use arts, sports, games, or any structured form of interacting that requires teamwork. In some cases this creates a visible, or otherwise tangible example of what you can accomplish together such as each person playing a percussion instrument that all together creates a piece of music; linking arms to create a chain that demonstrates the importance of each individual link, and so on. In other cases, the activity requires brainstorming and the combined effort of all to solve a problem. The dual purpose of having fun and learning together makes for a day that is relaxing and enjoyable in itself, as well as providing lasting results as you develop your skills as a team. A large amount of research has gone into the development of specialized programs, books and services that can help your company achieve its productivity goals and improve employee relations. The wide variety of creative solutions offered includes everything from cooking together, to outdoor adventures, scavenger hunts to simulations of extreme sports Take some time to explore the possibilities and find new ways to enhance your office environment. Browsing the websites of consultants is a good place to start to find some fun ideas you can implement yourself, or with the help of a professional. Most programs are designed for maximum flexibility and can be tailored to meet the needs of almost any group, large or small. Incorporate some creative "team building" into your next boardroom meeting, or be extra adventurous and arrange for some outdoor activity. The return on investment is not something to take lightly. The benefits of maintaining an enjoyable work atmosphere includes improved mental and physical health, higher productivity, and more. Find out what the right team building exercises can do for you.

Successful Projects: It's Not Rocket Science

Successful Projects: It

There is no worse person to be than the project manager at the end of a failed project. As an IT "project manager" , I have experienced that feeling and I can tell you it's not nice. IT projects are particularly difficult to manage. In fact there really aren't any IT projects, just projects that have elements of IT in them.The trouble with these projects is that often you are doing something that hasn't been done before, is unproven or cutting edge. Customers expect a good result not excuses, even though these projects are frequently a journey into the unknown. If we take the construction industry, building a new bridge for instance, we have been building bridges for hundreds of years and know how to do it. We understand how things are going to happen, in what order and the expected result. This is rarely the case with IT projects.Avoiding the common pitfalls of IT project management is not rocket science, it is simply a case of taking some sensible measures. Identified here are five killer mistakes of "project management" :Who Owns the Project?The Mistake:The nature of projects is change and change often encounters resistance. People don't like change so they need to know it is necessary and what benefits it will bring. In order for a project to deliver change it needs the backing of senior management. Without it the project will proceed very slowly. The sponsor (senior management) is the person that drives the change forward and the project is the mechanism for change. A project without support from senior management will struggle.The Solution:Make sure you have the top down backing from senior management. There must be direct communication from the sponsor to the stakeholders. The message must be, "we are serious, this thing is going to happen so you are either with us or you are not" and beware those that are not.Be careful as project manager to make sure the sponsor does not take the project over and become the de-facto project manager.Getting Users InvolvedThe Mistake:Lack of user input and involvement is the recipe for a bad project. This can either be because of the "we know what you want" mentality from the IT department or lack of interest from the customer. Either way it must be avoided.The Solution:The IT department must take time to understand the customers requirements before proposing any technical solution. Often IT is blinded by the latest, newest thing available and try to shoehorn the requirements into it. On the other hand, customers must devote the time and effort necessary to ensure a successful project by interacting with the IT department and making sure all requirements have been fully defined. Ensure you have spoken to all stakeholders to gathered their requirements and that they continue to work with you for the duration of the project.Stopping Scope CreepThe Mistake:Scope creep is the cause of more project failures than anything else. Not knowing exactly what a project is aiming to deliver or setting off in a fit of enthusiasm but little else, is a recipe for failure.The Solution:Ensure that the business case, requirements and scope are clearly defined and documented. Make sure the stakeholders understand them and sign them off. Stick rigidly to the scope and if changes are required then put them through a change management process where they are documented, justified and then agreed.Managing ExpectationsThe Mistake:Often there is an expectation that IT is like a magic wand you wave and suddenly a miracle occurs. During a technology project expectations can inflate to a ridiculous degree. It is the role of the project manager to manage expectations to a sensible level.The Solution:One way to avoid this is to break a project into smaller pieces or phases. I equate this to a sausage machine, where you feed in the raw material at one end and out it comes as small, perfectly formed, packages or sausages at the other end. The same can happen with IT projects where you take small packages of requirements and push them through the machine, producing several deliverables over the life of a project. This way you manage expectations by making frequent deliveries to demonstrate what the technology can really deliver. This approach ensures the project delivers to the customers expectations by giving them early visibility of what you are building.Understanding the LingoThe Mistake:Have you ever stood next to a group of IT professionals and wondered what on earth they were talking about. It is like a whole new language and to non-IT people it often is. The pitfall comes when the customer and IT think they are talking the same language when in fact they are not. This leads to a problem when the IT department delivers what they understood the customer wanted and it turns out to be something different.The Solution:Communication problems are the hardest to resolve as often it is only looking back that the problem is identified. Regular communication and a close working relationship with the customer will help. What you really need is a person with a foot in both camps. Someone who understands the business and the IT equally well. If you can identify this person make sure you keep hold of them, they are hugely valuable. If you are unable to find this person, the next best option is to have two people, one from the business and one from IT. By working closely together and sharing information they can minimise any communication problems.FinallyIn 1995 The Standish Group surveyed IT executive managers for their opinions about why projects succeed. The three major reasons given that a project will succeed are user involvement, executive management support, and a clear statement of requirements. Concentrating on these three aspects alone will give your project a good chance of success.Don't become the victim of a failed project, put measures in place that will ensure your success. After all it's not rocket science!

Financing Your Government Contracts with Factoring Financing

Financing Your Government Contracts with Factoring Financing

Are you selling products or services to the federal government? Every year, city, county, state and the federal government buy billions of dollars in goods and services from business of all types.Although doing business with the government is great and financially rewarding, it can also be hard on your cash flow. Why? Government agencies take, on average, about 40 days to pay their invoices. In the meantime, you have to cover all your recurring expenses such as payroll, rent and supplier payments.This is not a problem if you have 60 days worth of operating capital in your bank account. But what if you dont? In that case, many business owners will try to get a business loan. Although that may help, business loans are tough to get and take a long time to set up. Also, business loans have set limits.What business owners need, is a product that provides financing solely based on the business opportunity on sales possibilities. This product exists and is called invoice factoring. There are many factoring companies that specialize in factoring government contractors and vendors.Factoring accelerates your government payments, and enables you to get paid in days rather than months. Its a form of financing where the factoring company advances you money against your government receivables. You get to use the funds immediately, while waiting to get paid. Once the government pays, the transaction is settled.If you are reselling products to the government, you should also consider purchase order financing. In this case, the "factoring company" provides you with financing to pay your suppliers, enabling you to make the sale. Purchase order financing works well with "invoice factoring" and can also help you grow your company exponentially.So, if you own a business that sells to the government, be sure to look into factoring and purchase order financing.

5 Great Reasons To Hire A Telecommuter

How would you like to hire someone that is more motivated and more qualified to do the work and costs you less than your average employee? No, I am not talking about hiring someone illegally. You can accomplish this simply by employing a telecommuter. Lets take a look at 5 very good reasons, why it makes sense for you to consider telecommuting from an employers perspective.1) Less OverheadHow much is all this office space, furniture, computer equipment along with your IT department to maintain them, utility bills etc. costing you? Telecommuters do not require any of the above, which will cut your overhead cost tremendously. Telecommuters use their own office, their own equipment from computers to paperclips; use their own power, phone and Internet connection. If their computer acts up, its up to them to get it up and running again.2) Less Benefits To PayMost telecommuters are independent contractors. You do not have to provide for health care, workmans compensation or paid vacation. Consider the tax benefits as well; there is no employer portion of federal and state tax to pay.3) Hire Experts When NeededDo you need someone to write the occasional press release and maybe come up with a revision to your brochure every once in a while? Instead of hiring someone fulltime as your marketing person, consider outsourcing the tasks to a freelance telecommuter. You will pay per project, or hire your freelancer for a few hours per month, instead of creating a marketing position. Freelancers give even small businesses the opportunity to hire an expert for almost any task. 4) On Demand WorkDo you expect a temporary increase in your workload, be it seasonal, or because you just landed a large project? Why not pick up a few telecommuters for the task instead of working with inexperienced temps, or hiring in-office personnel that you may not need three months down the road. Telecommuters combine the flexibility of temps with the on-the-job experience of permanent employees. You get the best of both worlds.5) More Motivated WorkersTelecommuters have a very good reason why they want to work from home. Whether that reason is being able to stay home with the kids, a disability, or avoiding a long commute, being able to work from home makes them happy. As you well know, happy employees are more motivated, dont count the minutes until they can leave the office and overall get more work done. If you havent already done so, I encourage you to give telecommuter a try the next time you need a highly motivated, experienced worker, but arent in a position to create a permanent onsite position. Once you have experienced all the benefits a telecommuter brings to your organization, you may even consider converting even more positions to telecommuting.

Don't Be Robbed in Your Next Meeting

What if someone asks to borrow your checkbook? And then the person says, "By the way, could you sign the checks before handing it over?"Absurd, right?And yet, people freely sign over huge chunks of their lives by agreeing to attend pointless meetings.Here are five things to ask about before agreeing to attend.1) GoalsWhat are the goals for the meeting? Why are you holding this meeting? What do you want to have when you finish?If you receive a vague answer, such as, to discuss business or just to talk about something, be warned that this meeting lacks direction.2) PlanWhat is your agenda? How do you plan to accomplish these goals? What will we do during the meeting?You want to know the plan for the meeting before you agree to attend. A meeting without an agenda is like a journey without a map.Note that a meeting without a clear goal or a complete agenda will always waste your time.3) MeWhat is my role in the meeting? Why are you asking me to attend? What do you expect of me during the meeting.You want to attend only those meetings where you have an impact. Otherwise, ask for a copy of the minutes.4) ThemWho else is coming to the meeting? Why have you asked them to attend? How well do they support your goals for the meeting?This tells you how to prepare and what to expect. Otherwise, you could find yourself being invited to an ambush.5) LogisticsHow should I prepare? What should I bring? What else do I need to know about this meeting (e.g., where is it being held)?Attending a meeting without sufficient preparation will make you appear incompetent. If the time required to prepare exceeds what you can afford, suggest alternatives such as rescheduling the meeting.

Summary

While word of mouth attracted new users, it was not until it won Best Family Web site in last year's WebAward competition that things took off for the Family Cookbook Project.