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The Importance of a Good Apology in Business

Posted on May 18, 2011 by Arianna

Have you ever made a giant mess of a situation at work? I have. I remember the first time I started working for Gordian Project, my boss asked me to complete a task by the end of the day, and I completely forgot. I felt so bad and didn’t even know what to say; I didn’t want my error to ruin the trust in our work relationship. I could have given an excuse, gotten offended because of how he reacted to my mistake, or apologized, but I took the coward way out, and provided an excuse. Come to think of it, our relationship as boss and employee could have been nurtured if only I had apologized and moved on. We often want to be forgiven without having to ask for it. The fact of the matter is that we did screw up and in order to make everything right an apology is necessary. But no ordinary apology will do, as I see it a good apology has three parts – “I’m sorry; it was my fault; and how do I make it right?”

Saying I’m sorry has more to do with attitude than with words. William James, and American philosopher, once said “Whenever you’re in conflict with someone, there is one factor that can make the difference between damaging your relationship and deepening it. That factor is attitude.” The attitude you have when saying I’m sorry will display your sincerity.  Sincerity is the first step to rebuilding the trust that may have been lost.

Taking full responsibility for your mistakes is the hardest part of apologizing, especially in the business environment. However, putting yourself in the other party’s shoes will help you say the words: “It was my fault.” When we are wronged we expect someone to fess up and or need to know who to blame.  Though not taking responsibility can seem more appealing, doing so gives up your power to change. In order to learn from your mistakes, you must first acknowledge your mistakes.  Note, there is a big difference between admitting your mistake and beating yourself up about it. Once you have taken responsibility for your mistake, remember that you are doing the right thing by providing a good apology, no self pity will make your apology any better.

Fixing your mistakes is a step that many of us subconsciously chose to skip. Some mistakes are easy to fix while others have bad consequences. Saying sorry and even accepting fault are easy words to say, but as we all know, actions speak louder than words. Ask the person you have let down what they would like you to do in order to rebuild trust and be worthy of their forgiveness. In the business environment, making sure you complete this step will also help others to be lenient the next time you make a mistake, as they know you are not one to simply sweep it under the rug.

A good apology goes along way - Do it right and do it fast. Remember that a good apology is essential in any relationships. When you make a mistake at work and you apply the three parts of a good apology, your boss and coworkers will respect you for how you handle your mistakes.

We all can use a little help with dealing with apologies and mistakes, if you have any recommendations make sure you leave them in the comments.

 

 

Building Office Comradery: The Salsa Contest

Posted on May 5, 2011 by Josh Mc

In a continuing effort to make the office both a fun and productive place to work, yesterday was the second annual Gordian Project salsa contest. The contest had 13 different salsas enter with a range of ingredients such as a grape based sweet salsa, one that featured baby shrimp and many with traditional spices. Everyone brought their salsas in the morning and they were left out all day for the office to enjoy and critique to their hearts content. Many, including myself, elected to skip lunch in order to save room for continued judging of which salsa would get our vote. In the afternoon the votes were emailed in, and today the winner was announced and received a gift card. Here are some great pictures from the event.

Salsa Competition

Salsa Competition 2

Salsa Competition 3

Salsa Competition 4

Salsa Competition 5

Now I say all of this to prove the point that their are many great and cheap ways to promote workplace comradery. The business supplied the gift cards for the winners, but the contest was run by the employees and they individually provided the salsas and chips for the competition. Throughout the office during the day you could hear, "I love salsa day, one of the best days of the year", to which I fully agree. There is just something about hanging out with your co workers and arguing over the range of flavors making up a good salsa, that adds another level to the normal work day. Sure a little extra time is spent visiting the salsa room to continue sampling, but in the grand scheme of things your employees can now boast on their Facebooks and to their friends that their workplace had a salsa contest with real prizes. This alone makes your work environment stand out, while at the same time building up a rapport with your employees that you want them to enjoy coming to work. Think about it, what is something you can do with your employees in the next month that would have the same effect?

There are hundreds of ways to do this, but I would encourage you to try out something as simple as a salsa contest today, your employees with thank you for it.

What about you, what does your office do for comradery?

 

Six Tips To Gain Twitter Followers

Posted on May 3, 2011 by Josh Mc

Twitter Icon With all the buzz that Twitter is continuing to gain, I thought it was the perfect time to talk about great ways to attract more Twitter followers. Twitter is becoming increasingly important from the online and social media marketing standpoint, every day companies are finding new ways to leverage it and are reaping the benifits. It is not simply enough to create a Twitter account, for the most benefits you need to have a good amount of active followers that will engage with you. Below are some of the top tips I use when building Twitter followers.

Follow People
Bar none, this is the fastest way to gain Twitter followers. Unless you are a huge company, gone are the days where a business can simply create an account and have thousands of followers without following anyone back.  Figure out who are some of the big players in your niche and follow them, at the same time follow some of their followers as well. Many of these people will see that you are interested in the same thing and more then likely follow you back.

Have a Profile Picture
A profile picture is a huge trust factor on Twitter. Bonus points if you profile picture is of a real person and not simply a logo. If you are a large company a logo will be fine, but if you are a small company you may want to consider putting the social media manager’s photo as the twitter icon, allowing you to connect easier with people as a real human being.

Retweet
Retweeting is a way to not only gain followers, but to keep them. This is not simple follow Friday retweeting, but actually taking interesting posts that your friends have tweeted and sending them out to your followers. Doing this engages with the person that got retweeted, and often makes them want to retweet you back in the future. Make sure not to just tweet everything that comes your way, but selective retweeting will help you gain and keep new followers.

Get Listed
When Twitter announced their lists feature it added a lot of new possibilities to how to easily get followed. If you are listed on a list that people follow often such as the Mashable lists, then whenever the list gets a follow you do as well. Hit up users with lists that are popular and see about getting included in those lists.

Have an Interesting Bio
If a user is searching for new people to follow and they find 100 social media managers all boasting their personal achievements, then see one who writes something that is catchy and makes them laugh, chances are they will follow that user. An interesting bio helps you stand out from pack and makes you much more interesting to the casual user who is unsure of who you are.

Link as Much as Possible
Whether it is your company website, the next time you do public speaking, or simply telling your friends, any opportunity to link or tell someone about your Twitter account should be taken. Doing this will get your account in front of as many new faces as possible, and will help you to gather followers that were already interested in your brand to begin with.

These are just a few of the tips I recommend when gathering fans for a Twitter account. For my other blog for additional tips on making twitter work for your business.

What about you, do you have any other tips you recommend when working with Twitter? Leave them in the comments, and make sure to follow PlumberSurplus, OutdoorPros and GordianProject on Twitter!

 

International Google Doodles

Posted on April 20, 2011 by Joelle

A little while ago, Google had a Google Doodle that was an interactive Robert Busen bunsen burner for his 200th birthday.

Bunsen Burner Google Doodle

Seeing this got me thinking, do other countries have the the same Google doodles as we do in the United States? So I did a little searching and low and behold there are Google doodles that are specific by country and region used throughout the world.

Here are some of my favorite recent Google Doodles that were not shown in the U.S. and what I learned about the featured content:

Google International Doodle Turkey


Mar 25, 2011 - 400th Birthday of Evliya Çelebi - (Turkey)
I was able to travel and spend a summer in Istanbul two years ago and now come to learn Evliya Çelebi was a traveler and surveyor himself. He details his finding in his work called Seyahatname.

Google International Doodle India

Mar 14, 2011 - Alam Ara's 80th Anniversary - (India)
The now famous bollywood film industry’s first sound film was Alam Ara, a love story between a gypsy girl and a prince. The film received so much attention that police were called in to control the crowds. This Google doodle was showcased in India on its 80th Anniversary.

Google International Doodle Portugal

Feb 04, 2011 - Almeida Garrett's Birthday - (Portugal)
The famous poet, play writer, novelist, and politician is a beloved figure of Portugal. He is also considered to be the writer that introduced the literary Romantic Era to Portugal. Regarded as a revolutionist and one of history’s greatest romantics, Google showcased this Doodle on his birthday.

These are just a couple of the international Doodles that Google has shown recently. What about you, do you have a favorite Google doodle?

 

Three Simple Tips to Make You a Better Manager

Posted on April 13, 2011 by Arianna

When I took the team lead position in customer service, I had no idea what I was going to deal with, or how to even manage a team. Over the last couple of months our employee retention rate had decreased, and the new team in place was now looking to me for guidance.  To be honest, that was pretty scary, considering I had no idea what I was doing. One thing I know is that a good manager is one that knows how to get the best out of his/her employees while keeping them happy. Though I am still in the learning process, including taking self assessment quizzes every so often to see how I am doing and where I can improve, the below phrases have helped me to more successfully manage my team.

One of the best tips I received from my husband while venting to him my frustrations was: Don’t take it personal. If employees call out, if they are unreliable, inefficient and/or always have a bad attitude, there may be other personal issues at hand that are affecting their work. If you stop taking everything as a personal attack, you can start showing compassion, and your hurt or anger can turn into motivation for these types of employees. While demonstrating an open and understanding attitude toward your employees, you will see their attitudes and employee investment change for the better.

When working as a team or managing a team, you meet different types of people. There are those that respond to what is being asked of them and those that regardless of how understanding you try to be, will still be difficult employees. Teamwork is an important key to employee productivity, if one person starts excelling than others will want to do the same; but if that one difficult employee does not carry their own weight, others will start questioning their productivity. When not taking it personal and being understanding does not work, you must nip it in the bud. Sit down with the employee; explain to them how you have been trying to be understanding, but they have not changed the way they work.  Give them new guidelines and draw a line. They can continue being that way elsewhere, but the company and the team needs their full investment. Doing this, will not only stop the problem before it escalates but will show other employee’s that such attitudes will not be tolerated.

During the day we as team leads or managers have to deal with the pressures of the day, not only of managing a team but also of tasks that we have to accomplish. If your day is getting so overwhelming and you just want to give up, don’t give up…instead take a walk. The ability to walk out of the office/building and just be alone with your thoughts can rejuvenate you. Don’t take a cell phone; don’t take a friend, just you… well and maybe your iPod if it helps you relax.

With all the days frustrations the most important thing you can do at the end of your day, is to check your drama at the door. Don’t take it home, and don’t bring it back to work the next day. Each day will have another frustration and if you keep bringing them back you will start piling the drama not only on yourself but on your employees. Their simple questions will turn into annoyances; their error’s will turn into mountains of problems, turning you into a difficult manager - the manager that no one can go to, the quick to anger manager who people keep away from. Your family and employees will thank you for keeping the day’s frustrations outside of your home, and letting each day be a new day.

Though applying these few phrases throughout your day will not single handedly make you a good manager, they are stepping stones that can lead you to becoming a manager that can manage, and can get the best out of his/her employees, while still keeping them happy.

What do you think, are their other tips that you use when managing employees? Make sure to leave them in the comments!

 

 

Social Entreprenuership: Connecting Nonprofits to Industry Leaders

Posted on April 6, 2011 by Joelle

Palindrome Advisors

I recently read an article in the Wall street Journal’s Blog, Digits, about an up and coming organization called Plalindrome Advisors that deals with social entrepreneurship and I though it was worth sharing.

Plalindrome Advisors is a recently established entrepreneurship networking project that has caught the attention of many for their astounding ability to connect expert executives in technology, entertainment, business, finance, and media to nonprofit organizations who need their dexterity. Plalindrome Advisors’ projects include using the knowledge and skills of industry leaders to educate and mentor future entrepreneurs, as well as providing resources by building tools and technology for nonprofit partners.


Some of the industry leaders mentioned on their website are Adam Bain, Twitter’s president of global revenue; Dag Kittlaus, Apple’s director of iPhone apps; and Ellen Siminoff former senior vice president at Yahoo. I was most proud to see these nonprofit partners on their list as well: Children of the Night, a organization combating human trafficking; Tapestries of Hope, an organization aimed at the eradication of violence against women and children; and Universities Allied for Essential Medicines; a group of university students who work together to provide medicines and public health technologies to poorer countries. Plalindrome Advisors was referred to as the “match.com for industry leaders and the boards of nonprofits” by founder Zaw Thet, reported to the Wall street Journal.

Plalindrome Advisors purpose is to change the way industry leaders give back, and they are doing just that at astonishing rates. By connecting the right executive with the right nonprofit partner they are able to use time and resources more efficiently and at the same time create a multiplying network of capabilities.  I think this is absolutely amazing and love to see entrepreneurs using their talents and resources to benefit individuals and communities. I am somewhat shocked that I had not seen anything like this before (if there is something please let me know). It is a great idea that can both help the person investing in the company and company being invested in, and I look forward to seeing where Palindrome Advisors is able to go with it.

I love to hear about projects that companies are involved with, feel free to share what the ways your company is giving back! Also, what do you think about Palindrome Advisors?

 

Understanding the Many Angles of Business Communication

Posted on March 31, 2011 by Ashley

We live in a world full of distractions. With Twitter, Facebook and YouTube at our fingertips, it can be hard to stay focused in the work place. It becomes exceedingly hard since we communicate with co-workers in so many forms: Email, Instant Message and face-to-face.  How then, do we keep effective communication flowing? Here are a few tips.

Email:

When communicating through email make sure to be concise and to the point, always remembering what you want to accomplish. This is especially important if you are relaying information that may be a more involved issue. If you get distracted or stray from what your main goal is, your email will only confuse the person it is going to. The key here is to keep your email to as few sentences in length as possible. As the saying goes, “less is more.” Writing five paragraphs is not an email, it’s an essay. Let’s face it, the majority of us only skim emails so make it count.  Keep in mind, if you feel the issue at hand requires more than a few sentences in length then you need to communicate face-to-face. This way, nothing you need to convey will lost in translation.

Instant Messaging:

This type of communication can be great if you need a quick response, or when you need someone to take a look at a link to see what you are referring to. This type of business conversation is highly effective in business because it uses the least amount of time and can get you back to what your working on fast. Word to the wise though, know your audience. Since no one person has an identical personality, some may interpret what you say over IM in a way you may not have meant it. Try to stay away from correcting or disciplining someone over IM. Those are situations that should be left for face-to-face communication. Also, just as with email communication, it is important to keep what you are communicating short, sweet and to the point. No one wants to have to sift through lines and lines over an IM.  The longer the IM gets, the more likely you are to distract the person away from what you’re trying to accomplish.

Face-to-Face:

Saving the best for last, nothing seems to beat face-to-face communication (other than the fact that you might have to get out of your cubical to do it!). Communicating amongst each other in person can alleviate any misunderstandings that could happen over an IM or email and allows for the most information-rich medium. Another great tool face-to-face communication gives us is growing and maturing social relationships with co-workers.  Growing bonds between each other by face-to-face interaction can prove to be very valuable by pulling everyone together to problem solve and think more critically about certain issues. There can be a down side to face-to-face communication, if all your employees are just standing around each others desks “chit chatting it up” then no work is getting done. It is important to make sure that conversations are kept work related when on the clock. This is also extremely important to remember so you can prevent disruptions among other co-workers who may be taking sales calls.

As you can see, brevity seems to be the reoccurring theme in effectively communicating with co-workers. The more clear and concise you are the more efficient you will become, and the more work you can accomplish.

What about you, do you have any other tips on how to communicate more effectively? Leave them in the comments.

 

Using Quora to Gain Website Traffic

Posted on March 24, 2011 by Josh Mc

Over the last 6 months, Quora has gained a lot of ground in the crowded social media / question and answers space. With Yahoo Answers being one of the most well known question and answer sites, this was a space primed for growth. Quora is capitalizing on this by creating a product that is fun to use and informative, but is also tied into your other social media efforts. It is becoming a great place to get traffic if you use the service the way it is intended. Here are a couple tips for using Quora to gain traffic.


Find Relevant Questions
Here is a list of all of the open questions currently waiting for an answer.  They range from “what is a good waterproof hiking shoe” to “how many bloggers at Mashable are full time.” If you are an outdoor website then answering the hiking shoe question with a good response and a link to the best hiking shoe you recommend can be a great way to build your brand authority and get some traffic to that page. In turn, if you are Mashable you can jump on the question and provide insight about your company by connecting with fans asking questions (Ben Parr, Co-Editor of Mashable answers users questions all of the time).

 


Follow The Main Users in Your Niche
Since Quora is one of the “hot companies” right now, many of the big tech and Internet people have profiles and regularly answer user questions. This is a great way to get help with your start up or to connect with important people in your niche. Follow them, and if they ask questions that you are able to answer that is a great platform to connect. You can also gain valuable insight on business from people who have been there before. 

Put In The TimeJust like anything, gaining traffic from Quora won’t happen overnight. You need to put in the time to develop your profile, follow important users and answer many different questions, even ones that do not relate to your site. Doing all of these things will help you to develop your brand on Quora and will give you more respect and votes when you answer questions.

Lastly, make sure you put the time in to answer the question well. We all know how annoying it is to see someone simply answer a users question with a one word response and a link to your website. This will not help your business grow, as users may develop a negative reaction to your business instead of a positive one. Take the time to provide a detailed answer, and you will benefit from it.

Those are my tips, have any of you used Quora? What do you think? Leave your tips in the comments section.

 

Seven Tips for Successfully Managing Comparison Shopping Engines

Posted on March 15, 2011 by Chad

On the eCommerce paid marketing side, correctly running your comparison shopping engines (CSE’s) is extremely important to seeing your products make it through the shopping channels, as well as getting them in front of the eyes of the customer. While keeping up with the CSE's there are many different things I look for to make sure everything is set up and functioning the way it should. Making sure this is done will protect you from problems that can arise from incorrectly categorized products as well as help give your products the best chance they have to make the sale. Here are some general best practices I use when managing products on CSE’s.

 

  1. Check Where the Product is Assigned - With CSE's you are often forced to blend into what other merchants are doing, as well as what the site believes is the best fit for your product.  In some cases, this can turn out horribly, especially if the CSE is based on the first come first served method.  The first come first served method is used by many CSE's and is essentially when a merchant has added a product with an incorrect UPC and you come along and put up the correct product that owns the UPC, but since you were second to the incorrect data, your product may be matched up with the wrong parent product.  CSE’s don't offer much help to avoid this, so you have to make sure you stay on the ball and check that your products are correctly assigned.
  2. Populate as Many Fields as Possible on Your Feed Template - This is extremely important as it allows customers and shopping site to find and match your products correctly.  Make sure you fill it out correct and complete.  These fields could also help you with ideas on how to improve your own website if you know what attributes customers are looking for in your products.
  3. Complete All Account Information on the Provider Side. This should be a no brainer.  Even if its optional, complete as much as you can as it will help you in the future.
  4. Install User Surveys - User surveys are great in providing feedback as well as allowing you to becoming a trusted seller.  I cannot tell you how many orders I have received, only because our user rating was much higher than the lowered priced item.  Ratings build confidence in buyers, especially if your product is only a few dollars more expensive.  
  5. Ensure Accurate Categorization - Always be up to date with your categories.  Sometimes, your products performance lives and dies with how well you position them.  CSE’s love to change their categories at any time, sometimes even twice a year, so keep them up to date.
  6. Improve Product Data - Don’t get behind on improving your data for your products.  CSE user queries are dependent on this in many cases.  Your descriptions and the keywords you use in your data are what many customers will look for.  Keep this up to date!
  7. Remove Non-Performing Products - Kick them from your CSE’s!  A lot of the times, you can get a pretty good idea of product performance by looking at 60+ days worth of performance, sometimes less.  If it’s all spend and no revenue, then you can determine two things.  1) Customers like clicking on your product on a CSE and 2) They don’t like buying your product once they get to your site.  Kick the product from the CSE while you figure out why this is happening.  It’s obviously not making money for you.  

 

There you have it.  Some general steps you should think about when looking into marketing on CSE’s.  Before I let you go though, many CSE’s offer additional marketing opportunities.  Do your homework and research before entering into these.  Don’t entertain features blindly.  Sometimes, there are better and cheaper ways for additional marketing than using a providers services.  

What about you, do you have any CSE tips to add? We would love to hear about them in the comments.


 

Google's Recipe Search Refinement Review

Posted on March 8, 2011 by Joelle

Google Recipe Refinement

Since I spend a lot of time on Google in any given day, I love to review the new services they offer. A couple months ago I reviewed the Boutiques service, and most recently I heard about the recipe refinement and really wanted to take it for a test spin. As an avid lover of all things baked and broiled I am always in the market for new, creative, healthy and economical recipes. I cook for myself and large crowds at least twice a week and need recipes fast, that can cater to the many ever changing tastes of my guests. Here are some features that will make me come back to Google Recipe View and others that will not.

What I Like

Recipe Searching

Equally broad and specific search terms like “salad” or “cobb salad” are great for getting you on the right path to “your perfect recipe” as Google claims to help you find. I would suggest if you have an idea of some of the ingredients you would like to use, and it makes sense to include them in the search term, to do so. Some of my searches for broad terms returned a lot of results, so it would be more advantageous to refine through your search than by clicking through the ingredient refinements.

Example of Google Recipe Search


Refining Your Search

On the left hand side Google included a refinement for ingredients used in the recipe. This is great if you have a growing collection of canned foods that you never seem to use, or simply want to experiment using new foods. I found, on average, when I put in a food item as the search term I only had to refine 2-4 times to return a result I would actually want to make. During the holidays when pumpkin and cranberries seem to be flavoring everything and finding a recipe for excluding these can be difficult, the ingredient exclusion option will be very helpful! Refinements include ingredients, cook time, and range of calories. I also thought it was really great that for recipes that had ratings and Images that were viewable right from the search page without any clicks.

What Needs Work

Making Recipe View Better

I found it difficult to switch between searches as Google Recipe View saves your refinements. Searching for salad, refining by pomegranate, then changing your search term to enchiladas will result in getting a  “Pomegranate-Avocado Salsa with Spiced Chips” which is not enchiladas last time I checked. You will have to reset your refinements with every search. This could be good for people who have allergies and will need to exclude certain ingredients from all recipes but not good for the general population.

Serving Size Refinement

I would also suggest a refinement for serving size, so that you can chose larger serving size recipes when cooking for larger groups of people. Some recipes are great for 2-5 people but start to get really pricey when cooking for a large group, so having this refinement would be really helpful. Also, having an average cost per ingredient multiplied out for ingredient size would give a great estimate on how much the recipe will cost.

Overall, I think this is a really cool new feature from Google. I admit that it probably doesn’t appeal to everyone, but for those that love to cook I can’t wait to see where Google goes next with the recipe refinement, and I plan to use it a lot in the future.

What are your thoughts? Do you like to cook? Does this appeal to you? Let us know in the comments.