Category: Productivity

4 Documentaries that Every Entrepreneur Should Watch

If you’re a small business owner looking to grow your company, you’ve undoubtedly perused your fair share of how-to books and articles. But, let’s be honest, we all get tired of the countless hours of instruction-reading. So, it may be a nice change for you to watch a few documentaries instead! Here is a list of the top videos for entrepreneurs trying to grow their business.

  1. Once in a Lifetime: The Extraordinary Story of the New York Cosmos (2006)

This film centers on the New York Cosmos, a successful the team from North American Soccer League owned by Steve Ross and Ahmet Ertegun. This documentary highlights the importance of attracting talented individuals to your company, a point that is proven by recounting the events of 1975 when the Cosmos signed a $5 million contract for a top athlete in order to help their struggling team. A mere two years later, the New York Cosmos won the NASL championship game.


  1. The Call of the Entrepreneur (2007)

This documentary focuses on three driven entrepreneurs: a dairy farmer, a merchant banker and a refugee from communist China. “The Call of the Entrepreneur” shows how each of these hardworking individuals was able to overcome adversity and reminds us that society depends on entrepreneurial ideas to grow and thrive.


  1. Beer Wars (2009)

“Beer Wars” is somewhat of a play on the Biblical story of David and Goliath in that it shows the adventures of small American brewers battling the market giants such as Anheuser-Busch. This film especially applies to those small business owners who are attempting to grow businesses in an already-established market. The take-home message is that the importance of educating your customers on the superiority of your product cannot be underestimated. To quote Same Adam’s founder, Jim Koch, “Almost all our beer knowledge comes from Budweiser, Miller and Coors. It’s as if all we knew about food we learned from McDonalds.”


  1. Steve Jobs: One Last Thing (2012)

Specifically focused on the founder of Apple, Steve Jobs, “Steve Jobs: One Last Thing” highlights the highs and lows of Jobs’ career from the perspective of his closest peers. Jobs’ story should serve to motivate any entrepreneur as it proves that the ideas of one man are enough to change the way the world works.

The Right Time of Day to Send an Email

Tired of your calls being ignored, your emails going unanswered and your meeting requests being rejected? You may just be timing it wrong. Studies have shown that there is actually an optimal time of day to do each of these things. Here is a simple layout of the tasks you should (and shouldn’t) do throughout the day.

 6:00 – 8:00AM – Send Out Emails

Though multiple studies have suggested that checking your emails first thing in the morning is a bad idea as it will distract you from more important tasks, people continue to check their Outlook as soon as they get in the office door. As all of your partners and customers are sifting through emails while sipping on their morning coffee, go ahead and send out your communications when they’re most likely to be seen immediately.

 Around 8:00AM – Make Ethical Decisions

Experiments carried out by researchers from both Harvard University and the University of Utah discovered a phenomenon called the “morning morality effect.” In essence, computer-based experiments on undergraduate students as well as working adults showed that people were more likely to have stronger moral character in the morning than in the afternoon. When given the opportunity to cheat or lie to earn more money, participants were significantly more likely to take the opportunity during the afternoon. As Harvard researcher, Maryam Kouchaki explains, “Self-control is like a muscle. It’s restored when we rest and eat. Basically, we have a limited amount of self-regulatory resources available to us at one time.

 9:00AM – Avoid Meetings

One huge issue with scheduling meetings is finding a time that fits everyone’s calendar. It is much more likely that more people will schedule themselves to appear “busy” in the mornings to avoid these types of meetings, so avoid the morning times altogether if at all possible.

 1:00-2:00PM – Don’t Make Calls

This is especially true on Friday afternoons. 1-2pm is normally when everyone is getting back from their lunch breaks (or may still be out), and the last thing they want to do is come back to the office and sit in on a call. They’re most likely still distracted and will be browsing the Internet for Facebook and sports updates while you try to carry on an important discussion. Studies have shown that making calls in the morning rather than in the early afternoon has about a 164% higher success rate.

 3:00PM – Make Meetings

This is especially applicable to Tuesday afternoons. No one wants to sit in on a meeting first thing Monday morning, and Tuesday is still early enough in the day that your employees or customers shouldn’t be burned out and anxiously awaiting Friday night.

7 Books Every Entrepreneur Should Read

Books Open

Business Model Generation

Alexander Osterwalder

In this book, readers learn to create new business models as traditional models are being disrupted in today’s market. Every entrepreneur should take the time to read this in order to gain a competitive advantage over the business market.



Malcolm Gladwell

“Outliers” is Gladwell’s third best seller and, in it, he describes how both hard work and luck have a part in success. Gladwell is credited with the idea that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to create a genius.


From Resource Allocation to Strategy

Joseph Bower

This book is a comprehensive guide on how typical organizations run. “From Resource Allocation to Strategy” pulls from decades of research from some of the world’s most prestigious business school in order to explain how to develop an effective corporate strategy as well as prevent breakdowns in your business’s system.


The Zigzag Principle

by Rich Christiansen

“The Zigzag Principle” focuses on teaching readers to ignore your inner voice that urges you to charge on full steam toward your end goal. Instead, Christiansen describes his perspective in which a person should “zigzag” around obstacles, but still maintain the course set before him to try to reach the ultimate goal.


Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Peter Drucker

Although this selection may be considered somewhat dated, the ideas presented in this 1980’s best-seller are still quite relevant in today’s market. As one of the top management thinkers of his generation, Drucker offers his invaluable insights to all aspiring business owners. Drucker explains the key elements involved in innovation and draws from real-world examples in order to show how these innovations were executed in the past.


All Marketers are Liars

Seth Godin

In this book, Godin describes his philosophy: that the key to marketing is telling a story. If a marketer is a good storyteller, consumers will go on to repeat the story to other consumers, and everyone will eventually accept this story’s contents as reality. He does stress, however, that without authenticity, the story will never come to the point of reality


Delivering Happiness

Tony Hsieh

Tony Hsieh is the CEO of Zappos. In “Delivering Happiness,” he offers information on how he created his consumer base and molded his corporation’s brand for success. The book is focused around Zappos, but many of the ideas seen throughout its pages are applicable to any small, startup business that is looking to create a loyal customer base.

3 No-Brainers for Cutting Your Business Costs

Feeling a bit overwhelmed by the cost of running your business? There are many ways that you can cut cost without sacrificing quality. Here are a few quick tips that you may not have considered in the past.

Use the Internet for free advertisement

In this day, it is nearly impossible to run a business without using the Internet in some form or fashion. However, owning your own website can be expensive. After paying for a creative, professional web design, hosting and other associated fees, you can start feeling a bit discouraged. But take heart, it doesn’t have to be so expensive! Try using sites such as WordPress that offer easy-to-maneuver templates for a one-time fee along with a cheap monthly hosting bill from partners such as Or, if you don’t want the hassle of a website, try using social media such as Facebook and Twitter. Believe it or not, these can be just as, if not more, effective than professional .com websites!


Get rid of the office bill

This may or may not be an option for your business, but think about it if you believe it may be a reasonable possibility. Many successful businesses can be run from home or from very small office suites. If you spend most of your time on the phone or the computer, would an in-home office be just as effective as paying monthly rent in the local shopping center?


Be smart about buying your office supplies

Some office supplies may not appear too expensive when buying them one-by-one, but the cost does add up over time. Printer cartridges, for example, can be an expensive investment. Try searching Google for a supplier of recycled printer cartridges. And computer software programs can be even more expensive! Check out to browse the hundreds of freeware, free trial, and limited version options available. This option may not work if your business requires all the features of some of these programs, but it’s worth checking in to. And finally, electronic equipment doesn’t have to be so costly. Instead of buying brand new equipment from your local Office Depot or Best Buy, try searching online for used products. A little known secret: when manufacturers resell previously used products, they must physically test each item before it is resold, unlike brand new merchandise which is often machine-tested and not checked for small glitches. Plus, you save tons of cash!

How to Hire Your Sales Superstar

Hiring a new employee can be tough in any industry. But, hiring the right person in retail/sales settings can be especially stressful. This person is responsible for driving up your revenue, so he or she will have the capacity to make or break your business, to an extent. Here are some quick tips that will guide you in hiring the right salesperson to foster a successful environment.

Dwight Schrute the office sales superstar

As a business owner, you already have a full plate in front of you. You have to be business savvy, know your market, and keep track of everything that goes along with it. Adding the responsibilities of profiling customers, marketing and selling products, creating pricing tiers and actually making the sale would make your job next to impossible. So, it’s important to hire someone you trust to take those responsibilities off your hands.

Make sure you’re specific about the job requirements. Don’t leave any room for guessing. Also, be sure you don’t have any typos or grammatical errors in your job posting as this tends to turn off experienced, educated, knowledgeable salespeople.

Ask open-ended questions. When your questions are broad rather than simple “yes or no” questions, it forces the interviewee to think on his or her feet. And, since it’s unlikely that they will have a planned answer for every single open-ended question you ask, it’s more likely that you will get their honest answer. For example, if you want to gauge their success at closing a sale, don’t simply ask, “How often do you try to close on a deal?” as their answer will surely be, “Every time.” Instead, ask “During an appointment with a potential client, what is your normal plan of action?” Be sure to pay close attention and take notes on their answer. Or, even bring in a small recording device so that you can review the interview at a later date.

It’s okay to be a little bit shallow. Everyone likes to say that you should never judge a book by its cover, but in reality, everyone does it. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to hire your most attractive candidate, but you do want to be sure to hire someone who will be well-groomed and present themselves in a professional manner. After all, this is who your customers are going to be interacting with. Put yourself in the client’s shoes and decide whether or not, at first glance, you would be interested in talking to or buying from that person.our sales team cartoon holding up a sign

And finally, if you think you’ve found the right person, be sure to sell yourself! In today’s market, highly successful salespeople aren’t going to interview at just one place. And if you want to hire him or her, it is likely that another company does as well. Be sure to make the salesperson understand what your business is all about, and sell the best aspects of your company.

5 Easy Steps to Becoming an Environmentally-Friendly Business

Though it may seem like lightening your business’s footprint is an overwhelming task to take on, there are several small steps you can take to make your business a little bit greener without taking on more work than you can handle. This article lists some small measures you can take toward becoming a green business.



Never underestimate the value of recycling your used items. And it’s just as simple as throwing a piece of garbage in the trash can! Place paper recycling bins in easy-to-access areas around your office, for example, near the printer/copy room and the mail room. Be sure to place recycling bins in the break rooms and the cafeteria, if applicable. Also, if you have a cafeteria, think about investing in a compost bin and donating the compost to an employee or neighbor who enjoys gardening.

Reduce Junk Mail

Junk mail is an enormous source of waste, and it is completely avoidable. Research some of the free services that will remove your name from mailing lists you do not wish to be a part of, and remove your name from the Direct Marketing Association’s member prospect list.

Electronics Recycling

Paper, cans and bottles aren’t the only things lying around the office that can be recycled. When your old electronics no longer function, don’t just trash them. Implement a company policy that requires employees to recycle electronic waste such as cell phones, cameras and computers. Some computer manufacturers will take back programs from old computers, and the rest can be recycled for charity.

Partner with Other Green Businesses

If you’re looking to go green, it is likely that there are existing businesses near you who have already taken steps in the same direction. Do your best to network with these businesses and make an effort to use their services when needed. Look for green vendors with services such as business card creation, web site hosting or office cleaning tasks.

Make Use of Your Outdoor Space

While it may not be inherently obvious, planting trees and/or a garden near your office can make a difference in the environment. Also, if your business has a parking garage on-site, keep track of how long the exhaust fans run, and be sure to turn out the lights after hours. This will not only make a difference in the environment, but it will also decrease the amount your company spends on the electric bill.

The Comfort Zone Exercise


Each one of us is the proud owner of his or her own tiny circle of habits and behaviours within the enormous realm of all human activity. It is the place where everything feels good and natural and where we spend the vast majority of our time. Often what is inside my comfort zone may be totally foreign to you and vice versa. I may have a debilitating dread of public speaking while you may be most in your element as a world class orator.

Whenever we brush up against the edges of our circle of comfort, we suddenly feel an overwhelming sense of anxiety. We feel that we are approaching a threshold that we are not capable of crossing and our strongest instinct is to retreat back into our circle. There is nothing inherently wrong in this behaviour. After all, this is what humans do and it seems to work well.

But some people (and if you’re reading this article, this probably includes you) have a gnawing desire to reach out of that comfortable sphere and expand into unlived life and potential. If you hear this call of the thrill of new sensation and experience and you wish to follow it, sooner or later you will come face to face with that anxiety at the edge of the circle. This exercise is designed to allow to step out of that zone in a deliberate and fulfilling way. It’s very likely that once you try this technique you will begin to treat the boundaries of your comfort zone like a game where each day you try to push them back further.

Step 1 – Draw a circle to represent your comfort zone and know that everything you feel comfortable doing is contained within it. Whenever you feel anxiety about anything, represent it somewhere on the boundary of the circle as a jagged line. For example some of the most common sources of anxiety for business people include public speaking and making sales calls. This is how you would represent them on your circle:

The boundary of your comfort zone
The boundary of your comfort zone

Step 2 – Challenge yourself to perform these actions despite your anxiety and every time you succeed draw a curve to stretch the circle at that point. The most difficult part will be the very first time you push the boundary. Once you see the circle stretched you will suddenly feel empowered to push it again.

Expanding your boundaries
Expanding your boundaries

Step 3 – As you continue to expand your circle, begin to observe the changing shape of your comfort zone. By processing this information visually, you will be making a powerful statement to your own mind about where your boundaries lie. Your most powerful adversary is yourself. This exercise will help you convince yourself about your own abilities and very soon you will accomplish things that you previously thought were unthinkable!

Your new comfort zone!
Your new comfort zone!

What do you think of this comfort zone exercise? Have you tried it, and if so what results have you seen? We’d love to hear from you!

7 Amazing Tools for Small Business Owners


There are thousands of websites and apps that claim to help entrepreneurs and small business owners better manage their business. I’ve compiled a short list of tools that I use regularly that have helped me tremendously. This is by no means a complete list but it’s definitely a good place to start or to add some new weapons to your arsenal!

Constant Contact / MailChimp

If you need to contact your clients by e-mail, you can’t afford not to use these services. Not only will you get some very powerful functionality with regards to scheduled mailing, autoresponders, analytics and contact management but you will also do so safely so your emails won’t end up in your clients Spam folder.

Ruby Receptionists

A virtual receptionist service like no other! Ruby provides top-of-the-line friendly and professional phone answering service with sophisticated scheduling and messaging features. CyberStockroom was recently featured on Ruby’s blog, Check it out!

Gmail+ Streak+ Boomerang

An unbeatable combination for Free and powerful CRM right from your Gmail Inbox! Read our previous Blog article about it here.


Everyone should use Evernote – It’s an amazing way to keep all your digital ‘stuff’ organized. Do you still find yourself e-mailing yourself an article or a website so you won’t forget it? Then you’ll love Evernote!


Need to schedule a client demo quickly? Do you want to give an online presentation over the internet? WebEx provides outstanding service at very affordable rates (starting with a Free plan!)

Vivocha / Live Chat / Pure Chat

I can’t overemphasize the importance of Live Chat for your website. Read more about these 3 contenders from our previous Blog article.


The easy way to access your computer from any other device. Once you try LogMeIn, you’ll wonder how you lived without it!


I look forward to hearing which tools you love to use in your business!

Turn Gmail into an AWESOME customer management tool

Gmail IconOne of my biggest internet WOW moments was the day that I switched from Hotmail to Gmail in 2004 when it was still in Beta. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it but something about the service made it irresistible. The functionality seemed similar to Hotmail and there weren’t any real technical breakthroughs (that I could see!) but everything just seemed so much easier and comfortable! Gmail was fun to use and I was hooked. Since then, the world has gone decidedly in the direction of Google and each day it seems that large chunks of the world are gobbled up by the company. However despite the anti-climactic hype surrounding Google+, my favorite place to hang out in the Google universe is still Gmail.

Over time I’ve learned to harness the power of combining the calendar, tasks, labels, filters with Gmail for an amazing enhanced e-mail experience. Today I want to show you how you can stretch the boundaries of Gmail even further and use it as a CRM Sales channel for your business. This trick is not going to work for a large company juggling multiple salespeople but for a small shop or an entrepreneur it is really wonderful!

The two tools that you need (both Free!) are Streak and Boomerang. Both of these awesome tools are loaded with features that you might want to discover for yourself but I will only focus on the ones I use. Streak allows you to create ‘Pipelines’ for Sales, CRM, Product Development, Bug Tracking, Publishing and more. In each pipeline you can create ‘Boxes’ that you can track across multiple stages. For example, it’s easy to create a sales pipeline that spans from capturing a lead to closing a sale. The great thing about Streak is the highly intuitive and robust level of integration that it has with Gmail. Your contacts and e-mails are always at your fingertips and you can easily put conversations and filters into the Streak ‘Boxes’. This means that any time you can go into your pipeline and find a comprehensive overview of any account or object of interest.

One feature I really love about Streak is that while I’m composing an email, I can select which ‘Box’ I would like to file it under and this will give me a sidebar with all the relevant information associated with it. So if I’m e-mailing a potential client, I can see all the information about the account as well as the potential size of the deal and any previous communications. Amazing!

The second tool that I use is Boomerang and admittedly, I only use one function regularly – but it’s a really important function. When I’m creating an e-mail I can set a ‘Boomerang’ date (any number of days that I select) if a certain condition is met. For example, I can set the date 5 days from now if I don’t get a reply to my e-mail. In 5 days Boomerang will push the conversation to the top of my inbox to remind me! I can also ‘Boomerang’ a conversation if the email is not clicked or if it’s not opened. Yes, you read that correctly, Boomerang actually keeps tabs and gives me visual cues to let me know whether my emails have been opened, clicked on or ignored.

The power of these 2 tools is magnified when they are used together. Since I’ve discovered these techniques I find myself constantly using Streak Boxes and Boomeranging all over the place. I have tried dozens of CRM web services. A few were actually excellent but they all suffered from a lack of integration with my daily routine. Also the good ones can be expensive! Combining Gmail, Streak and Boomerang is a no-brainer for me. Extremely intuitive and powerful and Free! What else could I ask for?