Creating the perfect idea

They say necessity is the mother of invention and to achieve success one needs the perfect idea.  The perfect idea is a combination of many things that need to be nurtured to be in place. First tBusiness idearusting in the Almighty God to bless the idea. God is the foundation of perfect ideas. Scripture says every good and perfect thing comes from God, so why not trust him. You need to trust God to help move the plan.  Second is positive thinking that the idea will work. Most projects fail/stall because of lack of having a positive mentality towards ideas.  Many people associate project failures to finances and marketing but forget the first reason why they created the business. A positive mind can sustain a business even without finances or any other support. According to research, most businesses fail to meet their targets in their first three months or even a year, and yet they keep operating with losses. Question: How do think such businesses survive? Well, the answers can vary but one common thing is that they believed that the business will pick up at a certain time. If you maintain a positive attitude, this will be infectious and those around you will pick up on your positive energy. Everyone in your company will feel positive and customers will want to do business with you.

This in turn will lead to you maximizing the performance of your business. If you maintain a negative attitude, the opposite is likely to happen. People will not want to be around you, your staff will feel demotivated and customers will not want to buy from you. The result will be that the performance of your business will deteriorate.

With a positive approach you will feel in control and confident and you will perform at your best, whereas a negative approach will damage confidence, harm performance, paralyze your mental skills and may also impact your health.

Third you need a few sets of plans, even if each is only a few pages. A business plan, with an accompanying marketing outline, are important blueprints for success. They help you map out the major landmarks of the road ahead, define your success and break the journey into important metrics you can track your progress against.

I’m not one for a giant, robust plan nobody will access, but I do advocate a more modest go-to plan that can act as your basic instruction manual and hold you accountable to specific numbers. The reason I don’t support highly detailed plans is that I believe you need the flexibility to alter the course as necessary. Sometimes, large changes to the plan will be necessary.

Lastly, give no room for intimidation; majority of businesses tend to suffer due to fear of the big performers. You need to motivate yourself in order to succeed.

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Water is key to poverty reduction and health

During World Water Day celebrations, it was humbling by the fact that over 663 million people on the planet still lived without access to safe drinking water; 2.4 billion people lacked access to basic sanitation services, such as toilets or latrines. With these challenges persisting around the world despite decades of hard work in the water and sanitation sectors, the key question we ask is are we at a point where we need to take a step back from current solutions and practices and do business differently?

The new Water Supply, Sanitation, and Hygiene Poverty Diagnostic (WASH PD) initiative suggests exactly that.

New findings from the WASH PD initiative (led by the World Bank Water Global Practice in collaboration with Poverty, Governance, and Health, Nutrition, and Population) for the first time advances our understanding in a systematic manner of the relationship between poverty and WASH at the country level. Our deep analysis of 18 countries—across six regions—provides us with new evidence of realities that must be acknowledged, and shows without a doubt that we must work together across sectors if we are to find solutions with sustained impacts on the ground.

Quick facts from around the world: 

  • In Mozambique, 90 percent of the poorest mothers lack access to antenatal care and 90 percent of underweight mothers only have access to unimproved sanitation
  • In Nigeria, 61 percent of the rural population lives more than 30 minutes away – and 34% lives more than 2 hours away – from a functioning water source
  • In Tajikistan, households in the Sugd Region report getting piped water 1 day per week
  • In Pakistan, despite improvements to nutritious food, reductions in open defecation and poverty, childhood stunting has stayed constant at 43 percent.  Construction of unimproved toilets and persistent water quality issues are not helping reduce this burden
  • In Indonesia, it is estimated that only 5 percent of urban wastewater is safely treated and disposed
  • In Tunisia, the richest 20 percent of households receive an estimated 27 percent of water subsidies, while the bottom 20 percent of households receive only 11 percent of the subsidies
  • In Ecuador, 93 percent of people in urban areas and 76 percent in rural areas has improved access to water services but still, 24 percent of the rural population drinks contaminated water

What we’re learning is telling:  Our initiative reveals critical gaps in policy, or between policy and implementation, which leads to poor service delivery. Working with Governance colleagues at the World Bank is stretching us beyond our water sector lens, and it is becoming abundantly clear that service delivery is many times hindered by inter-governmental fiscal and administrative systems and the interplay with politics. This may not come as a surprise to those who work with these issues on the ground, but now we have the numbers to prove it.

If we shift our focus from purely designing and implementing a project to the ‘service delivery problem’, the need for multi-sectoral thinking becomes apparent. For example, in Nigeria our analysis shows that nearly 30 percent of water points and water schemes fail within the first year. Forty-four percent of borehole construction projects are never started, and only 37 percent of borehole projects that get started are fully completed. The results are that 71 percent of Nigerian households in the lowest wealth quintile lack access to a protected water source. Read more

Is there Value attached to international days?

There are quite a number of national and international days celebrated in the remembrance and commemoration of issues as per sector or national courses. In the development world a number of these days are celebrated to put emphasis on certain issues affecting people globally or nationally though it’s still tricky to attach impact to these days. Having worked in the development sector for a while there is a feeling that Meaning has been lost FOR these days. Between January and March there were about 20 international days to commemorate and among these some of which you know and some you probably don’t. I bet  all these celebrations had a good theme and a call for action to which certain commitments were made and supposed to be followed up. To this i feel very little is done  year in and year out and we keep repeating the same mistakes. So is there value in celebrating these international days ? Comment and let me know what you think

The Top Small Business Software

When it comes to software, i hold a soft spot here because almost all of the of the things we do or create by a means uses software. From a personal perspective i feel this is any area that is very important but most often few of us know the answers to what would be helpful. Having worked with both small and large companies i feel i can give some ideas on what productive software one needs in day today work. The reality is not all software is created equally. Here are a few of the top small business software solutions to consider in 2017.

Having the right software for your business needs can mean the difference between getting things done or… having tasks linger, unaddressed, on your to-do list.

Unfortunately, most top software companies often focus on larger businesses, rather than small enterprises. As a result, many of their solutions are either unaffordable or loaded with features smaller companies don’t need.

Not all software is this way. More and more, software providers are offering small business versions of their enterprise solutions or are targeting the small business market with programs uniquely designed to meet its needs. If you’re in the market for a new tool, here are a few of the top small business software solutions to consider in 2015.

Accounting

If you’re like most entrepreneurs, chances are you’re good at what you do–but significantly less practiced at the administrative side of running a business. But whether you’re knowledgeable or not, needs like accounting must be taken care of. Any of the following tools will help get your books in order, whether you do so in order to manage your own finances or to pass your information on to your CPA.

QuickBooks

One of the most recognized names in small business accounting, QuickBooks offers both desktop and online versions (depending on the needs of your company and the experience of your team members), you may prefer one over the other. Regardless of the option you choose, Quickbooks is reasonably affordable, though taking full advantage of the program does require a bit of training.

As an added bonus, most accounting firms are experienced with QuickBooks. If you plan to seek outside support for your business’s finances, give this program a shot, as its widespread familiarity will make transmitting your data to your accountant a snap.

FreshBooks

If QuickBooks proves to be a bit of an overkill for your startup’s needs, check out FreshBooks. This cloud-based accounting software program is easier to use than QuickBooks and supports over 50 integrations–including payroll and email programs. FreshBooks features a 30 days free trial and subscription-based pricing from $19.95 per month up to $39.95 per month after this period.

Wave Accounting

Another cloud-based accounting tool, Wave Accounting has been named the best free accounting software for small businesses by Business News Daily. It’s important to note that Wave is for very small businesses–in particular, companies with fewer than 10 staff members will get the most out of this QuickBooks alternative. That said, it provides excellent functionality for free, with free user forums for support or live support packages starting at $9 per month if your needs are more complex.

Human Resources

Scaling your startup by bringing on employees is a major milestone for small businesses. But despite the game-changing nature of this step forward, few entrepreneurs take the time to fully address their human resources needs or to implement the HR technologies that can streamline these systems.

Instead of letting your human resources needs get out of control as you expand, put one of the following tools into place as soon as possible:

Zenefits

This all-in one human resource software program gives you access to benefits management, payroll processing, onboarding tools and more. Even better, many Zenefits features can be set to run automatically after your initial configuration, significantly reducing the amount of time you need to spend on these tasks on an ongoing basis.

As an added bonus, if your small business uses contractors rather than–or in addition to–regular employees, Zenefits makes it easy to manage their details as well, allowing you to track their compensation and handle their tax needs from within a single program.

BambooHR

Like Zenifits, BambooHR is a cloud-based HR system that’s simple interface and intuitive design make it a great fit for small and medium sized businesses. Although the program is exclusively an online human resource information system, it does integrate with other payroll solutions or applicant tracking software, giving you easy access from one central dashboard.

sumHR

Finally, sumHR is a great small business HR software program that focuses on attendance, leave, and payroll functions. If you’re looking to take your employee directory out of the spreadsheets and into a professional program, sumHR may be the solution for you. The company is also planning on adding new features soon, including reporting and performance reviews, making it one to watch into the future.

HRMagic

HRMagic has Employee Profile Management, Recruitment, Leave, Time Sheet Management, Payroll, Commission/Contract Invoice Management among other modules ) and HR consultancy to various companies.

Scheduling

Plenty of small businesses have scheduling concerns to deal with, whether yours come in the form of hourly workers or customer appointments to be booked. But despite the widespread nature of this problem, many of these companies still rely on outdated pen and paper scheduling books which are both time-consuming to manage and vulnerable to human error.

There’s got to be a better way–and there is! Check out any of the following programs for your scheduling needs:

When I Work

Scheduling staff hours doesn’t have to be difficult–When I Work makes the process intuitive and simple, helping to reduce absences and avoid employee miscommunications. When I Work offers mobile accessibility so that staff can see their schedules, trade shifts among themselves and request time off while on-the-go. The program’s pricing comes as a monthly subscription fee that’s based on the number of staff you manage–up to 20 staff can be scheduled for $29 per month.

Booker

If you have clients that need to make appointments or you offer classes that your customers need to sign up for, Booker makes it easy. Once installed, you can attract customers from your website or social media profile and bring them to a central site where they can then book appointments. The site is optimized for mobile users, making it easy to build relationships with clients through the program’s provided messaging and retention tools.

Genbook

Another solution for online booking, Genbook allows your customers to book appointments while also giving you the tools needed to manage your business, staff, and reputation. Genbook allows your former customers to post reviews of your company, giving you immediate credibility with new clients. Your staff can access the schedule and receive reminders, and you can publish promotions and share them on social media. To give this innovative program a try, take advantage of Genbook’s 30-day free trial (post-trial prices range from $20-$70 per month).

Google Keep

Free, cheap, no complicated training needed and good for scheduling. I must say I use Google Keep more than I thought I would. I have an Evernote account and I think it a great application, which I do use daily. The two applications have similarities and different users will definitely see different strengths in both.

Simple. That’s how I would best describe Google Keep. If you have ever used sticky notes, you will get the idea.  Once you start playing with Google Keep, you’ll figure it out quickly.

I think the three neatest features that it offers are: sharing, optical character recognition (OCR), and labeling. Again, once you execute the function the first time, you will remember how you did it.

Small business software can be a difficult world to navigate, but the good news is that there are plenty of companies out there doing it right. Whether you need help with your accounting, human resources or scheduling needs, the software listed above will help launch your company successfully into 2015.

What’s your favorite small business software program? Why? Share your recommendations by leaving a comment below!

How to Say No to Clients Without Losing Them

Adapted from an article by Manish Bhalla

Saying ‘NO’ is an art! Most of the times it denotes something negative but if said at the right time and in the right manner, a NO can contribute positively towards the growth of your company and you! The mind gets perplexed when it comes to saying NO to a customer whom you want to do business with. But sometimes a NO is required to save a possible future damage to your professional relationship.

Here are a few things to be kept in mind while saying ‘NO’ to a prospective client or an existing one asking for a discount yet keeping him happy and convinced about hiring your services –

1. Be empathetic – Being empathetic is the key to convince the customer that the NO is being said in their favor. If you put yourselves in the customer’s shoes and try to understand his thoughts and feelings about a situation, you would be able to justify the NO to yourself as well as to the customer, who is being denied the discount.

2. Be sure of when to tell a customer NO– You have to define your own yardsticks to measure whether a NO would put your company behind or ahead from where it stands today. Be clear on what your boundaries are pertaining to customer service. You can tell a customer NO when you know that the discount is not being offered to any other customer as well, hence, you follow a fair practice. You can also tell a NO when the perk being asked for is against your company policy.

3. The sooner the better –Instead of procrastinating the process of saying NO, do it quickly and honestly. Keeping the customers waiting for a decision on their request would only fluster them. But if it is required at all to evaluate the issue, you should try to offer an alternative solution and convey the final decision soon. The customers will appreciate that.

4. Stay positive- When it comes to iterating a negative thing, we tend to emit similar emotions. But if you convey the NO in a positive way, it leaves the doors open for the customers to come back to you in future.

End the conversation on a positive note and make the customer feel good about the NO so they may get back to you when they find you affable.

5. Offer the next best solution – If not the best, then offer the next best solution to the customers. They may get upset at first but there’s a possibility that they settle in for the alternative solution being offered to them. All you need to do is emphasize its benefits to the customers and they are likely to be convinced.

6. Be clear and transparent – Don’t give a vague explanation.The clearer and more transparent you remain in your explanation of saying NO to the customers the better it is. Explain the cause of being unable to process their request at that point of time very lucidly and honestly; it pays.

7. Create a long lasting impression – Be polite and sincere. The customers always look for an exhilarating experience from the service provider. If you maintain a mannerly stance right from the beginning till the end, even if you have to decline a request, they would still retain the impression and the experience that they have had with you!

8. Stay mindful – Keeping in mind the thoughts of your customers and the impact that your decision might have on them can make things easier for you to portray. Being mindful and aware of what your words might sound like to the receiver will help you mould them in an acceptable manner.

9. Don’t lose your graciousness – Be elegant in your tone and mannerism while saying NO and never shout at the clients even if they get irate. Maintaining your calm will always help you cool down the customers as well.

Consumers like being treated with care even if sometimes we are not able to give them what they have requested for.

10. Build relationship and not cut corners –  Investing into a relationship will go a long way than just cutting corners at once. Gain confidence of the customers and build trust by soliciting their feedback and thanking them for their time.

If you show that your support will continue through this established relationship, the customers are likely to contact you when they think of such a project again.

Fed up with Skype? Here Are 6 of the Best Free Alternatives

For a long time, Skype was the world leader when it came to VoIP apps. It was so popular, in fact, that “Skyping” became a verb. But with so many complaints of low quality calls, too many crashes, and a general distrust of Microsoft, for many, Skype lost its appeal, despite its recent overhauls.

Since Skype’s heyday, however, many other apps have launched that enable you to call others from your devices. If you’re fed up with Skype then, you might want to try these alternatives.

For something much simpler than Skype, a service like Appear.in might be for you. If you want something with even more features, try out Viber. And then there are all the options in between.

1. Google Hangouts (Web, Android, iOS)

A direct competitor to Skype, offering free user-to-user calls and (mostly) free calls within the U.S. and Canada.

Since its launch just a few short years ago, Google Hangouts has rapidly grown to rival Skype in terms of user numbers while, according to many, surpassing Skype’s call quality.

While you could use Hangouts as just another messaging app, that’s the last thing we need. It’s first-and-foremost a way for you to voice and video call up to 10 contacts (simultaneously) on iOS, and Android. The regular Google Hangouts Web app is pretty impressive, too. On your smartphone, this works over data (or Wi-Fi if you’re connected), so calls over Hangouts do not use any of your included minutes.

The contacts that Google Hangouts adds to your account can be both from your phone contacts, and your email contacts. If those contacts are Google Hangout users, you can call them entirely for free. You can call landlines and mobiles from Hangouts, too.

Almost all calls to Canada and the US are entirely free from any country where Hangouts is available. To make other calls though, you’ll have to add some credit to your account., and pay a relatively small per-minute call charge.

2. Appear.In (Web, iOS)

One of the easiest ways to start a voice or video call. No sign ups, no downloads.If you want an incredibly simple way to start a call, Appear.in is what you’re looking for. You don’t need to sign up to anything. You don’t even need to download anything! There is an iOS app, though, if you’re interested.

Simply create a “Room” link, and share that link with whoever you want to chat with (up to eight people). When a recipient clicks the link, the room will open in their browser (this works on mobile, too).

You can choose to either have a voice or video call, and you can also share your screen. And if you’re worried about privacy, you can “lock” your call to prevent anyone else from joining if they somehow found your unique link.

3. ooVoo (Web, Android, iOS, Windows, Mac)

Like WhatsApp, you can make domestic and international calls too.

Like a lovechild between WhatsApp and Skype, ooVoo is a free cross platform (Android, iOS, Windows, Web) app that allows free calls to other ooVoo users, and paid calls to landlines and mobiles. It’s group video calls are of particularly high quality, which is the main reason it’s included in this list.

If you start a Web-Based ooVoo chat, up to 12 people can join for free, without signing up or downloading anything. All you have to do is send them a unique link. All calls can be recorded, and screens can be shared.

It’s unlikely many of your contacts use the app, but if they do, it also doubles up as a messaging app, where you can record and send text messages and videos. It’s basically like WhatsApp, but also allows calls to landlines and web-based calls to non-users.

5. Talky (Web, iOS)

Like Appear.In, an extremely easy way to host a group video chat. No download required.

Just like Appear.in, Talky sells itself as “a truly simple video chat [with] screen sharing for groups”.

Again, simply pick a room name, get a unique URL, then share this URL with up to 15 people. The call is then accessible via each person’s browser (or via the iOS app).

Once a call is live, you can easily turn your webcam or microphone on and off, and chat via text. Once everyone’s online, you can also lock the call for extra privacy.

And again like Appear.In, you can’t use Talky to make international or domestic calls.

6. Voca (Android, iOS)

Free user-to-user calls, and some of the cheapest international calls on the market.

Working through your Wi-Fi or data connection, Voca gives you extremely easy access to very affordable international calls to over 230 countries. For instance, U.S.-to-U.S. calls to landlines and phones cost $0.001. You can find full rates on Voca’s site.

If your friends and family are also using the app, then text, voice, and video calls are completely free, though the app will use your data if you’re not connected to Wi-Fi. For the security conscious, all calls and messages are encrypted.

And, The App You Know About: WhatsApp

Free voice or video calls to any other WhatsApp users (on mobile). But no calls to anyone who’s not on WhatsApp.And then we have WhatsApp (and its security-obsessed alternatives). Although the app is available on Android, iOS, Windows, Desktop, and Web, WhatsApp calls are only available on Android, iOS and Windows.

It’s popularity in the U.S., Canada, Europe (and elsewhere) has seen the app attract over one billion users. At first, the app was mainly just for messaging your friends. Now it’s grown to also offer voice and video calling. These calls are made via your data plan, not over your network (so you may be charged for using data, but not your included minutes).

When using WhatsApp’s call features, you can only call other WhatsApp users (one person at a time, no group calls). If they don’t have WhatsApp, you can easily send them an invite.

Will You be Abandoning Skype?

Although Skype is usually the default option for calls over the internet, there are many great alternatives out there. These range from the super simple, to the feature-rich, with plenty in between.

Do you think any of these will be good enough for you to start moving away from Skype?

If so, what frustrated you so much about Skype to make you start searching for alternatives?

Originally written by Joel Lee on Sep 7, 2012.

The freelancer and the entrepreneur

Which are you?

A freelancer is someone who gets paid for her work. She charges by the hour or perhaps by the project. Freelancers write, design, consult, advise, do taxes and hang wallpaper. Freelancing is the single easiest way to start a new business.

Entrepreneurs use money (preferably someone else’s money) to build a business bigger than themselves. Entrepreneurs make money when they sleep. Entrepreneurs focus on growth and on scaling the systems that they build. The more, the better.

The goal of a freelancer is to have a steady job with no boss, to do great work, to gradually increase demand so that the hourly wage goes up and the quality of gigs goes up too.

The goal of the entrepreneur is to sell out for a lot of money, or to build a long-term profit machine that is steady, stable and not particularly risky to run. The entrepreneur builds an organization that creates change.

The trap is simple: Sometime freelancers get entrepreneur-envy and start hiring other freelancers to work for them. This doesn’t scale. Managing freelancers is different from being a freelancer. Managing freelancers and saving the best projects for yourself gets you into trouble. The cash flow gets you into trouble. Investors don’t want to invest in you because you can’t sell out if you’re a freelancer at heart.

If you’re an entrepreneur, it is impossible to succeed by using your own labor to fill the gaps. That’s because your labor is finite. It doesn’t scale. If it’s a job only you can do, you’re not building a system, you’re just hiring yourself (and probably not paying enough either).

This problem has been around for awhile, and it’s tempting to think that more effort can let us solve it — that we can be both. New tools give freelancers more leverage than ever before, and our culture continues to push us to get big, right now.

The thing is, more effort can’t solve this dilemma for you. Sooner or later, more effort doesn’t scale. Travis doesn’t drive the Uber that picks you up, Sheryl doesn’t do any coding and Jacqueline can’t work with every investment, every day.

The solution is surprisingly easy.

If you’re a freelancer, freelance. Figure out how to do the best work in your field, the best work for the right clients. Don’t fret about turning away work, and don’t fret about occasional down time. You’re a freelance for hire, and you need to focus on your reputation and the flow of business. Find leverage in the form of assistants and outsource the commodities if you can, but your work is always going to be your work.

Freelancers get ahead by becoming more in demand, by charging more (and being worth it). They get ahead by being more connected, smarter, more effective.

If you’re an entrepreneur, don’t hire yourself. Build a business that works, that thrives with or without you. It might not be good for your ego, but it will be good for your bank account.

It’s possible to switch hats, to have side projects, to have two ‘jobs’. But we can’t wear both hats at the same time, can’t freelance our way to entrepreneurial success.

Reblogged from www.medium.com