Monday, December 10, 2018

7 Tips to Make Networking Less Awkward

Networking. The very word sends shudders through me, and I’m an extrovert. I can only imagine what it does to those who are introverted or shy by nature.

The thing is, networking actually works. Awkward as some of these events are, the concept of being able to meet multiple business people at one time, in one place, for what might lead to mutually beneficial connections in the future, is brilliant.

Whether you’re an entrepreneur or someone in sales, an author or an artist, or perhaps you’re looking to find a new career, these organized “speed-dating” type events can be just the ticket to opening new doors and launching you toward future success. It just doesn’t always feel that way.

So, what are some things you can do to make the whole experience less awkward and more fulfilling?

Here are 7 suggestions to make networking less awkward:

  1. Choose wisely. Be selective about what events you attend. Not all networking events are equal. Take time to do some research and dig in a little as to who else might attend, where the event is being held, how big it will be, and so on. I once attended an event that I thought would fit my purposes and found myself in an exceedingly awkward place, at a terrible bar with two other participants who were truly only interested in hearing themselves talk. I couldn’t extricate myself fast enough.
  2. Decide why. Decide why you want to go in the first place and set a goal before you go. For example, decide how many connections you would like to make and aim for that number throughout the course of the event.
  3. Practice your openers. Before you get there, be sure to practice your “elevator pitch” and your opening lines or conversation starters to make networking less awkward. Use the fantastic communication tool of curiosity. Ask open-ended questions such as, “How did you get involved in what you’re doing now?” Or, “Tell me more about what you’re hoping to accomplish this year.” This takes the pressure off you and allows people to share and be heard. Listen well.
  4. Move around. Try not to hide by the bar or get stuck with the same people all evening. Remember your goal and don’t be afraid to say, “I’m really glad to have met you, and let’s be sure to follow up. I’m going to move around and meet some more people now, and you likely want to do the same. Have a great night.” Honesty works well.
  5. Bring your cards. You aren’t going to want to share your business card with everyone you meet but have them ready for those you do want to follow up with. Cards are a great way to get the person’s name down and, of course, to follow up with after.
  6. Smile a lot. Smiling opens you up to being approached and makes it easier to connect. If you can’t remember if you’ve met someone already (an awkward situation that happens to me sometimes) or if you can’t recall the person’s name, begin with, “Have I met you yet?” I find this line works really well and gives us both an out if we have met.
  7. Take notes. Have a pen handy and write a note on the back of cards of those you want to follow up with so that you can sort them later. Take a couple of moments at a table or in the corner to do that in between conversations or getting a drink or snack. It will save you time later. After the event, make more detailed notes so that you can devise a follow-up plan to actually connect with those you’re interested in. There isn’t much point in attending a networking event if you don’t follow up afterwards.

Those are my seven main suggestions for making networking a little smoother and more enjoyable. One last idea is to be sure to eat dinner first, as it’s definitely awkward to hold a plate of food; worry about stuff getting stuck in your teeth; balance a plate, cards, a drink, and shake hands; and move around the room without spilling something.

I eat a proper meal first and grab one or two finger-food bites here and there, sometimes as a good excuse to get out of a dull conversation or to move on to more people. (“I’m going to grab a bite, nice talking to you.”) And be wary of drinking too much at these events. You want to stick to your preset goals, meet several people, and make meaningful connections, which is all done more easily when you’re unclouded and razor sharp.

Here’s to your next networking event—may you make networking less awkward and much more beneficial to your future success.

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Westchester Networking for Professionals (WNFP) is a business organization focused on providing our members and guests with an extraordinary networking experience, bringing business professionals together for the sole purpose of generating new relationships and developing new business opportunities. Not a member, learn how you can become a member and join this awesome group of professionals to connect and grow your business.

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5 Small Business Marketing Trends to Watch in 2019

With limited time and resources, marketing remains a challenge on Main Street.

You may want to improve your marketing, but the running the business will always take priority.

In 2019, small businesses must make marketing a priority to stand out and grow their customer base.

Here’s a look at five of the most important marketing trends to pay attention to in the New Year.

Trend #1: Voice Demands Greater Attention
As consumers increasingly turn to voice search, small businesses must understand how to get their businesses found.

According to ComScore, 50% of all searches will be voice searches by 2020.

Here’s some other insight as you prepare your small business for the boom in voice.

Trend #2: A Stronger Focus on Social Media
In 2018, 92% of small businesses invested more time and money in at least one social media platform, according to a survey by The Manifest.

The year ahead builds on this groundwork.

Social media presents great potential for small businesses to engage their audience in new and meaningful ways.

Watch for Instagram to especially grow in the coming year. Ad revenues for the social media site are projected to triple to $11 billion in 2019, according to Forbes.

Trend #3: Content Marketing Grows in Importance
Most (80%) of small businesses don’t invest in content marketing, according to research from Clutch.

However, great content marketing can be the best source of high-quality leads, according to HubSpot.

In 2019, small businesses can win by approaching content with a multimedia mindset.

If you don’t have a blog that adds customer value, you’re missing out. See what works with your audience and refine your strategy as you go.

Trend #4: Location-Based Marketing Takes Off
Main Street has a huge opportunity in 2019 to hone in on specific audiences using location-based marketing.

Nearly two-thirds of marketers use location data for targeting promotions, according to Factual, and more than eight in 10 marketers say location-based marketing helped them grow their customer base.

Statista data reveals that this year, 242 million people accessed location-based services on their mobile devices, up from 220 million in the previous year.

Small businesses can succeed in the coming year by taking advantage of the growth of geo-location.

Trend #5: The Cloud Expands
If your small business hasn’t yet adopted cloud technologies, 2019 is the year to make the move.

Deloitte researchshows that small businesses using cloud services grow 26% faster than those who don’t. These companies also bring in substantially more profits.

Explore the tools that could work for your small business, such as cloud-based phone systems. You could end up saving time and money every day while running your business more efficiently.

Make Your Marketing Work for You in 2019
Don’t think of marketing as a giant, daunting task. Instead, approach it one tactic at a time.

Stay on top of trends, try new things and retire what isn’t working anymore.

When you take the time to consider what’s coming in 2019, you can get ahead of your competition and set your small business up for success


Westchester Networking for Professionals (WNFP) is a business organization focused on providing our members and guests with an extraordinary networking experience, bringing business professionals together for the sole purpose of generating new relationships and developing new business opportunities. Not a member, learn how you can become a member and join this awesome group of professionals to connect and grow your business.

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Join WNFP Communities!

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Can Facebook Groups For Business Owners Help Boost Your Bottom Line?

Do a mental hand raise if you think you spend too much time on Facebook. If you’re interacting in Facebook groups for business owners, that may not be such a bad idea. Facebook is one of the top social media tools around that’s geared toward connecting people.

However, some aspects of Facebook experience seem robotic and can make you feel even less connected. There’s not much engagement that comes out of reacting to other’s posts with a heart emoji or smiley face or aimlessly scrolling through your feed.

However, joining Facebook groups can be an exceptional way to connect with other on a more personal level, share and receive information, and boost your business. There are tons of groups for every different niche and interest.

If you’re a business owner, here’s why you may want to invest more time in the right Facebook groups.

How Facebook Groups for Business Owners Can Help Improve Your Biz

Free Market Research

The best thing about joining a Facebook group is that you have one-on-one access to different types of people. If you join the right type of group, you can learn more about your target audience. You can do this one of two ways. For starters, you can post a question and get feedback that you can use to improve your business.

Or, just be a fly on the wall. Observe conversations and see what people are asking questions about or need help with. I save posts from Facebook groups all the time so I can read the conversations and feedback later to use for market research in my own business.

Get Important Information and Advice ASAP
Whether you’re looking to brainstorm, troubleshoot a problem, or get a very important question answered, the people in Facebook groups can help connect you with the information you need. I’ve received so much help and advice for my business from people in Facebook groups.

It’s also been a great way for me to connect with experts or build a referrals network with other people. Some Facebook group members post questions and leads if they are looking to connect with a specific person to work with.

If you start offering advice and giving back to the group, you may be tapped on the shoulder by a potential client or customer as well.

Promote Your Business For Free
While it’s important to make sure you’re contributing and giving back in a Facebook group, there’s also usually an opportunity to promote your business for free as well. Some Facebook groups for business owners allow specific days of the week where members can share more about their business, promote any current offers, or share specific examples of their work.

Be sure to take advantage of this and check out other people’s promos as well to see if you could form a potential partnership.

There are so many business owners who miss out on this simple and free opportunity.

Facebook is not just a waste of time for business owners. When you utilize Facebook groups to your advantage, you can leverage the info you find and contribute there to grow your business and get more connections.

Image Credit: Simon / Pixabay

Westchester Networking for Professionals (WNFP) is a business organization focused on providing our members and guests with an extraordinary networking experience, bringing business professionals together for the sole purpose of generating new relationships and developing new business opportunities. Not a member, learn how you can become a member and join this awesome group of professionals to connect and grow your business.

Stay Connected with WNFP!
Join WNFP Communities!

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

28 Best Business Services Your Company Needs

It’s never been easier to start a business on a budget. So many affordable tools are available, an entrepreneur can launch a startup with a laptop and cellphone. But making that business a big success takes plenty of blood, sweat, and tears. You’ll likely put in long hours, whether you’re a one-person operation or you have a full team.

Luckily, you can now easily access services that will relieve some of that pressure. Whether it just frees up a little more time in your day or helps you be more productive, each of these services are must-haves for your business toolbox.

Virtual Tech Support

The last thing your day needs is a malfunctioning computer. But between your smartphone, laptop, and any printers or copiers you use, it’s highly likely you’ll need tech support at some point, especially once you add a team of workers to your business. Many local services have limited hours and charge a hefty fee to come to you.

TechtoUs uses the power of remote desktop technology to fix your computer. For $29.99 per month, you’ll get support for an unlimited number of devices, including printers, multifunction machines, scanners, and mobile devices. In addition to tech support, they provide training, even if you simply need to be shown how to do one thing. You can still rely on local support for hardware issues, but a virtual service is a must-have for the many small software issues you’ll have throughout the year.

Inclusion Training

Inclusion has become the best way to create a positive work culture that attracts top candidates. Sure, you could bring in a diversity coach to teach you how to incorporate best practices into your daily operations, but this often isn’t customized to what you’re actually doing.

Using machine learning and artificial intelligence, Joonko identifies areas where your business might be falling prey to unconscious bias. This includes real-time evaluations of your hiring, as well as your day-to-day operations. This will not only improve your business’s employee retention, but it could help you avoid expensive discrimination lawsuits.

Phone Service

Phone service has always been an essential part of running a business, and VoIP is the technology of choice. Nextiva specializes in business phone service for companies of all sizes, including small startups. For a monthly fee, you’ll get access to all the services you need to interact with customers and collaborate with team members.

With its new NextOS offering, Nextiva has taken VoIP services up a notch. You’ll have not only audio chat, but voice, email, and text chat capabilities. In the background, the software collects information on your interactions to help you learn more about your customers. How many conversations do you have with a potential lead before you close the sale? Nextiva’s reports help you learn.


While there are many ways to get the word out about your business, HARO can fast-track you, putting your name in major publications. Short for Help a Reporter, HARO collects requests from journalists who are looking for expert sources for their articles. When you see a topic you can speak on with some expertise, you pitch your quote and hope the reporter picks it up.

While there is competition, especially in more popular business-related topics, it’s a great way to establish yourself as a thought leader in your field. You’ll likely have more success if your expertise is in a popular niche, such as virtual reality or cryptocurrencies, but you’ll also find there are fewer requests for sources within one specialty.

Email Marketing

Email marketing is more competitive than ever. You need to not only be able to create eye-catching messages, but you also must have the right subject line to capture the short attention span of today’s customer. MailChimp specializes in email marketing automation, helping you create professionally-designed messages that get results.

But MailChimp doesn’t stop with merely helping you with the message. You’ll also have access to advanced analytics and tools like A/B testing so that you can monitor interactions with your messages. Using this data, you’ll have the insights you need to create more effective marketing campaigns moving forward. You may even learn a few things about your target audience in the process.


Search engine optimization (SEO) can seem like an elusive concept to new business owners. RankRanger offers software to help. Once in place, the app collects information on your business’s rank, as well as the activities of your competition, to help you pinpoint where you might need to redirect your efforts.

You can also use RankRanger to take a look at your existing content and make optimization suggestions. In addition to monitoring your website, the software also helps you create optimized social campaigns. Analytics go beyond your own web presence to look for sites that link back to you, further boosting your search ranking.

App Development

If your business could benefit from a great app, you don’t have to pay a team of developers a small fortune for it. Appery is a do-it-yourself app builder that promises little to no coding is required. You’ll use templates and drag-and-drop builders to create an app. You could use it to create an ordering platform for your customers, make a cool game that promotes your brand, or for any number of other purposes.

For those who prefer to dive into the code, you can use Appery’s backend services to design more advanced features. You may, for instance, choose to use the drag-and-drop builder to get started and pay a contractor or trusted friend to tweak things for you.


Scheduling meetings can be complicated. You likely have a jam-packed schedule, but you want to always be available for your clients. ScheduleOnce lets you create a booking page that your customers can use to book a meeting with you. Once scheduled, the appointment is added to your calendar, as well as the calendars of anyone else that has been invited to the meeting, including the client.

If appointment scheduling is a large part of your business model, you can also add your booking form to your business’s website. Instead of merely presenting a contact form for customers to complete and wait for a phone call, you can have them book an appointment with you or one of your representatives directly from there.


Once you hired your first employee, your business model changes significantly. In addition to invoicing software, you’ll also need a way to pay your workers. Xero’s payroll software helps you track work hours, approve employee leave requests, and set up worker payment, whether through bank deposit or check. You’ll also have guidance on configuring taxes to come out automatically to eliminate tax season headaches.

On the back end, you’ll also have access to reports and analytics that give you insights into who has been paid, what you’re paying out in employee expenses, employee leave histories, and more. If you have Xero’s other tools, your payroll operations will integrate with that to make bookkeeping as easy as possible.

Business Plan Development

Whether you plan to seek investment dollars or not, a solid business plan is essential to strategically building a business. Enloop goes beyond basic business plan building templates to offer full-featured software to walk you through the process of creating a winning plan. Once you’ve written the business plan, you can invite others to review and update it.

The work doesn’t stop after you’ve created your business plan, though. Enloop can be set up to automatically sync with your financial data to make sure your information is always up to date. The software also analyzes your information and offers a performance score to give you insights into how your business plan compares to others who use the software.


You likely already know that you can easily get gig-based workers to perform a wide range of tasks. However, most crowdsourcing platforms specialize in remote contractors. Shiftgig connects businesses with local hourly workers who can show up and do work. Think of it as a virtual temp agency, prescreening candidates to present to you when you’re ready to hire.

In addition to hiring workers for administrative tasks, you can also use Shiftgig when you need additional workers to help out with your booth at a local trade show or hand out flyers at an event. Restaurants and retailers can use the app to line up cashiers, cooks, and other hourly workers. The app tracks your hires by IP while they’re on the clock so that you can check in from wherever you are and know that the employee you hired is on the job.

Performance Appraisal

One of the best things a leader can do is provide measurable objectives to employees and regularly offer feedback on performance. But manually creating performance reviews can be time-consuming, in addition to the challenges it brings. Lattice lets you set up a performance review schedule to ensure you never miss a feedback session. You can use the software to set up a rating system that will allow any managers in your business to easily rate their employees.

In addition to manager-employee reviews, Lattice also has tools for peer-to-peer feedback. If an employee wants to know how a project went, that worker can simply send a request and you’ll be prompted to respond. A built-in goal-setting tool will make it easy to set goals for each of your employees.

Point of Sale

If you sell products on site, you need a POS to help you out. Rain Retail makes it easy to add your inventory and set prices, then process payments as customers make purchases. You can also use the software for your ecommerce site and, since the inventory is integrated, your online customers will always have access to up-to-date information on what you have in stock.

One of the biggest benefits of Rain Retail is its ease of setup. The software is cloud-based, so you’ll simply set the equipment up when it arrives and begin taking orders. The hardest part will be getting your inventory into the system. You can also add features like customer rewards and coupons to offer the same level of service customers get from big box retailers.


It’s difficult to run a business without some form of virtual conferencing software. You’ve likely already been invited to join other meetings and used whatever software they had. But it’s important to have a tool of your own that you can direct clients and colleagues to use. is a popular meeting platform that makes screen-sharing easy. You can also personalize your account to fit your company’s professional image.

In addition to client meetings, you can also use your account to host webinars. It’s a great way to build brand awareness without having to travel across the country to speak at trade shows or industry conferences. If you upgrade to the Pro version, you can also record your webinar to share later on social media and your website.

Expense Tracking

If you travel, you need to keep up with your business expenses. Not only is this important for balancing your business’s budget, but the IRS may want to see receipts if you’re ever audited. Expensify makes expense tracking easier with features like receipt scanning and duplicate expense detection.

If you have employees who claim expenses, Expensify makes approval and payment easy. You can set it up so that once you approve an expense, the worker has the money in his or her bank account the next day. The app also syncs with your business’s accounting software to ensure your budget is automatically updated, as well. This type of automation is essential for any business that can’t yet afford to bring on a full-time accounting team.

Sales and Marketing Support

If you handle sales and marketing efforts for your business, the right software is essential. Intercom helps you track down and convert sales leads, onboard customers, and provide top-quality customer support once you’ve won them over. You don’t have to hire a full sales team to work all of the leads coming your way. Intercom offers bots and live chat to make sure every interested customer gets the help they’ll need.

In addition to assisting with leads and customer service, Intercom also provides marketing tools to ensure you’re effectively getting the word out about your offerings. You can send targeted email, in-app messages, and more that will turn interested visitors into paying customers.

Event Planning

Event planners can be expensive, but fortunately you don’t need to pay a high hourly fee. Kapow helps you book events at venues in your immediate area, then send invitations directly through the app. Whether you have important clients coming to town or you’re hosting an annual Christmas party, this app keeps everything in one place to make it easier.

Booking the venue is only part of what Kapow will help you do. You can also use the built-in tools to plan and manage your event. Once you’ve sent the invites out, recipients can RSVP and you can monitor your list of attendees. After the event, you can also access reports that help you determine your ROI.


The days of punching a timeclock mounted to the wall are long behind us. Today’s businesses use electronic time tracking, with employees simply logging in through an app. But you don’t have to be a Fortune 500 company to set up a timeclock for your hourly workers. Time Clock Wizard can be installed on a centralized tablet or downloaded on each employee’s device to allow them to clock in on their own.

In addition to tracking hours worked, Time Clock Wizard also integrates with popular accounting platforms to make bookkeeping easy. Each employee can be set up with an account that includes a photo, with their devices logged by IP. If an employee clocks in using that device, you can make sure they’re at your location working when they say they are.

Customer Profiling

Successfully marketing to customers means first getting to know them. Blitzen offers person-based insights, collecting information on your leads that includes their demographics, behaviors, location, and interests. With this information you can launch campaigns that segment your audiences by their information for a more personalized approach.

Perhaps the most useful thing about Blitzen, though, is that it puts everything about a customer in one place, where you can find it when you need it. When the phone rings or an email comes in, you can pull up this information and have all the data you need to target your pitch to the person on the other end. Blitzen also offers lead scoring, which helps you hone in on those customers who are most likely to convert, rather than wasting time on people who won’t.

Email Management

Whether you use Gmail or Outlook, Boomerang is a handy tool to have attached to your browser. Instead of wondering if a contact received your email, you can check in your sent items folder and immediately see whether it was opened. You can also click a button while reading an email to have Boomerang remind you at a later date to reread the message, which is perfect for follow-ups.

Boomerang also helps you schedule messages to send later. If you’re a night owl but you want to hit everyone’s inboxes first thing in the morning, this is the tool for you. It also comes in handy if you want to think about messages for a while before officially sending them.

Career Counseling

Every entrepreneur can use a mentor, but paid career coaches can be expensive. Wade & Wendy uses artificial intelligence to coach you on your career and your business. The software has two separate platforms. Wade connects to your LinkedIn to look at your existing network and suggest opportunities that could help take your career to the next level.

The Wendy module specializes in helping businesses find the best workers to meet their goals. Once the software is aware you’re hiring, it kicks in to vet candidates and send over the best to meet your needs. The software is still in beta, but currently they’re taking signups on their website. You’ll just authenticate your LinkedIn and accept the invite and you’ll be in line to be notified once it’s available.

Social Media Monitoring

There’s no shortage of social media monitoring tools on the market. Topsy sets itself apart by analyzing hundreds of millions of tweets every day. In addition to telling you what is most being discussed by location and interest, it also analyzes the overall sentiment on particular issues. This helps you determine the general mood so that you can chime in where applicable.

As with many other monitoring tools, you can also set up alerts with Topsy that will let you know when a topic relevant to your own interests is being discussed. This can help you focus on other things until there’s a trending topic that relates to your brand. In other words, instead of sitting on Twitter all day, you can go about your business with the confidence that you aren’t missing anything.

Electronic Signatures

Contracts, non-disclosure agreements, and other documents are an important part of running a business. With DocuSign, you can upload those items and send them over to new clients or contractors and the software walks them through applying an e-signature to every space that needs it. Once they’re finished, the document comes directly back to you so that you’ll have it on file.

If your own clients and contractors use DocuSign, you’ll be able to easily sign documents, whether you’re at your desk or on the go. Of course, you can’t control how documents are sent over to you, but if you work with the same clients, eventually they may turn to DocuSign after seeing you use it.

Planning and Organization

Growing a business usually means juggling multiple projects at once, and things can easily get out of control. Smartsheet helps you pull everything together in one place, using various tools including projects, grids, calendars, dashboards, and cards. Each tool has its own unique use, so you can pick and choose, and even alter which ones you choose as your business needs change.

Once you’ve added employees to your team, Smartsheet becomes even more powerful, since it lets you work together to organize your projects. You can even create a portal and invite your colleagues and contractors to log in and update their status on projects, access items they need to take action on, and more.

Time Tracking

If you find that you reach the end of the day without getting much done, a time-tracking app can help. RescueTime runs in the background on your computer or mobile device, monitoring your activities throughout the day. You can then access reports that show where your time was spent. You’ll also get a rating, known as a “productivity pulse,” that can set a benchmark for the next time you log in.

By identifying the areas where you’re spending the most time, you may be able to restrict yourself so that you get more done. RescueTime even lets you set up alerts that let you know once you reach a certain amount of time on a particular activity.

Finding Investors

If you’re in the market for funding for your business, you may not know where to start. Even if you do have a plan in place to locate and pitch investors, the whole process can be time consuming. EquityNet aims to make it easier for investors and entrepreneurs to connect. You’ll need a business plan, but if you’re seeking funding, you probably already have one of those.

To get started, simply upload your business profile and business plan, designate your optimal funding options, and look through the investors on the site. You can even find investors in your own area who might be more interested in funding a local business.

Project Planning

Meeting deadlines is an important part of success as a business. But you can find that it’s all too easy to fall behind on various projects. CoSchedule makes it easier by allowing you to delegate tasks, update your progress, and closely monitor how you’re doing in relation to that deadline coming up.

You can also use CoSchedule as an editorial calendar, planning your social media content well in advance. If you have a big event coming up, you can set dates for each of your online posts to avoid sending everything at once. Throughout all of your projects, you can use built-in analytics to monitor your projects and see areas where you can improve.

Document and Media Shredding

Security is an ongoing concern for every business, but there may be one area you’re letting slip through the cracks. You may think you don’t have enough paper files to justify dedicated document shredding services, but even the occasional slip of paper with customer data can put your company at risk.

Shred-It will come to your location as needed to take care of your office shredding. However, you aren’t limited to paper shredding with services like this. You can also use Shred-It to safely destroy hard drives, CDs, backup tapes, and zip drives. You’ll not only have the peace of mind of knowing your data is safe, you’ll also have documentation showing customers and potential investors that you take security seriously.

Throughout 2018, it’s important to find services that empower your business to succeed. With so many tools now available, you can easily find a suite of solutions that works together to keep your operations in tiptop shape.


Westchester Networking for Professionals (WNFP) is a business organization focused on providing our members and guests with an extraordinary networking experience, bringing business professionals together for the sole purpose of generating new relationships and developing new business opportunities. Not a member, learn how you can become a member and join this awesome group of professionals to connect and grow your business.

Stay Connected with WNFP!
Join WNFP Communities!

Monday, December 3, 2018

A Founder Shares 4 Lessons Motherhood Has Taught Her About Running a Business

If it seems that women-owned companies are everywhere, that's because they are indeed growing like crazy. A recent American Express report showed that while businesses overall grew 12 percent from 2007 to 2018, women-owned businesses grew at 58 percent during the same period.

While more women are starting their own businesses, those with children are often haunted by guilt. I personally experienced this when I started Whish. Was I traveling too much? Was I spending too little time with the kids? I tried making the most of our moments together, but I always worried it wasn’t enough.

One moment that broke my heart was when one of my sons, then 3, brought home a Mother’s Day project. It asked him, “What is your mommy’s favorite thing to do?” His answer? “Go to work.”

I was so sad that I cried. But, as I read the rest of his project, I realized he wasn’t upset at all. He was fine with my holding a job; it was just a part of our life. I was reading too much into his words and forgetting that being a business owner isn’t a liability; it’s an asset.

As a business owner, I get stressed, but I also have freedom. I attend field trips and school functions. I take my kids -- now 12 and 14 -- to school and pick them up in the afternoon. In fact, raising a family and raising a startup, I've found, use similar skill sets, and motherhood just might be one of the most valuable teachers for any woman striving for that corner office.

Here are some of those lessons motherhood has offered that have helped me run a successful venture:

1. Learn more from your losses than your wins.
Moms want everything to be perfect for their kids. Seeing a child struggle is agonizing, but it’s important to allow children to figure out how to deal with challenges and obstacles. Otherwise, they’ll always look for a superhero rather than become one.

Smith College seems to agree, as it has a “Failing Well” program that encourages the female student population to dare to fail. The goal of the program is to encourage young women to do the impossible without letting a fear of errors get in the way.

I remind myself all the time about getting past mistakes because they're the name of the game in business. After all, nothing is perfect. When we launched, we were promised a huge partnership with a nationally prestigious retailer. It seemed too easy. A few months after confirming the big deal, the economy fell off a cliff and the partnership fell through.

Today, years later, I know that what felt like a tragedy at the time was a blessing in disguise. It has taken many experiences over the years to learn how to make a retail relationship successful; because we didn’t have that experience initially, we dodged a bullet:That early a partnership probably would have been a disaster.

2. Don’t blow bad days out of proportion.
Some days just feel awful when you’re a mom. You can't see eye to eye with your children. You forget something important. Tantrums erupt. And what do you do? Often, many of us give in to the negativity and tell ourselves we're the worst parent on the planet. But it’s not healthy to consider every faux pas a catastrophe. You have to remind yourself that it’s just been one bad day.

Go ahead and apply those same skills to your role at the head of a corporation. After all, you’re going to make bad decisions and read some situations incorrectly. But that rarely spells the end of the world. Like a child’s growth, your company's development won't be built in one day. A bad decision today doesn’t mean the end of the world. Pick yourself up and try harder next time.

3. Listen to your kids, your colleagues and your customers.
I’m a control freak. Thoughts and agendas fly through my mind, making it difficult to listen. Yet listening is the most important thing you can do when you’re a mom. If you don’t concentrate on what your kids say, you will miss important details, such as what they care about and what they need. Every year, listening becomes more important and valuable, especially when children reach young adulthood and don’t share as freely.

In your business, give everyone the same listening courtesy, whether they’re employees, vendors, customers, stakeholders or partners. They all have valuable insights.

Plus, you’ll have better engagement with your workers, something a Gallup survey found is often lacking in the workplace. I experienced this recently when a customer wasn’t communicating much, so I set up a face-to-face meeting. I didn’t lead the conversation; I listened. I quickly found out what the customer was looking for and why that person hadn’t given specific feedback. Dominating a discussion is not a great strategy if you want to get to the heart of a problem.

4. Take a breath and take stock of what you’ve accomplished.
Sometimes, life sends you a few uninterrupted hours. It’s OK to use them for something simple such as watching television or making snacks with your kids. It’s often the ordinary moments that we treasure.

Work has its similar moments. During those times, stop and look around you. See how far you’ve come, and marvel at the talented, loyal team you’ve amassed. A million little things go into making a business hum; embrace them as tiny stepping-stones on the way to your objectives and vision.

Being a mother is never easy, nor is running your own business. But the life lessons you gain while raising your children can help you be a stellar head of your brand.

Image Credit: AleksandarNakic | Getty Images

Westchester Networking for Professionals (WNFP) is a business organization focused on providing our members and guests with an extraordinary networking experience, bringing business professionals together for the sole purpose of generating new relationships and developing new business opportunities. Not a member, learn how you can become a member and join this awesome group of professionals to connect and grow your business.

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Friday, November 30, 2018

AI and the Coming Era of Smarter Business Processes

Today, almost 420 million searches happen through AI-based voice assistants, chatbots are helping people in simplifying their day-to-day lives and AI is transforming industries like automotive, healthcare, etc. in ways unimaginable just a decade ago. Clearly, as technology advances, AI is going to be as ubiquitous as electricity in our lives. Prudent business leaders know how critical AI is going to be, for businesses to stay competitive and efficient and hence, they are boosting their investments in the technology. No wonder, the AI market is set to grow at a rate of 52% by 2025.

But AI is not just transforming industries; it is also slowly and steadily leading to more efficient business processes. A report from Accenture states that, by 2035, AI has the power to increase productivity by 40 percent or more, for enterprises.

Here is how AI is boosting efficiency in business operations and transforming business processes one function at a time:


With the advent of the digital medium marketers have to no longer rely on dicey focus groups to analyze what their customers want and run expensive TVC campaigns to engage with their customers. AI is further proving to be a bliss for the marketing function by helping them to optimize their campaigns for and communication for every penny that is spent.

Here is how AI is finding multiple applications in the marketing function:

  • Improved search functions – For almost everything consumers want their first point of looking for a product is via Google search. Google is continuously improving their search AI to come up with relevant results. Tools like Y Combinator-backed RankScience, use thousands of A/B tests to determine how best to positively influence search engine rankings. Technologies like Elastisearch are helping e-commerce players by populating the best possible results for a search query.

  • Customer segmentation – AI is improving the efficiency of the marketing function by helping them refine customer segmentation and reaching out to the right customers and understand them better. E.g. Companies such as AgilOne are helping marketers to improve and optimize email and website communications, by analyzing, continually learning from user behavior.

  • Recently IBM launched its new IBM Watson AI Marketing Suite aimed at improving marketing efforts by personalized targeting, improved programmatic buying and insightful campaign analytics. The suite contains three AI-based solutions – IBM Watson Ads Omni, IBM Media Optimizer, and Predictive Audiences.

HR and Recruitment

AI can be immensely useful in taking away a lot of burden of the HR team by helping them with tasks like scheduling meeting, filtering candidates, reducing attrition etc. Here are various AI-based tools that are helping the HR function:

  • HiringSolved – an AI-powered recruitment tool that enables diversity during selection.
  • Mya, an AI recruitment tool provides quick responses to applicants about their application and other information related to it and helps HRs building a positive communication with prospective employees and fasten the process at the same time.
  • IBM Watson is working towards building such a predictive model for companies that can predict attrition patterns amongst employees.

Customer service and customer engagement

According to Gartner, by 2020, 55% of all large enterprises will have deployed at least one bot or Chatbot to improve the efficiency of their interactions with the customers. However, one of the major drawback of the chatbots if the very fact that they are ‘bots’ and users seek human interaction while interacting with a brand. Enterprises are using bots which can work in tandem with their human counterparts.

Finance and Accounting

AI is helping enterprises not just improve the efficiency of the customer-facing functions but also the internal functions alike. One such function is the Finance and Accounting function. Some organizations are using AI to simplify their finance and Finance and accounting process are –

  • At Deloitte, auditors use AI tools with natural language processing capabilities to interpret thousands of contracts or deeds and hence fastening the pace of the process and also ensuring an error-free process.

  • At Crowe Horwath, data scientists have harnessed technology to tackle complex billing problems in the healthcare industry. The team used machine-based learning to sift through enormous but disparate billing systems of its healthcare clients to flag accounts with discrepancies.

In conclusion:

AI is slowly becoming one of the critical technologies that are not just transforming industries by pushing innovation but also has immense potential in improving the efficiency of operations and have a positive impact on the ROI of businesses. However like any other newbie technology AI also has its challenges, while the giants like Google, Amazon, Facebook, etc. are able to pump in monies to experiment using AI, the cost of adoption for smaller enterprises might be a challenge for smaller enterprises. Another impediment to the adoption of AI can be lack of resources, infrastructure etc.

However, as businesses work towards finding ways to deal with these challenges they remain bullish about the technology. And, with the potential AI has shown us, soon it will become as ubiquitous as electricity for people as well as businesses.

Image Credit: (Photo Credit: Thinkstock)

Westchester Networking for Professionals (WNFP) is a business organization focused on providing our members and guests with an extraordinary networking experience, bringing business professionals together for the sole purpose of generating new relationships and developing new business opportunities. Not a member, learn how you can become a member and join this awesome group of professionals to connect and grow your business.

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Thursday, November 29, 2018

5 Business Intelligence Tools That Stand the Test of Time

Often times, we are told that “Data is the new gold mine” but I say it has become the norm for businesses which relieves them entirely and also of the headaches that go with them. However, I am not romanticizing data as it can be a blessing and a curse at the same time. Yes, it has the potential to contribute to both the insight and the fog of visibility. The following post aims to offer a list comprising of BI (Business Intelligence) products available on the market.

Have you ever come across the term “Business Intelligence”? The concept is all about the delivery and integration of relevant and useful business information in an organization. The pace of change today is the fastest it’ll ever be. As a business executive, one needs to make use of business intelligence to detect significant events and identify/monitor business trends in order to adapt quickly to their changing environment. The 21st century is regarded as the age of innovations, the ability of using data and information in real time has become a key to succeed for any and every organization. With the dawn of internet era, business decisions are nothing but access to quick information. After big data, business intelligence has transformed the entire business landscape.

Do we really need BI?

The question really boils down to this: Why should you waste your time learning to use the tech in particular? I’ll give you five solid reasons.

#1 Get Insights- One of the best advantages of investing in a business intelligence software is that it allows you to get accurate insights and analyze the current consumer buying trends. The moment you understand all these basic aspects, information must be taken into account while developing products that match the current consumption trends and consequently improve your profitability since you will be able to attract valuable customers.

#2 Improve efficiency- Improvement in efficiency is another crucial reason stating that one should invest in a business intelligence system. Sharing relevant information across different departments, will save time on reporting, processing and analyzing. This also eases in information sharing procedure which is more likely to reduce duplication of roles/duties within the organization and improve the accuracy and usefulness of the data generated by different departments.

#3 Smart decision making- Being a business owner, it is very important to have a firm grip on what your organization’s data is trying to convey. And all you require doing is convert your company’s information into structured, analyzable insight – in other words- time for strategic decision-making. For today’s customers, it is clear having up-to-date, data-driven intelligence at your fingertips not only leads to better business decisions but will ultimately contribute to a superior financial performance.

#4 A reduction in costs- Of course, there are certain costs associated with the implementation and operation, the reality is that the ROI is generally large enough to make up for those expenses. Making the most of BI tools will help in reducing/eliminating costs associated with data collection, report generation, and programming, and IT training. Always keep this in mind, added profit is likely to come only when the correct implementation is done.

#5 Universal platform compatibility– Businesses have started relying more and more on BYOD policies making easy for making easy for key decision makers to use mobile devices while working. From being accessible across any internet-enabled platform to allowing access to vital information, these Cloud-based BI tools feature such benefits which can be used whenever and wherever it is needed.

Best Business Intelligence Tools to Consider

Do you think business intelligence is a new concept? No! It is a comprehensive solution of data analysis mainly used by enterprises to make data-driven decisions. The entire process incorporates online analytical processing, data mining, process mining, business performance management, benchmarking, predictive analytics, prescriptive analytics, and the most important, reporting. Further below I would like to mention a few business intelligence software that can guide you in gaining insight, understanding customer behavior and grow business like never before.

Sisense– The king in the BI market and the award-winning software for 2016 from FinancesOnline. Sisense effectively simplifies complex data analyses and making big data insights pretty much accessible for startups as well as for fortune 500 companies. The tool has the capacity to collate data from multiple sources and that too without any pricey preparations. Sound’s interesting isn’t it! With the help of ElastiCube technology, the BI tool can import large sets of data and work with any CPU layout without compromising the quality of your results.

icCube– Being a SaaS end to end BI platform, IcCube specializes in deploying on premises, in the cloud and enjoy a short time to market for custom feature requests. Because of on-the-fly-authentication and authorization, icCube can integrate seamlessly with any application. In simple words, it has the ability to connect and combine any custom data source, direct access to Java and R, a web-based dashboard builder and the ability to graphically design widgets from scratch.

Clear Analytics– One of the most intuitive Excel-based solution that requires no training. Those who have basic knowledge in excel can learn the system at a fanatic pace, which also means businesses have the full potential to implement a fully-operational, self-service Business Intelligence system. And do you know what’s the best part; they have very little downtime and almost no learning curve. It may also interest you to know that clear analytics allows consolidation of data from multiple data sources and all within Excel.

Ducen– Running a successful business is no cake walk! Companies require keeping their eyes on every revenue-generating event and cost-saving opportunity while improving customer satisfaction and retention. Combining historical data with real-time operational data for analysis, business users can make more informed, proactive decisions.

Insightsquared– Last but certainly not the least, conducting a successful sales strategy can be only made if you are able to understand your valuable customer. Gathering information can be time-consuming and take staff away from the task of actually selling.


Reaping all the benefits of these business intelligence tools will ultimately result in improving performance skillfully, intelligently. Select the most competitive one that would work out for you!

Image Credit: DepositPhotos

Westchester Networking for Professionals (WNFP) is a business organization focused on providing our members and guests with an extraordinary networking experience, bringing business professionals together for the sole purpose of generating new relationships and developing new business opportunities. Not a member, learn how you can become a member and join this awesome group of professionals to connect and grow your business.

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Wednesday, November 28, 2018

The 7 Best Ways to Find Hourly Workers For Your Business

Entrepreneurs and business owners are in a war for hourly workers. Hourly workers are a major driver of the economy in the United States. Seventy-eight million people, or 59 percent of the workforce, are hourly workers. However, hiring hourly workers is challenging. Hourly workers of restaurants, bars, stores and other local businesses change jobs frequently.

Today, turnover of hourly workers is one of the industry's biggest workforce problems. In a survey by Society of Human Resource Management, respondents reported that the average annual turnover for hourly workers is 49 percent, at an average cost of $4,969 per employee. In addition, this is increasing rapidly with an annual increase of 39 percent for hourly workers and a staggering 314 percent increase in turnover for managers.

In addition, with the growth of the gig economy with companies like Uber, Lyft, DoorDash and more, there is increased competition with local businesses for hiring hourly workers. In October 2018, the number of job openings in America reached over 7 million, and will exceed the number of job seekers.

Here are share some strategies and techniques for hiring hourly workers.

1. Set up an employee referral program.
As with many industries and sectors, referrals work! One strategy for business owners is to create an incentive scheme for successful referrals which can take the form of a small cash bonus or other rewards. For example, whenever a new hourly worker is hired, immediately ask her or him for three introductions or names that can be introduced to the company. This is very helpful as you will be able to create leverage and reach more hourly workers who are of similar backgrounds that you like to hire.

2. Share on closed communities like Facebook Groups and Yelp.
There are many closed communities and trusted networks of people who may be looking for work. For example, there are many Facebook Groups in each local city, sectors and industries where Facebook users come together to offer support and advice for job seeking. Some examples of Facebook Groups could include "Uber drivers in San Francisco" or "Baristas in Boston." As this is a trusted network, potential hourly workers are more likely to respond to messages that are posted in the group or to respond to job postings.

3. Post on Craigslist and every day in the early morning.
Online job postings on Craigslist, and other job boards remain some of the best ways to reach out to hourly workers. However, the key is to be persistent and to re-post these job ads every morning, in order for the job postings to appear at the top of the job boards. In addition, it is important to structure the job postings to be attractive, including highlighting monetary compensation, strong culture or flexible working hours. It is important to engage with potential job hourly workers with your online job ads and differentiate yourself from the thousands of other employers who are also trying to hire in today's competitive market.

4. Organize a jobs fair or event.
Host a fun job fair! Offer free food, coffee or free company products to potential applicants who take the time to show up at your job fair. It is very helpful for potential hourly workers to meet you and your managers in person, and to understand your brand, culture and product better. In addition, one of the key things you should do that will help in organizing a job fair is to build up an internal database of candidates. You can host periodic career fairs or events, and send out messages to these potential applicants for the event.

5. Put up job posters in your neighborhood and in your stores.
You need to find hourly workers where they are. Put up attractive job posters where hourly workers can text to apply easily from their mobile phones. The best places to put up job posters can be your own physical stores, or local coffee shops, supermarkets, churches and coworking spaces. There are often bulletin boards at these locations where you can put up marketing materials for free and attract potential hourly workers.

6. Put advertisements in local newspapers and magazines.
Offline channels can be extremely effective for hiring hourly workers. Local newspapers and magazines are still widely read by potential job applicants who are looking for hourly work. You can look for local newspaper and magazines that are distributed among different ethnic groups or languages that could also help you to broaden your reach into more communities.

7. Partner with local community colleges and schools.
There are many students at local community colleges who have recently finished high school and are eager to get their first working experiences. All of these community colleges have career centers and career fairs, and employers can often sign up or connect with them to access potential job applicants. Another strategy is to get to know the instructors in the fields that you are looking to hire, for example at culinary schools, as the instructors may be able to make recommendations.

Hourly recruiting is similar to the positions one is hiring for -- it is hands-on, difficult and sometimes it can be grinding and laborious work. However, hourly workers play a significant role in many companies today. From technology companies like Amazon to retail companies like Walmart, Starbucks and more, hourly workers are the heartbeat of millions of companies that is transforming the economy today. Hiring hourly workers is indeed a very different process than hiring white-collar workers. Therefore, it is important for us to recognize the different techniques to engage with hourly workers, and to connect with them in those channels.

Image Credit: fstop123 | Getty Images

Westchester Networking for Professionals (WNFP) is a business organization focused on providing our members and guests with an extraordinary networking experience, bringing business professionals together for the sole purpose of generating new relationships and developing new business opportunities. Not a member, learn how you can become a member and join this awesome group of professionals to connect and grow your business.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Write the Book, Get the Business. 3 Ways to Do it

There are no shortcuts on the road to success. That is undeniable.

But there are ways to beat your competition to the finish line.

One way is through the intentional establishment of authority. The perception of authority means that more people will listen to your message. And trust you. And hire you.

And one fast-track to authority is authorship – sharing your knowledge, your experiences, your insight. Most people look at authors of books as authorities. Right or wrong, there is a perception that if you have enough knowledge to write a book, you must know more than most people.

That perception of authority leads to the reality of increased business. In a Bloomberg study, 96% of the business book authors surveyed said they realized a significant positive impact on their businesses from writing a book and would recommend the practice.

Simply put, people who write the book, get the business.

It’s been estimated that 81% of Americans – approximately 200 million people – feel they have a book inside them. But less than a fraction of 1 percent ever writes one. Here’s some general advice as to how to become part of that 1 percent.


Bait the hook to suit the fish, not the fisherman. Many authors make this mistake. They write the book that they want to write and then hope there’s an audience that cares enough to read it. Instead, authors should ask, “What is the yearning, burning problem that my target customer is grappling with?” Then write a book that addresses that.

What you write about has to be of importance to people who have the capacity and the desire to give your business money. What we mean by that is, a lot of people write a book for the masses. The truth is, if you’re writing for everybody, you’re really writing for nobody.


Many good writers never complete a book. Not because they’re not passionate about it. Writing a book takes a lot of time and commitment and that can be paralyzing.

It takes, on average, more than three years for a business person to write his or her own book.

Plus many successful business people are better at verbalizing ideas than they are at writing them down.

So maybe you shouldn’t write the book yourself.

Consider working with someone who has writing experience and can help you through the process. Working with a third party to create your book enables you to finish the process in as little as six months.


The good news is that it has never been easier to get a book published. The not-so-good news is, because it’s never been easier, it’s never been more important that the book be done correctly.

There are three avenues you can take: self-publishing, traditional publishing, or hybrid publishing.

Self-publishing is pretty simple; you do it all yourself. You reap all the benefits and maintain full control. You also have to figure everything out on your own.

The big problem is that 90 percent of books that are self-published look like they’re self-published. If the image your book creates in the minds of your audience is not congruent with the quality you provide, it will do you more harm than good.

The other side of the coin is traditional publishing. Yes, there’s prestige, distribution networks and validation, but this may not be a realistic option for most people. There are fewer traditional publishers and most are raising the bar on what they will accept. Most authors who get those contracts already have an established track record in their platforms.

Other challenges: it takes an average of twelve to eighteen months to get published, the publisher owns the rights to the book, you lose creative control, and there’s a lack of significant marketing help.

Then there’s hybrid publishing. Publisher’s Weekly calls it the ‘third option’ – the gray area between self-publishing and traditional publishing. Hybrid-publishing houses charge a fee to have books written, designed and sold, connecting authors with in-house professional writers, editors and designers.

If you go this route, however, you have to understand that the aim of hybrid publishing is not to sell books. The benefits don’t come from royalties. The goal is to use your book as a marketing tool – as the ultimate professional calling card. The book serves as the foundation for generating leads, attracting media and booking speaking engagements.

If done right, creating a book is an investment with exponential returns as long as you go in with your eyes wide open.


Westchester Networking for Professionals (WNFP) is a business organization focused on providing our members and guests with an extraordinary networking experience, bringing business professionals together for the sole purpose of generating new relationships and developing new business opportunities. Not a member, learn how you can become a member and join this awesome group of professionals to connect and grow your business.

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