7 Twitter experts who will inspire you to get your small business groove on

It’s the latest roundup of our Twitter Gurus series! In case you’ve forgotten, we already acquainted you with insightful influencers and experts from the project management industry as well as the world of productivity and time management. Our latest blog series instalment dealt with 7 Twitter leaders who will save your business any possible costly mistakes.

While we’re still on the topic of business… a lot of our clients are actually small businesses. That’s why we think it might be a good idea to focus on small biz Twitter personae this time.

Here they are, in their full glory as experts ready to spread some valuable knowledge!

#1 Richard Lorenzen @rlorenzen

Who: Many things at ones, but primarily CEO of Fifth Avenue Brands. Richard lives and breathes entrepreneurship and shares his insight in prestigious media such as the ever-classy Entrepreneur and Huffington Post.

Why: Many of his pieces of advice are invaluable for small businesses out there in the wild. Especially if we’re talking about PR (an area that, we have to say, too many business that are just starting out tend to underestimate). Take this article as a great example of Richard’s guidance.

#2 Matthew Toren @matthewtoren

Who: Matthew is a small business superhero, juggling between entrepreneurship, being an investor and serving as an inspirational influencer. He’s co-founded Young Entrepreneur, Biz Warriors and a myriad of other ventures.

Why: This guy is an information-filled gold mine for any small business owner heading on the entrepreneurial journey. As we’re particularly fond of cloud technology, we loved his piece on cloud-based unified communications for small enterprises.

#3 Sara Davidson @saradavidson

Who: Ladies are killing it in the small biz scene and Sara is a shining example of a successful entrepreneur. Meet Hello Fearless – Sara’s take on a business world led by unstoppable women whose dreams have absolutely no limits!

Why: Sara’s attitude is fantastic and inspirational. Period. What we particularly like are her interviews with successful female business owners. Lots of insights and personal stories to tune in to.

#4 Ivana Taylor @DIYMarketers

Who: Ivana is DIY to the bones and a significant marketing influencer when it comes to small businesses. A mastermind behind DIYMarketers, she always has something valuable to share with biz owners.

Why: We like her style and the fact she cuts to the chase and gives you actionable tips. Not only that, but she goes in-depth in many areas related to running a small enterprise (and businesses as a whole). Like her ‘How to break up with a bad customer’ article. Terrific.

#5 Ramon Ray @ramonray

Who: Ramon embodies what we mean whenever we think of the term ‘small business guru’. He’s a proven expert in all things enterprenurial and is willing to share his experience with biz owners.

Why: Two words. Smart Hustle. Ramon’s Smart Hustle magazine has tons of stuff you’ll do great to utilize and learn from – including interviews with leading professionals. Like, you know, Shark Tank’s Robert Herjavec.

#6 Barry Moltz @barrymoltz

Who: Barry is a blend between a) an author, b) a consultant and c) a speaker, and he manages to do all of these flawlessly. Did we mention he’s also a radio talk host? His specialty seems to lie in getting all those stuck small businesses leave the quicksand they’re sinking in.

Why: Small businesses have it tough. They’re extremely prone to facing difficulties and lacking the power to counter them adequately. Barry’s book titled ‘How to Get Unstuck’ throws 25 ways to battle operational despondency and get back on track with your enterprise. Recommended!

#7 Practical Ecommerce @practicalecomm

Who: Practical Ecommerce is an all-in-one resource for all things ecommerce related. Chances are if you have an online shop or run your own digital business, this Twitter account will become a favorite of yours. Heaps of articles focused on ensuring your ecommerce engine runs smoothly.

Why: Online shops have been swarming the web, yet many fail to make it through. Running an ecommerce venture isn’t as easy as it seems and any entrepreneur can do with a little bit of guidance. Practical Ecommerce lends a hand with fantastic articles, such as this one, focused on product page layouts that simply work.

The Cronforce.com Team

7 Project Management experts on Twitter you need to follow

Last month we introduced you to some influential and must-check-out-and-draw-insight-from productivity and time management gurus on Twitter. But as you know, Cronforce also targets project management, providing you with an extensive project cost management solution.

Which means that yes, we monitor the project management industry. You can also bet that we have some favorites among the people who make things happen there. Here’s our list of 7 project management personae who you might not know yet, but you should totally read, listen and follow.

Some important Twitter project management accounts to follow with Cronforce.

#1 Jurgen Appelo @jurgenappelo

Who: Jurgen has one of the catchiest Twitter descriptions ever. What matters more, however, is his motivation to spearhead revolution in company structure when it comes to management.

Why: We didn’t find Jurgen on Twitter, actually. What we came across was one of his Forbes articles – “Managing in failure mode”. Concise and punchy, it resonated with us. Jurgen is a regular contributor at Forbes and you can check his other pieces here.

#2 Pawel Brodzinski @pawelbrodzinski

Who: Pawel is the leader of Lunar Logic where magical web apps get brewed and clients are left utterly satisfied. But he also has another side to him: the whiteboard junkie.

Why: We came across Pawel’s awesome presentation on Kanban theory. It’s great and you should watch it and draw some very important conclusions after doing so. Remember that we’re Kanban fans too?

#3 Elizabeth Harrin @pm4girls

Who: Elizabeth is pure class and reveals the world of project management from a professional’s perspective. Her insights are easy-going, yet you can truly see how much of a pro she is.

Why: Whichever article you grab off her website will be some time spent well. What we had a lot of fun with upon discovering her project management was (and still is!) her monthly “What I’m reading” series. You can check it out here and see her literary critic side too. We can be bookworms too! 🙂

#4 Bob Sutton @workmatters

Who: It’s fairly hard to describe Bob Sutton in just a few words. You just have to witness his thought process and read a few pieces and you’ll understand why we have trouble putting our impression into words. His Twitter description summarizes “Stanford Professor who studies organizations”, but he’s way more than that.

Why: There’s a distinctive elegance in members of highly established academia who write on business topics (such as project management). It’s like a revelation of sorts. You can check why on Sutton’s website or simply read his “Trust the Evidence, not your Instincts” article written together with Jeffrey Pfeffer. Lots of workplace-related tips and insight that can be of use to any employee…and any business of any scale.

#5 Susanne Madsen @SusanneMadsen

Who: Susanne has worked with jaw-dropping companies like Philips, ExxonMobil, Expedia and Citigroup. Not to mention academia such as Kingston University or Regent’s University. There’s a lot to be learned from her insight on project management, leadership and other crucial angles to getting things done.

Why: Her blog is a goldmine. Susanne’s article on working with remote teams hits all the right spots and gives some precious tips and advice. Cronforce is targeted at remote teams that want to improve their project management/communication so we know the remote team drill well enough.

The last two Twitter accounts we want to mention aren’t “people”, but they are run by distinguished professionals. In a way, contemporary project management wouldn’t be the same without them.

#6 Project Management Institute @PMInstitute

Who: PMI’s concept is clear: that’s the single most prestiguous membership association of project managers all over the world. Think of it as the ultimate project management treasure vault. A must for anyone interested in the industry.

Why: We don’t think there’s any reason to clarify why you would do well to check out PMI’s Twitter account. Just do it and be in touch with everything project management related.

#7 Atlassian JIRA @JIRA

Who: JIRA is the key to amazing software team management. From Kanban boards to Agile reports and a myriad of other features, we can’t recommend it enough.

Why: If your software team needs an intelligent, functional way to shoot projects and get stuff done flawlessly… That’s JIRA for you. What’s even better is combining JIRA with Cronforce (we’ve got a brilliant JIRA time tracking integration for that). This way you get double the opportunities and project management gets a ridiculously easy task. Your team will love you.

The Cronforce.com team.

Why We Like Kanban Boards So Much (And You Should Too)

If there’s something we need to recommend as a complete must in any business, it would be Kanban boards. Make it twice as important in the context of doing digital-based business (we’re looking at you, startups, eCommerce ventures and other new types of small business). Let’s just say that for us, Kanban is a true organizational gift to every horizontal of a business. Business owners, supervisors, project managers, employees – all draw benefits from the Kanban method.

Kanban boards are so awesome due to 5 simple reasons:

  • The Kanban concept rests upon a clean, easy-to-understand layout. No clutter.
  • They visualize all those workflows that might have your head spinning otherwise.
  • They boost team communication and improve the delegation of employee responsibilities. No employee overload. Clearly identified areas to be improved. A steady, balanced pace of work that ensures smooth advance to a project’s goals.
  • They help you identify challenges/impediments and tackle them in an early stage.
  • They make your team’s productivity skyrocket.

Going further, let’s dig into what is a Kanban board actually.

The Extremely Lean Concept of Kanban Boards

A Kanban board is a simple means to visualize the workflow of your business. It helps you oversee every single step involved in this workflow and segment your operations properly. Have you ever used sticky notes? There’s a high chance you have. Well, think of the Kanban board as an intelligent way to organize your sticky notes on a whiteboard…something you can now do online too. Here’s the basic “skeleton” of a Kanban board:

Kanban boards and their functional simplicity.

In other words, these are a) the tasks awaiting production, b) the tasks in progress and c) the already completed tasks related to your business’s operations.

Seems like a simple concept, right? Maybe it is, but after all, genius is often found in simplicity. The Kanban method was inspired by Taiichi Ohno who is the brain behind the infamous Toyota Production System. Ohno utilized the Kanban method for Toyota’s sake with great success and we can count the Just In Time concept and Lean Manufacturing amongst his groundbreaking creations. Which means you can do the same for your small business or startup too, drawing from what he found works flawlessly.

So Where Does a Kanban Board’s Secret Lie?

We already mentioned that, but Kanban is extremely clean. No clutter means you can focus on the important things. And focusing on the important things is way easier when you’ve got everything visualized. Both physical Kanban boards and Kanban-based software frequently use specific colors suited to a certain workflow for additional visual cues.

So for example, you can use a green colored visualization for the work in progress across all your divisions while the completed tasks are yellow. Or you can “reserve” a color for the whole workflow of a department (e.g. Software developers get red and digital marketers get purple).

Kanban boards’ simplicity is more than crucial as we’ve seen way too many people who overburden themselves by using too much or too complex tools. As you can guess, such a situation actually does more harm than benefits.

But isn’t Kanban too limited, you might ask.

Not at all. The beauty of Kanban’s simplicity is that it’s incredibly flexible and expandable. If you think about it, the “Awaiting production”, “In progress” and “Completed” graphs can be applied to every single compartment of any business. They can be fitted to your business’s operational narrative like these two Trello-based examples show:

Kanban Board layout type 1

Kanban board in small business and startups.

On Kanban software and Cronforce

We’re mentioning Trello for two reasons. First, it’s one of the best tools utilizing the Kanban method and doing so with extreme finesse. Second, because we’re actually in the finishing stages of integrating it into Cronforce’s rich portfolio of 3rd party integrations. Combining Trello’s lean approach to workflows and project management with our abundance of features will provide any business of any scale with a powerful tool to tackle organization.

In addition to everything mentioned beforehand, the Kanban method is especially valuable for remote teams. It facilitates better delegation of responsibilities and improves the flow of communiacation among teams (and especially between supervisors and the employees they oversee). A trend that’s becoming more and more common, remote-based companies are the ones who benefit the most from organizational tools like Trello or Cronforce. There’s a reason most of the digital-era businesses you’ll encounter utilize Kanban boards and improve the concept’s benefits with an intelligent software tool.

A piece of advice from us if you haven’t tried out Kanban boards yet: grab a whiteboard and some sticky notes or a Kanban-type software. Give our free trial a shot to complement the Kanban way of doing things. It will be a completely free testing period to check out how much more organized your business and team, could be. We know Kanban boards definitely made a change to our workflow – and how productive we were. There’s a high chance the same will hold true for you too.

The Cronforce.com team.

11 Productivity and Time Management Twitter Personae You Should Check Out

We can safely say that we’re a bit of time management & productivity freaks around here. Why would we even consider creating a piece of software that focuses on a timesheet system otherwise?

But as ordinary human beings, we also draw inspiration from other people focusing on what interests us. New angles to the delicate art of time management and productivity are always a nourishing meal for the mind. Here are 11 Twitter personae who are pretty educational when it comes to time management & productivity bits of insight.

Time management gurus to follow on Twitter.

#1 Craig Jarrow @TMNinja

Who: Obviously, Craig is a time management ninja who battles chaos, unmanaged tasks and shows the right path to time management. Straight to the point with his actionable advice, he’s a favorite of ours.

Why: We fell in love with his “5 ways a positive attitude makes you more productive” article. Especially the silver lining bit resonates especially well with us, as we’re natural born optimists.

#2 Christian Reber @christianreber

Who: Christian is the founder of the legendary productivity tool Wunderlist. We love it. Some of our clients love it too. It’s simply wunderful.

Why: Wunderlist is enough of a standalone reason for following Christian. Aside from that, he’s an important inspiration to us, as Wunderlist’s headquarters are in Berlin – the same as ours.

#3 Violeta Nedkova @VioletaNedkova

Who: Violeta  is a creative marketing guru with various bits of advice scattered along her website (and Twitter). We think her trademark is the enchanting way she talks on…well, just about anything that interests her.

Why: We already elaborated on the fact that we’re a bit of a control freaks. Violeta’s article on her specific calendar system is simply marvelous and we couldn’t help but fall in love with it.

#4 Paul Sohn @pauljsohn

Who: Paul Sohn ranks in the top 33 under 33 millenials and is a sheer inspiration to bloggers and entrepreneurs alike. While primarily focusing on leadership, his insight expands to many other areas.

Why: His extensive Must-read books list caught our attention, but what surprised us is that we have similar taste with Paul. Seth Godin and Cal Newport make for a killer combination.

#5 Erik Fisher @ErikJFisher

Who: Mixing social media management with productivity podcasts, Erik Fisher offers an extremely fresh perspective to both of these worlds.

Why: Erik’s podcast “Beyond the to do list” features established entrepreneurs and people who have many things to say about productivity and balancing personal life and careers.

#6 Asian Efficiency @asianefficiency

Who: We’re talking about a team here and what a team that is. Asian Effiency gives us tasty portions of tips and articles on the fine art of productivity.

Why: Sometimes people forget that productivity involves mistakes and we can easily slip into making them on a regular basis. Asian Efficiency’s article on productivity mistakes is a refreshing and educational read here.

#7 Dragos Roua @dragosroua

Who: Dragos offers a refreshing Romanian take on enterpreneurship, personal development and the world of motivation and productivity.

Why: Productivity might be a intangible concept to some, but it follows a certain pattern and you have to follow its rules. Dragos’ article on the 10 rules of productivity is a must-read in this regard.

#8 Think Productive @thinkproductive

Who: Gathering from scattered locations around the world, Think Productive’s ninjas help you out bring your inner productivity beast forth and get stuff done. The collective offers a fun take on what it means to get things done – and how you can do that.

Why: Distractions are deadly to productivity. We especially loved Think Productive’s article on Mindfulness and its positive effect amidst a “digitally distracted world”, as the collective puts it. Bonus points for meditation, as some members of our team practice it.

#9 Pomodoro Technique @PomodoroTech

Who: If you haven’t heard what the Pomodoro Technique is, we advise to take a trip to unleashing your productivity at this very moment. How? Just check out what the technique is on Pomodoro Tech’s official website.

Why: Isn’t such a genius method of boosting your productivity enough? We think it should be.

#10 Michael Sliwinski @Msliwinski

Who: Michael Sliwinski is founder of Nozbe and a real inspiration when it comes to productivity and entrepreneurship. Definitely a person you should check out.

Why: Cronforce focuses on remote teams with our set of features and Michael has a killer article on his remote team without any office present in the equation.

#11 A Life of Productivity @ALOProductivity

Who: A life of Productivity is the project of Crhis Bailey who is infatuated with both mondfulness and productivity. Aside from his valuable tips, the design of ALOP’s website is simply fantastic.

Why: Have you ever thought what does your time really cost? Chris offers us a very interesting perspective to the exact value your time has and we tend to agree. An absolute must-read in our opinion.

The Cronforce.com team.

3 steps for proper workforce planning in businesses

Proper workforce shapes lucrative businesses. Taking care of employees, identifying their personal goals and aligning them with the expectations you have for your business is what constitutes success. Ever pondered on the fact why do so many businesses start, only to fail within a certain timeframe? Why many companies have abysmal employee levels?

Or, let’s dig to the core. Why, according to various statistics, only 25 to 30% of employees feel connected with their business? Or satisfied with their role as a part of the workforce?

The answer lies within bad workforce planning in businesses, spreading its effect on the whole infrastructure of a company. Glancing over that important factor will ensure your employees won’t:

  • Feel connected to what you do: your business objectives (short and long-term), overall mission, day-to-day operations.

  • Feel motivated as a part of the workforce because they don’t receive the appropriate acknowledgement of their efforts and overall performance. As a result, their skills deteriorate and decrease your output and competitive side.

  • Properly help maintain a beneficial team environment, with clear responsibilities for every employee and proper intercommunication between team members.

A failure in workforce planning in businesses, every of these factors can sink your company to the bottom. Let’s see how you can avoid stepping in a workforce planning quicksand.

Step 1: Gauging the environment

Workforce planning in businesses starts with taking a close look at events unfolding on both the macro level of the whole industry and the micro level of your company. Remember: your employees are the backbone of your business, but it is you, the owner, who should lead them. In order for them to know what can they actually do, you need to present them with some objectives. And objectives come after you have gauged the environment properly.

Workforce planning in businesses and the frustration its lack can cause.

Skip on employee frustration by gauging the environment. Image: Ambro, Freedigitalphotos.

There are two types of environment that matter for proper workforce planning in businesses: external and internal.

The external environment is the macro level we spoke of. You’re looking at the big picture here. What are the current challenges, trends, shifts in your industry? What can you see at a local or national level, or at a global one? Depending on the type of your business, the external environment will be different. However, you absolutely need to present your workforce with a coherent, extensive rundown on what the external circumstances surrounding your business are.

The internal environment might be a bit easier for you to gauge, as you’re looking at the inside details of your business. You need a proper assessment of the goals of your company and the business planning you have set in motion. How does your vision tie to the specifics of the external environment? Can you tackle delivering services (or products) on par with the current market trends? In case of any open initiatives or sources (in your country or on a global scale) of funding for your business, which of these can you secure? How does your workforce capability fare if you give it a shot, do you risk overstretching your output potential?

After gauging the two separate types of environment in workforce planning in businesses, you need to place them next to each other. Analyze what “clicks” together, so you have a good basis for moving on to the next step of intelligent workforce planning. That would be…

Step 2: Assessing your actual workforce

Nailing down the true profile of your workforce is the single most important things in workforce planning for businesses. If you underestimate or overestimate your team’s skills and output, you’re putting your projects and clients at risk – and through that, your company too. Assessing the actual potential of your workforce stems from a thorough evaluation of the workforce you have now and the workforce you want to have in the future. The link between these two is what you actually want to achieve with your services or products.

Take a look at your current day workforce, every single team member in your company. What are their current skills? How do they complement each other? What challenges do they face – on an individual plane, or as a team? Is there a new competency that might help them and boost your performance among your competitors? Do they need additional trainings or certifications in order to reach that competency?

Skills matter in workforce planning in businesses.

The skills of your workforce are your company’s future. Nurture them and cultivate them so your team has an edge against the competition.

Then, make an attempt to branch out to the future. What is the profile of your future workforce? What services or products do you plan on dishing out – short-term or long-term? Any significant projects, initiatives or clients you look forward to landing? Think of the external enviroment here too: what is the future of your industry? What will the up-and-coming trends require of your employees? How should your workforce’s skills evolve to meet industry demands – will they devaluate with time and how can you escape that?

There’s a very important factor in workforce planning in businesses: forget about counting the number of your employees. Instead, start counting the valuable skills your team has – and what can you do to cultivate them to meet future market challenges.

Step 3: Closing it all

You have connected both external and internal environment; thrown the bridge between your workforce’s now and its future. In both of these steps, you have found gaps that need to be addressed. Then do so: address them. But do so in a calculated, methodical manner. Ensuring proper workforce planning in businesses means that after you have done your analysis, you prioritize the important things and come up with a plan.

This plan might shape up as being a nightmare, we guarantee that. You need to think of how your company fits in the future of the industry and how every single one of your employees does so too. Plan different scenarios. Theoretize and gauge what steps will take you to the maximum outcome in every single variation. Pinpoint your businesses aspirations and what would it take to turn them into reality. Work closely with your HR department and your team while doing so: you all are a part of the organism of your business.

Workforce planning in businesses comes features a lot of challenges. In a way, it’s very similar to tackling contemporary project management challenges – a topic we’ve covered before. We’re currently working hard on providing you with a Workforce Planning module to help you out on your way to nailing down these 3 steps of managing you workforce. Until then, you can check out Cronforce with a free trial and see the other ways we can improve the output of your team members – and empower your business along with that.

The Cronforce.com Team