Do you know the proper procedures for holding elections for your organization?

Robert’s Rules for Conducting ElectionsThe election process may be the easiest part of deciding who handles a particular job in the organization. Robert’s Rules on elections are very straightforward after what is often a politically charged prequel of nominating and campaigning.

An election is really nothing more than the handling of an assumed motion, with the question being on whom to elect to fill a position. Like any incidental main motion, an election can be decided by voice vote or by ballot.

Electing by ballot

Ballot voting is by far the surest way to allow for the free expression of the will of the membership. When holding ballot elections, you have two procedural options:

  • Nominations for all offices conclude before any balloting begins. This saves time and allows for polling at a time and place other than a meeting. However, it disadvantages candidates who lose an election for a position decided earlier and then can’t serve a different position.

    When using this procedure, make it clear that a person can be nominated for and elected to more than one office. If a person is elected to two different positions, she can either choose which office to accept or serve in more than one position, if that’s allowed.

  • Nominations for each office are followed by the election for that office. The main advantage here is that it allows members to consider the election results of one office before proceeding to the election of another office. You take nominations from the floor for one office, and when no further nominations are forthcoming, you proceed to the balloting for that office. This method requires more time for the election process, making it probably best limited to smaller groups.

No matter which procedure you use, the order in which you take up each election is the order in which the offices are listed in your bylaws.

Voting by ballot enables a member to vote for a candidate not formally nominated by writing in a name — a write-in vote. A write-in vote is a legal vote unless it’s unintelligible or cast for an unidentifiable or ineligible person or for a fictitious character, in which case it’s counted as an illegal vote.

Electing by voice vote

If your bylaws don’t require you to conduct an election by ballot, and if candidates are unopposed or there’s no major contest for an office, you can save time with a simple voice vote (or viva voce). After nominations are closed, the vote is taken on each nominee in the order in which they were nominated.

Because this form of voting favors one candidate over another based on the order of nomination, you should avoid using it except in mass meetings or when there’s no serious contest for the office and a ballot is not required. If members don’t understand exactly how it works, the ones whose preferred candidate doesn’t get voted on are likely to think something is amiss.

Electing by roll call

If your assembly’s members are accountable to a constituency, your rules may require you to conduct your elections by roll-call vote. You follow the same procedures for elections by ballot, as far as arriving at the point of the election is concerned, but instead of casting your vote by ballot, each member announces his vote when the secretary calls that person’s name. The secretary repeats the vote after recording it, to ensure accuracy.

Determining who wins

Elections are decided by majority vote unless your bylaws provide differently. In a voice vote, the winner is easy to determine and the vote is over when someone wins the election. When it comes to ballot elections, your election isn’t complete until a position is filled, and a position is never filled until a candidate receives the threshold number of votes required for election. In most cases, the threshold is a majority of the votes cast. If you have only two candidates and the vote is a tie, you repeat the balloting until one candidate receives a majority.

Balloting must continue until a candidate receives a majority. It’s never proper to drop the candidates receiving the lowest vote totals from a ballot unless they withdraw voluntarily. That means run-offs are just plain out of order. The requirement for election by ballot is a majority, and a candidate has no obligation to withdraw just because he polls low numbers. Your members may wind up voting for Mr. Low as the compromise candidate.


Marketing Support for your Business

Lead Generation using WordPress
This guide describes the technologies and techniques one uses to generate leads when running a WordPress-based business.
1. Create a Lead Magnet
The first step is to create a lead magnet. A lead magnet is a free, downloadable product that your target market values so much that they will trade their email address for it. Examples are: an eBook, white paper, software product, report, tip sheet or video series.
Even though it’s free, you should still spend a lot of time and effort in both determination of the magnet and creation of it. Investment up front will pay off in the long run.
Digital Marketer has a great article on the different types of lead magnets and how to create one strategically.

2. Create an Image for the Magnet
Next, create an attractive image for your magnet. You’ll need this when enticing people on your site as well as reminding email subscribers what they’re getting.
Image Creation Resources
• Creating an eBook Cover using Photoshop. Nice YouTube video explaining how to create a 3D eBook picture:
• Fiverr: Site where people will do all sorts of odd jobs for only $5, including graphics of various types. Not the greatest quality most times but sometimes you can get some nice work done.
• GraphicRiver: Still reasonably priced, but more expensive than Fiverr, but usually a lot nicer stuff too.
• 99Designs: Higher-end design shop that uses of competitive design bidding to get you quality work. Submit a spec for your graphic, then multiple artists submit designs which you then pick from. If you can afford it, this is a great option.

3. Pick Where You Will Store the Lead Magnet
Depending on the size of the lead magnet and the number of downloads you expect, there are a couple different options for magnet storage:

Option: Your WordPress Site
If you have a shared host and don’t expect a lot of downloads or your magnet is relatively small, simply upload the file directly to your WordPress site.

Option: A Content Delivery Network
In the event you expect your magnet to take a lot of bandwidth (high downloads/large size), consider a Content Delivery Network. A CDN replicates your download to many servers around the world, making it available to people even if there are local network outage. It also delivers it very quickly because of the distributed nature of the system.

4. Create a Landing Page (optional)
Most people recommend that you to create a landing page – a page tightly focused on what benefits your business provides which can then move your audience into quickly and get the lead magnet (through submitting their email address).
This is technically an optional step, depending on how your site is set up. You may just want the form to pop up no matter where people are on your site.
If you decide to go with a landing page, you have a few options.

Option: Use Your Theme’s Landing Page Template
The quickest and cheapest option is to use a landing page template from your existing theme, assuming it has a good template.
Option: Create Your Own Page or Page Template
Another option is to learn about good landing page design and create your own page or page template.

Landing Page Creation Resources
• How to Make Great Landing Pages. Article discussing general principles of good landing page design.
• How to Create a WordPress Page Template. This is the ultimate way to create a landing page from within an existing WordPress site. This option is more for technically minded since some knowledge of both HTML and PHP is required.

Option: Get a New Theme
The third option is to get a new theme. Free ones are out there but I’ve found if you want a good looking, professional theme, it’s worth spending some a bit of money.
Theme Resources
• Theme Forest. I have personal experience with their most popular theme, Avada, and found it to be excellent. There are other great themes on there as well.

5. Sign up with an Email Marketing Service
Now it’s time to choose an email list service you’ll be using to nurture your leads and make various sales pitches as time goes on.
Recommended Services with Free Options
MailChimp. This is one of the most, if not THE most popular email marketing service on the net. They offer quite a few features, including multiple list management, autoresponders and drip campaigns.
Recommended Paid Services
AWeber. Great service for those with more serious needs and includes better email tracking capabilities.

6. Create a Mailing List
The next step is to create a mailing list on the email marketing system that will be used to collect your list of users.
Create Mailing List Resources
• Creating Mailing Lists with MailChimp
• Creating Mailing Lists with Weber

7. Change Email Templates
It’s important to give people access to your magnet only after you’ve confirmed their email, not right when they sign up on your website because you don’t know if the email address they’ve supplied at that point is legitimate or not.
Change the following email templates on your email marketing system. This excellent video walks you through all the below steps. The video uses MailChimp, but is worth viewing no matter which email marketing service you go with.
Opt-in Confirmation Email
• Change subject to indicate that they need to confirm email address in order to receive the magnet
• Replace mentions of ‘subscribing to an email list’ with variations of ‘to receive the {magnet}’
• Add a picture of the magnet.
Final Welcome Page
• Change subject to “Thank you, here’s your {lead magnet}”
• Add text link {name lead magnet}/{lead magnet link}
• Add image link / {lead magnet link }
Confirmation Thank-You Page
• Replace default thank you page supplied by the email marketing system with the magnet download page – this magnet email page is either one that was created from in the Final Welcome Page or can be a link to your own WordPress landing page you’ve set up with a way to download your product.
8. Create a Sign-up Form
Keep your sign-up form as simple as possible to minimize the ‘friction’ involved at collecting the lead’s contact information. You have two options here.
Option: Use Mailing Service’s Embedded Form
All the major mailing services have form-building capabilities built in to their websites. These allow you to pick and choose which fields you want to collect.
Choose the option that you want to embed the form. This will allow you to add the form directly onto your website.
After you get the HTML code from the form, you can either add the code to a WordPress Text widget, insert it into a page or add it using a plugin that accepts bits of HTML.
This article and video describe how to set up an embeddable form in MailChimp and then retrieve the HTML code which you would then paste into your site.
Option: Use Form Plugin That Works with Mailing Service
Another option is getting a WordPress form plugin that connects to your email marketing service.
Free Options
• Easy Opt-Ins for MailChimp. Nice plugin that gives you a simple but effective opt-in form that ties into MailChimp. You just enter your MailChimp API key, the list to push to and this does the rest.
• WordPress Popup – Optin Revolution. Optin form plugin that supports multiple email providers including MailChimp, AWeber, GetResponse and several others.
Freemium Options
• Ninja Forms: Ninja Forms is a spectacular plugin that allows you to create a large variety of forms for free. They have paid options for tieing into the major email providers including MailChimp, AWeber, Mailpoet and several other.
9. What’s Next?
Now you should have a running lead generation system running on your WordPress site. The next thing to do is come up with various email campaigns and build trust with your leads. This next phase is often called Lead Nurturing.

Do you need help to establish an organized filing system– to save you time and frustration

office-filing-cabinets-walmart Few things are more important to a smooth-running office than a filing system that works. Whether you are the only one accessing files or you share with a staff, the filing system you choose must be organized so everyone can find what they’re looking for. If the filing system is difficult to use, you will hang onto papers for fear of losing them in the files, and you’ll soon have piles of papers covering your desk.

  1. Decide on a filing system. Whatever it is, it must make sense, so you’ll know exactly where every piece of paper is. Your options are:

    • Alphabetical. This system is best when most of your files are going to be names of clients, patients or customers.
    • Subject or category: Most file systems are organized by subject or category, which works well when set up correctly, but can also be the most confusing when it’s not.
    • Numerical/Chronological. This best when your files consist mainly of numbered or dated material, like purchase orders or receipt
  2. Fill your file drawers with hanging folders. The hanging folders will never be removed, acting as place holders for the manila envelopes which you will remove from the drawer.
  3. Sort your papers into piles by category. If a pile gets more than an inch or two tall, divide it into subcategories. If a pile is too thin, combine it with another pile and rename it. The names of the piles should make it easy to determine which pile every piece of paper goes into.
  4. Place each pile into a manila folder and label it clearly. It’s best to use folders with tabs that are in the center rather than staggered because it makes the files look neater.
  5. Place the manila folders into the hanging folders. For most files, regular hanging folders will work, but for thick files or files you had to divide into subcategories, use box bottom folders. You can order the folders however you want, but most people use an alphabetical system at this point.
  6. Label the hanging folders with the same names as the manila folders. Place all the plastic tabs on the left of the folder unless you are using a lateral file cabinet. For lateral files, which run left to right when you open the drawer rather than front to back, place the tabs on the right side.
  7. Place a supply of hanging and manila folders near the files so you can easily add a folder if you find yourself with a piece of paper that doesn’t belong to an existing folder. Avoid folders that are too thick or too thin. You may also want to relabel folders and redistribute papers if you decide that you need to re-categorize.
  8. At the end of the year, remove all the folders, label fresh manila folders with the same category names and place them in the files. Go through the old folders to see if anything needs to be transferred to the current files, and place the rest in your archive.

Organizational Skills in the Workplace

Organizational skills in the workplace can include planning and meeting deadlines.

Along with communication and computer skills, organizational skills is one of the most important transferable job skills a worker can possess. Companies need workers who can stay organized and focus on the projects at hand. However, company managers must also organize the work of their employees. Organizational skills in the workplace can include general organizing, planning, time management, scheduling, coordinating resources and meeting deadlines.

General Organizing Skills

Employees in the workplace must have general organizational skills, which allow them to determine the supplies they need, how to arrange their files and whom to contact for specific information. Managers who work with employees will often organize the work of employees to keep them busy, especially those that require a lot of direction, like file clerks or contract workers.


Planning is a needed workplace skill, and it is particularly important as person advances into more supervisory or managerial roles. Most work is centered around certain projects that must be completed within a specific time period. Projects are usually divided into many different tasks, and workers must plan their tasks ahead of time to bring the project to fruition. A person can also plan ahead in case certain problems come up that could potentially delay the project.


Scheduling involves allocating a time period for specific tasks or workload, and then assigning tasks to certain employees. For example, small restaurant and retail businesses must be able to schedule the appropriate amount of workers on different days depending on busy times. Managers must also schedule dates for specific project tasks to be completed. Many small company managers use organizers to stay on track with their assignments.

Coordinating Resources

Coordinating resources is another important organizational skill in the workplace. Managers must know how to coordinate both internal and external resources. For example, a marketing manager often hires a marketing research agency to conduct surveys, tabulate the results and deliver the data tables. Subsequently, the marketing manager analyzes the data, writes the report and prints or emails it to upper management to complete the project. Managers must also know how to use internal resources. For example, a manager that has an invoice about an overdue bill from a vendor will need to see accounts payable to resolve the issue.

Meeting Deadlines and Time Management

One of the most important organizational skills is the ability to meet deadlines and use time wisely. It usually takes a little experience before a manager can properly assign tasks, allocate resources and complete a project on time. Meeting deadlines requires time management skills, which is an important organizational skill itself. Managers that meet deadlines consistently have the ability to prioritize tasks, delegate and be productive.

Iphone 6 review

Big screens won.

For the past three years, the most meaningful change to the iPhone has been the size of its screen. After years of sticking with a 3.5-inch display and watching Android-powered competitors bite off a piece of the market with ever-larger screens, Apple relented ever-so-slightly with the 4-inch iPhone 5 and 5S, and then finally gave in to obvious trends with the much larger 4.7-inch iPhone 6 and massive 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus.

Big screens are all people really wanted in a phone; when they couldn’t get big screens from Apple, they bought big screens from Samsung, and when Apple finally put out big screens, Samsung’s sales tanked.

So now we have an iPhone with a big screen, with skyrocketing sales. There’s no obvious reason to make it better; almost every major competitor has actually put out multiple high-end phones this year in an effort to compete and it still hasn’t been enough. What’s Apple’s next move?

Turns out that the answer isn’t a taller or wider display — it’s a deeper one.

This is an S year for the iPhone, which means the basic physical design of the phone has remained the same while the internals have been substantially revised and made faster. S iPhones may lack the punch of a new design, but Apple says they actually sell better and last longer in the marketplace than non-S iPhones — these are the phones that stick around. This year there are also two changes to the exterior: the glass screen is now stronger and more shatter-resistant, and the case is made of a tougher aluminum that will presumably be less prone to bending.1

These are welcome tweaks, but it’s too bad that the iPhone 6 design remains Apple’s least elegant design since the plastic blob of the iPhone 3G and 3GS, thanks to its slippery shape, camera bulge, and weird antenna lines. The 6S Plus feels particularly surfboard-y in comparison to the Galaxy Note 5, LG G4, and Moto X, which all manage large screens in less ungainly packages. You get your choice of silver, space gray, gold, and now a very pink rose gold iPhone, but it feels like these phones were designed to be put in cases no matter what color they are.

Both the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus are both tangibly heavier and thicker than their predecessors. If you’ve spent any time handling the older models you will feel the added heft. It’s nothing major — I actually think the extra weight makes the 6S feel more substantial and easier to hold than the whoops-there-it-goes iPhone 6 — and what you get in return promises to make up for it.

That extra weight comes from 3D Touch, which is the highlight feature of the iPhone 6S. 3D Touch makes the iPhone screen pressure-sensitive, literally adding a new layer of interactions and information to iOS. The iPhone 6S is the third major Apple product line to gain pressure-sensitive touch after the Apple Watch and MacBooks introduced Force Touch, and it is by far the most successful at integrating the feature into the natural flow of the interface.2

So what can you do? On the home screen, app icons can show quick actions when you push them. Pushing on a calendar entry shows you more information about it, and pushing on a map pin lets you jump straight to directions. Pushing on a message in Mail opens a preview that you can slide to either side to delete or archive, and pushing harder opens the message. It’s the same in Safari: pushing lightly on a link opens a preview, and pushing slightly harder actually opens the page.3

That preview-and-open dynamic — what Apple calls peek and pop — is really the key to 3D Touch. It does far more than just turning pixels into buttons — it turns them into dynamic objects. The entire system is the biggest step along a path Apple’s been on since iOS 7 — the idea that the interface should be about abstract layers of information, not simulations of physical objects. It’s not some insane lightning bolt of inspiration; Google is doing something very similar with Material Design, and Microsoft has been sliding things all over the screen since someone was drunk enough to approve the name “Windows Phone 7 Series.” But 3D Touch is by far the most aggressive and interesting step in this direction anyone has ever taken.

From a technology perspective, the main part of 3D Touch is a network of sensors under the screen which track the distance between the cover glass and the backlight.4

When you push down on the screen, the distance between them changes, and the phone can do things based on how hard you press, with precise bits of haptic feedback from Apple’s Taptic Engine vibration system. Apple won’t say exactly how many levels of pressure-sensitivity there are, but it’s definitely so many as to feel almost analog, like the interface is reacting in real time to physical pressure — the homescreen blurs in and out in response to how hard you press on an icon, for instance. Perhaps most impressively, 3D Touch has accessibility built in — it can be activated by Assistive Touch, blind users can have VoiceOver read peek previews and quick action menus, and the force needed to activate it can be set to light, medium, or firm. This sort of impossibly tight integration of hardware and software is what Apple does best, and it is ridiculously impressive in action.

In actual use, though, it’s kind of easy to forget about 3D Touch, because only a selection of Apple’s apps support it right now. It’s kind of like right click on OS X — the interface is designed to be used without it, but once you realize it’s there, it’s incredibly useful, and you want every app to make solid, consistent use of it. In that sense, 3D Touch won’t really be that useful or revolutionary until third parties really grab onto it. It’s a feature that will be most useful to power users at first, and Apple’s apps and services are the weakest part of the iPhone if you’re a power user. Google’s Inbox and Microsoft’s Outlook are light years ahead of Apple’s Mail app, Sunrise and Fantastical are far superior to Calendar, and Google Maps still wipes the floor with Apple Maps. If you’re like me and the first thing you do with a new iPhone is hide all of Apple’s apps away in a folder, it’s going to be a minute before 3D Touch really does anything for you.

That also means what 3D Touch actually does in various apps will be all over the map as developers try it out, because there aren’t a ton of rules for how anyone should use it outside of the peek and pop and quick action APIs. It’s a wild new interface paradigm with a ton of potential, and that means developers are going to have to experiment before settling on a common language. I think that process is going to be really fun, just like developers using multitouch for the first few years was really fun.

Even still, 3D Touch already feels much more natural than Force Touch on the Apple Watch, and companies like Pinterest and Instagram and Dropbox are already showing off interesting demos. (I’m sure 3D Touch-enabled apps will be in the App Store the second the phone actually goes on sale.) And the potential for pressure-sensitive gaming is off the charts; 3D Touch might make gaming on a iPhone something much more interesting than furiously swiping on the screen.5 There are a lot of things that have to fall into place, but 3D Touch overall feels like one of those ideas that only Apple can push into the mainstream — if Samsung or Huawei had delivered a similar feature, it would almost certainly be a gimmick. But the foundation for 3D Touch is solid and well-considered, and it’s easy to see how the latent potential can turn into reality.

The only other changes to the iPhone 6S really and truly worth discussing in detail are the cameras. I’ve been interested in switching to Android for the better part of a year now, but there isn’t a single Android phone that consistently takes great photos the way the iPhone does. Some take great photos — the Galaxy S6 and Note 6, LG G4, and Sony Xperia Z4 all have excellent cameras — but it’s the consistency that matters. The iPhone takes excellent, realistic photos in virtually every situation, and no other phone comes close.

So the new cameras on the iPhone 6S — a new 5-megapixel front-facing camera, and a 12-megapixel unit on the rear — are a big deal.6

Let’s be real for a second: the front-facing camera upgrade to 5 megapixels from a paltry 1.2 on the iPhone 6 is the biggest news here. Selfies and Snapchats and video chats are part of the fabric of modern communication, and Apple’s been way behind the curve with its front-facing cameras. The improvement in quality from the iPhone 6 to 6S when using the front camera is just tremendous; it takes realistic and usable photos now, not just pixelated approximations of moments from the past.7

Apple’s also taken a great idea from Snapchat and improved it with a feature called Retina Flash: the entire screen blinks white when you take a selfie in low light, serving as a makeshift flash. Apple says it’s tuned the screen backlight to go three times brighter than normal when it’s flashing in this way, and it even looks at the color temperature of the scene to color-correct the screen flash in the same way the two-color LED flash on the rear of the phone works. It’s neat, and it works well. You will be the monster taking selfies with a flashing white screen in the bar, but you’ll be the monster with usable pictures the next day.

The resolution of the rear camera is now 12 megapixels, up from 8, and it can shoot 4K video. This is a pretty mild update. The actual photos from the iPhone 6S aren’t dramatically better than the photos from the iPhone 6 — they’re better, but not so much intensely better than you’ll notice a difference if you’re just sharing them on Facebook. I noticed slightly better macro performance and slightly better bokeh in a few shots, but Apple’s been taking iPhone 6 photos and blowing them up to put on billboards for a year, so the bar is pretty damn high. Let’s put it this way: the iPhone 6S is the best camera most people will ever own, but it’s not going to keep anyone out of the market for a mirrorless rig.

iPhone 6S Plus on the left, 6 Plus on the right. Images cropped and aligned.

Both cameras can take Apple’s new Live Photos, which are fun, if a little gimmicky. Nokia and HTC have released similar ideas, but Apple’s implementation is the most seamless: when you press the shutter button, you’ll see a little Live indicator pop up, letting you know that the phone is recording 1.5 seconds of action before and after your shot. Later, in your camera roll, you can 3D Touch the photo to play back the short audio and video clip you’ve captured — the shots animate slightly as you swipe through the camera roll to indicate which shots are live photos. It’s neat, but you’ve got to remember to keep your camera pointed at your subject after you’ve taken a photo — I have a lot of Live photos that are mostly me putting the phone back in my pocket. Apple says a forthcoming update will sense when you’re moving the phone and cut off the Live recording, which will be a welcome fix. And I found that I needed to have the camera roll open for a few moments before the system started recognizing my Live Photos by animating them slightly as I swiped through my shots; a little visual indicator would be much more useful.

Apple CEO Tim Cook says he thinks Live Photos will be “a new form,” but more people will have to be able to watch them before they can blossom as an entire kind of media. Right now, you can share Live Photos with anyone using iOS 9, WatchOS 2, and OS X El Capitan. Apple also says it’ll put out an API to let Live Photos work in third-party apps and on the web (Instagram is already signed up), but I’m not really holding my breath for them to take off. If you want to record short videos, apps like Vine and Instagram already work great, and work everywhere, including Android phones.8

And Live Photos take up double the space of regular photos, so having every single photo you take include a short video seems like major overkill. I would play with it for a while then flip it off and turn it on when you need it. (It would be super rad if the iPhone intelligently turned Live Photos on when the camera detected a face in the scene and turned it off when it didn’t. I have too many Live Photos of whiteboards, and not enough of people.)

It shouldn’t be any surprise that 4K video looks great — it’s way higher resolution than what you’re used to from a phone, and Apple is very proud of the fact that the iPhone’s A9 processor can do all of its stabilization and processing magic while shooting 4K. It’s not a RED, but it’s not too shabby either. If you’re a video nerd, you’re going to have fun with it — the 6S is even powerful enough to edit 4K video in iMovie. But 4K video isn’t actually turned on by default — you have to very deliberately flip it on. In fact, Apple’s taken resolution settings entirely out of the camera app and moved them into the Settings app, which seems awfully like the company doesn’t want people with the 16GB iPhone 6S to easily flip the video camera to the 4K mode that eats up 375MB of space per minute.9 That’s probably fair, since most people don’t have 4K TVs or ultra high-res monitors, but between 4K video and Live Photos that eat up double the space of regular photos, it would be better if the richest company in the world took a little loss on its profit margins and sold phones with a reasonable amount of base storage.

Speed speed speed. Talking about the faster processor in an iPhone is a now yearly ritual — Apple loves to tout how insanely fast and powerful its A-line of chips has become, and the A9 in the iPhone 6S is no exception. Apple says it’s up to twice as fast as the A8 in the iPhone 6, and it’s obviously the fastest iPhone I’ve ever used. Apple won’t confirm a specific increase in RAM, but the reported boost from 1GB to 2GB is pretty obvious once you start using the thing. Web pages in Safari reload less often, apps switch a little faster, and the entire phone feels lighter on its feet. Even TouchID has been improved for faster recognition — it’s fast enough to recognize your fingerprint and unlock the phone in just about the time it takes to click the home button and wake the phone up, which means it’s almost invisible if you get the motion down just right.10

But the relative speed of the newest iPhone is a tricky thing to really talk about now — the major US carriers are all pushing payment programs that let you upgrade your phone every year or so, and now even Apple’s gotten into the mix with its new iPhone Upgrade Program. If you’re the sort of person who’s going to actually take full advantage of the enormous amounts of power that the iPhone 6S offers, you’re probably the sort of person who’ll be upgrading to the newest most-powerful-iPhone-ever next year. And app developers still have to contend with the millions of older iPhones on the market, so few apps will really push the phone as hard as it can go.11

It all adds up to what seems like a unique inflection point in the history of computing: Apple’s shipping the most powerful processor ever in a smartphone, and it kind of doesn’t matter. The upgrade cycle has gotten so accelerated that by the time developers make full use of the A9, everyone who cares will have a much more powerful phone. That’s kind of crazy and wonderful; it speaks to Apple’s unique ability to push cutting-edge technology out to a huge market in a fairly natural way.

We have a much more complete iOS 9 review here, but it’s worth taking a moment to talk through how it changes using the iPhone 6S. iOS 9 feels a lot like iOS 8 at first glance, but little changes like the revised reverse-chronological notifications, the much improved search, and always-on Hey Siri command all add up into a seriously enhanced experience. Apple’s also clearly taken the time to think through how to streamline navigating between apps, making it easier to flip between apps with breadcrumb links at the top of the screen, and creating a new (very Android-like) app switcher that seems like a huge mistake until you realize that pushing on the left edge of the 6S screen and swiping brings you back to a previous app. It’s great. It’s also too bad for anyone using an iPhone without a 3D Touch display.

iOS 9 also offers Apple’s most comprehensive update to how the iPhone manages battery life. In my testing, I was routinely able to use the iPhone 6S for a full day under normal circumstances. And I could push even farther by turning on the new low power mode, which cuts performance, minimizes animations, and turns screen brightness down. Of course, every new iPhone gets great battery life for the first few months and then starts to fade, so don’t get too excited. My guess is that the iPhone 6S won’t offer you a power experience wildly different than previous iPhones you might have owned and used in your particular life / work patterns. Apple is very much just holding serve here, and if we’re going to eventually use our phones as our wallets and keys and everything else, they need to start lasting much longer.12

This is a weird year to be reviewing an S iPhone, because this is the year that the two-year phone contract appears to finally be dying out in favor of leasing programs that allow you to get a new phone every year. I know lots of people who are proudly on the S cycle, happy to wait out the excitement of a new iPhone design for the perfected and improved second edition. But Apple and the carriers are making it much easier for us to all pay $27 a month for the rest of our lives to get a new phone every year, obsoleting the entire notion of an S cycle. Now you’re just on the iPhone cycle, and it’s going to be fascinating to watch that reality change how fast Apple and the rest of the industry change their products over time. It’s a new world.

So I’m just going to put this out there, and then we can all handle the emotional consequences together: if you are thinking of buying a new phone, and you have anything older than an iPhone 6, you should buy an iPhone 6S Plus. It is the best iPhone ever made, and it is right now the best phone on the market. If you’re upgrading from an iPhone 5S or anything older, it will blow your mind. There just aren’t other companies that can roll out a feature like 3D Touch and make it work in a way that suggests the creation of entirely new interface paradigms, and every other phone maker needs to figure out exactly why Apple’s cameras are so consistent before they can really compete.

Note that I said the 6S Plus, not the 6S. I am convinced that in another year or so every phone will be the size of the 6S Plus, so if you’re going to jump in, just go all the way. You’ll get a slightly better camera and a little more battery life out of the deal as well. The future is here. You should face it with a gigantic screen.

But if you have an iPhone 6 or 6 Plus and you’re not ready to sign up for a yearly phone upgrade program, you might not feel the usual pull to get a new iPhone unless you really want a better front-facing camera. The speed improvements are incremental, the battery life is about the same, and it’ll take a while for developers to really make use of 3D Touch. And by the time that happens, it will probably be time to buy an iPhone 7.

10 Easy Ways to Be More Productive at Work

10 Easy Ways to Be More Productive at Work

Credit: Masson/Shutterstock

Ever wish you could get more done while you’re in the office? You’re not alone — the thousands of productivity apps on the market prove that today’s workers are always looking for ways to be more efficient. But you don’t necessarily need the latest checklist tool or scheduling assistant to keep yourself on task. Here are 10 simple, low-tech ways to jumpstart your productivity right away.

Streamline your space. Before you do anything else, take a few moments at the start of each day to organize and de-clutter your workspace. Having a clutter-free environment helps you think more clearly and produce better results, said Kristoph Matthews, CEO of on-demand storage company Boxbee. By cleaning up and organizing your space, you will greatly increase your productivity and limit the time you spend searching for items.

Add pops of color or live plants. Color can have a major effect on your mood and productivity throughout the day, said Jenny Gauld, an interior designer for office furniture and accessory retailer turnstone. Blue creates the feeling of calmness and helps you focus, while red is great for work that requires accuracy and attention to detail. Plants can also help people focus by reducing headaches and fatigue: A study from Texas A&M University found that plants increase workplace productivity and creative performance by up to 30 percent.

Decorate your workspace. In addition to color and plant life, a few personal knick-knacks in your workspace can make you feel more comfortable and relaxed, which can ultimately boost your productivity. Gauld suggested adding meaningful career memorabilia, such as diplomas and awards, and other decorative items that make you feel successful, appreciated and driven.

Get your most dreaded task out of the way. Everyone has at least one task on the to-do list that keeps getting pushed back, simply because the thought of actually doing it seems so awful. That task is actually the one you should try to complete first, Matthews told Business News Daily. Instead of waiting until the last minute to finish a task, get it off your plate as soon as possible. Your other tasks will seem less daunting by comparison, and you’ll stop stressing about that one task all day, making you more productive overall.

Ignore your emails (at least for a little while). Constant email alerts popping up on your phone or desktop can really break your focus. Instead of reading every email as it lands in your inbox, try turning off your notifications and only checking messages at set intervals. When you’re working on a tight deadline, Gauld advised setting up an automatic reply for a few hours or an afternoon, informing the sender that you will be unavailable to respond for a short time.

Move around. Don’t limit yourself to your primary desk chair. Gauld recommended spending portions of the workday standing or working at height-adjusted work surfaces, if possible. You can also make a habit of walking meetings and conference calls.

Prioritize tasks that take less time. It’s easy to procrastinate on short, easy-to-do list items and tell yourself you’ll get to them after you’ve tackled your big project for the day. But what if that project takes longer than expected? To avoid scrambling at the end of the workday to complete a bunch of quick tasks (which can really add up, time-wise), get them done earlier. Matthews noted that his general rule of thumb for completing tasks is that if it takes less than two minutes to do, tackle it right away.

Take short breaks. Whether it’s a walk around the block, a run to the nearby coffee shop, reading a magazine or visiting with a colleague, taking short breaks — about 10 to 15 minutes every two hours — helps improve circulation while reducing eyestrain and buildup of muscle tension, Gauld said. Stepping away from something you’re working on can also provide you with a new perspective when you return.

Listen to music. Wearing headphones doesn’t always mean you’re antisocial. When working, listening to your favorite tunes can help you get into the zone and knock out your to-do list, Gauld said. It also sends a subtle signal to your co-workers that you’d prefer not to be disturbed.

Switch locationsIf your employer allows it, take one day a week to work from a different environment, like a coffee shop or a co-working space, Gauld said. The change of scenery and the chance to interact with other people may give you a sense of renewed energy. If you can’t work out of the office, try finding a quiet space away from other distractions where you can fully focus.

Five Common Accounting Mistakes of Home-based Businesses

Five Common Accounting Mistakes of Home-based Businesses

Operating a home-based business requires dedication and planning, not the least of which is putting into place an accounting system that fits the particular business. For some home businesses, the system will be relatively simple. For others, with more complicated inventory controls and payroll schedules to manage, the system will be more complex. In every case, there are certain specific accounting mistakes that are common to home-based businesses. This article lists these common mistakes and tells how to avoid them.

1. Probably the most common accounting mistake among busy home-based entrepreneurs is neglecting to systematically and regularly put aside enough money for estimated taxes, which normally must be paid April 15, July 15, September 15, and January 15. If you find yourself scrambling around for money to meet estimated taxes – or if you frequently decide not to send in estimated taxes – you need to reconsider your accounting systems.

  1. The second most common accounting mistake is not keeping complete expense receipts for tax purposes. When you’re buying business items while traveling, or while hurriedly picking up supplies, it’s easy to misplace sales receipts, or neglect to notate the transaction properly in your checkbook. Not having sales receipts could prove costly if you were ever audited, and not keeping proper checking records can make tax-time calculations difficult.

    There are several simple ways to avoid this problem. First, consider making all business transactions on a charge card set up solely for that purpose. This card would never be used for personal, non-business purchases. Your monthly account statement for the card would serve as an accurate accounting, enabling you list dollar amounts and types of purchases for your own record supplies, delivery, meals, etc.). Some credit card companies even offer special credit cards for small business. These usually supply a free year-end total for tax purposes. If you’re worried about running up debt on the card, discipline yourself to write out a check for the amount of each purchase immediately after arriving home.

    If you find that you can’t maintain the discipline required to immediately write out a check, or too often don’t have enough money in your checking account to cover purchases, you’ll soon find that your card’s balance is getting uncomfortably high. In this case, stick to writing checks for your business purchases. But don’t put receipts in the bag with the items you’ve purchased, or in your pocket. Instead, store the receipt right in the checkbook. It will then be very noticeable when you arrive home, where you can put it immediately into a file folder reserved for the purpose. At the time of purchase, make a notation in your checkbook for the purpose of each check. This will help you tally different expense categories at year-end when you’re calculating your taxes.

    3. Another common accounting mistake home-based businesses make is not recording the source of checks deposited. This is especially problematic if you’re taking out business loans, because at the end of the year it may be difficult for you to determine which deposits were payments received for services, and which were for loans. (Of course, you could sort this out by going through your loan records, but analyzing each deposit is time consuming.) To avoid this problem, simply write in your checkbook the source of each deposit, recording the payer and check number for each check. This will help keep your records straight at year end. If some deposits contain too many checks to notate separately in you check book, you’ll have to write down the details on a separate piece of paper and record it along with your other checking account records.

    4. Many home-based businesses do not have adequate systems in place for billing customers, and for keeping records of overdue payments. Since these two activities are integral to a business, you’ll need to set up a method to determine with great accuracy and timeliness exactly whom you’ve billed, and when their payments are overdue.

    5. It’s surprising how many home-based entrepreneurs don’t have a system that allows them to easily and accurately keep track of billable hours spent working for customers. This is particularly damaging to a small business, because it usually results in having to estimate the time spent on projects. Inevitably, these estimates will be low (most small businesses don’t want to offend customers by overcharging.) To keep track of billable hours, setup a reliable system that allows you to easily record the time spent on each job. Of course, no system will be accurate if you, yourself, do not make a point of recording the exact amount of time spent on each job.

    There are several ways to set-up systems to avoid each of the five mistakes. Perhaps most advisable is to work with an accountant who is experienced with helping small businesses. An accountant can help you establish systematic procedures, and can suggest appropriate software and other tools that will make your financial life simpler.

Quick Tips for Home Office Organization

Quick Tips for Home Office Organization
Is your home office sharing space with the family or living room?
1. Invest in adequate furniture.
Home offices need a clear work area, and that means providing adequate space for computer hardware and peripheral equipment, a spot for reference materials, file space and a location for frequently referenced supplies and paper. Make sure your office furniture provides ample space for work and storage.
2. Establish activity centers.
The efficient office should be zoned into activity areas:
• The Work Center, which includes a clear workspace, the computer and frequently-used office products.
• The Reference Center, which includes binders, manuals, dictionary and professional books and materials.
• The Supply Center, which contains office and paper supplies.
3. Properly place the hardware and peripherals.
Position your equipment by frequency of use. If the printer is used daily, it should be within easy reach. If the CPU is only accessed for troubleshooting, it can be placed under or next to the desk. If a scanner is rarely used, it can be placed outside the work area.
When setting up hardware, be conscious of access to drives, trays and cords. Don’t block access to drawers or take up leg room with tangled cords.
4. Conceal Cables and Wires
Fold mailing labels back on themselves around each cord and label the wire. Don’t forget to label the cords that connect different components to each other, as well as the cord to the electric supply.
Bundle like wires together to cut down on cord clutter. For example, keep computer speaker wires with stereo speaker wires.
Use a surge protector for all delicate electronic equipment. Check the back to make sure it’s UL listed and is a transient voltage surge protector. High-end protectors are built with replaceable fuses and will last longer than less-expensive models that might not work after a large surge.
Used fabric softener sheets are the perfect lint and static-free rags for cleaning CDs and DVDs. Handle CDs by the rim to cut down on fingerprints. The backside of the CD carries the information and is the side that needs cleaning. Use the dryer sheet and stroke out to the edge from the center of the CD, instead of a circular motion.
Stacking equipment makes the most efficient use of space in a media center or office space. Be careful not to stack any equipment with venting on the top (such as amps or satellite receivers) because they might get too warm. Use chair-leg protectors (small plastic cups) as spacers between these pieces of equipment when stacking.
To clean a TV screen, use a lint-free cloth such as an old T-shirt. Spray the cloth with water (instead of spritzing the set itself) and wipe clean. Never use an abrasive substance on the screen. Never use window cleaner to clean a computer screen; stick to a lint-free cloth and consult with your monitor’s manual for the proper way to clean it.
5. Establish a paper processing area.
Create an area within your Work Center for papers that need immediate action.
Store paper associated with clients or ongoing projects in an area that is easily accessible and within your view.
Establish a permanent filing system for papers you will reference, but not on a regular basis.

You would be amazed how efficient you can be with a well organized office—

Entrepreneurs Rely on Storage to Grow Their Businesses

Entrepreneur Cheri Garcia invented a tanning bed that floats and was keeping her inventory of about 1,000 beds in a spare bedroom. But as her company grew and a major pool supply company agreed to carry her invention, Garcia needed to find another option for storing her inventory.
Garcia, president of Luminous Envy in Dallas, said using a self-storage facility to hold her inventory made economic sense.
“If I were to get a warehouse, they would charge up the wazoo,” she said.
Instead, Garcia pays less than $100 a month for self-storage. “For me, it was a smart business decision,” she said.

Avoiding Costly Warehousing
Small business owners and entrepreneurs would do well to follow Garcia’s lead, said Tom Pryor, director of the Small Business Development Center in Arlington, TX.
“I have recommended before that a startup that deals in product use self-storage as their warehouse as opposed to getting a two-year lease on an expensive location,” Pryor said. “Having self storage for a startup or a small company gives you a whole lot of flexibility. Typically, you’ll sign a three-month lease or a month-to-month lease.”
In addition, companies can easily expand the storage space they need as they grow without having to go out and look for different warehouse space. Self-storage facilities are open to working with existing customers to meet their needs, Pryor said.
“You can say, ‘Hey, I need twice as much space as before,’ and they will help you to grow,” he said.
Brad Sherman, managing principal at StoreSmart’s Colorado locations, said his company has some business customers that lease as many as 40 to 50 units at a time to store inventory.
“They don’t want to go through the financial commitment to lease warehouse or office space for their inventory,” Sherman said. “Self-storage is a really good fit for them.”
Self-storage has been a solution for Jay Jones’ audio-visual company, TechKnowledgeEase, for 12 years. The Corsicana, TX-based company provides audio-visual equipment and services for meetings, special events and conventions.
“That was kind of the way the business plan was formed,” said Jones, the company’s president. “We’ve stuck with it for 12 years, and it’s worked well.”

Is outsourcing really a good way to grow my business?

Q: Is outsourcing really a good way to grow my business?
A: Outsourcing has become a big deal in our economy. There are articles and books written on it all the time, and you can attend countless seminars and speeches on the subject. I just did a Google search on “outsourcing” and got 1,130,000 links. You can find a lot of information on this subject, and a lot of opinions on how to do it right or screw it up!
One popular way this is described is that you should decide what you are good at and outsource everything else–i.e., focus your company on your core competency, and let someone else do the rest. That logic is sound in theory, and to a certain degree in practice, but like everything else you can take it too far. The key is to understand your business and its goals and decide how outsourcing might help you attain them.
When deciding what to outsource, some things (legal services, printing, health insurance, etc.) are fairly obvious, and most businesses outsource them. Some functions are a bit less obvious, and people opt to outsource these task depending on their personal expertise. For example, if you have an accounting background, you probably keep your own books and file your own taxes. There are other things many people could–but probably shouldn’t–do themselves. For example, most people could create a basic website or design their own logo, but the differences in the end result between doing it yourself and hiring a professional can be significant.
There are some crucial aspects of your business you should probably not outsource. You need to keep an eye (your eye!) on them at all times. These include cash-flow management and, in many cases, customer interaction.
Some tasks make sense to outsource initially and bring in-house later. If, for example, you aren’t very experienced at hiring a receptionist, you could turn to a temp agency to hire one for you. They will charge you a premium, but for that you get significant value–they will understand your requirements, advertise for people, screen them and place them at your site with no risk to you. If they don’t work out for whatever reason, you just call the temp agency and tell them to send someone else. When you find the right person and decide you want them long term, you can pay the temp agency a fee and make them a regular employee (i.e., transition from outsourced to in-house).
While the above scenario is common, you don’t have to consider outsourcing until you have enough work for an employee. One advantage of outsourcing is flexibility–it can be a lot easier to cut back on a vendor than an employee. Think of how you would feel if you had to tell an employee who is dependent on her job that you only need her half-time now. Another advantage is that you don’t have to become an expert in a particular area–you can depend on the outsourced company to be the expert, as in the above website/logo example.
Perhaps the biggest benefit of outsourcing is its ability to save you money. This will, of course, depend on the size of your company and what specific tasks you outsource, but in general, if you think it through, you can save money. For example, my company outsources its IT services (help desk, computer support and maintenance), and we pay significantly less than we’d pay for a full-time IT person to give us the same level of support. We also outsource our bookkeeping and office administration, with similar savings. As we grow, we’ll continue to reevaluate these decisions–it may be that the business case for the IT outsourcing remains good as we grow but that we might eventually hire someone to offload other work from our current people, and since we would be paying them anyway, we could get them to do the bookkeeping as well.
One disadvantage to outsourcing is that you are putting part of your company in someone else’s hands. You have to ask yourself if you can trust them, if you think they’ll stay in business and if they can adapt to your growing and changing needs.
The best advice I have is to carefully think through each function in your business and figure out which tasks make sense to outsource.then just try it! In most cases, common sense will see you through.
Keith Lowe is an experienced entrepreneur who is a founder and investor in companies in several industries. Lowe also mentors new entrepreneurs; serves as past chairman of the board for Biztech, a nonprofit high-tech business incubator; and is a co-founder and officer for the Alabama Information Technology Association.