5 Tools to Save You Time, Money and Sanity

Non-profit professionals, entrepreneurs and small business owners alike have to be lean. I’ve talked about this before: we have to learn to do more with less, all the while not compromising our work ethic and the final product. Let’s be honest – that’s not easy.

Last week, I wrote a piece for the Orlando Chapter of Young Non-Profit Professionals Network’s monthly enewsletter.  I’ve talked about writing for other publications before and the importance of sharing your knowledge with your target audience, and this was a perfect way to connect with peers.

ynpn logo

If you’re looking for 5 easy tools to make your life a bit easier, check out the piece here.

Follow me on Twitter: @marashorr and @theleoneco.

Follow The Leone Company on Facebook here.

 

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FREE SOFTWARE TIP: HighRise HQ

From time to time, I come across software that I love so much I just have to pass on, like YouSendIt, MailChimp, PDFtoWord, Mint and more.  Right now, that software is HighRise HQ.

I’ve signed up and adore the task management system.  As The Leone Company grows, I need to make sure my “To Do” list stays in check and, after looking from system to system, this one does the trick.  It allows me to sort by client or project, by deadline, sends me notification if I’ve passed said deadline (gasp!), has an app to keep me in check on the go, and far, far more options.  There are even features to attach notes to contacts.  Score!

Check it out here, and let me know your thoughts in the comments section.

Do you have a software or productivity tip?  I’d love to hear it!

(But on your “To Do” list? No matter your candidate of choice, make sure to vote today!)

Knowing When to Grow

When I tell you life’s been busy, that’s an incredible understatement.  In five weeks, I spent two weekends at home, with a mix of business and pleasure occupying that time.  We’ve  named my suitcase, since she’s my constant travel companion.  (Russ decided “Victoria” was appropriate, and I decided that I was too tired to brainstorm names for a green L.L. Bean product.  Victoria it is.)

I’ve been to South Florida.  I’ve been to Vegas.  I’ve been to Amelia Island.  I’m heading BACK to South Florida again soon, with possible trips to Vegas, Cape Cod and Jersey City before the summer’s over.

I’m not complaining.  As far as travel plans go, there are far, far worse places for conferences and birthday celebrations.  But ultimately, I’m looking forward to having a clear agenda for a few weeks in a row.

But I have realized, thanks to a recent post by Ali Brown, that it was time to ask for help for The Leone Company.

I’m excited to be working with a few different people, growing The Leone Company in a way that, six months ago, I wouldn’t have dreamed possible.  I have someone helping with administrative work and research, a brilliant marketing strategist assisting with projects I know are her personal strengths and another person assisting with a community relations and outreach project.  It’s an exciting time to be a business owner.

The best part?  All three of these wonderful players were already within my network.  One is a former intern from my days with the Florida Film Festival, the other two women I had met and come to admire over the past seven years as a Central Florida resident.  We’ve kept in touch, over a glass of wine or a cup of coffee, and, when I knew it was time to grow The Leone Company, I knew exactly who to reach out to.  As I have mentioned before, I never stopped networking… and neither did they.

And being able to contract out pieces of projects, or just the research that needs to be done to do a project WELL, is just the thing that is going to allow me to take on more clients and grow the business.  Because, as Gini Dietrich so brilliantly put it, I need to remember to remember to take time from working IN the business and put aside time to work ON the business.

And I’m thrilled to be growing with a great team.

3 Tips: Free Software

As a small business owner working with non-profits and small businesses, The Leone Company’s goal is always to keep costs down.  I print on the reverse side of scrap paper.  I keep electronic files as often as I can.  And I always look for free (and yes, legal) versions of software.

Three of my favorites:

PDF To Word: I discovered the program this week while editing work for a client; I’ve already fallen in love.  It does exactly what is claims to do: converts the PDF document (that you may-or-may-not have had an intern retype) into a usable Word document, and e-mails a copy directly to the specified e-mail address.

YouSendIt: Create a free account, and upload your too-large-to-send-without-clogging-up-your-boss’s-email document, presentation or high resolution photos.  A link to a secure FTP site will be sent to your e-mail address, as well as the recipient’s.  I’ve been using this gem for years.

MailChimp: Free e-mail marketing software that allows you to send up to a certain number of messages each month.  It allows you to segment lists, provides templates.. and even has a great monkey logo.  Love it.

Now give the intern something else to do instead.  But let me know your thoughts.

What free software could you not live without?

New Year’s Resolutions: Vitamins, Dishes, Lists and Happiness

Almost everyone I know has New Year’s resolutions.  Before she had her daughter, in fact, my friend Lyndsay, used to have a series of them which she grouped by category and then deadline.  If you know Lyndsay, believe me, this makes sense.

In fact, this blog was the product of a 2011 New Year’s resolution, before The Leone Company even existed, when Heather Whaling at prtini.com let me know that, like, Nike, I should “Just do it!” and get blogging already!

And so, more than a week into the new year, I’m laying mine out there.  Hold me accountable, please:

  1. Always put my dishes in the dishwasher before going to bed. (Dad, you’d be ashamed at the piles that we woke up to some mornings!)
  2. Take my vitamins every night.  (Yes, sometimes I count chewable Airborne tablets as my vitamins for the day.)
  3. Always work with clients and projects that make me happy. (Check out that rockstar list of The Leone Company’s clients here.)
  4. Keep a daily, running “To Do” list that, each day, must have items that have been crossed off.

The clients? This is more to keep me on track. I’ve been fortunate to work with a number of wonderful clients through The Leone Company this year, ranging from fundraising to community outreach to marketing projects.  Even contracts that have ended did so on a high note, and something I pride myself on.  Going into the new year, I always want to keep a focus on this.

The “To Do” list? It’s working out well!  Each day, I start out with a freshly printed list (on the reverse side of previously used paper, of course!).  A clean list makes me feel like I’m not bringing yesterday’s baggage into the next morning.  Each list has four categories:

  1. To Do: The Leone Company. (Remember my post about Dedicating Time For Company Growth?  Those are the items on this list.  Updating my website.  Working on potential new clients.  Blogging.  )
  2. To Do: Insert “Client Name” here.  Each client has their own list.  This gathers all of the social media notes, random thoughts I had in the shower, phone calls to return and tasks that require an action item in one place.
  3. To Do: Errands. Taking client packages to the post office.  Picking up dry cleaning.  And yes, even returning two lampshades to Lowe’s because, well, why not just buy three and decide on your favorite at home? (Don’t judge me.  Or my dishes.  Or the fact that I have the vitamin habits of a five-year-old.)
  4. To Do: Personal. You know what goes in this list.  Really, just send your cousins’ holiday gifts already!

After trying apps and other electronic options, I’ve found a hard copy of the list just makes me happier. But I’m always up for new things!

What are your resolutions this year? Send me a note, a tweet at @marashorr or leave a comment below!

This week, I’m a guest blogger at i.seekissimmee.com, the website for the Kissimmee Convention and Visitors’ Bureau.  Check it out!

A “P&P” Kind of Day

One thing incredibly obvious to anyone who has ever met me: I’m insanely close with my cousins.

Call each other several times a week (from three to four different states), have an annual Ladies’ Cousins’ Weekend, bridesmaids in each other’s weddings, pick pumpkins together kind of close.  I know that for some families, once the generation reaches adulthood and moves out onto their own, the close relationships “forced” upon us by our parents fade into family reunion pleasantries.

Not us.

The strange things is that we all lead incredibly different lives: the youngest turned 21 yesterday (HAPPY BIRTHDAY, RACH!), one is a high school Spanish teacher (and community theater actress) getting married this December, one proudly earned her MBA and is a stay-at-home mom of three amazing boys and one is the owner of Sassy Sweet Treats, a baked goods company that sells the best Chocolate Chunk cookies you’ll ever taste.

And this “Cookie Cousin” (with the awesomely tall bangs in the first photo and sitting to my right in the second) is who I’m thinking of as I post this blog.

Each morning (or perhaps four mornings each week), Jennie and I send a text back and forth, or, if we’re feeling in need of a bit more inspiration, a phone call, with this message: “Wishing you a P&P kind of day!”

P&P stands for Positive & Productive.

As the owner of a small business, those are two things that can make or break your day: not staying positive and losing productivity.  And, as the owner of a small business, things can sometimes get in your way.  A client doesn’t meet deadline.  Payments are late.  Meetings take far longer than you’d planned.  Or, well, this photo from Jennie late Monday morning…

But here’s my advice: Find your “Jennie.”  Find that person who wants to see you succeed, who you want to cheer for, who understands what you’re going through and will help cheer you on when one “P” slips.  Someone you can laugh with, someone you can share fantastic news with and someone who wants to share fantastic news with you.

It makes your day a whole lot better.

So, I ask: Who is your “Jennie”… your P&P Partner? 

Dedicating Time for Company Growth

Several months ago, most likely through on a recommendation from a fellow friend in the industry, I came across Spin Sucks, Gini Dietrich’s blog, coined as “Professional Development for PR and Marketing Pros.”  Instantly, I was hooked.  I subscribe and read it daily, and even found myself discussing her blog posts with fellow PR friends like we knew Gini personally.  (Okay, mainly, my friend Christina.)

But lately, one of Gini’s posts, “Working On Your Business, Not In It,” has me thinking: I need to be focusing more time on building my business while not dedicating less time to my clients.  My blog posts don’t come as frequently as they used to; there’s no good excuse for my having gone three weeks since my last post.  My website needed a bit of tweaking, things that, a month after they’d been posted, looked a bit “off” to me.  You know, a bit of light housekeeping that will make all the difference.  And maybe, just maybe, I might get around to actually using my Twitter account again one day.  (It’s @marashorr, in case that day happens soon!)

As I set out to do more, I would love suggestions.

What would YOU like to read about?  How would YOU love to see The Leone Company grow?  Feel free to leave a comment below.  

And remember… if you love this blog (which will go back to regular postings now!), send it along to a friend.  Repost it on Facebook.  Encourage your friends to sign up!  (I’m happy to pass along the favor in the future 🙂

10 iPhone Apps To Increase Productivity

I receive daily e-mails from the Orlando Business Journal.  Like any publication, some items are more relevant to my daily life than others.

Note two things about me here.  First, I don’t pay for apps for my iPhone.  (I’m not sure how, but in 2 1/2 years, I’ve never purchased an app.)  Second, I love any tool that keeps me more productive.

Keeping that in mind, I loved this article, showcasing the best in free and low cost apps, including great applications for mileage reimbursement, dictation in the car, push-to-talk-esque voicemail features and cloud computing.

Enjoy!  And, please do share below: What are the apps that keep YOU most productive?

Opportunities for Improvement

Each year, following our largest event (the Florida Film Festival, April 8-17, in which 25,000 attendees enjoy a whopping 165 films over 10 fabulous days), we ask our staff to write a series of departmental “Post Morts” following the Festival.  In theory, we all keep records of our triumphs and issues throughout the event but, without fail, life gets busy.

This year, we one of our team members, whose calm, unflustered approach to each issue is an incredible strength to all of us, suggested that, as issues arise over the 10 days, we should think of them not as problems, but as “Opportunities for Improvement.”

I love this thought process, and the phrase has resonated with the rest of our team.  So much so that our Project Manager sent us a link to a branded Wufoo form he created yesterday afternoon; we’re all now able to fill this out as soon as an “Opportunity” arises so as not to forget it once the moment passes.  With Wufoo, a free, online form builder, we’re able to bookmark the site on our mobile devices and fill out the form remotely anytime, anywhere.  (On the back end, all items can be collected into an easy-to-sort Excel document and analyzed from there.) 

Fields include:

  • Name of Person Filling Out Form
  • Location of Occurrence
  • Date and Time of Occurrence
  • Event
  • Issue
  • Resolution
  • Other Notes