Snore: 5 Ways to Remain Productive in Boring Meetings

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As an early careerists you may find that your boss wants you to attend many meetings, some of which are boring or irrelevant to your assigned work duties. Well, I have some news for you; and that is attending these meetings is often part of the socialization process for young employees.  Your boss wants to expose you to these meetings because a lot of knowledge, information, and content are shared that can help you grow within the company. But you can’t grow if you’re not awake and attentive.

To avoid dozing off or being labeled as a rude youngster who goofs off on their smartphone during meetings, take advantage of the tips below.

  • Get involved by asking questions. Speak up and ask basic questions that will help you stay awake and follow the meeting. You’ll notice that the more you talk and engage others, the more attentive you’ll be.
  • Write things down. Take notes. Not only does this help you follow the meeting, it also helps you stay occupied since you’ll be writing.
  • Make observations to learn about the company’s culture. Observe as much as you can so you can become more knowledgeable about the culture within your work climate. As a result, you’ll pick up on nuggets of information that will be helpful to you in the future.
  • Chew gum or drink caffeine. Chewing gum or drinking caffeine can give you a stimulation boost. Go to your meetings prepared.
  • Take a quick break. In most instances, it’s OK for you to excuse yourself from the meeting for a couple of minutes to run to the restroom or for a water break. Use this break to walk away for a little bit to gain some energy.

Be mindful that since you’re young, some of your older colleagues will be looking at you with great scrutiny, even during meetings. Consequently, you have to always be at the top of your game so you can demonstrate that you’re competent and qualified to be employed by the company. Use these career tips to help you learn, grow, and become recognized as a young leader on the rise.

Antoine Moss, Ph.D., (@2PositiveTweets) is a nationally recognized resource on internships, early career achievement, leadership and motivation. CEO and founder of CEO Style Consulting L.L.C., Moss empowers professionals and organizations to reach their full potential, and serves as speaker, workshop instructor and consultant. The author of Learn to Intern CEO Style, Moss has been a featured expert on outlets including Fox 8 TV News and George Fraser’s 2011 Power Networking Conference.

CloudOn Productivity App Now Available on More Devices

CloudOn, the free productivity app that gives users access to Microsoft Office on their mobile devices, just introduced a new version that works on a number of new devices and integrates more third party tools.

Until now, CloudOn has mainly been used on tablet devices, but version 3.0 of the mobile app is also available on iPhones, iPad Mini, and Nexus 7 devices.

In addition, the new app offers support for Microsoft SkyDrive, along with existing support for other applications and tools like Dropbox, Box, and Google Drive.

Of course, the main draw of CloudOn is that it gives users access to the Microsoft Office suite while on the go, so that editing documents, spreadsheets, and presentations doesn’t have to take place within the confines of an actual office.

The photo above shows the main dashboard on the iPhone app, as well as an example of editing an Excel spreadsheet in the app, which includes all the same Excel features you’re used to seeing on more traditional devices.

Cloud technology has made collaboration between team members infinitely easier. But the introduction of mobile technology into workplace culture has complicated things a bit, since not all of the same tools and applications are available on mobile devices as they are on traditional workplace computers.

So instead of just hosting files in the cloud, CloudOn stores applications there so that they can be used on a variety of different devices. But rather than introducing you to a new cloud storage solution or brand new applications, CloudOn specializes in giving you access to the applications you and your team already use.

This new version simply makes it easier for even more users to take advantage of the productivity app, meaning they can access tools and files from their mobile devices without having to actually upload the files to a new storage service or applications.

The app was originally introduced in January, when it was made available for just iPad users. To date, it has been downloaded onto more than 3 million devices. It is currently available for free in both the App Store and Google Play.

The post CloudOn Productivity App Now Available on More Devices appeared first on Small Business Trends.

Fiscal Cliff Deal May Extend Tax Cuts

Maya MacGuineas, head of the Washington-based Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, talks about negotiations in Washington to avert the so-called fiscal cliff of tax increases and spending cuts. She speaks with Tom Keene and Sara Eisen on Bloomberg Television’s “Surveillance.”

Lawmakers are seeking to avert more than $600 billion in tax increases and spending cuts that make up the so-called fiscal cliff. Even if a deal is reached and can get through both chambers of Congress, it would be more limited than President Barack Obama and leaders of both parties sought. It would set up another battle early in 2013 over the budget and the federal debt limit.

Some Senate Democrats expressed resistance toward an income threshold for increased tax rates that would be higher than the $250,000 they sought.

Read more at Bloomberg

“Rescue Me” Singer, Fontella Bass, Dies at 72

Singer Fontella Bass,  who scored a 1965 hit, “Rescue Me,” died last Wednesday at the age of 72. According to her daughter, Neuka Mitchell, she died in St. Louis from complications of a recent heart attack.

Ms. Bass stated that she helped write “Rescue Me” and was deprived of credit and songwriting royalties. After hearing Rescue Me in an American Express commercial in the 90s, she began to press for remuneration for her work and sued American Express in 1993, and received a significant settlement.

“It was as if the Lord had stepped right into my world,” she told Newsweek in 1995. “I looked around and got back my royalties. I started to go to church every Sunday. And that’s what saved me.”

Read the full story on The New York Times

5 Reasons Writers Ignore Your Pitch

As a small business, you’re always trying to win media coverage and build buzz about your brand. To do so you’re creating media and blogger lists to help you reach out to folks and let them know about what you’re up to.

But are your efforts falling flat?

Below are 5 reasons reporters may just be ignoring your pitch:

There’s No Relationship

The first time you reach out to someone shouldn’t be to ask for a favor or a mention on their blog. It should be to help them and address their needs. Pitching someone for media coverage when you don’t have some level of pre-existing relationship is going to be an uphill battle. This is why it’s so important to identify media contacts EARLY and then dedicate time to getting on their radar. Maybe you first reach out via Twitter in a way that solves their problem. Or you start strategically commenting on their blog. Or you give them a shoutout by highlighting their expertise to your readers. Taking the time to build that relationship before you need it is Rule 1 of online networking and will help ensure your pitch gets read.

You Pretend Your BFFs

If you have a close relationship with someone, it’s okay to reference that in your pitch email. In fact, it would be kind of weird if you didn’t. However, if you don’t know someone that well (or at all) don’t try to fake it in the email. Sometimes because we’re nervous or because we want to come off as “friendly” or “conversational” we take too many casual liberties when addressing someone. We call them by nicknames we see others using. Or we reference information we’ve stalked online. Or we simply don’t give them the respect they deserve. For a blogger or reporter, this is a serious turnoff and may actually cause them to believe you’re mocking them. Not a good way to start a new relationship.

Impersonal Emails

While you don’t want to pretend to be buddy-buddy, you also don’t want to send an email that reads like an ad in the Yellow Pages. Do your homework before you pitch someone so you’re able to target it as much as possible to their interests.

Take the time to:

  • Learn the reporter’s name
  • Get an understanding of what they cover on their blog
  • Learn their tone
  • Get to know their audience and who they are
  • Check for information about HOW they like to be pitched/contacted

Once you have all this information you can craft a message that is customized for them and speaks to their audience and interests. An email that is properly targeted will always win out over one that is not.

There’s No WIIFM

We’re all busy. For us to take time out of day we need to know WIIFM – What’s In It For Me? What will trying your product or recommending your service get me? How will it make me look like a hero to my audience? How will it make their jobs or lives easier? Because that’s what I’m after. I only care about your product when I know how it will benefit my audience.

When you’re laying out the WIIFM, don’t just list off the ins and outs of your product or brag about its latest and greatest feature. Focus on pitching the story. We don’t care that your oven cooks food 20 minutes faster than other ovens. We care that we can use those 20 minutes to spend time with our families or to read our kid a book. That’s the WIIFM. It’s not about the product. It’s about the story.

Insulting the Blogger

Be careful when talking to bloggers and other media to make sure you’re giving them the respect they deserve. You want to avoid things like:

  • Assuming you know their audience better than they do
  • Offering money for a post right off the bat
  • Offering an exclusive when you’re pitching other outlets
  • Belittling their professionally (accidentally or intentionally)

Often times these things happen accidentally simply because we’re not careful with our words or the phrases that we use. Take extra time to read through your pitch email to make sure you’re not stepping on any toes or writing something that could possibly offend.

We all need to pitch bloggers and reporters from time to time to help our brand build awareness. Taking the time to craft our pitches properly can greatly increase your odds of getting read.

The post 5 Reasons Writers Ignore Your Pitch appeared first on Small Business Trends.

Atlanta-Area Counties Sue HSBC for Predatory Lending

Three Atlanta-area counties have filed a lawsuit against the British bank HSBC claiming HSBC aggressively signed minorities in their municipalities to housing loans that were likely to fail, adversely affecting their tax base, the Huffington Post reports.

Fulton, DeKalb and Cobb counties say the practices of HSBC has caused them tremendous damage.

“It’s not only the personal damage that was done to people in our communities,” said DeKalb County Commissioner Jeff Rader. “That has a ripple effect on our tax digest and the demand for public services in these areas.”

Read more at the Huffington Post.

Stores Recall Nap Nanny Chairs After 5 Deaths

Four major retailers are recalling the “Nap Nanny” device, a portable recliner for infants, after the Consumer Product Safety Commission reported 70 complaints, including 5 deaths, ABC News reports.

The company that makes the Nap Nanny refused to recall the product themselves, but, Buy Buy Baby, and Toys “R” Us/Babies “R” Us previously agreed to stop selling the product, and are now offering customers a chance to return the device.

On its website, Toys “R” Us said, “Consumers should stop using this product immediately and return the product to your nearest Toys ‘R’ Us/Babies ‘R’ Us for a refund or store credit.”

Read more at ABC News.

3 Strategies for Cutting Costs on Business Insurance

Buying insurance is a necessary expenditure for your business. Some types of insurance – such as commercial auto insurance – may be required by law for you to purchase. Other insurances protect your business, your employees, and your own personal finances should an accident or other damages be incurred against your business.

Not all insurance policies are the same; and not all insurance companies are going to charge you the same rates. In order to save money on your business insurance, you need to review your coverage requirements, find ways to trim any unnecessary insurance costs, and look for the best deals in a variety of places.

Review Your Coverage

If it’s been a while since you examined your current policy, then take the time to carefully do so. Your business insurance needs may have changed since the day you purchased the policy, leaving you either under-insured or overpaying for coverage you don’t need.

  • Request a quote for your insurance needs from several different insurance companies.  If your current provider doesn’t offer the lowest price, show them the competitor’s quote and ask them to match it. Many agencies would rather give you a deal than lose your business altogether.
  • Remember to plan ahead to make sure that your insurance will cover your business today, as well as in the year ahead. If you plan on hiring more employees or adding to your truck fleet, your insurance needs will change.

Trim Excesses

Haggling and playing companies off each other only works so well at reducing your premiums. In order to cut costs even further, you should re-examine your insurance needs, prioritize important items, and trim the excess.

  • Take an inventory of your property and assets and determine their value, or how much it would cost to replace everything new. Now estimate the replacement costs if you replaced all of your equipment with used items. How does that difference in value affect the cost of your insurance premium?
  • One sure-fire way to instantly lower your insurance premiums is to increase your deductible – the amount of replacement costs you have to pay out-of-pocket before your insurance company pays for the rest. Only increase your deductible to the amount you can afford to pay up-front should an emergency occur.
  • Sometimes your liability insurance can be lowered if you install safety improvements on your property. Increasing safety decreases liability risks, so ask if your insurance carrier will lower your premium if you install safety features.

Look for Deals

There are several ways you can obtain special deals on your insurance premiums that can lower your total cost of insurance.

  • If you purchase your commercial auto insurance, property insurance, liability insurance, and other types of coverage all through the same insurer, you may qualify for a better rate than if you source your coverage from several different companies.
  • Purchasing your policies all from the same insurer can also reduce your rates if you officially bundle your insurance coverage in a Business Owners Policy. These pre-packaged policies include many of the insurances that your business needs, and may or may not be customizable (depending on the insurance company).
  • You can source group insurance rates from trade organizations, credit unions, veterans associations, and more. Check your membership details to find out if you qualify for reduced rates.

Whatever kind of policy you choose be sure that it still provides all the coverage your business needs. Adding riders to your insurance to increase your coverage amounts can also increase your premiums, reducing the cost-effectiveness of your so-called deal.

Megan Webb-Morgan is a web content writer for B2B lead generation resource, ResourceNation. She writes about small business, focusing on topics such as business sales. Follow Resource Nation on Google+ and Twitter, too!

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Top Venture Capital Deals of 2012

Attendees at the Frankfurt Auto Show check out the Fisker Karma in October 2011.

The year featured major investments in exciting new technology companies, from business software makers, biofuel farmers–and one troubled electric carmaker.

The past twelve months didn’t offer the rush of new venture capital funding many had hoped for. Indeed, a lack of major acquisitions and the high-profile slumps of Facebook’s and Groupon’s public offerings put a damper on investors’ appetite for venture-funded deals, says Tracy Lefteroff, global managing partner of PricewaterhouseCoopers venture capital practice. “We didn’t see many deals where venture guys were fighting to get in. You didn’t see that frothy activity.”

The year will end up with about the same number of deals as 2011, says director Justin Byers. “It’s been pretty steady…we’re waiting to see what happens with the economy.”

Still, the year featured major investments in exciting new technology companies, from business software makers, biofuel farmers–and one very troubled electric carmaker. Here are seven of the biggest.

No. 7 – Box

The details:

Financing Round: $125 million
Based: Palo Alto, California
Date Announced: July 31, 2012
Lead Investors: General Atlantic, Bessemer Venture Partners, DFJ Growth, New Enterprise Associates, SAP Ventures, Scale Venture Parnters, Social+Capital Partnership

Box helps employees at companies from Procter & Gamble to the San Francisco Giants organization access computer files in one centralized, cloud-based location. But the company’s CEO, Arie Levie, sees it doing more than just helping people manage files across their various computers-;he wants Box to be the primary platform employees use to work and communicate with one another over the internet. Also, he’s said he’d like the company to IPO in 2013.

No. 6 – Deezer

The details:

Financing round: $130 million
Based: Paris, France
Date Announced: October 6, 2012
Lead Investors: Access Industries, Idinvest

Can 6 million French users and $130 million be wrong? Deezer, a streaming music service that lets people listen to music free with ads, or subscribe for a monthly fee, has attracted over 26 million users in 160 countries–but has yet to enter the U.S. So far it has avoided the world’s largest music market, opting to stake a claim in smaller, less competitive territories. Now, according to a recent report from the Wall Street Journal, the company is ready to cross the Atlantic, and is seeking a partner to launch in America, and face off against its biggest rival, Spotify.

No. 5 – Sapphire Energy

The details:

Financing round: $139 million
Based: San Diego, California
Date Announced: April 2, 2012
Lead Investors: Arrowpoint Partners, Monsanto

On manmade ponds in New Mexico, Sapphire Energy grows algae that it converts into oil. In this latest investment, the company’s Series C round, it announced it had the backing of agriculture and genetics giant Monsanto. By 2014, the biofuel company believes it can produce 1.5 million gallons of this “Green crude” on 300 acres of ponds.

No. 4 – Square

The details:

Financing round: $200 million
Reported Valuation: $3.25 billion
Based: San Francisco, California
Date Announced: September 17, 2012
Lead Investors: Citi Ventures, Rizvi Traverse Management, Starbucks Coffee Company

Mobile payments are the latest battleground between disruptive start-ups and established behemoths (in this case, big banks, American Express, and PayPal). Upstart Square, which lets business owners process payments with just a swipe of a credit card through its diminutive iPhone attachment, added $200 million to its war chest–and gained a new ally: Coffee chain Starbucks, which invested $25 million, will now accept Square payments from its caffeine-addled customers.

No. 3 – Intarcia Therapeutics

The details:

Financing round: $210 million ($160 million in equity, $50 million in private debt)
Based: Boston, Massachusetts
Date Announced: November 15, 2012
Lead Investors: Fidelity Investments, Baupost Group, Farallon Capital Management, New Enterprise Associates, New Leaf Venture Partners, and Venrock

To fund research for its promising Type II diabetes treatment, biopharmaceutical start-up Intarcia skipped big pharma companies and sought private money instead. The investment will fund Phase 3 clinical trials for the implantable device, which, if proven effective, could regulate glucose levels for up to 12 months at a time–paving the way for the drug to go on sale as early as 2016.

No. 2 – SquareTrade Inc.

The details:

Financing round: $238 million
Based: San Francisco, California
Date Announced: January 25, 2012
Lead Investors: Bain Capital Partners

Did you crack your iPhone screen? Or, have you accidentally throw your Nintendo Wii controller out the window? If you’d purchased a warranty from SquareTrade, which sells coverage on those products, as well as many sold on eBay and, the 13 year-old company would have you covered. The company’s massive funding round–the largest awarded this year–came after it doubled sales in 2011. The money will go to helping it further expand its warranty business. When the deal was announced it said it expected sales to double again in 2012.

No. 1 – Fisker Automotive

The details:

Financing round: $392 million
Based: Anaheim, California
Date Announced: April 2, 2012
Lead Investors: Advanced Equities, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, New Enterprise Associates

After the U.S. Department of Energy froze the electric carmaker’s $528.7 million loan, citing operational failures, the company sought private investments to complete construction of its hybrid-electric car factory. The company has continued to struggle with everything but funding: It has gone through three CEOs this year, issued a recall for its cars’ Lithium Ion battery, and experienced a further setback in May when Consumer Reports reported the Karma it tested immediately broke down.

Data: PwC MoneyTree Report, Thomson Reuters