TEDx Talk – WANTED: Intrapreneurs for Digital Health (2nd post)

Writing this TEDx Talk was one of the hardest things that I’ve ever done. I was speaking to an internal audience at my former employer, Eli Lilly. And, even though I am no longer with the company, there is still a soft spot in my heart for it. It is where I spent 14 wonderful years of my career doing awesome stuff, meeting and working with phenomenal people, and learning and growing my own skills and abilities.

I wanted to make sure that my TEDx Talk inspired every single person to tap their intrapreneurial selves, mobilize, and leverage all of the digital health technologies that are available to truly transform their businesses.

This is how I did it…

WANTED: Intrapreneurs for Digital Health

Have you ever sensed that you were on the pathway of being fired? Well, about mid-way through my career at Lilly, I sensed it.

Let’s just say that things weren’t copacetic with me and my boss. I really thought that I was on the verge of being escorted out.

And, the product that I was working on was decommissioned; this always happens in R&D, but it is still hard to cope with.

So, I felt that my choice was to leave Lilly or just find a job where I could lay low for awhile… and many of you know that I don’t lay low well.

A friend of mine suggested that I consider moving to a new division and she helped set up an interview.

It was a dreary rainy March afternoon. I was sitting by myself in the newly opened building 75.
My interviewer was late.

As soon as he arrived, he looks me straight in the eyes and said…
“I have done my diligence on you. I hear that you are a troublemaker and that you challenge authority. You are not always easy to work with, but you figure out how to get things done.”

Here, I am thinking… Is this an interview or am I getting fired? But then he turned it around…

“And, if you don’t continue to behave like this, then I don’t want you reporting to me.
Any questions? We good?”

And, that was it.

I honestly didn’t know what had just happened. I sat there stunned and wondering if he really meant it. Me?

Getting to do what I do and be accepted for it? That’s just crazy talk.

Even against some of my friend’s advice, I took the job.

He was true to his word…Intrapreneur

I worked with him for 5 glorious years. During that time, I came to own the fact that I am an ‘intrapreneur’.

No, that is not misspelled. Even though in Word, PowerPoint, and even in email a red squiggly line appears underneath it. It is Intrapreneur.

So, the big question is: Are you an Intrapreneur?

Are you an intrapreneur?If you answered, ‘yes’ to at least 3 of those questions… then this Talk is for you. If you answered, ‘no’, then I want you to come on a journey with me and try to find your inner-intrapreneur. Because I know that it is there…

Even though I do not have my Lilly badge anymore, I am one of Lilly’s and the pharma industries biggest fans. I have told people that I have bled the Lilly red – pantone 485. The promise of the types of innovations that you can bring to the market is so exciting!

And, I know, first hand, how hard it is to make change happen within these walls. To do things differently. I’ve had my head lopped off and my knees taken out many times. I have been told “no”, “never going to happen”, “not here at Lilly”.

I get it.

The pharma industry has a bit more responsibility than a start-up launching a photo application.

We work in a regulated environment. We have layers upon layers of SOPs and rules. We want to make sure that all risks are mitigated… People die or have bad side effects if our products are not used correctly or don’t work the way that we claim …

And, yet, we make people’s lives better through our innovations. We help survive horrible diseases and make people well. It’s pretty darn awesome.

What’s frustrating is when there are ripe opportunities to innovate, to streamline their business, and better connect or create better patient experiences, many times all I hear are the excuses why we should pass on those opportunities… hold back. Let others take the risk.

But, in this world, if you are not the one taking the risks, then the real risk is that you will not be in business in a few years. You will become obsolete. Non-competitive.

Now is the time to re-evaluate and realize the potential of all of the things that are happening in digital health.

So, what exactly is digital health?

Digital health is the intersection of health, wellness, and technology – it’s hardware devices + software + data in the sectors of health and pharmaceuticals …

Example…

Proteus. Proteus is an innovation where an RFID mechanism is embedded into a pill. Once the pill is consumed, the RFID is activated. Biometric data that is produced for the 30 minutes Proteusafter it is swallowed. How could this innovation influence the pharma sector – wouldn’t this allow for better tracking of patient adherence, both in clinical trials as well as in real life? Patients couldn’t cheat. We’d really know if they were taking their medicines… maybe our statisticians wouldn’t have so much ‘noise’ to work through… Plus, wouldn’t the biometric data help increase the understanding about how the drug is metabolized and processed by the body? Combine this data with genomic information, and would this help us to understand why some people are responders while others are not?

I could shower you with stats for digital health

Digital Health Stats

The thing is – it’s not about the idea of digital health. An idea is just an idea. Execution is the key to realizing the true value of an innovation.

And, it is going to take really smart business intrapreneurs to figure out how digital health opportunities can be realized in the pharma sector.

Why intrapreneurs? Because intrapreneurs know the business problem that needs to be solved and are willing to challenge the status quo to test new/different ways to solve the problem.

It’s not easy being an intrapreneur. But, I will gladly claim that business evolution and change happens only because of intrapreneurs. They are the secret sauce to effective organizations that evolve and change.

How do I know this? Well, I was so curious about this topic that I did my own research and documented my findings in an eBook: The Business Intrapreneur: Unsung Heroes of Corporate America.

Are you an intrapreneur?Now, I am going to share with you the 4 things that you need to do to be a successful intrapreneur. The first 3 are no brainers… :

1) Do their day job. Do it so well and without issue that when your approach your management with your digital health ideas, they don’t even flinch. You have a proven track record and they know that you will be able to handle your day job in addition to the other tasks/responsibilities. All of the people that I interviewed were high performers and had substantial internal personal equity within their organizations; they cashed in this equity to be able to innovate.

2) Invests in their ideas. Don’t just show up and say that you want to do something. Do your homework – has this idea been done before? Did it work? If so, do you want to repeat it? If not, how did it fail? Could you improve on it and make it happen? It may surprise some folks, but I always consulted with legal and regulatory advisors prior to embarking on a ‘thrill seeking’ project. I would do my homework. I would review all of the CFRs, ICHs, etc… and make sure that I understood the true boundaries that I needed to adhere too. Then, I’d outline what risks I thought I’d be taking and how I would be mitigating them. It made for more robust discussions and advice + creation of advocates for whatever I was trying to get off the ground

3) Connects with their tribes. Who are the people that ‘get’ what you want to do? Do you know people beyond your direct function? Beyond Lilly? How can they help provide input, support, or resources for the project that you are working towards?

It is the fourth item that is really intriguing:

4) Finds cover… This was an ‘a-ha’ for my research. All of the intrapreneurs that I found talked about ‘cover’ as being an essential element to their ability to operate as an intrapreneur, to innovate, and take risks… the same is true for my experiences at Lilly…

That interview that I told you about… well, He trusted me and my skills to push the boundaries. Take risks. He created a protective space for me to operate. He extended out his own reputation… for me! He’d pull me in when I may have been entering dangerous territories or pick me up and dust me off when I flat out failed.

“Cover” DOES matter.

So, Leaders, don’t just talk the talk about innovation.

Believe in your intrapreneurs, give them cover, unleash them to move this company forward.

The world around us is changing at warp speed. We cannot remain content with our current mindsets and the technologies that we are using. We need to innovation and move to the next business model… This will require strong intrapreneurs…

wantedIntrapreneursfordigitalhealthWANTED: Intrapreneurs for Digital Health

I know that many of you qualify…

So, when are you going to ‘inquire from within’ and fill this position?

Navigating Opportunities – What the heck is a lodestone?

 

Ever wondered why I named this company Lodestone Logic?

A lodestone is not just any rock. It a special rock with natural magnetic properties.

So what?

Early journeymen discovered these magnetic properties and used lodestones in their compasses. Explorers now had a way to plan their journeys, determine their exact location at any point and time during the journey, and allow for travel beyond known portions of the world, learn about new civilizations and cultures, and return home with their new knowledge, relationships, and riches.So what?

In an abstract sense, this is exactly what we hope to do for our Lodestone Logic clients through the types of services that we offer. We want to help companies understand their surroundings and where they are located in the mix, develop and execute plans tied to the opportunities that we’ve identified, and surface the anticipated value from initiating these types of activities.

We are lodestones for our clients. And, the following are just a few descriptions of the type of work that we do for them:

Business Intelligence and Strategic Planning

Our research team at Lodestone Logic can provide you with the deep-dive industry assessments you need to make the right business decisions.  We assess your competition, and help you understand the regulatory, legal, technical, funding, and market forces affecting your business.

With this knowledge in hand, we can work side by side with your leadership to run teams through our structured strategic planning method. Through it, we can help your team identify your best business opportunities, and develop relevant, actionable strategic plans to rally your company’s efforts.

Advocacy and Professional Relations

Lodestone Logic is dedicated to helping our clients lead the discussion in their market segment—and gain the strategic advantages that come with being an industry thought leader.  Our team can help you surface the right organizations, boards and conferences where your company can help advance its goals.  We can help you get your voice heard in the halls of power where data laws and healthcare policies are being debated.  And we can help you forge the right strategic alliances with trade groups, advocacy organizations and policy influencers that will move your business forward in the future.

Health Data Flows and Use

Lodestone Logic is a recognized global expert on health data flows– where health data is being generated, how it is used, where it goes, and how it is stored.  Our team has delivered projects that illuminate the health data flows generated by the patient via the Internet, social media channels, mobile phones, purchasing/transaction records, hospital electronic health records, eRX, billing and insurance company interactions.

As the trade groups, industry leaders, advocacy organizations and world governments convene to discuss the future of health data regulation and ethics, the Lodestone Logic team has been a critical facilitator and connector, planning summits and leading preparation for policy discussions and hearings.  Lodestone Logic has coordinated with organizations like the International Medical Informatics Association, the World Health Organization, American Medical Informatics Association, and the European Commission, as well as numerous healthcare providers, academic health sciences organizations, public health organizations, health insurers, patient and user representatives, and commercial businesses from the biopharmaceutical and technology industries.

Project Management and Execution

With deep expertise in project management, Lodestone Logic can help move your innovative ideas into clear, actionable, tactical execution plans.  We can help you bring together the right internal stakeholders to get the job done, as well as access the right network of qualified resources and experts to supplement your internal resources.

We can help you write sound business plans with measurable ROI, then create project plans with budgets, SWOT analysis and implementation schedules.  Best of all, we can integrate our network of partner vendors with your internal team, while managing execution, tracking and reporting on successes.

We’d love the opportunity to find ways to be your lodestone! If you are interested in learning more about what we can do for you and your organization, please contact us: contact@lodestonelogic.com!

ROAD CLOSED

I was invited to be a guest speaker at Rose-Hulman Ventures James R. Baumgardt Distinguished Speaker Series Program. Even though I am a big fan of Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, I am embarrassed to admit it, but I had never had the pleasure to visit the campus. So, when I got in my car, I booted up Google Maps and started driving.

It was an easy drive. I was cruising along and was going to get to Rose-Hulman on time. I did pass a sign that said Road Closed ahead, but I trusted Google Maps and figured that I would be turning off before that point.

Then, it happened.

The road ended.

I sat parked for a minute in total disbelief as staring at a ROAD CLOSED sign.

Yes, I could have sat there and waited for months (years?) for them to finish the construction and re-open the road. Instead, I used the resources that were readily available and quickly identified an alternate route to my destination and was only inconvenienced by a few minutes.

I realized that the mornings experience wasn’t the first road closure that I’ve dealt with. Most of the road closures were not physical like this morning, but had the same effect. I wanted to go somewhere and it was not going to happen the way that I had originally planned. Yet, not all of the closures were total and complete surprises, some were anticipated. Nonetheless, all of the closures required an adjustment to my plans.

This is where it gets exciting. Because instead of thinking about alternative routes to my original destination. In many cases, I realized that I wanted to change my plans altogether and go somewhere different…. Initiating a journey through unchartered wilderness where there are no maps, experiencing things that I would have never predicted, and arriving at destinations that are more exciting than I could have ever imagined.

What do you think? I would love to hear your experiences with ‘life’ road closures and the journeys that ensued.  Comment to this post or send me an email: keilenberg@lodestonelogic.com!

 

Being Present

I recently returned from a business meeting that I was very much looking forward to attending. While I was there, I observed that a small minority of the delegates in attendance were sitting and facing the stage actively listening to the speakers. This small group of people seemed to be “present” and paying attention. The rest of the delegates were staring at their phone or their PC doing and working on something else; they were not “present”.

Don’t get me wrong I am not throwing stones. I am one of the worst offenders of not ‘being present’.  With the ubiquity of technology, there’s always something else that I could be doing. So, the question is why do I even bother going to meetings anymore if I am not going to be truly present?

Presenteeism is a concept that I was introduced to a few years ago when I was working on a major organizational change management program. We were trying to figure out how to engage and motivate employees to actually care about their work and exceed average performance standards. The definition of presenteeism and its impact on productivity is debated, but what I distill it down to is that employees show up to work, but they are not “present”. They may be physically ill or their minds and energy are focused more on external things like personal To Do lists, children’s activities, spouses, parents, etc. The challenge for companies and organizations is to figure out how to engage and motivate employees to actually be “present” when they are on the company clock.

So, what does this have to do with my recent attendance at a meeting? I am all for multi-tasking, but do wonder about the value of physically being in a room full of phenomenal colleagues and presenters and NOT being totally present.  Should I have even gone to the meeting if I wasn’t going to be present and get the most for the time invested? In hindsight, I do believe that I may have missed many opportunities… What didn’t I learn because I was distracted by emails coming in on my phone? Who didn’t I meet because I didn’t engage with the people sitting at my table? And, ultimately, what won’t happen because I didn’t fully embrace the moment and the opportunity to influence a strategic discussion?

Being present is important and it is a choice. My commitment from this point forward is that if I am going to attend a meeting that I will “be present.” My goal is to put down my phone or PC and actually participate, engage, and get the most from that time and experience. Separately, if I am scheduling a meeting, it is my responsibility to create a dynamic agenda where the attendees feel that their primary focus should be in the meeting and not elsewhere.

Do you find yourself “not present”?  If so, have you thought about what opportunities you may be missing and what you can do to make yourself present?  Please share your thoughts by commenting below or on Twitter using the tags #presenteeism and @lodestonelogic.

Competitive Intelligence – Assessing and exploiting the business landscape

Competitive Intelligence (CI) is a key investment for most of the best business leaders. Instead of making significant business decisions based on intuition or gut, the best business leaders put time and resources towards better understanding the business landscape of opportunities. The benefits of making investments in CI directly correlate with one’s ability to exploit opportunities.

CI can be both internally and externally focused. Many large organizations have so many irons in the fire that few know the full extent of the activities and investments that are underway. By using CI tactics internally, business leaders become more aware of the organization and are able to more effectively navigate internal channels, connecting and sharing resources with other business leaders, and optimizing existing activities and investments.

CI of the external business landscape can be overwhelming. Where does one start? The key to successful CI is focus. Scope creep will kill the best CI efforts. When CI is initiated, the projects need to be clearly defined by objective and by time. CI is only valuable if it informs and facilitates better business decisions, so timely production of CI findings is essential.

Some CI projects may evolve into ‘surveillance’ efforts once business leaders see the initial value of continuing to collect and analyze specific business landscape elements. This is good, but do not assume that all CI projects will lead to ongoing surveillance; some topics are finite. When CI projects shift into surveillance, business leaders should ensure that reporting expectations are established; no one wants activity happening if it is not generating information or knowledge that can be used.

From experience, CI is not rocket science. Yet, not everyone can do good CI. It requires a level of domain expertise then a competency in doing research, aggregating disperse data, and being able to do an analysis to surface the valuable bits and pieces.

Snapshot of survey results – 2012 conference attendance and spend

In October 2012, Lodestone Logic sponsored a survey to generate insights about the time and money that our readers of The Navigator invested to attend conferences in 2012.  As we promised, here is a  snapshot of the survey results.
graph2v2

47.9% of respondents reported that compared to 2011, their conference attendance has stayed the same.We were interested in gaining insight into how many days and how much money was invested in conferences by individuals and companies each year.  44.5% of the respondents attend 4 or more conferences per year. 64% invest more than 5 days participating in conferences.
Graph1v2

70% of respondents rely on their employer to pay travel and registration costs for conferences.  Respondents also reported that they primarily learned about these conferences via an email advertisement, a referral from a colleague or friend, or by receiving an invitation from conference organizers.

From a cost breakdown standpoint, 74% of respondents spend more than $1,001 on registration fees and 46% of respondents spend more than $3,000 on travel, hotel, and other expenses to attend the conferences.

Based on this data, it is clear that individuals and companies are making a considerable financial investment in attending conferences each year.

Our readers were most interested in the following conference categories or topics:

1.  Pharmaceuticals
2.  Healthcare
3.  Healthcare Information Technology (HIT)
4.  eHealth/Digital Health
5.  Leadership

We have used these survey results to ensure that we are including relevant and meaningful content and conferences for our readers. The results have also informed the development of a business intelligence product and service. This product is currently in beta test with the plan to launch later this year. If you are interested in learning more and potentially being a beta test user, please send an email to contact@lodestonelogic.com.

NCAA March Madness: Competing at the highest level

It’s NCAA Tournament time, also known as March Madness in the States. Fortunately, my Michigan State Spartans make it the Tourney more times than not.  And, I proudly wear my MSU collegiate gear for the duration. I love the energy, the drama, and the Cinderella teams – Go MSU and Florida Gulf Coast!

The reality is that whenever I watch competitive sports, I see an organization and a team doing whatever it takes to win. Day in and day out. They leave it all out of the court, field, ice, etc*… I could throw out all of the sports analogies, but I think that it’s obvious what I am trying to say. The teams that are showing up for the NCAA Tournament are competing at the highest level possible.

I’ve lived and survived in many different organizations throughout my career. Fortunately, due to my lack of athletic prowess, typical businesses do not physically battle it out on a field or court daily. However, with the sheer number of consistencies between the competitive aspects of sports and business, it’s easy to learn from sports and apply it directly to business.

Like sporting events, business organizations are competing with other businesses. Business leaders have varied resources at their disposal (eg capital, tools, and resources).  Statistics and past performance has a direct impact on which team members are put in the game versus sitting the bench. And, networks and relationships with colleagues positively impact a leader’s ability to navigate towards the goal; drive through the lane and simplify the steps required to get real work done. All of these things have a direct influence on a leaders ability to attract and recruit top talent that would further enhance specific assets and/or fill skill gaps of the team.

To that end, business organizations, like sports teams, should be constantly evaluating if they are competing at the highest level and are aiming to win. The perpetual annual cycles of strategic planning or talent assessment are no longer sufficient to win. Good coaches and business leaders are continuously evaluating and answering the following types of questions:

  • What does winning look like? Are we focused and shooting for the right nets/goal posts? How do we measure and quantify it?
  • Who are we competing against?
  • What are their strengths and weaknesses?
  • Do we have the right talent to play and win against our competitor(s)?
  • What is our team’s readiness level? Who’s playing which position?
  • What type of training needs to be conducted regularly to ensure preparedness to play and win? What type of specialized training needs to be available for unique skills and competencies?
  • What resources are available to care for essential needs of the team (e.g. supervisory staff, assistants, technology (PCs, phones, etc), etc.)?
  • Do we have enough of the right shots on goal to win? (TEASE: this will be a blog post on its own!)
  • Are we winning? If yes = celebrate! If no = why?

An organization’s competitiveness is truly based on the diligence they have in managing the timeliness and effectiveness of the assessments. They can happen in cycles over days, weeks, months, or in milli-seconds. Doing assessments are not about ticking the box and completing a task. Business competitiveness and winning lies in the decisions made and actions taken after each assessment is completed. When organizations commit to being this aware about themselves and others continuously, it truly is a winning proposition and delivers results!

Are you doing these kinds of assessments and evaluations? If so, what strategic questions should I have included?  If you think that you could be doing much more with regards to completing these types of assessments, touch base with us at Lodestone Logic and we will figure out a way to help you out!

 

* I have always been an enthusiastic fan of many different types of sports. However, sometimes my sports references are not always quite right. So, apologies for probably totally biffing and messing up on the sports metaphors and slang included in this blog post.

Attitude Matters

There are many reasons why I love working with the Lodestone Logic team. The primary one is because of their attitude. Working with them is the most amazing experience of my career. We are a startup and the ground is always shifting beneath our feet. Yet, time and time again they jump into the fray and do whatever it takes.

One of our key team members is Jenn Wood. Jenn has been on this journey with me before Lodestone Logic even existed. We met when we were both at a pharmaceutical company working on the launch of an internal platform for employees to use video blogs and presentations to improve collaboration and inter-departmental/affiliate communications. It truly was an ‘against all odds’ type of endeavor, but we did it. As I was transitioning the project to the new owner/sponsor, Jenn said to me that if I ever started my own company, that she’d come work for me. Starting my own company was so far from my mind, that I just thanked her and said something like, “Sure, if that ever happens.” It’s like she could foresee the future!

Fast forward about 2 years. I re-connected with Jenn and reminded her of what she had said before about working for me. Even though she was gainfully employed, she agreed to work a few hours each week doing basic administrative stuff. Much to my surprise, a few months later, she quit her job and picked up more hours with Lodestone Logic.

Jenn never ceases to amaze me. I have lost count of the things that I have asked her to do; the whole gambit from little simple to big complicated tasks. Each time she accepts the challenge and has never been deterred. Even in the midst of craziness, she is able to ebb and flow and still hammers away at whatever is the priority. Her approach and attitude to her work is so refreshing. My biggest conundrum is not swamping her with too many responsibilities.

During today’s Lodestone Logic team meeting we were discussing a new potential opportunity. Jenn throws up her arms yells out, “I’m all in!”

At that moment, I realized that this IS what Lodestone Logic is all about.

Every single one of us are ‘all in’.

Every day we apply our energy, skills, and abilities to transform healthcare and make things happen that others thought were impossible. Our attitude matters; it has a direct effect on how we work with each other and deliver services to our clients.

Now, thanks to Jenn we have motto that truly reflects who we are. And, thanks to our friend and co-conspirator, Michele Steele, we have a fun logo to represent it.

We love being and working with people like ourselves. If you are ‘all in’, reach out and let us know!

The Innovation Conundrum

Corporate America is searching for the single answer that will solve all of its woes with regards to innovation. Yet, there is an obvious internal blind spot when it comes to innovation.

Innovation and innovative assets already exist within these companies, but they are underutilized or untapped for their potential.  The asset is their own employees that are true intrapreneurs.

So, what is an intrapreneur? These are unique employees that have some of the following characteristics. They:

  1. Believe in the mission and cause of the company
  2. Make sense of complex things to develop strategic, yet very concrete ideas that will transform the way that the company is doing its business.
  3. Develop and nurture a robust network – both within the company and outside the company spanning to the direct competitors and other industries and sectors.
  4. Get things done.

There’s no doubt about it, based on these traits, intrapreneurs are management’s dream of the ideal employee. Yet, intrapreneurs are rarely leveraged to help transform the company.

Instead, intrapreneurs are usually recognized as the ‘problem children’ by management (and HR).

Why?

Typically intrapreneurs are the employees are difficult to manage because they have a bigger perspective about the business, which generates ideas, and suggestions about how to do things differently. They push their direct line management to initiate new projects and work that may be in direct conflict with the status quo. They are considered ‘cage rattlers’ and ‘boat rockers’ because sometimes they lack patience and tack. They like to be involved in ‘new’ things; if their direct line management denies their ideas and requests, they will still pursue them through other internal channels. Even though they are being recognized as delivering on the projects for other teams and functions, there are times when intrapreneurs struggle to do their ‘boring’ job responsibilities.

So, instead of intrapreneurs being recognized for their abilities, they are usually ‘coached’ to be like everyone else and do their written job description. If they continue to show their intrapreneur characteristics, the result is demotions, firings, or the decision to leave for another company where their intrapreneurial traits are encouraged and recognized in a positive manner (in many cases, it is to a direct competitor) .

It’s a serious conundrum. Intrapreneurs are the employees that are out on a ledge and are not accepting of the status quo. They are willing to take risks and initiate projects that they believe will create a more promising future for the company. But, because most organizations struggle with innovation and change, the intrapreneurs create internal friction. So, companies and organizations that want to be innovative NEED these employees to do what they do. The challenge is to identify these intrapreneurs, channel their energy, drive for tangible results, and recognize them for the contributions that they make.

As many people know, I wholeheartedly believe that intrapreneurs are the key to true transformation of the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries. As such, I am an advocated for intrapreneurs and have invested time researching and learning about this particular employee population.

If you want to learn more about the intrapreneur research, findings, and detailed profiles, then check out the e-book, The Business Intrapreneur: Unsung Heroes of Corporate America (http://www.ebookit.com/books/0000001789/The-Business-Intrapreneur-Profiles-of-Unsung-Heroes-of-Corporate-America.html?LLblogpost ), add a comment to this blog post, or send me an email: keilenberg@lodestonelogic.com.

Essential Business Tools for a Small Business

I was less than five minutes away from finishing the mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving and my hand mixer started smoking. This mixer has been there for me for the past two decades. Yet, as it started to smoke, I was not reminiscing. I was panicking. We needed to be at my mother-in-law’s house in 45 minutes… if the mixer, my essential tool for that particular meal died, what was my Plan B?

The good news is that the mixer survived long enough to do its job and Thanksgiving was not impacted. However, the potential fail experience with the mixer gave me perspective about the essential business tools that we rely on every day at Lodestone Logic. If we did not have them, I can guarantee that we would be panicking.

 

 

Google Business Apps

Google provides a suite of business and efficiency tools for companies. The free version that we use is for a small company of <10 users. I am sure that we are not tapping the full potential of this tool, but the most important elements is that we all have emails with the @lodestonelogic.com domain and can share a company calendar. It’s free up to 10 seats/users.  We are also using Google Analytics and Google Insights to support our website management and development.

(UPDATE: Google Apps sent an email the week after this blog was posted that this service would only be available for a per seat charge. Sorry entrepreneurs and start-ups!)

 

Toggl

This allows for time tracking of individual tasks by team member, project, and client. We tried to do all of this in Excel and it wasn’t pretty or sustainable long term. The free version of Toggl allows for up to 5 accounts, but limits functionality regarding tracking and calculating costs per project. It has web and mobile interfaces and is able to use Google permissions for account authentication/use purposes.

 

DropBox

No more emailing of documents and being out of sync with the one-true-current version. DropBox is an awesome “cloud-based” tool for document sharing between team members and clients. A user can get up to 2GB of storage space for no cost; even though Google Docs offers more storage space, we found that it’s extremely painful to create, share, update MS Office docs and wouldn’t recommend it. DropBox syncs with PC/Mac file management systems so that documents automatically save locally so they are accessible offline and have archived versions available in DB if there’s issues. The one downside is that DB does not notify the user if/when someone else is working in a document; this has created several instances of having to do re-work because team members saved over each other’s work and the last person out of the document is the only version that DB recognizes.

 

MailChimp

This is a major efficiency tool for our email campaigns and communications. It allows us to upload our contact lists and segregate them into specific campaign groups.  We are able to efficiently target our email communications to individuals for whom the information is most relevant. In addition, we also take advantage of their email templates to design our communications to match our company or our client’s branding. The only downside is that the free version of MailChimp forces their branding on the footer of the email template; we pay for the upgrade.  Their intuitive social media tools allow us to seamlessly integrate our email campaigns into social media tactics.

 

TweetDeck and Hootsuite

The Lodestone Logic team has differences of opinions on these Twitter tools, but we all realize that both improve our overall ability to tweet and monitor the Twittersphere. TweetDeck and Hootsuite are free and allow users to integrate company and personal social media accounts; which could be dangerous if the user tweets to the wrong account. We probably do not leverage either of these tools to their fullest extent, but from the preference standpoint, TweetDeck is better for tracking multiple threads of key words and hashtags at the same time. Hootsuite allows us to schedule and time tweets.

 

From a small business perspective, time is money. So, identifying and leveraging essential technology and tools that will drive for efficiency and productivity does matter. We would highly recommend all of the ones that we have highlighted in this blog post. If you want more information about our experiences or if you know of tools that we should consider, please comment on the post or send us an email to contact@lodestonelogic.com.