Davinci Virtual Blog



Deals on Facebook or StartupBuys.com? Try Them Both.

Have you heard the latest buzz about Facebook? The social media giant is pushing out a Groupon competitor. Why not? They have 500 million reasons to give it a shot (in fact, they have 500 million members around the world.)

“While many Deals on Facebook offer discounts, it's more important to us that you find interesting experiences around you to do with friends,” says Emily White, director of local at Facebook. “We've worked with partners and local businesses to help deliver the best social activities in your area. And once you've found a deal you like, having the deal on Facebook makes it easy to share, buy and plan with your friends.”

Still, this is in a limited roll out. That means your small business can’t get involved just yet. But you can get involved in another new Groupon-like venture that’s launching in all 50 states. The site is called StartupBuys.com and it aims straight at the heart of the small business owner that’s trying to find new customers.

"Most other group coupon sites usually take anywhere from 50 percent to 90 percent of each coupon sale. We realize that it's hard enough for a new, small business to succeed. That's why we don't take any portion of the proceeds from any coupon offerings by our members," says Kerry Blackman, founder of StartupBuys.com. "Unlike other group coupon sites, we charge only a small, monthly membership fee—and the first six months are free to try out. We don't even ask for a credit card to sign up."

Sounds promising, doesn’t it? Here’s how it works: The business has to be less than four years old. If that’s you, you can sell coupons from the site. The revenues go to your PayPal accounts immediately. You can track the views and sales of your coupons, and even see contact information of the buyers. On the flip side, the site offers vendors and suppliers with small business-oriented goods and services.

On top of all this, there is a social networking component to the site. You can post your business sourcing needs and offerings, use a forum to connect, network, form groups, participate in Q&A and otherwise communicate with each other and suppliers to them, for advice, sharing of know-how, experiences and information, post relevant business events to promote their businesses, and even post jobs.

What do  you think? Worth trying? Or are  you going to stick with Groupon?

Amex Contest Offers Big Break From Facebook

Does your small business need a big break? American Express Open just launched the “Facebook Big Break for Small Business.”

It’s a national contest that aims to help transform the way small businesses use Facebook to connect and engage with customers. What does that transformation look like? More authentic and more personal. Of course, it takes a little practice.

That’s why American Express OPEN is footing the bill for hands-on training at Facebook headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif. Five small businesses will win a two-day in-depth, one-on-one business makeover. Oh, AMEX is also offering a cool $20,000 in cash to drive your social media strategy forward.

"Small business owners are experts at customer engagement, but the tools and techniques for finding and engaging customers are quickly evolving," says Julie Fajgenbaum, vice president of Brand and Customer Marketing at American Express OPEN. "It's critical that business owners understand these new channels and platforms, which is why we are collaborating with Facebook to educate on the benefits of engaging customers through social media and provide real, tangible tips on how to do it effectively."

What should you expect? If you win, you’ll be tutored on how to maximize the power of Facebook to better market your businesses, products and services to existing and new customers alike. This is practical and personal training on best practices for using Facebook Pages, Ads and Social Plugins.

But don’t worry if you don’t win… Everybody who enters will get to see the training as documented on OPEN’s Facebook Page and the OPEN Forum. You can also tap into a slew of “how to” videos. And even if you don’t win, you could still walk away with $2,500 in Facebook advertising to help you target new customers.

Nearly half of small businesses said they use social networking sites to communicate with customers and market their products, according to the latest results from the semi-annual American Express OPEN Small Business Monitor. This represents a substantial increase from 2009, when only one-in-ten respondents reported actively using social networking sites. Facebook is the most popular social media site for small business owners, according to the 2011 survey.

"Facebook is committed to the success of small businesses," says Adele Cooper, director of Global Customer Marketing and Communications at Facebook. "Using Facebook, a business can find new customers, let their customers recommend and share information about their business, and create loyalty by hosting an ongoing two-way conversation. This word-of-mouth-marketing is unique to Facebook and allows businesses to create a more personal and engaging relationship with their customers."

Here’s how to enter: Visit http://www.facebook.com/OPEN and submit answers to a short questionnaire describing how you would use the competition's winnings to better their business. During the first round of judging, 10 small business finalists will be selected by a panel of judges. Each submission will be judged based on the following criteria:

•    Commitment to their business and growth;
•    Overall social media need where Facebook could improve their business;
•    Energy and enthusiasm for small business.

Finalists will then compete in a final round of judging where OPEN Facebook fans will be asked to vote for their five favorite small businesses to win the trip to Facebook and $20,000 prize.

Career Change Is Inevitable. Are You Ready?

Is your career changing? If you are like the majority of people in the workforce today, the answer is probably yes. Companies thrive on change, and most change very quickly.

But how are you handling your change? Are you going with it, or hoping that you can ride it out? Or, are you wishing that your change would go away?

Change is not easy for most people. We like our routines and want to know what is coming our way. Change throws us off course. It makes us think and makes us do more work. Change forces us to look at ourselves and come up with a new plan or perspective. Change adds fear and uncertainty to our lives. The truth is we just don't like it very much.

But change is inevitable in your career. Maybe it's a new boss that you weren't expecting. Or, a new job or career. Maybe your industry is going away or your company is closing. Maybe your skills are not needed anymore. Whatever the change, you have a decision to make. Either bury your head in the sand or tackle it head on.

So How Can You Effectively Handle Change In Your Career? Follow These 4 Steps Below.

1. Don't Wait Until It's Too Late

You know what I mean. You see change coming, but you believe it won't affect you. So, you go along your merry way and then "bam" all of a sudden, you are hit in the face with change, and your world is turned upside down. Don't let this happen to you. As soon as you see change, accept it. Expect it to affect you. Expect it to alter the way you see yourself and your career. This way you will take it seriously and do something about it.

2. Understand That You Have The Power To Make Your Change

When change is upon us, and we haven't prepared for it, we feel powerless. We feel like something is happening to us, and forget that we have a say. If you put the power back into your hands, you will feel better. You will have hope. Hope gives you energy and the momentum to move past fear and uncertainty, and into something that will be better suited and less stressful for you.

3. Research Your Change

Most people fear change because it can happen quickly. But there is a way to slow change down and that's through the power of research. Anticipating change early on will give you time to plan for it. Do your homework. Ask yourself what the change will mean to your career and what your choices are. Then, go online and get your answers. And what you can't find online, get from people. Research makes your decisions easier and more powerful because you know what your options are, and you can act based on sound reasoning and judgment and not how you feel in the moment.

4. Make Your Change

There are times in life when you have to take a leap of faith. Once you have accepted that change is inevitable and you have done the legwork, it's time to go for it and implement your change. Want a guarantee that it will work out or this is your last change? I can't give you one. But I can tell you that your change will be easier to make when you ride the tide instead of going against it.

So, what do you say? You only have one life to live, so it might as well be a life you love!

Guest Author Deborah Brown-Volkman, PCC, is the President of Surpass Your Dreams, Inc. a successful career, life, and mentor coaching company that works with Senior Executives,  Vice Presidents, and Managers who are looking for new career opportunities or seek to become more productive  in their current role. She is the author of "Coach Yourself To A New Career", "Don't Blow It! The Right Words For The Right Job" and "How To Feel Great At Work Everyday."  Deborah can be reached at www.surpassyourdreams.com.

Need Help? Hire an Unpaid Summer Intern

I recently came across an article in Fox Business’ Small Business Center called “3 Reasons Why an Unpaid Intern Wants to Work for You.”

The gist of it is this: summer is upon us and summer interns are rip for the picking. So if you want to get in on some free help from June through August, Fox suggested three incentives you can offer college kids: a learning experience, the prospect of a job offer and a job to be proud of.

OK, but how do you go about finding an intern? That might be a bigger challenging than actually convincing them to hook up with your small business.

Well, other than calling your local colleges, which I would recommend, you can also put out some feelers on Web sites that specialize in connecting companies with interns.

Springwise scans the globe for the most promising business ventures, ideas and concepts that are ready for regional or international adaptation, expansion, partnering, investments or cooperation. Springwise bills itself as brain food for entrepreneurial minds.

There’s also a site called Enternships. Enternships promises ambitious and dynamic students and graduates with an opportunity to learn about business and enterprise through work placements in entrepreneurial and innovative environments, from start-ups to global venture funds around the world.

You might also want to check out Urban Interns. Urban Interns is an online marketplace that connects high-growth companies with talented candidates looking for internships, part-time jobs, freelance work and contract positions.

And remember, once you find potential candidates be sure to set your small business up as a learning experience, with the prospect of a job offer and a job to be proud of.

Here's another take: Get your small business approved for college internships at a local college. Check out this video:


Earth Day Office Tips for Your Small Businesses

Are you looking for ways to reduce your environmental footprint? Virtual offices are one way, but there are lots of others. Even if you work from a home office, you can take measured, eco-friendly steps.

Grand & Toy, a company that offers sustainable business solutions for all office needs of small and medium-sized businesses, is offering 10 Earth Day tips that can help you get greener than ever before.

"Today, most business leaders would agree that sustainability is an imperative for organizations of all sizes," says Natasha Renaud, director of Communications and Social Responsibility at Grand & Toy. "It is important for small businesses to know they can take simple steps that are cost-efficient and effective to becoming more earth-friendly."

So without further ado, here are excerpts from Grand & Toy’s tips (with a few comments of my own mixed in for good measure):

  1. If it's not essential for your business to operate from a traditional "office," get rid of it. Working remotely, from your home, from your client's office or from an unassigned workstation in a local business center reduces not only the number of cars on the road and greenhouse gas emissions, but also office overhead and gasoline expenses. (A virtual office comes to mind here.)

  2. Take advantage of natural light during daytime work hours. With this tip, you not only go greener, you also save green by reducing your energy expenses. When you do need artificial light, use fluorescent and compact fluorescent light bulbs. They last longer, use less energy and cost less in the long term.

  3. Choose sustainable interiors. Ensure the furniture you buy is certified by at least one of the credible environmental certification programs. Choose earth-friendly materials. For example, furniture partially made from soy-based foam consumes less energy and emits fewer greenhouse gas emissions during manufacturing than furniture that is petroleum-based.

  4. Consolidate your ordering practices to once a month. This is a winning idea from several angles. First, order consolidation helps reduce the number of trucks on the road, greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution associated with transportation. Less packaging required to ship product also means less potential waste. What’s more, consolidation leads to fewer invoices to be reconciled and easier payments, freeing up more time to focus on your business.

  5. Request electronic catalogues and electronic invoicing from your suppliers. Holding your suppliers environmentally accountable will decrease the amount of paper they are using and encourage them to start thinking about their own environmental practices. Similarly, arrange for electronic payment of all your purchases through a credit or debit card, PayPal or other electronic system.

  6. Use sustainable cleaning products. Quality microfiber cloths, for example, not only pick up dust, surface residues, microscopic particles, grease and oil, but can also significantly reduce and, in some cases, completely eliminate the cleaning chemicals required for certain jobs. They may cost a bit more, but they are healthier for you.

  7. Equip your office washroom with touch-less towel dispensers or air dryers. This will help you further reduce your business' paper consumption. This won’t help if you work from a home office. In that case, you can use hand towels instead of paper towels.

  8. Implement a full-scale recycling and compost program. By composting leftover food and recycling paper, cardboard, glass and aluminum cans, using specially marked bins, you'll make sure your office waste is diverted from landfills and used to produce new products, such as white printer paper, paper towels, aluminum cans and glass bottles. This is something that’s especially convenient to do from a home office.

  9. Recycle your used ink and toner cartridges, too. Instead of throwing them away, send them to the companies collecting empty ink and toner cartridges for recycling.  This will help conserve energy and virgin materials. Depending on the program, you can get money back for every returned cartridge.

  10. Print double-sided and use environmentally certified paper. Switching to a 50 percent post-consumer recycled content paper will save 120 trees for every 10 skids of paper, according to the Environmental Defense Organization, and the energy saved is enough to power a house for a year. In addition, double-sided printing, on average, leads to a 30 per cent reduction of paper usage that will increase if a secure pass code printing system is implemented as well.

Check out this YouTube video for some more tips: