Archive | August 2014

News, News, News!

 

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Quote of the Day

 

“Time is a created thing. To say ‘I don’t have time,’ is like saying, ‘I don’t want to.” – Lao Tzu

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Stop Reading and Start Learning: How to Absorb Information Better

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Business is full of dry, boring material that needs your attention. Here, Inc. columnists share ways to get through the drudgery.
 
 
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There is no shortage of material that needs to be read in business, including marketing copy, business plans, contracts, legal documents, and, of course, business books. I love to read, but not all business reading is particularly entertaining or well written. And some of the most important stuff is dense, dry, and dreadful, no matter how much achieving success requires you read it.

So when my inbox is full of necessary reading that I know will put me to sleep, I have to make a special effort to power through it. First, I set aside time with no distractions. No phone, email, or TV to draw my focus. Then, I find a place with lots of natural light. Lastly, I turn on mellow music that I know well so I can get into its rhythmic groove. Before you know it, the stack is gone, and I feel better for having been productive.

Here are more ways to tackle that tough material, from my Inc. colleagues.

1. Skim it first.

There’s nothing worse than having to slog through writing that is dry, boring, or overly dense. When I encounter such articles, books, or other information, it takes all the willpower I can muster to read it and not push it aside and do something else instead. The one thing that helps me get through such material and actually learn something in the process is to skim it instead of trying to read it in detail. As I skim, I write down the major points in a notebook. After I’m done, I can then review the major points I’ve collected and have a pretty good idea of what I need to know. Peter Economy–The Management Guy

Want to read more from Peter? Click here.

2. Mix it up a bit.

People absorb information largely on the basis of their learning style; my style changes with different tasks. If I have to assemble something, I’m kinesthetic; I just have to get my hands on it and do it. In many ways, I am visual, but in reading technical or boring jargon I’m mostly auditory. If I cannot access an audio version of the material, then I actually read the tough parts out loud. But there’s an added twist: As I read it, I have to put a visual to it as well. I process the information in two ways, so I guess I am a multitasking reader! How about you? Marla Tabaka–The Successful Soloist

Want to read more from Marla? Click here.

3. Understand your learning style.

I discovered early in life that I am an auditory learner, which means I comprehend best when I hear content and new information. My job requires me to review thick business plans and corporate strategy documents. That’s where my smartphone and tablet come in. Both have built-in functionality that supports my learning style. I can use the built-in text-to-speech technology to read the content to me. As I listen to each section, I purposefully summarize in my head what I just learned so that I am sure that I fully comprehended the information conveyed. This functionality is also a great way to take advantage of the times it wouldn’t be as easy to read–walking through an airport or commuting in my car, for example. Eric Holtzclaw–Lean Forward

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When productivity tools get in the way of actual productivity

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Productivity Made Simple

I recently got a new iPhone. As I was choosing apps to download, I realized I’ve gotten to the place where I really just want the basics — social media, email, weather and driving directions, etc.

I’m a sucker for new technology, cool apps and fancy systems. I like to try them just to see what they’re all about and to discover where technology is taking us. But at the end of the day, my favorite productivity tool is still a notebook and pen. Sometimes I use a fancy Invite.l notebook and sometimes I stick with a classic Steno pad, but no matter how many systems I try, I always end up back at the notebook.

It’s tempting to think that finding the right app will solve all of my problems, but I know from experience that using electronic productivity apps and programs ends up feeling like more of a chore than a help.

The other day, Stephanie from Keeper of the Home shared a link from Michael Hyatt in our mastermind group. The post on the power of the minimum effective dose really resonated with me and my goals for my business this year, but as I got to the bottom, I chuckled at the irony of the free ebook offered at the bottom of the post, which features 99 tools and resources for your life. Ninety-nine tools…seriously? There is nothing simple or productive about using that many tools, and trying to juggle them certainly makes your life more complicated.

The truth, though, is that any productivity system can have the same effect. When we get caught up in being more productive — rather than doing the actual work — we often create more work for ourselves, not less.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m all about automation and taking time to get organized. But the system needs to be a tool used to achieve your end goal, not the end goal itself.

For example, have you ever seen the beautiful color-coded, sticky note calendars and schedules on Pinterest? I absolutely love them, and I’d love to have one. Except I know myself well enough to know that if I took the time to create something like that, I’d be over it by the time I finished.

A good productivity solution is enduring.

It doesn’t need to be updated or overhauled every couple weeks or even months.

It shouldn’t take hours to set up or cost a lot of money.

And it shouldn’t overcomplicate or fancify the simple task of getting things done.

Do you prefer pen and paper or an app for organizing your to-do list? Have you ever fallen into the trap of a fancy productivity system?

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The Skill You’ve Always Wanted: How to Instantly Read People

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Solve the people puzzle by discovering 4 distinguishable traits.

Tony Alessandra

 The ability to “read” people is by far one of your most valuable skills in business. The people you interact with each day send you signals, and if you learn what to look and listen for, each person will tell you exactly how to effectively work with him.

Everyone experiences the same basic human needs—results, recognition, regimentation and relationships—with some holding more dominance than others. Depending on the weight placed on each need, people differ in personality.

So what is there to read?

Dozens of signals—verbal, vocal and visuals—tell you when to speed up or slow down, when to focus on the details or when to work on building the relationship. But, because people are different, the same technique won’t always work.

Human Behavior Has Two Dimensions

When people act and react—with verbal, vocal and visual actions—in social situations, they exhibit clues to their behavioral style. Identifying that is possible by classifying a person’s behavior on two dimensions: openness and directness.

Open vs. Guarded: Openness is the readiness and willingness with which a person outwardly shows emotions or feelings and develops interpersonal relationships.

Others commonly describe open people as being relaxed, warm, responsive, informal and personable. They tend to be relationship-oriented, and in conversations with others, they share personal feelings and tell stories and anecdotes. They tend to be flexible about time and base their decisions more on intuition and opinion than on hard facts and data. They also are likely to behave dramatically and to give you immediate nonverbal feedback in conversation.

Guarded individuals, on the other hand, commonly are seen as formal and proper. They tend to be more aloof in their interpersonal relationships. They are more likely to follow the letter of the law and try to base their decisions on cold, hard facts. Guarded people are usually very task-oriented and disciplined about time. As opposed to open people, they hide their personal feelings in the presence of others.

Direct vs. Indirect: Now consider the second dimension—directness. This refers to the amount of control and forcefulness that a person attempts to exercise over situations or other people.

Direct people tend to “come on strong,” take the social initiative and create a powerful first impression. They are fast-paced people, making swift decisions and taking risks. They easily become impatient with others who cannot keep up with their fast pace. They are active people who do a lot of talking and appear confident and dominant. Direct people express their opinions readily and make emphatic statements.

On the opposite end of that spectrum, indirect people give the impression of being quiet and reserved. They seem to be supportive and easy-going, and they tend to be security-conscious—moving slowly, meditating on their decisions and avoiding risks. They ask questions and listen more than they talk. They reserve their opinions and make tentative statements when they must take a stand.

When directness is combined with openness, it forms four different, recognizable and habitual behavioral styles: the socializer, the director, the thinker and the relater.

Socializer: Open and Direct

The socializer exhibits such characteristics as animation, intuitiveness and liveliness. He is an idea person—a dreamer—but can be viewed as manipulative, impetuous and excitable when displaying behavior inappropriate to a particular situation.

The socializer is a fast-paced person with spontaneous actions and decisions. He is not concerned about facts and details, and tries to avoid them as much as possible. This may prompt him at times to exaggerate and generalize facts and figures. He thrives on involvement with people and usually works quickly and enthusiastically with others.

The socializer always seems to be chasing dreams, but he has the uncanny ability to catch others up in his dreams because of his good persuasive skills. He always seems to be seeking approval and pats on the back for his accomplishments and achievements. The socializer is a very creative person who has that dynamic ability to think quickly on his feet.

Director: Direct and Guarded

The director exhibits firmness in his relationships with others, is oriented toward productivity and goals and is concerned with bottom-line results. Closely allied to these positive traits, however, are the negative ones of stubbornness, impatience, toughness and even domineeringness.

A director tends to take control of other people and situations and is decisive in both his actions and decisions. He likes to move at an extremely fast pace and is very impatient with delays. When other people can’t keep up with his speed, he views them as incompetent. The director’s motto: “I want it done right, and l want it done now.”

The director is typically a high achiever who exhibits very good administrative skills. He likes to do many things at the same time. He keeps adding on until the pressure builds to such a point that he turns his back and lets everything drop. Then he turns right around and starts the whole process over again.

Thinker: Indirect and Guarded

The thinker is a persistent, systematic problem-solver. But he also can be seen as aloof, picky and critical. A thinker is very security-conscious and has a strong need to be right. This leads him to an over-reliance on data collection. In his quest for data he tends to ask many questions about specific details.

The thinker works slowly and precisely by himself and prefers an intellectual work environment that is organized and structured. He tends to be skeptical and likes to see things in writing.

Although he is a great problem-solver, the thinker is a poor decision-maker; he may keep collecting data even beyond the time when a decision is due.

Relater: Open and Indirect

The relater is unassertive, warm, supportive and reliable. However, the relater sometimes is seen by others as compliant, soft-hearted and acquiescent. The relater seeks security and belongingness and, like the thinker, is slow at taking action and making decisions. This procrastination stems from his desire to avoid risky and unknown situations. Before he takes action or makes a decision, he has to know how other people feel about it.

The relater is the most people-oriented of all four styles. Having close, friendly, personal and first-name relationships with others is one of the most important objectives of the relater’s style.

The relater dislikes interpersonal conflicts so much that he sometimes says what he thinks other people want to hear rather than what is really on his mind. The relater has tremendous counseling skills and is extremely supportive of other people. He also is an incredibly active listener. Because a relater listens so well to other people, when it comes his turn to talk, people usually listen. This gives him an excellent ability to gain support from others.

Learning to identify these four distinct personality types by their behavior takes time, but evaluating people’s behavior within this framework can help you better understand others and yourself.

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An Open Letter To The New SEO Generation

 

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An Open Letter To The New SEO Generation

New-Generation-SEO

SEO is almost 20 years old. Can you believe it? There’s some argument about when the practice started, as well as when the term itself was coined, including a failed patent attempt from 2007; but most industry old-timers put the birth of SEO at around 1995.

So, after almost 20 years, what do we have to show for it? SEO has matured in some aspects; it’s now a line item on the budget of most Fortune 500 companies. I’ve been in SEO since 2000, and I am grateful that now when I tell people what I do, I can just use the terms “SEO” or “internet marketer,” and don’t have to rely on my old standby of “I work with computers. I could explain more, but I’d need charts and an easel.”

It always got a laugh but made me feel distinctly out of place. Now at any given gathering, I’m likely to find someone who says “SEO? Oh, we’re seeking a new firm. Do you have a card?”

In other ways, SEO has earned a bad name, with pretty much everyone having been burned by some unscrupulous “SEO” that has promised the moon but delivered an everything bagel (even if you do like these, which I don’t, it’s a far cry from the moon).

moon-vs-bagel-big

If you work with people that have earned penalties, it can be disheartening to see the heavy hand of Google at work. After all, most of these companies simply followed the crowd in the tactics they implemented several years ago, and now they’re being burned at the stake for it.

Many small businesses have simply closed up shop, unable to compete. And larger businesses often find they’re behind the 8-ball with critical integrations like mobile readiness. Without a well-known name or a large, well-respected agency at your back, it can be hard to achieve legitimacy in this industry.

But I’m here to tell you a secret. It’s been 20 years, and the old-timers are getting tired. Lots of them are leaving SEO, including the incomparable Jill Whalen and Jonathan Colman. Some are retiring, having made their fortunes. Others are renaming themselves, trying to leave the name, the limiting factors and the stigma of “SEO” behind. For our purposes, we’ll still call ourselves SEOs.

In my SEO-happy city of Raleigh, NC, you can see this phenomenon playing out, too. Several meetup groups or Google Plus communities are looking for new leaders. The old leaders have been doing it for several years, and they’re tired, ready to try something new, or just so successful that they no longer have the time to devote.

It’s time for the next generation of SEOs to step up and take the helm.

You may be discouraged at first, as you try to become a voice in an increasingly noisy and saturated market, but I’m here to offer you some advice on how to make yourself stand out in the crowd by helping you understand what SEO is really all about.

SEO Is Marketing

The funny thing about SEO is that the more things change, the more they stay the same. The tactics shift, the penalties increase, and the blackhats get smarter; but, SEO is still fundamentally just marketing.

dot-com-bubble

Marketing is about being amazing. At the end of the day, make sure you’re building, making, creating and selling something great. Make people happy or help them solve their problems. Make their lives just a little bit easier.

The internet is not a get-rich-quick scheme. That ship sailed back in 2000 when the dot-com bubble burst. You need to have a legitimate product or service that is as well-supported offline as it is online. I’m not saying you have to open a brick and mortar, but your company must have real people behind it to succeed. The days of selling vaporware are over.

SEO Is Relevance

Far beyond getting a certain number or ratio of links or using keywords a certain number of times, your site must be relevant to obtain good positioning on search engines. And to get into the top 10, it’s got to be far more than just “relevant.” There’s a lot of competition out there for virtually every search term, so you need to be outstanding in some way — whether it’s customer loyalty and love, superior product quality or something truly innovative.

Make sure your site is not just readable on mobile, but mobile friendly. Go the extra mile to provide a pleasant experience with your email campaigns, your coupon experiences, your customer service. There is nothing better for SEO than a bunch of happy customers.

SEO Is Strategic

You must think about the future. Wearables like Google Glass and the iWatch are only the beginning. We have already pushed well beyond search engines into Experience Optimization on review sites, Facebook, Pinterest and more. Soon, we will push beyond the limiting edges of websites, too.

SEO is not a series of tactics, or a system you can game.  Studying Google’s algorithms, patents and updates is fun if you’re into data. But if you’re doing it just to reverse-engineer the algorithm, you’re going to fail.

Consider critically how your product or service fits in. How will you leverage new technology in your business or the businesses of your clients? Building these skills and knowledge now will really put you at an advantage over us old-timers, because it’s hard to teach how to “think fourth dimensionally.”

Quote from Back to the Future III

SEO Is Relational

Feel free to scoff at the notion of schema; laugh at the worshippers of FreeBase, and turn your nose up at Wikipedia. Just know that while you’re doing that, they’re laying out the future of how we’ll find things. I hesitate to even call it search, since it won’t be about strings of data, but about understanding things. If you’ve never read the post by Google, Introducing the Knowledge Graph: things, not strings, you need to.

The fundamental problem with the way we’ve always searched is that we use language. And language, by definition, is imperfect and ambiguous. As we leave the four corners of websites behind and strive to understand fundamental connections between things, or “entities,” the rush to schema will make more sense.

Whether we have to keep tagging everything ourselves or search engines just get more advanced at discovering the relationships themselves, entities are the future of how we’ll search. It’s nothing new really, but if I hear one more person refer to Hummingbird as an algorithm update or a penalty…

grinds-gears-meme

Hummingbird is a fundamental change in the way the Google database is structured — in the way that the algorithm processes information. It’s the largest change to Google since the introduction of PageRank. To optimize in the age of Hummingbird, it is critical that you understand this.

This by the way, is why guest posting is not dead, directory listings are not passé, and reciprocal links aren’t necessarily evil. Too much of any of these things is bad, and doing them for the purpose of gaining links is bad. But in order for people and search engines to understand where you fit into the universe, they need some of these relational cues.

Do any one of those too much and you’ll encounter the Google algorithm’s wrath. Think about what will help your business, and do that instead. If you have the opportunity to post on an industry publication that is well respected, don’t think twice — do it! If you have a business where location is important, get it listed in the online yellow pages!

SEO Is Frustrating

You must bend to the search engines’ every whim. If they tell you to nofollow, do it. If they give you a new schema tag to use, use it. If they tell you to stand on your head, ask them for how long. Like it or not, the search engines rule SEO.

We are free to ignore their recommendations, to block their robots or ignore their penalties. But it’s like the kid at the playground that you don’t play nicely with. He will just take his ball and go home. Google doesn’t need you. So feel free to question, criticize, or even get irritated by what Google requires. But do it anyway.

SEO Is Collaborative

One of the biggest mistakes new SEOs make is taking things at face value. Dr. Pete wrote this amazing open letter to SEOs where he hits this right on the head. Question. Test. Test Again. Build. Destroy. Just because someone you respect says your Title tag should be 67 characters for maximum click-through potential doesn’t mean it’s going to be that way with your site or your clients’.

But be careful of falling into the trap of testing all the time and never creating. You have a responsibility to your clients and to yourself to deliver results, not just results of tests.

So instead of testing all the time, collaborate with your fellow SEOs. One of the best things about SEOs is that we’re all on social media. So go ahead, hit someone up on Twitter, send a random question out onto Facebook. You’ll find SEOs at any hour of the day that are happy to talk shop with you. That’s pretty amazing, but it happens because there is plenty of work to go around. We don’t have to compete.

SEO Is Holistic

SEO is the perfect combination of creativity and writing, technology and data mining, analysis and implementation. It’s the alpha and the omega, the yin and the yang.

A great SEO won’t be happy just writing tags; she’ll want data on user behavior, conversion quality and product margins. A strong SEO won’t shy away from learning black hat tactics; he’ll delve into them to understand them and how they work. An ethical SEO will refrain from using them other than to help identify and obliterate them.

But just as we need each other, we also need the darker side of SEO. It pushes us (and the search engines) to be better, to do better. We’re all part of a beautiful marketing whole and we balance each other out.

Welcome to our world; to our enigma. We’re happy you’re here and we hope you love it as much as we do. We can’t wait to see where you take SEO next.

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Quote of the Day

“Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work.” – Aristotle

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