It takes more than a storefront to run a business

Breath life into your brand with social media

Written for SPAN Enterprises

Social media has become the number one way to network personally and professionally. Having a steady online presence opens the door for more business opportunities and prospective partnerships. If you’re not social online on some platform, you are doing a disservice to your business, but the good news is you can get started at anytime.

The most important thing to remember when interacting online is to create a social profile that is authentic and aligns with your vision and goals. You don’t want to look like a robot that just throws up sales ads and pressures people into buying products. That’s not how social media works. You need to humanize your brand by sharing interesting and thoughtful content that reflects your values and interests while creating real relationships with your followers by interacting with them on a regular basis..

Think back to your company’s mission. What does your company stand for? What are you trying to achieve and why should it matter to everyone else? Answer these questions and you have a good start. You want to use the mission statement as a starting block that thrusts you into the development of a humanized version of your business online — sharing important niche and business news, creative ideas, showing appreciation to others in the industry and other industries who are doing things that align with your values, commenting on social commentary that remains inclusive to all potential customers and partnerships, and gently nudging people toward your blog and website.

When you first start networking, it’s easy to get caught up in the hype and want to be everywhere at once and read and share all the things; however, that can eat up all your time and take away from other more pressing parts of your business. Remember, social media ROI is a long term commitment.

Start out slow with one social platform —Facebook and Twitter are the top social media sites for business. Create an account and take time deciding how to describe your business. A shortened version of your business statement that shows personality is ideal for your social media profile description. This shows your company’s personality and continues to align with your core values — the foundation of authenticity.

Share a few times a day and really sit back and pay attention to what others are doing.

Notice when others are sharing, when people engage more and what works the best. Make an effort to log in regularly and set limits to social media perusing (10-15 mins at a time), so you don’t get lost in information land. Check out your competitors or the top dogs in your industry and see how they do it. What makes them stand out online.

Next, find a social media management tool that provides feedback on what you are sharing. Some great options are Hootsuite and Agorapulse. These tools allow you to curate your communications across several social media platforms as well as generate reports on what you post to rate your social success.

Once you’ve built a robust group of followers and curated content that builds up your business mission, then you can start developing social media campaigns to push products and topics of interest for your business. When developing a campaign, you want to have a clear plan of action.

Ask yourself the following questions:

What am I trying to accomplish?

How can I measure campaign success?

Who is my target audience?

How can I best interact with them?

After uncovering all of these answers, you should be able to start developing an assortment of posts that align with the campaign. The assortment of posts should include active and passive ads, curated content from other sites, company blogs, and organic social interactions.

When running social campaigns, your goal is to drive traffic to your website.

Be sure your website is updated, error-free and user friendly. It’s also crucial that it aligns with your mission statement and the brand image portrayed on social media. Someone should be able to interact with your brand on your website, social media and in your store and get the same feeling. You want people to be comfortable with who you are and what you identify as. If you confuse them with different styles and approaches, they will stray. Keep it simple.

A great tool for checking how traffic performs on your website is Google Analytics. This is the age of Google and everything that works well online goes through Google. Google Analytics is a tool that will help you stalk viewers on your site. (Not in a creepy way but a business smart way!) It reports on what brought them to you (social media posts), what pages they clicked on, and how long they were on each page. Knowing your viewers moves or lack thereof gives you a clue as to what posts effectively nudge them to take that extra leap over to your online storefront on the big ole’ busy world wide web.

If you stay true to your brand by owning your message and use the right tools to track what works and what doesn’t, you will be well on your way to lassoing new business leads and sales. The world wide web doesn’t have to be a wild, uncharted western frontier if you take a measured approach and organically grow your business with the same principals that got you started in the first place.

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Stake Claim: Your Business Mission Statement Matters

Written for SPAN Enterprises

Every business strives to make a name for itself. Your name is your identify and what people think about when they see your logo. It is what sets you apart from the crowd and draws others in your direction. In order to hone in on what really makes your business tick, spend some time cultivating a mission statement that truly aligns with your business purpose.

Having a mission statement helps customers, employees, other businesses, partners, and potential investors understand your brand.

For customers, it gives a look inside at why you create a particular product and how it matters, which helps them decide if it fits with their needs and values.

For employees, it provides a vision to focus on and an idealism to live up to when considering short- and long-term business goals.

For other businesses, potential partners, and investors, it shows your value — giving them reason to work with you or view you as a competent competitor.

Simply speaking, a mission statement should explain who you are, what you create and stand for, and why you do it. Often the “how you do it” can be included as well—as long as it’s something completely unique in comparison to other business practices.

Take action and make a name for yourself before someone else does it for you. Follow the checklist below to make sure your business mission statement stands out.

Why do you exist?
When you set out to create this business, what did you see that was lacking? What gap does this company fill? What consumer demands are met? How does it relieve stress or create more success for the user? The answer to this question is the meat of your business and clearly defines what role you play in the business world.

Define core company values.
Is your business on the cutting edge of technological innovation? Does it feed the user’s creative needs or bring more safety and security to their home? Do you work to create a healthier environment by implementing certain business practices? Do you reward customer loyalty? Examine the way you work and the products you create to determine what values should be associated with your business.

Layout business goals.
Do you plan to create products and sell them to other businesses? Do you plan to start with one product and become a niche empire in five years? Do you want to partner with other businesses to create solutions for their work processes? Think about where you started and where you plan to go. This shouldn’t be as specific as laying out the plan to white label for X no. of businesses, but it should let the reader know that you have high hopes of developing industry-specific products that will manage all objective-specific needs.

Be inclusive.
When writing the mission statement, make sure to target all sides of the business. This should be written for everyone aforementioned — customers, employees, other businesses, and potential partners and investors. A good brand has all-encompassing qualities that leave everyone feeling like they’ve been included in the business model.

Set intentions for greater good.
Does your company create eco-friendly goods? Do you donate products one-for-one to people who need but cannot afford them? Do you make products using ingredients that will not have a negative effect on the consumer’s health? Evaluate how what you create creates a better quality of life for others.

Show some flair.
Can you cultivate an anecdotal story line about your products? If not, maybe the niche market already has a characterization that you can lean into for inspiration. The best brands have personality and aren’t afraid to flaunt it.

Include philanthropic interest.
Many businesses show their merit through action. Do you donate a portion of the proceeds to a particular cause? Is their a foundation arm of the company that educates children or provides for underprivileged families? Not all companies are able to invest in philanthropic efforts; however, if you find a way to give back, this will speak volumes for your brand. It is definitely worthy of a mention in the mission. After all, a mission that does good for others creates an impact far beyond anything you can sell.

Take ownership of your identity by asking yourself the above questions and include them in your business mission statement to create an effective and purposeful business model. It will help others define you and remind you of what got you started in the first place.

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Cutivate morning rituals that create better work flow

Originally posted for SPAN Enterprises

9/14/2016

Rituals have been a part of humanity since the beginning of time. We thrive on habitual practices that symbolize our goals, values, and desires. Rituals often remind people of religion, but it’s best described as a series of habits that consciously or unconsciously set our intentions for the moment.

Morning rituals have the ability to make or break the day. It can affect your family life and even work productivity. When you unconsciously roll out of bed late, argue with family while rushing out the door, and battle with traffic, the tone set for the workday is frazzled and frustrated. However, if you rise early and spend time preparing the mind and body for the day, you feel energized and motivated for whatever lies ahead.

If you’re currently in a morning rut that evolves into a rat wheel race for the rest of the day: Do not despair; turn it around with a few simple changes. Follow the tips below and support your concerted effort to create a positive morning routine. These rituals lead to a more productive work day and a more fulfilling day overall.

Better Starts in Bed
Getting no less than seven to eight hours of sleep will curb the crankiness. Make a point of going to bed early — you will feel more refreshed and ready to greet the day. Also, when the alarm goes off, don’t hit snooze, get up and get going. The act of hitting snooze defines the morning as an unwelcome visitor. Make friends — stretch and smile and give salutations to the sun. One more thing, remember to make your bed. This gives closure to sleep time and prevents further unruffling of the sheets.

Spend Time in Silence
Rushing to cloud the mind with news or morning talk shows averts attention from what’s going on inside. Face anxieties head on with some positive self-dialogue. Release fears and don’t add to them with social media drama and stress-inducing crime stats. Ease into the day with silence or soft, instrumental music giving your brain time to warm up in a pleasurable way.

Set Your Intentions
Instead of allowing others to dictate how your day will go, consciously choose how you want to feel, act, and be. There are many ways to do this, so you have to find what works best for you. Some examples are journaling, meditation, reading or listening to inspirational messages, and repeating positive affirmations. Find the best method to use everyday or change it up. However you accomplish this, it’s vital to take ownership of your intentions.

Take Care of Your Body
They say people who exercise in the morning are more alert and productive throughout the day. Set aside time for exercise — whether it’s walking, running or yoga — get the heart rate up and blood pumping. After getting your sweat on, spend some quality time getting ready. Try out a new hairstyle, paint your fingernails, or iron the wrinkles out of your best suit. The way we present ourselves symbolizes to the world (and ourselves) how we feel and how we should be treated. Dress like a business leader and you will be treated as a business leader.

Learn Something
Watch an inspirational video while drinking coffee. Listen to NPR or a book on tape during the daily commute to work. Research something that insights creativity. Remain curious about the world and everything in it. Coming to work thinking like a student opens a world of opportunity.

Fine tune these little habits to solidify a morning routine that perks up your potential and you will lead a more engaging, thought-provoking, productive, and joyous life.

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The Cost of Negativity

Originally posted on Medium

September 7, 2016

Written for SPAN Enterprises Founder Agie Sudaram

Choose which way you turn. Don’t let it choose you.

Choose which way you turn. Don’t let it choose you.

There are only a few things in life that we can’t control — the family we’re born into, the color of our eyes and skin, where we’re from. Everything else in life, it’s up to you. It’s a choice — the one undeniable right we’re all given.

Even when the choice isn’t clearly stated, it’s always there lingering beneath the decision to do, be, act, react. It finds a way to surface after it’s all said and done, and we’re left cleaning up the consequences.

And those consequences, they can be aggressive or sneaky as they infiltrate your life.

Some will smack you right in the face as your choosing them; while others, they subtly invade every inch of your life until oneday it’s just a part of you and you’re not sure where it all began and how to shake it off.

This is something that I noticed in my life recently.

I live right in the middle of two grocery stores operating under the same brand. We’ll call them Store A and Store B. While both are the same distance from my house, Store A requires an extra turn when coming home from work.

And lately, I’ve been busy.

By the time I make it to my community, I pop into Store B since it’s right on route and I can easily zip in and out with all the ingredients I need for dinner.

You’re probably thinking, “What’s the problem? It sounds like a win-win.”

You see, Store A and Store B are the same brand with the same products, but each store has a different personality. Store A is bright and friendly and helpful and welcoming; whereas, Store B is cold, impersonal, unsupportive, and unappreciative.

While I’m getting the same products, the results aren’t quite the same. When I shop at Store A, I leave feeling happy, fulfilled, and satisfied with my selections, and I carry those feelings out of the store. I may help someone return their shopping cart to the cart corral or wait for extra pedestrians to stroll across the parking lot into the store or make room for others to back out of their parking spaces in front of me — waving and smile along the way.

On the other hand, when I shop at Store B, it makes me feel irritated. I hastily bag my own stuff and race across the parking lot to my car — avoiding eye contact at all costs. After tossing the bags in the back, I curb the cart and I quickly leave the parking lot.

These experiences reminded me that every encounter with negativity has the potential to breed negativity into your life without even consciously focusing on it.

Your only option, then, is to put the effort in at the beginning and set yourself up for success by surrounding yourself with the people, places, and things that create more positivity in your life.

Don’t let negativity rain down on your business.

Don’t let negativity rain down on your business.

The same goes for your business. One negative employee can greatly impact the fun, upbeat company culture you cultivated and easily swindle you out of hoards of happy customers.

Remember when your parents said, “You are the company you keep.” 

You should definitely believe them. Keeping negative employees — no matter how indebted you feel to them — will affect your business.

Set yourself up for success by aligning with positivity. Go out of your way to shop at the store that leaves a smile on your face, and keep your business in good company by investing in talented professionals who are excited to be there.

We only get so many chances to get it right — don’t forget that the power lies in your hands. The only thing you can control in this world is YOU and the decisions YOU make.

Why not start out with a little sunshine to get you going in the right direction?

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7 Factors Great Schools Have in Common

Charlotte Parent: Education Guide

Education experts rank the factors that matter when rating a school.

Whether anxiously preparing for kindergarten, new to the area or looking to change schools, deciding the best educational fit for your child can be overwhelming and time-consuming. My son started kindergarten this year. I spent many late nights scouring the Internet about curriculum standards, schools and how extracurricular activities create neural pathways in the brain that lead to more success in the classroom. To keep the bags from under your eyes and carpal tunnel at bay, I’ve teamed up with local and national education experts to give us the skinny on schools.

Identifying Factors of a Great School

Three leading education experts — Suzanne Cormier, Rachel Hunt and Dianna Terrell — have weighed in on school must-haves. Following are their collective, professional opinions, ranked from most to least important, on what identifying factors matter when rating a school.

No. 1: Parental involvement.

When schools are open and supportive, more parents tend to be involved. High parental involvement is a good indication that the school recognizes how engaging parents equates to more success in the classroom.

“Parental involvement at school signals parental involvement at home and shows peer value,” says Terrell, a former high school history teacher that teaches education policy at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire; and author of “Schooling Our Kids,” a blog that examines and teaches readers about curriculum standards and education reform.

Charlotte School Search co-founder Rachel Hunt agrees. “Parental involvement makes a huge difference in how children do in schools and how schools function,” she says “because the PTA helps raise money for the school to fund extras outside of the county budget.”

No. 2: School leaders’ records.

School leaders’ track records are highly valuable tools that show credentials and experience, however that information should be held in comparison to how teachers and other parents feel about his or her actions.

A really great school has a collaborative mentality, Terrell says. “It’s not just credentials but how the teachers regard their leader – do they work well with teachers – you need to find out the word on the street,” she says.

Hunt, who also is a family law attorney and supports teacher understanding of legislation through TruthforTeachers.org, says this is very important when considering a charter school. “People need to be careful with charter schools, it’s run by a board of directors and there’s not a lot of oversight to how state funding is used,” she says.

No. 3: Curriculum.

College is in the back of every parent’s mind and Hunt thinks parents should be aware of their child’s passions and potential, and allow that to transpire into what they are doing in and around school.

Science labs are must-haves on everyone’s list, and high school students should be on the right educational track for their long-term goals. Be aware, however, of placing unnecessary pressures on young students, says Suzanne Cormier, a educator for 25 years, former guidance counselor and a current adjunct professor of educational psychology at Winthrop University.

“If you are a parent of a younger child, be careful and know the right fit for your kid,” Cormier says. “I am so much more concerned about social and emotional development of the child.”

“You have to make learning authentic,” Terrell says. “Answer ‘why do we have to learn this?’ by quality teaching through real-world applications.” A well-rounded curriculum should already include different ways of learning, she says. “A school should value kids’ need to run around and move and learn in other ways.”

No 4: Type of school.

Charlotte has many school options — magnet, charter, Montessori, private and public — but families are often limited by income, neighborhood and transportation options. Know your budget, distance you’re willing to travel, and start researching while your child is in preschool, Cormier says. “The earlier, the better … it takes time to research schools and know the difference.”


See all articles from the 2015-16 Education Guide


No. 5: Extracurricular activities.

Quality over quantity, plus a variety — not just sports, also music, drama, art and foreign language, Hunt says.

Cormier believes this is extra special when parents volunteer to teach after-school classes based on their expertise, adding another layer of parental involvement. Extracurricular activities are a good bonus, but parents don’t have to only rely on schools to provide these experiences. Many programs are offered through churches, parks and recreation, YMCA and other nonprofit and for-profit organizations.

No. 6: Technology.

This could be summed up as a necessary evil, according to Cormier, Hunt and Terrell, but each is disillusioned with it as a constant classroom companion.

“It’s (technology) important and you can’t get away from it,” Cormier says, “but it’s all about teacher training and using it appropriately.” Terrell agrees, and believes that excess technology without proper teacher training takes away from its meaningful use.

No 7: Test scores.

“Test scores should be taken with a grain of salt – it’s a snapshot of one day and time,” Hunt says. All three experts agree that test scores should be reviewed and compared to previous years to look for patterns of growth and decline, but that testing has become a stress-laden and inaccurate analysis of a school’s overall performance.

“It’s one measure of students’ learning and not a complete profile,” Cormier says. “The efficiency of test scores undervalues the socio-economic level of the school.”

“Test scores can cause cuts to recess and music and arts program for more time for test preparations,” Terrell says, “which takes away from what scientist say matters with neurological and physiological development.”


Crystal O’Gorman is a freelance writer who lives in Indian Land, S.C. with her husband Ryan and her children, Mikey, 5, and Bella, 3.

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