Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Lower Your Home Business Carbon Footprint

There has been an effort to help us all reduce the carbon footprint we leave for years now.  I keep hearing about going green, I see the television commercials and I try to keep "in-touch" with how I can make a difference, even if it makes a small impact. And then it hit me! 

I was cleaning out some client files the other day to make room for - yes, you guessed it, more client files. I am always shocked at the amount of paper I produce in my office.  It made me start thinking about how I can make a change in my habits and lower my own carbon footprint - just in my home office. I'm going to list some of the things I found that I can do and would love to hear how you are reducing your carbon footprint as well.

Bottled Water
I give credit to my husband on this one.  Each day, I would take my trash can and empty the cans and bottles into our recycling bags in the garage.  I drink 4-6 bottles of water daily along with 4-6 diet cokes.  My day is from 8 am until, well, let's just say I am a very late night person! Craig decided he wanted to cut costs and eliminate some of the plastic bottles. We now have a nice Britta pitcher sitting in the kitchen and we fill up our glasses when we want more water.  The funny thing is, I find myself drinking even more water than before. We decided we would take this a step further and now purchase the 2 liter bottles of soda, with that, I'm drinking less!

I also own Lighthouse Creative Group - a full service creative marketing agency.  Lighthouse is where most of the paper is produced. I keep samples of my client work for my portfolio. I am now converting my portfolio to be 100% online so I can reduce the extra paper in the house. Another tip for you is to make sure you are using all of the paper needed when you have a print project created.  I recently designed a beautiful invitation for a client and we designed a bookmark for the event so all of the paper was used in the printing process.  If you have a good printer, there will not be an extra charge because it is all printed at the same time. 

You can reduce the amount of paper coming in to your home by going paperless on your bills. Many companies will send your invoices via email, eliminating the clutter in your mailbox.  I was talking to my mail person yesterday and she was telling me that the Post Office is really hurting from the reduction in snail mail. While I don't like to think of any business hurting, I do like to see a more efficient way of doing business. I also stopped printing out my emails unless it is something I need for verification - like plane tickets, etc.

Direct Light
If you have enough light coming through your windows, use that light and save the electricity.

I know products have to be protected for shipping but lately I feel like I need an engineering degree just to open them.  When possible, look for the products with the least amount of packaging. Carry a cloth bag with you when going to the office supply store, this will cut down the use of plastic or paper bags.

Energy-proof your house
This is a big one and one we need to work on as well.  Be sure your home is as energy efficient as you can make it today. I'm not suggesting you go out and make big purchases, that isn't even feasible. Here are a few things you can do that will make a difference in your electric bill and on the environment.
  1. Turn off and unplug electronic gadgets! Oh boy, if you could see my office, you would know this is a challenge at CHBBF. I have several printers, two computers, a monitor for editing, lights, cameras, action! Seriously, my office is Houston Control.  If you are not using an electronic device, turn it off and unplug it when possible. 
  2. Turn off lights, I bet you heard this when you were growing up, "Who pays the electric bill around here? Can't anyone turn off a light but me?" Parents are wise and now that we are those parents, let's follow their advice and turn off the lights! If you are not in the room, you don't need the light on.
  3. Open the windows and turn off the air. This may not be timely today, August is not the best month to make that suggestion.  When the day is nice and cool and you see the breeze moving through the trees, open the house up and enjoy that fresh air. When you are using the air or heat, make sure your house is closed up tight. 
  4. Keep your heating and air conditioning units maintained.  This is not that costly, and will save you money in the long run. We have a maintenance contract with a company for less than $200.00 per year. They call us when it's time to have the unit serviced and we are set to go for the season.
  5. Drive Less. Schedule your client appointments and errands to coincide with each other. If you can, walk to the park, store, etc.
I feel so blessed when I look at this world and know that God created it for us to enjoy. I don't do everything I should but I am taking steps to improve.  How about you - send us your ideas and let's reduce our carbon footprints together.


We know that in everything, God works with those who love Him, whom he has called in accordance with His purpose, to bring about what is good. -Romans 8:28

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Tips to help build your business...and more!

Twitter postings, blogs away, have you used LinkedIn today? SEO, PHP, LOL, MOTD, how many acronyms do we need? Facebook friends are on the go, read their posts and you'll soon know. MySpace, Ning, MeetUp and Tagged, post post post or you'll be nagged.  Clients, meetings, be in the know...sorry something has to go!

If something has to go in order to fit in everything on your to do list, please cut some of the time you use posting messages on social media.  I give myself a "Mental Pause" throughout my work day.  That is when I will sign on to one of my social media sites and catch up with a few posts and add a comment. No more than 5 minutes and I'm focused and back to work on my business at hand.

Here are six tips to help you build your business.
  1. Be passionate and purposeful. Start out each day with a prayer, purpose and a plan. Give yourself little reminders on why you started your business and bring back the passion. 
  2. Be mindful of time stealers.  Sure the lawn needs to be watered, the dog needs play time and ugh, did you see the dust on the living room furniture? If you worked outside of the house, these things would be scheduled for evening or weekends.  These are good "mental pause" items, take five minute breaks and dust the furniture, throw a load of laundry in, put something in the crock pot for dinner and then back to work!
  3. Sell, promote and sell some more. We meet so many people who have a passion for what they want to do but really hate selling.  Part of owning and operating any business is making sure you get in front of your target market to sell your product or service.  "Build it and they will come," just doesn't work. Schedule in time each day to make calls, write letters and email prospective clients.  
  4. Have a customer service policy. Whatever your business is, you have a customer and you need to be ready in case that customer is not happy.  Really, customer service is not a problem with a satisfied customer.  If you aren't sure what to do, look up a few customer service policies by using Google. Do not simply copy someone's customer service policy, write one that works for your business ethics.
  5. Whatever you do, work at it as though you are working for the Lord, not mankind. Col. 3:23. When I discovered this verse, it changed my way of thinking.  I pray before I begin a client project and ask for guidance. If I have a challenge, I take it to prayer. If I work as though I work for the Lord, everything else falls into place.
  6. Schedule family time. One of the problems with working from home is having your work in front of you 24/7.  Take time to enjoy your family and friends. Take the breaks you need to stay healthy and enjoy your life.  Your business will benefit from a healthy balanced lifestyle.

Friday, August 13, 2010

HELP...I've fallen into the Social Media Trap and I can't get up!!

We hear you! Every article you read today tells you that you MUST have a web presence. You MUST have a blog, and you MUST be connected with the social media sites. You MUST work your SEO and you simply have to spend money on pay per click advertising. Ok, so you want to be on top of the game and certainly want your business to grow, however, there is just one of you!

Don't fall into the Social Media Trap, it's a deep hole and there is no ladder to help you climb out. I was having fun the other day with my husband and mimicking my favorite speaker Beth Moore. In my best Beth Moore Texan accent (and of course poofing my hair for the Texas big hair look), I started spouting, "Do you blog, are you working SEO's, did you IM today, people stay with me. Are you on Facebook, Blogger, WordPress or Yahoo? Have you been Tagged, LinkedIn or friended on Friendster? Did you create new content for your web site, email blast your database all while listening to your iTunes or watching your YouTube videos? Come on now, I'm talking to you!" Of course this was all done in fun, but it is all relevant to every business today.

If you do not have a web presence today, you are missing your customer base. It doesn't matter what generation name you carry, below is a list to help you feel like you are in the know, you must be out there in some form.

2000/2001-Present - New Silent Generation or Generation Z
1980-2000 - Millennials or Generation Y
1965-1979 - Generation X
1946-1964 - Baby Boomers
1925-1945 - Silent Generation
1900-1924 - G.I. Generation
The Population Reference Bureau provides an alternate listing and chronology of generational names in the United States.

1983-2001 - New Boomers
1965-1982 - Generation X
1946-1964 - Baby Boomers
1929-1945 - Lucky Few
1909-1928 - Good Warriors
1890-1908 - Hard Timers
1871-1889 - New Worlders
So now that I have presented you with the challenge, here is a tip for home-based business owners or small business owners with a limited staff.

Schedule your time, it is precious and you can't get it back. It is one resource that runs out and once it is gone, it can never be recaptured and is very costly if not used wisely.

Web Site, this is a must. You do not need all the bells and whistles that web developers love to sell. In fact, all of the Flash openings you see actually hurt web sites when they are ranked with the search engines. A brochure site is a great way to enter in to the World Wide Web (www).

Pick one social media site and stay away from the traps. Each social media site has bells and whistles, games and interactive content - they are trying to get you to "stick" to their site, or spend more time with them. Why? So they can sell to their advertisers of course. The more people who sign up and the more time you spend with them means more dollars to them. There is nothing wrong with that but you do not need to "spread the wealth" or spend too much time trying to keep up with the Jones, Smiths or any of your other friends on the sites. Pick one and spend a small amount of scheduled time on it daily or weekly.

Consider hiring a company to help you with the tasks listed above so you can spend time developing your clients and providing outstanding customer service.

Don't panic or feel you are being left behind. You can spend every second of every day learning the tools available to you on the internet and when you wake up the next day, you will already be behind the learning curve. New tools, applications and those wonderful acronyms are being developed as you sleep. Spend a little time each week for learning and relax - no one is on top of everything (and don't let those high priced marketers tell you any different).

We hope this article has brought a smile to your face, given you some information to help you with your business and let you have a sigh of relief knowing you are "ok" and doing just fine in this wonderful high speed internet world.

Blessings to your week and remember Colossians 3:23, "Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people!"

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Ah Ha Moments

Every so often, I have an "ah ha" moment. Last night as I was reading "A Heart Like His," by Beth Moore. She referred to Psalm 142 when David was isolated and praying in the cave. A little of the verse; "I cry aloud to the LORD; I lift up my voice to the LORD for mercy. I pour out my complaint before him; before him I tell my trouble. When my spirit grows faint within me, it is you who know my way."

My "ah ha" moment came in two parts, one last night as I realized where the phrase "For Crying Out Loud" came from, and today when I remembered how Christian Home Based Business Forum came to me. I too was in prayer (crying out loud) asking God to show me how to be able to work from home but still meet other business owners who had something in common with my work structure. Working from home can bring a sense of isolation (a cave like feeling) and after talking to other home based business owners, I found it to be a common problem. Because we work from home, we can't just walk to a co-workers desk or office for a break or to discuss an idea. Sometimes we just want to talk with another person about a situation, an idea, a problem, or just chat. When you work out of the house, people surround you, and there are natural breaks that happen throughout the day. Those breaks do not happen when you work from home.

The sense of isolation and desire to "network" took me to prayer. My "crying out loud" prayer went something like this, "LORD, please show me how to meet other business owners who work from home. Show me how to have the human interaction throughout the day without having to leave my home. Show me how to support others who work from home and help me stay focused on you throughout my work day."

During my prayer, God placed the idea of Christian Home Based Business Forum in front of me. CHBBF is an association of individuals having a common interest, formed to provide mutual assistance and helpful information while staying Christ centered. CHBBF provides chat rooms so you can meet other Christians online and chat, discuss ideas or brainstorm a problem. We continue to add to the forum so that we can provide content to those who come to the forum. Our first seminar in March was a success and a second and third are scheduled for October 27th. Our Brown Bag Networking is growing and we hope to expand to other areas around the country. God continues to feed us with new ideas for the forum and we continue to meet other Christian business owners who want to get involved.

Now, how did all of this cause me to have an "ah ha" moment today? I was thinking about how Jesus truly networked. He worked the nets, going first to the fishermen and asking them to drop their nets and join Him. He also helped the fishermen by filling the nets with so many fish the boats almost sank. Ah Ha! We too are blessed to be able to work the nets by inviting new home based business owners to join us at CHBBF, get involved in chats and come to our Brown Bag Networking Lunches. We invite you to throw out your nets and invite a friend to get involved - we can all increase the business in our nets through fellowship and networking.

Visit http://www.chbbf.org/ today!