Completing a Jigsaw Puzzle Like SmallBizTracks and more...

Completing a Jigsaw Puzzle Like SmallBizTracks

640px-Jigsaw_puzzle_01_by_ScoutenCompleting a jigsaw puzzle can be a huge task. That’s why when someone brings one out on a snow day, they try to recruit others to join in a team effort.

We can look at puzzles as a big job (could take days) or divide it up like a SmallBizTracks series of  smaller projects (might take a few hours). Let’s try the latter.

SmallBizTracks Way – Completing a Jigsaw Puzzle

  • Preparation – Find a flat surface and turn all the pieces right side up: Preparation is always an important first step. It allows for discovery of the shapes and sizes while developing ideas on what it will take to complete the job.
  • Track 1Find the Border Pieces: The framework acts as a scaffolding to the rest of the tracks to build from. They are easy to track and find because of their unique shape and gives those involved a sense of structure.
  • Track 2Find a Big Focal Point: In puzzling, we might look for the roof of the barn or the lighthouse. In business, we might look for the project that is most important to the business owner or an important touchpoint for the customer.
  • Track 3Find Other Focal Points: In puzzling, these focal points are smaller sections (a bicycle, the boats, tree trunks). In business, these would often be administrative pieces, back-end tasks or items not seen by the customer.
  • Track 4Fill in the Holes: As you work on the above projects and compare to the picture on the box (or the scope document), minor piece will linger and find their place.
  • Closing - Back in the Box or Frame It: Once the project is done, measure it by putting it in front of your public and letting them use it – or put it back in its box and on the shelf.

Tackling larger projects with a series of smaller projects allows for the main thing (your customers and your business operation) to remain the main thing. Like a jigsaw puzzle, the pieces must fit for the picture to become complete.

Photo by Björn Larsson via Wikimedia w/ cc

Completing a Jigsaw Puzzle Like SmallBizTracks is a post from: ConverStations

Learning to Violate Your Templates

Architectural Drafting TemplateEvery good small business owner has a set of practices or behaviors they rely on while operating their business. These “best practices” serve as a template for employees, customers, and during peak hours or seasons.

As business climates, economies, and the marketplace continues to change at an accelerating pace, “Learning to Violate Your Templates” can be a profitable exercise.

We’ve all heard the term “out of the box” as a motivator for creative and innovative thinking. It worked for a while, but what does it mean, really?  Whose box are we talking about? Once we get out of the box, can we come back to it as a point of reference?

Learning to Violate Your Templates

  1. Learning as a form of experimentation and application, not simply reading or watching a tutorial. Nobody ever learned to swim without getting wet.
  2. To Violate your templates while in learning mode is simply tweaking a practice or portion as a test. Not wholesale changes, but bits and pieces to see what works. Test and Measure.
  3. Your Templates might be what got you here, but can those same templates that have worked for years lead to continued growth? With the changes happening with how customers shop, communicate, and purchase – some templates may be outdated.

If the experiment or application (1) proves unsuccessful (2), revert to your previous practice (3). If it’s a success – you have a new template. The templates (both old and new) are your templates, not someone else’s version of a box.

I will never ask a business owner to “think outside of the box” – but I might encourage an owner to “violate your template.”

Learning to Violate Your Templates is a post from: ConverStations

LIFT: Learn, Improve, Flow, Think

When ConverStations first began in 2006, the goal was to teach business leaders how to use blogs and podcasts to extend their reach and augment their voice.  Quickly, more social media platforms, networks, and tools launched – and continue to do so.

Believing that these online outlets are part of many “conversation stations” available to business owners, this site continued to be a place small businesses could come to learn and apply new things, improve their practices, find a flow, and consider new ideas.

Last fall, ConverStations became the voice of  SmallBizTracks. There’s still plenty of blogging and social media, but also other small business development topics and thoughts as well. With over 2,000 posts at this writing, the current taxonomy of categories seems … a bit off course.

I’ve often said that the categories of a blog site are like a table of contents in a book, giving the reader an opportunity to see what’s within.

LIFT - Learn, Improve, Flow, Think

A bit of restructuring is about to take place, with the categories moving under one of four sections:

  • Learn
  • Improve
  • Flow
  • Think

Still very much like earlier days of the site, but with more defined purpose. The acronym of L.I.F.T. is the goal of ConverStations – to take some of the weight off of small businesses, sharing insights, tutorials, and new ideas and trends in order to help in building a better business presence offline and online.

During the restructuring (and we’ll be taking it a small step at a time, of course), there may be some juggling of posts and categories, but finding the right item will be easier once the tracks are clear.

If you’re interested, here’s a bit more on how SmallBizTracks works.

LIFT: Learn, Improve, Flow, Think is a post from: ConverStations

What is an API?

garage door half-openOccasionally, a question comes up about some programming or technology piece.

While some questions may seem complicated, I’ve learned that in most cases, a simplified answer – one that makes meaning if possible – is what’s desired.

One such question is: What is an API?

First – a techy answer: An acronym (Application Programming Interface) representing a computer system or application allowing for requests to be made of it by other programs and allows for data to be exchanged. Think “programmable web”.

Next – a simple answer (maybe): An API might be like the relationship between your garage door and your garage door opener. It’s not your garage, or the garage door. It’s the communication or “handshake” that allows the requests to be sent from one (the opener) to the other (the door): Open the door or close the door.

Another example could be your television remote(s). If you lose the remote, you can still operate the TV – if you know where the buttons are located. You still have the “program” (the television) though the API (the remote) might still be on the kitchen counter.

An API allows for programs we use to communicate so our applications and devices work together seamlessly. It’s what makes most of our cool tools – cool.

Photo from Wikimedia


What is an API? is a post from: ConverStations

Pop-Up Shop at a Networking Event?

Intro Offer on Back of Business CardAt almost every local networking event or association workshop, there is a vacant table among the vendors and partners. Those vacant tables could be an opportunity.

Often, these tables are the result of no-show vendors or slow sales by the host. Empty tables make the vendor area look less valuable. Offering to fill a table provides the host and registrants with a more robust event.

With a laptop or tablet, some business cards or other collateral , and a friendly smile, you can create and relate with a new set of customers and colleagues.

It’s possible the host may ask for a table fee, though an offer to give attendees a discount usually seals a deal.

Very much like pop-up stores as a growing trend of retail , setting up your own “pop-up table”at an event can help build a better business presence.

Pop-Up Shop at a Networking Event? is a post from: ConverStations

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