The day in the life of a CEO – staying relevant and accessible*

I'm sure you already know this, and that you're already doing a great job staying relevant and accessible to your customers; but I wanted to share with you how I do it with Accu800.

The alarm rings every morning at 5:45am. I lean over, rub the sleep out of my eyes and switch on my Blackberry. I don't check my messages until after breakfast, but my phone stays on in case of emergencies. As I dash out the door, I check my voicemail, emails and toll free faxes.

The painstakingly slow commute starts at 6:20am so I use that time to listen to recorded conference calls. My employees each have an Accu800 toll-free number so that they can record, download and send me applicable client calls, business meetings and job interviews. I can fast-forward through to the important stuff and pause it when I need to throw quarters in the toll-booth.

A friendly face greets me at 7:15 am with a warm cup of coffee. I change the toll-free forwarding location to my office for the time being. The toll free number makes it easy and affordable for my east-coast clients to reach me. A stampede of calls usually ensues about this time.

Most days I'm away from my desk putting out fires, overseeing projects and attending meetings – but my 800 number follows me wherever I go. Whether I'm at home, at the office, or on-the-road, my toll-free number can ring at any location.  Gone are the days of lonely voicemails that sit on my machine for hours.

I retreat from the office at 1:00pm to workout at the gym. I forwarded my calls to an assistant who happens to be a rigorous note taker. I love having a number that can be forwarded to anyone at any location at anytime. And if I wanted, I can travel overseas and still be reached toll-free

In the afternoon I activate and record my own conference calls on-route to visit distributors. I know that I could probably spend more time in the office but the one thing I love most about my job is the face-to-face interactions and the handshake negotiations. If I talk about something important while on a conference call in my car, I email the recording or have it transcribed.

When business is booming I won't even sit at my desk. Accu800 follows me wherever I go and utilizes the latest technology so that I can stay accessible at all times.

* this is a fictitious account of how a CEO would use Accu800.

Entry Tones: Make ‘em laugh

As mentioned here in a previous blog, AccuConference provides Entry tones. This is a notification feature that announces when a new person has arrived on the call. This notification is a two-toned "bleep," which sounds a lot like a retro video game.

Did you know that you can personalize your entry tones? Every time a participant calls in, they are prompted to record their name. This name recording is then played into the conference call instead of the "bleep" sound.

So why not have some fun with this feature!? Next time the system prompts you to record, try playing a sound-bite from your computer. Perhaps you could play a trumpet processional for added pomp and circumstance; or record yourself saying " Leeeets get rrrready to rrrrumble" and play the Eye of the Tiger Rocky Theme song.

A little office humor never hurt anyone… so go-ahead and make'em laugh.

How to have fun at work

Here are some events that have occurred in our office that may spawn some fun ideas.

The Annoy-atron – Do a quick google search for annoy-atron and you'll discover a device that's not much bigger than a quarter.  This device is sure to be a crowed pleaser… except for the unsuspecting target(s) of course. It is designed to emit high-pitch beeps at random intervals ranging from 2 to 8 minutes, making it hard “time” and locate the device. And best of all, it is magnetic so it can be attached in a very inconspicuous location! We planted the device in an office down the hall and it wasn't discovered until the next day. Judging by the groans and desk pounding, we think it was effective.

Shock Tanks – The other day someone brought in a pair of remote controlled army tanks. Mounted on the top of each tank was an infrared sensor.  If the opposing tank successfully shot the infrared zone, it would send a volt of electricity to the controller. (Quick Tip – be sure and wear the wrist strap!)

Fish Tanks – We have a reef tank enthusiast who maintains two beautiful 150 gallon tanks. It’s fun when we buy new fish and add them to our collection. But watching the fish is the most enjoyable part, and it’s a great way to relax during a busy workday. For those of you who are interested, we will be posting streaming video of the fish. We’ll keep you posted.

TV Spoofing – We have a favorite TV show on NBC called The Office. After the weekly episode we usually re-enact a gag from the show. Most recently we printed “Schrudt Bucks” and handed them out as rewards for a job-well-done.

Next on the list: Turn our board room into an Xbox 360 media center.

Help, my computer is running slow!

You're sitting at your desk and your computer is painfully slow. Perhaps you were browsing the internet and your computer froze. Or maybe you had just finished a long day's work - and you really want to go home - but the computer wouldn't turn off. Or perhaps, more embarrassingly, you were on the phone with a customer when your computer decided not to cooperate.

Never fear, Super-Fast-Computer-Tips are here!

1. Reboot – Before you try anything else, shutdown and restart your computer. Wait about 30 seconds and then turn it back on. This always seems to help.

2. Defrag Your Hard Drive – Think of it like tidying up a bookshelf. This process reorganizes your data on your hard drive to optimize the way it retrieves your information. Go Start > Programs > Accessories > System tools and then click on DEFRAG.

3. Disk Clean-up: This tool is right below the defrag button and it does a similar (but slightly different) action.

4. Delete Internet Cache & Cookies – If you use internet explore than select Tools > Internet Options and review your browsing history. Different versions require different steps, so do a quick Google search to find out more.

5. Check for Spyware & Viruses – There are free resources online. My favorite for Spyware is called SpyBot Search and Destroy. For virus checking, I use AVG Antivirus.

6. Disable Virus Checker – Depending on what you use your computer for, this may or may not be for you. **Follow this tip at your own risk** but it will certainly speed up your computer. I personally disable the auto-check feature but I still use a virus checker to do a “sweep” of my system every other week. I also check suspicious files before I open them. If you work from home and your kids share the same computer, I would NOT suggestion disabling your virus checker.

7. MSCONFIG – Microsoft System Configuration Utility can ensure your computer boots faster and crashes less. In particular, it will show you if unnecessary programs are running in the background.  The “how to” steps are different for depending on the version of Windows you are operating. Again I’d suggest doing a quick Google search to find out more.

8. Delete Old Files / Uninstall Old Programs – If you don’t use it or don’t need it anymore than delete it. To remove programs you’ll have to go to the Control Panel and click on "Add or Remove Programs."

New Website Design

You may have noticed that we’ve changed our website a bit. To be honest, we’re trying to impress you. But more than that, we’re trying to make our website easy-to-use. Did you find the information you needed quickly?
What we’ve done:

  1. Limited the text on the homepage
  2. Removed the menu on the left hand side and created five main categories on top.
  3. Made a quick-link pricing button on the home page.
  4. Added some catchy phrases to give you the gist of what we do
  5. Added some color… to keep your attention.

Our revisions were based on suggestions from customers. If you have any ideas, please let us know.

Tricked by Time Zones

You’re not the only one to have been tricked by time zones. We receive multiple calls everyday from people who have either been told the wrong time, or were confused themselves.

It’s understandable, considering that there are nine time zones that span the United States and its territories. They include: Eastern, Central, Mountain, Pacific, Alaska, Hawaii-Aleutian, Samoa, Wake Island, and Guam. Of course, you don’t need to worry about all of them.
Featured in this picture are the most popular time zones. Click on the image to enlarge and then print a copy for future reference. Each color grid represents an hour. Notice that Arizona (AZ) and Indianapolis (IN) alternate time zones depending on the time of year.

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Time Zone

If you don’t think you need a time zone chart to reference, here is a test:

If you made a call on the fourth of July from Arizon at 2:00PM, what time would it be in New York?

Did you need to reference the above chart to find out the answer? If so, you should print this up for future reference! The answer is 5:00 PM New York (EST)

So the next time you’re planning a multi time zone conference call, send an email reminder. And if you host weekly meetings, be sure to plan them on the same day at the same time to prevent confusion.

“Homeshoring” - Home is the new office

There are numerous reasons to start building an at-home workforce.

First, consider the cost of an employee:

  1. Recruiting expenses
  2. Salary
  3. Benefits
  4. Taxes
  5. Office Space
  6. Equipment

You can see how these costs can add up. In times past, companies have traditionally out-sourced jobs to call centers overseas… this was called “offshoring.” But, after companies like DELL and other companies started receiving complaints, then they deciding to bring the call centers home. These companies discovered that it wasn’t just about saving costs, but savings customers.

Homeshoring is the next best thing to overseas call centers. It allows an employer to offer a lower wage in exchange for the privilege of working from home. This also allows very competent and employable people (such as stay-at-home moms or people with physical disabilities) to gain employment.

Rising gas prices are helping to convince employees to work from home whenever possible. In addition, many companies have discovered that you can’t always rely on the day-to-day commute, as seen with California commuters. Working from home has become a huge incentive for prospective employees and an attractive option for employers.

The biggest concern with at-home employees is accountability. How does an employer know if they are actually working? New technology has been developed to provide a similar level of accountability at home, as a person would receive at the office. For example, companies like oDesk, an at-home HR staffing agency, have developed software that takes random screen shots of what people are working on every 10 minutes. In addition, they provide a live Web cam that lets an employer physically see whether a person is sitting at their desk. An employer can also see a log that tracks keystrokes, mouse clicks, and phone calls.

And lastly, another advantage to working from home is that you get a lot more done with fewer distractions around.

To summarize:

  1. Lower Employee Cost
  2. Large Pool of Prospective Employees
  3. Work-at-home Perk – stay competitive and keep employees happy.
  4. Eliminate Commuting – be prepared in-case of commuting crisis
  5. Be more productive – no office distractions

We use Accu800 and our PBX when we need to work from home to provide a seamless experience for our customers.  

Waistline vs Bottom-line

As a business owner or manager, you’ve got to take care of your most important assets – the employees! The healthier your employees are, the better they will perform.

Here are the benefits of having fit and healthy employees:

  1. Minimal sick days - Which means they’ll spend more time at the office getting things done. This will also lower your health care expenditures.
  2. More Energy - Which will help them stay focused and accomplish more. They’ll feel better about themselves and the work they’ve done.
  3. Confidence – People who stay fit tend to feel good about themselves, because they’re accomplishing their goals and living a balanced lifestyle. This feeling carries over into their work because people want to gain control and confidence in all aspects of their life.
  4. Motivated Workplace – Confidence is contagious. People who succeed with their work and health goals tend to inspire those around them to do the same.
  5. Success – People who can accomplish rigorous fitness goals are likely to establish and meet their goals in the workplace.
  6. Good attitude – People who are healthy tend to “feel good” both mentally and physically. They’ll bring this positive attitude to the workplace.
  7. Reduced Stress – Regular exercise can reduce physical tension and emotional stress.

So if you’ve got the time/resources, go to your local gym and negotiate a discount rate for your employees. You don’t have to buy them a monthly membership, just do some research and find competitive offers. And if you already offer snacks at the office, make sure you provide healthy alternatives to the ever-popular soda and chips.

Keep your employees fit, and improve the bottom line.

50 Helpful GTD Resources

We're all on a quest to achieve maximum productivity, right? Whether it's mastering the to-do list, organizing email and calendar items, or improving project management – this list has something for everyone.  

For those of you who don't know, GTD is shorthand for "Getting Things Done." It's a popular work-life management system developed by David Allen.
Kim at Optimized Life has created a list of different tools, using the GTD methodology, which will help you get organized.

For those who rely on a daily to-do list, here are some suggestions:
TaDa Lists - Ta-da makes it easy to create lists for every occasion.
ToDoist - Here's a simple todo list and task manager that
is super easy to use. ToDoist is a bit more powerful and
allows integration with Gmail.
MyTodos is a free online todo list that will allow you to organize your
life in just a few minutes a day.
Toodledo is another web-based to-do list that is easy to use. You can use this simple tool to help you get organized,
stay motivated, and increase your productivity.

Who invented the eight-hour workday?

For some of you, the workday doesn’t seem long enough to get everything done. For others, you can hardly wait for the day to end. So who is to “blame” for the eight-hour workday, and how did it come into existence?

Here is a summary of what I found on Wikipedia:

  1. Industrial Revolution caused 10-16 hour workdays.
  2. In 1817 a social reformer named Robert Owen developed the eight-hour day saying “Eight hours labor, eight hours recreation, eight hours rest.” (8+8+8)
  3. On May 1st, 1886, in what is regarded as the first-ever May Day Parade, 80,000 people walked down Michigan Avenue in Chicago. This caused 1,200 factories across the country (350,000 workers) to go on strike.
  4. The American Federation of Labor declared May 1, 1890 as the start-date for the eight-hour workday. 
  5. On January 5th, 1914, the Ford Motor Company doubled pay and cut shifts to eight hours a day. Given Ford’s success, other companies followed suit.
  6. The Adamson Act was passed in 1916 to establish an eight-hour workday and overtime pay (for railroad workers).
  7. In 1938 the Fair Labor Standards Act made the eight-hour day standard across the country as part of President F.D.R’s New Deal program. 

The(8+8+8) sounds good, but in my opinion it isn’t accurate. It doesn’t factor in the time we spend getting ready in the morning, commuting to work, working-out, and making dinner. Most of us only have 5-6 hours “free” if we’re lucky.

My solution would be to switch to a 28 hour day. This would still provide 168 hours in the week, but the week would only be six days long. This would allow more time to work, play and sleep and would eliminate an entire day of commuting.  We could get rid of Monday, because nobody likes that day anyway.

What would you do with an extra four extra hours a day?