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AQR Summer Camp: Learn more!

Summer Camp

The 4th of July is just around the corner! Before you take vacation, check out AQR Summer Camp on July 1st from 12:00 to 1:30 p.m. CST.

Camp Details

The theme of AQR Summer Camp is “Show Off Your Shop” plus “Let’s Talk Batiks.” Scott Fortunoff of Jaftex Corp will kick off the event with his challenge for quilt shop owners. The challenge will be a great opportunity to develop your video skills while also showing off your store. Who knows, maybe you’ll get some new customers along the way? Winners of the challenge will get a visit from Scott to your store!

Following Scott, Karen Gibbs for the Love of Batiks will teach you how to make your batiks shine. During Karen’s session she’ll cover the whole nine yards, including batik education, purchasing, selling through your current stock, and developing an action plan. Make sure your batiks are selling at the best of their ability and hear how Karen has tackled the post-pandemic batik landscape.

Pricing

Pricing for this camp is $65 for non-subscribers and $35 for subscribers.


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Summer 2021 Quilting Trends

Summer trends

Summer is officially here. To celebrate, we’ll be covering some of the hottest trends to keep your new quilters inspired. Did your business see a boom of new quilters this past year? You’re not alone, and you won’t be surprised to discover they aren’t going anywhere!

Picnic blankets – perfect for summer

People are making their own quilt staple these days—the picnic blanket. Try to keep fabrics around that encourage a summer theme (think fruits, the beach, and even astrology are hot topics right now). New quilters love to brag about their DIY projects. Now they can show off their skills over an outdoor lunch.

Framed quilts

Another way new quilters like to show their skills off are with framed quilts or wall hangings. These are more design oriented, with a focus on colors and shapes that bring rooms together. Color contrasts are hot right now (yes, even blacks) and hexagons are a popular modern shape.

Table placement

Functionality is important to new quilters too (hasn’t it always?). Think any sort of table decor including placemats, potato cookers, hot pads, push pins, table runners, etc. They’re great beginner and easy projects that keep quilters coming back for more.

Patchwork

Nothing screams quilter like patchwork patterns. You’ve likely noticed the trend already. Patchwork is appearing on all articles of clothing including jackets, purses, hats, and even socks.

Be sure to make yourself available as a resource to new quilters. Think about your preferred machines, tools, fabrics, and more. As they expand their horizons, they’ll be looking to someone with experience to guide them in the right direction.


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How to get to long-term thinking

Long-term thinking

I have a working theory that people who think about the future more than the past are better at long-term thinking. Time and again businesses that make decisions based on the long-term come out ahead. If you’re like me, you have to retrain your brain in order to see beyond the short-term. Hopefully some of these tips will help.

Think about the long-term

Take time to think about the future. If you don’t know where to begin, work backwards. Where do you want to be? What idea is the easiest (and by easy I mean most effortless) that you can start on to get there?

Any time a new idea comes to mind, write it down. I find a running note on my phone helps to organize ideas I have on-the-go.

Surround yourself with other perspectives

Looking for a get-rich-quick scheme that nobody has ever thought of before? Sure, you and everyone else. A great way to help with long-term thinking is through keeping diverse perspectives. As you know the reality is nobody gets rich fast. By surrounding yourself with diverse ideas the work of groupthink can help create bigger and better plans.

Hire for the long-term

Incentivize your hires for the long-term. Give them options for ownership, and when you hire, hire someone you want to someday call your business partner.

Check in on your goals

Last but not least, check in on your goals. The likelihood that what you want will change is very real. When that happens, be sure to re-organize your short-term goals so they re-align with your final end game.


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Cloud Storage: What is it, does my business need it, and more

Cloud storage

Want to know more about cloud storage? Check out this post to find the options available to you.

What is cloud storage?

Firstly, what is it?

According to Wikipedia, cloud storage is “a model of computer data storage in which the digital data is stored in logical pools, said to be on ‘the cloud’. The physical storage spans multiple servers, and the physical environment is typically owned and managed by a hosting company.”

Secondly, does your company need it? Consider some of the below advantages.

  • Remote work: The past year highlighted the importance of this availability. Cloud storage allows all your employees secure access to company files no matter where they’re working from.
  • Protection: Cloud storage isn’t considered a true back up, but it does a great job protecting your files.
  • Security: Over half of cyber attacks target small businesses. Most storages offer robust security as one way to protect yourself against hackers.
  • Cost effective: Get the ease of paying $5-$15 a month per employee without the hassle of owning and maintaining a server.
  • Productivity: Cloud storage doesn’t shut down. Moreover, that means your employees can work in different time zones without worrying about accessibility.

Cloud Storage Options

Finally, there’s a lot of storage options available to you. Check out some of these suggestions, and after that, read more about them here.

In conclusion, the best option for your business will depend on what you’re looking for.


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Branding Ideas

Branding

Keeping up with branding is time consuming, but it can help you to get the work you want. Check out these ideas for a place on where to begin.

Research your favorite brands

Do you subscribe to newsletters that you love? This is a great place to start. Figure out what it is about them that you love and incorporate that into your material. Do they include a list of what they’re reading/watching/listening to right now? Include a section in your newsletter for your customers as well.

Also ask yourself what they do well. Is their information informative? Have good design? Help you find new products? Think about areas you can improve on, and areas you’re skilled at. Then align this list to both sides and see how your online engagement changes.

Look at other businesses’s branding

By other business’s we mean businesses you want to be or businesses want to work with. Check out their social media and replicate what they do with an original idea. By the time you do outreach to them, they’ll look at your work and think the same thing when you visited their page (“Wow! I want to do that!”)

This is also a good time to evaluate if you need to improve on what you know. If you discover you have to brush up on certain areas (video for instance), watch a tutorial or buy a book so you’ll have the knowledge in place when you try to expand your offerings.


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Phone Etiquette

Phone Etiquette

Phone etiquette may seem like a no brainer, but it never hurts to have a refresher. Check out these tips to know the do’s and don’ts of a good phone call.

Etiquette 101

I don’t know about you, but I view phone calls as the best way to get answers. Once you know how to do it right, phone calls are quicker than emails (of course it doesn’t hurt to follow up with an email) and not everything requires a Zoom sync.

When you receive a phone call, try your best to pick up by the first three rings and start by introducing yourself. While you’re speaking, remember to talk slowly and clearly. If you think you’re talking too slow, you’re probably speaking at just the right pace.

If you have to transfer the call, ask permission before you do so. Also, if you don’t know the answer to a question, be honest about and tell them how you plan on helping.

Be present

While you’re on the phone, make sure you’re not doing anything else and have no distractions. By distractions I mean close out of Facebook, and even pull up a Word document to make notes while you’re on the call. Only put yourself on speaker if it’s absolutely necessary. Otherwise try to connect a headset or headphones so you can remain hands free throughout the call.

Be sure to sound cheerful throughout the phone call. Try smiling if you’re not in the mood to be on the phone, people can notice the difference. A headset comes in handy here as well if standing up and pacing helps with the tone of your voice.

After the phone call, do your follow up tasks immediately. The longer you wait the more difficult it will be to get them done.


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Developing New Contacts

New contacts

Has your email list remained stagnant? Check out these tips to increase your customer contacts.

Define your market

The first step to increasing your contacts is to define who you’re going after. This will not only save you time while you do outreach, but also help determine what channels you use for messaging, and what sort of content to include in your pitch.

Build your contacts list

The first step to building your contact list is easy; start with who you know! Ask for referrals and offer discounts to new clients.

Networking is also a great way to expand your customer base. Networking is difficult, but you’ll find that when you put yourself out there, people are willing to help. Attend webinars, trade shows, or join a local business organization.

Finally, pick up your website and social media game. This is where defining your market will help your outreach the most. Have a lead? Go to their website and search for emails. Want to find leads? Go to a search engine and see if you can pay for data that will provide those emails for you (and save you time as well).

Follow up

Continuing on with online outreach, follow up once, then follow up again. Include enticing calls to action or create scarcity but letting them know that time or space is running out.

This is where a CRM (customer relationship manager) really comes in handy. A CRM is a software solutions that helps to track your contact activity. Not only will you be able to track who’ve you’ve contacted, but you’ll be able to identify priority leads as well.


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Video Statistics Update

Video stats

Curious to how video trends have changed in the past year? Check out these statistics to aid in your content management plan.

General stats

In 2020, 60 percent of videos were user generated or recorded, a 135% jump from 2019. And yes, a big reason for this was due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Three-fourths of smaller businesses (as defined as 200 employees or less) make their own videos. This compares to companies with over 600 employees, of which less than half of their videos are user-generated. And if you think more companies tried their hand at video this past year, you would be correct in that assumption.

Length of video

If you’re wondering how long your videos should be, check out some of these statistics:

  • 45% of people watch videos all the way through, down from 52% in 2019.
  • The average length of videos in this report was 6 minutes.
  • If the video is 60 seconds or less, 58% of people will watch all the way through.
  • If your video is over 20 minutes, only 24% will watch until completion.

What else to know

If you’re wondering what type of videos businesses posted, the most common were how-tos, product demos, explainers, and webinars. The highest room for growth on video topics include how-tos, but especially one-to-one videos.

And obviously, companies who tracked analytics and catered their content based off their audience saw the highest video engagement.

Want to learn more? Check out Vidyard’s 2021 Video in Business Benchmark Report where you can learn about the above content and dig into it more.


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Evaluating Bookkeeping Tools

Small Business Bookkeeping Tools

Automating your bookkeeping processes is one of the smartest moves your business can make. Check out these tips as you begin your research to find the best tool for you.

What are you looking for?

The suite of bookkeeping solutions is lengthy, so before you begin your research, identify your highest priority needs. Some platforms allow you to track inventory, others sales tax, and others receipts.

As you begin your research, determine your budget. Also determine your highest priority needs. Don’t look at solutions that aren’t within 25 percent of your budget, or solutions that don’t cross off your must-have checklist.

Ask the right questions

If you’re thrown into a sales process to determine the best solution for your needs, don’t be blinded by their bells and whistles. Ask these questions to make sure you’re getting the best solution for your business.

  • How secure is your API?
  • How do you back up your data?
  • Are there any other costs to this platform?
  • How quickly do you respond to questions?
  • What pain points do similar clients experience?

And remember, you want a solution that’s going to grow with your business. Once you go through this process, make sure you do it right.

Inspiration from this post came from Hubspot.


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Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity

With more time spent online, cybersecurity practices are more critical than ever. Check out this list to make sure you’ve got your business is safe.

Passwords

Train your employees to use strong passwords and require them to change their passwords every three months. Better yet, implement multi-factor authentification, or check with your bank and other vendors to see if they offer that option.

If employees use a shared laptop, create different accounts for each employee and encourage each employee to protect their account with a strong password.

Finally, make sure your business is using a secure, encrypted, and hidden WiFi network. Set up your wireless router so it does not broadcast the WiFi name and make it password protected too.

Cybersecurity

Installing a firewall on each of your computers is essential, and there are free versions online too. If employees work from home, make sure they have a firewall installed on their home computers as well.

Back up your data as frequently as possible. Per the FCC, critical data includes word processing documents, electronic spreadsheets, databases, financial files, human resources files, and accounts receivable/payable files.

Lastly, limit employee access to this data. Employees should only be given access to systems they need for their jobs, and shouldn’t be allowed to download additional software.

Hardware

Update your systems regularly and run antivirus software after each update. Also make sure you use a different computer to process payments than you use to browse the internet.

Nobody wants to be in a position where they have to pay someone because of a lack of online security. Start with these practices to protect your business from cyber attacks.


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