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All posts by Mike Sperling

About Mike Sperling

Mike Sperling Bio Mike is the Founder and Director of Sperling Interactive. Mike’s keen eye for photography, extensive technology skills and innovative marketing ideas make Mike a leader in the website design and management field. He is proficient in html, css, php, javascript, MySQL and the Adobe Design Suite. Before founding Sperling Interactive, Mike worked his way up from staff photographer at the Eagle Tribune Publishing Company to the lead operator and manager of multiple websites for daily and weekly publications. Known as the “media guru”, Mike gathered years of experience before making the leap to start his own business. He graduated from Rochester Institute of Technology with a BFA in Photojournalism and a minor in Mass Communications. When Mike is not meeting with clients or designing new websites he enjoys spending time with his wife, Jodi, daughter Zoey, and son Camden. Mike enjoys hiking, geocaching, traveling, movies, the Baltimore Orioles & Ravens.

Professional Presentations

Whether you use Powerpoint, Google Slides or another presentation software, having captivating and informative presentations for your clients can mean the difference between making the sale and losing a client. Add some creativity that will captivate your viewers with a clever presentation, images and content that will keep them listening from beginning to end.

  •  Be Well Versed – One thing that completely turns off an audience is having the presenter read directly from the slides. Know your topic well enough that you do not need to read every word but rather can talk freely and interact with the audience.
  • Use Quality Photography – Sharp and custom photography can really make your presentation pop. Use images of your business when possible instead of stock photography. Make the images unique and interesting to look at.
  • Choosing Slide Backgrounds – Many presenters go for flashy or eye catching backgrounds but others rely on solid backgrounds that make the content stand out. Either way you choose, make sure your colors are eye pleasing and that bullet points are easily readable in a font that matches the tone of the presentation.
  • Be Clear – Make each slide clear and to the point. Use bullets but do not overwhelm your audience with too many points to consider on each slide. Instead break up major topics into smaller ones so that your audience can follow your train of thought.
  • Use Humor – Your presentation has an ultimate goal for your company. Using humor to maintain the attention of the audience can help you get to that goal. If your audience is bored they may stop listening. Keep them laughing with personal anecdotes or common situations that your listeners can relate to will keep them on task.

Time Management Tips

Tick, Tick, Tick. . . 

Does your work day slip between your fingers and make you wonder where the time went by the time you reach closing time? If so, you may need to re-think your time management skills. Learning how to manage your time can be difficult and take some time to learn but here are some expert tips that can get you started.

  • Maintain a Calendar – Carry your schedule with you at all times. This may mean using an online scheduler and project management tool. Be sure to refer to the calendar regularly throughout the day and keep track of how long regular activities take. This may seem tedious but will give you a better idea of how long certain activities will regularly take. You will then be able to plan your time better in the future.
  • Plan Every Morning – Many business leaders emphasize that what keeps them on track all day is a 30 minute review every morning of what the goals are for the day and week, maybe even the month. Having those goals in mind before you start meetings or rushing from activities to activity can keep you focused.
  • Know How to Delegate – Having a trusted employee who can handle some of your daily duties can mean you can attend to more important duties. Someone who can field your email and phone calls as well as prioritizing them can help you stay on task all day long.
  • Eliminate Distractions – Start paying attention to the number of times someone interrupts you when you’re in the midst of an important task. Eliminate those distractions by closing your door or doing work in a separate area. Or set aside a certain time of day when you are free.
  • Start Early – While it might be nice to sleep in or have a lazy coffee, getting an early start is the hallmark of leaders who have time management mastered.

 

Pinterest for Business

Chances are that if you own a business website, you also have links to social media or at least some presence on one or more of the social media platforms. Facebook, Twitter and LInkedIn are the common choices for many small and medium sized businesses. Have you considered Pinterest? Here are a few compelling statistics that may sway your social media choices.

  • Pinterest has 150 million users as of January 23rd of this year. Seventy million of them are in the United States. That is a lot of traffic that could be seeing your products and ideas.
  • Millennials use this social media platform as much as Instagram so if your target audience is in the age bracket consider becoming a pinner and poster.
  • 87% of Pinners have purchased a product because of Pinterest.
  • 93% of active Pinners said they use Pinterest to plan for purchases and 87% said they’ve purchased something because of Pinterest.
  • What’s unique about this mode of communication compared to most social media websites, is that it reduces the number of steps from discovery to conversion. This means that visitors from Pinterest convert into leads or sales faster than from other social media sources.
  • About 95% of the images were either pinned or re-pinned from the web which means you are building valuable links to your site daily.
  • The half-life of a pin is 1,600 times longer than a Facebook post.
  • The average pinner user spends 14.2 minutes pinning every time they log in.

Convinced? Check it out and see how it can work for your business at PinterestBusiness.

Organization Skills for Business Leaders

One characteristic of exceptional leadership (that many times is overlooked) is the organization skills of that leader. Sure, we have all had a great boss whose desk is a mess or can’t seem to keep meetings straight, but for every one of those types of leaders there are leaders who have their business lives organized. Here are a few tips for business leaders to maintain organization.

  • Planning – There never seems to be enough time in the day for business leaders. That is why planning is a critical part of being organized and taking advantage of every moments to get things done. Many leaders believe that using one calendar for the entire office can help keep things organized. Google Calendar and other online options can keep everyone on the same page and reduce overbooking a day.
  • Office Management – Many businesses have a designated person who keeps the office organized. For example, when the copier breaks down or the clients are running late, an employee should be a point person that can keep things running smoothly even in the absence of the owners or management.
  • Goals – While it is a great idea to have a planning calendar, often managers and owners can get bogged down by the day-to-day activities and not keep the ultimate goal in mind. Organized business leaders have regular meetings with key members of the team or office staff to check in on goals and see whet the progress is for each goal. Be sure to set both realistic as well as long and short term goals. Prioritize them according to your company’s needs.
  • Clean Things Up – At the end of each long work day it is tempting to leave for home and relax with your family. Take an extra ten minutes to tidy your desk and prep for the next day’s meetings or activities. You won’t believe how good it feels to come in the next day with a start on the day already.

Boost Your Company’s Cyber Security

Taking a risk in business comes with the territory for small and medium sized business owners, but taking a risk with your company’s assets online can be downright perilous. With news of spyware, hackers, ransomeware and data breaches making the news practically nightly, now is the time to beef up your cyber security. Here are a few tips from Forbes and cyber security experts on ways you can safeguard your business assets.

  • Back Up your Data – In the case of something small like a power outage or catastrophic like a major hacking, is your business data backed up regularly? Consider automatic back ups and redundancy plans to make sure your data can be recovered quickly.
  • Passwords and Authentication – Require that your employees use strong passwords that are created by a password manager and saved separately. The majority of password managers save and generate strong, random passwords for each of your web accounts. In addition, enable two-factor authentication on any website or system that supports it.
  • Maintain Updates – Always update and use the latest versions of software. The latest versions of software have the newest security protections that can save you time and headaches later.
  • Cyber Security Training – Train all employees on the security protocols that you will be using in your office and train them for red flags and what to look for. This is a great way to stop a breach while it is happening or catch it before it can do damage.
  • Employ the Best Security – If you think that just because you are a small or medium sized business means you are invisible or exempt from security issues,  you are wrong. Make sure your IT department is using the best security safeguards possible and maintaining them. Review these programs regularly to see if you need further security or better training for employees.

 

 

 

Networking: Benefits and Opportunities

Whether you own a small business, medium-sized business or a large corporation, business networking is an integral part of growing your company and seeing that it is successful. Building a lucrative business takes a lot of time and drive, so it’s good to have a network of friends and associates to draw energy from and keep you going. What is even better, is to have connections within your industry when things go wrong and you need advice from someone who has been there before. Networking can provide these things and more. Let’s take a look at the benefits of business networking and what potential opportunities abound in a networking event.

  • Referrals – When attending a networking meeting or event, there are always opportunities for referrals. Through word-of-mouth, leads can be filtered in your direction and eventually, those leads can turn into clients.
  • Connections – If the business leader is motivated, this form of marketing can mean you gain a great source of connections in your industry and in industries that work with yours. This can come in handy when you need simple advice or when you need help building and growing your company.
  • Raising Your Profile – With regular attendance at social gatherings and networking events, other business people will begin to recognize you and your brand. Sharing your information and talking about your company is a great way of building a name for yourself as well as increasing your reputation.
  • Sharing Knowledge – Many small and medium sized businesses need “a village” to get off the ground. These meetings are a perfect place to ask questions and share knowledge of the struggles and successes related to your specific industry or company.

Helping Grow your Business

Success! Your small or medium-sized business has made it through the first few “lean” years and has managed to thrive. You know it is time to take steps to grow your business but you are not sure what direction to take. We suggest first meeting with your financial advisor to find out just where you can stretch yourself and where you should play it safe. Here are a few ideas from the Small Business Administration and other entrepreneurs on areas where you can begin to grow your business.

  • Trade Shows – For the first couple of years, you may have been too busy to attend trade shows so start making a name for yourself now. Trade shows are a great way to expand your market. This is also a great time to increase your community activities.
  • Expand your Product or Services – Now that you have successfully gotten your business off the ground, you may want to consider expanding your product line or services. Consider services or products that align with your current offerings.
  • Open Another Location – If your current location is running smoothly and your employee numbers are growing, you may want to consider expanding to another location.
  • Merge or Partner – Many growing companies that have proven that they can be successful find that growing their company may be more successful with a partner or merger with another company potentially in a similar industry.
  • Expand Area – Local businesses often think about expanding the area that they service. This may mean opening a franchise opportunity or seeking funding to open a regional office.
  • Expand on the Web – Your website may need to be updated or expanded if you plan to grow your business.

SEO Actions

Just a few years ago, businesses were ahead if they had their own website and were finding leads online. In 2017, most companies are online and if your company is not hard at work at improving SEO for your modern and easy-to-navigate website, then it may be floundering or worse, failing. Search Engine Optimization  – SEO – is the best way to help people find your company and become loyal customers.

Google, Yahoo and Bing, the top search engines, have specific algorithms to calculate where your company ranks when search parameters are entered. Unfortunately, these parameters change and evolve, so staying on top of your SEO plan is critical. Here are a few tips to help keep your business SEO plan on track!

  • Content – For years we have heard that content is king. When it comes to SEO, relevant content is key to increasing your ranking. When you provide useful content, visitors tend to stay longer on your website to consume the information and therefore increase the “on site” time. Regularly updated content whether it is a blog, newsletter or How-To videos are viewed as one of the best indicators of a site’s relevancy.
  • Keywords – Placement of relevant and useful keywords throughout the website is perhaps one of the most important SEO tactics. Use online and Google tools to determine what words someone would use to conduct a search to find your specific service or product.
  • Page Load Speed – We have all been there waiting for a page to load and decide to move on to another page because it was taking too long. Even just a few seconds can mean losing a visitor. There are many ways to increase page load speed, some of which include using a caching plug-ins, making sure the code is clean and streamlined, optimizing image sizes, reducing the number of plug-ins, and minimizing redirects.
  • Links – To make your content more useful and relevant, you can link out to authority sites for more in-depth information your readers can use. Don’t forget to continue to maintain a list of links to directories associated with your industry.
  • Tags – Use header tags and others ways to organize the information on your website so that it is easy to navigate.

Performance Reviews

Whether it is called an annual review, performance review, or a salary adjustment meeting, these workplace events can be stressful for both the employee and the manager. These meetings may seem like a blip on the radar as they usually only happen annually or bi-annually, but they can set the tone for your company and the expectations that you have for your employees across the entire spectrum of leadership. Here are a few tips to help make performance reviews positive and motivational.

  • Prepare in Advance –  Never go into a performance review without preparation. Both the manager and the employee should plan in advance with a worksheet that they can fill out prior to the review that lists major accomplishments, strengths, weaknesses and future goals going forward. This will give both the employee and the reviewer a good way to organize their thoughts.
  • Keep Things Positive – Avoid heading right into the areas where you would like to see improvement. Instead spend the vast amount of time during  the review talking about what went right during the year, accomplishments, and improvements that you have seen since the last review. Everyone wants to know that their hard work has been noticed and find that it is rewarding when a leader in the company has taken note.
  • Talk About Struggles – Every employee, including yourself has some area of the job that they struggle with. Talk about what those are for this particular employee and how the company can be of assistance to guide, mentor or support so that these things are less of a struggle.  This may include assisting with a class on a topic that impacts your company or potentially arranging for a training session.
  • Create Goals – During the review, be sure to talk about future goals that the employee has as well as what you see on the horizon. This is a great way to set your agenda out and let your employee know that you see things moving forward for them. They may have ideas that can build up your business as well.
  • Be Ready to Do a Balancing Act –  Be prepared to be constructive in your discussions but also be ready to hold your ground. The more prepared you are the easier the conversation will go. If you have questions talk to your HR department or representative.

Business Plan Elements

Being an entrepreneur of a small or medium sized business means that you need to have a broad range of skills and the right people on your team to make a successful run at starting your own company. Part of the success in the first few years of any new business can be tied back to the details and pre-planning of the main elements of a business plan.  Here are the critical main elements that every business plan should have as well as some tips to get you started on the right foot.

According to Entrepreneur Online, there are seven key parts to any business plan. Each part is fairly complex and needs to be planned and executed carefully.

  • Executive Summary – In the words of the entrepreneur, what is this business all about and what is the main product/service that will be offered? Where does this business fit in to the industry? This should be short and to the point in very professional language. Within this summary should be: a description of the business concept and an overview of the financials that relate to the company. Include an outlook of major achievements and goals for the first year(s).
  • Company Description – Start by describing the industry that you are joining and how your company will fit into or make its mark on that industry. Be sure to include in the description the structure of the company as well as the legal form that it will take. Give specifics of how your company will have the edge over its competitors.
  • Products/Services– In this section, describe in detail your service or product. Emphasize how your product or service is unique. Show how your company will do or sell things in its own way and differentiate from competitors.
  • Market Analysis-This section should illustrate your knowledge about the particular industry your business is in. Explain your target audience and how pricing, distribution and marketing strategies will make your company profitable within a competitive environment.
  • Strategy and Implementation – Explain your marketing strategy from traditional print and store front strategies to the complex strategies that come with your website, social media and paid advertising.
  • Organization and Management Team – Describe in detail how your company will be structured. Who are the key members of the team and who will be responsible for what?  Allow for evolution of this section as things may change throughout the growth and success of the company.
  • Financial Plan and Projections – Develop financial projections that look one year, three years and five years into the future.  This section will probably need the most revision as the industry and market fluctuates.