When growth and success are the goals you want to achieve, it can become easy to give in to frustration over the simple fact that there’s always so much that needs to get done. Entrepreneurs all over the world are constantly searching for amazing productivity tools that will help them become more efficient at what they’re doing – not so that they can kick back and relax, but so that they can use the extra time they gain to focus on other equally important aspects of their companies. Programs such as Asana, Slack, and Dropbox all make for great productivity and project management tools, but they’re not the only ones at your disposal.
When looking for the best tools to improve the productivity of your startup, it’s best to start by doing a bit of reflection. Take a pen and piece of paper and write down your biggest challenges. These might be communication, accounting, or project management. Every company is different, and a great workflow can only be achieved through customization and constant reevaluation.
Once you have a clear idea of what you need to work on, you can look at the list below, and choose the productivity tools that will work for your specific needs.
10 Tools to Improve the Productivity of Your Startup in 2020
No matter how passionate you are about your work, or how disciplined, there will always be time-wasters within your working process that are taking precious energy away from tasks that truly matter. RescueTime is a great solution to analyze and eliminate those time-wasters.
This is a tracking software that works on all your devices and gives you data about how you’re spending your workday. Once it has helped you identify your biggest challenges, you can use it to set goals and alerts, block distractions, set your work hours, and even gain insight into how you spend your hours away from an electronic device.
Chances are, your entrepreneurial lifestyle has you spending a significant portion of your day in front of a screen. That’s why it’s not a bad idea to look at ways to protect your eyes from strain and the negative health effects of blue light. Iris is an eye protection app you can install on your computer or mobile device, that will make small alterations to your screen. The Pro version offers several modes of working, including health mode, sleep mode, programming, and biohacker mode. It also has a built-in timer feature that encourages you to rest your eyes, but can also increase productivity by forcing you to take a short break every 20 minutes.
3. Outlook Calendar
A number of entrepreneurs and freelancers are finding that a calendar can do a great deal to improve their productivity. The reason behind this is simple. By blocking out slots to dedicate to a task, they’re imposing manageable deadlines that can be a great driving force for those who tend to get lost in their work.
Microsoft’s Outlook Calendar is one of the most effective apps out there, seeing that it offers a number of extra features including email integration, bill reminders, automatically calculating travel times, etc. You can also integrate it with a number of apps, such as TimeTackle, in order to export all the data you need into reports you can use for invoicing or analytics.
4. To-do lists
There’s a huge number of to-do apps on the internet. If you own a smartphone, chances are one’s either already installed on it. How elaborate you want to be with these apps completely depends on you. It’s not a bad idea to remember that you can just use the Notes or Reminders apps on your iPhone or download something like the Microsoft To-Do app or Todoist.
If you’re a fan of offline planning, you could also look into Bullet Journaling, which combines productivity and mindfulness techniques.
If you feel like virtual assistants are a godsend, you might want to give speech recognition software a try. Dragon is a speech recognition software that can help you significantly cut down on the amount of time needed to do tasks such as document typing, writing emails, updating social media statuses, or searching for something on the web. It’s supposed to be three times faster than typing, so you might just find that it’s an investment worth making.
6. Accounting apps
Most entrepreneurs aren’t fans of accounting. Unfortunately, it’s a process that’s a must for any small business, startup, and international corporation. To make things slightly easier, you can invest in tools that will automate at least a part of the process.
Apps such as Xero offer features that could minimize your time dealing with accounting tasks but providing you with a host of benefits. Track business expenses, enjoy better insights into your cash flow, and complete invoicing tasks in a matter of minutes.
Sometimes, working effectively means letting someone else take care of certain tasks. Especially when they require certain sets of skills you may not have, or take up too much time that you could make much better use of. In these cases, hiring a freelancer or remote worker can be an excellent option. Upwork is one of the best platforms for finding online talent, as it gives you access to millions of experts in any field you can possibly imagine.
Is your business reaching its target audience effectively? Often, a good content marketing strategy combined with smart social media usage can be all the advertising you need. But posting on multiple platforms can be a hassle, especially since a number of social media apps don’t let you post content from your computer (Instagram, for example).
In these cases, a solution such as Buffer could do a lot to increase productivity (and save time). In addition to publishing content, it also helps you with analytics, as well as managing engagement, which you should definitely be paying attention to.
Most startups can benefit from automation. With the wide availability of smart tech that can make your life easier (or more exciting), an app that helps them all connect is a must. IFTTT is a free tool that allows you to automate a number of processes at home, as well as at the office.
Turn on the lights at the beginning of the day, automatically lock doors at certain times of the day, set your Roomba to work while you’re away from your desk, have Spotify play your favorite music for concentration, make calls, improve the way your virtual assistant works, order lunch, sync to-do lists. The possibilities are endless. All you need to do is think of an automated process, and you can program it for yourself, without needing to actually write code.
Last but not least, your startup should be taking security seriously, so invest in a software solution that helps you keep all your company data safe, alerts you about possible security breaches, creates an activity log, offers multi-factor authentication, and even helps you control what information team members have access to.
As you can see, productivity tools don’t have to be complicated. They just have to work for you. Of course, the apps and programs listed above aren’t the only tools at your disposal. The web is full of excellent solutions, so the best thing you can do is try some of them out and see whether they satisfy your needs.
Customer Discovery: the Hidden Key to a Successful Startup
The term “customer discovery” might make you think of all kinds of processes.
Is it the part where you try to learn as much about your customers as you can? Is it the part where you go out and discover actual flesh-and-blood customers who will buy your products? Is it something else?
Turns out, it’s something else.
What Is Customer Discovery?
Customer discovery is a term used by two of the main figures of the lean startup methodology, Steve Blank and Eric Reis. They define customer discovery as questioning your core business assumptions. It is a way for you to validate your ideas and theories by going to the source – the customer – and a way to flesh out evidence supporting your product-market fit.
When Would You Need Customer Discovery?
In reality, you need customer discovery whenever you are designing a product or a service.
Let’s break it down into three distinct stages:
- You define a problem/market need (that your product/service is meant to fill).
- You develop a hypothesis about the solution (i.e., develop the product/service idea).
- You conduct an experiment to test your hypothesis (gather data from actual customers).
Yes, customer discovery is meant to validate your ideas – but it is more of a scientific approach than asking your friends, family, and coworkers what they think about your idea and whether they think it would work.
Let’s take a look at the four key steps to customer discovery, and see how you can use it to design solutions that fit your customer’s needs.
Step One: Come up with Your Hypothesis
This step encompasses stages one and two we’ve listed above: you are defining both the problem and the solution you are proposing to implement, and you are forming a hypothesis as to how the solution will impact the problem.
The best way to formulate your hypothesis is in a single sentence: my solution solves problem X. As simple as that.
You want to be incredibly specific with your hypothesis, and you want it to be accurate. Don’t just assume certain people have a certain problem. What if these people don’t see it as a problem?
That’s what customer discovery will help you discover, but in order to set off on the best foot possible, ensure you have a firm grasp of the issue yourself.
As for specificity: don’t just say, “I am solving the problem of lack of dog walkers by starting a dog walking service.” Instead, go for “I am solving a problem people living in this area have with walking their dogs from 9-5 by offering a safe, hassle-free, and reliable dog walking service”.
Step Two: Define Your Assumptions
As you can already tell, you were forced to make certain assumptions in step one. They may be correct, or they may be incorrect, and now is the time to write them all down.
You may be assuming that something is a problem (when, in fact, it isn’t), you may be assuming that your solution will help (when in reality, it won’t), and you may be assuming a certain demographic has this issue (which they may not).
Once you have your assumptions down, create a target persona in order to alleviate as much of them as possible. This is the person you are targeting, your ideal customer, the person with these problems.
Go into as much detail about your persona as possible, as it will help you ensure your data is sound later on.
Step Three: Test It out
Now that you have your hypothesis, an ideal customer in mind, and you are (in theory) aware of at least some of the pitfalls you may be facing, the time has come to test your theory out in the real world.
You are going to ask some people some questions.
The people you start with should be your potential customers. In our hypothetical case, dog owners living in a certain area, working 9-to-5 jobs.
Don’t ask people living in other areas, people who own cats and not dogs, or people who don’t own dogs but live in the area and work the nine-to-five. You have defined your audience – stick to it.
As for the questions themselves, you need to be very careful about how you formulate them.
You don’t want to ask, “Do you think this is a good idea?”. You don’t want to say anything about your idea, in fact. You want the people you’re asking to tell you what they would appreciate as a solution, and you are then going to build your solution based on their answers.
This is what customer discovery is about – creating a final product that matches the real needs of real customers.
To that end, your questions should be open-ended and not specifically related to your idea. Here are some examples:
- What do you currently do for…?
- Do you like the process?
- Is it working out for you?
- If you could improve the process, how would you do it?
- What is the biggest challenge about…?
- What do you like about it?
And so on.
The answers you get should help you outline your solution and make it a reality in the future.
Step Four: Evaluate Your Data
Now that you have plenty of data at your disposal, the time has come to go through it.
If you have done your homework well, you’ve likely discovered information you had no idea about previously. Someone has pointed out a solution or an issue you were not aware of.
This allows you to go back and refine your hypothesis and the idea itself, at which point you can do another round of customer discovery.
If, however, you’ve discovered your hypothesis was entirely correct, you can move on to product development.
Test out more than one hypothesis, and keep discovering until you are satisfied that you have come up with the best possible solution.
Customer discovery is certainly a lengthy and complex process, but it’s worth all the effort. It can significantly increase your chances of producing a solution that not only works but that is already sought after by a vast number of people. Consequently, your solution will be much more likely to become a success.
Top 6 Cybersecurity Lessons Startups Can Learn From Healthcare Organizations
COVID-19 won’t be here forever, but cybercriminals will!
Leveraging the COVID-19 situation, cybercriminals are targeting SMEs and even large enterprises to steal valuable information. Many reports claim that cybercrimes have doubled in the last couple of months.
The healthcare industry is one of the latest victims of cybercriminals. According to Accenture, the healthcare industry has witnessed around 41% increase in cyberattacks. The report also says that the healthcare industry on average experiences 130 data breaches in a year.
However, as a healthcare IT consultant, I have recently noticed that healthcare organizations are ramping up their efforts to safeguard patient data. And for that, they are deploying many technologies, solutions and unique cost-effective ideas.
The technologies, solutions and ideas healthcare startups are deploying are so effective that other startups can learn cybersecurity lessons from healthcare startups. Today, in this blog, I will share the same. I will list down 6 cybersecurity lessons learned from healthcare organizations in 2020 during COVID-19.
How are healthcare startups avoiding cybercriminals? (Learning from other startups!)
Avoiding cybercriminals or ensuring data security is not a task, it is the process. And a process is always more complicated than a task. But here is how healthcare organizations are streamlining the process, the cybersecurity process.
- Determine the cybersecurity risks level
Not all healthcare startups are on the radar of cybercriminals. Thus, it is a rational idea to determine the possibility of a cyberattack or to determine the cybersecurity risks level. This process enables organizations to know the threat level – whether they are on the radar of cybercriminals or not.
To find the cybersecurity risks level, healthcare organizations simply link the type of data they store to the motive of cybercriminals. For instance, if a healthcare organization stores medical images of patients and not the patient’s personal and financial data, they should not invest more in cybersecurity.
But if a healthcare organization stores many valuable data of the patients, accommodates less-trained staff and works with legacy networks, they should worry about cybersecurity as their cybersecurity risk is high.
Learning for other startups: You should invest only after confirming that you are the potential target! If you do not store any crucial data, you don’t have to allocate your resources to cybersecurity.
- Find the loopholes through technical assessment
A network has many open doors or errors which work as the opportunities for hackers to get access to databases. They usually scan the network and attack the ‘fragile part’. Thus, it is important to find the loopholes in the network and fix it to close the entry doors for the cybercriminals.
Carrying out the technical assessment is the best way to find loopholes in the network. It is designed to yield the vulnerability in the network. A technical assessment does not only aim to find the vulnerabilities, but it also aims to quantify and prioritize the vulnerabilities.
So, now when cybersecurity experts know the loopholes which cybercriminals can leverage to attack, the cybersecurity experts can easily avoid the attack by fixing the loopholes.
Learning for other startups:
This is the best method to avoid cyber attacks. You should find the open doors in your network and close it to prevent the undetected entry of hackers into your network.
- Software configuration assessment
A healthcare organization uses a number of software to streamline operations. They also use a lot of complex software. Sometimes, the poor configuration of these complex software creates easy paths for cybercriminals to attack the enterprise network as cybercriminals are many times using software to get access to the network or a server.
Learning for other startups:
While installing software on a computer device connected in the enterprise network, make sure the authenticity of the software and do not change the installation setting or software setting without the proper knowledge.
- Quick incident response
Regardless of the efforts healthcare organizations put to safeguard the network, cybercriminals many times find ways to penetrate the security measures. In such a scenario, only a quick incident response is hope.
Healthcare organizations always pay extra heed to incident response. They form a team which quickly takes control over the network and close the paths for attackers before they cause havoc.
The incident response team utilizes many security tools to monitor the network in real-time. If they identify any unusual activity or the system alerts them, they quickly put best practices to work to prevent cybercriminals from getting system access.
Learning for other startups:
Always work best but prepare for the worst. Cybercriminals can anytime, anyhow bypass the security of your system. So, be proactive and prepared.
- Train the staff
Generally, staff working in the healthcare organization lacks the knowledge of the cybersecurity which leads them to click on any malicious links or commit any costly mistake. Thus, healthcare organizations are putting emphasis on staff training. They give basic knowledge about cybersecurity and their deployed network to the staff and keep testing the staff’s cybersecurity knowledge after a fixed interval.
Learning for other startups:
If your staff does not follow cyber hygiene, things can easily go messy as staff members have network access and they spend the majority of their time around it.
- Always deploy feature-packed security solution including firewall
To ensure cybersecurity, deploying software security solutions as well as hardware security solutions is the basic requirement. But a premium security solution works more precisely and efficiently than an affordable security solution. Thus, healthcare organizations generally deploy premium feature-packed security solutions, especially a firewall.
A feature-packed firewall costs a bit more than the basic firewall. But a feature-packed firewall is worth the money. It does not only safeguard the enterprise network but offers many flexibilities and real-time network data to the admin.
- Admin can know the connected network and find the data usage of each network.
- Admin can know the top sources of threats to a network.
- Admin can know the most affected network.
- Admin can impose content filtering to prevent users from opening irrelevant sites.
- Admin can know every single activity of the users on that network.
Learning for other startups:
An ‘affordable security solution’ is the myth, actually!
In a nutshell:
Cybersecurity is the challenge for any startup serving in any industry. An ever-increasing number of cybersecurity attacks clearly depicts that it is a much bigger problem for startups than COVID-19.
However, there is one industry that is pulling out all dots to curb the coronavirus as well as cyberattacks. In this blog, we have discussed 6 ways of how healthcare organizations are safeguarding crucial patient data.
These ways are,
- Confirm the level of cyberattack risk
- Find the loopholes in the network and fix it
- Do not configure the software without proper knowledge
- Form an incident response team
- Train the staff
- Opt for feature-packed security solutions
CoronaVirus Changes Everything; Your Startup’s Survival Guide During The Pandemic
Nothing will ever remain the same, not even your weight after this pandemic. Maybe your name will, but that’s beside the point. Everything will change; the entire world will change. The market won’t be the same, but change can be a good thing, right? If you’re a startup, then this can be a very challenging moment for your business.
Many industries took a great hit as a result of the outbreak, and a lot of businesses were affected, some of them took a huge loss while others profited a lot from it, companies like Zoom watched their profit skyrocket in such a short period of time. Managing your business is very crucial during these times, and there are a few steps you can take for your startup to survive in this pandemic.
1) Calculate your risk
First of all, you have to evaluate all the risks the pandemic poses to your business and the losses you’ve already incurred. Calculating and controlling your burn rate at this stage is essential for your business to survive.
You do not want to incur losses at this point because the future of your startup after the pandemic is not very certain, and you have to do everything in your power to keep the business going.
2) Efficient Team Management
Your team is very important to your business. You should encourage team spirit in a time like this, reach out to your team members, make sure they’re doing okay, let them know how important they are to the company and to you.
Most people tend to suffer emotionally during a pandemic, which could be a result of the fear of losing a loved one during this period, at this point, you don’t know what the future holds for you. This makes it important you let them connect with one another even on a personal level, encourage them to check up one another, treat them like your one big family, and build a support system. This helps build their focus and creativity and enables them to work efficiently.
3) Digital Communication
You have to set communication standards and tools in other to be able to communicate ideas with your employees and work efficiently. Despite the pandemic you have to stay productive, not being able to meet in person with your employees shouldn’t limit that.
Companies like Zoom has made communication easy, and you’ll find out that your employees don’t even need to show up at work every day to keep your business running.
4) Manage your Resources
You have to analyze the resources you have and manage them because you don’t know how long the pandemic will persist, so try to curtail your expenses in every possible way and evaluate how to make your current resources last for at least a year.
Make a business continuity plan, and it will enable you to use your resources efficiently. Also, consider cutting down on the number of workers you have so you don’t have to spend a lot on salaries.
Work more with freelancers, that way you don’t have to recruit workers when the outbreak is over. Also, consider some good passive income ideas that can help you make money in these tough times. Starting a website and affiliate marketing for digital products are one of the popular ideas.
5) Promote Innovation
This is a step you have to take seriously. The success of your business lies in innovation, introducing new ideas, and implementing change when necessary, and this helps you stay relevant to society at large.
In order to achieve this, you have to create room for your workers to come up with ideas, hold brainstorming sessions, and support all the ideas they come up with. This makes them feel like they’re active members, which of course, they are. Even when they make mistakes, tolerate them, it creates an enabling environment for their minds to create.
6) Protect your customers
Keeping your customers safe should be your priority. The Corona Virus outbreak has made the demand for Hand Sanitizers high. Even the nose masks people didn’t care about so much in the past.
These are basic things your customers need that you can make available to them. No one can protect your customers for you. They’re the ones that’ll keep your business running. It’s time to give back to them in any way you can. You can make Sanitizers and provide nose masks for them. If they’re safe, then your business is safe.
Just as you’re keeping your customers safe, keep your employees safe too. Cancel all social gathering, let them work remotely, so they don’t have to worry about contracting the virus. Educate them on the essential things they need to know about the virus and how to avoid it.
You can communicate from wherever you are, online schedule meetings, and discussion sessions. Above all, keep yourself safe too. Use hand sanitizer always and your nose mask if there is an urgent need for you to go out. If we can survive this pandemic together, we can survive anything.
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