In the midst of the huge news stories that affected small business owners in 2013, OPEN Forum ran a number of articles that resonated with our readers, whether it was to their desire to be more productive or to be better employers. With all the think pieces and year in reviews rolling out as 2013 comes to a close, it's easy to forget some of the things we've read these last 12 months.
But never fear: What follows is 10 of OPEN Forum's best tips from our most popular stories of 2013, featuring advice so helpful, you'll want to remember it in 2014 and beyond.
1. Adopt more confident body language. We all know that nonverbal cues can signal a lack of confidence. But some of these gestures, such as holding your hands in front of you or tilting your head to the side, can be so engrained, we don't realize we're making them—and that we're conveying weakness to the people we speak to. Training yourself to take calming breaths or adopting powerful stances when speaking can lower the levels of the stress hormone cortisol in your body and send your confidence levels through the roof! (From "5 Body Language Poses That Can Sabotage Success," by Julie Bawden Davis)
2. Avoid common grammar mistakes. Even though some of the best writers are guilty of making them, grammar mistakes can make your copy look sloppy and reflect poorly on your business. Take the time to make sure you're not confusing "you're" with "your" on your website, and know when you should use "affect" or "effect." Once you know the rules, there's no stopping you! (From "8 Common Grammar Mistakes You Should Never Make Again," by Gini Dietrich)
3. Start your day off right before the workday even begins. With all of our devices and 24/7 on-the-go culture, it can feel as though you're already in the office once you hear your alarm. But it doesn't have to be that way. Waking up early to take time for yourself in the morning can set you up for a more productive day. For example, getting "30 minutes of moderate exercise equates to about two hours' worth of extra productivity over an eight-hour work day," so knock out some cardio or light lifting in the morning to jumpstart your day. (From "5 Things You Should Do Every Day Before Breakfast," by Jason Brick)
4. Tap into your quiet side. The common image of a successful businessperson is someone who really knows how to work a room. But some of the world's greatest leaders have actually been introverts like Abraham Lincoln, Bill Gates and Google's Larry Page. Why? Introverts tend to be better listeners, meaning they're better able to hear what their followers need and execute accordingly. Studies have borne this out: a 2010 Harvard Business School study found that "quiet bosses with proactive teams can be highly successful, because introverted leaders carefully listen to what their followers have to say," wrote OPEN Forum's Bruna Martinuzzi this year. (From "5 Reasons Introverts Make Better Leaders," by Bruna Martinuzzi)
5. Experiment and try something new. It seems 2013 was the year of food mashups, with mad-scientist chefs like Dominique Ansel and Keizo Shimamoto creating the cronut (croissant-donut) and ramen burger respectively. These food innovations all came from small-business owners who are freer to experiment than big chains who have shareholders and massive bottom lines to consider. The results have been incredibly rewarding for these two business men, so keep that in mind the next time you have a seemingly outlandish idea. It may just be crazy enough to work! (From "Ramen Burger: Get Ready For The Next Big Food Craze," by Anthonia Akitunde)
6. Recognize a bad hire when you see one. Hiring the wrong person for an open position at your job is more than an annoyance—it's a money drainer, costing anywhere between $5,700 to $8,900 to replace someone ... and that's just at entry level! That's why it's important to hire with a long game in mind and be a productive hirer, which is "more than just making sure the candidate has the right skills and experience for the open position," writes author Alexandra Levit. "They also have to be able to work well in and contribute meaningfully to the culture you've established for your company." (From "8 Signs You’re About To Hire The Wrong Person," by Alexandra Levit)
7. Protect your business from shifty employees. We learned a pretty shocking number this year: Employee theft costs U.S. businesses up to $200 billion in annual losses, according to an estimate from Harvard Business School. Hopefully your business will never have to deal with company theft at the hands of an once-trusted employee, but it's better to be safe than sorry. Learn the common ways employees can skim off thousands from your business, such as setting up phony vendor accounts and falsifying expense accounts. (From "7 Sneaky Ways Employees Steal And How To Prevent It," by Barry Moltz)
8. Use Siri for more than joking around. Yes, yes, we all like giving Siri, Apple's short-tempered virtual assistant, a hard time. But the voice-activated tool can be incredibly helpful in making your life easier. Siri can remember hard-to-pronounce names with phoentic spellings, send emails when you're on the go and unleash location-based reminders as you leave the office. It's the closest thing we mere mortals have to magic—or a personal assistant. (From "10 Siri Tricks To Help You Be Your Most Productive Self," by Leander Kahney)
9. Systemize your processes at work. One of the biggest mistakes managers everywhere make year after year is neglecting to put a system in place for every aspect of their business. What may seem like a nit-picky move is actually a time-saving one, wrote small business expert Rieva Lesonsky.
It provides consistency (ensuring your product or service is always made/delivered the same way, to the same quality standards), helps train employees (by following the systems, they always know what to do), and saves time (because no one has to reinvent the wheel)
(From "5 Management Mistakes That Can Come Back To Haunt You," by Rieva Lesonsky)
10. Rewire your brain for happiness. If nothing else, carry this one into the new year with you: Our brains are a magnet for negative experiences, clinging on to these moments as a way to protect ourselves. This natural instinct keeps positivity out, making it harder to appreciate the good things in our lives or see opportunities for our businesses. But thankfully, we can train our brains to make those positive experiences stick, by making a conscious effort to acknowledge when we feel satisfied and valuing the people who matter most. (From "How To Rewire Your Brain For Happiness," by Bruna Martinuzzi)
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