How Microsoft helps my Small Business

I have been using a Microsoft Surface Pro 3 for over a year now, and I love it. I would have to say that it is the best machine that I have ever owned.

I co-founded Collab Space, an Entrepreneurial Community Centre here in Ottawa Canada over a year ago, and my Pro 3 was with me the whole time, day in and day out, and it has kept up with everything that I have thrown at it.

For the past month, I have been running the Surface Pro 4 as my daily driver and work horse machine, and it hasn’t skipped a beat. The Surface takes the best qualities of a desktop, a laptop, and a tablet PC and smashes them together into one amazing machine.

Why does this matter?

As a small business owner, I am constantly on the go, and I need my machine to come with me.
I have a Surface dock in my home office, and a dock at work, both attached to a dual monitor setup to maximize my screen real estate. When I need to run into a meeting, I can just grab it and go. When I have to run home at the end of the day to put my daughter to bed, I don’t have to close what I am doing, I grab and go, and plug in at home to continue working. I can work from the couch, the kitchen table, the bus, in the truck between meetings, and never have to worry about not having what I need with me.

What complements the Surface, and is a pivotal part of how my small business operates, is Microsoft Office 365. I have several employees spread over two locations, and O365 allows me to manage everything so easily.  I can quickly spin up new employee accounts and add all of the permissions they require, and have them up running quickly. O365 is also great that it can all be operated via a web browser, so if an employee forgets their machine, or if something happens to it, it minimizes the downtime.

We have just started to play with Microsoft Teams, and are excited at the possibilities and options included.

I have been writing this post on the Surface, and ended up switching to Word on my Microsoft Lumia 950XL to finished it up. I love the ease of access to my information, and how it can adapt to my working life.

I would like to thank Christine Bays, Commercial Digital Community Manager, and Jarrod Goldsmith of eSAX – The Entrepreneur Social Advantage Experience for providing me with access to the Surface Pro 4 for the month in order to review it, and the opportunity to let the Entrepreneurial community hear my story of how Microsoft assists me in running my business.

Blair Kilrea
Co-Founder – Collab Space

Biggest Misconceptions about Networking

eSAX-Ottawa-Networking-Event (14)Networking is a highly beneficial activity that helps those wanting to grow their businesses. It’s great for those with new businesses, and those with established businesses. However, there are still those out there that aren’t sold on it. These people are missing out on a great opportunity for growth. To make sure you aren’t one of those people, let’s look at five of the biggest misconceptions about networking:

#1: It’s a waste of time

Time is our most valuable resource, and we must be careful about where we spend it. That being said, networking is not one of those activities that we should be stingy about our time. Yes, it’s important to make sure you are attending the right events, but the act of developing business connections is an important one and well worth our time.

#2: Personalities at networking events are fake

People think that those they meet at networking events are putting on their fake “sales” face, akin to the stereotype of the slimy used car salesman of days past. Why would we want to spend our time getting to know people like that?

The truth is, you may run into a few people like that, but the vast majority of people are honest and authentic. They are out there trying to meet new people and create a quality network. You simply have to make sure to say hi to enough people to find the good ones!

#3: Owners of successful business does not need networking

This misconception is dual-sided. People think that they won’t run into anyone worth meeting (those with successful businesses) because those types of people don’t need to attend networking events. It’s not true. Many sucessful business owners attend networking events to meet the up-and-comers, as well as to ensure that the newbies know about their business. For those successful business people who DO feel they do not need to network, they are putting themselves at a disadvantage. Their pool for referrals will get smaller and smaller over the years, and they won’t have new people referring them.

#4: Networking and follow-up is too much effort

For those not familiar with networking, it seems like a large amount of effort. Not only do you need to attend the event, but you also need to follow-up with emails, telephone calls, engagement on social media, coffee visits, and more! While we won’t deny that effort is involved, we will say that the more you do it the easier and more automated it becomes. When you schedule time in for the day after an event to do your follow-ups then it will not drag on, and you will get better and better at it each time you do it.

#5: There is no ROI from networking

Some entrepreneurs want to associate a direct dollar value to everything, and networking does translate into a clear ROI (return on investment). When you take into account the cost of the ticket and your time spent on the event, how much money would you have to make to make it worth it? If you consider that someone you met at one event might give you a referral a year later, it’s hard to track that directly. 

That’s why it is important for you to set certain goals for a networking event. The more you can associate a goal (such as, 10 additional people to your newsletter list) to your ROI, the better you can translate your event attendance to it.

Be sure to get your tickets to the next eSAX Ottawa networking event!

Networking Is Building Friendships

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When you are just start out with a new business, you’ll find yourself eager to talk about your products or services all the time. It can be easy to overlook the fact that a successful business needs a solid foundation, made up of strong businesses and people who support you. The more people know you, and know about your business, the better the prospects for your business will be, but it is a two-way street. You must show interest in other people and their businesses, and you must be ready to support them as well. Networking is beneficial for both the parties and thus it is nothing but friendship!

Friendships take time to bloom

You COULD choose to meet someone at a networking event, and not engage with them again until the next one, but that would not lead to successful relationships. Think back to when you were in school. You didn’t consider yourself to be “friends” with the person you only saw in your 3rd period class. Your friends were the ones that you ate lunch with, and participated in extracurriculars, and went to the mall after school, and planned your next year’s schedule. If you want a strong relationship to come out of networking, you have to do the extra time. Have follow-up coffee chats, or check-in to see if the other person is planning on going to another upcoming event. 

When you meet any unknown person you do not become friends immediately. You take your time, meet with them for several times, find out what qualities is there in them that attracts you towards them and then you start relying on them. This is true in networking too. In networking once you meet any person you keep their contact, and then start to follow up with them. Of course, here you do that for prospering your business, but in the process, you make friends who stay with you for the long run.

Use events for making friends and grow your network

Anyone who considers themselves a friend to another knows that friendship is just not waste of time. You create something with people who, in the long run, help you in different ways to make your life happier and more fulfilled. Similarly, by meeting people for networking in events like eSAX you get a chance to create a long-term business relationship. However, no one will rely on you if you are only ever asking for something. Instead, you need to give something. Gradually you will find that people will develop faith in you and follow what you are saying, just like in a friendship!

Thus, networking is nothing but an activity that builds friendships, where you make friends who become helpful for spreading the word about your business. However, you have to maintain the relationship or else you will not get results!

 Be sure to get your tickets to the next eSAX Ottawa networking event!

Networking and Job Interviewing: A Comparison

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The idea of “networking” is by no means a new one, but the term has gained popularity recently. The process of building relationships through many interactions has been a part of our human history. It is important for people to feel they know you and can trust you before they commit to a deal, and this is part of why we network.

Many new entrepreneurs may come from the traditional workforce, and while they may not be familiar with the concept of networking, they may be familiar with job interviews.  This process of asking position candidates about their skills and experience helps an employer choose the best person from a pool of people.

Short conversations

At both networking events and job interviews, time is of the essence. You must be aware of how much you are talking, and take care not to talk too much. At a networking event, the goal is to listen, and to spend time with more than one person. At a job interview, you must be concise so the interviewer can move on to the next question. In both cases, if you talk too much you may end up losing a great opportunity because the other party had to move on.

Selling yourself

In both situations, you are selling yourself. Your appearance matters, so you must dress cleanly and appropriately. Your word choice, eye contact, and body language also matter. The impression you make in your appearance and your conversation is all you have to make or break a deal. Of course, networking events allow you the chance for a do-over, if worst comes to worst.

Trust matters

In this short amount of time (in both cases) you must give off the impression that you are a trustworthy person. You must be honest, authentic and sincere and establish the ground that you will build a relationship on over a long period of time. Even if you think that a little white lie might go unnoticed, it’s not worth the risk of them knowing the truth and judging you as untrustworthy.

Mutual contract

Networking is a mutual contract wherein two professional shares their experience for mutual benefit, it’s just not a business deal. Job interviewing too is a mutual contract but it is made between the two parties wherein one shares their skills and experiences and other pay for the skills shared. You should be just as respectful in one situation as in the other. 

While some may never erase their nerves in a job interview, the best way to erase them at networking events is to practice! Be sure to get your tickets to the next eSAX Ottawa networking event!

How to Learn Names When Networking

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Networking is all about dealing with people, and if you can remember people by name, half your work is done. Remembering names makes others feel as though you value them, which is exactly how you want to treat your relationship with them.

Remembering names can be an especially big challenge at events such as eSAX: the Entrepreneur Social Advantage Experience, where more than 300 people show up. It’s hard to remember that many names! Luckily, everyone gets a name tag, but if you want to go that extra mile and remember names on your own, we have some tips for you!

Get it at the first chance

Sometimes we get so enchanted by someone’s business, that we forget their name as soon as they’ve said it. Make a point to re-ask their name, and then repeat the name and use it a few times in the conversation you are having. This will give you a better chance of remembering it later on, since you are associating that name with their face.

Make a note

After your conversation, make a note on their business card of any characteristics that will help you to connect the name with the face for next time. “Purple glasses” perhaps, or any other noteworthy aspect of their appearance. If they don’t have a business card, it’s even more important for you to write down their information (remember to always have note paper with you!) That way you can spell out their name, and listing to this spelling sends a virtual image to your brain to help you remember it.

Associate

It may sound silly, but sometimes a great way to remember a name is to associate it with something else that is familiar. For example, if you meet someone named Lucy and she has red hair, it would be easy to associate her with the “I Love Lucy” TV show. When you see her next time you’ll think “Red hair… I Love Lucy… her name is Lucy!”

Use social networking

The best way to remember names is to add them to your networks online. If you add them on LinkedIn, you are almost sure to see their photo in their profile and then remember what they look like. The more active you are on social media, and the more you engage with them, the more likely you will be to remember their name next time you meet, in-person, again.

Choose to care

Finally, to remember names you must be eager to remember them. If you are not interested in remembering the name, nothing in this world will help you do so. Care about the person and their name name and you will find it on your tongue next time when you meet the person.

Practice calling people by their name at each event, and make sure to get your tickets to the next eSAX Ottawa networking event!

Break the Ice at Networking Events

eSAX-Ottawa-Networking-Event (1)When you attend eSAX or any other Ottawa entrepreneur networking event, your goal shouldn’t be to just collect business cards.

These events are the place that you are building rapport that will establish long-term relationships that lead to future opportunities for both involved parties. It takes a good deal of time and effort to cultivate, but it all starts with the initial ice breaking at the first meeting!

How can you set yourself up for the perfect icebreakers?

Change your mindset

No matter how fantastic your opening line might be, it will fall flat if your heart isn’t in it. Be positive and be on the lookout for the diamond in the rough. This means, don’t walk in and decide there is no one good to talk to. Have your mind set on meeting anyone unknown and starting as meaningful a conversation as you would with someone you knew could set you up with a million dollar deal. Treating people this way will make people feel pleased to speak with you.

Mind your appearance

Your appearance, which includes your apparel and your body language, tells others a lot about you. Be business-appropriate in what you wear, and always make sure to have a smile on your face. Don’t forget to use eye contact when talking with others, and avoid crossing your arms.

Ask a mutual acquaintance for help

To start a conversation with an unknown person, you can ask any mutual friend or acquaintance to introduce you. This works perfect if you see someone you already know speaking to someone you don’t already know. Walk up and say hello to your friend and ask them to introduce you.

Directly introduce yourself

If you want to meet someone and you don’t have a mutual friend to do the introduction, you will have to just gather your nerves, focus your confidence, and go right over and say hello. It’s always best to start with your name, and asking them their name and what they do. Remember to hold off on shoving your business card in their face. People want to talk first, exchange cards later. The same goes for your elevator pitch. You want to do introductions first and not just spit out the pitch at them.

Wondering what to talk about if you can’t just talk about what you are selling? Try these:

  • How did you hear about this event?
  • Did you travel far to get here?
  • Have you been to this event before?
  • What TV shows are you into?
  • Do you know many people here? Who?
  • What is the most exciting project you are working on right now?
  • Bonus: “How did you meet Jarrod” (at an eSAX event) OR “Do you know Jarrod?” (at any event around town, as he will undoubtedly be in attendance!)

Ask open-ended questions that show you are interested in the person you are talking with. This is the key to starting a good business relationship.

Breaking the ice becomes easier with practice. Don’t forget to get your tickets to the next eSAX Ottawa networking event so you can make sure to keep practicing your networking skills and building up relationships!

Self-image at Ottawa Networking Events

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Often the focus of networking is our business. We spend so much time fussing over business cards or website content that sometimes we forget how important it is to work on ourselves. As entrepreneurs, we are selling ourselves to others and we can’t do that successfully unless we have a good self-image.

Self-image is not just what you look and act like. While it is about your brand, the energy you are projecting, and about the people you work with or network with, that isn’t all. Your self-image is the ideas you have inside of yourself, those that no one but you may know. These are the ideas you have about your abilities, appearance and personality and when pertaining to business they are the ideas you have about your business. There are two problems we could face when it comes to self-image:

  1. We have a negative self-image, and aren’t presenting ourselves in the best light.
  2. We have an overly optimistic self-image, and think we are perfect when we, in-fact, are not.

From a physical perspective, self-image includes your dress and tidiness, and it also includes your facial expressions and body language. The only way for you to reflect on your own ideas of your physical perspective is for you to ask others what they think of you, and to observe others and compare yourself to them. You could do research and conduct your own personal analysis, but we are generally not an objective party when judging ourselves. Think of it this way: watch someone you respect and admire and take note of everything from what they are wearing to what they do with their hands and how they position their feet. Then ask yourself what you are doing with yours. You may have not realized that you had room for improvement until you conduct an inventory in this way (or as an impartial and trusted friend or connection).

The psychological aspect of self-image takes into account our internal perceptions of ourselves – our self-worth and self-esteem. No matter how hard we try to force ourselves out there and act like we are confident and happy, it will not translate to others. Whatever you need to work on, whether it is confidence in yourself, or confidence in your business, you need to work through it before you interact with others. If you have secret negative thoughts they will leak out in your tone or intonation when speaking to people, or perhaps an offhanded sarcastic comment, and the intuition of others will alert them that you aren’t being authentic. So work on full self-acceptance and love of what you are doing so none of those negative thoughts are floating around!

The same idea goes for over-confidence. If you think you are the best thing since sliced bread, you may want to tone it down a bit and find some humility, before others pick up how full of yourself you are. Again, look at someone you respect and admire and see how they broadcast themselves.

Remember that working on your self-image is an ongoing project. You’ll work on it before a networking event, but you’ll also work on it during the event.

One way that your self-image will improve is by setting realistic and achievable goals for yourself. When you meet these goals, you will get an instant gratification that will help you to feel more confident. Set steps for yourself, such as:

  •         Check-into the event
  •         Talk to at least 3 new people
  •         Reintroduce myself to at least 3 people from past events

It is important to have these experience of achieving goals, so you can build on the success each time. Over the year there are 4 eSAX events (and countless other Ottawa networking events), and if you meet 3 new people and revive 3 relationships each time you will quickly build up a large and strong network.

Don’t forget to purchase your tickets to the next eSAX event, and keep coming back so you can experience your self-image improvement throughout the year!

 

Start Networking Like A Pro

By Jarrod Goldsmith

“I hate networking events”.

How many times have you heard this or said it yourself?

For most people, the concept of networking conjures up images of a scary, slimy and fake experience with everyone in the room trying to hawk their products and services.

We’ve likely all met someone who barely says hello before launching into their ‘sales-pitch’ with something like: “I do this, that and the other thing, I’m so great and you need my services”.

Really?

When I hear this the first thing that comes to mind is that the person is obviously a networking rookie. Often I’ll stop them in mid-sentence and ask them a simple question like what’s their name. Seems harmless enough right? After a second or two of awkward silence while they compose themselves (having lost their place in their memorized sales-pitch), I introduce myself and extend a hand in greeting. So as to not make them feel embarrassed, I then ask another harmless question such as if they have attended this particular event before, do they know the organizer, what part of town do they live in etc.

You’d be amazed at how people ‘open-up’ by just having a regular conversation without bringing-up business. Asking non work-related questions will make people feel more relaxed and comfortable. But never forget you must be absolutely genuine in wanting to know the answers as people everywhere have an uncanny knack of seeing-through-fake.

Always maintain eye-contact and do not scan the room looking for other people to meet while in the middle of a conversation with someone. At that moment, make them the most important person in the word.

To provide an example, I was at an Ottawa Chamber of Commerce Mayors Breakfast a while ago and had the chance to chat with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. When Mr. Trudeau is engaged with talking to you, he makes you feel as if you’re the only one in the room by giving you his undivided attention, not to mention his welcoming body language of legs apart, often on a slight angle facing you, head tilted forward and hands at his side or lightly clasped in front of him (pictured)

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson (Far right) Justin Trudeau (2nd from right) Jarrod Goldsmith (Far left)

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson (Far right)
Justin Trudeau (2nd from right)
Jarrod Goldsmith (Far left)

Next time you’re at a networking event, try a few of the above tips and start networking like a pro. Doing so may very well change not only your outlook on networking, but how others view you.

For more networking tips, check out the weekly Ask The Fedora videos on YouTube!

What People Want To Know About You When Networking

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Networking events provide a great opportunity to chat with other business people that you don’t get to see that often, but it’s important to remember that time is limited and we shouldn’t take up too much of any one person’s time.

With that in mind, what are some things to focus on? What are the things that people really want to know from you at each event?

What’s new

Any new projects, partnerships, or ventures? As a business connection, people don’t want to hear your latest sales pitch, but they do want to know what you are doing and where you are focusing your energy, so they can recommend potential clients your way when they come up. Don’t overwhelm them with information, just give them the highlights of what you’ve been up to since you last saw them.

Who to meet

Is there anyone new to the business scene that they should meet? Perhaps you just met someone who has an awesome new startup, or you met someone new to town at a previous event that your connection should meet. People appreciate you helping them to expand their network with quality business people. These light referrals give you bonus points in both person’s eyes. If it ends up being a lucrative connection, they may be especially thankful and remember you even more in the future.

What’s coming up

Make sure to mention to your connection what events are coming up that you are attending. People always appreciate learning about a new event, and spreading the word will help the event to gather the greatest entrepreneurs in Ottawa. Be sure to mention where they can get tickets, if necessary, and tell them where you heard of it. Lots of times new events spring up and it takes word of mouth to get them up and running.

Where’s the food

If all else fails and you can’t think of what to talk about, mention the food! Point out where the drinks are, or where the food is (this works especially well if there are roaming servers with trays). It may be a small talk, but it’s better than nothing. Not all conversations have to be deep to be meaningful! You can parlay talk about the event’s food into talk about restaurants in town, new recipes, cooking shows, and more. Be creative!

The continued connections that you make with people are what really counts. Keep your relationships going by purchasing your tickets to the next eSAX Ottawa networking event!

What Networking Can Do For You

eSAX-Ottawa-Networking-Event (2)You’ve heard time and again that networking is about relationships and not sales, but perhaps you are wondering: “what will networking really do for me?”

Gain experience

When it IS time to sell, whether at a client meeting, trade show, or wherever else, you’ll want to be ready to interact with people and feed off of them to tailor your pitch to meet their needs. Networking gives you a chance to gain experience in talking about your product and gauging people’s reactions. Do their eyes glaze over when you talk about the technical aspects, but they seem really interested in hearing about success stories? Networking helps you become an experienced sales person, without the pressure of sales!

Gain confidence

In addition to wanting to know how to talk to people and expect what they will want to hear from you, you’ll also want to make sure you have the confidence to sell your product. It’s more than memorizing your elevator pitch and reciting it in front of a mirror. To really sell your products and services, you have to have the confidence to discuss them backwards and forwards. Networking gives you the chance to do this, and the more you network the easier it will be to talk about your business.

Gain referrals & opportunities

Yes, referrals really happen. They might not flood in the day after an event, but over time you may find lucrative deals roll in from people you have gotten to know. In addition, perhaps you will find the chance for joint ventures, partnerships, or new business ideas that you may have never considered had you not gotten out and networked.

Market research

Developing a business on your own, with no outside input, is a terrible idea. We are incapable of being impartial or objective. That’s why networking is a great opportunity to find out what others think. Networking events, such as eSAX, provide you with the chance to talk to HUNDREDS of people and find out what their reaction to your business idea is. Ask them about their pain points, and see if your product or service can solve for it. 

 

Get expert advice

Networking events have a mix of entrepreneurs with varying degrees of experience over many different fields. While you may find a lot of people who are new to business and networking, you’ll want to seek out those who are there to give advice. At eSAX, attendees include professional business coaches, or staff from the Ottawa Public Library and Invest Ottawa, who help businesses start and grow. Through networking you are able to meet with influencers who would otherwise be very difficult to meet. While the Mayor won’t have time to mix and mingle with everyone, you will find that company CEOs and sucessful startup founders will spend more time with you. It is the gift of networking that once you start doing it you get to learn a lot of things that would not had been possible otherwise.

 

Networking does a lot for you and your business if you do it passionately and honestly. Don’t miss out! Make sure to get your tickets to the next eSAX Ottawa networking event!