When did you last go the extra mile?

This is just a short post – but hopefully a thought provoking one, based on an experience of mine today.

I had a really great lunch today with a colleague/friend who I have huge amounts in common with. She sorted out the venue – and I’m pleased to announce it here – The Golden Pot, in Hampshire, UK.

It’s a lovely, traditional English Pub, as you’ll see from the photos. My friend goes there a lot – and I could see why.

The owner, who served us went out of his way to help us have an enjoyable meal. He actually asked a question I’ve never heard before in a restaurant when he was seating us – “What time do you need to be away?”.  He knew it was a business lunch – we must have looked busy, and so he wanted to ensure his timings fitted around us. He could hurry things along, or keep things relaxed, depending on the timescales we gave him. Brilliant.

He was a smart guy and I bet he also knew he could maximise the revenue earned from us if he got dessert and coffee served in time. If he delayed – we’d spend less – but I also bet that wasn’t why he was doing it.

Whilst ordering, I mentioned I had to catch a train to London from a small station nearby. I didn’t know the area and he told me I should allow 30 minutes. When we got up to leave (on time) – he was there WITH A MAP – so that he could best direct me to the station.

No one does this stuff… no one. And it’s so simple.

There – go ponder. When did you last go the extra mile?

The 8.45 Club partners with Kaplan Eduneering

Being Smarter Ltd is delighted to announce that its 8.45 Club venture has partnered with Kaplan Eduneering (NJ, USA) owned by The Washington Post.

Kaplan Eduneering will be adding our 8.45 Club style of learning to its already innovative portfolio of elearning capabilities designed for its corporate clients. The partnership has already delivered three video courses on Building Sustainable businesses, featuring Jeffrey Hollender, founder of Seventh Generation, Business Ethics training and an Instructional design course. All feature subject matter experts from the Kaplan stable.

Whilst these are private, subscription only courses – you can see screenshots below… (click for larger image).

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Over the coming months we will be releasing new, engaging courses together, delivering short, practical and to the point videos, delivered by expert presenters. Knowledge workers can be safe in the knowledge they will still be back at desks for 9.00.

Mark Copeman, founder of The 8.45 Club said, “We are delighted Kaplan Eduneering found our service – they are training experts, have been delivering training to 100’s of corporate clients for many years, yet they still see the value in what The 8.45 Club style of training can deliver. We are looking forward to continuing with our vision for innovation and providing Kaplan with a solution to the problem of people not having time to learn any more.”

Kent Malmros, director Business Development, Kaplan Eduneering said, “Our mission at Kaplan EduNeering is to help companies promote behavior change through effective online training and knowledge management. That means we’re always looking to provide clients with the best adult learning tools and The 8.45 Club has developed one.

They have blended traditional news delivery and sound instructional design to create a compelling new methodology for delivering knowledge. As partners with The 8.45 Club, Kaplan EduNeering passes this progressive new approach on to its clients and has the privilege of working with them to stay at the fore of training’s evolution.”

The partner page can be found here.

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9 tips to extend your laptop battery life

With so many people turning into Road/Starbucks/Carpark/Regus/Airport warriors these days – getting the most from your laptop battery is an important subject. With the Apple folks now producing Macs without replaceable batteries, we all need to be mastering the art of battery savings.

There are a number of pointers below to help you in your quest…

1) The single biggest power drain on battery life is the screen brightness – so whatever you are doing, ensure your power settings reduce this to a minimum or manually set the screen brightness to its lowest possible setting. If you do this – you will improve the battery life by a huge amount. It’s quite a revelation the first time it happens.

2) Monitor your laptop battery life more efficiently by installing BattCursor. It does what it says on the tin and the program displays your laptop’s battery level directly below your mouse pointer. It also warns you when you battery gets low by changing the colour of the window borders.

3) Check your power settings are set correctly (VISTA) by going to Control Panel>Power Options. It could well be a setting you’ve never seen before. Visit it now and experiment with what works for you.

4) When you are travelling by airplane the first thing you should do is to turn off any bluetooth or wireless devices (because it’s safe!) but also because it will conserve power. That also applies when you are working and are happy to be offline… reach for the wireless switch which is often coupled with bluetooth.

5) Vista Battery saver disables any Vista features that might consume power unnecessarily when you’re running low on battery. It re-enables them when you connect back to the mains supply.

6) Press CTRL-ALT-ESCAPE and see which processes or programs are running which you don’t need. If you are working on a Word document for example – shut down all other applications including your email. This will ensure less disc spin and that CPU power usage is kept to a minimum.

7) BatteryCare is a handy app which monitors your battery’s discharge cycles and automatically switches powerplans as required. It also provides information on your battery including its ‘wear level’… a measure of its health.

8.) In the longer term – keeping your laptop in a cool place (not in a hot car or leaving it in the sun) and operating it at room temperature will all improve its performance.

9) Do you know the difference between Hibernate and standby? Putting a laptop in standby mode does save some power and you can instantly resume where you left off. Hibernating a PC will actually save your PC’s state as it is, and completely shut itself down effectively turning it off.

The problem is, Hibernation mode can be hidden away for some unexplainable Windows reason. To access it, (VISTA) go to Control Panel>Power Options and click the left hand menu – Choose what the power buttons do. Configure the options so that pressing the power button puts the laptop into hibernation (there really is no need to reboot every day). Then to reboot, use the START> Shutdown/restart buttons…

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How to leverage your next customer event

It’s always great to write on subjects dear to your heart and ones based on personal experience. Today is both.

I’ve been lucky enough to watch many great presentations, speeches and seminars over the last few years, however have also been incredibly frustrated that no one apart from those in the room at the time can benefit from the experience. How long does it take event organisers to pull good speakers together? How long does it take speakers to put their materials together? Days? Weeks? And it’s all over in a few hours.

Ever cooked a roast dinner for 12 people? Spent 6 hours preparing it to see it all eaten in 15 mins? Well it’s the same thing with events, except with a roast dinner, I’m guessing you wouldn’t want to keep it for ever…

Today and tomorrow our team is working with one of our partner companies to record an expert seminar, given only to a select few. The speaker is then going to spend some time with us after the session, recording in a green screen studio and we are then going to turn the whole event into an ‘8.45 Club’ style course for them…

So what’s the point of all this?

  1. The presentation which has taken many hours to put together will not be lost forever. It can remain a useful asset for years after the event.
  2. An audience other than the limited few that could make it to London on that specific day can now benefit from the material.
  3. The company putting on the event can leverage this material with other clients – possibly even sell it, because of its value.

And how will it be presented?

  1. The material will not be presented as a giant, unmanageable block of 2 hours, it will be turned into an engaging video training course.
  2. The 8.45 Club style of training means it will be delivered to email inboxes, first thing in the morning, in bite-sized chunks of ten minutes per day, perhaps for a couple of days of week for a month or so.
  3. Learners can now benefit from this session without leaving their desk and still be at their desk by 9.00.

I believe that’s win, win, win…. and possibly win.

How are you leveraging your next event? http://the845club.com/bespoke

Guest post: Take it as a compliment when people poach your staff

Ian Mash of Yeoman Consulting helps us to continue the theme of ‘practical ways to help your business life” by sharing some of his experiences of working at the coalface as a senior manager in one of the UK’s largest companies – BT.

Most businesses are people businesses in some shape or form. You rely on both the skill and intelligence of your staff in any given situation to keep the wheels rolling on the right track. That isn’t to say that those skills can’t be improved though…

It’s a part of any manager’s role to work with his or her people, giving them regular constructive feedback and helping to improve skill gaps. No end of year appraisal should be a surprise to the appraisee. These days there are lots of ways to address skill gaps from the traditional face to face course, through management books to the more modern and innovative online courses like The 8.45 Club. (unprompted – Ed).

Over the years I have only ever had one person push back about learning or improving skills, and that person was almost terminally self critical and lacking in confidence. Over time we addressed this by discussion and their attendance on a course on self perception. Later this manager was able to run and successfully manage a team of 40 disparate staff. The comment was made to me by the manager that they were now doing things that they never thought they would be capable of. It’s great to see this happen.

An important point from my perspective is that this isn’t about finding a course and putting the person on it. You can help to define the skills gap, but they need to take the action to select and get on the course. I hate it when the trainer goes around the room asking why people are there and someone says ‘my boss sent me’. Its not a good start and frequently those people just don’t get as much out of the training.

When you have a high performing team, you’ll know not just from the quality of the output but also from the fact that your colleagues keep poaching your people ‘because they’re so good’. It’s frustrating perhaps, but there is really no bigger compliment.

Ian Mash will be back with more pearls of wisdom in the next couple of weeks and can be contacted on +44 7860 621976 and via email at ian dot mash1 at btinternet.com

Audio blogging what do you think…?

No need for text for today’s post – just click play…

Managing knowledge: RSS is the most powerful free tool in business today

I only discovered RSS about 18 months ago and I don’t think it’s too much of an exaggeration to say that it has changed my (business) life. It is an enabler… it makes you smarter… and it helps you in managing knowledge – giving you an edge over your competitors and colleagues.

I naturally spend part of my day sending people information I think might be relevant to them – to help them in their jobs. To make them look good… to even make them money because of the usefulness of that information. I suspect many of my friends and colleagues think I sit there all day researching for them. I don’t. I let the Internet do the hard work for me…. I then sit back and watch.

RSS… Google Alerts… Google Reader. Three technological terms that if you don’t understand in business today then you are most definitely at a disadvantage.

You’ve seen the RSS icon a thousand times haven’t you? A million times maybe… have you ever thought to click it? to investigate what it might do? Possibly not.

Make a resolution today to get to grips with RSS… get to grips with Google Alerts and Google Reader. Then tell us below how amazed you are.

Intrigued?

The secrets of Managing knowledge are here… click the video to see the first session completely free.

Workplace productivity – could yours be improved?!

One of the reasons for launching Being Smarter a year ago was because of our wish to help people with workplace productivity.
In previous lives I spent many years watching people and businesses going about things the long way round… doing things in a particular way because… well it has always been done like that… not using technology to be more productive… or worse still using technology poorly and making things worse. I was inspired by some of these issues – and that was one of the reasons Being Smarter was born.

The 8.45 Club (one of our venture companies) has just re-released its course on workplace productivity. We’ve taken on board feedback, shortened it, and made the first session’s trial available without registration.

The course is made up of 12 video-based modules. (Do read them all, because there’s a bonus at the bottom of the page). Once you become a member, they are delivered to your inbox every two working days for a month and cover the following sessions:

Day 1: Keyboard shortcut keys – they speed up your life

We start with a free trial video and give you dozens of ways to increase your productivity by introducing you to the world of shortcuts. We throw down the gauntlet and say don’t do things in that way, just because you’ve been doing that for years – learn new ways to speed up you life. Will you rise to the challenge?!

Day 2: How to save hours a month through email productivity

We then focus on one of the biggest timewasters in business – managing email… and yes, it really is possible to do it better.

Day 3: Productivity monitoring – work out HOW you spend your time – then fix the problem

We then show you a way of getting organised and saying to yourself – are you really optimising the way you work (or your colleagues work?) We introduce a free tool which sits in the background and analyses how you spend your day at your PC. It’s invaluable and will almost certainly shock you at the end of the week when you look at the stats.

Day 4: How and why to share your desktop with anyone for free

We take a look at saving time and money from a travel perspective and see how easy it is to share your PC’s desktop with colleagues or customers, inside or outside of the firewall.

Day 5: Messy office? Not efficient and productive? There’s a link

Your office is a state isn’t it? Do you know where the post-it notes are? We give you plenty of thoughts from an industry leader on how to get more organised at home and at work. Note – this is bedtime reading as opposed to a video session today.

Day 6: Customize your desktop in seconds and save hours

We then move on to Day 6 and show you all kinds of time saving tips when it comes to customizing your PC to suit your needs, as opposed to Microsoft’s… This really isn’t for geeks – it’s for business people – so hang in there.

Day 7: To do list software – friend or foe?

Day 7 then moves on to talk about to do list software and gives you another free alternative which really should help you to get organised and improve the way your stats look from Day 3!

Day 8: Password management software – stop wasting time remembering your credentials

We then move onto the the tricky subject of password management software. How many passwords do you have – 10, 100, 1000? They are a fundamental part of every knowledge worker’s day and this advicelet shows you the perfect, secure way to manage them.

Day 9: Xobni review – Email productivity gets a boost with this awesome plugin

We then move onto looking at another real timesaver – back to email management and a plugin which should have been made by Microsoft originally – but they weren’t clever enough to think of it. We show you the plugin and the power it gives you when it comes to finding ’stuff’ in Outlook – which we all know takes ages… normally.

Day 10: How to write a good email – things you never think about (and should)

We may sound like we are teaching you to suck eggs – but we aren’t. Day 10 talks through some things to think about when you next write an email – taken from expert views in the industry. We bet it opens your eyes.

Day 11: Be more productive – how to fit 12 hours into 7.5

In our second and final piece of bedtime reading – we bring you a set of thoughts (ahem over 150) from industry leaders on the real vision for the course – squeezing 12 hours into your 7.5 hour day.

Day 12: Increase workplace productivity with this free mind mapping tool

And finally, we start with refreshing your memories on mindmapping – you’ve heard of it – but do you use it and do you want to spend £200 on the software? Well you don’t have to – it’s free now – and in the cloud – and excellent – we show you everything – warts and all today.

BONUS

To celebrate the relaunch of this already popular course – and as a thank you for finding Being Smarter… enter the coupon code “beingsmarter” in the registration box to receive a 50% discount until the end of September.

Workplace productivity can be found at this link. Enjoy!

How to spot the trend

We are pleased to announce today on Being Smarter another guest blogger, Ian Mash of Yeoman Consulting here in the UK. Ian helps us to continue the theme of ‘practical ways to help your business life” by sharing some of his experiences of working at the coalface as a senior manager in one of the UK’s largest companies – BT.

He starts today with a top tip on trend spotting.

Assimilating data quickly is a true management skill. Some managers can look at a page of figures (in for example a business case) and start asking deeply searching questions immediately. They can see anomalies and trends just from looking at the figures. However, not many of us can do this naturally and we have to rely on tools and techniques to guide us through.

Prior to working my education was science based but I didn’t have any business training per se until I did my MBA and that gave me a few tools to use.

But, the most useful everyday financial tool to me, is just a simple hand drawn graph to spot the trends.

You can do a very quick graph on excel if your drafting skills are poor.

It’s amazing how just say 4 data points drawn can show the anomalies in the trend that don’t immediately jump out of a financial analysis on the page and give you the leverage to start asking searching questions. Why does profit drop in year 3? Why is there a disproportionate capital spend in year 4? Etc.

It won’t give you the answers, but will start sensible digging with you and your team.

Ian Mash will be back with more pearls of wisdom in the next couple of weeks and can be contacted on +44 7860 621976 and via email at ian dot mash1 at btinternet.com

Social media – cut the fluff and explain it in plain English

I seem to spend quite a lot of time explaining to people the power of social media. For some people, the penny drops. For other people there is much head scratching. For a different group of people, they plain don’t get it, don’t believe you and quite frankly, they prefer not to embrace change and the power that change can bring.

I’m not going to try and reinvent the wheel on this post – instead, I want to refer you to an expert in the field who’s written one of the best explanation I’ve seen about this whole mysterious area to the uninitiated.

David Meerman Scott draws an analogy between social media and going to a cocktail party. If you ever meet a colleague or friend who raises an eyebrow on the subject of social media. Refer them right here.

Take it away David.