Most likely, when you think of “weekly staff meetings” you don’t think happy thoughts. But it doesn’t have to be that way! We’ve decided to share a few of our winning tips for staff meeting excellence. We call our weekly meeting “Recharge,” because we want it to be a time when we can come together, take a step back from the day-to-day, and focus on why we do what we do.
Brace yourself and “retrain your brain,” the contents proceeding defy normal logic of successful staff meetings:
This might seem counterintuitive. A staff meeting with non-staff members? While this might not work for all meetings, particularly ones where you discuss confidential information, opening up staff meetings to outsiders can be a great way to build relationships with clients, contractors, and mentors. If your employees see that non-staff members are excited to attend your meetings, they’ll be more likely to want to attend themselves. Plus, having non-staff members helps give a fresh perspective to your discussions. Try inviting a remote employees or subcontractors to your next meeting via Google Hangout and/or Skype.
Now that you have everyone all in, thank them. Companies that practice appreciation far outperform those that don’t.
To make the appreciation meaningful, have peers recognize other peers for specific behaviors or actions and then tie those recognitions back to company values. At Social Driver, we call our team member recognition the “Victory Lap.” Each week we request all employees to nominate someone they feel should be recognized for his or her outstanding performance and/or effort. And then… you guessed it! We play our favorite victory-themed song, “Chariots of Fire,” as our victory lap winner runs around the room in slow motion, giving everyone a high five—even giving virtual high fives to remote employees.
Give Air Time to Everybody
Staff meetings should allow for team members to share, not just listen. Make sure you allot time for staff meeting attendees to share and comment. These moments do not always have to be work-related.
Having something as simple as a “Hot Topics” discussion where everyone on the team can share the latest trends or personal interests they’ve been pursuing is a great way to build morale.
It’s inevitable to have a few “not so” interesting pieces of information that must be shared in weekly staff meetings. When choosing the content for your staff meeting, be sure to plan segments that your entire staff will enjoy, not just one or two teams. Sometimes we start out meetings with an impromptu dance party. Other times we introduce new members of the team by having everyone else tell a funny fact about themselves. It doesn’t take a lot of effort, but be creative. Your metric for success should be number of smiles and bursts of laughter.
What does your team do to liven staff meetings? Share with us in the comments below.
At Social Driver we pride ourselves on getting with the future through engaging, fun, and fulfilling work that is accomplished by a group of people all pulling for the same team. If you’d like to learn more about joining us, visit: http://socialdriver.com/jobs/
Creating a company culture has become a topic of interest among organizations seeking to brand themselves internally. The traditional office space has reached a plateau and companies are taking advantage of digital tools to create a virtual workspace enabling them to connect with clients across the country and employ people who work remotely.
In this respect it becomes all the more important that an organization creates a strong work environment, promoting a cohesive culture that supports and encourages an organization’s greatest asset – its employees.
Below are 4 tips on how to increase interactivity, boost communication, and cultivate a positive culture with insight from our own Thomas Sanchez, founder of Social Driver, on his experience building the character and culture of a start-up.
Gone are the days of corner offices enforcing professional hierarchy. Knock down the walls that divide a workplace! “When we were looking for a new office space, we intentionally chose a location that was more open so everyone could sit together,” says Thomas Sanchez.
Leaders must set the tone of intimacy and inclusiveness to help increase workplace interactivity. Doing so can allow relationships between employees and fellow executives to be more genuine, trusting, and comfortable. Having an open space is a simple way to make executives more accessible to employees, facilitating the flow of communication by making everyone feel included and equally valued.
“Meeting often is very important. Social Driver team members meet daily. Once a week we have a group meeting as a whole (remote associates video chat in) where we recharge our motivations, whether on projects or simply motivating each other. That one hour of recharge is a chance to stop and assess our culture and impact,” says Thomas. Prioritizing meeting and fellowship time is a great way to build a culture and it’s relatively easy to achieve by implementing some continuous practices.
Team meetings are a given when it comes to accomplishing a goal or starting a project, but one on one meetings are just as essential. Encourage employees to meet with each other one on one, it’s the best way to really have a two way dialogue and to ensure that everyone is being heard. Outings are another great alternative and offer a twist to the usual group meeting. Try a new lunch spot or take advantage of a nice day with a walk and talk meeting.
Giving people the opportunity to stretch their legs and leave the confines of an office can have an enormous effect on boosting morale and energy. If someone cannot physically make a meeting, do whatever it takes to include them. There are no shortage of digital tools to connect people so make the extra effort to set up a video chat with Google Hangout or Skype whenever possible (even if a phone call might be more convenient).
This is a great way of making group communication more accessible and encouraging interactivity. Thomas confesses that “a lot of times, it’s not me challenging the team. There are people on the team who push me to do better by probing for answers to generate successful outcomes. We also have a private Facebook group which is an easy way for me see what topics and successes my teammates are sharing.”
More pull and less push; listen more and talk less. This is a golden rule for everyone on a team, but it’s especially pertinent to executives and supervisors who can get in the habit of excessively putting out information without taking the steps to balance that push with pull in the form of feedback from their team.
Ultimately, a culture is created by the people who contribute to it. Making sure employees needs are being met is the best way to ensure that they will be productive and happy at work. Give options so that people can figure out what works best for them. This might mean offering more flexible hours to ease a harsh schedule or clearing out the extra office to make a communal workspace when an employee needs a change of scenery.
We have a culture at Social Driver that values the quality of work and supports the employees behind it. Everyone has different habits and needs, especially when it comes to work, a willingness to accomodate goes a long way and sets the tone of a work environment that gives back to the people who make it great.
You should talk to us. Social Driver is now hiring both awesome part-time and full-time people to help bring our projects to life. We have free Nespresso and lots of fun!
Remember, a company culture is not created from the top-down. It must be lived and developed through all the employees at your company. Make sure you are hiring individuals who will fit into the culture you have fostered and who will continue to contribute to your culture. Culture can have a huge impact on the success of an organization; here at Social Driver we pride ourselves on getting with the future through engaging, fun, and fulfilling work that is accomplished by a group of people all pulling for the same team. If you’d like to learn more about joining us, visit: http://socialdriver.com/jobs/
We know that women love using technology, but do they love creating the technology that they use? On average women tweet, like, share, and pin far more frequently than men and are quicker to adopt new digital products and services. Across all ages groups, women interact online more than men, yet only 5 to 20 percent of software developers in the US are women.
The ratio seems to remain the same, or even dwindle, as you look at other careers in tech. In 2010 only approximately 7 percent of investments backed by the successful incubator, Y Combinator, were led by women. Yet, statistics show that a more gender diverse company returns higher gains, up to 30%, from IPO. Startups led by females generate higher revenues per investment dollar than startups led by males.
Where is the disconnect? Is this trend changing?
In recent years, we’ve seen an emphasis on closing the gender gap in tech. In the early 2000s, the focus was closing the gender gap to create a better office culture, but now technology companies are realizing that having women in leadership roles actually benefits revenue. Shocking right? Who would’ve guessed that having women leaders in businesses whose largest population of engaged consumers is women would actually be financially beneficial.
Numerous groups have emerged to help provide resources and ammunition to the movement. Hackbright Academy is a 10 week programming fellowship in Silicon Valley exclusively for women. Rails Girls is an international movement promoting innovation with female entrepreneurs and developers through Ruby on Rails. Astia is an organization founded in 1999 whose mission is to propel women’s success as entrepreneurs and leaders.
Is the emphasis working? I think yes. We see a growing movement for women to contribute in the tech space. Female targeted groups are bringing access to technology and putting resources in front of female entrepreneurs and developers. Female leaders, like Marissa Mayer, are increasing visibility for women in tech. Female led startups like Popvox, Code for America, and CakeHealth are paving the way for women to create their own space in the tech industry while providing solutions that help everyone. But the fight is not over and we need to keep talking about women in tech.
Are you a female in tech? Do you think the gender gap is closing? What resources have you used to help launch your tech career? Let us know in the comments below.
Startups had a great year in 2012 but 2013 is looking even better. The most successful startups this year are bringing innovation to mainstream industries in need of disruption. Here’s the startups you should be watching in 2013:
Crowdtilt is the easiest way to collect, fundraise, or pool money with your group… for anything! With Crowdtilt you can easily bring your friends together to pitch in for something as small as a birthday present, football tailgate, drinks for a party, all the way to something as big as a community project or a large fundraiser for the Red Cross. The best part is that nobody gets charged until everybody has committed to pay.
Fab is changing the way people discover and connect with greatly designed products. On Cyber Monday 2012 the company sold $1.3million worth of products and recently launched in the UK. They’re in for a great year and leading the way in a changing e-commerce atmosphere.
Getaround is shaking up the transportation industry and solving car overpopulation. The company is bringing carsharing to everyone in a safe and fun environment. You simply log-on, rent a car from someone nearby, and get going. With a recent expansion to Chicago they’re making their way into a city near you soon!
LendUp is bringing tech innovation to payday loans. LendUp provides a simple online or mobile loan application and grant process along with ways to earn Trust Rewards. The Trust Rewards aim help customers rebuild credit and reach long-term financial wellbeing.
Coursera is a social entrepreneurship company that partners with the top universities in the world to offer courses online for anyone to take, for free. The company envisions a future where the top universities are educating not only thousands of students, but millions. With Coursera adding top-notch universities daily to their course list in the US and internationally it is on its way to being a global education leader. The company also recently announced it will be partnering with the American Council on Education to eventually offer college transfer credit for some courses.
Sherpaa helps companies optimize health coverage plans and then provides them with around the clock email and phone access to their network of friendly, tech-savvy doctors. Since launching in NYC this past year, they’ve saved companies from Tumblr to Skillshare thousands in unnecessary health fees, optimizing their insurance plans and advising on healthcare usage to ensure dollars are spent wisely. Companies that use Sherpaa pay a minimal monthly fee and end up saving many times that in health costs, creating for a service that pays for itself. Innovation in healthcare has come at last.
Google Analytics Tells You What Happened, KISSmetrics Tells You Who Did It. Instead of vanity metrics such as bounce rates or time on site, KISSmetrics focuses on people tracking. People tracking enables KISSMetrics to impact your business in a positive way by showing metrics that other analytics solutions can’t, such as: true conversion rates, lifetime value of customers, how users engage with your website or app over time through a co-hort, and even churn data.
With participation ever increasing in adult sport leagues the headache from managing leagues and teams is also increasing. RecBob is harnessing the power of social networking and back-end smarts to change the way team members interact off the field. RecBob is an app that manages adult rec sports teams, making them easy, fun and more social. He sends game reminders, collects payments, tracks who’s in and who’s out on game day and finds subs as needed so rosters are always full!
Platfora is making big data relevant and usable. The company’s platform transforms raw data in Hadoop into interactive, in-memory business intelligence with none of the IT friction or complexity of existing approaches. Platfora allows business professionals access raw data that has been previously hidden in data warehouses.
Sponsorfied brings brands and opportunities together through specially designed software. The company launched in August 2012 and has already facilitated 200 sponsorship deals. Sponsorfied is looking to do for sponsorship what Google did for targeted adds.
What tech startups are you most excited for in 2013?
Popularise is an online crowdsourcing platform focused on local development. They are our new favorite startup in Washington, DC. Popularise buys commercial real estate, renovates it, and leases it to local businesses. However, instead of letting the businesses decide who should get the lease, Popularise asks the local community. They created a platform where a user can login, vote for a specific project, post an idea of what they think should be in the building, comment and discuss. It is sold as software as a service so anyone who has a project where they want to engage the community can use it as a tool to reach
out to their customers.
Popularise recently launched Fundrise, a crowdfunding platform for commercial real estate. Anyone can logon and for $100 a share, buy into the building that they are developing, help get the tenant into the building, and support the concept. In just 3 months, Fundrise has raised $325,000 of shares to locals in the H Street area of DC to fund 30% of a new development there. This gives people the power to help develop their neighborhood. Incredibly awesome.
We’ve helped organizations launch their first website and their fifth website, but sometimes a business just isn’t in a position to spend much money. Although we think an online presence is an important investment for most businesses, we understand the dilemma. Sometimes we can help, sometimes we can refer to a lower-cost freelancer, and sometimes we even send them to a service like flavors.me, which is basically free and looks great.
I was thrilled to learn about a great Google-sponsored initiative to help businesses get their first website at a session during The National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce’s Certify Your Success! 2012 conference. At a session about how to harness the Internet to grow your business, Brandon Feldman, Partner Manager for Google/YouTube, and M J. Newman, ZOOKeeper for Google/YouTube, introduced the “Get Your Business Online” initiative (http://www.gybo.com/).
Business owners will get a free easy-to-build website powered by Intuit, a customized domain name, web hosting for one year, and online tools and video training. We recommend paying close attention to the training on Google Analytics, one of our favorites!
So the next time a business owner tells us they need their first website but they aren’t ready to invest much in that area, we will direct them to Google’s GYBO program! Just visit the site and choose your state to get started.
Note: Google didn’t include the District of Columbia on its state map (shame, Google, we have businesses, too!), but I’m sure it would work to go through the Maryland or Virginia sites.
Social Driver headed to Chicago last week on a client meeting, but made time to visit Angus Gorberg and the Sprout Social team at their HQ. We were so excited to visit because Sprout Social has built a fabulous all-in-one social media management tool. The days of using multiple social media management tools to publish content, monitor engagement, and create statistics are long gone. Here are the 5 reasons you should be using Sprout Social.
Sprout Social turns analytics into works of art using bold colors and appealing design. Intuitive graphs and charts are used to display information about your social media’s influence and engagement. Better yet, you can easily share PDF/CSV reports with your team or clients by choosing custom date ranges. Even better, Google Analytics can be analyzed to determine if your social media activity is affecting your web traffic.
Have you tried to determine when your social media content results in the most engagement? ViralPost does this work for you. Sprout Social’s send time optimization technology automatically publishes your content when it will have the most impact on your audience. The technology analyzes your specific Twitter handle to create customized send times for your specific audience.
Use Sprout Social’s iPhone and Android apps for access on the go. It’s perfect for publishing content, monitoring mentions, and assigning tasks to team members when you’re away from your computer. No longer do you have to access various mobile apps to get the job done – Sprout Social’s app has it all in one.
Whether you’re a brand using Sprout Social for your company or you’re an agency with various client teams, multiple users can be added to your account. You’re able to customize their access levels and you can assign them specific tasks. And don’t worry if you have multiple accounts for a particular social media network. You can add and monitor them simultaneously.
The dashboard is your virtual hub for trends, audience demographics, and information regarding your social media accounts. Trends alert you to new followers, fans, and messages while demographics provide the ages and genders of those following you on social media. The visually appealing dashboard is also perfect for easily accessing your inbox, completing tasks, and downloading reports.
They have a 30 day free trial that we would highly recommend. Do you use Sprout Social? A different social media management tool? Let us know what you think in the comments.
There are many challenges that every startup faces. From scheduling to billing to sales, choosing the right tools to help you get the job done can make a huge difference. Here are our favorite tools we use everyday:
If you subscribe to our blog, you should already know we’re huge Contactually fans. Contactually’s founder, Zvi Band, created this tool for you to organize your network of contacts. Contactually remembers to keep in touch with your network for you, so you never miss an opportunity for business or professional development.
LaunchRock helps you set up a social “launching soon” page in just minutes. This service is perfect if you’re building a website, but would like to give a preview of what’s to come. You can create the landing page and promote it through LaunchRock’s Announcement Bar and your social media outlets. Work hard and you might just be featured on LaunchRock’s discovery network (coming soon).
Our friends at Hubspot have created grader.com, which is a suite of tools designed to measure and analyze your marketing efforts. There are four grades to earn. (1) Marketing.Grader.com grades your entire marketing funnel (2) Book.Grader.com is for book authors and measures how they market their books (3) TwitterGrader.com measures the power, authority, and reach of a Twitter user and (4) Search.Grader determines which keywords your website is ranking for and measures your SEO.
Are you sick of scheduling meetings and events using Google cal, iCal, email, Outlook, and every other service? Bring them together with Doodle. Doodle allows you to propose various meeting times and places to multiple recipients and to receive feedback on availability through a poll. Better yet, it’s 100% free and is available on mobile.
The innovators behind Piktochart want your information to be beautiful. They allow you to create professional and appealing infographics in under 30 minutes. Their infographics can be embedded in presentations, websites, and posted on Facebook. Say goodbye to boring pie charts and bar graphs.
Ever miss whiteboard sketch sessions? Mockups allows you to get your ideas out of your head and on to your screen without a marker and eraser. Construct a slick wireframe, get real-time feedback from coworkers and stakeholders and share it with developers within minutes.
How do you ensure your tweets don’t get lost in the black hole that is the Twitterverse? Buffer attacks this problem with a simple solution: create a queue of content you want to share, pick the times you want to share your tweets, and Buffer posts your content for you. With an elegant interface, multiple web browser plugins, mobile apps and even compatibility with major content producers, Buffer is tweeps’ best friend.
It’s hard to argue with their slogan (“Expense Reports That Don’t Suck”). Through one affordable and easy-to-use account, Expensify (1) handles bank statements, credit card bills and paper receipts (2) calculates mileage (3) syncs with Quickbooks and other accounting programs (4) helps new companies set expense regulations and (5) even has mobile apps to help you keep track of expenses on the move.
The road from lead generation to deal closing has never been smoother. Better than any spreadsheet or outline, Pipeline allows you to have real-time overview of your deal pipeline with built-in reporting, goal setting, and complete customization options. Each lead has its own email address – you can BCC emails with you leads to create a storage facility of deal history, so all members of your team are up to speed.
A fledgling startup invariably gets through an inordinate amount of paperwork and contracts. It’s easier than ever to sign contracts with business partners, clients and employees when you’re all in three different places. It’s fast, secure, and much more fun to sign your documents online.
What are your favorite tools? Let us know in the comments which ones we missed and what you use them for.