Five Strategies to Use Your “Quaran-TIME” Effectively

Mike Turner founded the Front Street Brokers real estate firm in 2005, with a desire to offer distinctive client experiences, to equip agents for the maximum efficiency and profitability, and to devote significant firm resources to a local, philanthropic focus.

After three years, Turner’s firm experienced a significant slowdown during the 2008 financial crisis. This was a time of immense strain, especially when scheduled closings dried up before his eyes:

“In that time period, we had 10 real estate transactions scheduled to close, and nine of them fell through for unforeseeable reasons,” Turner said. “All of a sudden, $100,000 worth of business income that we were dependent upon [was] gone.”

Turner faced difficult choices in this season, and many of us are facing similar decisions in today’s COVID-19 crisis. Today, Turner says that while change is inevitable, he knows we still have a choice. Will we allow unforeseen challenges to drag us downstream, or will we improvise to find a way across the river?

Five Strategies to Use Your “Quaran-TIME” Effectively

Anyone can become a victim when change comes fast and forcefully.

Sudden change is scary, and though we may not be able to swim upstream, we can still strategize and seek active growth. What are some ways your business can grow during this difficult period?

Use Social Media to Connect with Customers

Try a more animated touch through social media. If subscribers are opening your emails, they are expressing genuine interest. Take these customer relationships to the next level by including embedded videos or links to caring content you’ve posted on Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

Answer Questions or Position Yourself as a Helper

As you reach out to subscribers, ask if they have any questions or respond to challenges you know they have. Take an interest in the content they post as well – comment on it, share it with your followers, or start real conversations. Connecting to clients now will form a personal bond that lasts longer than the COVID-19 crisis.

Stretch Your Team’s Skills

When activity wanes, morale often follows. Invigorate employees by offering on-going education tools, professional mentoring within your team, or problem-solving workshops that mobilize groups to tackle some of your most ambitious goals. If your company lacks online meeting capabilities, this is a great chance to preview options like Zoom or Google Hangouts.

Do Some Spring Cleaning

While the pace is reduced, give focused attention to your internal atmosphere. Whether you need to spruce up workspaces or sort through old files, redeem the time by getting organized. This may also be a great time to refresh decor, business cards, or your website, or to involve your team in designing new content for newsletters and videos.

Express Gratitude

In hard times, a warm word goes a long way, and this can shift your own perspective from negativity to hope. Take time to say thanks to customers with handwritten notes, personal videos, or future discount options. Whether you plan a summer reunion party or make appreciation phone calls, prioritizing gratitude will make you a better entrepreneur in the long run.

Change Course, but Don’t Quit!

They say that genius is just persistence in disguise.

In tough times it’s ok to be discouraged, but it’s not ok to quit. Be proactive in this season, and keep taking the steps you can to inch ahead. New paths are, by definition, uncleared. But persistence and positivity are your most valuable assets as you journey toward hope.

Leading with Empathy During Uncertain Times

COVID-19 is officially a pandemic, and millions of Americans are working at home.

 

Even if you aren’t sick, you feel the impact of this pandemic. As the coronavirus has spread across the globe, the CDC has made drastic recommendations on social distancing, self-quarantines, and statewide “stay at home” mandates.

 

Through this unprecedented season, what are some of the best ways to navigate your professional challenges?

 

“I Feel Your Pain”

 

Empathy is one of the best starting points.

 

Defined as “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another,” empathy allows you to comprehend what another person is experiencing or to put yourself in their position.

 

Empathy is the ability to perceive a situation from another person’s frame of reference, and possibly to experience the emotions that go with that. Empathy is different from just “being kind” because empathy is a powerful tool that allows you to truly understand points of view that are vastly different than yours. A person leading with empathy is more aware of overworked employees, overtaxed customers, or solutions that another person may overlook.

 

The benefits of empathy are huge. A recent nursing study showed that nurse managers who were perceived as empathetic could boost vitality and thriving environments in their teams. Empathetic leaders can communicate better with employees and customers, build bridges of trust, and can facilitate optimal employee performance and compliance. And this brings exponential gain: organizations with engaged employees have higher productivity, profitability, customer satisfaction, and loyalty.

 

Empathy in leadership can manifest in many ways with regard to the coronavirus response. Here are just three:

 

1. Be Calm

 

During any crisis, people need their leaders to remain calm and to empathize with their thoughts or feelings.

 

While you may not share the emotions of your customers or employees, it’s ok to acknowledge feelings of anxiety or stress. When possible, share resources that promote facts, not fear (like information from the World Health Organization or the Center for Disease Control), in order to help people intellectually interpret the outbreak.

 

2. Be Flexible

 

With many people working from home (with kids in tow!), some employees may struggle.

 

Leaders should be considerate of missed deadlines, unforeseen health emergencies, and emotions bubbling near the surface. Remember, things are not “business as usual,” and special times require special considerations. Above all, flexible managers are consistently leading AND responding. Simply directing employees to available support resources can make a huge difference.

 

3. Be Available

 

Not everyone is empathetic by nature, so this is a great time to check your own heart.

 

Examine yourself daily and ask: Am I really listening? Am I taking in others’ points of view? Ask for feedback from people you trust or solicit comments through neutral channels. Or set up work-from-home chats where people can share tips, information, advice, or inspiration as everyone adjusts to a new normal.

 

Natural routines can also go a long way toward building confidence – consider morning huddles, or regular conference call “office hours” to offer an open door for people in their most vulnerable moments.

 

Be Positive and Proactive

 

Still not sure how to show grace?

 

Perhaps the best strategy is to change your perspective. Instead of prioritizing outcomes or objectives, use this time to focus on your own leadership. Ideally, you should be a coach, a therapist, a sounding board, and a support system to your employees. Allow people to chat candidly and comically, and make room for a few failures.

 

Create margin during this roller coaster, and everyone will benefit!

Add Drama and Depth with Custom White Balance

Have you ever struggled to take a classy (yet natural) family picture?

Or photographed an incredible wilderness scene, only to be sorely disappointed by flat results? If the world has so much wonder, why is capturing that majesty so tricky?

Many photos are simply too dark or too light, with awkward shadows, blinding background rays, or glaring reflections (think Grandma’s glasses!). The color can seem artificial or just washed out. But photos with proper lighting come alive, creating a drama and depth that resonates with viewers on a heart-stirring level.

Whether you adjust your camera on the front end or edit the photo later, here are some tricks to getting the photo balance just right!

Adjusting Your Digital Camera Settings

Different sources of light have varying color hues, so a picture taken with a normal white balance under artificial lighting conditions transmits low heat to the camera’s sensor, resulting in dull yellow or orange shades in the photo.

Though human eyes can automatically adjust lights and color temperatures to “sense” the right color, a camera needs to be adjusted to different lights for accurate color reproduction. By adjusting the white balance setting of your digital camera before you start shooting, you can produce the most accurate colors in your image.

Most upscale digital cameras include presets like these:

Tungsten: Best for indoor shoots under a little light bulb.

Fluorescent: Grabs brighter, warmer shots while compensating for cool fluorescent tones.

Cloudy: Warms up a subject and its surroundings when natural light is limited.

Shade: Useful for warming up the surroundings that have a cooler, bluer tone.

You can also adjust your camera manually by setting a white object as the reference point.

To manually set the white balance in your image, take a photo of something white in the same location (and under the same light) you intend to shoot. Then go to your camera’s shooting menu, choose white balance settings, and select the image you just photographed by pressing the “set” or “Ok” button. This will enable you to customize a white balance setting for your next round of photos, resulting in more neutral, natural shades and less post-production editing.

Mastering Post-Production Tints and Temps

Suppose you get the perfect photo, but the colors aren’t quite right.

Adobe Lightroom can help!

Adobe Lightroom is an inexpensive post-processing program used by designers worldwide. In the past, developing exquisite images required excellent photos, nuanced darkroom abilities, and expensive equipment. In contrast, Lightroom allows even beginners to normalize light tones they weren’t able to land in-camera.

When you’re ready to edit the balance in a photo, here are three methods:

Option 1: In Adobe Lightroom, adjust white balance with the eyedropper tool or use the preset menu that best describes the lighting conditions you shot in.

Option 2: Using the white balance drop-down list, manually drag the “temp” and “tint” sliders in the WB panel to adjust how warm or cool your image is.

Option 3: Select the “White Balance Selector” tool in the White Balance Panel (or for a shortcut, press “W” and scan across your image to locate an area that has a neutral grey color to serve as a reference point). Once you click this grey or neutral area, the appropriate white balance settings will be applied to the entire image.

If you don’t like the result, simply use the reset button to remove all adjustments.

In the Eye of the Beholder

Sound tricky?

Don’t sweat it. There is really no “perfect” white balance because the best contrast is what looks pleasing to YOUR eye. In the end, learning and experimenting is half the fun! Reach out to us if you’d like to learn more about adding the perfect white balance to your next piece.

Ideas for Paying Employees When Finances are Tight

The coronavirus has rattled the world, and while the health consequences are dire, the economic fallout could be worse.

In just one week, from March 7 to March 14, initial unemployment claims jumped by a third, rising from 211,000 to 281,000. And while we don’t know whether workers have been laid off or furloughed, we do know that lost jobs are bad for families, employers, and the nation.

Job losses translate into increased federal spending and a slower response to unemployment claims, and those businesses that have to hire or train new employees down the road will undoubtedly take a financial hit later. Even if it’s difficult, your business can benefit by keeping employees on payroll and by modifying your business plan.

What might this look like? Here are some options to consider:

Lower Overhead Expenses

The most effective response to financial pain is to freeze spending wherever possible.

This may mean holding off on new investments, eliminating projects where costs exceed value, or re-proposing previously rejected cost-savings ideas. Want a more comprehensive guide to cutting costs? Check out this article from the Harvard Business Review.

Consider Alternative Financing

While borrowing may not have previously been in your plans, the Small Business Association is working directly with state governors to provide targeted, low-interest loans to companies that have been severely impacted by COVID-19.

The SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program may provide the vital support you need during this temporary loss of revenue. Other options to consider are family borrowing, hard money loans, or seeking a float loan from a customer or an external “angel investor.”

Liquify Assets or Discount Existing Receivables

How can you attain missing funds to pay employees in a crunch?

“Beg, borrow, or sell whatever you need in order to come up with the funds,” says Rod Jorgensen, the director of counseling at the Nevada Small Business Development Center. Whether you sell vehicles, buildings, or equipment, put every option on the table for consideration.

Donald Todrin, founder of the Northhampton, MA-based Second Wind Consultants, says taking as much as a 50 percent hit on your outstanding receivables may also be a wise strategy:

“If I’ve got $25,000 out on the street that I’m owed, I’d slash it down to $10,000 on a promise [that vendors] wire me the money today,” Todrin said. “Pay me half [of what you owe me] and I’ll wipe [the debt] out. And you raise cash instantly and overnight. Now you pay a price for that because that’s your overhead money, but you cover your payroll. You got to play for another day.”

Be Resourceful and Keep Employees in the Loop

If you know you are unlikely to make payroll, it’s essential to be honest upfront.

Proactive communication is crucial during a crisis. If finances are tight, tell people up front, starting with the natural hierarchy of company leaders and involving them in the process. Allowing leaders to inform their teams can soften the blow and make it easier to gather feedback.

And be creative. Teams that want to retain employees in extremely tight situations may consider shrinking paychecks across the board or ask the highest paid, top-level staff members to (electively) forgo paychecks for a short time so lower-level employees can still be paid. This spreads out income and grows confidence and unity in your staff.

People First

Though you may not be closing shop, many businesses will experience shortfalls in this season. Creative, sacrificial entrepreneurs will work hard to protect their most valuable asset: people.

Master Font Psychology to Bring Personality and Purpose

If you wanted to make a splash at a spring gala, what color would you wear?

If you wanted to be known for your edgy personality, what kind of car would you drive?

Just as your personal appearance creates emotion or impact, your design choices will too. While we often undervalue text in designs, every font has a unique personality and purpose. A little font change can go a long way.

With that in mind, take a look at font psychology and see how using it well can win customers through print!

How Fonts Influence Emotion

What is font psychology?

Font psychology deals with the impact fonts have on the thoughts, emotions, and behaviors of readers. For example, when you use a Bookman Old Style headline, it’s going to carry a very different tone than a Brush Script or a fanciful Curlz font. When you feature Tempus Sans in primary body copy, it will bring a more contemporary vibe than Franklin Gothic. Once you understand the associations a font carries, you’re on your way to using fonts to create the emotional impact you desire.

Fonts contain features like line, weight, size, and orientation. When you see a font, your brain disentangles those components and associates them with characteristics from the real world. For example, italicized fonts mimic movement (like a runner leaping off the starting blocks), and flowing scripts convey creativity (like a dancer spinning across the stage). Fonts mimic visual characteristics from the real world, so if you want to choose an appropriate font, choose one that visually resembles your context.

Keep it Simple with This Font Cheat Sheet

When you think of the vibe you want to convey, what adjectives come to mind? Basic or bold? Gentle or hardcore? Elegant or gritty? Once you’ve identified the tone you want, here is a cheat sheet you can use to craft corresponding messages:

Slab Serif fonts (or “Egyptians”) are perceived as important, bold, impactful, or attention-grabbing. Great slab serifs include Sentinel, Adelle, Clarendon, Linoletter, Archer, and Amasis.

San Serif fonts are perceived as simple, sensible, straightforward, neutral, and easy to read. Popular selections include Apercu, Futura, Avenir, Verdana, and Avant Garde.

Simple Serif fonts are seen as stable, respectable, timeless, formal, or traditional. Classic serif fonts include Garamond, Times New Roman, Georgia, and Palatino.

Bold or weighty fonts are seen as dominant, commanding, gallant, significant, and reputable. Have fun with bold fonts like Qanelas Soft Typeface, Nevis, Municipal, or Andor.

Condensed or ultrathin fonts carry a professional, forward-thinking, logical, or influential quality. To sharpen your image, try fonts like District thin, Antipasto pro thin, or Cocotte ultralight.

Vintage fonts come across as old school, retro, stylish, and remarkable. Type outside the box with six different Zing Rust fonts and carefree fonts like Palm Canyon Drive, Parker, or Lovelo.

Script fonts bring a sense of femininity, elegance, connection, and indulgence. Fun script fonts include Allura, Mistral, or the Segoe family.

Decorative fonts are seen as casual, cool, unique, or high-spirited. Stretch the limits with The Bomb, Circus, Cute Notes, Keep on Truckin’, and more!

Mono-spaced fonts can bring a techy, sophisticated, or smart vibe. To sell your credentials, try Courier, Inconsolata, Maison Mono, or BP Mono.

Display fonts bring a chivalrous, quirky, friendly, or eccentric tone. Use fonts like Amadeus, Anudaw, Bearpaw, and Collegiate to make design twice as fun!

Keep Fonts Front and Center

While fonts are sometimes an after-thought, text is an integral part of your branding and emotional impact. And many online resources are available to help you find fun, free fonts.

Use your font choices to shape perceptions, streamline messages, and project your intent.