The first time I experienced workplace bullying, it took me about 6 months to recognise it. I’d always see the best in people and would rather blame or doubt myself than believe somebody was purposely trying to undermine my self-confidence. When I finally realised what was happening, I got really mad – at myself. I completely bought into what the bully said and did, but worse, I had become the biggest bully in my life – where they left off, I took over – and amplified it for good measure!

To make myself bully-proof, I knew I had to recalibrate and stop giving myself up, shutting myself down, doubting myself or making someone else’s judgments more valuable than me.

I wondered what it would take to enjoy being me so much that I never again cared about what other people thought, said or did? Could I end bullying without becoming angry, jaded or cynical? I wanted a kinder world, and I realised, it had to start with me being kinder to me.

Here are my tips for becoming bully proof at work and in the world, and never letting anyone or anything stop you!

Choose to be happy

Happiness is powerful. Imagine never giving up your happiness, no matter what occurs? How much power would a bully have then? None! If they are having no effect, would a bully continue? Not for long. As Eleanor Roosevelt so famously put it: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

And as my mentor, Gary Douglas, succinctly says, “Happiness is just a choice.” No one can make you unhappy. The choice is always yours. Practice choosing happy. Literally say: “For the next 10 seconds I choose to be happy.” If you really get stuck, ask someone under the age of 9 about how to get happy and they’ll give you plenty of ideas.

Don’t fixate, out-create

Fixating is how you trap yourself in a mental stranglehold. When we feel trapped, we give ourselves two choices – fight (react) or flight (avoid) – neither of which are empowering. What if you out-created rather than fixated? Out-creating is where you allow yourself to see easy and elegant ways of dealing with things without going into reaction or getting upset. Anytime you catch yourself fixating, reacting or avoiding a bully, ask, “How can I out-create this with ease?”

Bullies need something to push against, and the energy of your avoidance or reaction is exactly what they are seeking. When you do out-creation, there is no longer a wall of energy for them to feed off and they have nowhere to go.

Cut out self-judgment

This might be the moment you take to ask yourself, “Who really is the biggest bully in my life?” After all, we really are our own greatest critics. If you truly desire to change bullying in the world – change you first. Empower you. Stop assuming and believing that you are wrong. It might seem like an impossible habit to break, but I know you can and I have some tools to help.

First: Gratitude.  Gratitude and judgment cannot co-exist.
Second: Acknowledgement. Look at how awesome you are and what you have created in your life.
Third: Wonder about what else is awesome about you that you can choose to be in the world.

Ask these three questions every day, several times a day:

  • What am I grateful for about me?
  • What is right about me that I am not getting?
  • What am I capable of that no one else is?

Add more to your life that allows you to be you

To steal another quote from my mentor, “The purpose of life is to have fun. Are you having any?” What creative pursuits, hobbies, or interests can you add to make life more fun? How many more ways can you enjoy being you and expressing yourself?

Bullies get their kicks from making you feel wrong for being you. But what is the value of a bully’s opinion in the face of a life deeply enjoyed?  You guessed it – nothing!  Enjoy being you, have fun. You’ll soon realise it isn’t worth giving up being you for anyone or anything.

Get out of your comfort zone

Bullies pick on difference. Why is this? Because that difference is exactly what is great about you that they don’t want you to be and probably feel threatened by. If you are willing to stretch out of your comfort zone, you will begin to embrace your difference, rather than hide it. You will discover more capacities and ways for you to thrive.

When you turn up your difference in the face of bullies, you also inspire others to do the same. Ask yourself, “What difference can I choose to be today that I haven’t chosen before?

Nurture your body

Are you kind to your body, or do you judge it? Oops! Time to change that? Being judged or bullied doesn’t work for you and it definitely doesn’t work for your body. Start taking one hour daily and one day a week to nurture your body. Use this time to reconnect, have gratitude for your body and most importantly, enjoy your body.

The nurturing you give your body, it will give back to you tenfold. You could even go through all questions and tools in this article and apply them to your relationship with your body. I wonder what that would create?

Do things you think you can’t

One of the greatest bullying tactics we use against us is, “I can’t”. A great trick to get yourself out of the habit is to ask a friend (someone who truly has your back) to say, “You are right, you can’t,” any time you say, “I can’t”. Try it out and notice how often you think, “Shut up, yes I can!” It’s shameless, simple reverse psychology and dynamically effective.

The other thing you can do is ask yourself daily, “What can I do that no one else can?” and then just try something. Have an adventure. Say yes and know that you’ll figure out the rest!

Be honest with yourself about what you desire

Most of us don’t grow up being encouraged to create our lives as we would like, beyond outside influence. We are taught what’s normal and appropriate and how to create our lives based on other people’s expectations and ideals. What if you were the one who finally asked you, “If I could choose anything, what would I choose?” and “What would I like my life to be like?” If you’re willing to be honest and vulnerable with yourself about what you truly desire to create in the world, your true voice will always shine through.

 

A workplace can be one of many places where you get to enjoy and explore being you and using your capacities to create what you know is possible. Bullies may try to stop you, but are you truly stoppable? When you commit to embracing and enjoying all that is great about being you in the world, bullies will become very insignificant players in the awesome tapestry of your life.


Amanda Holland is a freelancer who works with businesses, companies, entrepreneurs, experts and thought-leaders across the globe. When she realised that her childhood dreams of becoming a modern day Indiana Jones were more exciting in her head than in reality, she decided to go on an adventure and work in a city where she didn’t speak the language – Kobe, Japan. After returning to Australia, Amanda became a Right Voice for You facilitator, a specialty program from personal development organisation Access Consciousness.


Zeina Dalal Ossi is a handbag designer bringing together cultures. Born in Beirut, Lebanon in 1974, she and her family immigrated to the United States when she was six. She originally pursued a more traditional career path working in management at American Airlines, consulting with Deloitte, and in new product development at Frito Lay. A lifelong lover of fashion and artistic pursuits, she finally took the step to begin her own business creating designer handbags that convey glamour and quality, at reasonable prices.

We sat down with her to talk about designing handbags under her brand NinoRossi, her inspirations, and her life as an entrepreneur.

 

You have beautiful and unique handbags – what makes them different from other handbags on the market?

NinoRossi’s research shows that only a few designers are offering creative and original designs, but at very high prices.  Hence, our business model is to bridge that gap where we offer distinguished designs and luxurious quality at reasonable prices.

Our forte is an artistic interpretation of style, creating designs which exemplify our motto: “The Art of the Handbag”. We begin with the finest grade of European leathers that include embossed lizard, hornback croco and anaconda snake leather, to name a few. We love color. And we love to combine and weave colors and textures into pieces of art.

From art and music comes imagination, hence the creation of beauty. Beauty that manifests itself in a good design. A good design must always express an intrinsic balance of flow while being elegant, glamourous, and rich.

Do you bring your own culture into the handbag designs, and if so, how?

Our “Inscription” Collection employs a centuries-old method of Lebanese embroidery called “Aghabani”. Aghabani was used to decorate garments, tablecloths or shawls, using threads to stitch patterns. Traditionally, this was done purely by hand in small shops by elderly ladies – a time-consuming and intricate process.

What we have done is to evolve this process into a more sophisticated method by bringing special machines together with hand and foot led movement to create what is called an “Aghabani” stitch – you can see a video of the process here. This method embroiders beautiful and colorful French silk threads onto European embossed leather using a hand-led machine to create an authentic and artistic handbag.

What inspired you to start creating handbags yourself?

I have always known that at some point in my life the focus of my passion would be in starting my own business. Now my children are in school and I have more time on my hands – and considering how much energy I have for being productive and purposeful – I decided it was the right time to begin a new venture.

Through my work experience with select Fortune 500 companies that took me around the world, I had a wide exposure to art and artisanal work which fostered a tremendous appreciation for culture.  My lifelong study of music and the arts were equally an inspiration, as was my family’s love for the finer things in life.  Growing up in an entrepreneurial family, where my father was involved in starting and developing major companies, I gained the perspective that there are no limits to what you can do.

I’d say the most important turning point was early in my life, during my study abroad in Salzburg, Austria and my subsequent travels throughout Europe. It planted the seed for what became a lifelong journey of artistic discovery in wherever beauty is expressed, be it live performances of classical music at the Vienna Musikverein (The Golden Hall), the study of impressionist paintings at the Louvre, or breathtaking views while crossing the Alps from Italy to Switzerland, to name a few.  I learned that the more I immersed myself into the study of the arts and culture, the more I could discover a deeper layer of myself.

With my love of fashion, I knew that designing handbags would draw from my own strengths, experiences and passion.  I truly enjoy interpreting each design to satisfy the lifestyles of today’s discriminating woman. It was not so much a risk as much as it was rewarding to be able to see so many pieces of my life come together.

And, with this decision came the ability to fulfill my goal of supporting St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, a charity which has been near to my heart since my mother passed away of cancer in 2011.

What is it like to be in business with your dad, and what roles do each of you cover?

My dad is a wealth of knowledge and experience when it comes to business. He is also well traveled and well read, so he brings an open and multi-faceted perspective to everything we do.  We also have an association which is quite special. We have a lot in common, which fosters a deep understanding of one another – we often finish each other’s sentences!  Our roles evolved in a complementary manner, as we work closely together on every aspect of our business model from design and marketing to finance.

When it comes to production, my dad plays the major role.  While we work closely together on all the aspects of the business, my dad takes a direct responsibility for seeing that the designs are sampled and produced exactly as agreed upon.  This is done through a reputable factory in Lebanon which my dad has contracted with for producing samples as well as production of inventory.

How do you manage overseas production?

Upon finalizing each group of designs, my dad travels to Lebanon for around two months, where he works with stylists and sample makers at the factory to produce the samples, and offers various choices for hardware. The samples are then shipped to Jacksonville with DHL for our evaluation and for any changes, if necessary. Sometimes, samples may require more than one trip to get them exactly right. Subsequently, we create final patterns for each of the designs together with all the selected hardware to be ready for production. Finally, we put in place a rigorous quality control for production.

My dad travels to Lebanon as frequently as needed, depending on what new designs we have in the making.  He also gets to meet with representatives of European tanning companies in Lebanon, getting samples of new leathers and new colors.

Why did you choose Lebanon as the main place to create the handbags?

Lebanon has always been a center for art and creativity. It’s given birth to many world-renowned fashion designers, such as Elie Saab, Zuhair Murad and Reem Acra, whose dresses steal the spotlights at red carpet events with gowns made for Hollywood celebrities. Beirut is known as the “Paris of the Middle East”, not just for its cultural vibe, but also for the remnants of its status as a French colony during the second World War. The city is rife with Parisian-style cafes, as the city is constantly alive with art showings, plays and poetry nights.  Even the streets and architecture stand true to the nickname.

As a result, Beiruit is famous as a fashion capital in the Middle East, and a major world hub. Downtown Beirut and its souks are a hub for luxury shopping in the region, boasting names like Louis Vuitton, Hermes and Christian Dior, among others. It’s not only the city that makes Lebanon such a hub for fashion but also the locals.  The Lebanese have proved more understanding of  cultural change. Trends catch on, and Lebanese high society are quick to consume fashion goods. Gucci is a household name. Cultural enrichment and beauty is readily embraced by much of the population.

From that perspective, and because of our connection to Lebanon’s artisanal tools of production, we chose Lebanon for manufacturing, as it has a strong emphasis on quality.

What was your biggest challenge in business, and how did you overcome it?

Our biggest challenge was to understand the market and define NinoRossi’s business model.  There was a tremendous amount of research to be done in understanding the marketplace, and then in determining where we would fit in.  And of course with production being overseas, we had to plan well and work efficiently to keep our costs down.

There were so many hurdles to overcome – research, product positioning, design, production, as well as online marketing and advertising. So I am most surprised by how well things have come together in an efficient and cost effective manner.

What are three pieces of advice you would give to someone starting out in business for the first time?

  1. Have a good business plan and continually reevaluate your roadmap. Plans are necessary but are constantly in transition.
  2. Take in as much feedback from as many people as you can about whatever idea you have…seek critical feedback.
  3. Quality and passion should always be main ingredients.

What is a typical day for you? How do you maintain work-life balance?

At this stage with NinoRossi, it’s all about marketing.  We are continually assessing our marketing strategies.  We are constantly looking for opportunities and working to steer our business in the proper channels. We also persistently monitor the market for future product and design direction.

On a personal level, I have three children, ages 12, 11 and 9, and they are my first priority.  I am involved in their school and also with them in all their after school activities, which range from violin and piano, to tennis and swimming.  My day starts at 8am after I drop off my kids at school and ends at 2:30pm when I leave to pick them up from school.  During those hours, I work on NinoRossi, exercise, run errands, cook, have coffee or lunch with a friend, and make plans for my family.  I have a loving husband who is very supportive of me and my vision and that helps things go smoothly.  My father is also tremendously helpful in lending a hand with my kids.

Having an online business allows for so much freedom. Freedom of staying in your workout clothes all day, or approving ad campaigns in your pajamas.  While a photoshoot would have to end by 2:30pm, most of my work can continue throughout the day and around my other responsibilities.

Okay, now for some fun questions! What is currently lying on your bedside table?

Photos of my kids, parents, brother and grandparents. Also, “Pride and Prejudice”, by Jane Austen.

What couldn’t you leave home without?

A snack. I’m always hungry. ?

Who is your favourite designer or fashion brand and why?

We have always admired Louis Vuitton for their quality and beautiful designs.  My vision for NinoRossi is an artistic and vibrant image for today’s woman.


With so many handbags in the marketplace, NinoRossi provides clarity to women in their search for the right handbag.  A handbag that offers authenticity and luxury, as well as value. You can take a look at their full range here!


You went to university, picked a course, got the degree and now you’ve been working for a while… but for some reason, your job isn’t quite satisfying. You want to do something more, something different, but it all seems so overwhelming.

Or perhaps you’ve taken some time off from work—time for yourself, or time for children. Now you’re ready to return, but it’s nerve-wracking given all the time away. Is that job you used to do still what you want to do? Does it accommodate the changes in your life?

It won’t be easy, and it will require dedication and determination, but you can start working towards the career you want today.

Know what you want

What is it that excites you? Would it make you jump out of bed in the morning? We all have a big list of things we enjoy doing, but not all of those will inspire you enough to keep at them when things get tough.

Whatever it is you choose to you, it must align with your core values, and be something you would still want to do—even if you never had to work another day in your life. If you need some guidance, download our free Passion Discovery printables for exercises to find what gives your life its spark!

Decide what to sacrifice

Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Time is limited, and so is your energy. What will you choose to stop doing, so that you have time to start doing whatever it is that will get you to the career you want?

This could be anything from cutting down on weekly breakfast out with friends, foregoing movie night, taking one less fitness class a week, or even pushing dinner duties to your significant other. The important thing is that you set aside time to work on creating your future.

Skill up

It seems obvious, and there’s no getting around it—you’ll need to gain or develop the skills you need to pursue your passion. Not only do you need the technical skills in the field, as well as leadership skills, but if you’re planning on running your own side-hustle, you also need the business skills.

Thankfully, in this day and age, there are lots of options available. For example, Southern Cross University offers many 100% online courses, which enable you to study at your own time and pace, even while you continue to work. They also provide a dedicated Student Success Advisor, who is there to support you from start to finish.

An MBA online course is perfect for those looking to grow as leaders and managers, and understand business fundamentals. It’s one of the most affordable MBAs in Australia and has flexible entry and exit options. This means you can stop your studies at certain points throughout the degree, yet still earn a postgraduate certificate or diploma.

Network even before you begin

Don’t wait until you’ve started to network. Go to relevant industry events while you’re still in the planning or dreaming stage, and get chatting! There are people at these events who’ve already walked the path you’re about to embark on, so there are opportunities to glean some great advice. If you’re truly passionate about what you want to do, these people will be able to see that–and respond.

You might also come across others in the same place as you, who are starting out and are as new and unsure as you. Don’t dismiss them, because it’s invaluable to have others to share the journey with. They’re amazing support; they’ll be going through similar highs and lows, and will be as hungry as you to make it.

Stay determined

No one ever said it was going to be easy. Changing direction, learning new skills and pushing your mind to work in new and different ways will always be challenging. There’ll be days where you wonder what possessed you to take this journey, and days where you want to give up. But the important thing is to keep pushing. Every time you fail, get up and keep going. That’s how wars are won—and there’s no more important war than the one for your future!

 

This article was created in partnership with Southern Cross University.


This article was supported by Dragon Speech Recognition Software.

If you’re a blogger or an entrepreneur, you want to do one thing: write lots and lots of really great and shareable content. That’s a pretty simple aim, but it’s often hard work to achieve.

Great content that is well written and published consistently is what your audience and search engines like Google are looking for. There’s plenty of competition for eyeballs out there, so you need to keep things fresh and keep your words coming fast.

There’s a tool that can help you do just that. It’s a tool that professional writers in the know and others who write for a living swear by: Dragon speech recognition software.

Dragon speech recognition software can save you time and boost your productivity.

How? Simple. Typing is s-l-o-w. Whereas speaking is quick!

A relatively speedy typist might get 40 words a minute down on the page. Compare that to the average rate at which we speak, which tends to fall in the 110 to 160 words per minute range.

Let’s be conservative and say you speak 120 words per minute — that’s still three times faster than a fast typist. Using speech recognition software means you’ll be getting three times as many words down on a page at any given time.

Let’s say you’re averaging about a thousand words a day as a blogger. With the use of speech recognition software you could soon be tripling your output.

Imagine the gains you could be making in terms of not just time saved and blog posts written, but also in more readers and greater recognition for your efforts from search engines like Google.

If you’re accustomed to working by typing to the page as you think you’re in for a shock once you make the shift to dictating your words into speech recognition software. It’s not only quicker; it’s also liberating.

Stand up, walk around, and talk. You’re no longer chained to the keyboard. You’re no longer hunched over, neck and shoulders stooped, hands aching from hours and hours of tapping away at a keyboard.

You do need to get the hang of this way of working and Dragon speech recognition software takes a little bit of time to make your own, but once you do, there’s no going back. Dragon has tutorials to help you with all that.

So are you ready to make your life, especially the writing portion of it, easier? Are you ready for better productivity and a more liberated method of writing? Great. Get to it then!


Dragon has offered all Leaders in Heels readers a 35% discount on their software! Just click here on their software! and use the following code: Bendalls35OffDiscount


Dr. Anne Rios of The Centenary Institute is a woman with an innate passion for research. She wanted to translate this passion in a subject that touched her and couldn’t ignore the staggering Australian breast cancer statistics. She is developing a new 3D imaging technique that allows scientists to visualise entire breast tissues down to a single-cell level. The beauty of the invention is its non-invasive nature, and its ability to keep breast tissue intact for the 1 in 8 women diagnosed with breast cancer.

What’s more impressive is that she is the only researcher in Australia and one of the few in the world who is working on this, and last year she won the Centenary Institute Medical Innovation Award. We sat down with her to discuss how she discovered her passion, and the amazing things she’s achieved with her research.

How did you discover your passion for research? Did anyone inspire you, were there any events along the way that made you realise this was what you wanted to do?

I have always been artistic in my life and creativity is very important to me. I remember looking under the microscope during my first internship and thinking this is what I want to do with my life: combine both art and science. I settled on biology because there is so much to discover including how cells organise and communicate with each other to build organs and complex organisms like us – it’s magic!

I have the chance to express my personality into my work and I feel very blessed for it.

When I started my scientific career I wanted to combine my passions to visualise the behaviour of cells in physiological condition but also during cancer. This is how I decided to develop this 3D imaging technology that allows you to immerse into the cellular architecture of entire organ in 3D. I have the chance to express my personality into my work and I feel very blessed for it.

Why does breast cancer research mean so much to you? 

I am a woman and women’s health is an important cause for me, it is my fight! My research is my way of helping other women and standing for all of us.

What are some personal and professional challenges you faced along the way, and how did you overcome each of them? 

Professional: To remain at the leading edge of science! For that, you have to push yourself constantly, you cannot just be happy with what you achieved, you have to think two steps ahead. Predict your future achievement, bet on it and fight for it without knowing if it is going to be successful. You have to believe in your ideas and that they will bring you closer to your goals, which in my case is to gain a better understanding of how breast cancer develops to offer potential avenues for new treatments.

Predict your future achievement, bet on it and fight for it without knowing if it is going to be successful.

Personal: What is challenging is to find a balance between work and personal life, and I am not quite there yet… I am so excited by what I am doing that it is difficult to switch off. It is something that I am aware of and I am trying to work on because at some stage I want to start a family and I know that I will have to adapt my work rhythm to give a lot of space for that. I think it is one of the major issues women are facing in our generation, finding this balance.

Were there any times you had doubts while working on the new imaging technique?

I never had doubts, I always believe! But honestly, it was so exciting to develop this technique that I cannot recall any doubts. I am a very positive person so when I am faced with a problem or challenge, first I relativize and then push through or find another way!

What is the impact of this technique on those who have breast cancer, or are at risk?

To deliver the most effective therapy to treat women with breast cancer, clinicians rely on standardised prognosis protocols based on histopathology assays. One of the drawbacks of this assay is that they are performed on only a small section of the biopsy that does not necessarily reflect the overall composition of the entire tumour. In addition, this technique allows the detection of only one biomarker at the time.

We have developed a novel sample preparation for intact human biopsies and combined this with 3D microscopic technologies to unveil the 3D architecture of entire tumours, while simultaneously detecting multiple biomarkers. This technology provides us with an unprecedented view of the complex cellular composition of tumours!

However, this is a very novel imaging technique that is still yet to reach its full potential within medical research. Developing this innovative 3D visualisation technique for clinical research is my next challenge, and I believe that this technology could not only provide a better understanding of breast cancer progression, but also reveal new predictive tools to assist clinicians’ choice for designing personalised treatment strategies.

What would you say to girls who are in, or who are considering going into STEM fields?

Dream big, be yourself and don’t overthink the consequences!


Running your own business is hard. You have to do everything. Pay is… laughable, for the hours you put in. Money for business spending is tight. As a co-owner of Next Level Escape, I’ve done everything from sawing wood for props, to managing staff, to designing marketing materials, to name a few.

Along the way, I’ve found some amazing free programs that I can’t live without, and I thought I’d share them with you. Perhaps you already know of them – this is how they’ve helped our business, specifically.

Canva

As the main person designing all marketing materials, I can’t live without Canva now. Yes, I also have a (very old!) version of Photoshop which I use for detailed designs for props and the like. But if I want to make a great-looking flyer, a gift certificate, or even an infographic, Canva is fast and easy.

It provides a lot of pre-made elements, example designs and templates, stylish fonts, and a simple drag-and-drop editor. Then there’s the little things, like a simple slider for spacing out letters in a text box, that make designing simple. I’m not a designer by trade – far from it! – but I’ve been able to make materials that look pretty good (if I do say so myself) thanks to Canva.

Best of all, it’s free if you don’t need advanced features such as exporting images with transparencies, uploading your own fonts, or canvas resizing. The latter has been a bit of pain point for me, but I’ve found as long as I ensure I have the right size from the start, it’s not an issue. That said, if you do want those additional features, the subscription cost is A$12.95 a month.

MailChimp

MailChimp is an email marketing platform, that allows you to upload customers’ email addresses and other details, then send a bulk mail to them. It’s also one of the easiest ways I’ve found to create slick, good-looking emails that are more than plain text or badly formatted disasters in a desktop mail client.

Most businesses use it for bulk emails to their customers, which is the platform’s main purpose. MailChimp makes it simple to create a sign-up form for a mailing list, and send a series of automated emails. If connected with a shopping cart software, you can also trigger emails after a customer purchases something from your store.

We, however, use it to send personalised emails to our players, providing their results from their game and asking for reviews. At the end of a period, usually a day or two, we upload all the player statistics to MailChimp – a simple copy-and-paste from a spreadsheet. We’ve then set up an email template that takes this information and uses a mail merge function and conditional statements to automatically create a customised email for each player with their statistics.

It’s fast, easy, and looks so much better than our initial plain-text emails. Not to mention, we can send the mails out in batches and the relevant fields are automatically filled in.

Slack (or HipChat)

Slack is a free chat program which allows you to create your own space, set up channels, and invite users. You can also send through files and images with a simple drag-and-drop, search through those files as well as previous conversations, and add reminders to certain lines of chat, to name a few of the features. I’m told that HipChat has similar features, though we haven’t used it ourselves.

Basically, this is our IM program for our 3-person business. We use this when we want to make quick comments to one another without clogging up emails. Perhaps someone’s seen an item that could be perfect for one of our rooms – they’ll take a picture and flick it through. Or I’ve just created a new piece of audio/video for a room and want some quick feedback, so I’ll flick it across. We’re too small to make proper use of the channels, but it’s a good way to keep chat about different aspects of the business separate. And, of course, there’s the direct message feature to a single user.

What makes Slack most useful for me is the ability to quickly search through previously uploaded files and chats. If I need to find something I previously mentioned about a staff member, a quick search will give me all previous mentions, and any related files. Do note that the free version of Slack only keeps the 10,000 most recent messages. If you want it to be a proper archive, you’ll need to pay subscription costs.

Google Drive (or Dropbox and OneDrive)

This is our central repository for data. Dropbox and OneDrive are other good alternative, but we use Google Drive because we also use Google Docs and Google Sheets, which automatically save to Google Drive. The principle for all three services is still the same – a shared folder that multiple people in the business can access. Since our business has three co-owners, this is very important to us.

It also helps that all our key files for everything, from financial documents and contracts to puzzle design, has a back-up in the cloud. If my laptop dies, or is stolen, it’s not the end of the world. We still have everything we need online. If your business doesn’t currently have a back-up plan for your key documents, I would highly suggest creating one now. All of these companies provide space for free, with the option to purchase more if you need it.

Google Sheets and Docs

I mentioned this above – Google Sheets is the online equivalent of Excel, and Google Docs is similar to Word. I should note that they don’t have all the features of the Microsoft Office suite. But what they do have is excellent collaborative features. You can have the document open across multiple computers, and everyone can see and make changes in real time.

We use Google Sheets to record all player statistics, as it can be open on multiple computers at one time without causing issues. If two different people are running games and recording information, it doesn’t cause any conflicts. We’ve also left comments for one another (eg. “Is this a real email address?!”) and made changes to the document structure, such as changing how we record times, while the other person has the document open.

Square payments

This isn’t software, and there’s a small charge, but I wanted to add this in because it’s such a big part of our business. Square is a payment system that allows you to process secure card payments with your mobile phone. We found out about it from a friend, and it was ideal for a business that wasn’t earning much in the very early days.

It takes a flat 1.9% cut of all payments processed (and takes AMEX), instead of the flat fee that many banks charge for their terminals. The most basic version of the terminal that reads card chips and has a magnetic swipe is only A$29. The tap-and-pay version is A$59.

Whether a bank terminal is better for your business is something you’ll calculate based on your projected earnings. Work out 1.9% of your earnings and compare it with the bank fee for their terminals. Going with Square is best if you’re only expecting to earn a small amount each month, say $2,000 to $3,000. Any more, and the flat fee from a bank may be a better option.

One advantage we have found with using Square is the ability to quickly generate an invoice that can be emailed and paid online via credit card. We’ve found this particularly useful when taking deposits, for example.

 

What programs do you use for your small business? We’d love to hear about them in the comments!