You’ve heard the addage “you get what you pay for.” Well, I definitely think that that’s the case when it comes to Skype. Why would you rely on a free service for your business calls when you can find something that’s next to free that was designed for businesses and entrepreneurs.

thinkspace offers a consumption-based model. You get a phone number (any area code in the US – you pick). You get unlimited extensions (yes, you can fake that you have multiple departments, even if you are just a one-man-show). You get free unlimited features (auto-attendants, find me follow me features, auto-forwarding – it’s all included). It’s all consumption-based. So, you choose a plan with a certain number of minutes and pay for those minutes.

Another great thing is your ability to MAKE calls from this line. There are other companies out there that claim to offer the same thing (for the same price), but they actually “do not offer a dial tone.” (This is how their associate put it when we asked them how we can make calls from our line. Unbelievable.) We offer a dial tone. We offer a business platform. We offer something that can be reliable to you and something that you can’t get anywhere else. We also offer personalized phone answering

Whatever your 2010 looked like, make it a point to make 2011 a better year. thinkspace can help you do that. I’d be happy to talk to you about the ways that we can help. Just give me a call at 425-629-6204 or shoot me an email at alyssa[at]thinkspace[dot]com.

Making the decision to work from home can make a lot of sense. For the self-employed, there are lots of benefits; decreased overhead is one of the biggest ones. Paying lower monthly rent can really help the bottom line for a new business. Not all personality types are well-suited to working from home, however. Here’s four reasons you may want to think twice:

1. Social skills. The ability to relate well to other people is an important one for the small business owner, and if those skills aren’t practiced regularly by interacting with co-workers and clients, your social skills can become rusty from disuse.

2. If you’re easily distracted, working from home may not be ideal for you. Even the most attentive businessperson might find it hard to concentrate over background noises of kids, pets, and the washing machine. (‘I’ll finish writing the rest of this article after I’m done folding that load of clothes… And after doing the dishes… Oh, and the dog needs to be fed…’) Online games, Facebook, and the latest YouTube sensation are not likely to help matters, either.

3. Absence can actually make the heart grow fonder, when it comes to family members. You may find being constantly underfoot will not endear you to your spouse, and the unpredictable schedule can also lead to marital discord.

4. When there’s no set schedule to follow, procrastination can become a problem for the less-than-disciplined home worker. Your sleep schedule can get misaligned, making it difficult to complete assignments during “banking hours”.

Is it possible to have the best of both worlds? Virtual offices might be an option to consider for an up-and-coming bootstrapping business. Your business can have the benefit of a local address and phone number, and even a virtual receptionist service. This can really improve the image your business projects, without the expense of private offices.

Coworking is another office space model to consider. A shared workplace that is maintained by several small companies can be very beneficial to all. It might be easier to attract prospective clients when you can invite them in for a sales pitch in your nicely appointed meeting room, even if that meeting room is only available to you on certain days of the week.

thinkspace offers Virtual Offices, Meeting Rooms, Part-time offices and Coworking, to boot! Check out the links above, or give me (Alyssa) a call at 425-629-6200; I always love to chat!

With the coming of a new year, many companies experience a change in their team. Whether you will be the one joining a new team this year or you’re hiring a new team member, you always want to make this experience as enjoyable as possible. When you start a new job many employees want to know how to excel on their first day. If you are an employer who is hiring a new employee you may wonder how you can make this experience as pleasant as possible. Either way, a first day on the job can be an anxious time for both employee and employer. Consider the following items to ensure success:

1. First Impressions Are Crucial – Remember, you never have a second chance to make a first impression. So, if you are a first time employee, be sure you are on-time, of course, dressed to impress and don’t forget any resources that you may need for the day. For the employer, you should ensure the office space or private offices for the employee are ready in advance. An employee does not want to spend their first day removing your old, used coffee cups from there cubical – unless you hired them for janitorial services! (thinkspace offers part time and full time office space, so don’t hesitate to call if you need a larger office or an additional one for your newest employee.)

2. Training is Fundamental – For the employee, you must approach your new job with an open mind. The way the company does things might not be exactly what you are accustomed to and you may even know a better way, but the first day on the job may not be the best time to start trying to change their “business as usual”. As an employer, you will want to have the training prepared in advance. There is nothing more frustrating to an employee then being expected to complete a task that they know nothing about.

3. Introductions of Importance – On the first day introductions are very important. As a new employee, take the time to introduce yourself to those that seem appropriate. Use a firm handshake and make eye contact and make it a point to remember their name. As an employer, take the new employee around the office and introduce them to the people they will be working with and their manager. You may also want to introduce them to individuals in upper management, if it seems necessary.

These simple steps will help ensure that the first day on the job goes well for both the employee and the employer. By following these steps and being prepared you are showing that you care.

Normally, I read a book and write about it.  This time around, I’m just saying that I’ve started reading the book.  It comes highly recommended by Jake McKee, Chief Strategy Officer for Ant’s Eye View (disclaimer: Ant’s Eye View is a thinkspace member).  In Jake’s words:

“The one piece of advice I’ve consistently give each and every one of these small business owners is simple: Buy Word of Mouth Marketing , read it, and then we’ll sit down and talk about how to implement the principles of the book.

You know how many have both bought and read the book? None.

As a small business owner, I know how difficult it can be. I understand how many hours go into running the business. But if you’re not always, and I mean ALWAYS thinking about how to drive your business to the next level, you’re failing. There’s are plenty of reasons a vast majority of small businesses fail, and lack of forward planning is big one.”

So here I am, ready to dive in. I’m already planning to bookclub this at thinkspace, add a comment to this post and let me know you want to join me!

Many companies have some interesting traditions that they honor during the holiday season, whether its throwing a great holiday party, sporting ugly sweaters or playing the White Elephant Gift game; traditions can be a fun way to spend quality time with coworkers. These traditions are something that many employees look forward to all year round; I know thinkspace does. In past years, we’ve thrown holiday parties, ran food drives and held cookie exchanges, but this year, thinkspace has added a couple new traditions to the list!

Our thinkspace team built a gingerbread house (Our Team’s GingerBread House) at our last team meeting, spent an evening out at ACT Theater to see The Christmas Carol, and partnered up with Jolkona to create a wonderful & worthy Holiday Giving Campaign. This holiday season, thinkspace is using Jolkona’s giving platform to raise money for a Washington CASH project dedicated to providing business skills to low-income individuals in the Puget Sound area. Washington CASH strives to help individuals attain self-sufficiency though small business ownership. Every $30 received through this campaign will provide a business showcase opportunity, allowing a new entrepreneur to build their customer base, test their pricing and packaging, and learn marketing skills that can launch their business to a higher level.

We’ve set ourselves a goal to provide 20 Business Showcase Opportunities this season. Will you please help us in donating to a great cause? It’s really very simple. Just follow the link to our Holiday Giving Campaign, register with Jolkona (as prompted) and click the orange “GIVE” button on the right hand side, you can choose to donate whatever amount you wish (minimum of $1) to the cause. Once you click give, you will be taken to your GiftBasket where you can choose from a couple of other options & then Update Your Cart. You can even dedicate your gift to a friend or family member! Once you’ve updated your cart, don’t forget to enter your email address so that Jolkona can track your donations. Click the blue donate button in the lower right corner and you’re set! You’ll then be forwarded to “Google Checkout” where you can proceed to donate using VISA, MasterCard, Discover or AMEX.

Thank you so much for considering to donate and thank you for your support! We, at thinkspace, appreciate each and every one of our members so much and we wish you all a very happy holiday!

The annual company Christmas party is something that everyone looks forward to every year, but sometimes it’s hard to anticipate how much time and effort will go into planning an outstanding event. Add to this the unpredictable nature of business; you might get unexpectedly snowed under with December sales! What’s a corporate party planner to do?

1. Take a smart shortcut. There are companies out there that can help you with many of your planning needs. Talk to thinkspace, for example, about using one of our meeting rooms and you’ll hear that they can actually take a lot of the planning work off of your plate. thinkspace is an ideal location for a company party in the Seattle area. If you’re so inclined, we will do everything from invitations and guest lists, to decorating and staffing the party!

2. Pick a theme.
Make a memorable party for your clients and employees by choosing a fun and entertaining themed event. How about an elegant wine-tasting at your company party? Showcase several nice wines and cheeses, and send each satisfied client home with a bottle. Or, maybe it’s a frosted winter wonderland? Use clear vases filled with white and silver bulb ornaments and sprinkled with sparkling, fake snow for beautiful centerpieces and send each attendee away with a shiny, new snowflake ornament to adorn their home.

3. Choose vendors wisely. Jump on any chance you have  to create goodwill by choosing one of your client’s services; what a savvy move! Your client’s will appreciate the ability to work with you and your commitment to them. You’ll find loyalty to customers is typically returned ten-fold in their loyalty to you.

4. Showcase your good will. Take into account a company’s commitment to the community or to green living before you choose their services for your company party.  This is more important than you might think. People are very concerned with the well-being of others, especially during the holiday season. Run a food drive or a silent auction to help the disadvantaged in your community. Or, hold your party in an environmentally conscious building; there are few better opportunities to showcase your own company’s commitment to green living by using a company that is, too.

All the holiday cheer and goodwill might be very beneficial in raising your client’s spirits and possibly raising your bottom line, so start planning now! Call thinkspace at 425-629-6200 or email us at if you have any questions or need any help in planning a successful holiday party!

Over the last couple weeks I had at least three different conversations with successful entrepreneurs who have started and sold a company, people who have just started their business, or read articles that talk about the “one thing that successful entrepreneurs do differently“. There’s a lot of things that every successful entrepreneur does, but, there is one thing that stands out. It’s the entrepreneur’s ability to get paying customers and have those customers create more customers.

What’s the biggest challenge?

I often am asked what’s the biggest surprise that you’ve faced since starting thinkspace. I’m pretty sure every time I’m asked that question I answer the same way. I started out this business with experience in technology, database skills, customer demographic analysis, project management skills, startup experience, Fortune 500 corporate experience, analyzing personal financial statements, real estate development experience, but, the one thing that I spend most of my time on is actually marketing and sales.

The difference between marketing & sales

I used to think that marketing is the thing you do if you want people to buy something from you. Since then I would say my thoughts on marketing have shifted dramatically. Marketing is not getting someone to buy things from you, but, rather the act of making sure that your target audience is aware that you exist. It’s about awareness. However, awareness is meaningless if you don’t have people actually buying from you. A few weeks ago, I had “coffee” & a conversation with two amazing entrepreneurs, Nicole Donnelly (Founder of Salty Waffle) and Joe Heitzeberg (Founder of Media Piston), and we were talking about driving traffic to our companies website. Nicole stated it beautifully, “traffic is vanity, conversion is sanity”. I’ve heard from marketing people in the past that would say things like I can drive tons of traffic to your website, but, who cares if people show up and there’s no way to turn those visitors into paying customers.  Awareness without sales is the same thing.

What if you don’t like sales?

I’d have to say that if you don’t like sales, don’t become an entrepreneur.  Whether you’re constructing a building, creating a technology product or service, you only spend a fraction of the time actually creating it.  Most of your time is actually spent marketing and selling it.  I asked Anthony Stevens (Founder of Crowdify) how important is it to be able to sell if you’re the founder?  Anthony said “It’s essential.  If you can’t sell your idea – to customers, to potential co-founders, to early employees, to investors – you’re dead”.  Shane Mac (Entrepreneur; as well as Marketing brain behind Gist) says “So, yes, the founder better be able to sell “it” no matter what “it” is. I believe sales is a word that has a tainted perception tho… Sales is really about the power of persuasion which isn’t selling at all, rather believing”.  Shauna Causey, (Co-founder of Tech Mavens and Social Business Strategist at Ants Eye View), says “If the founder isn’t good at selling his own idea, there needs to be somebody else… who can sell it.”.  I personally think that if the founder can’t sell it then it better be the co-founder.

startup-weekend-logoStartup Weekend

This coming week, there is going to be Redmond Startup Weekend, December 10-11, 2010.  From people like Anthony, Shane, and Shauna, it sounds like Startup Weekend is excellent. Shane says “It is about entrepreneurship and creating a team that can functionally work together”.  While I recognize that two days is a very short time to come up with a product, create it, and demo it, we (both Joe and I)  think it would be pretty cool if there was a component to this where you could see which team could also sell the most.  B-School can teach you theory and you can learn from case studies, but, why isn’t there more emphasis on the art of actually selling?  Perhaps it’s time to come up with something where there was a focus on that.  The birth of something else like “Hustle Camp”.

As an entrepreneur you launch your startup and you suddenly wake up and now you’re a marketer.  Sadly, you might not be as good at marketing and sales as you were with your original profession.  The good thing is that every great leader and entrepreneur also has an insatiable thirst for learning, so keep on learning.

Photo Cred: Jason Reed

thinkspace loves entrepreneursThere is a special soft spot in my heart for entrepreneurs, startups and small businesses. They are passionate, focused and driven which is inspiring and completely energizes me when I get the opportunity to work with them. Typically smaller startups don’t have a staff to handle their website and marketing needs. If this sounds like your company; then keep reading. Often businesses publish their website quickly with little time to devote towards research, design, creating content and functionality. Or worse, the business doesn’t put a website up at all. But, I’ve got something that’s a lot better than either of these options!

Here are a couple of questions you might have:

  • How do I get a website that allows for customers to find me online?
  • Can I get a website that doesn’t take a lot of time to maintain so I can focus on my business?
  • Can I get a website that I can edit and update myself?
  • How can I get a website that doesn’t hurt my checkbook and still looks professional?

Setting Up For Success:

thinkspace offers WordPress websites starting at $500If you are looking to build a website or considering a refresh of your current website; don’t frown! This is an exciting time for you and your business. Learning about how to utilize your business skills and employ them online is going to be a rewarding experience and a great investment for your business.

Don’t get overwhelmed, come talk to any of the thinkspace staff about the website and marketing packages we offer. We can talk with you about your specific needs, ideas and solutions.

Here are a couple of myths:

  • The best websites are the most beautiful and have animated dancing unicorns.
  • The best websites get millions of hits every day.
  • The best websites are #1 in search results for Google, Bing and Yahoo.
  • The best websites have the most keywords packed into their website.
  • The best websites are the ones are esthetically pleasing to me.

The truth is that most successful websites are able to prove with their content, website design, and choices if images these three essential things:

  1. They know who their customers are.
  2. They understand their customer’s needs.
  3. They are qualified to meet their customer’s needs.

There can be many goals for a website. They can also serve many different purposes, from building the business’s brand, being a place to promote events, and sell products. My challenge to you is to create a website that is clear to visitors on what you want them to do.

  1. Make a purchase
  2. Contact you – Email, Phone, mail
  3. Share your content/products – through social media, email
  4. Connect with you – Social media, Events, Make an appointment

Creating great website contentBuilding Content

To build content for your website start with making a list of all the most frequently asked questions by your customers. Try to be concise, stick to one to two sentences and answer each question like you would if the customer was in front of you. Then arrange your answers by level of importance to customers and the top four are most likely your static pages. The others make excellent content for your blog, social media channels and email newsletters.

Research & Finding the Conversation

Take some time to research similar businesses, locally, state, then nationwide.  Take notes on what you do and don’t like about their website, what content you think was neat. One of the best ways to find out where conversations are happening about you, your business and your competitors is to use Google Alerts. You might find out that there are conversations happening about your business on Linkedin that you didn’t even know about.

The Summary:

  1. Focus on your customer, their needs and the solution you bring to the table
  2. Know what you want people to do when they come to your website
  3. Write content that answers common questions your sales or customer service representative would normally answer.
  4. Find out where the conversations are happening online and where you should be investing your energy
  5. Have a website built that is easy on your budget and staff

For more information about what thinkspace can offer you contact us! We would love to work with you.