Over the weekend, I blogged about why small business owners should consider hiring an intern. Here are a few more suggestions and resources for developing a successful internship program:

  • Figure out what type of internship you want to create. It’s important to be specific so your internship applicants are clear about what type of opportunity they are applying for. Ask your team what areas they need help with. Is it a marketing internship? Sales internship? Design internship? etc.
  • Decide what skills you are looking for in a potential intern. Remember, you’re recruiting students who have very little workplace experience. Therefore, you need to look for success in specific classes and campus involvement. For example, if you are hiring a marketing intern you may want to look for journalism students with fantastic writing skills. If you’re looking for a sales intern, you might want to look for students who have volunteered time fundraising for a non-profit. It’s important to read between the lines when looking at academic resumes.
  • Reach out to specific departments at your local university for  student recommendations. This is where your network comes in handy. Ask your employees who have graduated more recently for help. If you were involved with a greek organization in college, sending an email to your local chapter’s president or academic chair is a great first step.
  • Check out InternMatch‘s slide deck on writing a great internship description:

For those of you who’ve had success hiring an intern for your small business, what resources were valuable to you?



Deep DomainDeep Domain, Inc. began in 2007, a small startup in Redmond, WA but the fifth business of  Howard Mahran. Deep Domain is a software company with a focus in healthcare. They’ve set out to help hospitals and clinics easily get information out of their electronic medical records systems.

With Deep Domain it’s possible to create an application that will run on top of multiple platforms without customization. They make getting information easier and simplify the process. There is now a way to reduce the time and cost to develop and run applications.

Deep Domain applies logic or “domain expertise” to hospital records and then provides the data to reporting software. If doctors want to pull all the information on their diabetic patients, they’d use Deep Domain to pull the data more easily. There’s no extra coding or IT work for hospitals and wait time for sensitive information is dramatically reduced.

In Deep Domain’s software they provide portable domain knowledge that anyone can plug into a system. It’s independent and agnostic to the systems that are running. This means someone at one hospital that’s using a certain system can use exactly the same domain logic over at another hospital. The programmers don’t have to program that code. Ladies and gentlemen, domain expertise is now bundled.

This frees a hospital’s IT team to focus on the look and feel of the information, creating a better user experience. “All of sudden the effort to get information goes way down. About 80% of the workload goes down,” says Mahran. Translation? Doctor’s get the information they need sooner rather than later. Sounds like a win-win for everyone.

“Data is a mess at hospitals—they can’t get to it easily. So we wanted to make it cheaper and faster” says Mahran.

Sound like Deep Domain has done just that.

More execution, less talkThis is a guest post from one of our members, Matt Heinz from Heinz Marketing. Read more from Matt on his blog, Matt on Marketing.

It’s incredibly easy to get sucked into the day, every day. You can get lost in email, lost in meetings, lost in your RSS feed or social networks. You can feel busy, pulled in a thousand directions, and yet not make forward progress for yourself, your team or your business.

The trick, of course, is to go into the day with a plan, with priorities, and stay focused on what’s most important. You have to be both focused and disciplined to get the most important work done and ignore distractions (both external and internal) that will derail you.

As part of your daily routine, I recommend ensuring the following five things become core to how you build value, deliver external results, and improve yourself for future success.

Devote time to learning from others – live, online, in books and magazines, via podcasts and Webinars. Scan the email newsletters you receive (and have them auto-filtered into a special folder as to not distract from core work in your primary inbox). However you do it, devote time each day to making yourself better and smarter.

In other words, create something. Make something new that will attract more people to you, and help you make more money. This isn’t just for software developers and manufacturers. This is for those who write white papers, design email templates, build new landing pages, and test new sales scripts. No matter your role, the more you build, the more likely you’ll have something that furthers your objectives and sales targets.

It would be easy to combine this with the “Learn” objective above, because a huge part of meeting new people and staying in touch is what you learn from them, in a variety of ways and contexts. Network in a way that helps you meet new people every day – online and offline – and provide immediate value back to them in the process.

Your product, your services, your abilities, your ideas. Selling doesn’t always require the exchange of money. Have a great new idea but need your manager’s approval to move forward? Sell it. Need an extra round of funding for your start-up to finish that new product? Sell it. Need to drive higher response for your next lead generation Webinar? Sell.

This is the catch-all, and it’s easy to think of almost anything as “doing”. But checking your email doesn’t count. Setting up another meeting doesn’t count either. Define your “doing” based on external impact. What are you doing that has real, directional impact on your business, your customers, your own personal and professional aspirations? Define that narrowly, specifically, and start doing.

As a small business owner, you have limited resources when it comes to hiring additional employees. Instead of draining your overhead by hiring an additional employee, have you considered creating an internship program? Many interns are willing to work unpaid in exchange for experience building opportunities. Instead of paying an intern with money, you will be paying them with your time and expertise, which is truly invaluable.

Internship-seeking college students are bright individuals who are proactively working to build their resume and skill set. College students are extremely curious, which is a huge advantage to you. At this point in their life, they are looking to explore new opportunities, work environments, and job functions to get an idea for their future career path. Do you have random projects that need some well-thought work? An intern would be thrilled to take it on.

Interns can bring a ton of energy and new insights to your business. When was the last time you got some direct feedback from a 20-year-old? Remember, this generation can barely remember life before the Internet. Maybe you need help with updating your current low-tech processes? Or, brainstorming new marketing ideas? An intern can be a great resource for this.

Remember, interns require time. You are offering them experience and education for their time.  It is illegal to have an intern doing routine office chores without paying them an hourly wage. By hiring an intern, you are investing your time, which is a great way to support your local university community. In addition, employers who get a great internship reputation are highly desired for employment after graduation. By implementing a valuable internship program, you could be benefitting your future recruiting efforts. You will also have direct access to your intern after they graduate for employment opportunities.

Recruiting talented employees is one of the most difficult (and most important) responsibilities of a small business owner. Your people are your brand, product, and culture. However, once you find your core team of people- what are you doing to keep them happy?

The answer isn’t money. Sure, you need to pay your people what they’re worth to keep the money question off the table. What may surprise you is that most talented employees leave their jobs because they are unhappy with their company’s workplace culture. Check out the infographic below describing the top 5 reasons why talented employees leave their jobs.


Daily Deals for Business OwnersOur friends at Salty Waffle recently published an article written by Cameron over at Synotac. If you’re a small business owner- I definitely recommend checking out Cameron’s daily deal sites for business blog series.


There has been a lot of buzz about Groupon, LivingSocial, Google Deals and all the other online deals sites over the last year because of their ability to generate literally hundreds of leads for a business with seemingly no effort or upfront cost.

But savvy business owners are quickly realizing that their interests and the interests of these social deals websites are often not the same, and that poor planning can turn an engagement with one of these sites into one of the biggest mistakes a small business can make.  Based on the experiences of a few of our clients, general marketing best practices, and a number of case studies online from business owners, we have compiled this list of

how businesses can use Groupon without losing their shirt:

  1. Know how much you are willing to spend to acquire a new customer.  In Direct Response theory, it is always emphasized that you should never expect to break even on the first sale; you will make your money on the lifetime value of your new customer.  It is very important to know what a typical customer is worth to you, what the hard costs of your product and labor are, and then to expect a significantly lower lifetime value for those who are driven to your business because of a coupon.  Businesses often end up discounting the cost of their product or service by 50%, and then they give away 50% of the money that is received to the online deal website.  Make sure that your profit margins can absorb the discounts you agree to.  Many of the success stories from online deals sites chose to charge more money (i.e., discount less) than the sales rep wanted, which kept out the coupon cutters and resulted in more serious, interested customers using the service.
  2. Know how many customers is too many.  Most businesses only have capacity to handle a certain number of customers at a time, beyond which point you will be forced to turn customers away, potentially alienating new customers and loyal, repeat customers.  This is often a foreign concept, since most of us think that you can never have too much business, but too much business can be a very bad thing if not planned for.  Most of the online deals sites will allow you to cap both the date range to redeem the coupon and the number of coupons that can be “sold,” but you will often have to push the sales rep for these features.
  3. Have a plan to retain your new customers.  Many of the users of sites like Groupon are so-called “web coupon cutters” who will never come back to a location once they have redeemed their coupon.  This is especially important if your business is intensely local (like a coffee shop) but the online deals site will be attracting visitors from areas that make it extremely inconvenient to come back.  Build loyalty programs that will be interesting to your new customers.
Good luck!  Let us know if you decide to experiment with one of these services and what your experience is.
Sales for Startups Presentation Matt Heinz

Matt Heinz presenting to the group

Yesterday, we hosted a Tech Tuesday talk discussing Sales for Startups by Matt Heinz of Heinz Marketing. Matt spent an hour sharing his startup sales expertise with our community. If you were unable to join us for the event. You can check out yesterday’s slideshare presentation below:

Matt Heinz recently published his newest book, Sales for Startups. If y ou would like to purchase a hard copy, you can do so on Amazon.com. Or, you can access a free digital copy of his book here.

Sales for Startup Event

Sales for Startups Attendees

Strengths Finder BookStrengths Finder 2.0 is a fantastic book designed to help individuals and teams discover their untapped talents.

The StrengthsFinder book is complete with a unique access code, which allows you to take a 30-minute online assessment. The results of the assessment will reveal your top 5 strengths.

After discovering your strengths, you can flip through the book and read more in depth about each one. The book is filled with strategies and insights for maximizing each of your strengths. It also reveals the specific skills you should look for in partners based on their compatibility with your individual talents.

This book is a fantastic resource for getting to know your employees’ and coworkers’ talents on a deeper level than their current job function. StrengthsFinder is also great for learning how to communicate and motivate your team.

Our team’s top 5 strengths:

Nicole- strategic, futuristic, relator, learner, activator

Peter- activator, focus, learner, maximizer, significance

Alyssa- achiever, belief, communication, competition, strategic

Kristin- analytical, relatorfuturistic, individualization, maximizer

Mieka- futuristic, achiever, responsibility, empathy, arranger

As you can see above, the five of us have several strengths in common. Out of 34 possible themes, we represent 18 of them. It’s pretty cool that we can work in partnership sharing some of the same strengths. However, it’s equally as interesting to look at the different themes that compliment each other best. For example, activators and strategic people partner well with futuristic and analytical people.

You can purchase the StrengthsFinder 2.0 book on Amazon for only $13.70 (cover price is $24.95) which is such a small investment for the amount of valuable information you will get out of the assessment.

Have you taken the StrengthsFinder assessment? What are your top 5 strengths?

Mobile Ultrasound Device

MobiSante CEO and Co-founder, Sailesh Chutani picked up a smartphone and told me it was an ultrasound machine and I could use it. I was beyond excited. Ultrasound technology has moved into our pockets and MobiSante made it happen. Amazing? Yes. But practical? You bet.MobiSante has honed in on how mobile devices can impact healthcare. They’ve combined ultrasound technology with a regular smartphone to create a portable ultrasound machine. It’s not just a fun application to download. No, it’s the actual machine. It’s a simplified ultrasound imaging system complete with a probe that can be plugged into the phone’s USB port.

MobiSante’s new imaging system runs between $7,000 and $8,000, making it an affordable option for rural clinics, emergency rooms, military medics, and emerging markets. The average cost of a hospital’s bulky ultrasound imaging system can run up to $100,000 and take extensive training to operate.

Chutani showed me how to operate MobiSante’s system in less than 5 minutes. Once we captured the images, he explained how the data could be emailed out while keeping patient information confidential. This would allow the information to be sent to a doctor for diagnosis without requiring their physical presence. Ladies and Gentlemen, mobile healthcare has arrived.

MobiSante built the world’s first smartphone-based ultrasound imaging system, MobiUS™ SP1 and it’s FDA approved. Not bad for a Redmond startup located here at thinkspace.

Mobile Ultrasound Device

We had a chance to play around with the mobile ultrasound device- it is seriously accurate and easy to use.

When asked what advice he’d give to others thinking about starting their own startup, Chutani chuckles as he says, “You must be convinced that there’s nothing else you want to do.” Chutani worked tirelessly getting the MobiUS™ SP1 ready, running tests, submitting reports, and waiting for FDA approval. “Enjoy the process,” he says. “It helps if you’re trying to solve a problem that will impact people. Here we know the impact of [MobiUS™]. Every time we do a trial we see the potential.”

It’s this potential, this desire to see people’s lives impacted, that keeps MobiSante alive and well. Doctors, nurses, people in the tech community, and many others have gotten behind MobiSante’s ultrasound imaging system because it works. It has the potential to make a life and death difference. Amazing? Yes. Practical? You bet.

Carolann Joy Salon

Carolann Joy Salon is a boutique hair salon in Redmond, WA and the small business of a true artist. Named after its owner Carolann Joy Schmidt, Carolann Joy Salon is almost impossible to get into—almost. Why the high demand? Joy says she owes her success, in part, to her clients.

“[Carolann Joy Salon] clients are people I truly care about. I never have to fake a smile.” Schmidt is passionate about making people feel beautiful. Her genuine warmth and artful eye go far in making people feel at ease. Plus, Schmidt’s 10 plus years in the industry doesn’t hurt either.

Carol Ann Joy Salon also has a referral program to incentivize word of mouth referrals. They ask that if someone gives a compliment on your haircut that you pass along the salon’s card. If you send a friend over to Carolann Joy Salon, you receive $25 toward your next appointment. A lot of the salon clients have taken advantage of the program and the influx of new clients has meant two new stylists and another successful Redmond startup.

Like any small business, Carolann Joy Salon faced challenges in the beginning. The week they started construction on the salon’s space, Schmidt’s husband lost his job. Like any entrepreneur, Schmidt continued moving forward.

She turned the layoff into a stepping stone and Schmidt’s husband became her business partner, building out her studio and designing her amazing website (check out his web design company Lava Lounge Creative). Everything went into the business, including their life’s savings. It may have been a leap of faith, but Schmidt was not afraid to fail.

To any entrepreneur, Schmidt says failure is part of the game. Be okay with failing and know that it can help with growth. Learn from failure and move forward. And move forward is exactly what she did.

Carolann Joy Salon now boasts three stylists and a virtual receptionist. Thinkspace handles the phones and booking for the salon and Schmidt says the extra help has been a lifesaver. “Before, I was answering the phones. I just had all the calls go to my cell phone. It was a nightmare. My cell would ring, I’d run to the back of the house, shut the door and answer the phone, ‘Carolann Joy Salon, how may I help you?’ You’d hear my husband in the background telling the kids, ‘Shhh! Mommy’s on the phone. She’s talking to a client.’” She laughs while recounting the story.

By partnering with thinkspace, the salon doesn’t have to pay someone to be a receptionist and sit at the studio all day, and clients get the service they deserve. Schmidt says it’s been amazing—a true godsend. “I feel like they’re always looking out for our business,” Schmidt says. “ A lot of people get here and ask, ‘Where’s your receptionist?’ We joke that we keep her in the closet.”