Author Archives: Astrid S.

A Different Perspective

A Different Perspective




It’s Friday, and you’re exhausted but proud of yourself for finishing everything that’s ever listed on your weekly to-do list. You’re especially proud of finishing a project that been handed to you “last minute” because a co-worker missed the order alert and gave you the instructions late. Now, you’ve cleared your email, and you’re ready to start the next week off with a clean slate.


Fast forward to the middle of the week. You are harried and frazzled because things have been creeping up on your to-do list. Some items are from other people, and some are from to-do items that you have overseen. You’ve definitely dropped the ball on those.

Now, you’re thinking to yourself, “maybe I should have a better system for keeping track of things to be done instead of a list and a calendar?” But the truth is, this system has always worked for you. Here’s one thing you can try…how about you start being proactive rather than reactive.

What’s the difference?

As an adjective, Merriam-Webster defines the word reactive as “done in response to a problem or situation: reacting to problems when they occur instead of doing something to prevent them.”[1] Meanwhile, proactive is defined as “acting in anticipation of future problems, needs, or changes.”[2] See the difference? One is responding to problems as they occur, and the other is acting in anticipation. The difference is one of perspective.

It’s nice to not stress yourself out and just go with the flow. The problem is that when the flow takes you to unchartered waters, uncertainty and fear sets in. That leads to more stress in the long run. Wouldn’t it be better to prepare in advance?

If you’re one who always anticipates a last minute change to their agenda, I salute you. Tell me how you can predict the future, I’d love to know the secret. But for most of us who do not have the superhuman power of clairvoyance being able to predict when unexpected tasks will spring up is just not possible. However, you can map out a battle plan for when the unexpected comes.

You can delegate the task when it comes. This doesn’t mean making it someone else’s problem but sharing the workload utilizes other people’s skills and let you manage your time efficiently. You don’t have to do everything yourself. Good leaders recognize this and leverage the best people who they know can do more for the project than they can.

You can create a system. Again, this helps you manage your time better and helps streamline processes and responses to an emergency. With practice and some fine tuning, you can create a system that can ensure that work gets done smoothly and without hitches.

In the case of projects and deadlines and other tasks that creep up during the workweek, it would be better to schedule some free time on your calendar to take care of ad hoc tasks. Or pencil in an entry in your to-do list like “take care of ad hoc tasks” or “prepare side project”. This way, you won’t have to be blindsided by immediate and urgent tasks that weren’t on your to-do list in the first place. And you can go back to having things in your agenda under control.

Lastly, take a breather. Clear your mind so that you can get into a more productive headspace. You’ll be surprised at the benefits you can gain by taking a step back to see the bigger picture. And as always remember to stay humble and hustle hard.






Written by Jaie O.- The Help

How To Create A Self-care Plan And Why You Need One

How To Create A Self-care Plan And Why You Need One





There will be some days in your lifetime when you will be overwhelmed with everything going on in your life, and you’ll be tempted to quit all your activities and let go of everything you have on your plate. This might mean a number of things like underperforming at work, neglecting your family, or just saying no to any and all social gatherings altogether. While most people would tell you to take a breather when that happens, what you have to do is to be proactive and anticipate that these things happen to any well-rounded individual and you need to be ready when that day comes. You don’t have to lose it and resolve to be a hermit. What you need is a self-care plan.



What is a self-care plan?

A self-care plan can help you enhance your health and wellbeing, manage your stress, and maintain professionalism as a worker.[1]

Everyone has a different self-care plan, but all of these plans have one thing in common – it involves doing activities that you enjoy so that you can holistically develop your wellbeing. These are things you do so that you can improve yourself and be able to meet personal and professional commitments.


What I did.

To anticipate the time when I would need to break off from the pressures of work and other commitments, I decided to make a self-care box. Most people have a list of go-to activities that they find relaxing. Me, I made a box. This box would contain things or reminders of things that would help me relax and clear my head to get into that healthy mindset and be able to re-engage in daily activities.


What’s inside.

The contents of the self-care box would be different for everyone. For me it contains the following:

  • Art supplies – Copic markers, felt-tipped pens, a few sketch pads of various sizes, oil pastels, coloured pencils, pencils, compass, templates, rulers, coloured pens, an eraser, charcoal pencils, cartographer pens, and a set of origami paper (origami is a very fun activity, I promise! [2]).
  • Old pictures – postcards and snips of old drawings and images for drawing inspiration.
  • Movie DVDs – all of my favorite cartoons.
  • Guitar picks – in varying materials and thickness.
  • Books – mostly graphic novels.


What to do with your self-care box.

Every time I feel the need to decompress and take a break, I open the box and pick one activity. I usually default to mandala drawing.[3]

You can start your self-care box, or more conveniently, make a list of all the activities or hobbies you enjoy doing. List down all the things you can do to clear your mind and bring back your sense of perspective. Here are some suggestions:

  • Go for a walk.
  • Go to church/ temple/ service/ mosque/ worship.
  • Exercise. Do yoga or pilates.
  • Have coffee with a friend (pick one you enjoy talking to – if, for anything else, you’ll enjoy the conversation).
  • Get a massage/ back rub/ foot rub/ shoulder rub.
  • Start/ go back to journaling your thoughts – keep them from buzzing inside your head by committing them to paper.
  • Engage in a non-work related hobby – drawing, sketching, sports, gardening – generally things that you do with your hands and create with your mind.
  • Meal prep – this may sound silly, but meal prep is a very relaxing activity – try it!
  • Take your pet out for a walk or play with your pet.


As I said, self-care activities would be different for everyone. Take the time to sit down and reflect. Find the activities that you think will help you clear your thoughts and get into a more productive workspace. You’ll feel better and lighter for it. As always, remember to stay humble and hustle hard.






Written by Jaie O.- The Help

Small Business CRMs: Special Features and Capabilities

Small Business CRMs: Special Features and Capabilities

Here are a few special features and capabilities to consider when deciding on a CRM to use for your Small to Medium Business.

Customer Information

A good CRM should at the very least be able to hold records of all your customers. The key features to look for are:

  • Relationships: the ability to relate contacts to their companies and companies to accounts are all important features
  • Record keeping: your CRM should be able to hold pertinent contact information along with individual and company details
  • History: your CRM must be able to record all interactions on all instances of contact with the customer
  • Organization: your CRM must be able to organize all your contacts into groups (e.g. prospects, active clients, follow-ups, newsletter sign ups, etc.)
  • Others: extra features such as links to the contact social networking pages, display maps of client locations with travel instructions,

Sales and Marketing Tools

A CRM is not simply software. It is a business tool that helps you automate both sales and marketing and, importantly, speed up the buying cycle.  Look for these functions:

  • Invoicing: the ability to print and email invoices and statements
  • Account alerts: during sales, inform you if a customer is in arrears so you can make an informed decision regarding incurring more risk
  • Direct marketing: create automated email campaigns and produce mailing labels for direct marketing campaigns
  • Customer segmentation: identify customers by any number of categories, the products they buy or location, so that unique marketing and sales activities can be better targeted

Business Intelligence

At the very least, a CRM should be able to show you where your sales and marketing efforts are most effective.  Look for the following features:

  • Sales Tracking: Allow sales performance reporting
  • Targets: Manage sales targets by salesperson or team
  • Customer Segmentation: Identify groups of contacts for specialized marketing programs
  • Product reports: Provide product sales trends analysis and recommend stock reorder quantities
  • Profitability reports: Produce reports that help you strategize how to maximize your profits

Productivity Features

Of course, it would greatly help your staff CRM had features that could enhance their productivity as well. Look for the following:

  • Email: the ability to capture all email between your team and customers
  • Calendaring: daily schedules and to-do lists and  integration with staff calendars (i.e. Google Apps or Microsoft Outlook)
  • Mobility: the ability to access contact information via a tablet or mobile phone
  • Telephony: A ‘click to dial’ ability that lets staff simply select a phone number on a CRM record, and have it automatically dialed on their phone, while simultaneously recording the details of the call. Also, links to phone systems so that an incoming brings up the appropriate customer record automatically

Deployment options

A cloud-based CRM deployment will allow your staff to access the CRM from anywhere and on any device. However, cloud-based solutions require a reliable internet connection. If you are an in an area where broadband is patchy, you may wish to consider an on-premises solution instead.

Try before you buy

Use the free demos that are available from most CRM vendors. Frequently, these free trials allow you to experiment with a small set of your customer data, so you can test how well each solution works for your business.  Be on the lookout for small, add-in features that make a big difference.  Ask yourself “How does this tool help my business?”

That’s it for my tech series on Small Business CRMs. If you have questions or CRM recommendations, please feel free to leave a comment. Stay humble and hustle hard!


Written by Jaie O.- The Help 

Small Business CRMs: Ask Yourself These Questions

Small Business CRMs: Ask Yourself These Questions

18422184_10210579626580921_3838965366912108093_oWhen considering a CRM for a small business, you do not need the most expensive, feature-rich, or latest CRM. What you need is a software solution that meets your needs. Start by looking at the following broad requirements:

The Price

Price is a primary factor (if not THE main factor) when choosing a CRM. More often than not, there is more to a CRM than the upfront purchasing cost. You have to dig deeper and analyze what is included in the price. Evaluate what is included in the package. Think about:

  • How much will it cost to integrate your chosen CRM into existing resources?
  • Will this entail additional equipment?
  • Are there hosting fees?
  • How much would the training cost?
  • What are the costs of upgrades?
  • Does the vendor offer free support or will that be an added cost?
  • Are there peripherals that need to be bought with the CRM, perhaps smartphones for the whole team?

If you have an existing CRM, also consider the costs of moving your current customer (and possibly sales) information into the new CRM. This can cost as much, if not more, than the first year’s software licensing costs. Consider how much of that customer information migration you can do yourself, and how much will need to be done by a specialist.

Fit For Purpose

There is a temptation to purchase a CRM that promises to grow your business by offering a myriad of advanced sales automation and marketing features. On paper, these CRMs look wonderful. However, it is important to avoid getting a system that does things your business does not need… or that your staff is simply not ready to adopt.  It is much better to start small, with a limited set of features that match your immediate business needs.  In software terms, we call this ‘fit for purpose.’  Ask yourself:

  • Do you need a CRM  that is more integrated into existing hardware, such as your phone systems?
  • Do you need a CRM that is more social media-centric?
  • What do your employees need?
  • What are some of your important business processes that integrate well with the CRM?

Do not be mislead by a hundred features that you don’t understand, let alone use. Forget the bells and whistles. Choose a CRM that understands your business requirements and appropriately captures your needs. Choose a CRM that helps you make the informed choices and allows for excellent customer follow up. And more importantly, choose one that you and your team can easily work with.


Never forget security. After all, customers trust you with their valuable personal information whether they are aware of that or not. A secure CRM would let you know when a team member makes changes, especially on important details such as passwords. It should let you define access controls to documents and other information for each user. Customers should be able to trust that their information and their buying preferences are not just out there on the world wide web for everyone to have access to. Privacy is important not just for you and your customers but for maintaining solid and reliable business relationships.

These are the three broad features to consider when deciding on a CRM. Next week, I’ll discuss some special features and capabilities for you to consider. Remember to stay humble and hustle hard!


Written by Jaie O.- The Help

Small Business CRMs: An Introduction

Small Business CRMs: An Introduction

18403847_10210579626420917_8262808040566198763_oThis article is a tribute to all the hardworking small business owners out there. We know how hard you hustle, we do too. We’re happy that your business has taken off and your client base is starting to grow substantially. Oh wow, here comes your first client!

Clients are easy to manage when they’re a small list. But if you’re doing things right, eventually your client list will start to grow. Just like hair, it becomes unruly when not cared for properly.

We know the struggles of growing a company. That’s why we have some tech tips and tricks for you on how to manage your growing client base.

Managing your clients’ list can be a persnickety task. There are quite a few ways to go about it. You can manage your contacts list individually. These days, many sole traders and salespeople just make use of the address book on their smartphones. Others do it the old-school way of collecting business cards in cardholders or (even more old school) Rolodexes. Some make use of tech by scanning or taking a photo of the cards and storing them in EverNote or Google Keep.

These are all quick, easy, and convenient options. However, they do not go beyond simply listing names, addresses, and other pertinent contact information. You have to be able to leverage personal information into sales and marketing activities order to make your business successful. A card-box full of names just won’t hack it.

This is where Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software comes into play. More than a contact list, a CRM is kind of like a personal digital assistant for sales and marketing tool. Not only does it keep a record of your clients’ personal and professional contact information, but it also stores details of each and every interaction you have with your customer, whether by phone or by other electronic correspondence. Ideally, a CRM will also guide you through the selling process, ensuring that no opportunities are missed.  

Sure, your employees can keep a document or a spreadsheet that contains all data, but they would all have to rely on memory to recall little details that make for an excellent customer service experience. These “little details” such as remembering to send a client a loyalty gift card on his/her birthday are the “little things” that make customer experience unforgettable. Sometimes, business owners also miss the opportunity to upsell or offer an upgrade because the spreadsheet method failed to note that previous conversation where you have to listen carefully for a subtle hint to learn that a current client will greatly benefit from an upgrade. That conversation could’ve gotten lost in the spreadsheet because it was a general inquiry.

With the right CRM, you can target new markets and identify new prospective clients, follow up on existing deals/projects, cross-sell, inform existing customers of new products/services, or even keep invoice trackers. You don’t have to keep juggling balls in the air and hope that none of them drop.

The key is to choose the right software for the way your business works. You don’t want to see your small team of employees trying to wrap their heads around new software instead of keeping the customers happy. They must be able to work with the software, not around it.

Next week, I will discuss the broad considerations you should decide on when choosing a CRM that would fit your Small to Medium business. In the meantime, stay humble and hustle hard.


Written by Jaie O.- The Help