running your own business

The Value of an Accountability Buddy

accountability buddyIn case you haven't yet noticed on this blog, Hacking Your Education: Ditch the Lectures, Save Tens of Thousands, and Learn More than Your Peers Ever, is a great book. It's worth checking out if you're interested in ways to continue learning, to get an education without spending a ton of money on college, or to do things that help you figure out your passions and what you want to do with your life, The idea of an accountability buddy also came from this book, where you have someone (or maybe a small group of people) hold your feet to the fire in regards to your goals and/or your to-do lists.

Losing Your Accountability Buddy is Tough

About six months ago, the coaching program with my business coach ended, and I think things went downhill since then. The most valuable thing that my business coach provided me was accountability, which is difficult to have by yourself when you're an entrepreneur or self-employed. You can't rely on your clients and customers to do this, and you may not necessarily have a boss or business partner to hold you accountable if you're an entrepreneur or self-employed. Without an accountability buddy, all you have is yourself and when you only have yourself, it gets easy to put off a task, to make an excuse, or to say that you're going to do something else that's equally productive instead.

I loved having a business coach to hold me accountable because I know that she cared about me, and I cared about her. When it came to my goals and to-do lists, I was much more motivated to get things done because I was left with two choices when I didn't do something. I could either tell my business coach I didn't do it, or lie to her about doing it. Since I never liked either of those choices, the best option was always to do what I needed to do and what I set out to do. After all, there's nothing to it but to do it! I lost much of this motivation when my coaching program ended, as I no longer had someone who was going to ask questions and to check up on these things.

I Have an Accountability Buddy Again

Starting in January 2014, I'm restarting my business coaching with my business coaching (I'm only putting it off because I need to save money for my end-of-the-year expenses, such as the holidays and my coworking membership). Even through I'm not officially under her tutelage for another two months, just knowing that I'm going to have to talk about these next two months in January and show something for myself is enough to keep me productive and pushing forward. I haven't been this motivated in a long time, and it's great to be energized with visions of accomplishment. What I really need is a trusted adviser who can keep me on track without micromanaging and who can who can ask the tough questions without being condescending or placing blame. My business coach fits the bill, and is also wonderful because she's shared with me several great resources that have helped me improve my business and business knowledge.

I do have a few goals set for the next two months, so it's not as if I'm wasting this down time. I do need to refine these goals and actually get them down on paper, but I at least have an idea of what I'd like to achieve in these last two months of 2013. I can't believe the year is almost over! I've come a long way, so I need to do what I can now so I can go further in 2014. An accountability buddy can help me with this.

Guide to Small Business Phone System Brands

small business phone systemsThere are many phone system brands and companies out there. In fact, there are no fewer than 50 different companies out there that provide business phone systems. Of course, there are the big, well-known brands like Panasonic, Cisco, Samsung, and Toshiba. Surely, they are good brands and can provide you with a good business phone system. But, are these systems really the best ones for small business? What do some of the smaller brands have to offer? This is a short guide to five business phone system brands that are recommended for small businesses. All of them are smaller than the big guys previously mentioned, but that doesn’t mean that their product or service is small on utility.


Formerly known as Packet8, 8x8 offers a hosted phone service solution, using the latest VoIP technology. All services are delivered directly over the Internet, so features can be accessed by employees who are in the office, traveling, or working remotely. So, 8x8 would be a good vendor for small business that has traveling or work-from-home employees, rather than one where employees need to be at the office regularly. With all hosted solutions, you’ll need a fast and reliable Internet connection to ensure that business demands are met for phone usage as well as other activities such as Web and email usage. The good thing about an 8x8 business phone system is that you aren’t sacrificing some of the features of a traditional phone system, like personalized voicemail, call forwarding, and three-way calling.


As with 8x8, Nextiva offers a hosted solution using VoIP technology. A Nextiva business phone system is better for a small business that would like a hosted phone service, but might not use the system all that much. Nextiva offers some very low rates – but for limited calling each month. Nextiva is also a good choice for microbusinesses, companies with fewer than 10 employees, as the three plans Nextiva offers are for one, four, and eight users. Features include holiday and after-hours greetings, voicemail to email, and number portability.


Vocalocity also offers a hosted solution, but is also one of the most customizable business phone system vendors on this list. You’re cost will depend on how many features, and which features, you would like. Small businesses can choose to incorporate mobile phones into the Vocalocity business phone system as well. Optional features include call conferencing, call recording, and paging groups (where you can broadcast messages to your employees through the business phone system). Another good feature is that each phone comes with its own phone number, instead of just an extension.


If you have a broadband connection, you can take advantage of Aptela's VoIP service and get big business productivity and mobility solutions—without the big business price tag. If you’re considering Aptela, the company offers a 30-minute test drive of their business phone system. Two great features about the Aptela business phone system include the support of green initiatives and administrative functions such as loudspeaker paging, password management, and call history. Payment starts at $25 a month per person, but a minimum of $50 per month is needed before your business can sign up for a calling plan.


Offering both hosted and server-based solutions, Fonality has competitive pricing for the value. If you have over 20 employees, it’s recommended to go with Fonality’s server-based solution, although this solution requires more up-front costs and ongoing maintenance by your own employees, which can take attention away from core business needs (unless you already have a robust IT staff). Besides that, Fonality’s business phone system options are very flexible and have a per-person monthly payment that’s better suited for smaller businesses. A nice feature about Fonality is that the company provides detailed reporting for all extensions and search filters, in case you’re suspicious about your employees making personal calls while on the job.

Take Away

Purchasing that small business phone system can be a difficult process, especially since there are so many aspects of which to keep track. The number of users, the different features, hosted versus server, all of that makes a difference in pricing and in which vendor would be the best fit for your small business. Certainly, this guide isn’t meant to be an exhaustive one to what’s out there. But, it’s a start in navigating these complicated lines.

One Idea into 20 Pieces of Content

i am grumpyThat was the inspiration to try and to come up with additional value for my clients with the content I am already creating for them. I wanted to come up with additional angles, additional types of content, additional research that could be used to talk about topics that I've been talking about for months and months now. However, I can't find the source of the idea, "20 pieces of content from one topic/idea". I thought it was in the book I just finished reading, but I conducted a search through it on both Google Books and on the Kindle and I go nothing. I tried a Google search and I can't it in any of the results that come up. I swear I didn't imagine it, but I can't find or remember the source.

Now, I'm Grumpy and Tired

I've been grumpy for the past two-and-half hours. I had high hopes for the latter half of the day. I still do, but now I'm tired and finicky and really want more coffee at 6:35 p.m. I still want to work, and there's still work to be done, but my brain is mush. I need to take a break so I can refocus myself. Fortunately, Sean is starting to play Age of Empires II. That is always fun to watch. I will do that and come back.

I'm Also Frustrated about This Pen

I'm really weird about pens. I like to use only a couple of pens at a time, use them all up before I replace them. I currently have 50 or so replacement pens right now. I'm also particular about which color I use where. My planner calls for a blue pen, as does my reporter's notebook. I like to use a black pen when I sign things and when I write letters for Amnesty International. I do this because pens have power. They are mightier than the sword so it's important to concentrate that power in a few select places.

Now, I'm frustrated about this specific pen because I think it's supposed to die already and it hasn't yet. On top of that, I can't tell how much ink is left and it doesn't have a cap. So, I can't bring it with me everywhere because it will muck up things. Therefore, I have this immortal pen and I don't know how to kill it.

One Idea into 20 Pieces of Content

I've decided that the best thing to do to make the most of this situation is to come up with my own way to turn one idea into 20 pieces of content. It will be published on my content marketing blog on Friday. I figure that others might be interested in how to get the most of their good ideas and topics in content marketing while making lemonade out of lemons. I also fulfill my goal of providing more value to my clients, and can perhaps come up with ways to augment my services and be able to charge new clients for them in the future. I already need to improve them vastly with what I learned from the marketing agency book I just read. I have to do a lot of things, really.

However, I have taken my break and eaten more food and now I am energized. I am now getting more things while planning for tomorrow and making progress with client projects. I am motivated to get more things done, to read another chapter or two in the new content marketing book I am reading (and perhaps make progress on our Amnesty book club book), make plans, and design businesses processes. It's all the fun stuff you get to do when you have your own business and work from home and neat stuff like that.