Tips and Tricks

Top ten tips when entering the Big Awards and others


So you think you deserve a Big Award? You quite possibly do, but standing between you and the recognition you so richly deserve is the small matter of a written entry.

This submission is the one and only chance you have to get your case across. There is no second stage, no face-to-face presentation. This written entry is it. So you really need to ensure it does you justice.

Here are some important pointers from us here at Boost Marketing, the world’s first and largest award entry consultancy.

We've put our heads together and distilled a huge list of suggestions and top tips into just ten vital ingredients. These are based on our experience of writing over 700 winning award entries since we were established in June 2006.

  1. Tell a story – make your submission a compelling read. Yes, you are talking to a “judge”, but this is not a court of law. Make the narrative win them over.
  2. Prove you’re the best – while telling your story, avoid the pitfall of including unsubstantiated assertions like “there was a real buzz in the office” or “feedback was immediately excellent”. Judges get irritated by statements that lack evidence.
  3. Read the instructions – this might seem an obvious point, but ensure you read the guidelines and judging criteria carefully and then ensure you answer all the questions in full without going off at tangents. If you are not 100% sure what a question is after – ask. Never assume.
  4. Interview the right people – even if you think you know the story, you should interview as many other people as possible. Ideally a senior sponsor, external “witnesses”, the implementer of the strategy and maybe even beneficiary like an end-user or customer.
  5. Find a truly independent reviewer – the judges are unlikely to know your industry, so it pays to get someone to read your draft submission who is equally objective.
  6. Imagine you were unsuccessful – when you have written your entry, a good technique is to imagine you were unsuccessful and you narrowly missed the top spot. What would you do to get a few extra marks?
  7. Use images wisely – It’s true that a picture tells a thousand words, but badly used graphs, diagrams and photos can actually do more harm than good. Images are good, but only if they make sense in three seconds, add value and have a clear purpose.
  8. Avoid the quagmire – the biggest trap in any submission writing process is to focus too heavily on “what we did” – the quagmire. It is called this because it you get bogged down in the detail. Remember that awards are as much for what you achieved, as what you did. So balance the two.
  9. Recycle your entries – having spent time and/or money crafting a thorough award entry, it would be a travesty not to use it again. So find some more awards to enter it into. You can browse the Boost Marketing Awards lists for free (and subscribed for free monthly updates). Click on any of these links: UK, Ireland, France, New Zealand and USA.
  10. Use awards for continuous improvement – a survey by Boost of awards organisers showed that a third of awards provide feedback, another third give feedback when asked. Resist the temptation to contest any comments provided by judges, instead use the feedback to improve your initiative, your strategy or maybe just your award entry writing for next time.

If you ever need help choosing which awards to enter, gathering the right sort of evidence of success and uniqueness, writing your award submission or preparing a presentation to judges, then feel free to contact our partners at Boost Marketing in the UK, Ireland, France or New Zealand.

© These top tips are the intellectual property of award entry consultants Boost Marketing Ltd

Photo courtesy of Oregon Department of Transportation via Flickr

You Are Just 10 Steps Away from Starting Your Own Business

   Photo by woodleywonderworks via Flickr


Photo by woodleywonderworks via Flickr

The old cliché about tomorrow being the first day of the rest of your life is actually irrefutable. Think about it! The question is really what will you do with the rest of your life? Will you continue the same routine, stick with the relative comfort of the status quo, or stick your neck out and finally go for your dreams?

If that dream is; owning your own business, why not go for it? Your dream may be a business to business enterprise such as CBAC Funding or a business to consumer one like Nixon … regardless, these 10 steps to will get you to the place you’ve been dreaming of; they are a roadmap, if not a stairway, to your goal.

Step # 1 – Draft Your Business Plan

The very thought of writing a business plan has stopped many a budding business person dead in their tracks. This is usually caused by fear of the unknown, procrastination or a lack of confidence.

Understanding what a business plan is will eradicate the fear of the unknown. A business plan is simply a written description of your business’s future. It describes your plans and how those plans will be implemented.

Stop procrastinating! It isn’t that difficult to do and there are countless sites on the Internet that can help you organize your thoughts making the task almost painless.

If you are lacking self-confidence, toss in the towel. Self-confidence is the key characteristic every entrepreneur and business person on the planet has in common with one another.

Step # 2 – Define Your Market

This is not so difficult. Unless you are selling food or water, only a defined subset of the consuming public will have a need for your product or service. Defining your market is nothing more than determining the size and demographics of that subset.

For example, you plan to sell pet supplies. You need to determine how many pet owners are in your market because pet owners are the subset of the overall market. Additionally, you need to know your competition and what share of the market they may have. Knowing your competition, the level of service they provide and their pricing can shine a bright light on the things you need to do to compete successfully.

Step # 3 – Establish Your Brand Identity

Branding is not so different a concept from the “old West” practice of branding cattle. Once that bull or cow carries a brand, it will be instantly identified as belonging to a particular ranch and/or rancher. The “Circle K” and the “Diamond B” are two examples of cattle brands. The same concept applies to creating a brand identity for your business. Develop a logo or “brand” that is immediately and uniquely associated with your business. This is very important. There is an excellent piece on the topic here at Entrepreneur.

Step # 4 – File Your Articles of Incorporation

The scope and nature of your business dictates the need for incorporation, an attorney to draw up a partnership agreement, trademark ideas and so forth. Not every enterprise needs to be incorporated, although in most instances is prudent to do so for tax and personal liability reasons. If there are no complexities that demand the services of an attorney, there are many sites on the Internet for do-it-yourself incorporation. These can save you some money.

Step # 5 – Build Your Team

If you think you are going it alone … think again. Even sole proprietorships have employees. Technology can play a major role in the success of your enterprise, but don’t fall for all the hype. When you are starting up, you don’t want to buy into technology that you will later find inappropriate for your needs, overpriced or useless in the day to day conduct of your business.

Step # 6 – Sell, Sell and Sell

There is no substitute for aggressively marketing your product or service. Networking is a key component of any successful business. Let people in your personal network know what you are doing. Enlist them as cheerleaders for the business. Join the Kiwanis, Rotary, Junior Chamber of Commerce and other local organizations. A direct personal network is just as important as a virtual network.

Step # 7 – Use the Media

Issue a press release. Invite the local paper, radio and television station to do an interview with you and feature a story about your business. If you generate “buzz” you generate revenue.

Step # 8 – Fake As Needed

Regardless of your track record, your humble beginnings, your anemic bank account, you must always think big and act as though you belong. Assume the attitude of a bigger company. Never think small or feel like the underdog. Some companies, just starting out, go so far as to create email addresses to various departments that do not yet exist in order to give the appearance of being larger and more established than they actually are.

Step # 9 – Work In and On Your Business

No one wants your business to succeed more than you. Don’t hand it off to a caretaker. Work in your business. Learn its strengths and weaknesses so that you can work on your business. There is no better way to improve and grow your business than through your intimate knowledge of its operations.

Step # 10 – Celebrate & Network

You are up and running, well … maybe jogging, but you are on your way! Celebrate a little … keeping the business in mind of course! Invite your network, vendors, clients and would-be clients to celebrate your grand opening. You will generate buzz and goodwill in your market and demonstrate that you are open for business and a serious player. Use the occasion to solicit feedback from your guests. Let’s be honest; some of the best ideas are not our own.

These are the ten steps almost every business follows. It’s not that complicated and there is no reason you can’t start now.

About Author:

Dipti Parmar, a digital marketing wiz is associated with E2M Solutions. She’s been journeying through the world of digital marketing for 6 years and is a blogger and networker. She’s also a movie buff and loves taking long walks by the seashore. She is @dipTparmar on Twitter.

Drilling down the core of success: 5 brainstormed ideas to help small business take off with flying colors

small business week
small business week

Making room for improvement is perhaps the chief motto that seems to captivate each and every entrepreneur in this world, especially the ones that seem to be in their startup phase. Success is the ultimate result that we all seek though our earnest endeavors. Success and growth happen to be desired by all but attained by a chosen few only. In this world success comes to you only when you are too busy looking for it with a set of balanced strategies, measured steps and a contingency plan at the back of your mind (in case your plan A does not appear to make it to your final destination). If you take your time in order to venture into a virtual tour of the small business establishments around the world that made their voyage to the ‘golden handshake ‘of fame and fortune in a supersonic pace you would be able to figure it out that it is basically some mind-boggling ideas that worked as the driving forces in the organizations and eventually helped them obtain worldwide fame and flourish. If you would like to do the same to your organization then here is an interesting peep at 5 worthwhile ideas you would like to take a look at.

Focus on productivity and skills sets

As the owner of a small business entity the most important job for you is to ensure that you are going to focus on the proper enhancement of the productivity level and the respective skill sets of your organization. The productivity level of your organization and the respective skill sets happens to be integrally associated with the reputation of your organization. Therefore, you cannot compromise with these two quintessential issues. Take care of them and they will take care of the growth of your organization.

Smart delegation of tasks

Smart delegation of tasks is an asset in you and with proper deployment of this vital skill you can make it a point that you are going to get the best engagement as well as best participation at work from employees or coworkers. If you are able to delegate tasks in a smart way then you can rest assured that you are going to engage the workforce, encourage cooperation among them and invite more output.

Install enterprise management software

Installation of enterprise management software is going to streamline the commercial functionalities of your organization to a great extent. You can consider SAP, SaaS as well as other options in this regard. Resorting to these high-octane software solutions you can make the management, access functions and back up facilities a walk in the park.

Use the power of the Internet to your advantage

We are living in an era which is dominated by the omniscient presence of the internet.  If you really wish to take your small business venture to the zenith of flourish and success then you cannot possibly ignore this powerful medium. You can actually use this platform of gigantic proportions in a number of ways. You can create the business blogs, choose affiliate marketing techniques, adopt pay-per-click advertising, resort to online copy writing etc.

Give value to customer feedbacks

Last but not the least; do give value to customer feedbacks. You should remember that a satisfied customer is the biggest advertiser for you. So, do get feedback from them and use them in a productive way.

The 5 ideas are the proven approaches that can take your small business organization towards security as well as consistent growth. When it comes to the issue of success and consistent growth you must be able to follow what most visionary leaders tend to prioritize. In order to win their spur in their respective fields they focus on four golden principles. They choose to reinvent strategies, restructure stereotypes, reorganize things and break precedents. If you merge these four crucial aspects with the 5 brainstormed ideas you can resolve difficulties unprecedentedly and hit the high notes unmistakably.

Author bio:

Adriana Sopi is a renowned blogger, author and speaker. He mainly writes and speaks on the benefits of 8a certification programs. The author helps small-scale business organizations identify their true potentials and achieve their objectives. His write-ups showcase the rich benefits that small business obtains for 8a certification programs.

6 Tips and 9 People That Will Help You Win More Often

How To Stack the Deck in Your Favor to Win More Often


Experts agree that the ROI of winning awards is tangible. There is value in the award itself as a motivator, publicity engine and for goodwill. There is also value in the process of nominating your company product or executive. Lots of people write on this topic so I would simply recommend reading some of those articles and ours on the topic: The ROI of Winning an Award and The ROI of NOT Winning an Award.

Since the Big Award for Business deadline is fast approaching we wanted to instead provide some advice for those applying. This is broad advice meant to help you win any award, from a Peabody to a Razzie, you need to know what to consider to improve your odds of winning and to secure your position in the top of your field.

Pick a Winner!

How you find out about award programs and contests and how to decide to nominate are both important considerations. There is actually a few good locations to find lists of awards, usually by type of award and by date. This makes it incredibly easy to also filter in or filter out competitions. Pick your contests well. Look at all your competitors and see what awards they win. Make sure you have a good chance of winning based on your strengths.

Here are a few places to check:

Don't be shy, ask for help!.

It is human nature to be shy about asking questions, but the act of asking means your listening (most of the time), engaged and interested. So asking for help can improve your odds. Asking for help can actually take two forms.

  1. If you are confused or have questions, ask the company running the program. Clarification will only help you narrow your focus and make your nomination clearer to the judges and more on target. If you competitors don't ask the basic questions, think how their nominations will suffer! There is no shame in asking questions.
  2. If you need help because you are not great writers or have not been successful writing nominations, looks outside. The ROI of winning will still hold true if you work with a PR agency or a company like Boost Marketing to help you put the right words on paper. Boost Marketing for instance is 100% focused on awards. They are specialists, experts! They know better than anyone what it takes to win!

Devil in the Details

Make sure you use real data to inform your judges of actual facts. There is nothing worse than getting a fluffy marketing nomination that lacks an impact statement or any real data backing up the claims. Prove your claims of increased revenue with dollars. Did you increase productivity? OK, by how much? How did you measure. Tell us! It helps not only the judges but also your peers who are looking to you as experts.

Tell a Story

Be interesting! While facts have their place, we are not statisticians who only love data. Our judges are experts in their field, real people with real jobs. They are also volunteers so time spent helping you and us is money out of their pockets. Judges want to understand the impact on humans and the feel good stories of your efforts. What did customers say? What did employees do differently? What are their names? These small details make your story human and more worthy of an award.

Be In It To Win It

One way to improve your odds is to apply often. Like the lottery, you have to be in it to win it. Rarely can you win an award you don't apply for. This goes for applying for lots of different awards, as well as applying for multiple awards within the same program. If your nominations are good, leverage that and win more than one award. There is NO harm in being awarded Product and Company of the Year, ask 2012 winner TubeMogul.

Follow the Leader(s)

There are lots of experts in the world of business awards, advice and leadership. These are a few of our favorites. Get inspired and connect.

Tweets from @BigAwards/follow-the-leader// <![CDATA[ !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?'http':'https';if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);;js.src=p+"://";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs"); // ]]</p></div>

Big Awards SYNC with Global Social Media Guru and Judge @LilachBullock

SYNC Interview with Lilach Bullock of Socialable


Lilach is a business owner, social media consultant, internet mentor and founder of Listed in Forbes as one of the top 20 women social media power influencers she is one of the most dynamic personalities in the social media market.

Lilach is frequently consulted by journalists from Forbes, Prima Magazine, The Sunday Times, Social Media Today and BBC Radio 5 Live. She is also a returning Big Awards Judge!

Lilach will share her thoughts on the trends and impact of social media on business and we will gain her perspective on how the role of women has evolved.

Interview Transcript

Russ: I’m excited to have Lilach Bullock from the UK. She runs Sociable, and she is bar none the social media guru to the stars, to businesses, to everybody, so Lilach, thank you for joining us today and I’m glad we finally got to chat.

Lilach: Thank you, it’s a pleasure, I’m got the hook up, but it’s great.

Russ: tell me a little bit about Sociable and what you guys are doing and what you are doing to help companies grow? What is your role in all of this social media madness?

Lilach: Sociable is a leading social media marketing agency. We work with clients all over the world and we help them raise more visibility and ultimately generate revenue for their business using a variety of different online marketing so that’s what we do in a nutshell, as well as we provide training, men touring and I [inaudible 00:01:00] and networker. That’s really in a nutshell what we do. We like to help businesses and charities as well as large corporate and entrepreneurs. A lot of problems or challenges that people have in the online world it’s noisy in there. How can you get heard above the noise and how can you get your brand out there? That’s what we do, we try and think of creative ways to get your message heard above the noise, literally.

Russ: It seems like most companies move into social media first in kind of a reactive mode because somebody said something dirty about them online or nasty, and then work their way into the proactive mode.

Lilach: We tend to get the larger companies tend to have that attitude, so if someone is talking about they not liking what they say, then they react in social media because it’s a very quick way. It’s kind of like they are putting out fires in the end. If someone says something negative about your company and then you’re constantly trying to make them feel happy again It’s a practice that we actually don’t advocate they do, so that engaging is not just about listening and bonding, it’s about generating conversations and obviously getting people talking about your brand the right way. It’s a fantastic way to use customer service and it’s great a company, particularly the larger brands are actually listening to people and engaging with them via social media.

It’s interesting how all companies work as well because a lot of them can be quite skeptical and they think everyone’s using social media, I should be using it. But then they just don’t know how to use it effectively for their business.

Russ: You recommend that more proactive approach of getting in and owning those conversations ahead of meeting and the reactive?

Lilach: Absolutely. For me, social media is all about engaging and building relationships, and it’s very content driven as well. It can be used to generate more revenue but it’s [inaudible 00:03:14] I think about many companies get it wrong they are simply broadcasting and effectively spamming. Sales messages, it’s so much more than that. It’s about providing valuable content where you can showcase your expertise, it’s gaining trust, it’s anything within the niche that you are in.

Russ: How do you think the difference is between business-to-business companies and business to consumer. Is there a difference in the social media approach if you are B2B or B2C?

Lilach: I don’t think there’s a big difference in the approach. I think it’s more about the brand and how much money they spend. I see a lot of larger companies throwing money at it without actually spending time to engage and provide content and value. Smaller businesses, they don’t have thousands of dollars to spend on ads. They actually have to be much more creative to actually reach their audience in a different way. I think [inaudible 00:04:21] is the same and it can give you loads of fantastic case studies of really, really good other brands who you can effectively get really good results and the opposite. I don’t think it serves their purpose, it’s more about the actual company and not my [inaudible 00:04:40]. That’s my personal opinion.

Russ: So if you had to give companies that have a small or nonexistent footprint in the social media atmosphere, what would be your tip to getting started in that media? How do you even figure out where to start? What’s the right way to go about it?

Lilach: There are two parts to it. First of all, social media is very time-consuming and it can be quite overwhelming once you start. I think it’s about appreciating the time is money after all, and where is your audience? Where are they and how can you reach them and what do they react well to and how responsive are they? For example, if your audience is using Facebook or Pinterest, you know you need to focus your time and energy on finding and connecting and engaging with them. Rather than having a I want to be everywhere approach, try to be as targeted as possible and think about where your actual audience is, where are the people listening to you and who you need to connect with.

Once you found them and know where they are and know the type of style that they like and how well they respond I think more than providing content, sharing your value and helping people is the best and the quickest to market and to social media. It’s really not rocket science, it’s how we like to be treated in the off-line world.

I laugh, I don’t know if you do much networking years ago but I was a prolific networker and I attended so many networking events and everything was going to an event probably is getting some business cards and saying hey, look at me, I’m fantastic, I do this. Now, you know you wouldn’t do that, now it’s in the online world. It’s about using a little bit of common sense as well and thinking about how you yourself might be treated and what makes you think oh wow, that’s really helpful, that’s really interesting. You know, social media is very much about sharing and that’s why content is very critical and having an effective social media plan.

When you’re sharing content think about what makes you think wow, that’s terrible. We always talk about going off on a tangent here, but we always talk about getting things by, everyone wants to have the viral effect. Things don’t happen overnight, it’s about planning. People don’t appreciate to get 1 million likes. There is so much planning involved that they can’t just create a video and turn it on and that was it. They built it up, they built their network, they built [inaudible 00:07:30] and then they switched on the viral effect. I think it’s about having a managed and realistic expectation as well.

Russ: You just mentioned two or three or four social networks and finding your audience. How would you recommend that somebody even though try to figure out where their audience is? Most people are familiar with Facebook, Twitter, we now have this great Google plus thing. And then you also mentioned a couple, some may have not heard of like Pinterest. How do you go about evaluating those?

Lilach: I think it’s about understanding your customer is. The more you know about your customer by where they’re located, what they like to do where they like to shop, the more information you know about your customer the easier it is for you to connect with them. Also to provide what they want and what they need. I think it’s something that every business needs to be doing regardless of whether they’re using social media or not because it’s the best way to understand what you’re customer wants. I write not for me, I write for my audience because I constantly have to put them first and think about where are they, what do they like?

Also it’s about taking it to the next step as well and thinking they may be on Facebook but Facebook is so crowded, so busy that I am just not going to be able to have a big enough impact. I want to think of other ways I can find them and using the smaller niche side like Stumble Upon and Tumbler, Google plus for example, although it doesn’t seem very popular and it’s really rising up through the ranks it’s still not satisfactory or noisier than Facebook, and I’m actually seeing much more engagement on Google plus been on Facebook for that very reason.

Even I’m spending more time on Facebook than Google plus. It’s about having a plan as well and working out how much time you have to spend and constantly testing to see what gives you the best results. Everyone wants different things, you know not everybody wants to, I know it sounds strange but everybody wants to make money from social media. For some people it’s a way to listen and to get market research. It’s a way to get introductions, connections, it’s a way to build trust, credibility, drive traffic, build options on the net.

There are so many things you have to think about, what you want to achieve, what are your goals. It all goes about the whole planning [inaudible 00:10:11].

Russ: I know you are a prolific writer and on your website, there’s a lot of material there, including a lot of resources and books. What would you recommend to somebody in that early stage social media planning? They go to your website and download?

Lilach: We have a free resources section where you can download a free e-book on five crazy ways, I’ve got it, the title of my book, Five Crazy Ways to Get Traffic to Your Website Now. We also have a checklist for the main social networks like Pinterest, Google plus, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. wheregoing under checklist and it can help you get up and question what you need to do and at the end of the checklist there’s a list of lots of different tools and resources to help you get the most out of each of those networks. I recommend you do that. I recommend you spend some time looking at my site and if you are really serious about it we can connect that thought and once again call us and feel free to get in touch and we can discuss further how we can help you.

Russ: One of the biggest factors of people not getting into social media is being afraid of making a mistake. What are some of the big mistakes that you’ve seen that brands make but also some mistakes that executives make. We see the Justin Biebers and the others make mistakes all the time, but what are the common business mistakes that you see being made out there?

Lilach: Oh gosh, there are so many, where to start. Just the spamming side for me is a big turnoff. People who just don’t do a message without even knowing you. All they are trying to do is to sell instead of actually build a relationship and get to know you, so I hate that whole thing, but I’ve always hated that. I think for me, social media is about engaging and sharing content. If you get those two things right then you have a successful campaign.

Russ: Good, so all of you listening out there, don’t spam, it’s a nasty habit and don’t engage with people you don’t know. Get to know them personally.

Lilach: Yes.

Russ: That’s great. So now when you are not on Twitter and LinkedIn and Facebooking and tweeting and whatever else, pinning, what are you doing in your off time?

Lilach: Off time, what’s that? I have a beautiful young daughter and she’s going to be nine soon. I got her school report yesterday and she did well, I’m so proud of her. She’s a little entrepreneur in the making, actually. It’s wonderful. I’ve been home with my family [inaudible 00:13:12]. I have an and easiness about traveling and I’m very fortunate because I was speaker so I get speaking travel all over the world. I recently won a car as a gift [inaudible 00:13:25] so that was pretty cool. I’m a workaholic and because I’m a working mom, I don’t get much [inaudible 00:13:34]. I love what I do and I’m very privileged to be able to do what I do and connect with so many awesome people all over the world. It’s all good.

Russ: They say the Ferraris are redder in Monaco, is that true?

Lilach: Oh my God, they are green, they are green. I think green is the new color, I tell you I saw more green, luminescent green than anything else. Lots of red. I think I may have saw white, maybe black it’s crazy. You don’t see them, you hear them.

Russ: If I remember correctly I think Harley Davidson was the first motorsports company to actually patent a sound. They patented the grumble out of their motorcycles. I’m pretty sure Ferrari is probably right behind them with their growling.

Lilach: I wouldn’t be surprised.

Russ: That’s the true social media, someone following your growl. I appreciate your time. I would encourage everybody to go to, follow Lilach on everything you can. She provides great advice for entrepreneurs. I know her advice and her tweets and her content was critical to the big award getting started in Business Intelligence Group. I’ve been following her for years, her advice really is spot on. You will get a lot of insight following her and connecting with her, so I encourage everybody to do that right now, you can find her and engage with her.

Lilach, we really appreciate all your time and energy going into this and helping companies and we look forward to the 2013 judging.

Lilach: I’m really excited, I can’t wait to see what the new business is. It will be very cool.

Russ: All right everybody, go check her out, Thanks for joining us everyone.

Lilach: Thank you.

Green Business is Good Business, Right? Top Green Business Blogs

Learn About Green Business from the Top Green Business Blogs

Your employees, vendors and customers are increasingly looking for your leadership and your vision for helping to make your business more "earth friendly." The boom in going green was once discarded by business as being not "friendly" to the bottom line. No more! These top green business  blogs can help you find your way.

photo of top green business blogs
photo of top green business blogs

Going green is now good for business. The simple fact is that beyond your desire to please your communities and customers, your bottom line will benefit from your efforts.

Cost of Going Green

It can be costly in the initial stages but investments in new equipment will reduced overhead costs and add up to significant savings...over time. The new standard is "zero waste."

Saving Energy

Turning off the lights, activating sleep settings on office equipment can save thousands, particularly for companies with large buildings and lots of office space. Moving to more efficient energy sources like wind and solar benefit the earth and your bottom line.

Purchasing Recycled Materials

Using reusable ink cartridges, recycling plastic and glass and working to be paper free can add up to significant savings. Just printing on both sides of paper before reduces use by 50 percent. Better for the earth and a HUGE savings. Where else can you save 50%?

How will you evolve?

Review the list of green business blogs below to help you start your green business initiative.


Winners: If you are one of the chosen listed above and would like to add the 2013 Big Blogger badge to your site, please use the links below and back link to this page or

Small BadgeLarge Badge

[listly id="5Pq" layout="gallery"]

[symple_button color="green" url="" title="Visit Site" target="new" border_radius=""]Nominate Your Green Company or Green Product of the Year[/symple_button]

Big Awards SYNC with Entrepreneur and Mom Cordelia Blake

Courtesy CNN Money
Courtesy CNN Money

Cordelia Blake started Oh Goody! Party Favors in 2013 after years of frustration trying to find party favors to hand out at her own kids parties that were not "junky." Like many entrepreneurs she wanted to start a business that was product focused, rather than service oriented, so that she could have more flexibility to spend time with her children while providing a better opportunity for growth. Hearing the frustration of other parents she came up with the idea of an online store where parents can buy high-quality toys to give out as party favors-no more bags of junk. Cordelia was no stranger to the web as she owned her own Web Design company for 4 years and worked in marketing and sales at We'll talk with Cordelia about how she got started, the lessons learned in starting your own online storefront, and how she is managing the daily operation while working to balance growth with her goal of family time.

Ignore Your Mother's Advice at Your Own Peril

When we started the Business Intelligence Group our goal was truly to help recognize great accomplishments and to leverage that success to help others. This month we have surely met that goal.

Today my 11-year-old son asked me "Who was more successful, Bill Gates or Steve Jobs?"

I didn't know how to answer. Gates' work at Microsoft changed the way we work and communicate, but the same could be said about Jobs and his work at Apple, especially considering the iPhone.

So I asked him, "How do you define success?"

Luckily for me, my mother was in town for U.S. Mother's Day and she looked at my son and said, "Take it from an old lady, do what you love and you will be successful. The money will come if that is what you want."

What would we do without mothers advice!

Over the course of the last few weeks we have published interviews (video/audio with transcripts) of some very successful leaders running very successful companies. Three of these interviews stood out as phenomenal examples of how to define success.

Caitlin MacGregor Co-founder and CEO of Plum - formerly (

Rene Lacerte Founder and CEO of (

Scott Knoll CEO of Integral Ad Science (

Three commonalities stood out within each of these discussions and these commonalities are surely the drivers of their success.

3 - Narrow/Laser focus on a single uniform issue or challenge in their market 2 - Unwavering energy and passion for that issue and market 1 - A willingness to share their knowledge for the betterment of others

As you start your week, remembering these "keys to success" will help you refine priorities, renew your own focus and allow you inspire others as you look to lead your teams in the hopes of changing your own world.

Photo by Kevin Dooley via Flickr

Big Awards SYNC with Caitlin MacGregor Co-founder and CEO of

SYNC Interview with Cofounder and CEO Caitlin MacGregor

UPDATE: Since our interview, has rebrabnded as Plum.

When the world went paperless, somehow it didn't stop people from continuing to create resumes that were meant to be printed. And without a real standard, recruiters and managers looking to hire still have to digitally sift through endless reams of files, page after page, down arrow after down arrow, searching for that one special person who is "just right" for the position. looks to change all of that with their science-based filters that comb through resumes for you, looking for that needle in the haystack.

We recently featured as one of the 4 must have tools for a start-ups and we'll talk live with CEO and Co-founder Caitlin MacGregor to get her insights on the marketplace and hear how they are managing the explosive growth from the cloud.

Interview Transcript

Russ: Today we’re with Caitlin MacGregor from and that is a software as a service platform designed to help you hire and recruit talent better. Caitlin, thank you for joining us and welcome to the Big Awards SYNC.

Caitlin: Thank you very much for having me.

Russ: Your Company’s got a very interesting model. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about kind of what you guys are offering and then I’ll ask you kind of about how you founded the company and how you guys started it up.

Caitlin: We help companies hire better quality people in less time for less cost. We’re able to that because we actually assess all the job applicants as they apply online and we can predict which ones are going to be the most productive as well as provide a really important intelligence as to what the applicants’ priorities, strengths and weaknesses are.

Employers are no longer fooled by the contents of a resume and when they actually bring somebody in for an interview they really know who those candidates are-their priorities, strengths, weaknesses and ultimately they’re armed with the critical data necessary to hire the cream of the crop.

Russ: You’ve got some secret sauce in there I’m sure it sounds like the marketing wizards who write resumes often are going to be you know left by the wayside there. Tell us a little bit about the secret sauce and how you guys kind of you know came up with it.

Caitlin: There’s a good decade or two of research in psychology that has been able to identify what top performers have in common and our co-founder is Dr. Jordan B. Peterson-he’s a tenured professor at the University of Toronto in [inaudible 0:01:46] Harbor and so his research has been published in leading scientific journals under peer review and he has developed a fake-proof assessment that can particularly identify top performers that have those traits that are in common with top performers and deliver results that are six times more accurate than resumes and interviews combined.

What we do is focus on measuring those qualities in the applicants and then also because it’s fake-proof we’re able to really ask the candidates to prioritize their strengths and weaknesses-they can’t say that they’re good at everything so it’s ideal for a competitive hiring environment. We’re able to provide the employers with that critical data but basically this is commercializing academic research-proven scientific research and bringing that to the mass market.

Russ: Tell us a little bit about how you guys got started and how you all found each other.

Caitlin: This is my third start-up. I was running a company in Toronto and I was running this entire company at a pretty young age so I started seeing an executive coach who was this professor of psychology, Dr. Peterson and then I moved to the United States to New Hampshire to start up and run an educational software company and Dr. Peterson informed me that if I was to mess up my first hire it would be a loss of $300,000 on our company so he let us use his assessment to assess all 80 applicants that applied for this position and two candidates really stood out for different reasons so we hired both of them.

Joel, he was amazing on paper. He had a Master’s in Education, five year’s work experience, had previously worked at a software company; his scores showed that he was going to be just an average worker though but you know he was just too good on paper so we decided to hire him and then there was another applicant Christine and she scored ten points above everybody else.

She ranked in the top 3% of the workforce in terms of her productivity and so we hired her and within three months we fired Joel-he was sitting around playing fantasy football and clocking out early and only doing 10% of the work, whereas Christine was doing 90% of the work and we kept her and after five months she was running the entire operations of the company.

Within a year and a half I had groomed her to replace me when I went on maternity leave and the punch line is Christine had a BA in Fine Arts and seven years waitressing experience. She actually didn’t even know how to use excel when we hired her and yet you know if we had gone by the resume you know no president in their right mind would have ever short-listed her to interview her let alone put the time in to groom her to run the company.

We could have missed a huge opportunity if it wasn’t for the assessment. We used this for two years to hire the rest of our staff. The next hire was a 17 year-old high school student who saved our company a quarter of a million dollars. Literally he would go on to YouTube and teach himself how to do something in half the time it would take us to get a quote back from an outsourced company.

After using this and seeing all these amazing people we decided that we needed to bring this to mass market so just over a year ago, Christine, myself and my VP we started commercializing this full-time. We’ve been working with customers over the last year who has constantly been validating that. They’re hiring people that are three times more productive than their average worker; constantly finding these diamonds in the rough that they normally wouldn’t have found and that they’re saving a lot of time and a lot of costs and ultimately consistently getting top performers by using our assessment in their recruitment process.

Russ: Out of all those customers do you see any trends among them? Are you finding that small customers, large customers, US, Canadian-otherwise? What do you see and who’s latching on to this?

Caitlin: Early adopters-what’s been interesting is that there’s early adopters in all fields. We have helped hire for mechanical engineers that are planning the daily operations of the Mars Land rover on Planet Mars so robotics companies out of California that are looking for not just mechanical engineers but ones that are incredibly entrepreneurial and very out-of-the-box thinkers and so we were able to identify three in a pool of 180 applicants. All the way to publishing companies that are hiring for analysts and sponsorship positions and editor-in-chief positions.

There seems to be you know we’re also helping chain restaurants hire front of staff and bartenders because they’re looking for a particular personality for that and they want to reduce their turnover to large other software service companies that are growing rapidly; that are doubling and tripling in size and you need to hire 400 people within nine months so we tend to find that the thing that these companies have in common is that they’re absolutely committed to best practices when it comes to hiring.

They’re really interested in using science. One of our companies who are full of engineers say they really like the idea that they can engineer their recruitment process. They can use actual data to improve their outcomes. These are companies that are committed to using big data, committed to using science and committed to using technology and aren’t scared about going away from the status quo.

We still use resumes but only on the short-listed candidates. After you’ve seen a short list of top performers that’s when you check resumes to double check for skill sets. You still bring them in to interview but you’re armed with more intelligence than ever before in that interview process so you have to be committed to moving away from the status quo and adapting into something new. The resistance in the industry is that there’s a lot of conservative behavior when it comes to Human Resources but there are across the field a bunch of industries that are trying to be more competitive by adopting innovations like ours.

Russ: I think it’s interesting that you put a number on it which is its going to cost you; it’s a $300,000 mistake. People don’t often think about that about what are all the costs involved in making a mistake. It’s not only that you’ve paid this person over a period time but it’s also the replacement costs of going out and finding that individual-the replacement as well as any other kind of software costs on your business. Did the doctor study that number before he knew that obviously?

Caitlin: There’s a lot of research. The great thing about academia is that they don’t try to reinvent the wheel at every single step. What they do is they go out and find really credible research and build off of that. The assessment is using the big five personality model which is already really well respected and supported by the community-the psychological community but keeps adding innovative twists in terms of how you get the results.

Same thing with the data on the costs of bad hire; there’s a lot of data out there that shows the cost of bad hire. SHRM which is probably the most respected body when it comes to HR has come out with statistics saying that the one bad hire is the equivalent to 90-200% of that person’s base salary. There’s lots of statistics out there and it’s whether or not you want to do it based on that or if you want to talk about the recruitment costs alone-the latest studies are saying that companies spend on average $3,000 per position.

Then you can get into soft costs-if you’re actually talking about the manager’s time of being in those interviews and then the loss opportunity of any damages they could have done or lose of sales. You have to then go through the recruitment process again. I mean there’s a lot of ways to calculate. Whatever you come up with-it’s really, really big.

One of our return-on-investment calculator will calculate for 50 hires in a year using can save a company $1.1 million dollars so that works out to about $22,000 a week. If a company was to use to help them with their hiring of 50 people for the entire year it would cost $25,000 to use for the entire year; unlimited testing. A company would have the return-on-investment in just a little over a week and that’s a 50 times return-on-investment for the entire year. The costs of bad hires and the time wasting and the loss of competing with competitors is just astronomical.

Russ: Tell us about your business model on about how you guys have grown. You’ve got this per hire model right?

Caitlin: Basically psycho-metric testing over the last 20 years has been used on a per test basis and typically at the very end of the hiring process. Often they’ll use it on high level managers, they’ll spend the time going through all the resumes, even maybe do a round or two of interviews and then they would test maybe three candidates and those tests can be very, very costly.

What we’ve done is taken that same level of research but made it so that it’s fake-proof so that lots of applicants take it and we’ve moved it to the beginning of the hiring process. As an applicant applies online they’re actually taking the assessment and employers are seeing the data before they even read a resume. The more people that take the test the more likely they are to find some top performers with the skill sets and the strengths and weaknesses that you’re looking for. We want to encourage as many people taking the assessment as possible so we needed a pricing model that wasn’t per test basis to encourage best practices. The outcome-what the employers benefiting from is that hire. We moved to an unlimited testing, you pay per hire-it ends up being about $500 per hire but it drops based on volume. If a company is hiring 100 people actually works out to be more about $400 per hire.

We create an annual license so sometimes people will start with a few hires at the beginning. Ideally because they’re such a small investment, committing to an annual contract when they pay monthly seems to be what’s working best for our clients.

Russ: Very interesting, what are some of the lessons you’ve learned kind of going into this? What are some of the mistakes and kind of early steps that you took to kind of correct yourself? It sounds like there’s got to be a few things in kind of the initial launch of this where you were like oh I didn’t expect that. What sort of issues did you guys run into and how did you solve them?

Caitlin: I think that the thing that surprised us the most because we were our own customers for two years because we used it ourselves and we used it with a lot of other clients that had consistently given the same feedback that yes the science is accurate that this is actually providing them with better quality hires. I think what surprised us was how difficult it was to get more clients onboard and HR is a very, very conservative mind space and brining something in to the market that disrupts the status quo-the resistance to it and the fear of adopting something new and realizing that even with medium-sized companies it’s a complex sales cycle so you have to get the buy in from HR but they often don’t have the decision making power or the budgets. They’re not necessarily willing to put their neck out there for something they feel is unproven.

The social proof component of making sure that we had the resources available to show look our customers really do believe in this and I want you to hear from them directly so we’ve made sure that we have just under a dozen testimonial videos from our clients talking about the real savings and the real benefits that they’ve received through this. That’s realizing that we needed to put that front and center and so those materials are being launched in the next week on our new website that will be launching.

Really making sure that our customers, our current customers are speaking to our future customers. Realizing that there’s a lot of misinformation out there; a lot of people don’t recognize how ineffective resumes are that whether or not you went to Harvard or you went to the University of Waterloo-it’s not going to tell you if somebody’s going to be more productive than the other. If somebody worked for a competing company that doesn’t mean that they’re actually going to be successful for you. If somebody was great in Sales that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re going to be a good Sales Manager so the information on a resume is incredibly ineffective and so having to educate people and change their minds that the materials that they’re using to base their decisions are flawed, I didn’t expect as much resistance in the market and as much fear of science and fear of innovation that we’ve experienced and so just understanding that we have to really try to-instead of disrupt the market but speak to what people already know and try to show how we fit that seamlessly into their existing process and also making sure that when we do talk to companies we get to a Senior level of decision maker as possible.

Sometimes that’s not even HR, sometimes that’s a Chief Operating Officer, sometimes that’s directly a CEO, sometimes that’s even a CFO and realizing that they often don’t want to start the conversation if they think it’s HR so it’s more a bit of marketing. The biggest lesson we’ve learned is that it’s not the product we have to focus on because it works–it’s the marketing and figuring out that code of how do we crack through and get people to listen and be like I need to have this and understand how valuable it is.

Russ: In a lot of spaces you’re talking about that kind of consultative sale and going up into the upper chains of management to kind of get that executive sponsorship and get pushed down into the HR team so that they’re using it. Are you going after that in a direct sales model or strictly through marketing or with partners? How are you looking to get into that kind of C suite?

Caitlin: There’s been-we’ve kind of been trying a lot of different things. One we do direct sales, two we have a big inbound marketing contact creation push so our blog is syndicated by Business Insider. About once a week-sometimes twice a week so that brings us quite a bit of readership and traffic. We’ve been trying to do the inbound marketing, social media and things like that. We’ve also been doing the direct sales.

A lot of businesses come in through referrals, but then we also started to engage with some partnerships of other software in the HR space as complimentary as well as resellers. Recruiting firms-some recruiting firms don’t want to use this unless it’s coming directly from their clients. Other recruiting firms are recognizing that we can save them time and increase the quality of the people that they’re delivering.

We’re talking about kind of a reseller model through that and then there’s very large companies that already service the enterprise clients and so building our technology into their suite of offerings is something that we’ll be focusing on over the summer is building into an existing suite of products being offered through a company that already deals with the fortune 2000.

Russ: You’re obviously a busy CEO and my guess is your productivity levels are pretty high-in the hour that you get off a week or a month, what are you doing for fun and how do you kind of wind down?

Caitlin: We’re starting our family-so first of all my husband is my co-founder. We already worked together three years before starting this company and we function better working together so we can cheat a little bit in that we see each other all the time but when we started this company I had just given birth to our now two year-old.

When we started working full-time on this our son was seven months old and he just turned two 2 weeks ago so when we’re not working it’s about trying to give some family time to our two year-old and now he’s just hit the terrible twos so realizing that it’s going to take even more time and attention but we’re really lucky that we’ve had the support of our families so he hasn’t had to suffer too much.

If he doesn’t see us as much as I’d like he at least is surrounded by a great support system. That’s pretty much what we do when we have some down time. If he’s asleep, I love TV and movies. There’s something about the alternative reality of being able to escape into cinema and theater and movies and things like that so that’s my personal and we’re also big foodies. We love going out and trying new food or cooking new food at home. On a personal level I think that’s how we recharge and then on a family level it’s about making sure that we’re doing things on the weekend with our son and that he’s getting the interaction with us and the community.

Russ: That’s great; I really appreciate your time Caitlin. This has been Caitlin MacGregor from You should definitely go out and check out their offering-it’s Cream, like an interesting tool, sounds like the ROI is there, it’s definitely something that could help our business audience recruit better, get the right people on your bus and make you go faster. Caitlin thank-you very much for joining us and I really appreciate your time.

Caitlin: Thank-you very much. It was great talking to you.