4 Lessons We Can Learn From the Movie Office Space

While the movie Office Space wasn’t highly received in the box office back in 1999, it has since become a cult classic and given us some of the best one-liners around. Although Office Space is entertaining and great for a laugh, the film teaches us some valuable lessons, as well.

While the movie Office Space wasn’t highly received in the box office back in 1999, it has since become a cult classic and given us some of the best one-liners around.

So what’s the appeal you ask?  Aside from the satirical humor (and the fact that everyone loves Jennifer Aniston), the movie has prospered because it portrays three average guys who work in a situation that most of us can relate to. Initech is the quintessential company with poor management, bad communication and low employee morale. Needless to say, it makes for a ridiculously hilarious plot.

Although Office Space is entertaining and great for a laugh, the film teaches us some valuable lessons, as well.

Lesson 1: Make Sure Your Employees Have Quality Resources

office space 1In the movie, character Michael Bolton (played by David Herman) develops a hatred for a printer in the office that always seems to malfunction when he needs to use it. His frustration ends up boiling over, resulting in Michael, Peter and Samir stealing the printer and destroying it in a desolate field.

While we hope your employees wouldn’t go so far as to intentionally break supplies around the office, it can certainly become frustrating when things don’t work like they’re supposed to. To ensure that your employees are well equipped to do their jobs, it is crucial that printers and faxes stay stocked with paper and ink, broken machines are fixed quickly, and  things like your office router are capable of supporting all the bandwidth from around the office.

Lesson 2: Create a work environment that is actually conducive to doing work

office 3From the first time we see Initech, we can see why Michael, Peter and Samir hate working there. The office is full of bland 6’ x 6’ cubicles, with no windows in sight. Even worse, Peter sits across from the Nina, the accounts payable women, who appears to do nothing other than patch calls through while saying “JUST A MOMENT” in the most annoying voice imaginable.

While cubicles are sometimes a necessary evil, you should always try to give your employees an alternative area to do their work. Whether it is a lounge with couches, conference room or even picnic tables outside, people tend to be more productive when they can move around. This is especially true for people who sit near colleagues who are on the phone all day.

 Lesson 3: Don’t Micromanage

office 2Peter’s boss in the movie is Bill Lumbergh, played by Gary Cole. Despite his position as Division Vice President, Lumbergh seems to have nothing better to do than walk around the office with his coffee mug, checking to see if Peter has finished “the TPS reports.” Lumbergh’s unexpected interruptions not only distract Peter, but also add to his frustration with the company.

It is common for small business owners to want to oversee every aspect of their companies, but there is a fine line between overseeing and micromanaging. Studies have shown that people actually perform at lower levels when monitored (or even just think they’re being watched).

Micromanaging can be a hard habit to break, but you must have faith in your employees. Instead of checking in every step of the way, set up weekly or daily meetings with employees to discuss individual goals and progress. Additionally, make sure your employees know they can approach you with questions without the fear of an overbearing answer.

Lesson 4: Don’t keep people in the dark

Arguably one of the funniest people in the movie is the quirky character named Milton, who is always getting screwed over. Not only does Lumbergh constantly try to take his coveted possession, a red Swingline stapler, but Milton continues to show up to work everyday, unaware of the fact that he has been fired.

While this scenario might be a little far-fetched, as people typically know when they’ve been fired in the real world, keeping employees in the dark does happen all the time.

We understand that some issues do need to be confined to upper level management, but employees should be kept in the loop about most day-to-day happenings, especially those regarding their job and the company itself. One of the best tactics to ensure this is the case includes having a weekly all-hands meeting, where each department gives updates. If you’re not all able to meet face-to-face, weekly email updates are the next best thing.

Regardless of how you do it, just make sure that everyone is on the same page at all times. Secrets keep everyone in the dark, sometimes literally.

Essential Apps for Your Summer Road Trip

Before World War III breaks out in Rhonda the Honda, check out these eight free road trip apps that we promise will make your car ride more enjoyable (or as enjoyable as a family vacation can be).

Nothing ruins the anticipation of an exciting summer vacation like road trip misery.  We’ve all been there: you have grand ideas about how driving to your destination is going to help you save money, as well as bond with the fam.  Cue vision of laughing family playing car games and enjoying each other’s company.

However, 20 minutes into your eight-hour trip you realize that this is not going to be the case.  The kids are already whining that they’re hungry and bored, the driver is distracted from the commotion in the back seat, and you feel a massive headache coming on.  Before World War III breaks out in Rhonda the Honda, check out these eight free road trip apps that we promise will make your car ride more enjoyable (or as enjoyable as a family vacation can be).

1.  RoadNinja

road-ninja“Where’s the next rest area? I can’t wait!”

“I’m hungry!  I want Wendy’s!”

Quell the complaining with the RoadNinja app.  This lifesaver lets you know exactly what is coming up in exits right off of the interstate you’re traveling.  So when your kid needs to go right now or he refuses to eat any fast food except Wendy’s chicken nuggets, you’ll know you only have to listen to the crying for five more miles.

2.  HotelsByMe

You thought you were going to drive through the night, but you literally can’t take one more second in the car.  HotelsByMe lets you find hotels in your vicinity, including ratings from TripAdvisor, prices and real-time availability.  Get some shuteye at a hand-picked hotel for the night and start again fresh in the morning.

3.  RoadTrippers

Mashable called RoadTrippers the “only app you’ll need for the Great American Road Trip,” and we believe them.  A self-proclaimed mix of Mapquest and Yelp, RoadTrippers finds the most adventurous route available to get you to your destination.  Spice up the route you’ve taken a million times in search of something more exciting.

4.  OpenTable

open-table_thumbCar snacks are exciting for the first couple of hours, but after your three-year-old sticks the second Cheeto up his nose, they start to lose some appeal.    With OpenTable, you can read menus, check prices and ratings, and make a reservation at participating restaurants.

5.  BatteryGuru

Whether you forgot your charger at the last hotel or five people are fighting over one car charger, BatteryGuru will help save your battery life with smart changes to energy expense.  In the first few days, the guru learns how you interact with your smartphone and then comes up with a battery optimization plan based on your specific usage.

6.  Sky Map

starzAdd a night of camping under the stars to your road trip and this cosmic app will definitely come in handy.  You can search constellations as you see them with Sky Map’s GPS information about the stars in your location.

 

7.  Postagram

Screen Shot 2013-06-25 at 2.48.30 PMWith this free app, you can send digital postcards of your trip to friends and family anywhere in the U.S. for $.99.  Use photos from your camera roll, Instagram or Facebook and add your own personalized message!

8.  Shoeboxed

The Shoeboxed Receipt and Mileage Tracker for iOS and Android is a great travel companion for your road trip (which can’t always been said for everyone else in your car).  You can track your mileage and route with the click of a button (okay, two buttons – “Start Trip” and “Stop Trip”).   The app also allows you to snap pictures of your trip receipts and upload them directly to your Shoeboxed account.

All of these apps sound like a great excuse to take a vacation to us!  Which of these apps sounds the most useful to you?

Photo credit: tripwiremagazine.com; postagramapp.com

How to Find Workflows That Work for You

When you find workflows that make your small business more efficient, you open up a magical space-time continuum that frees you up to do what you do best.

When you find workflows that make your workday easier, or that make running your small business smoother and more efficient, you open up a magical space-time continuum. No, we’re not talking about conjuring some fairytale startup existence where everything is done for you and you spend your time fanning yourself poolside with the latest copy of your favorite magazine.

We are, however, talking about freeing up a heck of a lot of time in order to allow you to do what you do best – you know, connect with customers, develop new products and services, and actually run your business (instead of letting it run you).

So if you want to find workflows that work, where do you begin?

First of us, let’s get crystal clear on what the term workflow actually means, since it’s a term that can be used in a variety of situations and for a variety of different, specific purposes. In general, when you find workflows that work for you, you’re looking for a set of procedures that comprise an overall process.

What sort of procedures, you ask? Well, they could include anything from tasks and tools to the companies and individuals involved in completing those tasks.

Sort of ambiguous, right? Let’s get more specific.

If your end goal is the what, your workflow is the how. It’s what needs to happen in order to achieve a specific goal, and it includes all of the elements that help make that goal come to fruition. With that in mind, it’s easy to see how creating efficient workflows can maximize productivity and save you time and money.

Back in the pre-digital days, small business owners created workflows that helped them organize paper processes like mailing invoices to clients, filling out forms and sending out marketing materials. Like everything else, today you can find the most effective workflows online.

What’s more, workflows have become utterly automated.

Using Workflows to Automate Your Online Marketing

While workflows can be used to automate all sorts of administrative processes, we wanted to focus on using them to streamline your marketing practices.

Marketing – especially online marketing – is a major pain point for small business owners everywhere.

stickiesWhen you’re first starting out as a small business owner, it’s common to find yourself wearing many hats. (Okay, maybe every hat.) In addition to doing what you actually do (baking the pies, grooming the dogs, coaching new moms), you’re also acting as your own accountant, personal assistant, secretary, copywriter, and yes, online marketing maven.

Marketing is such a pain because it takes the most time, it can be really expensive to outsource, and it’s really important. While you may be able to get away with doing your own books in the beginning, slacking off on your marketing efforts could see your small biz tanking faster than the Titanic.

If you want to find workflows that truly make a difference in the way you do business every day, focus on automating your marketing workflows.

While an insurance company might use workflows to automate administrative tasks like completing and submitting claim forms, you can find workflows that automatically nurture and qualify leads, keep contact records updated, and trigger email sequences based on specific actions.

Where does the workflow begin?

Good question. You tell us – where and when does your initial contact with your customers or clients usually take place?

You could initiate a new workflow at any number of starting points. For example, you might start an automated sequence when a new customer fills out a webform on a landing page, downloads your eBook, or responds to a survey.

The sequence that follows is a series of actions that puts the customer into an automated marketing process. This process will guide them along your sales funnel, priming them for direct contact with your sales team (which, let’s face it, is probably you) once they’ve reached a certain point in the workflow.

What happens next?

When you find workflows that work for you, you’re really just finding the steps you’d normally take to close a sale and automating as many of those steps as is effective.

Once a potential customer has filled out a web form, you can create a series of triggered actions in order to follow up with them.

For example, your web form may include a few get-to-know-you questions to help you better qualify your leads. When a new customer answers those questions, their answers will set off a series of specific automated emails that are directly related to those answers.

Let’s say you’re a photographer, and your web form allows people to indicate what type of photography services they are most interested in. You might include choices like wedding photography, fine art photography or family photography.

Those customers that checked wedding photography would get a follow up email directing them to your blog post, “Top 10 Tips for Great Photos on your Wedding Day.” Those customers that checked the family photography box would receive a 10% coupon delivered to their inbox, as well as a schedule of your studio hours for families with kids under age 5. And it should go without saying that the wedding people don’t receive the family stuff, and the family people don’t receive the wedding stuff.

Tailoring workflows to the specific actions of customers allows you to connect with them on their level. Instead of receiving a generalized piece of marketing that’s meant for anyone and everyone, your customers will feel like you’re really listening to their needs and wants. This specificity breeds trust and leads to more conversions.