The New Email Etiquette: Short and Simple

 

In deference to our own advice, we’ll keep this refresher on email etiquette short and to the point!

1. Keep it brief. More people are checking and responding to email from their smartphones. This trend, combined with ever-shortening attention spans and people’s increasingly cramped schedules, means that nobody has the time or patience to read a long epistle. Get to the point and be very clear about what you need from the recipient.

2. When in doubt, write a draft. It’s natural to want to hit “Reply” and send an angry response to an email that sets you off. The better way to react: wait a few minutes, cool down, and write a draft in another program like Word or Notepad. Only when you’re ready, and you’re certain that your email won’t cause serious problems, should you paste that into your email program. Give it another read. As a very last step, don’t address the email. Keeping that email unaddressed until the last minute will save you a huge amount of heartburn because you won’t send it off prematurely by accident.

3. Steer clear of specialty fonts and backgrounds. They just increase the size of every message you send, and nobody can read them on their smartphones anyway.

4. When sending group emails, BCC (blind carbon copy) can be your friend. If you’re writing to a group of unaffiliated people – say, contacting a dozen clients to invite them to a special open house at your office – they don’t need to know each other’s names and email addresses. Send the invite to yourself and BCC everybody else. Your clients will appreciate that you respect their privacy.

5. Get a proper domain. Even if you’re a small startup, a Yahoo or Gmail address looks unprofessional. Any reputable hosted email provider will give you a custom email address so that you can have a proper domain.

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How to Finally Get Rid of That Stubborn Page Break

Microsoft Word is full of what we might politely call “quirks,” and among the more irritating is the apparent occasional inability to delete a page break.

It often happens when you’re editing a document. You’re zipping along, deleting here and inserting there, when you realize you have an extra page break in the middle. You highlight it and you try to delete it, but it won’t budge. What’s the deal?

Chances are you’ve got the Track Changes feature enabled. Once you disable Track Changes, you should be able to delete that page break.

Take the following steps to disable Track Changes and get to work deleting extra page breaks:

In Word 2007, go to the Review tab. Find the Track Changes button within the Tracking section. If the button is orange, that means Track Changes has been enabled. Just click it again to disable it.

 

In Word 2003, go to Tools and select Track Changes. And in either version, you can just hit CTRL + SHIFT + E to turn Track Changes on and off.

One last word of advice: make sure you’re in the Normal or Print view when you’re attempting to delete that break. It’s also helpful to hit the ¶ button, which will automatically display all your paragraph marks and other formatting symbols. That will make it easier to find the extra page break in the first place.

Email for Small Business: Hosted or In-House?

No matter what field you’re in – whether you’re an accounting firm of two or a dentist’s office of 20 – chances are the one truly indispensable piece of business technology you use every day is your email. In fact, it’s so indispensible that you probably don’t even think about it … until it doesn’t work.

If you want to make sure your business has reliable access to email that lets you share contacts and doesn’t leave your inbox full of spam, you can’t get by on a free email service like Yahoo or Gmail. They’re great for what they do, but they’re just not as robust as paid versions. And even the mighty Gmail experiences the occasional outage, which is tolerable for personal correspondence but deadly for a business.

In the world of small business email, you have two basic options: a hosted solution or an in-house, server-based version.

Hosted: A hosted email solution means that you pay some third party to take care of an email server and provision storage off-site. In other words, you don’t have to have any equipment in your office, and you don’t have to hire anybody to be your email guru. Instead you treat it like a utility – you pay some set amount every month, usually per email box or unit of data storage.

In-house: An in-house solution means that you do pay for an email server onsite, and you do need to have somebody maintaining that server, creating new accounts and so on. It’s a higher cost up front because you’ve got to pay for the server (and the email client if you’re going with Microsoft Exchange), then you’ve got to install it, and then you have to maintain it once it’s installed. On the other hand, this arrangement can offer a bigger security upside, and you don’t have to worry about your host having an outage. (You just have to worry about your own server conking out.)

What option is best for you will depend on a few things, like:

  • How many users do you have?
  • How often are they on the road, and do they need to access email remotely?
  • What does your cash flow situation look like?
  • How concerned are you about the privacy of your business data?

We’re holding a Webinar next week to talk about what questions you should ask when you’re selecting an email option for your business. Our goal isn’t to push you in one direction or the other – it’s to help you refine your own criteria so that you can decide what’s best for you. We’d love to have you involved in what’s sure to be a lively and informative discussion!   Click here to register.  Our Webinar on small business email will be held Thursday, May 27th at noon Central time.

So What is SharePoint, Anyway?

Many small businesses have huge problems when it comes to managing processes and sharing information. With every worker wearing multiple hats, it’s often difficult to keep track of who’s in charge of what, to say nothing of where all the information on a particular project is stored. So what do people do? They either have a short conversation by the water cooler, or they say, “Shoot me an email with the status update and your newest version of that contract.”

These approaches will get the job done – and for your average small business struggling to stay on top of a growing workload with limited staff and resources, just getting the job done is an accomplishment in itself. But if you want to get ahead by actively managing your work processes and sharing information efficiently, you’re probably going to need something like SharePoint.

What it is: In a nutshell, it’s the guts behind a good intranet (which is an inhouse website on a company’s local area network (LAN) that serves authorized members or employees). Think about your ideal company intranet. It would probably include:

  • Information sharing, so that common documents like time-off request forms or expense forms were all in one place;
  • Document management, so that you could all work off the same version of the employee manual instead of the sixteen revisions you have floating around the office;
  • Collaborative capabilities, so that people could discuss individual projects or business issues in an open forum;
  • Client access, so that clients could review contracts or other documents online instead of trading endless emails.

SharePoint gives you all of that in a single package. And it’s highly customizable to fit in with your company’s structure and work processes.

What it does: It centralizes all that information that’s been floating around in email, on hard drives, on various servers, and on paper so that everybody in your organization can find what they need in one place. It helps preserve institutional knowledge so that you’re not left in the lurch if a key employee leaves your organization. It can serve as the go-to bulletin board for company announcements. And it can foster lively discussions and the exchange of ideas.

What it won’t do: Like any collaborative tool, SharePoint thrives on participation and suffers when it’s ignored. In other words, it won’t work if you don’t use it. You have to actively post documents and participate in discussions. People may resist using SharePoint at first, preferring to just email documents or do whatever their old work habits dictate. But the more you can steer people toward it, the more they’ll use it, and the more value they’ll build into it.

Sign me up: Not so fast. First you need to decide whether you’re going to go with a server-based, in-house SharePoint solution, or if you’re going to go with a hosted option. Both have their benefits and drawbacks. Talk with CMIT Solutions about which option is best for you – whichever one you choose, we can help you set up and customize SharePoint to fit your business.

Has your business had trouble with spotty email availability, remote access, or spam? Depending on your size and setup, either a hosted email solution or an in-house email server might make sense for you. We’ll weigh the pros and cons of each in a special informational webinar, to be held Thursday, May 27th at noon Central Time. Click here to register for this free, one-hour presentation on the ins and outs of small business email.

Don’t Work for Outlook – Make Outlook Work for You

Outlook is one of the most frequently used programs in the entire Microsoft Office Suite – and yet, sadly, it’s one of the least understood. It’s supposed to help you by keeping your email, calendar, contacts, and tasks in a single integrated program. But many users find it a burden because they try to bend their own habits to match Outlook’s default settings instead of tweaking Outlook to accommodate them.

Case in point: column labels. You can drag these around, reorder them, and customize them so that they suit your own work style.

Outlook Headers
Here we have a pretty typical-looking set of columns: Received, From, Subject, and a smattering of icons for high-priority items, attachments, and so on. Let’s say you want that Received column to be the very first one on the left, and all the icons to be grouped on the right. A few simple drags and drops will do it all!

Just grab the column you want to move by putting your mouse over it and holding down the left button on your mouse. When you move the column, two red arrows will appear on either side, like this:

Outlook Headers example

And once you’ve dragged and dropped all your icons into a group, it will look like this:

Outlook Headers revised

If you don’t want to drag and drop, you can also reorganize your column headings by right-clicking on any of the column headings and selecting Customize Current View. Then select Fields, which is the top button on the next screen. That will take you to here:

Heater Options
Now you can select from the Available Fields list to add column headings, or you can select them from the area titled “Show these fields in this order” to remove them. You can re-order by dragging and dropping in the right-hand box.

Now let’s say you’re fine with the fields you’re using – you just don’t like what they’re called. Maybe you want to change “From” to “Sender”. It’s easy to do!

Right-click on any column. Go to Customize View and select Format Columns. Select “From” in the Available Fields section, and in the Label area type in the new label you want. Here, we’ve typed in Sender.

Renaming Headers

Click OK, and then OK. Your new column headings will look like this:

Headers Renamed, Final

Speaking of email … has your business had trouble with spotty email availability, remote access, or spam? Depending on your size and setup, either a hosted email solution or an in-house email server might make sense for you. We’ll weigh the pros and cons of each in a special informational webinar, to be held Thursday, May 27th at noon Central Time. Click here to register.

Add Full Screen View to De-Clutter Your Workspace in Word

If you’ve ever opened a Word document and found yourself too distracted by a thicket of rulers, menus, status bars, and ribbons to concentrate fully on the text, Full Screen view might be for you. It strips out most of the extraneous distractions from your view so that the document takes up – as the name suggests – the full screen.

The Full Screen view is easy to find in Word 2003. Just go to the View menu and select Full Screen. To go back to the regular view, go back to the menu and uncheck Full Screen.

In Word 2007, you might be tripped up if you to go the View menu and select Full Screen Reading. Full Screen Reading is NOT the same thing as Full Screen View – you can’t actually edit the document in Full Screen Reading mode.

To access the Full Screen View, you’ll first have to add Full Screen View to the Quick Access Toolbar. Once it’s installed, you’ll be able to just click that button.
Here’s how to add Full Screen View to the Quick Access Toolbar:

  1. Click the drop-down arrow to the right of the Quick Access Toolbar and select More Commands.
  2. Go to Choose commands from and select Commands Not in the Ribbon.
  3. Select Toggle Full Screen View. Click Add, then click OK.
  4. And you’re done! The Full Screen View has been added to the Quick Access Toolbar, and you can easily switch to Full Screen whenever you want.

Share Professional Advice and Ideas on LinkedIn

Even if you’re not familiar with all of the new developments in the social networking arena, chances are you’ve used LinkedIn to connect with people professionally. What you may not know is that LinkedIn lets you do a lot more than just connect yourself to friends and coworkers. Its Groups feature lets you join groups associated with everything from employers to alumni associations to fields of interest. And its Answers feature lets you pose a question that anybody can answer. You can also respond to questions and become an Expert if you provide one of the best answers.

Here are a few key rules to follow when you’re using LinkedIn:

  1. The more complete your profile, the more you’re going to get out of the experience. That said, if you’re concerned about privacy, LinkedIn doesn’t give you the huge menu of options that a service like Facebook does. You can keep your profile from showing up in general Web searches, and you can alter what people who look for you on LinkedIn see, but even the most basic setting requires that you disclose your location.
  2. Try to perform some sort of activity on LinkedIn at least once a week. Make a new connection, post a recommendation, or update your Status (that’s the box that asks “What are you working on?”).
  3. Don’t join more Groups than you can realistically participate in – say, a half-dozen or so. And make sure they’re Groups that can help enrich your work experience or ones to which you feel you can make a meaningful contribution.
  4. For the first month or two that you’re part of a Group, stick to answering rather than asking questions. That lets people know who you are and establish you as a credible expert. After that, feel free to start asking questions.
  5. LinkedIn may lack a lot of the immediacy and pizzazz of newer social media tools, but this “big ol’ MS Outlook in the sky”  is one of the few social networking resources out there specifically for professionals. Unlike Facebook, you don’t have to worry about walling off your professional life from your public life – it’s purely business. And unlike Twitter, you don’t have to boil down your thoughts into 140-character snippets.

One word of caution: Do not accept invitations from people you don’t know, and be careful about what information you reveal to people who aren’t in your network. Hackers and identity thieves are getting sneakier about researching their targets online, and it’s in both your personal and professional interest to make sure that information about your work life doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. One new form of phishing, called “spear phishing” due to its targeted nature, involves the hacker finding executives on LinkedIn or similar services, identifying the executive’s coworkers and reports, and then sending out bogus emails as the executive demanding information such as user names and passwords. People who would otherwise smell a phishing attempt are more likely to respond because they believe the request is coming from a higher-up in the company. Pretty sneaky, and one more reason to be vigilant about who you connect to – and how much your connections see – on LinkedIn.