When was the last time you cleaned out your laptop bag or briefcase?

By Jason Terry, talking about spring cleaning your laptop bag or briefcase. Especially if it’s been years.

I was at a client’s office recently and I needed an HDMI cable to connect my laptop to their wall-mounted big screen TV. I’ve kept an HDMI cable in my bag for years, but it was only 6 feet long. And bulky. And it wouldn’t reach the TV from the conference table we were at.

Blue Gurus: Spring Cleaning Laptop BagI went to my trusted source for just about everything… Amazon.com. And I found a 15 foot slim HDMI cable that was about $10 bucks. Kansas City is one of those lucky cities that can get same day or next day delivery from Amazon.com for free. And the next day, my shiny new cable showed up.

When I started putting the new HDMI cable in my laptop bag, I realized there were a couple of other cables that were past due to be replaced or upgraded. And that’s when I knew it was time to really take stock of what was in my bag.

Time to purge the bag.

I took every single thing out and arranged the items on a table. There were some really old cables that needed to be upgraded. The in-ear headphones had been in my bag for more than 5 years… so time for some new Sony Extra Bass headphones. USB-C is a new cable used with newer devices… and I had none in my bag. Oh, and I remember loaning a client a CAT-6 cable and hadn’t replaced it. And then wondered why the heck I’ve been carrying around a mini LEGO Star Wars tie fighter set in my bag… for years.

I ended up getting rid of almost two-thirds of what was in my laptop bag. Some items were given away… and some thrown away. And I made a list of things that would be useful to have in my newly reorganized bag.

The Shopping List

So for a little over $100, I have all the cables I need when I’m on the go. And better sound. And a little breeze.

When was the last time you went through your laptop bag or briefcase? If it’s been a while, maybe this story will inspire you to go through the same process… and if you do, please tell me about it! I hope my shopping list has given you some good ideas of things to keep in your bag or briefcase.

Home Rental Services Rewards Their Team for Thanking Clients and Vendors in Unique Ways

By Jason Terry, talking about rewarding your team for thanking clients and vendors in unique ways.

I love it when companies do things differently. And I have the unique opportunity to see what a number of companies are doing internally when I am on site every month. Something happened recently with one of my clients, Home Rental Services, that I just had to share.

HRS Quarterly Award for Thanking Clients

From left to right: Paul, Oretta and Joshua

They’ve recently implemented a quarterly award for the employee that thanks or recognizes a customer in the most unique way. I believe that thanking a customer in a meaningful way is a good step towards having a customer for life. And the ideas that the HRS staff came up with were excellent, funny and creative.

Here were the team members in the running this quarter…

Paul Branton

Paul is the Director of Investor Services for HRS. He did a video interview with Jake Stallman who works for Keller Williams. Jake referred an investor client that has since done two acquisitions and HRS manages the properties.

Jake was willing to spend the time it took to capture a video interview about the value Paul brings to the table. We used the video in a blog post. (Click here to see that story and the video.) The goal was to share a great partnership while showcasing what Paul is doing for investor clients of HRS.

Paul said, “Jake blew our socks off with his trusted referral and the ongoing relationship.” So Paul bought a really nice sock gift basket from Socks 101, a company based in Lee’s Summit. Jake loved the socks and the note about “blowing our socks off!”

Oretta Croushore

Oretta is the assistant property manager for HRS. HRS manages hundreds of homes and does a lot of work with Complete Property Services. Oretta wanted to do something special to recognize Complete Property Services, and came up with mini-Bundt cakes. Why? To go along with the message, “thanks for always working your bundts off for us!” They ordered a bunch of Bundtinis from Nothing Bundt Cakes to send to Complete Property Services.

Joshua Volland

Joshua is the lead property manager for HRS. They had a renter that was patient during an air conditioning maintenance issue. He sent the renter a Carnivore Club Rub and Grilling Salt Set. The message read, “Hopefully your maintenance items haven’t rubbed you the wrong way. Thanks for your patience as we get everything resolved.” Hilarious. And I am sure it went a long way in terms of the relationship the renter has with HRS.

And the winner is…

Oretta was voted the winner of the most creative/funny/thoughtful thank you. But for HRS, everyone wins in this story. The entire process improved team communication and relationship. And it strengthened a guiding principal to thank clients in a meaningful way. I know this best practice will come back around for HRS in the form of repeat business.

This blog post is one of the ways I can thank HRS for being a great customer of Blue Gurus. I love being part of their team, not just a vendor for blogging and website work!

Tech Tip: Want to know where your phone or keys are at? Use Tile trackers.

By Jason Terry, talking about Tile Trackers for keeping track of your stuff!

Blue Gurus: Tile TrackersIt’s been a while since I did a tech tip. The first thing that came to mind that’s helped me out recently are Tile trackers. I initially heard about Tile from my friend Andrew Kneisler, and then from my wife Trista. It had come up enough that I decided to buy one to see what the fuss was all about.

If you haven’t heard of Tile before, they are small devices that you can attach to your keys or anything else that you want to keep track of. A mobile app on your phone allows you to connect to these trackers through a Bluetooth connection.

With the tap of a button on the mobile app, you can make your Tile ring. This lets you find whatever it’s attached to. The only requirement is that your phone needs to be within Bluetooth range of your Tile for this to work. Depending on the version of Tile you buy, the range is somewhere between 30 and 200 feet. (In my experience, the range is good with the basic tracker.)

The Bluetooth connection works both ways. You can also click the Tile to make your phone ring. What’s great about that is you can find your phone or your keys as long as you haven’t misplaced BOTH of them.

Phone & Keys

I’m pretty disciplined when it comes to keeping track of my phone and keys. But every so often, I can’t find my phone. And sometimes I have no idea where I left my keys. It usually happens when I am distracted doing other things when I get home.

Now that I have a Tile on my keys, and the Tile app on my phone, I never have a problem finding either! It’s happened enough that I appreciate the simple functionality the Tile gives me.

Luggage

Recently, Trista and I went on vacation. She’d read that people use Tile trackers in their luggage. So we decided to try it out. It worked really well! We knew when our luggage had made it to the plane we were on. This worked for each leg of the flights. We also knew when our luggage was coming out of the baggage carousel. Nifty. From the picture below, can you guess where we went?

Blue Gurus in Rome

Tile trackers cost around $35 each or $25 when you buy a multi-pack. The battery is not user replaceable, so once it stops working, you have to buy a replacement. (The app lets you know when it’s time to replace your Tile.) But Tile offers discounted pricing for replacements and the battery life is guaranteed for a year. For me, it’s worth it.

Do you use Tile? Let me know if you try one out!

LogoMyWay.com – Affordable Logos with a Twist

Post Author: Jason Terry

LogoMyWay.com LogoOver the years, I’ve mentioned LogoMyWay.com to more people than I can count. Usually, it’s when they’re starting a new business or need to refresh a logo they’ve been using for decades. The process of creating a logo can be expensive and time consuming, but it really doesn’t have to be that hard.

The traditional process of creating a logo involves interviewing you and your team members, lots of meetings, a handful of logo “treatments” and a sizeable budget. (The budget often starts at $2,500 and can go beyond $50,000 for a formal branding project.) There are situations where this makes sense… but for many companies, they simply want a clean logo that is easy to put on coffee mugs and embroider on polo shirts and bags.

The Contest – 20,000 Graphics Designers

The way it works is you set up a contest that is operated by LogoMyWay.com. You put up prize money (minimum prize is $200, maximum prize is $1,000) and specify the length of the contest. Usually, a five to seven day contest works well. You provide information about the logo you want created… target audience, favorite colors, design ideas, what you want the logo to convey (fun vs. professional?) and more. And when your contest goes live, more than 20,000 graphics designers from all over the world will have the opportunity to submit a logo to compete in your contest.

Over the course of your contest, designers start submitting their entries. Many of the contests we’ve helped run are in the $300-$500 range. That kind of prize money usually results in 40 to 60 designs to consider. Some of the submissions are fantastic, and some of them are a bit awful. But there are usually three to five that you love and selecting a winner can be tough!

Once you select a winner, the designer is notified. They upload all of the graphics files to LogoMyWay.com and you are notified when they are ready to be downloaded. And the designer gets the prize money. It’s a great process that has worked for lots of companies here in Kansas City.

I really like the results our friends and clients have been able to achieve by doing a logo contest with LogoMyWay.com. If you’re thinking about creating a logo for your company, why not try a contest for $300 and see what you get? It’s better than spending ten times as much and you’ll be able to see 40-60 options a week after you start your contest!

If you’ve run a LogoMyWay contest, post a link in the comments to your website sporting your logo!

Some Examples

An example of a recent LogoMyWay contest is the new logo that Straub Construction is using. Check out the images below for a before and after comparison. The goal was to refresh the logo for an updated look and feel while staying true to the original logo that is well known and respected in Kansas City.

Straub Construction New Straub Construction Logo

I helped Darin Duffin and Cari Duffin at Midwest Aquatics create a new logo for their swim and scuba store.

Midwest Aquatics Logo

My wife Trista and I did a contest for her cruise and all inclusive travel business called Curious Compass.

Curious Compass Logo

And most recently, I helped my friends Kandy Meehan and Carrie Meehan at Home Rental Services do a contest for a company that helps people in the United States buy competition horses from Ireland.

Hoey Horses Ireland

Blogging Success Stories and You Gotta Try CamelCamelCamel.com!

Hello friends! It’s Jason with this week’s blog post.

Real World Stories of Blogging Making Things Happen

One of our goals for our blog this year is to tell more real world stories about the work we do. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve heard some great stories from our clients about things that have happened because we are blogging together.

DurvetWe’ve been blogging with Durvet for a couple of months now and they are already seeing great results. One of Durvet’s challenges over the years has been that a lot of people in Kansas City don’t know who they are or what they do. (They supply animal healthcare products on a massive scale out of their warehouse in Blue Springs.) Mark Niblo wrote one of the articles in their first month of blogging and somebody from the Kansas City Star saw it on LinkedIn. They contacted Mark to ask more about Durvet and they’ve decided to write a piece about Durvet for the Star.

Straub ConstructionWe’ve been blogging with Straub Construction for over a year. In last month’s blogging session, Ernie Straub mentioned that someone from the Kansas City Business Journal had recently given him a bunch of kudos for their blogging and social media efforts. Their impression was that Straub has really ramped up their presence on social media over the past few months and they’ve been seeing their stories on LinkedIn.

These are just two examples. Who knows what an article in the Star or visibility with the Business Journal might do for Durvet or Straub Construction. What I do know is that it makes conversations happens. It raises awareness. And it happens on a consistent basis.

CamelCamelCamel.com

CamelCamelCamel.comDo you love buying stuff from Amazon as much as I do? If you shop there often and haven’t heard of CamelCamelCamel.com, you’ve gotta check it out. Did you know that Amazon changes their price on items multiple times a day based on purchase volume, number of views, etc.? CamelCamelCamel.com can show you the price history for any item. You can see the highest price it ever sold for, the lowest price, and get a feel for what a good deal would be for an item. It’s amazing!

Our free Amazon.com price tracker monitors millions of products and alerts you when prices drop. Click To Tweet

I use the site in a couple of ways:

  • The easiest way is to click on the Popular Products tab. This will show you pages of products that are being bought the most by other shoppers. It also tells you if it’s a good deal or best price based on past pricing data. It’s a great way to browse current deals on Amazon.
  • The other way I use the site is to monitor the price of an item over time. For example, if I want to buy a 4K television, I find it on Amazon, copy the URL and paste it into CamelCamelCamel.com. I can then set up an alert to happen if the product drops below a price threshold (basically if it drops to a price I would be willing to pay for it.)

Try it out… you will love it.

Shameless Call to Action

We do three things really well:

If you or someone you know could use our help, I would love to talk to you about it!

You Have to Earn Word of Mouth Referrals Every Single Day

Post author: Jason Terry

Did you know my fellow Blue Guru, Mic Johnson, is a serious foodie? If you’re friends with him on Facebook, he routinely posts pictures of all types of food, restaurants, etc. Mic has introduced me to so many great restaurants in Kansas City, but my two favorites are sushi places.

Bob WasabiThe first is Sakura on 75th and Nieman. Most people call it the “sushi train” because they have an oval train track that runs for lunch and dinner. It carries blue and green plates (the different colors represent different prices per plate) of all kinds of sushi past your hungry eyes. Take what you want, enjoy the sushi, and stack your plates!

The second, and more recent, is Bob Wasabi Kitchen on 39th street near KU Med. It’s definitely one of my new favorite places to go for great sushi and some of the freshest fish in the city. It costs a bit more, but the quality is worth it. Mic and I had lunch there together recently to celebrate our newest client.

This leads me to the point of this blog post…

Mic is a raving and loyal fan of these restaurants. He’s told everyone he knows about them. We’ve taken dozens of people there for lunch and dinner, personally and professionally. There’s no question in my mind that Mic is ultimately responsible for many tens of thousands of dollars of business for Sakura…and he’s just getting started with Bob Wasabi Kitchen.

And this translates to the business community as well. Mic does the same thing for the people and businesses that he trusts and believes in. He goes out of his way to make strong referrals with the goal of helping everyone involved. Mic is the definition of what it means to be, as he calls it, a “Brand Advocate.”

You Have to Earn Word of Mouth Referrals Every Single Day. Click To Tweet
Bob Wasabi Sushi

The Rainbow Roll at Bob Wasabi Kitchen

Here’s what’s really amazing: no one pays Mic to be a brand advocate. Restaurants earn (and keep) his loyalty by providing great food and excellent customer service. The plumber he refers all the time has done many jobs for Mic and his friends for a reasonable price. And now I use him too.

Every week Mic shares emails with me where he’s connecting people he knows because there’s a great opportunity for them to do business together, help one another, learn something new, etc.

The most important thing of all is that these people, restaurants and companies are able to keep Mic’s loyalty by continuing to provide great food, products and services. And the smartest ones thank him for it, which makes Mic want to help them even more (if that’s even possible).

All of this means more business and exposure for those he advocates for…and the opportunity for more life experiences for those who know him and benefit from his referrals.

You can’t buy word-of-mouth advertising, but you can definitely make it happen by consistently doing great work, helping people and being thankful.

Breakout Kansas City – Brain Teaser and Team Builder

Post author: Jason Terry

Breakout KCRecently, Mic and I took Missy and Trista to Breakout KC. If you haven’t heard of Breakout KC, it’s an experience where you get locked into a room and have to solve puzzles to get out. And you only have sixty minutes to make it out. Yikes!

Breakout KC is located in the River Market area. There’s plenty of parking, but it’s a little more north than most people go in the River Market, so you should give yourself extra time to get there, get parked and into their building.

There are four different game room themes:
River Quay Casino: 31% success rate
The Truman Room: 24% success rate
Room 13: 34% success rate
Szechuan Secret: 19% success rate

We walked into the lobby of Breakout KC not really sure what to expect. We got signed in (you have to sign a waiver to participate) and waited for our game room to be ready. When it was time, we were taken to “Room 13” and given some quick verbal instructions.

And then the timer started!

Breakout KCWhen I saw the countdown begin, my stress levels went up. I’m a competitive person when it comes to games, and I wanted to make it out of the room before the sixty minutes ran out.  That’s why this can be such a good team building experience. You get to see first-hand how people work together under pressure. You will definitely learn something about your friends, your family or the people you work with if you do this as a group.

There’s a TV monitor up high on the wall in the room. A game operator monitors your progress and will give you text hints along the way if you are struggling. I think our game operator did a great job letting us figure things out while not getting stuck too long on any one puzzle.

I don’t want to explain exactly what we did in Room 13 because you need to experience it for yourself. Part of the fun is walking into a completely unknown situation and working together to figure out what needs to happen next. What I will say is that there were plenty of fun puzzles and a couple of really tricky ones. And as far as Room 13 goes, a REALLY big surprise about halfway through. We didn’t make it out in time, but we got through about 80% of the puzzles. The rooms are set up for 8 people to play and it was just the 4 of us. I’m sure we would have done better if we’d had more friends with us.

My Recommendation?

Breakout KCSo Breakout KC was a blast. I didn’t know what to expect, but ended up really enjoying the experience. I definitely recommend that you try it out. It’s about $30/person to play and a good value for getting to do something really different and fun.

People come from all over the country to play the game rooms at Breakout KC and it’s right in our back yard. (In the lobby, there’s a map of the United States with push pins showing where people have come from to play. Most of the country has pins in it.)

It would be an excellent team building event for your staff. It will give your brain a workout!

The Flywheel Party in Omaha Was a Blast!

Hi friends!  It’s Jason with this week’s blog post.

Fly Party at FlywheelIf you’re a web development client of ours, you know that we’re raving fans of Flywheel.  Flywheel is a web hosting company based in Omaha that does nothing but host WordPress powered websites.  We love these guys because their hosting is rock solid, they provide excellent support, and they are fun to work with.

Last Friday, Flywheel had their first “Fly Party.” It was an open house for their new digs in downtown Omaha.  I realized it would be a great opportunity for me to meet the people that I’ve talked with on the phone, chatted with for support and seen pictures and videos of via social for the last two years.

I’d never been to Omaha before.  Can you believe that?  It’s an easy three hour drive (just take I-29 North until you land in Omaha.)  The highway dumps you right into the heart of downtown Omaha.  I was surprised to see dozens of great restaurants, shops and even casinos.  Plenty to do for a long weekend.

Anyway, I walked from my hotel to Flywheel’s party and got a really warm welcome.  Kyle Putnam was the first person to greet me and give me a tour of their offices. He made me feel like part of the family.  He even introduced me to the Jamie Bush special… gin and sweet tea concentrate that reminded me of a Long Island Iced Tea.  Jamie is the marketing coordinator for Flywheel.  (Yes Jamie, you are famous now because there’s a drink named after you.)

Flywheel Party in OmahaThe Flywheel office is a techie-retro space that felt like a cool mash-up of Apple, Chipotle, and HGTV.  And maybe a little Mork & Mindy’s egg chair (see the blue conference room pic with the white chairs.)

Their offices are beautiful and spacious.  They had to upgrade in 2014 to make room for about 30 employees (and they are adding more all the time.)

Dusty Davidson is a co-founder of Flywheel and it was fun to see him in his element.  He’s the reason we signed up.  He had to be proud of the friends, family, clients and employees that were together celebrating!

T-Rave is a “happiness engineer” for Flywheel and one of the people I’ve worked with a lot.  I was excited to see that he’s a LEGO fan like me… check out his desk in the pics below… There’s a LEGO Back to the Future Delorean and a Ghostbusters set!

It was surreal to finally meet so many people that I’ve had a virtual business relationship for the last two years.  I was really glad I took the time to get myself to Omaha and hang out with a bunch of people that have built something special.  Their company culture is contagious… I can see why they are growing so quickly.  And it reminded me yet again why we love working with these guys!

Fly Party at Flywheel Fly Party at Flywheel Fly Party at Flywheel

Evercontact Is Awesome… It Automatically Updates Your Contacts in Google Or Outlook

Hey there…it’s Jason with this week’s Blue Gurus blog post!

Every once in a while I find a tool or service that blows my mind.  Evercontact wins that prize for June!  Thanks to Tony and Joe at Umzuzu for recommending it to me.

Evercontact

How often do you find yourself pulling up a contact record in your phone and realize you don’t have the business address listed as you’re trying to drive to their office? Okay, maybe I could plan a little better, but that really does happen to me more often than I’d like.  What about when you are trying to call someone and all you have is their email address and no phone number?  I am happy to tell you that this rarely happens to me now because of Evercontact.

Why Was My Mind Blown?

Evercontact is this magical service that goes through your email inbox every night.  It looks for email signatures from all the people that are sending you email.  When it finds an email signature, it grabs all the information it can… street address, main business phone, mobile phone, email address, website address and more.  It then looks in your Google Contacts or Outlook Contacts to find a match.

When a match is found, Evercontact updates your contact record automatically with the new information. If you don’t want to trust it right away, you can choose to have Evercontact send you an email that shows you the new information it found, and you can update your contact record by clicking a single confirmation link.

How It Works

So let’s say that I have Mic Johnson in my contacts with just his name and email address.  And then Mic sends me an email that has a signature at the bottom with his mailing address and cell phone number listed.  Evercontact finds the match and adds the mailing address and cell phone number to my contact record in Google Apps, and I don’t have to do ANYTHING for that to happen.  And then, because I have my mobile phone connected to my contacts, Mic’s record on my phone will be updated automatically with the new information as well.  Can you see the value in that???

TECH TIP: If your company or organization uses Google Apps, you can install Evercontact for everyone in your Google Apps account at one time, as long as you are an administrator.

I have email conversations with a lot of people every week.  Evercontact is always there looking for updated contact information for me.  It is worth every penny of the $59/year that I pay for the service.  I highly recommend you check it out and save yourself the time of manually updating your contact records!

Blue Gurus Art…Courtesy of Signature Snapshots

Post written by Jason Terry, Entrepreneur | Social Coach | Web Developer | Scuba Instructor | Guitar Player | Cruise Traveler | Lego Collector

Excel Anesthesia LogoExcel Anesthesia is one of our newest blogging clients. They are fun to work with and have started seeing the value of telling stories on their website and through social on a regular basis.

We recently did an employee spotlight on Jenny West, the practice manager for Excel Anesthesia. I interviewed her for some additional content in her blog post and really enjoyed our conversation. She was a little hesitant at first to talk about herself, but once we got going, she had a great time and really opened up. One of the cool things I learned about Jenny is that she has a side business called Signature Snapshots.  (The link goes to her Facebook Company Page.)

Signature Snapshots

Signature Snapshots - Jayhawks

Signature Snapshots creates unique, custom word art composed entirely of pictures from the Kansas City area.

Jenny looks for naturally occurring architecture, fences, benches, etc. that are shaped like letters. She takes these pictures, notes the locations and now has a library of “letter pictures”.

I saw some examples of the work she’s done and absolutely loved them. I knew right away that it would be a really cool thing to have her create a Blue Gurus piece for my office.

We’re really proud of Kansas City and what Jenny created for me is a fun way to express that Blue Gurus focuses primarily on Kansas City-based clients.

Blue Gurus Art!

 Blue Gurus Art - Signature Snapshots

Here are where the letters came from:

B – Plaza architecture
L – Bench at the Kansas City Zoo
U – Swing at a park off of K7
E – Old Excel Anesthesia office building barricade

G – A fence
U – Bike rack at an elementary school on Roe Blvd.
R – A bench outside of a Petsmart
U – A statue at the Legends
S – A picnic table

Do you want Jenny to make something for you?

If you’re interested in having Jenny create something unique for your office, you can email her at jenny.west18@yahoo.com.  The process is easy and her prices are very reasonable.  Oh, and please tell her that Blue Gurus sent you!