Knowing how to talk about yourself can help you leave an impression of confidence and expertise.

How to Brag (Professionally)

For some people, bragging comes all too naturally. You know the type: They're always ready to rattle off their latest accomplishment and show anyone who will listen how incredibly awesome they are. Although you shouldn't exactly aspire to brag quite like they do, all professionals should be able to promote themselves at the right time. Talking about how great you are may feel obnoxious, but there's a right way to do it. Learn to brag effectively, and the odds are good no one will even notice you're bragging. More importantly, it can have a huge effect on your career. 

Consider Your Audience
Bragging requires a listener. An important element of a great brag is that you're speaking to someone who needs the information. Bragging to peers, especially peers you're outperforming, is tactless at best. But bragging to decision-makers – your boss, for example – can help you stick out in their memory. You can also promote yourself within your professional network, to give other members of your industry the right impression. Handing someone your business card as you casually impress them can go a long way toward having strong, fruitful connections.

Feel The Moment
There are right and wrong times to brag. The key to knowing the difference is considering the effects of your bragging. There should be something that can come from the brag: If, for example, an exciting project is coming up, your bragging might help you get assigned to that work. Networking events are always a fine time to self-promote. Work events may or may not be, depending on the tone. Don't bring work up when everyone's unwinding, but if other people are still talking about work you're probably in the clear. 

Self-Evaluate
The whole point of bragging is to share your strengths and accomplishments, so first you need to figure out what those are. Take a look at what you've done well in the past, and consider your passions. What are you most proud of? What do you enjoy doing? These questions will help you gain a better understanding of what you should be bragging about. It's also good to be mindful of what you don't like to do. Even if you're a total champ at making spreadsheets, it's probably best not to brag about it if you dread opening Excel. 

Ask For Feedback
Sometimes it's hard to see our own strengths. That's why it's useful to ask for feedback. Some offices offer up positive feedback as a normal part of the review process. If you're in an environment where no news is good news, it's OK to ask your boss what you're doing well. Getting the perspective of the people around you can give you the tools to really know your own strengths, empowering you to brag when the time is right. 

Know Your Dragon-Slaying Story
A dragon-slaying story is a three-part story of how you were faced with a problem and came out the champion. It's Forbes' go-to way to answer tricky behavioral interview questions, and it can be your biggest asset when you're given the chance to brag. It's a simple formula: Talk about the issue that arose, the decision you made to solve it and why that decision was best. Dragon-slaying stories are great because they can be tailored to fit any accomplishment and are naturally conversational. Having a firm grasp of your dragon-slaying stories will help you sound confident and passionate when you talk about yourself. They also give other people an understanding not only of what you do, but of why your choices and achievements work. 

The first thing someone sees on your LinkedIn should make them want to know more,

How to Write an Awesome LinkedIn Summary

Here's a quick test you can give your LinkedIn summary right now: If you delete your LinkedIn summary, and the information given in your LinkedIn page would be unaffected, you need to revise it. Your summary shouldn't just show where you worked and what you know how to do – that's what the rest of your profile is for. That opening paragraph (or so) should be what draws people in and makes them want to know more. When someone gets your LinkedIn address off of your business card, make sure the first thing they see keeps them scrolling.

The Wrong:
Take this summary for Jane Doe, a sloth specialist: 

A dynamic sloth consultant for Sloths Inc. Before joining Sloths Inc., she worked as a sloth coordinator for Slow n Steady, and received her degree in Sloth Studies at Anytown University. A people person with a can-do attitude currently looking for opportunities to work with sloths in a management position. 

If a hiring manager reads this summary, she's not going to learn anything about Jane Doe that she couldn't have learned without the summary. More importantly, Jane Doe has missed an opportunity to give that hiring manager a glimpse into her personality, and how she might fit in to a company's culture. 

How you can learn from Jane's mistakes:

  • Don't roughly describe an abstract person ("A dynamic sloth consultant"). Instead, speak in the first person to create a feeling of intimacy and conversation.
  • Skip the buzzwords. CareerRealism's "Worst LinkedIn Summary Ever" is full of them, so your summary really shouldn't be.  You might actually be a people person with a can-do attitude, but if you say it in those words, you're going to come off as someone deeply uncreative.
  • Make sure your summary says something the rest of the page doesn't.

The Right:
Here's what Jane Doe could have done differently:

I've known I was meant to work with sloths ever since one bit me at the zoo. That's not the way the animal encounter was supposed to go – I wasn't actually supposed to be touching it –  but sometimes a twelve-year-old just has to follow her heart and break the rules a little. It probably should have been a lesson in caution, but instead it inspired a lifelong fascination with and respect for the greatest animals on earth. 

I'm always on the lookout for new chances to work with sloths. Reach out with any opportunities, questions or if you'd just like to hear a fun sloth fact. 

Admit it: you have no earthly reason to need a sloth specialist on staff, but you do kind of want to know what her fun sloth facts are. And if someone in your network mentioned that they had an opening for a sloth manager, Jane is probably the first person who'd come to mind. 

Here's what Jane's second summary does that you can bring to your LinkedIn summary revisions:

  • Tells a story: You now know that Jane was bitten by a sloth when she was a child. This puts all of her sloth experience in context, and helps build her character as an actual human being.
  • Surprising: If you had to guess the root of someone's sloth enthusiasm, being bitten probably wouldn't be your first thought. Jane has found something totally unique about herself to share in her summary, and it makes her stand out.
  • Sneaks in important qualities: Jane is willing to take risks if she believes it's worth it. She's also learned that sometimes risks have negative consequences, and how to recover when they do. This summary shows us that, and it's a lot more impactful than a throwaway line about being a "risk-taker" would be. 
  • Has a call to action: Jane Doe wants to talk to you, even if it's just to chat about how great sloths are. Because of this final line, she is a lot more likely to actually get messages about job offers and opportunities. 
Apps can be the perfect way to stay on top of all of your new-business to-dos.

5 Apps That Help Small-Business Owners Thrive

Starting a new business can be hectic. These five apps will help you cut down on the noise and focus on what you need to do, when you need to do it. 

1. Sunrise
There's a lot to keep track of when you're starting a new business. Scheduling meetings, ordering business cards, figuring out finances: It's a busy time. The Sunrise calendar app can take all of that busyness and make it a little less chaotic – and a lot more beautiful. This app can be used to display tasks from Exchange, iCloud, and Google Calendar. It's simple and easy to use, and can sync with other apps on your phone to put everything in one place. You can also use it to stay on top of your downtime and track TV shows and sports teams. It even includes weather icons, so everything you need to know for the day is all on one screen. 

​2. Evernote
If you've ever thought, "I should have written that down," or, "Where did that piece of scrap paper go?" Evernote might just change your life. This app is basically a notebook you can access with any device that can get online. This means that if you jot a note down on your tablet, it's going to be on your laptop when you need it later. If you're away from your desktop and you need to remember a quick statistic, you can whip out your phone and find it there. You can also access your Evernote account through your browser, so you can reach your notes even if all you've got is your grandparent's dial-up. 

3. Square
If you're selling something in person, you don't want to have to make a firm but welcoming "Cash only!" sign to hang from your counter. Square is the go-to app for businesses looking to easily accept credit cards, but it actually offers a lot more than that. Square has a customizable point-of-sale system that can suit all sorts of businesses, and it offers analytics and feedback. You can even use Square to schedule appointments with customers and keep track of inventory. 

​4. HootSuite
​Keeping track of social media can get overwhelming very quickly. Posting regular content can be a daunting task, especially for a busy person with lots of important things to do. Even though no one wants to abandon their business's Facebook or Twitter pages, these sites often fall to the wayside in the thick of getting everything done. HootSuite can keep you sane. This app lets you post to all of your social media profiles from one place, add other authorized posters and see insights on how your web posts are doing. As a great time-saving bonus, HootSuite also allows you to schedule posts, which means you can set aside a time once a week and plan everything that's going to go online. Of course, you'll still need to check sites to engage with customers as they reach out: That's why HootSuite lets you set up feeds to see every comment, share and message.

5. LogMeIn Pro
Working at home, on the bus or in a coffee shop is the nature of starting a new business. LogMeIn lets you access your computer from anywhere, so you're equipped no matter where you are. It also allows for easy file transfers, granting access to other users and printing to nearby printers from the remote computer. If you use this app, your working experience can be the same no matter where you are, which will make it easier to dive in and keep your routine going. 

Employees who take vacation return feeling more creative and productive.

3 Ways to Encourage Employee Vacations

American workers don't take vacation as often as they should. According to Project: Time Off, U.S. employees take fewer vacations today than they have in the last 40 years. This has a serious effect on productivity and employee satisfaction, and can quickly lead to burnout. However, it's not just a matter of giving your employees time off – they have to actually take it. Here are some ways you can make sure your employees are taking time to recharge: 

1. Set a Precedent
If your employees see that vacations don't make the office fall apart, they'll be more likely to take them themselves. When someone goes on vacation, make an effort to demonstrate that the office can handle responsibilities while they're away. This way other employees will see that they're not abandoning their co-workers when they take time off. You can also make a strong impression by taking time off yourself. "Do as I say, not as I do" only goes so far: By taking vacations, you're setting an example for others to do the same.

2. Let People Disconnect
Set an office-wide policy that says that employees will not be contacted while they're on vacation except in emergency situations. Define what counts as an emergency, don't leave it to be decided in the moment. Empower employees taking on an absent co-worker's responsibility to use discretion and make decisions without reaching out whenever possible. Encourage vacationing employees to disconnect as well: They shouldn't be checking emails or handing out business cards when they're supposed to be relaxing.

3. Make a Policy
If building a culture of vacationing isn't working, you can instate a policy of required time off. If you do this, it is vital that you build policies to take over work when people are out of the office. It's not fair to require that people take vacation and effectively punish them in the process, so be sure you've already taken other vacation-encouraging steps before you force workers to take time off. 

Your business plan will guide you through key decisions and show investors and hires you're worth their time.

Creating a Business Plan

If you're starting a new business, you need to have a business plan. Your business plan will guide you through all of the key decisions you need to make early on. How will you reach your audience? Who do you need to hire? How many customers do you want to have by the end of your first year? Your third? These are just some of the questions your business plan should address. Before you can start handing out business cards and trying to convince investors to give you money, you must decide exactly what your business is going to do. 

Business Plan Basics
Unlike a mission statement or an elevator pitch, business plans are not meant to be brief. They should be expansive, detailed documents that fully flesh out your company's future. You're going to use this to wow investors and convince key hires to join you, so it has to describe why your business is worth their time and money. Most business plans are around 20 pages long, although some are twice that length. If your business plan is breaking 40 pages, you probably have more information than you need. Business plans already have a lot to take in, so make sure there are no extraneous details. 

Topics Covered
Every facet of your business should be covered in your business plan. Break the document up into sections and include a table of contents so readers can browse in the order that makes sense to them. Topics your business plan should go over include:

  • A description of the product or service your company provides.
  • An analysis of the market and how your company fits in.
  • Your target audience.
  • An overview of your competitors and how you will stand out.
  • A marketing plan that details how you will spread the word about your company.
  • Hires you plan to make and roles your company will have.
  • Milestones your company will reach as it grows.
  • A financial plan that goes over the funding you need and your projected profits.

Writing
Before you begin to write your business plan, come up with an outline that includes all of your key points. Gather charts and data that you will use. Write multiple drafts and always look at your writing with a critical eye. Try not to be the only eyes on your work, and stay open to feedback and criticism. 

Elevator pitches should be short and to-the-point in order to inform the listener of what your company does.

Perfecting Your Investor Pitch

In the field of start-ups and budding businesses, the term "pitch" is often tossed around. This very short explanation of what your company does and who you are is incredibly important for procuring investors. Here are some basics to create one to help you gain funding for your latest venture:

Explain yourself
The entire point of a pitch is to leave your audience with the information they need to know about why they should finance your company. Tell them right away what the business name is and what services or goods you provide. For example, "Little Chompers is a dentist office that provides children with a comfortable and fun experience. We are located in San Jose and offer services to anyone ages 2 months to 16 years. We make kids and parents feel at ease so a trip to the dentist isn't a traumatizing experience." This message shares what your company does, who it services and where it is located, all things potential investors need to know. 

Take Questions
You're not providing a lecture to college students, so no need to finish your pitch by asking for questions. Instead, after you've said your part, there shouldn't be any questions left to ask. You've already told them the main points they need to know. In which case, great job! There are, however, often people who want to get to the meat of your pitch by asking particularly specific queries. For the example above with Little Chompers, someone may ask what's so special about your practice that makes it friendly for kids? This is when you delve into the little details, like the TV's are at perfect height for children to watch the Disney Channel or cartoons during their routine cleaning. Talk about the smaller, comfortable chairs and the purposeful design of each exam room that makes everyone feel comfortable. Have a few extra talking points to touch on if someone wants to know more and you'll be all set to ace this investor pitch. The more you know about your company and goals, the better your likelihood is of getting funding.

Avoid Buzzwords
As a company owner, you've likely come across quite a few buzzword-filled resumes. These touchy terms like "innovative," "integrated," and "diverse" have been so overused they often don't mean anything at all. Try to avoid these words and instead say what you really mean. If you think your children's dental practice is innovative, explain why. Talk about the process to make kids annual checkups much less stressful and more enjoyable. That's the information your potential backers really want to hear. Saying the company is innovative doesn't mean anything – in order to be relevant in any industry, you have to be innovative. Share what you're really doing and stay away from meaningless buzzwords.

Be Sincere
In reality, a pitch is a sales move. Yes, you are selling your company and its services to whomever is listening, but that doesn't mean you need a suit, tie and diagram to make a sale. People are drawn to sincere pitches that lay out what a business does and why. Instead of sugarcoating your pitch with big words and colorful phrases, say exactly what your new company does and why they should be interested in getting involved financially. Smile and show your passion for the job, but don't overdo it and end up coming off as cheesy or insincere.

Add a Business Card
Your investor pitch should be so solid that those who hear it recall what your company is and who you are for weeks after you interacted with them. To really help seal the deal, hand out business cards while you talk so your audience can easily contact you about potential business opportunities and networking. 

You can pin your business card to public pinboards to attract attention and gain customers.

5 Ways to Use Business Cards

Business cards are incredibly important. Entrepreneur considers business cards one of the most valuable tools a business can use to increase referrals. However, not everyone uses them to their full potential. If you're only handing out business cards when you're in your office, that's a serious sign that you're underutilizing them. Not sure how to ramp up your business card usage? Here are a few tips and trick that you can use to make sure your card ends up in someone's hands – and stays there:

1. Always Have Them
One of the biggest business card mistakes you can make is never having your business cards around. Your cards are useless if they sit in a box on your desk forever. Keep them in your purse or briefcase, and slip a few into your wallet in case you need one when traveling light. Opportunities to network can sneak up on you, so stay prepared. 

2. Leave Them Around
Strategically, that is. Think about the kinds of businesses your customers might frequent, and see if you can leave a stack of cards there. It may also be worth it to see if that business has cards you can distribute to your customers in return. Building relationships with local businesses can open up opportunities for referrals and even partnerships down the line. 

3. Use the Mail
Any time you're sending out mail for your business, include a business card. Often you will work with people you never see in person: Mail gives you a chance to get those people your card despite this. Don't be shy about adding a few extra cards that they can pass around to people as well. 

If you're sending out personal correspondence where you think a business card is appropriate, you can do that, too. For example, if you're writing a letter to a former professor to catch him or her up on your career, a business card makes a great addition.

4. Make Your Friends and Family Ambassadors
Picture it: Your brother is at a business event. Someone mentions that their company needs someone to redesign their office, and your brother lights up, saying, "My sister's actually just started her own corporate design business, and she's done a lot of great stuff." His new acquaintance is interested, but your brother doesn't quite remember your email address. He gives the person your name, and they promise to look you up, but before they leave the room they've forgotten. 

Now picture the exact same situation, but in this version, your brother has one of your business cards. Your social network is a valuable asset, so don't overlook it.

5. Make People Feel Special
Don't be shy about writing on your business cards to give them a personal touch. If you add a little bit of information to the card, the person receiving it is going to be a lot more likely to keep it and use it. For example, if your business cards have a general company phone number or email address on them, you can personalize that information for your recipient. You can also use business cards to write short thank-you notes or other personal messages that people are likely to appreciate.

Sometimes it's necessary to vent about a situation in order to get your anger out and look at it from a new perspective.

How to Handle Anger at the Office

We've all had a person or situation at work that made us less than pleased, and possibly even full on angry. It's natural to have some conflicts in the workplace, as different personalities and productivity styles try to come together to get things done. As a business owner and manager, you have a huge role in every part of the office, from choosing business cards to handling employee disputes. You may have to help your staff out on occasions when they are angered by something or someone and can't seem to cool off. Here are some proper ways to handle anger in the workplace:

Get to the Root of the Problem
When someone gets mad, they may not even be upset about the particular thing that triggered their anger. With kids, for example,little ones may get mad that a sibling took their toy, but they're really upset that it's not their birthday and they aren't getting any new toys. Similar occasions happen in the workplace. An employee may be angry about the tone of a colleague's email, but they really are resentful that their co-worker got a promotion and they didn't. To help that person get to the root of his or her anger, talk it out. 

Work on Tone
Much of the communication that goes on both inside the office and with customers and clients occurs over email. You've probably noticed that it's a lot easier to come off as mad when you're putting your words into writing. Make sure everyone in your office understands how important it is to pay attention to tone over email. If ever you think something may be misconstrued as anger, consider having that particular conversation in person or over the phone instead. This way the person who would have received the email can actually hear your voice and see your expressions. They'll be less likely to misunderstand whatever you're saying when they can read your body cues.

Take a Step Back
One of the first things many anger management courses recommend is that people who start to feel angry take a step back and remove themselves from the situation. This allows them a chance to take some deep breaths and regain composure. Think about the situation logically and critically – try to remove your emotions and understand what happened that triggered such a powerful response. When you have had a chance to clear your head a bit and calm down, then choose to address the situation or person who elicited this response. You'll be better able to articulate your issue and have a productive conversation once your head has been cleared.

Vent
Everyone needs someone to vent to about situations that are frustrating. Forbes mentioned that many colleagues find one or two people they can confide in when this type of need arises. You, however, as the boss need to look outside the company in order to vent. It's inappropriate to talk to a subordinate employee about other staff members or even clients. Instead, talk to family members or friends outside of the company in order to comply with HR laws.

Pinterest is a great way to reach customers online.

A Guide to Rich Pins on Pinterest

Pinterest is an aspirational website. When people use Pinterest, they're planning out how they'd like their lives to be. Pinterest users make boards that cover topics as broad as food and as specific as calligraphy for wedding invitations. This makes it the perfect social media site for businesses looking to engage with customers and drive product sales. 

One of the coolest features Pinterest offers businesses is the ability to create "rich pins." Rich pins are pins that offer more information to users that draws them into your product. Rich pins encourage engagement and drive click-throughs, which means they're more likely to get people on your site and interested in making a purchase. 

Types of Rich Pins
Pinterest offers six different kinds of rich pins, each of which can help your business achieve different goals. 

  • App pins: On iOS, these include a button so that users can install an app without leaving Pinterest​.
  • Place pins: Include location information.
  • Article pins: Mimic a news article by including headline and author information.
  • Recipe pins: Provide information about how to make a pinned dish.
  • Movie pins: Include ratings and reviews of films.
  • Product pins: Show price information that can be updated and tell users where they can purchase an item.

Product pins are most likely to be the rich pin that's best for your business. Because the pin includes information about price and a link to the product's purchase page, it drives customers right to your site. Users who have pinned those products to their pinboards will also get emails if you lower the price by 10 percent or more. This way, the pins do the work for you if you're having a sale or otherwise reducing prices. 

Even though product pins are the most intuitive pin for businesses, other rich pins have a lot of potential. If you have a mobile app, you can encourage users to check it out using app pins. You can use article pins to establish yourself as an expert by sharing content from your blog or website. Food or beverage companies can create recipes that use their products and set those up using rich pins. Location pins can be a great tool if you're reaching out to local customers. 

General Pinterest Tips:

  • Pinterest is photo-based, so use strong visuals.
  • Caption your pins in a way that encourages users to click through and learn more.
  • Engage with users through repins and comments.
  • Share content from other experts in your field.
  • Use wit and humor in captions as fits your overall marketing tone.
  • Most Pinterest users are women, so tailor your content to your audience.
Social media sites like twitter present opportunities for you to engage with your customers.

5 Ways to Raise Brand Awareness

For a business to succeed, people have to know it exists. Brand awareness can be the difference between trudging along and taking off. One of the biggest mistakes a new business owner can make is assuming that brand awareness will happen organically. The reality is, it takes effort to make an impression on consumers. Here are five ways you can bring your brand to the public's eye: 

1. Use Promotional Materials
Promotional materials are elements of advertising 101, yet a lot of new business owners overlook them. Don't underestimate the power of catching someone's attention. Car magnets and other outdoor ads are great ways to get people looking at your business's name, logo and information. Even a short glance at a passing ad can help cement your company in someone's mind. If you're focusing on advertising locally, you can hang up flyers at local coffee shops or restaurants. Try to consider your audience and where they would go, and place your promotional materials accordingly.

2. Be Consistent
One way to sabotage your own branding efforts is to lack consistency. All of your advertising efforts, whether they're online or offline, should use the same logo, style and phrasing. If your company has a slogan, make sure there's a set way of phrasing it. Any changes matter, even if the meaning is still the same. Keeping your image consistent not only prevents confusion, but it triggers the repetition that makes you stick in your customers' minds.

3. Get Online
If you don't already have Facebook and Twitter, make your company profiles and use them. If you have them, but you post once every month or so when you remember they're there, begin posting regularly. You can use social media management sites like Hootsuite to schedule posts so that you don't have to constantly remember to update. However, it's best to regularly check in on your social media sites, even if you schedule ahead of time. The best thing a company can do with social media is engage with its customers: If you're putting the site up and forgetting about it, you're doing yourself and your customers a disservice. 

4. Tell a Story
People like to feel like they're a part of something. If you use your promotional materials and online presence to tell a story, you will catch people's attention. If your company is working toward sustainability and clean energy, let your customers know that. Use social media or start a blog that tells the story of where your product comes from, or that focuses on workers and how they fit into your vision. If people remember your story, they'll remember you.

5. Hold a Contest
Another great way to make people aware of your company is to get them involved. Having contests encourages customers to engage with you, rather than trying to reach out to them. You can have simple random giveaways, or more complicated contests where participants have to enter in something to be judged. Small businesses may think they don't have anything to offer yet in contests, but even simple discounts or small gift cards can encourage people to look your way.