4 Great Habits of Every Great Coder

A mentor once told me that to be great at something is to align one’s habitual behaviors with a desire for success. At first, I never really believed him because I was always of the opinion that “habitual” was boring, and boring was unsuccessful. However, as I matured in my career, I began to understand his advice to be bland but true. During college, I was always working. There was only about 2 or 3 months collectively that I did not have a job, and that was normally because I was finishing one job and waiting to start another. Holding a job while taking a full load of classes (and surviving in them) is no easy task. At first, I struggled immensely. It wasn’t until I perfected habits that let me balance work and school. Habits like doing homework as soon as I possibly could and waking up early to get a head start on work were what allowed me to stay afloat. So, translate that into the task of learning how to code. Learning to code is a daunting challenge when you are new to the scene. There are literally hundreds of different programming languages. My advice to you? Adopt and develop habits. For me, it was the easiest way to introduce myself to the world of coding.

  1. Keep it simple. By keeping it simple, I mean don’t smother yourself with many different languages at once. Personally, I found it easier to focus on one language, or a couple of very similar languages, to start out with. Many coding languages follow a very similar, general flow of logic, so if you focused on mastering one or two, when you spread your wings, it will be a little easier to fly into other languages.
  2. Explain your logic. This one takes me back to 9th grade geometry class, where we did a unit on proofs. At the time, it was miserable, but in hindsight, it was one of the most applicable lessons I learned in high school. If you can systematically explain how you get from input to output, you are in good shape to code. As you write a function of code to achieve a goal, I have learned that it helps to explain your logic through comments in the code. This habit has more bonuses than many realize. If your code does not behave how you want it to, you can go back and use the comments to help you decide where your code or your logic went wrong. Furthermore, if others are using your code for themselves, it allows them to understand how it works. Even the most experienced code masters welcome comments of explanation in code.
  3. Study and observe. I can’t begin to explain the benefits of making this a habitual thing. There are countless resources out there to familiarize yourself with code, whether it be books or online tools. I have always been told that the best way to get good at coding is to observe code. Study the code of your favorite website to familiarize yourself with how different parts of code work. Look for patterns and things that stand out. You will never be successful in coding unless you take the time to be able to read code, or at least follow the logic of a strand of code. There are books and websites that specialize in training you to be able to look at a strand of code and know exactly what is going on.
  4. Practice. Practice. There isn’t an expert in any field of life that will tell you that they didn’t have to practice what they specialize in. Practicing is, by far, the most effective habit in becoming a great coder. The best part is, it doesn’t have to be boring! Practicing can be fun. Experiment on your own code to see what you can do. The possibilities are endless. The feeling you get when you have come up with your own working code is extremely rewarding. Manipulating code to adhere to your desires and commands has an appeal to any coder! Just practice. The benefits are obvious, and the results are advantageous.

Diamonds in the Rough: Finding Success Where Others See Failure

Since the rise of the internet in the 1990’s, it has no doubt been a supernova of collaboration and communication, and with that communication – comes all the emotion and attitude that our species is famous for. Even though there is positive, beneficial interactions over the internet, one could argue that the negativity exchanged far outweighs the positive. You can’t even share a Facebook status or Youtube video without someone expressing some form of negative response or comment. It can be so easy to allow all the negativity one sees on the internet to be a discouragement from branching out and expressing themselves. The unfortunate part of this is this bleeds into the business realm too! Entrepreneurs, inventors, and business people alike consistently shy away from sharing ideas or using social media for fear of negative feedback or judgment. Who knows how many innovative goods or ideas have been abandoned because of negative backlash over the internet? That is why it is imperative, now more than ever, to change the dialogue. Change the way you approach the negativity that meets you – even on social media.

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston Churchill

I came across this quote a few weeks ago, and it really resonates with me. It is the backbone of this post. Failure is not fatal. It is such an impressive, optimistic outlook to nurture. Whether you are pitching a new idea, starting a business, or trying to make those first moves and turning your plans into reality, you are going to hit bumps in the road- that is just a fact of life. It is how you respond to those failures that will determine the outcome. Churchill said, It is the courage to continue that counts. That is your defining moment. Once you hit those obstacles, do you let it set you back and discourage you, or do you view it as a stepping stone towards success?

I know from personal experience, it can be extremely difficult to find small wins or successes when those obstacles hit and all you see is your “failure”. It is easy to give up and jump-ship. The key to surviving them is to set smaller, achievable goals and work to see the milestones you have achieved that you overlooked while trying to see the larger picture. When something goes wrong or doesn’t work, you obviously can’t plan for that, but if you can find the solution to the problem, that’s a milestone you have reached that you never planned for. Consider that a win! If you can measure yourself by short-term achievements, you will find that your work or progress will have more meaning and greater results. Motivational speaker and author Denis Waitley had these words to say:

“Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.”

Find the diamonds in the rough. Create successes where others have already dismissed as defeat. If you can flip the script and learn to remain positive and optimistic in the face of trials, your business’ or idea’s success will be more rewarding and worthwhile.

Facebook Pixel: Explained

Social Media marketing takes many forms. Not just providing your followers with relevant and interesting content, it is also useful for attracting potential customers with paid advertisements.

Each platform has it’s own analytics tool but for now (drum roll please) Facebook Pixel! The Facebook Pixel is code that is associated with a Facebook ad. The code can be placed on the webpage to track the ad’s success. With Pixel you can use your limited marketing funds more efficiently to reach the specific audiences that care about you and your content which means fewer wasted ad monies!

Reach more people:
By seeing who is clicking an ad, your input along with Facebook’s algorithms can decide who else sees your ad. If there are a lot of clicks by women in their 30’s, it will increase the frequency that those women see your ad.

Get more sales:
If the people who are seeing an ad are the ones who are most likely to engage, then this will get the right people to your website and increase sales or engagements.

How does it measure results?
Using “Ads Manager” you can monitor relevant statistics related to your ad. Performance results include how many people clicked, the ad’s total reach, the cost spent on the ad, and how much was spent by customers who saw the ad. All of this is great information when you are decided where to place those marketing dollars!

Places to use the pixel code?
Depending on the results you are seeking, here are a few ideas of places the code could be helpful.

• Sale confirmation page – See the sales that were directly generated from your ad
• Contact Us submission confirmation page – Discover how many customer inquiries were initiated by the ad
• Pricing and more information page – On this page, you can tell who became interested in your product or service based on your ad.

Facebook Pixel gives advertisers more useful targeting and meaningful feedback data to refine audiences. Pixel is a POWERFUL tool to help you reach the best audiences with the greatest level of engagement, and track interactions. Here is Facebook’s installation directions through the Ad Manager on your Facebook account. Happy Tracking!

Trend Update

What’s the best way to stay current and get seen on Social Media? It’s #hashtags! Using the right hashtag at the right times shows that your business is listening to its followers and staying on trend. A great way to find new followers and interact with the platform as a whole is to incorporate hashtag usage into your posts. It allows users who may not have been following you, to see your content and increase your exposure.

A trending hashtag is one that has recently gained popularity for one reason or another. It could be something as obvious as a holiday or event, but it could also be more obscure like something that John Oliver said on an Last Week Tonight (#LetLetItGoGo).

Want to get seen today? Try one of these!

1. #InnocentPhrasesThatScareMe
There are a lot of these like “Hey, watch this!”
2. #WhyIDontUseFacebook
What’s a funny reason you may reduce your Facebook usage
3. #summer
Share a summer event, adventure, or story.
4. #4thofjuly
Fourth of July is next week! Anything special going on?
5. #harrypotter20
Are you celebrating 20 years of the boy wizard?
6. #nationalsunglassesday
Start the debate! It should be Sunglasses Hut! They don’t make monocles don’t come tinted
7. #nbaawards
The first annual award show was this week. Did you see who made MVP?
8. #PTSDAwarenessDay
Honor those who fight daily to hear wounds no one can see.
9. #ModernDayBoyScoutBadges
What’s something that you think would make a good badge for kids today? I like the “Participation Badge” or “Fire starting with Galaxy Note 7.”
10.#longweekend
Some people are taking off for the holiday weekend. Share photos or stories of your travels.

Email Lists: Boost Your Chances, Get Seen!

When sending out an email, most marketing professionals want one thing: For people to see it! It’s hard to get that mythical 100% open rate and still harder to get a 50% open rate. However, there are a few things you can do to boost your chances of being seen.

Sending at the Right Time:
Choosing the right day and time to send an email can mean the difference between a 1% open rate and a 10% open rate. There has been a lot of research done on when people open their emails. While most work emails are opened within 6 seconds of them hitting the inbox, most marketing emails are read within 60 minutes.

Tuesday is the top day to send. Week days are generally better since most people don’t tend to check their email as frequently on weekends. However, based on your business type this also can shift slightly. If you have an event coming up on Saturday, you may want to send that email out Thursday or Friday when people are trying to come up with their weekend plans.

Now, what time is best?  Late morning is a winner with 10 AM being a sweet spot. Other popular times would be 8 PM – Midnight and 6 AM. (These are probably all those people ruining their sleep quality reading emails in bed.)

If you don’t know what’s best for your business, MailChimp offers a great solution with Send Time Optimization. Based on your recipients email habits, MailChimp decides when to send the email. This ensures that your email has the best chance of getting seen by the most recipients.

Sending Relevant Information:
While the time you send can impact who reads it, the content is really the deciding factor. There needs to be more than just making the recipient think about you and how great you are. You want them to tell other people how great you are, too. Provide fun or interesting news about your company. Make it shareable. If you are getting the email out because it’s 8:30 AM on Tuesday and you don’t want to miss that golden 10:00 hour, that’s not going to increase the engagement. Send it out of Thursday and have something to share.

Top 5 List of Suggested topics:
#5  Top 5 lists
#4  Upcoming events
#3  New blog post
#2  Company news
#1  Promotions

Making the Subject Line Pop:
Like a book cover, making your subject lines intriguing will make people open the email. One-third of email recipients decide whether or not to open an email purely on the subject line. Keep it short and to the point. Make sure that it doesn’t state the obvious. No need to tell people this is your newsletter, they are about to find it out. (Assuming they open it, that is.) Try to solve a problem for them in the subject “What’s mom getting this Mother’s Day?” or “Top Gifts for Mom.”

My Essential MailChimp Tips

Email marketing has evolved into an essential tool for all types of modern businesses. There are a number of tools and services out there, however, Classic City Consulting chooses the popular Atlanta-based MailChimp. Not only are we supporting a local service, but it also happens to kick-butt in function and ease-of use. The interface, variety of options, and the analytics tools create a powerful user friendly experience. Since I use MailChimp frequently (just about daily) here’s a list of my top 3 favorite (and essential to survival) tips for

Automation
“Welcome to our email list!” When a new customer wants to join your community a simple “Thanks!” is a great welcome. The key to email success is being well received by your customers. Send them too many emails, they unsubscribe; Too few, and they forget about you. With automatic emails, you can touch your customer when they are thinking about you. If they left an item in their shopping cart, and there is a great coupon that they can use on it, let them know! It is always appreciated, and, with automation, it’s easy! And lets be honest, who doesn’t like saving a few bucks on an item you were going to buy anyway?

RSS Sends
You have information to share and your customers want to hear it! Make sure that they don’t miss out just because they don’t visit your page weekly. With MailChimps’s RSS Campaigns, you can update your blog and make sure it gets seen. These are easy to set-up with client lists, content templates, and your only real problem is making sure you keep coming up with interesting things to share.

Segmented Email Sends
Not everyone needs every message. By segmenting your email list, you can get a higher open rate with people who are more likely to take action. Within MailChimp you can use criteria like demographics, email engagement, interest groups, and location to choose the right audience for your email.

The key with any email marketing is for it to feel like a natural engagement. You aren’t asking people to do something for you. Those who have signed up for your list are interested in your company and your brand. Keep them engaged and give them the information that they came to you for in the first place. Make sure email marketing is reinforcing your message and brand by helping the customer, and not ending up in the Spam folder.

My Leap From Status Quo

The status quo is the simplest thing to do.  Being content somewhere you’re not meant to be is not a challenge.  It’s like waiting for Publisher’s Clearing House to come knocking on the door rather than trying to find your niche to make your unique mark on the world.  Good things happen to those that live in the status quo.  Great things happen to those who try.

The Beginning

It freaked me out when I left my first job right after I finished college.  I was moving on to another position at another company, but it was a startup and I didn’t know how long it would last.  The people at my former gig pushed me to start pursuing consulting.  They all were running their own web consulting businesses on the side and were older than I was. I definitely felt like I wasn’t cut out for that lifestyle.  I was just out of college – there was no way I could start up a business and provide jobs for other people later down the road.  That path was for people who had “an idea for an app” and could go out there and pitch to the wealthy investors of Shark Tank. Definitely not me.

The Leap

But I took the leap.  Within three months of leaving that job, I went ahead and registered for my first LLC – Christopher LaFay Consulting (genius name, I know).  Even though I felt like I was biting off more than I could chew, I knew I was exactly where I was meant to be.  After some time past, one new project every couple of months turned into a new project each month (and so on).

The Reason

And it was because I surrounded myself with people who pushed me over boundaries of my comfort zone.  If I didn’t listen to my friends and family who told me to go after the prize of being an entrepreneur, I would have never registered for an LLC, never signed on a contractor to help get a project done, never gotten that first testimonial on Google, never had a “First Employee” and the list goes on.  Now I get to live the dream of an entrepreneur – I get to work with people I call my friends on a daily basis – and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

4 Tips to Optimize Social Media

Facebook. Twitter. Instagram. Snapchat. LinkedIn. Reddit. YouTube. Pinterest. Anyone with access to the internet in the last decade knows, some if not all, this list of the most popular social media sites to date. These platforms have completely revolutionized how people interact and communicate with each other. Social media has risen to be one the prominent avenue that we use to express our ideas, keep in touch with our friends and family – and further our business ventures. Many of these social media accounts allow companies to set up special “business accounts” that allow the social media site to essentially become a website platform to advertise to, inform, and communicate with its current and potential customers. However, without the proper approach, it is very easy for business to let their social media accounts become disadvantageous or even dormant. So, what are the best tips? What will allow your social media campaign to become the most successful and visible? The core idea is based on what social media platforms are built to do – keep you connected with the community around you. Staying active and involved with your friends, followers, subscribers, etc. is what will give your social media campaign the foundation necessary for success. Here are 4 ways to optimize your social media presence:

1. Share what you love.

Share what interests you, what you’re passionate about. It means sharing ideas, highlights, and successes of others that hit home for you. Expressing your interests is an opportunity that others can use to see inside your world and get to know the kinds of things you value. When they are given access to know about you or your business on a deeper level, it builds loyalty and connection with clientele.

2. Share what you know.

They key to sharing what you know is to make sure you are sharing things from your own expertise. Be sure that they are things that interest your friends and followers. This is your chance to show off what your business is all about and your expertise. Show your audience you deserve that Subscribe, Followed, and Like. This strategy reinforces within your social media following that you are reputable and dedicated. (A critical side note: when re-posting articles from external sources TRIPLE check the source and the information. With the rise of ‘fake new’ has become the scourge of the internet and your reputation of providing accurate information can be damaged by perpetuating the problem)

3. Don’t take it too seriously.

All of us have that one subscription or business that we follow that we can never seem to get them to stop sending us too much information or spam that we cannot seem keep up with it all. This is where we can all learn a valuable, if not painful lesson: to not take social media postings too seriously. By that, I mean, post when you can. Perfectionism will kill the purposefully light-hearted, fun culture of social media. Now, there is a very fine line between posting when you can and neglecting your social media accounts. Remember, we don’t want it to become dormant. It is imperative to be consistent with your postings, but be careful not to dog down your following with countless posts. There is a certain genius about posting enough information at the right times that leaves your audience looking forward to, or begging for, more.

4. Stay Positive.

We all know that one person who is a drag at parties, and we typically try to stay away from them. This is also true of social media culture – and followers can have the same response… avoidance and un-subscribing. Keep posts positive in tone and also when responding to comments left on your own posts. Often your responses can make it into timelines of your followers and subscribers… so a comment left for a particularly nasty user might display as an update to EVERYONE who follows you. If you wouldn’t want it heard by your customers, don’t say it at all (even if they might deserve a clever rebuttal.)

These are best and core examples of social media best practices. The goal is to keep you connected with the community around you: but is also can double as public relations – creating new and positive experiences with your clientele through mutual engagement. Staying active, passionate, and current are what make these platforms so exciting and rewarding for creators and followers alike.

Letting Your Team Excel

Stop letting your team have a mindset of “If I can just reach this level, I’ll be happy!” Everyone in corporate America is always trying to strive for the next rung on the ladder and to get that new title so they’ll have more responsibility. It’s been our mindset ever since Henry Ford introduced well-paying jobs on the assembly line to the first Model Ts.

I’ve never been terribly fond of the traditional employment/job title route. Yes, it is important for your team to know what their responsibilities on a day-to-day basis are because that’s how you keep your customers returning to do extended business with you. However, if those roles are limiting, then you may need to rethink them entirely.

For example, earlier this summer we brought on someone whose main goal was to be a project manager and run sales. As the first few weeks progressed we realized a lot of our internal processes were clogging up our gears and not letting us move smoothly as a company. Since organization and smooth processes are “in her blood,” she slowly started asking if she could spend more and more time on making Classic City Consulting a better oiled machine so that while we continue to grow, we are stepping on each others toes.

Fast forward to today: She is currently managing a few of our top clients, brought on a jack-of-all-trades person to work with her and organized our processes so anyone on our team can find out where their project stands at any given time. And this process only took four months!

By being flexible with her original set of responsibilities, she has allowed us to spend less time on the tedious parts of all of our jobs and more time making sure our clients are 100% satisfied with their end product.

No Website? No Excuse.

The world we live in today is as dynamic and ever-changing as it has ever been. The sheer number of technological advancements and inventions that we have seen since the turn of the century is truly amazing. One of the main drivers of such growth is worldwide access to the internet. The number of people who have access and use the internet has increased from 738 million in 2000 to over 3.2 billion in 2015. That is a more than a seven-fold increase, which brings the percentage of the world population taking advantage of the internet up to 43%. However, even though the exposure to the internet is worldwide, studies show that just 46% of small businesses still don’t have a website. That is unacceptable! When approached about this issue, most small business owners gave several excuses. I have compiled the top 6 excuses and rebuttals to each. It is time to bust the myths about having a website.

Excuse 1: I don’t need one. If you think you don’t need one, you cannot be more wrong. Having a website is one of the best, most thorough ways of reaching the masses. Studies show that 84% of American adults use the internet, and 96% of Americans aged 18-49 use the internet. That is just about everyone.

Excuse 2: My target industry doesn’t have an online presence. If this is the case, you need a website now more than ever! One of the best ways to be successful is to be the first to blaze the trail. Look at multi-billion dollar companies like Amazon that revolutionized online shopping. If you can be one of the first of your industry to have a web presence, the results may be extremely profitable.

Excuse 3: Building a website is too expensive. I don’t have the money. The internet is a treasure trove of resources. That is what makes it so popular. One of those resources is DIY websites that come at an extremely low cost, maybe even free. It might help to also look at a website as a long-term business investment. This small investment now will more than pay for itself in time.

Excuse 4: I don’t need the publicity. I have enough customers. Really? You can’t be serious? Since when do people want to limit themselves and put a cap on the number of customers they have and the revenue generated from them? If you are a small business, this is the wrong mindset to have. Your focus should be on growth and advancement. 23-time Olympic medalist and American swimming legend Michael Phelps put it this way, “You can’t put a limit on anything. The more you dream, the farther you get.”

Excuse 5: I would rather use social media as my outlet. Well, you are on the right track. Social media is a key part of making sure your business has a presence on the web. However, a social media page does not do the job of marketing and advertising the capacity and capability of your business. A website allows you to go in to detail about the full scope of the products or services you offer. Instead of using social media only, try linking your website and your social media accounts. Turn your social media followers into customers. Give the customers who visit your website a more personal, lively view into the company via social media.

Excuse 6: I don’t have time to maintain a website. Let’s think about some of the other things you spend your time doing throughout the day. Do you have time to grab some coffee? Do you have time to read the newspaper or watch the news? Do you have time to surf the internet in search for that new piece of clothing you must have? In that same amount of time that you do these things, you can also manage a website. Just like the DIY website companies that you can find on the web, there are also many companies that offer website management as a service. If you don’t have the time to do it yourself, you may want to consider reaching out to some of these companies.

By now, the picture should be pretty clear. There is no excuse for your small business not to be on the web. Having a website is potentially one of the most profitable investments that you will ever make for your business. After all the hard work you put in to your company, you owe it to yourself to give you and the business the opportunity to put your best foot forward and “wow” your customers with your website.

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