Monday, July 14th, 2014 .

shelf

Thereu2019s a powerful and remarkable management tool available to you right now. Itu2019s in your pocket, just sitting there getting covered with lint and scratched up by your house keys.

Itu2019s your smartphone.

And whatu2019s even better, you can run your business without even being in the office.

How do I know?  We do it at Firespotter Labs.  Our company has launched two major products (NoshList, a restaurant seating app, and UberConference, a conference calling app) and are about to launch another product (more on that later). And most days, we rarely have a full complement of engineers, designers, and management in the office.  In fact, two days a week everyone works remotely.

There is a distinctly practical reason for this: not being in the office prevents meetings. There is nothing intrinsically evil with meetings. Sometimes, we need to get physically get together to go over where we are on projects, build group understanding and consensus on how to move forward, and to encourage personal camaraderie and a sense of teamwork.

But meetings also take up time.  Time that is diverted from working on our products.  We have found that a sometimes remote workforce that can quickly assemble in our offices is the most effective way for us to manage our company.

Here are the four key tools accessible on your smartphone that can help you  manage a staff while being mobile:

1. Use cloud-based apps for documents.  We use Google Docs for documents and spreadsheets and Dropbox and Box for sharing documents. You can fully control who has access to these documents, and who has edit privileges.  Google Docs allows us to share documents immediately without email.

2. Use a project management app.  We use Asana.  Tasks are posted, deadlines assigned, and the person responsible is listed.  Everyone knows can see what everyone else is working on and when it is due.

3. Use a chat or messaging app.  We use Gchat.  Even in the office — which is an open office with employees sitting at stations on long tables — we use Gchat to communicate with each other individually with requests, questions, etc.

4. Use a conference call app.  For obvious reasons, we use our own product, UberConference.  We conference with each other many times every day– linking each other on calls, many times with employees spread all over the country — to touch base on particular issues or to hold meetings.  It is our intimacy with the needs of businesses in conference calling applications that drives our design of this product.

All of these tools are accessible from your smartphone. You can be anywhere and with your smartphone you can use these tools to effectively manage your staff and move your business forward. Especially with remote teams in different cities, it’s the future of work.

Friday, July 11th, 2014 .

lebron-topper

So LeBron is going home to Cleveland. Or should he have said heu2019s going home to the 216, (which is the area code for Cleveland).

Itu2019s about time that we begin to acknowledge that area codes have become as important a part of our identity as what NFL teamu2019s bumper sticker we have on our second beater car. (I mean, come on, youu2019re not putting a bumper sticker on the nice car you driving to your cousinu2019s wedding in.)

In fact, with cell phones now, people hold onto their phone numbers long after they have left the place.  My oldest daughter, who went to college and worked in the San Francisco area for ten years, moved to Brooklyn four and a half years ago.  Her cell number still starts with 415, the coveted area code for San Francisco.

Why not give it up? Why not just get a New York area code?  Well, because, I believe, the area code has become a part of our identity in this era. Oh, someone says to her in New York City after she gives them her number, what area code is that?  San Francisco, she says. Theyu2019ll smile. So youu2019re from San Francisco? Yup, she says and smiles back.  Suddenly you know a lot more about that person than a hundred questions on a dating site will ever reveal.  It means my home is elsewhere.  This is where I live now, but Iu2019m really from the 415.  Itu2019s who I am.

So maybe LeBron going home to Cleveland also is about reclaiming the 216 as the authentic area code of his soul.

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014 .

We created UberConference to make your day more enjoyable and productive. When we launched, we joined an ecosystem of other apps that had the same mission and since then we have seen other, new apps join us. We recently decided to make a series on this blog where we recommend some of our other favorite apps in Googleu2019s Chrome Web Store. We hope that you enjoy and find it useful!

Any.DO-Logo-+-NameAny.do: If you use dozens of post-its or a sheet of paper or a word document to keep track of your to-do list, then Any.do is going to be a much needed breath of fresh air. The app, which has a sparse and intuitive interface, is available on iOS, Android and in the Chrome Web Store, so you can keep track of your to-dos wherever you are and they remain synced. You might also enjoy some of its other features:

  1. Drag & drop to plan your agenda
  2. Add reminders, so you never forget a thing
  3. Attach notes, or use them as sub-tasks
  4. Embedded Gmail features let you quickly turn emails into actions

asana

Asana: Asanau2019s tagline is u201cMove out of email and into Asana.u201d While our team hasnu2019t completely forsaken email, Asana has cut back heavily on the back and forth and has made it much easier to track where individual products stand. One of the greatest accomplishments of Asana is how much it cuts back on meetings and needless paperwork tracking progress of projects, freeing up more time for actual work! There is a premium plan for larger teams, but the service is free if your team has less than 15 members.

Evernote_Logo

Evernote: Evernote promises to help you remember everything. It does. With Evernote, all of your notes, web clips, files and images are made available on every device and computer you use. You can use Evernote to keep yourself on track or to collaborate with your team by sharing files, notes and links.

 

Let us know what you think!

Monday, June 30th, 2014 .

IMG_5556

u201cI will only sell coffee less than 48 hours out of the roaster to my customers, so they may enjoy coffee at its peak of flavor. I will only use the finest, most delicious, and responsibly sourced beans.u201d -James Freeman, Blue Bottle CEO

Blue Bottle has grown into a network of cafes, wholesale partners, an espresso cart, and some vintage German coffee roasters. With more than 300 employees and locations in The Bay Area, Los Angeles, New York City and now, Tokyo, the growing business needed a seamless way to stay connected.

Blue Bottleu2019s CFO, David Bowman discovered UberConference when he dialed into his first call without a PIN number–heu2019s been a loyal user ever since. Bowman not only handles the companyu2019s finances, but also has some responsibility for IT (what software the com- pany invests in and services it) as well as managing the companyu2019s eCommerce site.

UberConference Makes Acquisitions Easier

UberConference made things especially easy for the Blue Bottle team during the acquisitions of both Tonx and Handsome Coffee in Los Angeles. Bowman was constantly on the phone with lawyers on the other side going back and forth with paperwork. He found these calls were effective and specific features of UberConference had a strong advantage over his previous service, freeconferencecall.com. There were two features of UberConference that Bowman clearly preferred up front.

First, was that UberConference gave a much more professional impression. u201cTactically, I hated hearing, u2018Thank you for calling freeconferencecall.com,u2019u201d he said. u201cSecondly, I like the ease of dialing in with UberConferenceu2013no long PIN code to remember. The annoyance of dialing in was eliminated, and thatu2019s actually a huge deal for us.u201d

UberConference Helps Connect a Spread Out Team

With a geographically spread out staff, much of Davidu2019s week involves checking in over conference calls. Each major Blue Bottle department has an UberConference line, and UberConference provides a quick way for everyone to dial into meetings. Keeping connected from The Bay Area to Tokyo can be a challenge, but UberConference has elim- inated that communication barrier.

u201cI love using UberConference with Google Hangoutsu2013the controls in the sidebar are useful when monitoring large calls. There have been a couple of times where our founder has led a call to announce something, and in that case there are 50-80 people joining. When that happens, Iu2019m able to look over everyone and mute those who need to be muted to keep the call running smoothly.u201d

Other factors Bowman cited were UberConferenceu2019s reasonable pricing, the integrations with Google Apps, and the thoughtfulness behind its user experience. u201cItu2019s a really solid product,u201d he concluded.

Read more about Blue Bottle Coffee and our other customer profiles, here.

Monday, June 23rd, 2014 .

Last Thursday, members of the UberConference team traveled to New York for Pepcomu2019s annual summer showcase, Digital Experience. At the event, the team demoed UberConference to the more than 350 journalists and analysts in attendance.

A large number of the attendees noted that they already use UberConference (especially using the call recording feature for interviews).

Digital Experience also gave the opportunity to introduce UberConference to people who hadnu2019t used the service before. Future users were eager to try out the mobile app (on Android and iOS) and also to use screensharing.

Thanks to Pepcom for welcoming us and to all of the attendees for stopping by our booth.

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