The Elements Ironstone Blog

Current news and trending topics for sales and financial industry professionals

Leave a comment

Great Apps to Keep You and Your Clients Organized and Stress-Free in 2013


“If you’re appropriately engaged with your life, you don’t need more time.

If you’re not, more time won’t help.” –David Allen

 (Named as one of the “Top 100 Thought Leaders” by Leadership Magazine)

 It’s almost year end with reports due, performance reviews, client surveys and organization seems to disappear with chaos in its place.

Use some of the apps listed below to provide structure, create order out of chaos and reduce daily stress in your office and personal life. Share these tips with your team, your clients, friends and family. They will thank you for it!

My overall favorite organizational app is Get it Done. David Allen, productivity consultant, introduced the Getting Things Done (GTD) method in his 2002 book Getting Things Done: the Art of Stress-Free Productivity. The Get it Done app focuses on the creation of a workflow process, tracking, storing and monitoring of tasks. This ranks as my favorite app but comes at a small price, $39/year. Considering the time I save and the relief of not worrying about things falling through the cracks, it is well worth the money. Get It Done is a task manager for your web browser and your smart phone. Tasks are always in sync.

 Here are some other favorites used by advisors – don’t forget to share with

 your clients, your team and your family!



For calendars, I use iCal with iCloud. It works great because it will sync to all of my devices and I can share calendars with other iCloud users. Create an office calendar the entire team can access. If someone adds or edits the calendar, it will sync to all devices. Ical also allows notification of upcoming events either on screen, by e-mail or SMS.

Google Calendar

For Google lovers, this calendar allows you the ability to track business and personal events in one place. The added bonus – you can share calendars with family or co-workers and access calendars from your mobile device with its built-in calendar or mobile browser. You can also set up reminders via email or have text messages sent right to your mobile phone. Google Apps for Business is available for $50/user/per year.

To-Do Lists


I like the free Cozi app for iphone, ipad, and Android. It keeps everyone on the same page by allowing you to add recurring activities, appointments and events to a calendar that can be used by your family or the team at your office. You can also send messages to your spouse, kids or co-workers and make and share shopping lists. Cozi has a calendar that will support automatic syncs with Microsoft Outlook. Mac users will need to have Mobile Me to sync iCal and Cozi. I love the calendar feature which offers monthly and three-day views.


Workflowy is a free organizational tool organizing office and personal to-dos. You also have the ability to collaborate on team projects, take notes, write research papers or keep a journal. Workflowy is available for all of your mobile devices.

Remember The Milk

This is a simple (and free) “to-do” list and available on your iphone. You can add, manage and set due dates for your tasks as well as incorporate the map feature to locate where your tasks will take place.(ex: gas station)


This is a great app for a beginner “to-doer” or for someone who just likes to keep things simple. This free web app comes with pre-set lists that are easy to click on and fill out. Manage your list online via the app and automatically sync between your desktop and mobile devices. Astrid will also automatically sync with Google Tasks and calendars such as iCal. You can also share or assign tasks.


reQall is one of the favorites among advisors and myself. This app makes a to-do list easy by telling your smartphone what you want to remember.  I love this!! You can also e-mail, text, IM or call reQall with information. Each morning you will have a summary alerting you of what lies ahead in the day. It gets even better, if you let reQall know where you need to pick something up, it will remind you when you drive by! reQall also offers integration with your calendar via iCal and aggregates important data from various web services you are already using. There is a free version and a pro version available for purchase.  Check this one out, there’s so much more!

Brainstorming Tools

Advisors like this free web-based collaborative mind mapping app for collaborating and project management. Teams can brainstorm, discuss ideas (timelines, designs, marketing, etc) type them in the app and MindMeister will turn the idea into a visual map. Teams can share and start thinking sessions easily by inviting users via email or sending a unique and secure direct link. Color-coded effects will highlight changes by other users and the integrated live chat will let you exchange thoughts with peers directly. MindMeister is also available for mobile devices  iphone, ipad and Android.

The Brain

Another free popular app for team collaboration is The Brain. With this app, write notes, save files, web pages, images and emails for instant access on your desktop, web browser or mobile device. It is easy to find a file in seconds and gives you the big picture by bringing your ideas and information together. The Brain also uses visualization to discover information that may normally be overlooked. Keep your data local and have a backup online for remote access and sharing with other team members.

Capture Tools

Evernote/Evernote Business

Evernote seems to be the most popular choice of the advisors we researched. Evernote is a free app that works with nearly every computer, phone and mobile device. It allows you to keep track of nearly everything; from what you find interesting, research for your next vacation and store all of your favorite websites. Search capabilities are easy through your library or groups of items related to a particular topic. You can even take pictures of your written to-do list and locate it through search and tags. Evernote will keep you from ever purchasing a notebook again…with Evernote, you have a notebook for everything you need!

While I’ve utilized Evernote for personal use, Evernote Business is now available. The business version is $10 per user, per month. Users of Evernote Business can discover and share ideas and research within a team to create an effortlessly productive workplace.

Streamline Your News

Zite and Pulse

These free apps help you find news feeds, blogs, newspaper articles and sites that interest you. Who has time to scroll through facebook, twitter and multiple web sites throughout the day? With these apps the news is delivered to you.


Documents To Go

Financial advisors find this app handy to edit word, excel or other presentation documents while on the road. This a free app with a premium version available which will sync files stored in Dropbox or other cloud-based document storage services. To edit documents, you will need to purchase Docs To Go Full Version for around $30.00.



This application is a free service that lets you store your photos, documents and videos anywhere and share them easily. If you have files living all over the place – your office computer, home and your laptop, download Dropbox now to sync all of these files! With Dropbox you will avoid having to ever email yourself or team member another document!  The application makes it easy for advisors to view files on a smartphone, iPad, PC or Mac. Dropbox allows you to share documents with someone who does not use Dropbox via a link. I love the idea of never having to send another email with a document attached! The application is password protected and free with 2GB of storage. You can upgrade (with a fee) to 100GB of storage for heavy users.

Conference/Video Calls 

Need to meet with a long-distance client, attend a meeting while out of the office or bring virtual employees together? Free Conference Call is exactly what you need. Free conference calls are simple and easy to use, requiring only a name and an e-mail address to open an account. Once you enter your name and e-mail address, you will be instantaneously provided with a dial-in number and access code for immediate phone conferencing. Your teleconferencing line is available to you 24/7 and there is no need to schedule or make reservations.

Free Conference Call is just like its name….free! Screen sharing for online meetings is available for $19.95 a month, up to 50 participants with instant online meetings.


Simple Skype! I use this religiously almost every week. With two users you can access screen sharing. It’s hard to beat a free communications network.   Enough said.

Fuze Box

This one comes with a price at $69 a month with a discount if you purchase an annual subscription. This solution will allow you to meet with long-distance clients and employees plus add presentations, word or PDF documents, movies and images. It is free for ipad and Android devices.

Money Management


If you’re looking for a true mobile wallet, Pageonce securely stores all your cards, reminds you when to pay bills and supports bill payments for $0.30 per transaction. If money management stresses you out, Pageonce makes it much easier.

Nest Egg Estimator

Nest Egg Estimator has been rated as one of the Top-10 Financial Planning must have apps! This app will project finances and allows you to try different scenarios for financial planning, retirement planning and more.


Take control of your time and your life. The skills you apply will ensure you are productive and accomplish your goals. The applications will aide you in prioritizing and organizing daily demands. Choose the applications that work best for you and fit your lifestyle and your firm.

A place for everything and everything in its place.

Let us know what apps you use in your firm!

Which ones work the best and which ones aren’t all that?

Ironstone’s Vision is to forge and guide the personal and professional lives of entrepreneurs and business professionals alike to realize their full potential. Coaching and consulting allows us the opportunity to form an environment where success happens and goals are reached.

Read more about our coaching and consulting program here >>

Start your transformation with Ironstone as your Partner for Performance

Contact Ironstone with your questions & let’s get started! 

Have a question or comment for Ironstone? Contact us!>>

• Email us at
• Call our office at 800-917-8020
• Connect with us:

1 Comment

The “I’m too busy” copout! Create TIME for results

Beware the barrenness of a busy life style

Socrates 470BC-399BC Greek Athenian Philosopher

For most of us, the holidays are the busiest time of the year. Make simple changes starting today to truly transform your work and personal life. We all wish for more time in the day. There is no better time than NOW to incorporate these tips to increase productivity, reduce stress and gain time!

How many times have we read articles on time management or referred to checklists only to put them in the “I’ll get to that later” pile?  STOP! Actually incorporate these tips into your life and reap the benefits of effective time management.

  1. Decide what you really want– Write your goals down on paper. Make certain your goals are clear, specific, time sensitive and measurable.
  2. Use a priority 5 list– Every day, before you leave the office or go to bed, write down the 5 most important tasks you want to accomplish the following day. Having your priorities in order reduces stress and will provide direction, organization and more time.
  3. Stop Multi-tasking– I have repeated this one over and over. Multi-tasking is gone. It is unproductive, results in errors and is a huge time waster. Single-tasking will increase your productivity and quality of work.
  4. Focus– Place relentless focus on the task in front of you. Avoid interruptions, apply “thought-stopping” and FINISH the project you have in front of you. (More information on thought-stopping)
  5. Turn off the noise– By turning off the noise you implement a “do not disturb” philosophy. Set your phone to silent, turn email notifications off (you can really do this so the pop-ups don’t show), turn off the music or tv in your office. Remove yourself from any potential distraction.
  6. Design your office to inspire Create a relaxing environment. Design your office to inspire you by adding comfort. I like to adorn my office with family pictures, candles and soft lamp lighting. Use items that work for you! You will increase focus, engagement, motivation and production. However, you may have to kick people out of your comfy cradle!
  7. Create an SOP for your day– This really works! Take time to record everything you do in your day and assess time values. Refer to your SOP (standard operating procedures) daily and track your time on each item. This will give you a clear view of where your time is spent and how you can improve your time management. The trick is to be totally honest with yourself. If you spend time on emails, phone calls and idle chit-chat, implement ways to reduce wasted time by creating time-blocks.

I have incorporated these tips into my day and found a drastic change in increased productivity, less stress and additional time.  This time, instead of putting this article in your “I’ll get to this later pile”, write down the tips and keep them in a spot where you can look at them daily. Go a step further by incorporating all or some of the tips into your business and personal life. By doing so, you will achieve the same results I have. Who doesn’t what more time, less stress and increased productivity?

Ironstone’s Vision is to forge and guide the personal and professional lives of entrepreneurs and business professionals alike to realize their full potential. Coaching and consulting allows us the opportunity to form an environment where success happens and goals are reached.

Read more about our coaching and consulting program here >>

Start your transformation with Ironstone as your Partner for Performance

Contact Ironstone & let’s get started! 

Have a question or comment for Ironstone? Contact us!>>

More on Time Management:

Learn Common Mistakes You & Your Team May Be Making In Time Management

Put Time On Your Side, Not On Your Back


• Email us at
• Call our office at 800-917-8020
• Connect with us:

Leave a comment

Weed The Whiners-Create A Winning Culture

Forming a positive culture at your firm is harder to do than you think. It’s one of those intangible objects that burrows into every aspect of our being. Learning how to form and instill a healthy, positive culture is an important but often neglected process.

Workplace culture is a concept that studies the beliefs, attitudes, and thought processes of employees as well as the ideologies and principles of your firm.
In our blog “What Culture Are You Cultivating At Your Firm-Healthy or Toxic?” we reviewed characteristics of a healthy culture. If you haven’t taken the time to step back and look at your workplace culture, now is the time.

Firms that take advantage of opportunities to discuss culture reap the benefits of increased productivity, growth, and efficiency. Start by knowing how to effectively create a healthy culture in your firm by establishing a process that includes the following components:

Hire For Passion: Make sure that you have your hiring checklist in the proper order. Many firms are hiring for credentials and experience but overlook passion. Dig beneath the surface of skill set and qualification to uncover your candidate’s true passions. When potential new hires are passionate about their career, they are more creative.

Open Communication & Discussion: On a regular basis, review with employees what is working and what isn’t. As a leader in your firm, make certain that you interact with your team frequently. Allow employees to discuss issues among themselves to reach better conclusions. Remember that the art of communication is a two-way street. Position your communication focus on talking as much as listening, which will lead to a dynamic workplace culture that will grow.

Weed The Whiners: Nothing can be more destructive than a whiner in the firm. Whiners will typically wind through the firm secretly complaining, instilling doubt, and poison passion in other team members. You must identify these people and replace them. Their passion is not equivalent to that of the organization and they simply aren’t a good fit.

You can create a legacy that will include a healthy culture. Invest and surround yourself with positive, passionate people and remain loyal to them. In doing so, you will earn loyalty from your team members that will provide you with long-term support and commitment. Making certain that your workplace culture is healthy will define the ambience of your firm.

Ironstone can assist you in developing the strategies and tactical questions to gain meaningful insights that will strengthen the culture in your firm. By seizing control over the factors above, you will improve the overall performance of your team and reduce workplace stress.

Contact us for assistance in starting and improving your Workplace Culture. We want to hear from you! Share your best ideas here!

Follow us as we explore each of Ironstone’s Fundamental 4™!
Strategic Planning
• Business Development
• Operational Effectiveness
• The Human Element

You won’t want to miss our next in the series: Strategic Planning-Compensation
Email us at
• Call our office at 800-917-8020
• Follow us on twitter @!/AndreaSchlapia
• Join us on Facebook!
• Connect with us on LinkedIn @

Leave a comment

Reducing Operational Costs Without Sacrificing Client Service

Living in today’s unpredictable business environment, one of the most frequently asked questions we receive is, “How can we cut our operating costs?” 

Streamlining business operations, while containing overhead costs, is the real secret to profitable growth.  Without coming to grips with reality, your firm will face the risk of severe loss.

Steps that you can take, starting today, to ameliorate issues and make your office more effective and efficient:

  • Establish a Budget –  Before you decide where you can afford to cut costs you must have control over your costs. A budget helps you both analyze expenses and income, as well as allows you to forecast financial variances.
  • Develop and implement systems for everything you do in your firm Implementing workflow processes increase efficiency which will in turn have a positive impact on your bottom line. Many firms tend to overlook their operational systems and workflows especially during a good economy.  Review your firm’s operational systems regularly recognize the static processes because “that is the way it’s always been done”, and be flexible to change.  This is imperative to reducing your operational costs and remaining viable amid the rising costs of operation.
  • Align the responsibilities of your staff members to their specific needs Review workflow for areas that need improvement or display a lack of clarity.  Making revisions in a workflow and ensuring that there are no duplicate efforts or wasted energy will prevent you from superfluous costs.  Besides cost savings, you benefit from significant increases in productivity.
  • Invest in more training –  It may sound ironic to invest more money while trying to reduce costs,  however, investing more in your employees shows them that they are valued.  There is an endless source of training models available online, which in-turn will also reduce your travel expenses.   Employees who feel valued, are more engaged and more productive at work.
  •  Build Strategic Alliances – In our blog “Strategic Alliances Build A Strong Foundation For Long Term Success”   we talked about how building strategic alliances positions your firm to stand apart from the competition.  Share expenses with your alliances by implementing joint advertising/media promotions, shared mailing lists and shared educational workshop expenses.  You will reduce your costs and improve your bottom line by meeting client needs.
  • Outsource  Review the organizational structure of your firm.   Pinpoint which roles could be outsourced, such as payroll or mailings.  Also consider contract employees.  Hire contract employees for special projects or ongoing tasks.  Outsourcing and utilizing contract employees will give you more time to focus on building your business.
  •  Reduce office expenses –  Consider converting to an electronic paperless system when possible and order supplies in bulk.  Shop around for lower prices and negotiate a better price if you agree to purchase all of your supplies from one vendor.  Reduce utility bills as much as possible, but not at the detriment of team effectiveness.

Reducing your operating costs without sacrificing the team’s operational effectiveness, the quality of service, and the value that you provide to your clients, will go a long way towards improving your bottom line.

Keep these principles in mind and implement them.  You’ll find that your reduced operating costs will lead you down the path to substantial growth before you realize it.

Ironstone can assist you in developing the strategies needed to reduce your operating costs while strengthening your relationships with existing and potential clients.  By being held accountable and responsible for the cost cutting steps above, you will gain control of your expenses and move towards a better bottom line.

Follow us as we explore each of Ironstone’s Fundamental 4™!

  • Strategic Planning
  • Business Development
  • Operational Effectiveness
  • The Human Element

You won’t want to miss our next in the series:  The Human Element-The Performance Evaluation

Leave a comment

Do You & Your Staff Hold The Key To Organizational Skills?

Do You & Your Staff Hold The Key To Organizational Skills?

It seems so simple that organizational skills and their importance often get overlooked as a necessary quality of good leadership.

Effective management of organizational details lie in the art of being able to see how everything works together to complete a project.  Hone these skills to create a razor sharp team.

“For entrepreneurs, ignorance is not bliss. It’s fatal. It’s costly. And it’s for losers. You either get organized, or get crushed.” – Donald J. Trump

Increasing productivity and remaining relatively stress free requires three BASIC organization skills

  • Prioritize – Make a list of everything that needs to be done on a daily basis.  Once you have created your list, put them in order of importance.  Finally, estimate how much time it will take you to complete each item.  The difficulty sets in when assessing a “time-value” to each item, as it is human nature to underestimate the time it takes us to complete a task or project.
  • Manage Your Time – While you are assessing “time-values” to your tasks and projects, identify other things that are wasting your time.  What can you do to change or eliminate time wasters?   Some things may be out of your control, like interruptions from a co-worker or boss, however much of it is in your control if you are able to distinguish the urgent versus the important.
  • Eliminate Clutter – It takes time to eliminate clutter, but will save you time in the end.  Eliminating clutter will improve your productivity by clearing your mind and surroundings, which in turn will lower stress levels.  By keeping your things sorted you will be able to find what you are looking for quickly and easily.

The purpose of this component in Ironstone’s Fundamental 4™ (The Human Element), is the development of individual and team efficiency and effectiveness for the benefit of the business.  The evolution of this fundamental revolves around organizational skills, management of teams, refined roles and responsibilities, and accountability for performance.  This opens the lines of communication throughout a team to create a positive culture.  “Everyone is on the same page” is very simple to understand but in reality, there are many directions and agendas driven by egos, greed, and lack of leadership.

Use our Personal Management Matrix to organize & Execute around your priorities.


We want to hear from you!  What tools do you use at your firm to improve time management?

Follow us as we explore each of Ironstone’s Fundamental 4™!

  • Strategic Planning
  • Business Development
  • Operational Effectiveness
  • The Human Element

You won’t want to miss our next in the series:  Strategic Planning-Compensation



Learn Common Mistakes You & Your Team May Be Making In Time Management

Learn Common Mistakes You & Your Team May Be Making In Time Management

You are a fantastic multi-tasker!   What used to be a benefit is now in the top 10 of common time management mistakes!

We listed it in our New Years Resolutions NOT to make- ”Do Not promise to multi-task”.  To view our newsletter:

Have you hired a new employee because they are great multi-tasker? Are you praising your office manager who is always busy doing five projects at once?  The results of multitasking are documents and projects full of errors.  Survey’s are showing that there is a sixty to eighty percent reduction in productivity levels and a lack of concentration when employees try to multi-task.

What other areas are eating away at your day without you even realizing it?  Like many others, you have probably considered these to be assets to productivity, but in reality they are draining your employee and wasting time.  Do you value the employee who:

  • Has time to take on every project
  • Thrives on busy
  • “Never-takes-breaks”
  • Can never say “no”
  • Micro-manages
  • Gets a rush when they are busy or when the team is on overload

All of the above listed so-called qualities will lead to lower performance levels, lower team morale and stress in the firm.  They are merely misleading you to believe that effective people are busy.  The reality is that this busy addiction rarely means that you are effective and again leading to more stress in your firm.

Consider each of these so called assets in your employee a waste of time!  Train yourself, your managers, and your team to re-evaluate their time management systems.  Have everyone in the firm take a personal time-management quiz, and learn to slow down, focus, and provide quality instead of quantity.

 Other areas that you will want to evaluate:

·         How You Manage Distraction – employees can lose up to 2 hours a day from distractions

·         Procrastination – if a task seems too big, dedicate a small time each day towards the task and complete the task over time.

·         Scheduling Tasks – schedule low-energy work (like checking your email, returning calls, etc.) to the time of day when your energy level is at its’ lowest

·         Goal Setting

·         To-Do Lists

Time management really boils down to knowing how you can schedule your time effectively.  Know what your daily priorities are and know your goals.  By being aware of priorities and goals you will be able to create a schedule that is beneficial for you and your firm.  The next quality to teach your current employees or to look for in a new hire is……time management skills.


Ironstone has several aides available for your firm in developing healthy, productive time management skills.  Download our Time Management Survey Here!   TimeManagement


We want to hear from you!  What strategies are you using to improve your time-management skills?


Follow us as we explore each of Ironstone’s Fundamental 4™!

  • Strategic Planning
  • Business Development
  • Operational Effectiveness
  • The Human Element


You won’t want to miss our next in the series:  The Human Element-Culture In Your Workplace: What Culture Are You Cultivating At Your Firm?  Healthy or Toxic?