Operation: Simplify

As a visual person, I often turn to Pinterest when I’m conjuring up a plan for an upcoming vacation, a project at home or even business ideas. So when I first began Operation: Simplify, I did the same. “Simplifying my life”, and here’s what I got:


Oh the irony…. Pages and pages of boards in which people pinned ideas for de-cluttering, organizing their belongings, finances, decisions, etc.

There are articles like this one by Paul Stamatio that made me want to take on this task to simplify my online life. And even Gretchen Rubin begins The Happiness Project with eliminating unnecessary clutter in your house. But I think it was this article in the New York Times last spring, which really resonated with me and helped me appreciate that having less, can make you feel more. So after thinking about this for a while, I turned off my computer, grabbed my notebook and pencil and found a cozy spot outside to get creative the old fashioned way. Here’s what I came up with.


  1. Email: Clean up your inbox with Unroll.me. This service helps you regain control of your subscription emails by rolling them into a single daily digest.
  2. Bookmark Bar: I add all of my most visited sites to my bookmark bar using only the favicon as a guide. This saves me time and decision energy by not sifting through a long bookmark folder or typing each address into Google search.
  3. Online Privacy: Every six months I go through what I call a “personal reputation search” in which I will request personal data to be deleted from the public record databases. This is quite a task so consider paying $129 to have DeleteMe take care of it for you. Or follow their guide to opting-out of these sites yourself. I’ve also installed DoNotTrackMe Chrome app to block spammers and identity thieves from tracking my internet browsing.
  4. Blogs and Social: It took me a while to organize all of my favorite blogs but now I have the perfect formula. I use Feedly for RSS and Buffer to post to my social networks. The Awesome Plan is only $10/month and everything I could ask for in managing my social media accounts.
  5. FOCUS: As an entrepreneur, sometimes it is very tricky to manage your time wisely but one way to simplify your focus time is to eliminate distractions. If you use a Mac, consider downloading the application, SelfControl as a way to block sites that could tempt you into losing focus.


  1. Eliminate Clutter: Buy organizers for your junk drawers, get rid of old magazines and papers laying around. When you can say sayonara to useless clutter, you immediately begin to feel lighter.
  2. Beauty Products: On a quest to use non-toxic, all natural beauty products, I trashed all of my old makeup and began investing in beauty supplies that will keep me healthy and vibrant for years to come. This is something that will take a little time and money but it’ll be well worth it in the long run. Here are some great natural beauty tips from my friends at Considering You.  
  3. Clothing:  Although selling your clothes can take even more time than it’s worth, there are a few apps that could help you get the job done without much hassle. Try posting pictures of your clothes to Threadflip or PoshMark to allow people to shop your closet. If you want to choose a quicker route, donate.
  4. Cleaning: Something I did a couple years ago was hiring a cleaner. She charges $100 with tip to clean everything from the bathroom to my balcony and totally worth it.
  5. Life & Business Documents: Go paperless. Who needs folders of bills from your first car? Get real. Scan or trash all of them.


  1. Eliminate decisions: The reason President Obama only has blue and gray suits is so that he doesn’t have to suffer decision fatigue when deciding what to wear in the morning. Fewer options you have to make a decision on, the better.
  2. Schedules: I plan my workout schedule on Sundays and include physical activity every single day of the week. This holds me accountable and reminds me that fitness is part of my life just like working and eating. I also plan a basic dinner schedule for the week. Thus, eliminating decisions and costs associated with dining out. It’s not a strict schedule but rather a suggestion or guide so that I don’t have to make decisions. Another great part of my daily routine is to make sure juice replaces one of my meals. This cuts out bad eating habits and helps with decision fatigue.
  3. Amazon: I order everything on Amazon: dog food, notebooks, paper towels, everything. This eliminates a trip to the black hole that is Target.
  4. Groceries: The things that I can’t buy on Amazon, I get at my local market. I create one grocery shopping list and alter it each week to only the important items that I need.
  5. Transit: If you live a big city with great public transit, consider getting rid of your car all together. This could save boat loads of money that you would spend on insurance and car payments, as well as time that you could be doing work or reading on the bus rather than waiting in traffic during your commute. Columbus just got CoGo bike share which is a great alternative to driving.

Now that I have extra time…

Since Operation: Simplify, I’ve had a lot more time to myself not worrying about the things I need to de-clutter or organize. I now have time to focus on meaningful things.

  • Learning a new language with Duolingo
  • Treehouse lessons to keep coding in my life
  • Working smarter on NextChapter
  • Practicing Yoga & Meditation
  • Cooking healthy meals at home
  • Reading and listening to audio books

Did you take some time this summer to simplify? What was your experience like? I’d love to hear any tips or hacks in the comments.

The Importance of Customer Happiness

As a SaaS business owner, I understand that focusing on customer service and reducing churn can have dramatic effects on lifetime value of a customer and return on investment.

There are several companies that I admire for their dedication to customer experience and MailChimp is one of them. Here are a few ways that MailChimp has turned me into a chimp fan.

1.) Trust. This beautifully constructed piece of software that they allow me to use for free always works. I trust MailChimp to be everything that I need it to be and it’s always more.

2.) Personality. It’s the little details that make me smile. After I send my campaign, the chimp gives me a high five – how rad!

3.) Creativity. The company culture embraces creativity and it shines through their products. Check out the coloring book they made Love What You Do and this awesome 2012 Annual Review.

4.) Customer Happiness. After I tweeted about the chimp giving me a high five, MailChimp mailed me a high five surprise: an awesome shirt, a chimp sticker and felt stuffed animal. And just like that, they earned me as a lifelong customer.

10 Blogs For Entrepreneurs

In a given day, I read around 10 articles about business, entrepreneurship and how to survive the startup life. It took a while to find the perfect blogs to follow because I started to notice that most writers were more focused on quantity of posts over quality, filling them with fluff, thus the content was stale and repetitive.

After following (and unfollowing) many blogs, I’ve come up with a strong collection of inspiration and advice. The blogs in this list share valuable information that seems to always resonate with me. And I feel a great deal of satisfaction when I can later apply that helpful piece of knowledge to my business journey.

Here are my top 10 favorite blogs written for entrepreneurs.

1) KISSmetrics – I’ve been following KISSmetrics for a long time and have been pleasantly surprised with their ability to keep creating fresh content around online marketing, sales and analytics.

2) Buffer Blog – I am a Buffer fanatic for several reasons: their company culture and transparency is admirable and authentic, the product is beautiful and makes my life easier and the co-founders are genuine and helpful. So of course their blog would be a big hit. Don’t forget to check out the co-founder blogs as well: Joel & Leo

3) Onboardly – This beautiful blog reads like a conversation with friends but provides valuable tips for startups content, PR and much more.

4) Technori – An online community for starters, Technori is a curated collection of quality content.

5) Dan Martell – Founder of Clarity, an application for entrepreneurs to receive advice over the phone, Dan shares stories and advice of his own on his personal blog.

6) Startups & Burritos – Founder of GiveForward, Ethan Austin writes for those that are living in the startup world now.

7) Vinicious Vacanti – This blog is written by a first-time entrepreneur who is sharing the lessons that he’s learning in the process of building his first startup.

8) Dustin Curits – I’ve been a subscriber of Svbtle.com for a while now and while I like reading posts from contributors, I still find the most interesting articles to be those written by Founder, Dustin Curtis.

9) Zenhabits – An all-time favorite, Zenhabits gives tips and hints on how to live a life of zen, which all entrepreneurs should embrace.

10) Both Sides of the Table – Mark Suster is a 2X entrepreneur turned VC that gives seasoned advice through this blog.

Bonus (non-blog) From Scratch – This podcast is a gold mine for first time entrepreneurs. Jessica Harris hosts interviews with thought leaders from many different industries where they discuss pitfalls, successes, surprises and other candid stories.

Why Startup Founders Should Attend Business Conferences

Bootstrapping startup founders have a unique position: they are looking for all of the advice and mentorship they can get, while they still have a hard time investing their precious time and money into attending business conferences.

Most founders juggle the idea of going to a conference because they are unsure if the advice, tips, and relationships they form will justify the cost. Although most conferences provide essential benefits to the founder, they are still shaky about whether or not to pull the trigger on the tickets.

After being in this situation several times, I’ve come up with a list of what to look for while decision making and why startup founders should attend.

First, I ask myself a few questions:

  1. What is the number one thing I want to get from this conference? Is there a session or panel relating to it? If so, what value would that bring to my business leadership and growth?
  2. Who are the speakers? Have they been known to give useful advice or entertaining stories that would benefit my business development?

Then, I look into the logistics:

  1. Where is the conference? How much does it cost? How many days will I be unable to work on my startup?  Can I take my laptop and possibly knock out emails simultaneously?
  2. Will my follower base find the content useful? If so, that’s kind of like working, right?

Finally, I convince myself it’s the right decision:

  1. By listening to strong market leaders share helpful tips and information, I will become more knowledgeable about my business strategies and improve my startup’s overall performance.
  2. After hearing advice from several professionals, I can improve my marketing and sales approach, social media campaigns and brand identity, thus creating more signups and increasing revenue.


Ohio Growth Summit is right around the corner and for those of you who are not familiar with the conference, it is a one-day event for business owners and entrepreneurs in Ohio to receive advice, hear stories and learn how to grow and manage their businesses.

For 20% off tickets to the conference, use the promo code: HolsingerOGS

Some of the speakers this year include:

In its ninth year, the Ohio Growth Summit is a one of a kind event designed to celebrate the innovative spirit of today’s entrepreneur. Founded and conducted by the Ohio Small Business Development Center at Columbus State, the Ohio Growth Summit brings together entrepreneurs and accomplished business owners who provide insight, strategy and resources you can use to grow your business.

Follow the conference on twitter at @OHGrowthSummit or #OGS13 

If you don’t feel like you’re out of control…

Building a startup is exciting and amazing but we all know too well, the feeling of complete chaos and loss of control. Some days I wake up and feel like my world is flipped upside down. I look at the calendar and can’t even believe that we are already halfway into the year. I think I notice the time more now that I no longer get a direct deposit from an employer. Sometimes I wonder, ‘how many more wake-ups until I have to give up?’ Unfortunately, that’s the cold, hard, truth when it comes to bootstrapping a startup.

The other reality I’ve faced recently is something every entrepreneur talks about: the extreme highs and lows of being a startup founder. I never quite understood it until these past couple months. When I receive an email about a new signup, it’s all confetti and balloons in my mind until the following day when a Google alert comes through about a competitor announcing a new feature and all I can do is sit on my bedroom floor researching the news and press releases on my iPhone. A week later, I get featured in a popular publication and have thousands of views on the website in one day, and minutes after that, an invoice from my attorney reminds me that I’ve spent more in legal fees than I’ve made all year.

It’s a risk… a challenge… and it takes a certain kind of appreciation to keep moving at full speed even when it’s foggy and you can’t tell from here whether the road has a sharp curve, a giant hill or a dead end.


Oddly enough, uncertainty has become rather comforting.