Archive for the ‘Viewpoint’ Category
Tuesday, May 21st, 2013
Eight out of ten (79%) Americans believe “the American Dream” is alive, and three quarters (73%) are optimistic, saying they generally see the world as “Glass Half Full” vs. 27% who see it as “Glass Half Empty.” These are the latest findings from Northwestern Mutual’s 2013 Planning & Progress Study.
However, digging into these findings reveals some deep-seated skepticism.
The study showed:
- Only 9% say the American Dream is as good as – if not better than – it was a generation ago;
- 36% say it is alive but people’s priorities and ambitions are different, and that it is defined more by happiness, health and balance in life;
- 34% say it is alive, but opportunities are not as good as they were a generation ago; and
- 21% say it no longer exists.
Looking ahead, attainability of the American Dream is seen, for the most part, as diminishing, with only 7 in 10 believing that the American Dream will be alive for their children and grandchildren.
Among Americans 25 and older:
- 36% say it will be alive, but the opportunities won’t be as good;
- 13% say it will be the same this generation to the next;
- 22% say it will be alive, and the opportunities will be just as good – if not better – than they are now.
“I think we’re seeing two distinctly American attributes in these numbers – optimism in the face of a challenge, and pragmatism about the facts on the ground,” said Greg Oberland , Northwestern Mutual executive vice president.
“The reality for most of us is that opportunity exists, but it is not by any means automatic. It takes more than just optimism or pragmatism to achieve financial security. It takes planning.”
Does Optimism Come With Age?
You might assume that it is the young who are our most idealistic, and that pessimism sets in with age. Not so, according to the study. The most optimistic (seeing the glass half full) Americans are those aged 67 and older (Matures), among which 79% are optimists. Meanwhile, [among] the least optimistic Americans are those aged 25-32 (Gen Y), where one in three (33%) is a pessimist.
While those age 67 and older (Matures) are more optimistic they are also more likely to be skeptical about the American Dream. One-third of Matures believe the American Dream no longer exists (31%), and four in ten believe the American Dream will no longer exist for their children or grandchildren (37%).
In earlier findings from the study, Gen Y stood out for its financial planning, with 24% considering themselves highly disciplined, compared to 16% for Gen X, 14% for Baby Boomers, and 15% for Matures.
About the Research
This is the latest set of findings released from Northwestern Mutual’s 2013 Planning & Progress Study, which explores the state of financial planning in America today, and provides unique insights into people’s current attitudes and behaviors toward money, goal-setting and priorities.
Monday, May 20th, 2013
Jon Rushman, a former managing director at Black Rock, believes that in the long term cyber currencies like Bitcoin could see the end of central banks and foreign exchange and so it is understandable Governments are nervous about it.
The new virtual currency has become progressively more popular since the financial crash and its proponents say it will revolutionise banking.
Its main exchange, Mt Gox, was raided by the US Department of Homeland Security, who usually deal with terrorist threats, last week.
We’ve run several stories about bitcoin and one of its largest US processors at the TechJournal. You can find links to them at the bottom of this article.
Professor Rushman of the UK’s Warwick School of Business, said: “You can understand why Governments are nervous about Bitcoin.
A real place in the future
“It is fascinating. I think Bitcoin or something like it has a real place in the future. Imagine a world where foreign exchange doesn’t exist, monetary policy doesn’t exist, and there is no inflation. Society would be free to use all the talent currently directed to these issues elsewhere. Meanwhile, governments could still raise taxes and borrow but without uncertainty as to the unit of account.
“That seems far-fetched at the moment, but in an ideal world it could happen. Bitcoin is just another medium of exchange. In the same way that the Euro crosses national boundaries and greatly simplifies real trade in continental Europe, cyber currencies like Bitcoin can do the same globally, without the need for a central bank.
“Profits and losses in foreign exchange are made ultimately because of uncertainty around the value of different accounting units. They exist purely because we have structured our affairs into different currencies tied to different governance structures.
“In an idealised world, governing multiple currencies and running a foreign exchange market is unnecessary and wasteful. A global currency managed without a central bank could allow society to do something more productive instead.”
Must tackle regulation issue
For Bitcoin to take hold in the world permanently, Professor Rushman believes it has to tackle the thorny issue of regulation.
“None of the US regulatory authorities have figured how to regulate Bitcoin, as it breaches barriers in our understanding of what a currency is,” said Professor Rushman.
“It is certainly tainted by some speculation that it is used by the criminal underworld, but it is hard to find any evidence that criminals use it more than any other currency.
“Bitcoin needs to work harder on explaining its philosophy and on regulation, they need to do a bit of a charm offensive with the regulators and make them comfortable with it while being true to their principles.”
Monday, May 13th, 2013
The hottest book publishing trend today: less is the new more.
“The first time I saw a 73-page ‘book’ offered on Amazon, I was outraged,” says New York Times best selling author Michael Levin. “But I thought about how shredded the American attention span is. And I felt like Cortez staring at the Pacific.”
The trend in books today, Harry Potter notwithstanding, is toward books so short that in the past no self-respecting publisher—or author—would even have called them books. But today, shortened attention spans call for shorter books.
Levin blames smartphones and social media for what he calls “a worldwide adult epidemic of ADH…ooh, shiny!”
Brain chemistry has been transformed
“Brain scientists tell us our brain chemistry has been transformed by short-burst communication such as texting, Tweeting, and Facebook posts,” Levin adds. “Long magazine articles have given way to 600-word blog posts. And doorstop-size books have been replaced by minibooks.”
This sudden change in attention spans changed the way Levin approaches ghostwriting. “Even five years ago, we aimed for 250-page books. Today we advise our business clients to do 50-page minibooks to meet impatient readers’ expectations for speedy delivery of information.”
Levin, who runs the ghostwriting firm BusinessGhost.com and was featured on ABC’s Shark Tank, says that people are looking for leadership disguised as a book.
Get buy-in with 50 pages
“Today,” he asserts, “people don’t want you to prove your assertions. They just want to know that you have legitimate answers to their questions and that they can trust you. If you can’t get buy-in with 50 pages today, you won’t get it in 250.”
The trend toward shorter books caused Levin to offer what he calls the “Book-Of-The-Quarter Club,” which creates four 50-page hardcover minibooks a year for BusinessGhost’s clients. “This allows them to address four different major issues, or four different sets of prospects, and provides quarterly opportunities for marketing events,” Levin says.
How short will books eventually run?
“Can you say ‘haiku’?” Levin asks. “We’re waiting for a three-line, 17 syllable book. It could happen.”
Michael Levin, founder and CEO of BusinessGhost, Inc., has written more than 100 books, including eight national best-sellers; five that have been optioned for film or TV by Steven Soderbergh/Paramount, HBO, Disney, ABC, and others; and one that became “Model Behavior,” an ABC Sunday night Disney movie of the week. His new minibook, “The Financial Advisor’s Dilemma,” teaches how to create trust and distinctiveness in the highly competitive marketplace.
Friday, April 26th, 2013
By Arik Abel
As media superstar Malcolm Gladwell has proved, a book as thought-provoking as The Tipping Point or Blink can lead to an amazingly multi-faceted career. But unlike Gladwell’s path, subject matter experts (aka thought leaders) don’t have to team with a traditional publisher to help them connect with an audience.
Just as self-publishing is attracting armies of novelists and memoirs, it also holds promise for professionals seeking to turn their knowledge into speaking opportunities and a role in the national and international conversation on a topic — whatever that topic may be.
“A book is the best business card you’ll ever have. Personally, the day my first book came out was the day I started getting asked to keynote events, as well as the day I saw my consulting client list grow by 200 percent,” says Jim Kukral, an internet marketer who has published several of his own books. “When you have a book showing you as the expert in your field, you have a severe advantage to everyone who doesn’t.”
Self-publishing establishes expertise
Scott Steinberg, author of several books on managing creativity in organizations, believes that self-publishing a book not only establishes you as an expert on a subject matter, but is a powerful force for making your name in a very crowded field.
“The traditional publishers might not find expertise in certain fields all that profitable,” says Steinberg. “If you’re an expert in a specific sector of engineering, publishers might not want to devote resources to that. But by self-publishing, you can reach the 200 key decision-makers in your field.”
In addition to engineering, fields like self-help, philanthropy, social media, education, law, and finance are all ripe for individuals looking to spread their expertise.
How to get speaking engagements
Books that are independently published can easily be distributed in as many formats as those that are traditionally published, at only a fraction of the cost to produce. That’s important for experts looking to land that prized presentation, whether the ultimate goal is a TED Talk or a keynote spot at a highly specialized association happening.
“A majority of this research by conference planners looking for speakers is done through the internet, as well as by word of mouth,” says Dawn McEvoy, the director of education at the Professional Convention Management Association.
“In my opinion, the best way for an SME (subject matter expert) to optimize the likelihood of booking speaking engagements is to develop a reputation as thought leaders within their industry and honing presentation skills.”
Obviously, publishing a book is only one step toward establishing a reputation, but it has been a critical one for so many successful speakers and experts. Yes, there’s the mighty Gladwell, whose books have paved the way to prominent speaking engagements at the likes of TED and The New Yorker Festival.
Seth Godin’s example
Seth Godin, author of “The Dip,” among other works. Godin spoke at a previous TechMedia event in Atlanta, where his book was a gift to those who attended. The next TechMedia event is the Digital Summit May 14-15.TechMedia event in Atlanta, where his book was a gift to those who attended. The next TechMedia event is the Digital Summit May 14-15.
There’s also Seth Godin, entrepreneur, advertising guru, and motivational speaker used books (the latest one was crowd funding) to promote his ideas about advertising and marketing.
Gary Vaynerchuk, wine aficionado and video blogger, turned his ideas on monetizing passions through the internet into a bestselling book, “The Thank You Economy”. He now speaks around the world at large conferences like Gov 2.0 and in front of large businesses like RE/Max.
(Editor’s Note: Both Godin and Vaynerchuck spoke at previous TechMedia events in which their books were gifts to attendees. The next TechMedia event in the Digital Summit in Atlanta, May 14-15.
For those who aspire to similar success, self publishing can be a game changer … once you get past a challenge common to all authors. “There are a lot of reasons people don’t write a book,” says author Kukral. “One of them being fear. Fear that they can’t do it. Fear that it won’t be good enough, or long enough. Fear is what stops most people from being successful.”
Putting your life’s work onto the page is, indeed, daunting. However, the hardest step to take is that first one. Authors like Gladwell took unconventional approaches to explaining their ideas. By focusing on decision-making and crime, Gladwell was able to explain much larger societal issues.
Maybe the easiest way to explain your subject matter is to think of exactly where it doesn’t apply — then connect it to that subject. By think more like a writer and a little less like an expert, you can challenge yourself and write a provocative, interesting, and successful book.
Having conquered your fears and hit on an engaging formula, publishing a book is one of the smartest career choices a thought leader can make.
Arik Abel is the director of online marketing for Lulu.com, a leader in self-publishing since 2002.
Wednesday, April 10th, 2013
Small business owners oppose the current system for taxing U.S. multinational corporations, according to a new, first-of-its-kind poll.
The national scientific poll released today by the American Sustainable Business Council (ASBC) and the Main Street Alliance (MSA) shows that support for reform is bipartisan and widespread.
For the first time, small business owners were surveyed on specific reforms for overseas corporate tax havens.
Current tax law enables companies to defer indefinitely taxes on profits earned overseas. The ASBC-MSA poll tested three possible reforms: ending deferral, instituting a territorial system, and establishing combined reporting.
Key findings from the survey include:
- (85%) of small business owners oppose a territorial tax system, which would permanently exempt offshore profits from U.S. taxation.
- 76% support closing overseas tax loopholes by implementing a unitary combined reporting system, which would limit the ability of corporations to avoid taxes by shifting profits offshore.
- 64% support ending deferral, a provision of current tax code that allows corporations to indefinitely defer payment of U.S. taxes on profits made or shifted offshore.
- By a margin of more than two to one, small business owners prefer to close corporate tax loopholes rather than cut government spending.
To view the full survey results, visit: http://asbcouncil.org/sites/default/files/library/docs/MSA_ASBC_poll_reportTaxesApril2013
Friday, April 5th, 2013
The labor market had some reasonable momentum over the past several months, but with just 88,000 job gains in March, once again we see a disappointing seasonal slowdown unfold as we head into spring, says Kathy Bostjancic, the director of Macroeconomic Analysis with the Conference Board.
“What is even more troubling about the most recent slowdown is that it takes place even before the sequester cuts materially hit the economy. This reinforces our view that the estimated 3.5 percent real GDP growth in Q1 is not likely to be sustained,” she writes in a statement today.
“Instead, we see the overall economy, led by the consumer, downshifting significantly in the second quarter, struggling to get close to 1 percent real growth. The sticky point throughout the nearly four years since the official end of the recession has been revving up in the “core” service sector (which excludes health and education).
“While jobs were finally beginning to open up there, the impact of the sequester likely blunts that job growth a bit and leads to further contraction in government sector jobs, and will likely continue to keep growth on the slow boil throughout the spring and into the summer.”
In our discussions with economists and others who have expertise in reading the economy here at the TechJournal, we hear again and again that the real drag on the recovery is political uncertainty stemming from Washington gridlock.
Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013
Now that you’re in a happy, healthy relationship, there are some Facebook rules that need following to ensure it stays that way.
10 things to never do on Facebook if you are in a relationship:
1. Hide things from your spouse or significant other.
If you don’t want your partner seeing who you’re chatting with online, that’s not a good sign. Facebook should not be a secretive escape from your relationship.
2. Befriend someone of the opposite sex your partner is uncomfortable with.
If your partner is uncomfortable with you “liking” photos of your ex — or chatting with your super-flirty co-worker online — respect his/her wishes. Don’t engage in behavior that will feed insecurities or threaten your partner. If you’re not currently Facebook friends with an ex, don’t add him. Especially in a long-term commitment relationship, you should each trust and respect each other enough to let each other veto online friendships with members of the opposite sex you’re not comfortable with.
3. Keep up old photos of exes.
Even if you never go back and look at old photos, some of your friends might. Respect your new relationship and delete old online mementos of your past relationships.
4. Change your relationship status without talking to your partner.
Relationship statuses should be discussed prior to any online changes. (Don’t abuse the status, either. Wait until it’s serious enough that most of your friends already know you’re dating someone awesome.)
5. Deny the relationship.
If your Facebook page has zero evidence that you’re in a relationship — no pictures, statuses, links that hint that you’re attached — and your partner wants to be acknowledged, show him/her that you’re proud to be with him/her, and simultaneously let your flirtatious Facebook friends know that certain online behaviors are now officially off-limits, by giving an occasional nod to your significant other.
6. Add his/her friends or family as “friends” before you’ve met them.
This is just creepy.
7. Complain about your partner or make a fight public.
If you’re in a real relationship, have real conversations. Seek conflict resolution in person, not online — and especially not on a Facebook wall. Don’t use Facebook as a place to vent, be passive-aggressive, or to humiliate your partner. Ever.
8. Gush too much.
You’re in love. That’s great. But use terms of endearment and “I have the best boyfriend in the world!” statuses in moderation. Don’t alienate your loved ones — or incite major eye-rolling — by using Facebook strictly as an excuse to brag about your recent endorphin surge.
9. Post racy pics.
Don’t upload on-vacation bikini shots. Don’t share photos of your new man “just waking up.” Keep it classy. Respect your partner by not seeking attention from others with sexy poses and provocative statuses.
10. Have a shared Facebook profile.
Even if you’re married, the whole “2 become 1″ thing does not apply to Facebook. An old classmate might want to say hi without wondering which of you he’s talking to.
Friday, March 29th, 2013
How do successful entrepreneurs deal with uncertain economic times? Businesses that survived the Great Recession and are thriving today didn’t focus on losses then – and they aren’t now, says Donna Every, a financial expert who has published three non-fiction business books.
“The entrepreneurs who are successful during times of uncertainty are so because they don’t rely on the standard approaches they’d use in predictable times, and they look for opportunities – the positives — in situations that would have been considered negatives five years ago,” Every says.
“It’s similar to how we deal with the weather. In places where it’s sunny most of the summer, we wouldn’t leave our house each morning packing coats and umbrellas just in case. The weather’s predictable. But in the winter and other seasons when the weather can quickly change, we head out with a different mindset.”
For businesses, switching gears to deal with inclement economic conditions involves adopting new perspectives and practices, she says.
What are some of those strategies? Every outlines them:
• Build on what you have, not toward what you want: Instead of setting goals and then seeking out the resources you’ll need to meet them, assess what you have available and decide what you can achieve with that. This not only saves you the time and expense of pulling together resources you may not have, it also gives you the advantage of working from your business’s individual and unique strengths.
• Follow the Las Vegas rule: Tourists planning a weekend in Las Vegas will often set aside the amount of money they’re willing to gamble – and lose — on cards or the slots. That way, they won’t lose more than they can afford. During an uncertain economy, entrepreneurs should calculate their risks the same way. Rather than going for the biggest opportunities as you would in prosperous times, look for the opportunities that won’t require as much of your resources. Calculate how much you can afford to lose, and always consider the worst-case scenario.
• Join hands and hearts: Competition is fine when things are going well, but when times are tough, you need allies. Explore forming partnerships with other entrepreneurs so you can strategize to create opportunities together. With what your partners bring to the table, you’ll have more strength and new options to work with.
• Capitalize on the unexpected: Surprises can have positive outcomes if you handle them nimbly by finding ways to use them to your advantage. Instead of planning damage control for the next unexpected contingency, look at it as an opportunity. Get creative as you look for the positives it presents.
• When life is unpredictable, don’t try to forecast:Focus on what you can do and create now rather than what you can expect based on what happened in the past. In good times, that information can be a helpful and reliable way to make predictions, but savvy entrepreneurs don’t count on that in uncertain times.
“While the U.S. economy certainly is improving, there’s still too much uncertainty both here and abroad to go back to the old ways of doing business just yet,” Every says.
“If you’ve survived the past five years, you’ve probably been relying on many of these strategies – maybe without even realizing it,” she says. “Don’t abandon them yet, and if there are some here you aren’t using, work toward incorporating them, too.”
Tuesday, March 19th, 2013
Patrick R. Donahoe, Postmaster General.
Technology and changing consumer expectations are helping to transform mail into an even more powerful communications channel, Postmaster General and CEO Patrick R. Donahoe told the nation’s largest annual gathering of mailing industry leaders today.
“As the mailing industry, we must continue to work to drive innovation and leverage data and technology to improve the consumer experience and grow revenue,” Donahoe said in his keynote address at the National Postal Forum.
“Our challenge as an industry is to shape those moments when people are experiencing mail, and make them more powerful in the future. That’s part of getting our game on — shaping our future and building excitement about the power of mail and the future of mail.”
Mail already has an advantage over other ways of communicating, Donahoe said, because it is tactile and encourages users to interact with it.
“People slow down and absorb what they receive. They process it. They retain it,” he said. To strengthen that experience, Donahoe urged the mailing industry to focus on four key ideas: making mail more personally relevant, more actionable, more functional and more creative.
“Through the convergence of data and technology, mailers can use the insights about individual interests to make mail more personal,” he said. “With imbedded QR codes and augmented reality, mail becomes much more functional and creative, creating an even more influential experience.”
Marketing mail constant
Donahoe also touted the fact that American businesses are spending the same percentage of their marketing dollars on mail today as they did 30 years ago.
“Even with the emergence of cable television, social media and smartphones, marketing mail has remained constant because of the tremendous value it delivers to consumers who receive it and its ability to drive an exceptional return on investment for the businesses who send it,” said Donahoe.
On the other hand, much of the marketing mail we receive personally goes directly into the waste-basket. Digital targeting technologies may help change that in the future, but right now, we get a fistful of marketing flyers weekly – much of it repetitive and missing the mark.
“The growth of our industry is going to be driven by changing technologies and customer expectations. We have to work together as an industry to anticipate these changes by leveraging the value of mail to shape new opportunities.”
The Postmaster General also advanced themes relating to innovation in the Postal Service in the areas of delivery, digital integration and targeting to extend the delivery platform and provide growth opportunities for the mailing industry and America’s businesses.
Digital integration is needed
“Innovating digital integration is fundamental to improving the consumer experience — and combining the targeting power of online advertising with that mail experience will make mail far more valuable to the receiver and the sender,” Donahoe said.
The Postmaster General also described the Postal Services’ aggressive cost reduction efforts and their impacts on the mailing industry: reducing the size of the workforce by 193,000 employees since 2006; reducing the organization’s cost base by $15 billion; reducing 21,000 delivery routes; and consolidating the network of mail processing facilities while maintaining record levels of service.
“No other organization that I can think of — either public or private — has gone through a similar downsizing so rapidly and continued to function at a high level,” said Donahoe.
“It all comes down to one word for this industry: affordability. The faster we can reduce costs, the better we can avoid pressure to raise prices. That’s why we continue to seek comprehensive reform legislation to provide more flexibility in our business model to create a sustainable platform for the future.”
Monday, February 18th, 2013
By Allan Maurer
Does price really matter in a venture financing deal? Can “small ideas” still get funded?
Don Rainey, a former entrepreneur, says his 12-years “on the dark side” as a venture capitalist, have taught him a handful of lessons that still serve him daily, among them, answers to those questions and others.
Rainey, a general partner with Grotech Ventures since 2007, was named to the Washingtonian’s “Tech Titans” list in 2011, and currently serves on the boards of Grotech portfolio companies Clarabridge, GramercyOne, HelloWallet, LivingSocial, Personal, SnappCloud, and Zenoss. He’s one of more than two-dozen venture capitalists and other investors participating in the upcoming Southeast Venture Conference in Charlotte, NC, March 13-14.
Price doesn’t matter
On his blog, VC in DC, Rainy outlined ten of the lessons about entrepreneurship that still guide him.
That business about price, for instance. “Price doesn’t really matter,” he says. “If you invest in something htat fails, it’s immaterial. If it wins, you might hope you had bought it a little cheaper, but you’ll always wish for that. The question is, is it something you believe in? If a deal works out, the price was right at some level. Get in good deals, and forget about getting the last dollar in a negotiation for that good deal.”
He adds, “We’re judged by whether the companies we invest in succeed, not the price.” Also, he notes, “Sometimes you do everything right and sill lose. Macro events can put real pressures on a company. Just think if you had gone into something aimed at financial services in 2007. Some things are beyond your control.”
Don’t pursue small ideas
Big ideas and small ideas are equally difficult, he says. But a venture capital firm has to have some multiple return on the capital it invests and can’t support small ideas, Rainey says. On his blog, he writes, ”What’s the point in trying to change the neighborhood when you can change the world.”
You’re not a rock star
“I’m very suspect of the venture capitalist who wants to be in front of the parade,” Rainey says. “That’s the role of the entrepreneur. We’re enablers, not the primary actors.”
Add value outside of board meetings
Portfolio company board meetings are not the place where a VC adds real value to the firm’s investment. “Private conversations over coffee, lunch, or late at night is when you really can influence the CEO,” Rainey says.
Don’t Invest in People who don’t take advice
Some entrepreneurs have a world class talent for ignoring good advice, Rainey notes on his blog. “I’ve done this 12 years and only had one CEO who ignored my advice and failed. He made a point of it. It wasn’t personal, he ignored everyone’s good advice. A good CEO listens to everyone.”
Then, he’ll let you know he heard you, saying something like, “I concur on these four items from your suggestions. “That’s what the smart ones do,” Rainey says. “They assimilate all that advice and incorporate it into their own perspective.”
Starting and running a business is often fraught with extreme ups and downs, more than one entrepreneur has told us. One day you land a really big customer, the next everyone you talk to says “No.” An entrepreneur has to be able to ride that roller coaster. “One of the great assets of an entrepreneur is confidence,” Rainey says.
“It does ebb and flow. There are days when you’re driving to work thinking there is no way you could be more screwed than you are at that moment, but when you get to work, you find out you were wrong, there are ways it can be worse. It’s hard. People don’t always appreciate how challenging it can be to be able to swing above your weight in the face of weeks or months of bad news. But you have to keep on fighting, even with a strong headwind.”
Be nice to people, it pays well
“In a business like ours,” Rainey says, “You have to say ‘no’ to 99 of 100 people who come to you for money. If you’re not nice to people, even when you have to say ‘no,’ they remember. They also remember if you were nice about it. None of knows where we’ll be in five years or what we’ll be doing.”
Monday, February 18th, 2013
Presidents’ Day, which falls between the birthdays of two of our nation’s most revered leaders—George Washington and Abraham Lincoln—is coming up on Monday, February 18. And as every school-aged kid knows, both men are remembered for their honesty.
(Okay, “little George and the cherry tree” might be more legend than fact, but it doesindicate the extent to which our culture views truthfulness as a virtue.) To Joseph Callaway, the “lip service” we pay to honesty, even as we fudge the truth in our day-to-day lives, raises a question:Would Washington and Lincoln make it in today’s business world?
“I believe the answer is yes,” says Callaway, who, along with his wife, JoAnn, is the author of the new book Clients First: The Two Word Miracle (Wiley, October 2012, ISBN: 978-1-1184127-7-0, $21.95).
“If they showed up in 2013 and truly lived up to their reputations, they would find themselves in huge demand. People really, really crave honesty and transparency, and it’s mostly because they’re such rare qualities these days.”
Do a little soul-searching, suggests Callaway. You might be shocked at the number of white lies, exaggerations, misdirections, and lies of omission you’re guilty of. For example: I’m not going to meet my deadline so I’ll tell him I’m sick to buy myself a couple more days. Or, This is probably not the best vendor for this particular client, but since she (the vendor) sends us a lot of business, I’m going to recommend her anyway.
Even small dishonesties can hurt your business
The occasional lie of omission, or even commission, may not reflect any ill intent toward your clients. But in the long run, even small dishonesties will muddy your relationship and ultimately keep your business from being all it can be.
“We can usually rationalize our small or even large dishonesties,” says Callaway. “But when we examine them, we can see that our lies, little or big, are told to benefit ourselves—to make more money, to cover up mistakes, or to avoid an uncomfortable conversation.
“Making the decision to always put your clients first instead—which means telling them the truth and letting the chips fall—will transform your business,” he adds. “It may not happen overnight, but it will over time as you gain a reputation for transparency and trustworthiness.
And it will change your life. Just ask Abraham Lincoln, who ‘lost’ a lot of money during his lawyer career because he didn’t like to charge exorbitant amounts, and encouraged clients to settle out of court when it was in their best interests—even though he didn’t get paid!”
Callaway and his wife built their thriving business—Those Callaways—after a late-in-life entry into the world of real estate. Since then, they have lived through a bubble and survived a horrible economic downturn—and managed to prosper through both, while many of their fellow realtors never recovered.
Their magic bullet
They credit their “Clients First” philosophy as their magic bullet—and never, ever telling a lie is part of that.
Early on in their careers as realtors, the Callaways faced a not-uncommon dilemma: Their sellers, the Smiths, needed to sell their home soon so they could move. Their buyers, the Browns, had fallen in love with the Smiths’ house.
Perfect, right? Not really. It turned out the Browns’ offer was lower than what the Smiths were asking, but it still stretched their budget. Should the Callaways tell each family what they wanted to hear (and guarantee themselves a commission)…or should they do the right thing?
“JoAnn and I decided to tell each party the truth: This deal really wasn’t in either of their best interests, even though it was in ours,” he continues. “Like a fairy tale, we soon found the Smiths a buyer willing to pay their asking price, and we found the Browns a more affordable home they loved even more.
The way we did business was forever changed. Whatever happened, we knew we had to always put the client first—even though the truth sometimes hurts, and a fairy-tale ending isn’t always guaranteed.”
Whether in the days of Washington and Lincoln or right now, telling the truth is not rocket science. Honesty really is the best policy in business and in life. Callaway gives seven solid reasons why:
It’s why you exist. If you’re in business, you provide either a good or a service that’s aimed at making the consumer’s life easier, better, fuller, etc. In other words, your raison d’être comes down to helping other people. When you think about your job description in those terms, you’ll have to admit that while it may not always be comfortable, telling the truth is what’s in the client’s best interest.
“You can’t truly help someone if you aren’t being honest!” Callaway assures. “Sure, you can usually rationalize a blurred line or a white lie. But on whose behalf are you fudging the truth? Even if it’s for the client, broken rules and skipped steps—if and when they come to light—won’t be doing him any favors. And if you’re trying to skirt the truth to make your own life easier, beware: You’re on a very slippery slope.”
The authors wrote Clients First.
The truth will set you free. Remember when you were a kid and your mother told you that if you told her the truth about how the lamp really got broken, you’d feel better? She was right! Making a commitment to always tell the truth will take a weight off your shoulders that you might not have known was even there! Not only do lies have their own psychic weight, they complicate your life. Truth-telling simplifies it.
“JoAnn and I found that the positive effects of telling the Smiths and Browns the truth were almost immediate,” Callaway recalls. “The first thing we noticed was a new feeling of strength and courage. By no longer having to juggle the facts, we were relieved of so much strain! When you have only the truth, you wave goodbye to moral dilemmas and sleepless nights. You don’t have to worry about getting the story straight or remembering what you have and haven’t shared. You know you’re doing the right thing.”
Honesty is a catalyst for personal evolution. As you walk the path of putting your clients first, promises Callaway, you’ll evolve as a person, not just as a professional. That’s because being honest with your clients isn’t always easy. In fact, in some situations, it might be one of the most difficult things you’ve ever done. But just as sore muscles after weightlifting means that your body is getting healthier and stronger, feeling uncomfortable but telling the truth anyway means that your motivations and intentions are moving toward a higher plane.
“It’s hard to define what a ‘good’ person is, but rest assured that making honesty a constant part of your business will help you to move in that direction,” says Callaway. “JoAnn and I are not the same people we were 14 years ago. Our honesty now is definitely not what our honesty was then. Before, we weren’t always sure we could trust the truth, and we paid for that with fear and anxiety. Now, we enjoy a wonderful calm, as well as the trust and loyalty of clients we would have once worried about losing!”
Telling the truth is the best insurance. No matter what industry or field you’re in, things are occasionally going to go wrong. Despite your best efforts, clients will sometimes be disappointed and angry, and some will seek retribution. While you can’t prevent this eventuality, you can protect yourself by consistently being honest.
“Once I heard a fellow real estate agent say, ‘If you haven’t been sued, you aren’t doing enough business,’” shares Callaway. “I thought about that, and on the one hand was saddened by this person’s hardened attitude, and on the other hand, I was struck by the notion that litigation is a fact of life. It occurred to me that when you’re honest, your chances of being sued plummet. Even if things go wrong, your clients will know you have done your best and will be less likely to blame you for the failure.”
Honesty is a powerful magnet. When you cultivate a reputation for honesty, you’ll be surprised by how quickly and how far the word spreads. Clients want to work with businesses that won’t play them false, and when they believe they’ve found a good thing, they’ll tell others! And, of course, they themselves will stay loyal.
“Believe it or not, JoAnn and I have never asked for referrals,” says Callaway. “We simply put our clients first and watch as they become an army of recruiters.
“When you show yourself to be honest and trustworthy, the people with whom you do business will recommend you and advocate for you and want you to succeed. And when you take good care of those they send your way, they’ll be proud to do it again and again.”
“Sticking with the truth isn’t always easy—it’s something you have to dare to do,” concludes Callaway. “Why else do you think George Washington and Abraham Lincoln are revered for doing so?
“But remember, everything has an impact—and the price of not trusting the truth is always more expensive than the alternative.”
Tuesday, February 12th, 2013
According to technology expert and Google enthusiast Richard Gorman, the Google Hangout feature has come a long way. When the real-time chat function first launched, it was met with skepticism in some circles, despite having the almighty Google brand name affixed to it.
With time, however, Google Hangout has become a popular tool; celebrities and even political figures have used Google Hangouts to host conferences and meet-and-greets. Despite its burgeoning popularity, the Google Hangout is still not accessible to anyone and everyone—but the Google development team is seeking to change that.
The company has announced some major changes to the Google Hangout technology, all designed to bring more users into the fold. These Google Hangout changes have won the attention of Gorman, who has responded with a statement to the press.
Internet connections a problem
“These changes are very much in keeping with Google’s typical passion for making all of their products as accessible, to as many different people, as possible,” Gorman says. “Something like Gmail may be fairly universal in its efficacy, but, for many users, Google Hangout remains untenable, simply because of Internet connectivity issues.”
Indeed, while those with stellar Internet connections can make good use of Google Hangout, the feature is much less useful in third-world countries, or even in busy, public places with crowded Wi-Fi networks. Google has been upfront in saying that the new changes to its Hangout feature are all designed to offer greater accessibility, specifically by allowing users to have more control over their Hangout connections—thus making them less helpless against the ebb and flow of a volatile wireless network.
Audio-only mode slashes bandwidth needed
One of the changes to Google Hangout is an audio-only mode. By sending audio only, and not video, users can significantly cut down on the bandwidth they need to participate in a Google Hangout. To other members of a Hangout, audio-only participants will be visible simply as static profile pictures.
“The audio-only option will surely come in handy to users for whom bandwidth is shaky,” offers Gorman. Still, the more significant advance is the introduction of a new “slider” at the top of each Hangout screen. This slider allows users to take full control over their own bandwidth preferences.
“Google Hangout users used to rely on the default bandwidth settings, but now, they can use the slider to move from high bandwidth to low, and all the way down to audio-only,” Gorman explains. “The bottom line is that, if your connection starts to go bad or you are taxing the network too much, you can easily cut down on your bandwidth without disrupting the Hangout.”
New features only on desktop now
Currently, these new features are available for desktop user only, but Gorman sees a real opportunity for Google to serve mobile users. “The audio-only feature would be an immense boon for those who participate in Hangouts via their mobile devices,” Gorman says.
“It would allow users to participate in Hangouts even while on the go, or in crowded public settings.” He notes that video takes up a lot of bandwidth and is often too much for a mobile device to handle, whereas audio is much easier for smartphones to deal with.
As if these technological improvements were not proof enough of Google’s commitment to making its products as universally accessible as possible, the company has also launched Hangouts in India, for the first time ever.
The bottom line, according to Gorman, is that Google is doing everything it can to make its products second-nature, to anyone and everyone. “Google continues to innovate new ways to make its technology accessible to users everywhere,” he concludes. Richard Gorman is a technology pundit and online marketing professional, and can be found on Quora.
Monday, January 28th, 2013
We hear a lot about job creation and how critical it is to our nation’s economic health and future. But who are America’s job creators? Are they the nation’s richest individuals? Are they big public companies? Hot start-ups?
The answer, says business growth expert Professor Ed Hess, is none of the above. He points to new research sponsored by the Small Business Administration—“Accelerating Job Creation in America: The Promise of High-Impact Companies” by Spencer L. Tracy, Jr.—showing that almost all net U.S. job creation in recent years came from existing private, high-growth companies.
“If we are really going to get serious about job creation, policymakers and communities should focus more on nurturing existing private, high-growth businesses,” says Hess, the author of Grow to Greatness: Smart Growth for Entrepreneurial Businesses (Stanford University Press, 2012, ISBN: 978-0-8047753-4-2, $29.95, www.EDHLTD.com).
Focus on an important issue: Growth
“That means doing what’s necessary to create a healthy small business environment, such as encouraging investment in private business through tax incentives, encouraging hiring inside the U.S., making credit readily available, and so forth,” he adds. “But it also means zeroing in on a very important issue that often gets overlooked: growth.”
To this end, Hess thinks, state governments, the Small Business Administration, chambers of commerce, economic development agencies, and entrepreneurship centers at colleges and universities should increase their focus on educating existing private business owners on how to manage both the risks and the challenges presented by growth.
Challenges facing the nation’s real job creators
Professor Hess led a study that looked at 54 high-growth private businesses in 23 different states, included both service and product businesses having an average age of 9.6 years and an average revenue of approximately $60 million with the range being $5 million to $350 million.
The key findings of that study led Hess to write two books: Growing an Entrepreneurial Business: Concepts & Cases, a case-textbook for colleges and universities, and the aforementioned Grow to Greatness. Both were peer-reviewed and published by Stanford University Press. The key concepts in those books are the subject matter of this free course.
So, what are the big challenges facing the nation’s real job creators? Take a look at a few facts Hess thinks every company should know about business growth:
Too often, businesses grow themselves into trouble. We know that many successful small businesses implode when they attempt to grow too much too quickly. Growth can outstrip people, processes, and controls.
“Cash flow management during growth periods is critical, because in many cases growth requires investments in people, technology, supplies, etc., ahead of the receipt of cash from customers,” says Hess.
“Entrepreneurs have to understand that they may not be able to afford all the available growth. Instead of following the ‘grow or die’ myth, a much better axiom to follow is ‘improve or die.’ As a business grows, in most cases entrepreneurs have to scale people, processes, and controls. That means not only more but better people, processes, and controls. A focus on improvement is critical because one must maintain high quality standards and financial controls in the haste of growth.”
Successful entrepreneurs know when to release the growth “gas pedal.” In his research, Hess found that every private business faces the same challenges as it attempts to grow. He found that successful entrepreneurs learned to pace their growth.
“They use what I call the ‘gas pedal’ approach to growth,” notes Hess.
“Letting up on the growth pedal to give their people, processes, and controls time to catch up. We also found that strategic focus was critical to safely growing. Focusing on doing one thing that lots of customers needed better than the competition equated to big opportunities.”
Growth means learning to effectively delegate. For a business to grow, the entrepreneur must grow also. When growth begins, entrepreneurs quickly find that they can do only so much and that they need help from others to properly serve customers. They must evolve from being a doer to a manager of employees and then eventually to a manager of managers (a leader).
“This may sound easy but it isn’t,” says Hess.
“Most entrepreneurs don’t like to give up control of any aspect of their business. Facing the fact that they can’t do it all on their own and that they must learn to rely on others to complete certain tasks (and not necessarily exactly how they themselves would do them) can be a very hard reality to swallow.”
Upgrading never ends. The people, processes, structure, and controls needed to manage a business with $1 million of revenue generally do not work for a business with $10 million of revenue. Entrepreneurs often learn the hard way that growth means continual change.
“As you grow, the solutions that worked at one level will most likely not work at the next,” says Hess.
“Inflection points for the companies I’ve studied occurred frequently when they expanded to 10, 25, 50, and 100 employees. When these changes take place, entrepreneurs often realize their hope of having a smooth-running machine is an elusive dream. Successful entrepreneurs and their employees are open to learning and adapting in an incremental, iterative, and experimental fashion.”
Growth creates business risks that must be managed. Growth stresses people, processes, quality controls, and financial controls. It can dilute a business’s culture and customer value proposition and put the business in a different competitive space. Understanding these risks is critical to managing the pace of growth and preventing growth from overwhelming the business.
“To get a better handle on growth risks, consider how your strategic space will change as you get bigger,” says Hess. “You will probably enter a new competitive space, facing bigger and better competitors than you previously faced. Those new competitors may be better capitalized than you and be able to engage in price competition, driving down your margins.
“The good news is that you can minimize this and other big risks by planning for growth, pacing growth, and prioritizing what controls and processes you need to put in place prior to taking on much growth,” he adds. “I call it ‘what can go wrong’ thinking, and entrepreneurs can’t indulge in too much of it.”
Thursday, January 17th, 2013
By Dave Mastovich
It seems like an organization exists for just about everything. My company belongs to the Society for Healthcare Strategy and the Mystery Shopping Providers Association. I’m part of the National Speakers Association. You can probably rattle off a few that are specific to your industry or area of expertise as well.
So I guess it makes sense there’s an International Listening Association. Their mission is to advance the practice, teaching and research of listening throughout the world.
I hear that.
But I just enjoy their statistics, gleaned from years of studying the good, the bad and the ugly of listening.
Here are a few nuggets:
- 85% of what we know we have learned by listening.
- 75% of the time we are distracted, preoccupied or forgetful.
- We only recall about 50% of what was said immediately after we listen to someone talk.
- In total, just 20% of what we hear will be remembered.
- Less than 2% of us have had formal education about listening.
- People listen through one of four primary styles: people, time, action or content oriented. Females are more likely to be people-oriented and males are more likely to be time or action oriented.
I’m thinking it means listening is vital to leading, managing, marketing and selling. Your personal productivity and your company’s success will be enhanced via better listening. With that in mind, here are…drum roll please…
10 Ways to Improve Your Listening
- Let the speaker finish their thoughts, don’t interrupt
- Keep an open mind, don’t judge
- Listen without planning what you are going to say next
- Give feedback
- Pay attention to the speakers posture and body
- Stay focused
- Show respect
- Take notes
- Make eye contact to keep the speaker at ease
- Put as much effort into listening as the speaker puts into talking
Better listening leads to better results. And you don’t even need to join an organization to improve…
David M. Mastovich, MBA is President of MASSolutions, an integrated marketing firm focused on improving the bottom line for clients through creative selling, messaging and PR solutions. He’s also author of “Get Where You Want To Go: How to Achieve Personal and Professional Growth Through Marketing, Selling and Story Telling.” For more information, go to www.massolutions.biz.
Editors note: You could learn a lot about how to provide a thought-leader message from the way Dave Mastovich writes and structures his business advice columns. Note the focus, the statistics that make it meaningful, and the quick, short tips.
Tuesday, January 15th, 2013
A large majority of small business owners believe that Washington has become more hostile toward free enterprise in recent years, according to a new poll of 600 small businesses with 100 employees or less conducted on behalf of the Job Creators Alliance.
In an open-ended question, a quarter of the respondents volunteered taxes as the most important issue facing American small businesses, double the response for any other issue. Health care and government regulations were the next most frequently cited garnering 11% and 10% respectively.
An overwhelming majority of small business owners believe that Washington’s policies have become more hostile toward free enterprise in recent years.
More importantly, nearly half of all small business owners believe Washington has become much more hostile toward free enterprise. Furthermore, only 19% believe Washington’s policies have become less hostile.
Pessimism about Washington’s policies concerning free enterprise crosses party lines. Democrat small business owners split on this question, strongly suggesting that partisan polarization only goes so far on this question.
According to the Guardian Life Small Business Research Institute women-owned businesses will account for one-third of the new jobs created by 2018.
This survey finds that a strong majority of women who own a small business also see Washington as an adversary.
When we consider the depth of pessimism among small business owners towards Washington’s policies it should come as no surprise that a majority of minority-owned small businesses also see Washington’s policies as hostile toward free enterprise.
By a margin of 2 to 1, respondents to an open-ended question volunteered taxes as the single most important issue facing small businesses. The most frequently cited issues included:
A majority of small business owners are concerned that the lack of spending restraint in the recent congressional deal to avert the fiscal cliff will impact their business.“
As America’s small business owners look forward at 2013 they do so with a great deal of concern about the obstacles Washington is placing in their path. As the engine of job creation, pessimism among small business owners does not bode well for job growth this year.• Six out of ten small business owners believe that Obamacare will negatively impact their business in 2013.
Thursday, January 10th, 2013
The confetti has fallen, the ball has dropped, and the champagne has been popped—2012 is officially over, and 2013 is underway. For many business owners, that means doing a post-mortem on their businesses by looking back at what went right and what went wrong in the year gone by.
Business owner and author Bill McBean says the reason for doing a 2012 post-mortem is simple—it supplies an owner with current facts about their business and the market so they can use the information as they look forward and plan for 2013.
What you can do now
He offers his advice on what you can do, starting now, to create success for your business this year.
“When you run a business, there are always some certainties as you look into the future,” says McBean, author of The Facts of Business Life: What Every Successful Business Owner Knows That You Don’t (Wiley, October 2012, ISBN: 978-1-1180949-6-9, $24.95,www.FactsOfBusinessLife.com).
You will have to work smarter
“In 2013, you know your best competitors will work to become better. You know your customers will demand more. You know you’ll have to work smarter and harder every day to improve your bottom line.”
He adds, “You should also know that this year brings with it new taxation and new regulations that may add expenses and affect the way you operate your business. And of course, you face the usual headaches and worries that come with the day-to-day business of running a business.”
McBean’s new book, The Facts of Business Life, provides a great guide for any business owner to use year after year.
Planning can lead to prosperity
As the title suggests, the book lays out seven of the most critical facts, which McBean considers foundational truths, for successful business owners to use to their advantage every day.
“Often, entrepreneurs don’t make the best planners,” says McBean.
“We are action-oriented people. But by taking a long hard look at a few critical pieces and putting a plan in place right now, you can have a much more prosperous year.”
McBean suggests breaking down your 2013 planning into what you need to do internally—with processes, employees, yourself, etc.—and what you need to do externally—with customers, marketing campaigns, and so on. Below he provides a few tips:
Evaluate your leadership. Entrepreneurs tend to be ready, fire, aim kinds of people. But the truth is, if you don’t improve your leadership skills, there is little chance your business can improve. Being a great leader begins with a self-analysis of your leadership ability.
Next, you have to look carefully at what’s working for your business and what isn’t. Start with a post-mortem of 2012.
Did you supply the business with what it needed to be successful—things like the right equipment, your focus and time, required capital, assigning responsibility and expectations, and so on? Did you have the right people in the right chairs?
What should you do differently?
Are employees being paid based on what you want them to accomplish and expect from them? Did you let any bad habits slide that need to be addressed? Then, look ahead: What should you do differently this year?
“Look at the leaders in your business,” says McBean. “Are they all on the same page with you?
Are you sure? Are they well trained, and do they know what success looks like? Do they get the expected results?
Your answers may lead you to make tough choices. For example, just because Cynthia has been head of the customer service department for 10 years, doesn’t mean she should remain in that position, especially if the job has changed due to market conditions and Cynthia isn’t able to keep up.
“Without effective leadership, your employees have no idea what is important, what to manage, or what success and failure look like,” he adds. “In order to have effective employees, your business first has to have effective leadership, and this starts with the owner.”
Do a top-to-bottom walk-through of your systems and procedures. In essence, systems and procedures (processes) actually operate your business, though a lot of owners misunderstand this simple concept.
Examine which processes are working, which need to be improved, and which processes are outdated and exist only because “it’s the way it’s always been done.” For example, your inventory has to change with the market, as do your pricing policies.
Has your business fallen into bad habits?
Inventory and pricing parameters change because what sold well a year or two ago may have little demand today, and your competitors’ pricing changes constantly and so must yours. Your systems and procedures must be able to keep up with these rapid changes.
Or maybe your business has fallen into bad habits—for example, overlooking employees who don’t perform as expected, or are continually negative and affect other employees’ attitudes.
Look for inconsistencies
In particular, look for inconsistencies in how employees handle tasks, especially those that directly impact customers and those that affect the data you use to make decisions about the business. These two important areas usually get overlooked.
“It may not be politically correct to say so, but if you’re not controlling your procedures and processes, you don’t really ‘own’ your business,” notes McBean. “You’re just a spectator watching others play with your money.
Great procedures and processes need controls, and these controls in turn create great results and skilled employees. In 2013, rededicate your business to upholding important processes, and your understanding that processes operate your business—and employees operate the processes.”
Kick off a cost-cutting, gross-profit-building mission. This is a powerful weapon for an owner. Look for ways to increase gross profit and cut costs as they have a dramatic positive effect on profits and cash flow. For example, look for easy “to bolt on” gross profit opportunities, and get creative when looking at your costs.
“Don’t assume that you know how much things are costing you, or that your employees are reacting to new sales opportunities,” notes McBean.
“Take a good look at your books. And know that sometimes you don’t have to make cuts; you simply need to renegotiate vendor contracts. For example, maybe you can save money on shipping by renegotiating rates with your shipping company.
Or get a discount in purchase for early payment. Ask yourself: What expensive mistakes did we make last year? How can we avoid them this year? And what can we do to increase bottom line profits and increase cash flow?
“I’m not recommending knee-jerk reactions like massive layoffs or switching to inferior-quality materials,” he clarifies.
“Don’t cut out the wrong things, but do look for smart, well-thought-out ways to save money and start building up your cash cushion and profits. We all have heard ‘Cash is king’ and it is, especially when it’s there when you need it.”
Re-engage employees. In this economy, you need employees who care about your business as much as you do. And that’s what you get with engaged employees. “Engaged employees are energized,” says McBean. “They handle problems on their own and actively look for ways to improve the business.
“So how do you get engaged employees? Show them you care. Sometimes it’s as simple as saying ‘thank you’ for a job well done either verbally, with a handwritten note, or with a handshake with $20 attached.
Or you might allow them to take a paid afternoon off and give them movie passes. One thing that worked well for me in my businesses is supporting the activities my employees’ kids were involved in.
Also, make sure your employees have what they need to stay engaged.
Set some realistic, specific goals for the year ahead. Then, dial up the “aggression factor” just a little bit more.
In other words, aim high but be specific. If your goals aren’t measurable, you won’t be able to gauge your progress and eventually you’ll stop pursuing them. Setting realistic goals, putting a plan in place, and routinely checking in with employees to gauge their progress—because what gets measured gets done!—is the best way to be successful.
“And don’t be lulled into complacency or let the continued talk of doom and gloom handcuff you,” says McBean.
“Successful owners know they have to fight not only to win market share but to retain it as well. You have to constantly be setting and reaching goals to keep your business moving forward. If you take your focus off of improving your business, competitors will step in and take what you have worked so hard for. It’s just the law of the marketplace jungle.”
Wednesday, December 12th, 2012
Starting a business is always risky, but the potential rewards are considerable – and not just for the entrepreneur.
The success of small businesses is crucial to our economic recovery. This puts added responsibility on the shoulders of entrepreneurs risking their life savings on ideas that seem wild today, but may be mainstream in five years.
Melissa Thompson, CEO of Talk Session, which is driving healthcare technology innovation in the startup world, understands the personal risk entrepreneurs face first-hand and offers ten tips based on her experience to help them succeed:
1) A-team: Take your time to find the best team possible. Recognize your strengths and weakness. If you play to your strengths and find supplemental talent to round out your team, everyone wins.
2) Isolate Your Focus: The startup story is one of four main parts. These are what investors and supporters want to see. The process: a) isolate one problem that exists that has not been successfully solved, b) create solution, c) formulate an execution strategy, d) determine it’s value and potential.
3) Don’t cross the Baker’s Dozen: A synonym for “baker’s dozen,” is “devil’s dozen” – a phrase that arose from 13th century bakers hedging the potential of accidentally short-changing clients, which would result in their hands chopped off by an axe. Thankfully, like technology, “digital execution” has evolved over time. Keep a do list and limit it to twelve or so. It feels good to have tangible evidence of productivity.
4) Let Failures Fuel You: Failing on a daily basis is part of the startup territory. It is imperative that you control your emotions and not displace your anger on your colleagues. Mistakes can feel like a crowbar to the shin and as the leader it is your duty to coach others through keeping their mistakes in perspective.
5) Everyone Has a Boss, Never Forget: Part of the reason you are starting your own company is so you don’t have to work for a boss. But in reality, everyone has a boss. The President of an investment bank has to answer to his or her Board, shareholders and high-net-worth clients. Even retired self-made billionaires likely have to answer to their spouses. So regardless of one’s “CEO and founder” status; maintain humility, treat people kindly and manage wisely – both up and down. The way you treat others sets the tone for your entire company.
6) Don’t Code Where you Cook: Working from your home can be purgatory – it blurs the line between work and play and hinders productivity. If you don’t have office space there are alternatives: shared office space or desk-for-a-day rental services.
7) Report Card on the Fridge 2.0: Celebrate something you did well every day, week, and month. Particularly when leading a team, these small celebrations go a long way to inspire and motivate the team. Creative gifts trump expensive ones, and emailed compliments on top of verbal ones often get forwarded to significant others’ and parents with pride. Think of it as the modern day “report card on the fridge.”
8) Bring passion: Find people with similar missions. The company you keep will drive your venture forward and you’ll enjoy the journey every step of the way.
9) Learn From Those Before You: I recommend that every aspiring entrepreneur read the books Rework, written by the founder of 37Signals, Venture Deals by Brad Feld and Jason Mendelson, and Thinking, Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahnemann. I wish I read these before I started my venture, as it would have saved me a lot of time and money.
10) Reboot Your Mind, Body, and Laptop: Since you are not making money until your venture succeeds, you have a 24/7 job. However, make sure you close your overheated laptop every now and again, hit the gym, laugh with friends in person, and return to technology with fresh motivation.
Friday, December 7th, 2012
Customers share at least one trait with Santa: they have their own naughty or nice lists.
Ron Kaufman, author of the New York Times bestseller Uplifting Service: The Proven Path to Delighting Your Customers, Colleagues, and Everyone Else You Meet(Evolve Publishing, 2012, ISBN: 978-0-9847625-0-7, $24.95, www.UpliftingService.com), explained how to stay on their “Nice” list in a previous TechJournal post.
Here’s five things that will get you stuck on their “Naughty” list.
Specialize in the run-around. Doing business with a company should be a choice, not a chore. But unfortunately, many companies make receiving service very difficult for their customers.
“Companies on the naughty list aren’t streamlined,” notes Kaufman.
“Customers have to give the same information to one person after another as they’re passed from department to department seeking help. Departments are so siloed that customers can feel like they aren’t even talking to people who work at the same company.”
Treat customers like a number. Have you ever been to a business, office, or other facility where you had to literally take a number and wait for it to show up on the electronic sign before receiving service? It doesn’t feel so great, does it? That’s how customers feel when you don’t bother to get to know them as individuals.
“When you don’t personalize service by taking the time to learn your customers’ names or implementing systems that remember their needs, you make customers feel like they’re just one of many,” says Kaufman. “There’s no bond, nothing to make them feel any loyalty to you. Make one mistake and they will immediately go somewhere else.”
Exhibit a “the customer’s always wrong” mentality. If turning unhappy customers into loyal customers is what lands companies on the nice list, then the quickest way to land on the naughty list is to treat complaining customers like they’re ruining your day. This can mean anything from blame shifting to “punishing” an unhappy customer by making the interaction even less pleasant than it already is.
“Companies that don’t have a solid service recovery program react to complaining customers by seeking to avoid blame,” notes Kaufman. “Employees point the finger at their colleagues or back at the customers themselves and say, ‘It’s not my fault!’ They’re too focused on passing the buck to even take notice of the customers’ real needs. And to make it even worse, these companies tend to bog down customers even more by requiring a morass of receipts and time-consuming paperwork before they receive even a mediocre level of service.”
Put unhappy, clock-watching employees in front of customers. Naughty companies hire employees who are interested only in working for a wage, and it shows.
“For these companies, service with a smile is a pipe dream,” says Kaufman. “More like service with a grimace! You know you’re at a naughty company when a service representative won’t look you in the eye, has no energy to smile, and treats you like the service they provide is a chore. You might leave having received the product or service you need, but you won’t leave feeling uplifted or wanting to return.”
Put the bottom line on a pedestal. Some companies on the naughty list treat customers like a number; others treat customers like a dollar sign.
“Companies that put the bottom line on a pedestal above their customers can make customers feel like they’re being tricked or swindled,” notes Kaufman.
“They offer deals that aren’t backed by great service. Or run ads touting low-cost products that don’t offer real satisfaction. Customers end up feeling as mercenary as the companies they buy from. Both parties may have completed a deal, but neither was uplifted by any lasting value.”