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6 Soft Skills Even the Most Technical Employees Need 17 Sep 2019, 6:45 am

The smarter tools and processes become, the more heavily companies rely on the soft skills of their employees to keep things running smoothly. There are many important soft skills that even the most technical employees need.

According to the 2018 Workplace Learning Report from LinkedIn, most respondents named training for soft skills as their top priority in 2018. Technical skills can only go so far if the people using them don’t know how to work within teams, exercise intellectual curiosity or represent the brand the right way.

During the next round of interviews, keep an eye out for candidates who demonstrate these critical soft skills:

1. Mindfulness.

As most productivity junkies know by now, multitasking does not exist. Research covered by Very Well Mind found that multitaskers are not only less productive than their mindful counterparts, but they are even worse at switching between tasks than people who do one thing at a time.

People cannot do two things at once and hope to do either of them well. Present candidate’s with scenarios that include a variety of tasks and ask them how they would handle the situation.

2. Problem-solving skills.

Anyone with the right knowledge can solve a problem. However, what happens when the person needs more information to get the right answer? People who need their hands held at work are far less valuable than people who take the initiative to work through things.

Ask candidates to demonstrate their problem-solving skills by asking open-ended questions about concrete goals during the interview process. Perkbox compiled a great list of prompts for this purpose.

3. Time management.

Procrastinators have no place in startup environments where every day is full of new and timely challenges.

  • Quiz candidates about how they schedule their workloads when things get heated.
  • What do they prioritize?
  • What do they do when they don’t have enough time to complete everything?

Look for people who not only know how to be efficient but how to recognize which tasks are more important than others. Also, look for applicants who know how to quickly ask for and get outside help and cooperation.

4. Written and oral communication.

Even the most technical employees work with others. People who don’t know how to communicate with their coworkers inevitably delay projects and create friction within their teams. SHRM reports that miscommunications cost companies of 100 employees an average of $420,000 every year.

Ask candidates questions with multiple points and see whether they address all the issues raised. Send a follow-up email asking them to answer a few questions, then evaluate how effectively they communicate their answers back to you. You can watch for timely follow-up, as well.

5. Coachable.

No one likes a know-it-all. Look for hires who recognize their limits and are eager to learn more about how to do something better. Ask your applicants how they find out what they must know to do a job, if they don’t have the answer.

All candidates will claim to be intellectually curious. Make them prove it by asking the right questions. Drew Houston, founder of Dropbox, prompts candidates to talk about their biggest influencers in the same line of work and the lessons those candidates have learned from studying the best of the best. These applicants will begin to name names, books they have read, maybe a conference attended, someone they’ve admired, a mentor, or a former boss. You will find out some good tips for your own curiosity-seeking behaviors.

6. Positivity.

No life is easy, but a startup life really isn’t easy. Deals fall through, deadlines loom and hard work doesn’t always pay off. When that happens, the company doesn’t need a bunch of Chicken Littles yelling about how the sky is falling. It needs people who can keep the mood light without losing sight of the bigger picture.

Monster says the best candidates are enthusiastic not only about the work they do but about the people around them. Speak to candidates about challenges they have faced in the past. Listen closely to see how they talk about the people who helped them overcome the odds.

With a little training, anyone can learn to code, build or design. No amount of technical ability can overcome a lack of soft skills, though. In your next round of interviews, look for these soft skills to identify candidates who possess both the know-how and the attitude to help your company grow.


Originally published here.

The post 6 Soft Skills Even the Most Technical Employees Need appeared first on KillerStartups.

How to Get Better Advice for Your Business 16 Sep 2019, 8:00 am

Running a business is hard — end of story. As much experience, schooling, or preparation you might have, you’ll run into an unexpected hiccup along the way. Regardless of how great your offerings are, the world around you will change. As your industry shifts or economic blips change demand, you’ll have to endure the consequences.

One of the few things that really does help is advice from others who have gone through the same thing. Whatever is happening to you has likely happened to plenty of business leaders before. Seeking out their advice is a great way to weather the storm you’re currently facing, whether it’s a PR nightmare or a logistical issue. 

Finding the right people, however, isn’t always as easy as it seems. If you’re looking to get guidance, consider:

1. Incubators

Incubators are a great way to refine and develop your business with a greater sense of security. Businesses that have been through incubators have an 87% survival rate — much better than the 50% attrition rate most businesses face after five years. 

That being said, it’s important to find the right type of incubator for your business. Not all incubation programs will be well-suited to your business’s operations. Lists of the best accelerators and incubators can give you a starting point. Consider what types of companies the programs have produced, as well as the types of mentors they offer. Evaluate the resources that will be available to you. Even the questions asked during the application process can help you determine whether the program is relevant to your company. 

2. Futurist Speakers

It’s one thing to seek advice for your current problems in business; it’s another to prepare for the problems you may face going forward. Futurist speakers can offer valuable insight into what the professional landscape is going to look like in the short and long term, giving your business a powerful edge over shortsighted competition. These consultants are able to pinpoint threats and opportunities you may not have noticed. An introduction to an exciting, yet unfamiliar, idea can be invaluable.

Whether it’s automation or cryptocurrency, new technologies promise to upend every part of business. Whether you run a cutting-edge tech startup or a long-established brick-and-mortar operation, changes in the digital world are determining the way business is done the world over. If you want to be successful, you need some forward-thinking people guiding you.

3. Industry Leaders

Those at the top had to get there somehow. Who are the big names and faces in your sector? More importantly, how did they get there? Knowing how the most successful achieved prominence can be a helpful guide for doing the same yourself.

Look for leaders with similar backgrounds or business models as yours. If their actions are imitable, think about how you might incorporate their style or philosophy. Perhaps there’s an aspect of their thinking you disagree with — find a way to subvert it while applying what feels like a strong fit. 

4. Mentors

Sometimes, it can all just come down to one person. A mentor can be extremely helpful for guiding you along your path as an entrepreneur while giving you the personal connection and attention you need to thrive. The benefits are obvious: 88% of owners consider a mentor invaluable. 

As great as it can be to have an old friend or confidant be your mentor, don’t be afraid to reach out beyond your comfort zone. Scouting your industry for potential mentors is critical for finding the right person to steer you in the best direction when it comes to your business. Plenty of well-established businesspeople are willing and happy to share their insights with younger leaders trying to cut their teeth in the same field. Let them know you’re interested. 

5. Authors

Many people are aware of many of the best business books, but that certainly doesn’t mean they’ve read them. Going straight to some of the most popular and enlightening books about business cuts out the need for endless applications, emails, and inquiries. A well-written book can offer direct access to the most valuable aspects of someone’s thoughts.

That’s not to say that you need to go straight for the classics, though. There’s so much literature out there on so many subjects that you could probably find a book that offers a valuable solution to the problem you’re facing — or at least a new way of looking at it. Additionally, a book doesn’t have to be directly about business to be enlightening. Reading about great philosophers or politicians can also give you insight into how strong leaders operate. 

No one will be able to address exactly what you’re going through, but plenty of people and resources can help. Running a business is hard — finding the right guidance makes it easier.

The post How to Get Better Advice for Your Business appeared first on KillerStartups.

Has There Been a Proven Method to Stop Procrastination? 12 Sep 2019, 6:45 am

Procrastination is something that most people have faced at some point in their lives. For some reason, we as humans struggle to avoid things that are unpleasant. We delay the inevitable, especially when it’s unpalatable. And we even do the same procrastination techniques when there is an issue or event that is really important to us — even if it’s something critical. But has there been a proven method to stop procrastination?

Around 20 percent of people identify themselves as procrastinators.

The problem may be that we’re lying to ourselves, or maybe we are not aware or have no idea how long a task will actually take to accomplish. Nowadays there are many studies to help people with procrastination. You could also, just start timing yourself to see how long a task will take. Write your times on your calendar and try and get faster and faster each day.

In a university student study there were two different groups of college students. These two groups were told to have three papers due in three weeks. What was learned about procrastination?

Group one: could turn in their papers at anytime during the three weeks.

Group two: had to turn in daily and weekly  scheduled pieces of information for these papers. At the end of the allotted three week time period, the students in group one who were required to hand in a little bit each day and had strict deadlines, got all the work done. Everyone of them had the work done and all of the work was quality work.

Group one: were the ones who were able to have the entire freedom of choice of when to hand in the work and at what speed. Every single person in that group failed to get the work completed. The pieces of the work that had any part of it done, were done at a substandard level.

This study tells us that we are not really good at determining how much time a task will take. We don’t figure out quickly enough when things should be done, nor are we very good at regulating ourselves.

The solution seems to lie somewhere in a place where we have to be more strict with ourselves in order to perform how we would wish. This same solution holds true if you are managing a team whom you need to keep motivated to get their work done.

One quick fix to procrastination, is to trick yourself into getting your work done.

Many people say things like “eat the elephant one step at a time.” Well, that was the old phrase. Now, the new and improved suggestion is, “eat the frog first thing in the morning.” Hum, pretty much the same thing, except the elephant is bigger. After you have taken a giant bite of your elephant or frog, be sure to reward yourself in some way. Small rewards along the way have proven to be a better technique than a great big massive or marvelous reward at the end.

What are are the steps that need to happen to stop procrastination and get your project done?

  • Don’t keep thinking of your project as a whole elephant.
  • Try to break this project down into the bite sized pieces. Really, really small.
  • Don’t allow yourself to be overwhelmed by looking at the end of the project.
  • If you are one of those that gets a little down when overwhelmed, then you have an extra step in here. You definitely cannot allow your thoughts to ever go to the whole job. Just don’t.
  • Keep your headspace clear for the smaller daily hustle.

The process will work the best to stop procrastination when individuals take their calendar and write in all of the  steps of the project.

It is best to include all of the steps, no matter how simple, broken down into minute by minute or hour by hour instructions. Have even the tiny steps clearly visible on your calendar.

Many people will be like an ogre to their team or even to themselves. These people are mean to themselves or their team members to get work done. “You sit there until all of your veggies are eaten first.” If you act like this to yourself or to your team — your process will take a hundred times longer to finish.

You are an adult. You don’t have to force your own-self to eat the veggies first. You can have the ice cream first if you want to.

Pick the part of the project that you LOVE to do the most, and do that task first. This can stop procrastination.

Enjoy your personal processes. Maybe you like to organize every little thing, or do the artwork first. Go ahead and draw, color, write, code, think and do something wonderful.

There have been studies that have shown that people are often like their dog. The dog will go over to lie down on the rug. If the dog doesn’t circle around themselves three times, they cannot settle down to rest. Try stopping your pet from that circle mechanism, and see if this is not true. This pet cannot and will not settle until they circle around.

If you are one of the people that has to circle three times before you start your project — then get circling to stop procrastination, and get it done so you can start your work.

If you sit there and resist the circling you will become more and more unsettled and sometimes this resisting will cause you not to be able to do the job at all. I am using the word “circling” but this does not necessarily mean circling your rug or circling your desk.

Human are more likely to need to clean up their work area. Years ago in studies, many workers had to sharpen all their pencils before they could begin work. Just sharpening their pencils signaled their brains to stop procrastination.

Maybe you are one who has to clean up your work space, get a bottle of water, get your coffee, write a list and then settle into your work. You can make yourself not do this — all day long if you wish. But the quickest way for you to get to your work and get it done, is to get your circling done. Then you will easily be able jump to your work and start.

I have to wipe my keyboard and mouse with a Clorox wet wipe. The fact that I wiped everything off before I leave at night is immaterial.

Take a few days to watch really closely and see what your habits tell you that you have to do. Then — just get to that habit as early as possible — it will stop procrastination — then you’ll hop right to your work.

Next, what is it that you always succumb to at work when you should be working? What is causing your personal procrastination?

  • Is it social media?
  • Is it your friend calling or texting?
  • Is it a treat in the kitchen at the office?
  • What is calling you?

In an old Greek Mythology story, sailors were called away by these gorgeous mermaids singing to them and calling them away from their work.

These mermaids are probably on YouTube right now. You don’t want others calling you away from the work that you should be doing. Also, you don’t want to be the mermaid calling others from their work when they are busy and in the zone.

In the Greek tale, one of the sailors told everyone else on the boat to tie him to the large pole in the center of the ship so that he wouldn’t fall under the spell of the “sirens.” This guy also told all of the sailors to stuff something in their ears so they couldn’t hear the sound either, lest it stop their work. The other sailors tied him up and stopped up their own ears. The sailers were finally able to sail past YouTube without looking. Maybe it was Amazon? But either way — the sailors were able to resist what was calling them away from their work.

You can tell your friends not to call — but some still will. The best action for me is to turn off notifications.

The personally-agreed-to rules of the office at Calendar.

Here are the rules of our office:

  • If you look around the office and someone has earbuds in — that means that you can approach.
  • If you are ignored wait a few seconds.
  • If you are still ignored — go away — the person has to finish the thought or whatever they are working on.

If the person has on noise-cancelling earphones — it means “stay the hell away.”

This has become an important distinction. We have a lively office with many visitors who we really like and we would like to talk to all day long. But because of the deadlines we are under, we had to make this hard and fast rule. It works beautifully.  Also, no one is allowed to take offense if someone has on their headphones.

One thing I have personally noticed. If a person has those big headphones on, and their typing is going so fast and loud that a jet engine could be actually be taking-off — our entire office goes in to hyper-drive-work-mode. Everyone starts working so fast and intently — that it really is something to see.

As you look around your own office — ask yourself if you are the distractor? Don’t be. For myself — I call it “gluing my butt to the seat.” In this way, it guarantees that my work will be done in a timely manner.


Originally published here.

The post Has There Been a Proven Method to Stop Procrastination? appeared first on KillerStartups.

5 Calendar Problems That Eat Your Productivity 12 Sep 2019, 5:45 am

We are creatures of habit. At times bad habits, done in the name of “being too busy”, cause us to lose valuable time and productivity. While we may recognize some of these bad habits or problem areas we may not always correct them.

When you’re constantly on-the-go, one problem area to concentrate on fixing is your calendar. Correcting calendar problems that eat your productivity can free up time in your schedule for both work and leisure activities.

1. Forgetting to Figure in Travel Time

One of the calendar problems that eat your productivity is forgetting to figure in travel time. Certainly travel time is needed for meetings, conferences and other events located far from where you live and work.

But at times there is even a certain amount of travel time needed for closer meetings. Even in the same building it takes time to get from one floor to another. In very large buildings traveling from one end to the other can take several minutes.

To avoid always being late, try not to schedule back to back meetings without considering travel time in between. That way you aren’t walking into meetings with red cheeks stammering your apologies after a meeting has already started.

No more restarting meetings or catching you up on what was missed either. Each of these options waste time and cause irritation for others in attendance. Meetings will be more productive for everyone with this one change.

2. Not Blocking Time for Work Projects

Another one of the calendar problems you might be guilty of is not blocking time for your work projects. Others aren’t in charge of your time, but you are.

Ensuring you have enough time to complete important work is up to you. Nobody is going to do that for you, so take charge of your time.

Block time in your schedule as if you are going to be in a meeting. This can help you complete tasks on time and with accuracy.

3. Neglecting to Review Your Calendar

Neglecting to review your calendar can eat your productivity. When you don’t plan ahead by looking ahead you start each day already behind.

For instance, not looking ahead may make you late for an early morning meeting you forgot about. Sometimes that makes you feel “off” all day long, upsetting the balance of your day and slowing you down.

Instead, get in the habit of looking ahead at your calendar at the end of each day. See what you have in store for you tomorrow so you begin the day already prepared.

4. Avoiding the Use of Calendar Tools

Do you use all of the available tools in your calendar that could improve your productivity? Sometimes you do the same things over and over and forget about advanced tools and options.

Taking a few minutes to explore what your calendar can and can’t do may pay off in bigger ways. You can reacquaint yourself with forgotten options and find new ones that save time. You may find things that allow you to automate tasks and speed up what you do.

5. Forgetting to Add Entries

Sometimes forgetting to add entries can eat your productivity. If you don’t add things to your calendar right away you can miss meetings you need to attend. This can affect your ability to complete projects and take extra time to catch up on what was missed.

Instead, always schedule items right when you need to. Most calendars have apps you can add to your phone that can help.

Most of us can’t deny having one or two bad habits. But you can correct bad habits causing calendar problems that eat your productivity and get more out of each day.


5 Calendar Problems That Eat Your Productivity was originally published on Due by .

The post 5 Calendar Problems That Eat Your Productivity appeared first on KillerStartups.

The Science Behind Procrastination and How You’ll Beat It 10 Sep 2019, 8:09 pm

I had every intention to crank this article out immediately following my morning routine. Already had the material put together in an outline, and I’d put it in my calendar to-do-list. I kept dragging my feet on writing the piece all morning. Even worse, while I’m usually a pro at blocking out distractions, I was more than willing to get a fantastic amount of work done quickly. This action is my favorite procrastination mojo — catch up and fix problematic back issues that are driving my team or me crazy. What’s the science behind procrastination and how you’ll beat it?

What’s going on here? Obviously — this is my go-to for procrastinating — something that everyone struggles with at some point. But you’ll want to figure out and know yourself well enough to answer this question precisely, “what is my procrastination mojo.”

Joseph Ferrari is a professor of psychology at DePaul University in Chicago. Ferrari is the author of, Still Procrastinating: The No Regret Guide to Getting It Done. Dr. Ferrari claims that “roughly 20 percent of U.S. adults are chronic procrastinators.” But, the statement by Ferrari begs the question, Why do we procrastinate, and what can we do to topple it?

What exactly is procrastination?

Before answering the questions above, let’s quickly define procrastination. And, let’s go over why what it’s such a big deal. If you conducted a search inquiry for “procrastination definition,” the first result is probably this: the action of delaying or postponing something. As pointed out by Piers Steel Ph.D. in a Psychology Today article, “if procrastination means simply delay — then we should be comfortable placing it along with the similar concepts of scheduling or prioritizing.”

However, being comfortable with placing procrastination in blocks alongside related issues is generally not the case. For example, your flight is delayed due to inclement weather. A delayed flight — and the weather are both issues entirely out of your control.  These matters occur and cannot be interpreted as you being “lazy” or “unmotivated” in any way. Timothy Pychyl says that “all procrastination is a delay, but not all delay is procrastination.”

If all procrastination is a delay — to me, that makes procrastination a unique type of postponement — since we often recognize the negative consequences. A better definition might be the one found in UPMC HealthBeat. The site describes procrastination as “the avoidance of work or necessary tasks by focusing on more satisfying activities that are due to a chemical in the brain.

Procrastination boils down to a battle between the limbic system and the prefrontal cortex,” further explains UPMC HealthBeat. “The limbic system is a set of brain structures containing the pleasure center, while the prefrontal cortex controls planning and decision making.” Since the prefrontal cortex isn’t as “developed and thus weaker, so often the limbic system wins out, leading to procrastination.”

The effects of procrastination.

Sometimes the argument going on between the limbic system and the prefrontal cortex isn’t a bad thing. Sometimes you may choose to delay doing something because it’s the best idea at the time. For example, I wasn’t going to write this article until I was more focused — I didn’t want to write a half-hearted piece.

Others who have embraced procrastination have claimed that they make better decisions, provides insights, and sparks creativity. Sometimes structured procrastination can help you get more done and eliminate unnecessary tasks. At the same time, chronic procrastination should be avoided. Restraining yourself from procrastination is because practicing poor habits can become — well — habits. Patterns have severe consequences, and you don’t want the habits that will harm you.

The most apparent negative impact would be missing deadlines. For instance, not filing your taxes on time, failing to submit a project by the due date, or waiting to buy a birthday present for your spouse at the last minute. All of these actions and non-actions will affect your career and personal life. As a result, poor-action habits can damage relationships and put your health in jeopardy.

Science Behind Procrastination: The Different types of procrastination.

Hopefully, you have a better understanding of what procrastination is and what impact — for good or not-so-good — this action will have in your life. Keep in mind, non-action is still an action. If you have made a decision and taken the “action of not acting” — there will always be a consequence.

Now it’s time to figure out which type of procrastinator you are so that you can get to the bottom of why you’re not getting things done. Or you’ll want to know why you are doing other things instead of making a plan and working the plan. According to psychologist Neil Fiore, and author of Awaken Your Strongest Self, there are five common types of procrastinators:

  • The Perfectionist.
    Perhaps the most common kind of procrastinator who strives for the best and is their own worst critic because they don’t want to be embarrassed. “They may spend too much time on one component of a project, failing to manage their time properly. Or, they avoid the project altogether, then rush to finish it at the last minute,” writes Fast Company‘s, Gwen Moran.
  • The Imposter.“Afraid of being revealed as unqualified or inferior, this procrastinator puts off doing anything to avoid that risk,” adds Moran. “Often, this type of procrastinator has learned to feel like an imposter when they are surrounded by people who are difficult to please.”
  • The Dread-Filled.Out of all the different types of procrastination, this person is the most rational. After all, when you can’t stand what you’re doing — it’s almost impossible to find the motivation to get started.
  • The Overwhelmed.The overwhelmed individual is a more contemporary type of procrastinator and one that I feel a lot of entrepreneurs fall into this category. “Sometimes, there’s just too much to do, and it’s hard to figure out where to start—so we don’t do anything,” Fiore explains and is quoted by Moran.
  • The Lucky One.“Some people believe they do their best work under pressure, so they procrastinate until their back is up against the wall,” Nicole Bandes, founder of the consultancy the Productivity Expert,” told Moran. “If they have a history of doing this without consequence, they’ve essentially been rewarded for procrastinating.”

What drives procrastination.

We’ve briefly gone over why some people put off getting around to specific tasks. But, let’s dive a little deeper here. For starters, as Ishan Daftardar explains on Science ABC, as humans are simply wired and driven toward procrastination. “We can picture this whole process as a fight that has been sparked between two parts of the mind when it’s faced with a tedious task: a battle of the limbic system (the unconscious zone that includes the pleasure center) and the prefrontal cortex (the internal “planner”).”

“When the limbic system dominates,” continues Daftardar, “the result is putting off until tomorrow what could (and should) be done today.” Simply put, procrastination “all comes down to one simple thing – the wiring of your brain.” It should also be noted that the limbic system is one of the most dominant parts of the brain. It also controls mood and instinct.

An “instinct” means that emotions like fear, anxiety, anger, insecurity, and pleasure are all a part of this vital system. If emotions and instincts tie into procrastination, it’s easy to see that if you have to do something painful or stressful this system will urge you to stay away from it. Your instincts or emotions may be telling you something like, “danger, too much work,” when if fact, there would be less work if you just hurry and get the work done.

But you already know that emotions often have something irrational going on — somewhat like a “history program” running an app in the background of your mind. The old “history program app” is going to serve-you-up images, maybe even sound, to the weaker portion in your brain — the prefrontal cortex. “The prefrontal cortex (as we’ve just read), “is where you assimilate information and make decisions, says Daftardar. “The prefrontal cortex is what eventually forces us to complete a job or task.”

However, it takes some effort on your part to get the job done because the prefrontal cortex doesn’t work automatically. The reason behind this fact is that the limbic system takes control whenever we don’t succeed at a particular task. As a consequence, “you become more interested in doing something else that pleases you,” adds Daftardar.

Don’t forget about the amygdala.

There’s also the amygdala in there competing for attention. This “is the section of the brain associated with our automatic emotional reaction to a situation.” Whenever we feel stressed or overwhelmed, such as when having to tackle a challenging activity, a fight (resistance) or flight (ignore) reaction kicks into play.

“Both are forms of procrastination  — the brain is protecting us against possible negative feelings,” concludes Daftardar. “The norepinephrine chemical takes over, causing increased levels of fear and anxiety. That’s when adrenaline gets pumped into the picture.”

Dr. Tim Pychyl, professor of psychology and member of the Procrastination Research Group at Carleton University in Ottawa, has a much more straightforward explanation in the New York Times. “Procrastination is an emotion regulation problem, not a time management problem.” Is this statement by Dr. Pychyl is true? I hate to think it’s true — but anything to do with how you get your business accomplished each day — and how you face the demands of making a living — bears taking a close look.

Here are other reasons why you might procrastinate.

There are, of course, more specific reasons why people procrastinate. For example, technology has changed our cognitive control thanks to frequent buzzings throughout the day. In other words, all of those notifications on your smartphone are diverting your attention.

Another reason is that we have difficulty visualizing our future selves. According to a study conducted by psychologists Neil Lewis of the University of Michigan and Daphna Oyserman of the University of Southern California, “when people viewed distant events as days, instead of months or years, they took action more quickly.”

Pamela D. Garcy Ph.D. adds that procrastination can be caused by:

  • A lack of self-compassion.
  • Learning this habit from role models like your parents.
  • Believing that you can’t effectively complete a task.
  • Being bias towards a specific task.
  • Underestimating how long it takes you to get something done.
  • Depression or anxiety.
  • Feeling physically or psychologically uncomfortable.

Finally, avoiding anything that has negative associations is rewarding. “Our brains are always looking for relative rewards. If we have a habit loop around procrastination but we haven’t found a better reward, our brain is just going to keep doing it over and over until we give it something better to do,” psychiatrist and neuroscientist Dr. Judson Brewer, Director of Research and Innovation at Brown University’s Mindfulness Center, told the New York Times.

How can you overcome procrastination?

You can’t tell yourself to you snap out of it. Sometimes it requires you to do some rewiring of your habits. Dr. Brewer recommends that you give your brain a “Bigger Better Offer” or (B.B.O.).” What the BBO is saying, is get a reward for yourself that’s more substantial than the avoidance is giving your brain.

Forgive yourself quickly whenever you dilly dally. Other times you can stop procrastinating by merely establishing goals and routine. And, if that doesn’t work, then you should also try out the following techniques to overcome procrastination once and for all.

Awareness.

According to Princeton University’s McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning, the first steps to overcoming procrastination is to understand the reasons why you procrastinate:

“As with most problems, awareness and self-knowledge are the keys to figuring out how to stop procrastinating. For a lot of people acquiring this insight about how procrastination protects them from feeling like they are not able enough, and keeping it in mind when they are tempted to fall into familiar, unproductive, procrastinating habits goes a long way to solving the problem.”

After you’ve identified the root cause of procrastination, you can begin to take action. You may actually discover that it doesn’t take a whole lot to stop procrastinating. For instance, you may only need to change your environment, set deadlines, eliminate common distractions, or try telling others about your goals.

Do the worst thing first.

“We have a limited, depletable supply of willpower and resources,” says Piers Steel, Ph.D., a professor of human resources and organizational dynamics at the University of Calgary. Steel is the author of The Procrastination Equation: How to Stop Putting Things Off and Start Getting Things Done. To counter this depletable supply of willpower, tackle your most challenging or heinous task first thing in the morning when you have the most energy.

Mindful training.

You will usually procrastinate because you feel anxious or overwhelmed. One of the best ways to combat this is through mindfulness. “Research has already shown that mindfulness meditation is related to amygdala shrinkage, expansion of the pre-frontal cortex, and a weakening of the connection between these two areas.” This statement was said by Prof Tim Pychyl from Carleton University to the BBC. Apps like Calm or Headspace can help you get started in becoming more mindful.

Get rid of catastrophizing.

“One of the biggest reasons people procrastinate is because they catastrophize, or make a huge deal out of something,” writes Elizabeth Lombardo Ph.D. for Psychology Today. “It may be related to how tough, how boring, or how painful it will be to complete the task; whatever the case, the underlying theme is that doing the task will be ‘unbearable.’”

“In reality, challenges, boredom, and hard work will not kill you — or even make you sick,” adds Lombardo. “Procrastination, on the other hand, is associated with stress. Think of the stress you feel when you avoid making a phone call you know you need to make.” The solution then is to “keep things in perspective and assuring yourself that you can “get through it.”

Use the five-minute rule.

“If you don’t want to do something, make a deal with yourself to do at least five minutes of it,” says Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom. “After five minutes, you’ll end up doing the whole thing.” This strategy of “just starting” works for a couple of reasons. The first is that it encourages us to break down larger goals into more manageable pieces. The second is because of a psychological phenomenon called the Zeignarik Effect. This “effect” means that you have the tendency to remember unfinished tasks. So, in theory, if you start something, it will stick with you until it’s completed.

Practice self-compassion.

Research has found that self-forgiveness is one of the best cures for procrastination. Sounds simple? Not really. But, the sooner you forgive yourself and move on from past procrastination, the more likely you’ll experience any further delays.

Change your thinking.

“You may be procrastinating because you feel that you’re being forced by someone else to perform a task that you don’t want to do,” writes entrepreneur and lawyer Marelisa Fabrega. For example, you may feel like your co-founder is manipulating you in fixing a bug on your app. Obviously, you don’t like feeling this way — so you do everything but fix the bug issue. To get around this propensity inside yourself — start telling yourself that you choose to fix the app instead of believing that you have to.

Use your calendar.

“Put the tasks you need to do in your calendar — and commit yourself to get them done,” suggests Paul Petrone in a LinkedIn post. “The act of writing things down (as well as the satisfaction of crossing them off your list) will increase the chances you’ll do them on schedule.”

The Science Behind Procrastination and How You’ll Beat It was originally published on Calendar, by John Rampton.

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The Power of Merchant Services, in Your Hands 4 Sep 2019, 4:00 pm

As the old saying goes, “three’s a crowd”.

 

This is the ugly truth that small businesses around the world are beginning to realize when it comes to payment processing.  This and other merchant services are handed off to third parties, without blinking an eye, because they don’t know of any other way to keep their business going.

 

The reality, however, is that these “middlemen” severely limit customer service flexibility.  Businesses are forced to rely strictly on the services of one payment processing provider; and because they control the connection to the acquiring bank, the merchant must play by the rules of their gateway system.

 

This means that if there’s an issue with a connection that the merchant has through the provider, that provider has the power to limit (or shut down) the merchant’s other connections.  Many payment processors also have added layers of fraud protection, which can be inconvenient to work around. It all adds up to an often frustrating customer experience that can hurt business.

 

No more being stuck in the middle – the time has come to process payments on your own terms.  Introducing megaPower: a short, dedicated, hosted gateway technology that gives merchants the power to process payments on their own.

megaPower (also known as mPower) provides the brandable flexibility in customer service that merchants desire.  The platform acts as a router for the management of multiple payment processing accounts, all with predetermined filters.  It all works incredibly fast, and is up to 10x cheaper than today’s most popular options.

 

Businesses will also enjoy seamless integration into their existing merchant infrastructure, and the ability to customize megaPower based on their own specifications.  It’s all hosted from one location, too, as the company owns it own highly secure data center that keeps third parties out.

Here are just a few of the many features that merchants can expect from megaPower:

 

  • Mobile-friendly account access from anywhere
  • The ability to spread payments over multiple accounts
  • Option to add cryptocurrency to your merchant applications
  • Integrated CRM for the management of customer account details

 

Simple Mega Solutions, the company behind mPower, is led by President David Cartu – who heads up a multinational team that operates out of Ireland, Germany, Israel, and Canada.  The company launched the platform back in January, but has only recently begun online marketing.

 

Going forward, Simple Mega hopes that this accelerated marketing will continue adding to the early momentum they’ve already gained.  They also plan to attend more industry events, like it did back in June at Money 20/20 in Amsterdam. 

 

For more information about megaPower and how it can work for you, visit them online at https://megapower.io/.  The team can also be reached via email at ma@megapower.io.

 

Photos: Simple Mega Solutions (IE) Limited

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How Small Business Owners Can Keep Team Members Happy 3 Sep 2019, 5:45 am

A solid team can make or break your business. Even if you are a control person, you can’t handle everything in your business. Having team members you can trust and rely on makes a huge difference.

While finding a promising team can seem like a challenge, keeping those people onboard and happy should be your true focus. That way, you can focus on long-term goals and start to build a routine. 

Here are some tips for keeping team members happy.

Set Clear Expectations

As the business owner, you have to clearly define your expectations for team members. Make sure you communicate effectively about job roles and what you expect. If you notice any issues or slip-ups early on, be sure to address them so everyone is on the same page. 

When your team knows what you want and expectations are set, it makes it easier for all parties to be happy with the process.

Show Appreciation

Showing appreciation is important and easy to do. Members of your team may be the first people to interact with clients or customers on your behalf. If they’re doing good work, be sure to say thank you. A nice gesture around the holidays is also a nice way to show appreciation.

Make the hierarchy in the business as flat as possible and you will have an appreciated and engaged staff. Encourage your frontline staff to be creative in coming up with new ideas and ask for feedback on what the clients really want.

Make the Environment Pleasant and Comfortable

Every business has a company culture even if you just work virtually. You want each team member to fit in and feel comfortable with the way things are run.

Be sure to make the workplace as comfortable as can be with suitable conveniences and regular team meetings so everyone can interact. If you’re working in an office give your employees the freedom to personalize their workspaces. 

When I worked for a small business, I loved the environment. We got to decorate the office and our workspaces and there were often weekly informal meetings to discuss the team’s progress and share suggestions.

Reward Small Achievements

Nothing makes employees like being recognized for the small and big things. It doesn’t have to be anything major. A simple ‘thank you’ email or an inquiry on how your employees spent their weekend. Your employees are more likely to feel great about their work when they know you care about them.

You may also want to take things a step further and incentivize certain activities that your team helps with. At a previous job, my boss offered Amazon gift cards to anyone who could get a client to leave a review on our company on Google or Yelp. Your reward doesn’t have to be monetary either. You could consider doing an ’employee of the month’ type of recognition easily.

Consider Offering Benefits

Depending on the size of your business, it may or may not make sense to offer employee benefits. Doing so, however, can make a big difference and lead to employee retention.

If you have part-time team members or can’t afford to provide benefits like health insurance or a retirement plan, consider other benefits your team members may enjoy. Providing a monthly gym membership may not cost much but can help your team members focus on their health. Maybe you have a product or service that your team can get for free or at a discount when working for your business.

If you run an online business, structure work schedules to allow unlimited vacation days and time off so long as team members meet their deadlines.

At the end of the day, be mindful that with no staff there may not be a business. Focus on keeping your team members happy and treating them with respect to grow your business.

How do you keep your team members happy and productive? 

 

 

How Small Business Owners Can Keep Team Members Happy was originally published on Due by .

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VC Funding Could Kill Your Growth — Try This 29 Aug 2019, 8:00 am

The legend of the successful startup follows a predictable pattern. Founders with a dream connect with wealthy investors, who believe in the founders’ vision. The company then uses the massive check to grow into a major disruptor.

In some cases, the legend holds true — but not all. Plenty of startups find their footing and grow into successful companies without the backing of angel investors or venture capitalists. Photography community startup ViewBug has been in business for more than 10 years and acquired more than 2.5 million users without a dime from investors. When watch company MVMT sold to Movado for $200 million last year, the company’s founders and employees kept 100% of the take.

Startup founders should be accustomed to going against the flow, yet many continue to believe that investors guard all the roads to success. That narrative serves investors well, but not every startup needs investor funds to scale. Money from other funding methods spends just as well as money from VCs. Before taking a dime from people who want a share of the company, founders should consider all their options.

The Hidden Cost of VC Money

Mark Cuban understands investor relationships as well as anyone. According to him, startups shouldn’t see investor money as a positive step forward, but as a last resort.

“The last thing on the list is venture capital money,” he said in a 2017 interview. “They aren’t giving it to you for charity — and the minute you take that money, that’s not the end, but when the obligation really starts. You thought you had an obligation to grow your business before you took the money? You have no idea.”

Funding should be a means to an end, not a goal in itself, yet many founders pop the champagne when they get their first big deal. Venture capitalists might enable companies to scale quickly, but they have little patience for experimentation or delays. Investors want fast growth and definite payouts, which leads many startups to follow unsustainable paths to please the people holding the purse strings.

Startup founders didn’t escape the 9-to-5 grind just to work at the whims of others. Entrepreneurs crave the freedom to innovate and enjoy the fruits of their labor. Taking VC money puts those goals at risk. Even when VC-backed companies find sustainable success, company leaders must continue to listen to the demands of the investors who helped facilitate their growth. 

Alternative Funding Options for Startups

Fortunately, startups have plenty of options to invest in their companies without giving up control or stock. Consider whether these funding methods could work for your growing business:

1. Crowdfunding

Some companies use crowdfunding campaigns to prove the viability of their ideas and attract new investors. On its own, though, crowdfunding can provide plenty of money to help startups get off the ground.

Different types of crowdfunding serve different needs. Standard crowdfunding campaigns help companies raise the funds required to create and ship specific new products, usually offering perks or early access to their backers. Equity crowdfunding, on the other hand, connects young companies to large pools of non-accredited investors. Startups can give away as much or as little equity as they want, while small-time investors can fund the companies that appeal to them.

2. Grants and Government Funds

Not every startup is eligible for government funding, but you may be surprised by how many industries offer grants to companies and founders with big ideas. Fundera put together a massive list of 105 different small business grants for founders to consider, but that list is far from comprehensive.

Before you start sending applications to every national grant program, look locally to see whether your city or state offers assistance for your industry. You don’t have to be an environmental company or a nonprofit to receive these funds — often, your status as a resident is enough to qualify. Few grants offer the same massive figures as VC funds, but on the bright side, you don’t have to give up part of your business to take the money.

3. Friends, Family, and Business Partners

Business loans from banks and those backed by the Small Business Administration often provide funding, but not all founders can qualify for formal help. If you fall into that category, you may have better luck pitching your friends, family members, and business partners.

People within your social circle might be willing to lend you some cash to help get your company off the ground at friendlier rates than banks, and they’re all but guaranteed to ask for less control of your business than a VC firm would. If you don’t know many people with deep pockets, consider asking your vendor partners or biggest customers for advance payments. Good relationships will be critical as you grow your company. If you succeed, remember the partners who believed in you from the beginning and treat them accordingly.

When all else fails, don’t be afraid to throw your own savings into your business. Plenty of founders have worked creative side hustles to come up with the money they needed to invest in their companies.

Before you take that VC check, think about whether alternative funding options might be better for your company’s future. VC money could be a blessing — or a curse.

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5 Ways to Find Time for Your Business 29 Aug 2019, 5:45 am

In my experience as a business owner, one thing I’ve noticed is a common pattern in excuses as to why people can’t do things. One of the most common excuses is they can’t find time to work on their businesses.

For example, I’ll often go to local events for women entrepreneurs and the first thing 85 percent of them say is how they don’t have time to grow their businesses because of their kids.

Don’t get me wrong, do people have a heavy load of responsibilities? Yes. However, I know plenty of mothers to small children who still find time.

This, of course, is just one example I hear all the time. Another example is blaming a day job for the lack of time. This one kind of irks me because I’m one of those people who built a business on the side of their day job. I was able to find time even though I was busy.

The question then becomes, how do we do it? How do we find time to grow our businesses and keep moving forward? In this article I’ll share my best tips for finding time to for your business.

Tip #1 Assess your priorities.

The biggest difference I see between business owners who find time and those who do not is priorities. Those who find time prioritize their business. They may not prioritize it above their families, but it’s up there.

For example, they will get up extra early to work on their business before getting their kids ready for school. Or they’ll wait until later at night when their kids are in bed.

The same applies if you still have a day job. I used to work before going to my job, during my lunch hour, after I clocked out, and on weekends. The reason is because I was clear about my priorities. I knew I wanted to run my own business and did the work necessary to get there.

The truth is if you want it bad enough you make sure to find time. Period. You also have to prioritize yourself and your business. You can’t move forward if you’re always putting yourself last. That’s true whether you’re raising a family or ten years in the business game.

I do want to be mindful of the fact that this isn’t easy. Especially if you have responsibilities that take up a lot of your time. However, it’s important to remember that this is only temporary. Your kids won’t need you as much forever. Your job also won’t be there forever. Whatever the situation is, it’s not forever.

Tip #2 Assess where you’re currently wasting time

I interviewed Michelle Schroeder-Gardner for my podcast last year. In case you don’t know who Michelle is, she makes over $100,000 a month through affiliate sales on her blog.

One of the things she says during that interview is how people spend an average of 30 hours a week watching TV. Those are 30 hours you can use for your business.

That statistic blew my mind, but I don’t doubt that it’s true. Even while looking at my own life this year I realized I spent too much time watching Real Housewives. Don’t get me wrong, every once in a while is okay, but I was wasting valuable time where I could be working or learning something new.

If you feel like you can’t find time to work on your business your job is to do an audit of what you are currently doing with your time. Other time leaks may include messing around on social media or playing on your phone.

Tip #3 Cut out the side projects that are getting in the way.

I’m currently walking a new group of clients through my six-week business coaching program. One of the students recently had the realization that she needed to cut a lot of projects out of her life in order to find time for her business.

Here’s where it’s tricky. All those projects make her some side income. The issue is they are getting in the way of her business which has the potential to make her a lot more money.

It may look like she’s giving up money, but it’s only temporary. The reality is her focus is split and it’s causing her to spin her wheels and make less money overall.

The same applies for projects within your current business as well. If you are honest with yourself, you can probably find projects that aren’t a good use of your time. For example, another client found that one offering in her business is what really makes money, whereas the others don’t yield results. She’s cutting down on the fluff and focusing on the money maker.

It’s when we focus our energy on the right tasks that we find time for our businesses and make more money. Therefore your job is to make sure you’re using your time and energy wisely.

how to train yourself to become a morning person

Tip #4 Delegate stuff in your business and your life.

I recently heard a fabulous interview with an entrepreneur who said she doesn’t cook or clean because it doesn’t pay her. Instead, she pays someone else to do those things so she can focus her time on making more money.

Now that I’ve been self-employed and delegating to others for several years, I see how true this actually is. The more I delegate, the more time I have to earn more money. It seems counterintuitive because delegating usually costs money, but it all comes down to how you use your time.

I delegate things in my business that take away from my ability to make money. For example, I have no business doing graphic design. I’ve even begun delegating tasks that I’m good at but simply no longer have time for, like generating PR.

I try to do the same in my personal life. I also like to use grocery delivery services because I could make more money in the two hours I spend going to the grocery store. I’m also considering delegating cleaning of my apartment. That’s time I could be spending doing things that move my business forward.

One of the exercises I have my clients do is to begin ruthlessly assessing whether or not certain tasks or actions are the best use of their time. Once they do this, they either start delegating or start saying no more often. Either way, they usually end up making more money and have more peace of mind.

Tip #5 Set clear boundaries with other people

One of the biggest challenges I see for my clients is how they are often twisting themselves into a pretzel for other people while clearly neglecting themselves. This includes clients and people in their personal lives.

The problem isn’t the clients or the family. The problem is usually the fact that business owners don’t set proper boundaries. For example, just because a client sent you an email with a request now doesn’t mean you need to drop everything and cater to them. They can wait until you’re available.

Again, this seems counterintuitive, but it does make you more money. In respecting yourself, others respect you too. This means they will provide less headaches. It also means you will have the time you need to move your business forward.

Final Thoughts

The reality is that not having time to work on your business is usually not true. More often than not, you can find time. Start with these suggestions and notice how much more time you actually have.

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5 Signals for Investing in Crowdfunded Startups 28 Aug 2019, 7:44 pm

Suddenly it’s all the rage for accredited investors to make lots of tiny bets instead of one or two big ones. And it’s platforms that let people make these very early investments in startups, such as SeedInvest that are powering this new trend.  

But are these good bets? Or would you be just as wise to take your cash and put it on “red” at a casino? No doubt, startup investing is risky and the success to failure ratio of brand new companies still predicts failure all too often.  That said, there are certain things savvy investors know to look at that can help improve these odds. Here we’ll have a look at five of the most important.

Revenues

It is true that many startups take a while to get to a marketable product particularly if they are going after a problem that needs some hard technology solutions. When looking at investing however nothing beats solid revenues. You can make some amazing technology that no one really wants or where there is no business case. Google glasses looked amazing, broke news around the world but for a wide array of reasons, the product did not sell. 

Story revenues from a number of customers show some elements of product fit and repeatability of the sales process. People want the product and are willing to pay for it. You should look for signs within that such as are those customers increasing their purchase dollar sums, are they consistent. 

Are those revenues growing at a pace that you would expect for a company at that stage in the corporate lifecycle? You would expect revenues to be going up and to the right. If they are not, unless you fully understand why and can justify the reason, you should reconsider placing a bet. 

Founder track record

Does the founder have a strong track record? One big factor is had the founder had a successful exit before. Running a business is hard and seeing it through to a successful conclusion is even harder. 

Even if you do not see this as a factor for success many traditional VCs do. If the startup you are investing in is going to look for investment from traditional investors then they will look for this, not having this checkbox should be something you think about when making that investment decision. 

Institutional investors 

No one wants to be a sheep but there is wisdom in the crowd, especially if those other investors are professional investors. Look to invest in startups where other professional investors have already made an investment even if it is a small one. It is hard to decide which investment to take a position in. If you are lucky enough to have the opportunity to invest in a startup that has already received money from a professional investor then that is something you should think about. Had someone already done the due diligence, vetted thought the technology and the customer contracts, and made sure that the entrepreneur’s story really ads up?  

Patents

Is there defensible intellectual property underlying your chosen startup. It is always an advantage if there is a great technology team behind a new company. The ability to work to create patentable technology is something you should look for. If they are successful they will have competitors and how will they keep their advantage. 

Valuable Customers / Users

Beyond revenue who the customers are counts. Unless you are planning to be Facebook with billions of users, it is hard to make money with users with limited resources. Ten paying fortune 500 customers is better than one hundred thousand kids in emerging countries using an app for free. 

I spoke to Commerce.AI CEO Andy Pandharikar has successfully raised one round on Seedinvest which was 700% oversubscribed and is currently raising a second round that is now likewise over oversubscribed to ask what key signals he felt investors were looking for. 

Andy said, “Commerce.AI is building a billion-dollar company. Part of our mission is to democratize artificial intelligence. We originally planned to raise an initial $100,000 on the platform a year ago. The opportunity was 700 percent oversubscribed. We literally had to turn down investors. This funding helped us grow our company while progressing our mission.”

The feedback we are getting from investors in our current round is that the success in growth from this round to the last is driving their interest in investing. Since the last round, we have had 890 percent growth in revenue and achieved great customer success. We have signed paid deals with large enterprise brands such as Cisco, Chanel, Netgear, Coca Cola, Midea, USPS, and SC Johnson.”

Final Take

While not every company is going to take off as Commerce.AI has, there are lots of opportunities to find winners. The key to taking nice winnings off the table is to be shrewd, cautious, and do your homework. By digging into the five major signals above, and making sure you’re seeing green lights all the way down, you’ll be able to reduce risk and increase your chances of your investment producing big winnings.

The post 5 Signals for Investing in Crowdfunded Startups appeared first on KillerStartups.

How to Be Productive During Your Commute 27 Aug 2019, 6:45 am

I don’t know about you, but I find that there’s never enough time to do everything I’d like to do. For instance, I love to travel, craft, sew, go for walks, and do other fun activities. But it’s not easy to fit all of these things into my schedule. It’s not always easy to be productive during your commute each morning.

Obviously, I try to be the most productive I can at all times so I can get more work done. This helps me fit as many leisure activities into my schedule as possible.

If you are trying to be more productive also there are some ways you can that not everyone thinks of. For instance, you could be productive during your commute.

Now that I work at home, I personally don’t commute each day. But if you do, use that time wisely. Utilizing it to be more productive during your commute will give you more fun time with family or friends later.

Work on Your Task List

Rather than wasting time as you commute to and from work, or other places, use that time productively instead. One of the things you could do during that time is to work on your task list.

By using this time to add, rearrange, and delete things from your “to do” list, you’ll free up valuable time. You can also use the time to prioritize what you have to do for the day.

Once you get to work you’ll be ahead of the game. Instead of spending time figuring out what to do first you can get right to work. This may provide you with extra time to work on more complex projects increasing your efficiency.

Create Meeting Agendas

Something else you could do during your commute is to create meeting agendas. As you probably know, meeting agendas are a great way to ensure meetings run smoothly.

As discussion drifts away from topics at hand, agendas put attendees back on course. They also ensure no important topics get passed over.

Anyone who misses the meeting can review the agenda for a general idea of what was discussed. This is another benefit of meeting agendas that demonstrate their importance.

Use your commute time to be productive and create meeting agendas for your upcoming meetings.

Schedule Meetings

Bringing up meeting agendas reminds me that you can also schedule meetings during your commute. This lets you better use the time you might otherwise be simply wasting.

When your calendar is online you can access it anywhere. This lets you be productive during your commute and schedule work meetings. In addition, if you have a shared office calendar, it makes this task even easier and more efficient.

Organize Your Calendar

While you sit idle in a bus, train, or subway car, why not be productive? During your commute you might as well get organized and a good place to start is with your calendar.

Make Appointments

If you have appointments that need to be added to your calendar, use travel time to get it done. That way you don’t miss any that are important to you both personally and professionally.

Additionally, you’ll be more productive later by better using what would have been wasted time.

Review Your Calendar

Furthermore, while you sit you can review your calendar for the day’s events. Taking the time to look ahead for the day helps you get where you need to be on time. Without reviewing your calendar you run the risk of starting the day behind schedule.

As an example, what if you have an early morning meeting you forgot about? After getting to work barely on time, or a teensy bit late, you now have to scramble.

But reviewing your calendar during your commute, on the other hand, prepares you for the day.

Block Time for Work Tasks

Blocking time for work tasks is another way to be productive during your commute. It helps you take control of your time so you can get more done. Also, if you use a shared office calendar, it keeps others from scheduling meetings when your time is tight.

If you have large, complicated projects on your horizon, make sure you schedule accordingly. Make appointments with yourself by blocking time out of your schedule. This keeps you, from overbooking your calendar.

Listen to a Podcast

Podcast movement

Need an option for a way to be productive during your commute while driving? Try listening to a podcast. It’s a good way to gain the motivation you need to get through the week or even just that day.

Use your phone, tablet, or other electronic device to listen and gain inspiration. Spend the time learning about organization, leadership, productivity, and many other things that you find interesting. You may gain valuable insight that will encourage you and spark your creativity.

Learn Something New

Another way to not waste time during your commute is to learn something new. The more you understand about the different applications you use the better you can use them. It will also help you to learn hacks and shortcuts that save you time.

One idea you could try is to learn more about your calendar app. Rather than repeating the same motions every time you create a calendar event, learn about ways to do it faster. Refresh your memory about things you may not use often and could have forgotten.

Check Your Messages

A great way to be productive, as an alternative to doing nothing, is to check your messages. Check your cell phone for texts and voicemails. Dial into your work landline and listen to messages that may have been left on your desk phone.

Or course, depending on the time of day, it may or may not be too early to return phone calls. But it’s entirely possible that you could answer some text messages.

You could also read and respond to your emails during travel time to and from work. This helps you be a better manager of your time and gives you a jump start on your day.

Post to Social Media

better social media

To get as much out of your work day as possible, schedule your social media during your commute. There are social media apps that you can use on your phone to post social media. This lets you get that task out of the way so once you’re at work you can do other things.

Put on Your Thinking Cap

While on your way to or from work you could use the time to think and brainstorm. Furthermore, quiet time during a commute may make it easier to brainstorm than at work in a busy office.

For instance, if you are putting together a presentation, use the time to research and plan. Or, if you need to write an article, but have no idea what to write about, brainstorm some topics.

Play Some Music

Although some people wouldn’t necessarily consider listening to music as productive, it can be motivational. Listening to something that pumps you up and makes you feel energized can improve productivity after you arrive at work.

What’s more, music can lower your stress levels so you are ready to face whatever happens at work that day.

Let’s face it. Commutes can be long, tiring, and boring to say the least. But, as you can see, you don’t have to suffer through the boredom. Instead try some of these ways to be productive during your commute and get more done in your day.

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How to Market a Startup to a New Generation 23 Aug 2019, 8:00 am

How well do you relate to people two generations away from you? It’s hard to stay edgy and funny after more than 40 years, but “Saturday Night Live” is one Boomer brand that’s regained relevance in the digital age. Despite some rough seasons in the ’80s and ’90s, the show reinvented itself in the 2000s by hiring new talent, embracing online and social platforms, and leaning in to the cultural and political zeitgeist.

Entrepreneurs should take a lesson from SNL — or any successful legacy brand — when figuring out how to connect with younger generations of consumers. No, you don’t need to take a political stance (although it sometimes helps). But to grow an audience, startups must show they’re hip to the times to resonate with more consumers. 

Generation Z, in particular, represents a consumer segment of interest. According to Millennial Marketing’s “The Power of Gen Z Influence,” Generation Z commands spending power of up to $143 billion per year. These consumers, all born after 1996, have never known a time before the internet. They expect businesses to be fully integrated with web and mobile.

Perhaps because Gen Z consumers are so connected, they also prefer companies to take a stance regarding sociopolitical issues. Smart brands have boldly answered the call. Toms, a 13-year-old shoe company, has donated $5 million to organizations working to reduce gun violence. Levi’s, founded in 1853, uses its ads to promote inclusivity and progress. 

While they don’t yet have to reinvent themselves like legacy brands do, startups must demonstrate their relevance to engage with younger consumers. Consider three ways you can start doing that now.

1. Challenge traditional notions.

Expand the way potential customers view your company and its offerings. Dove, which first introduced its Dove Beauty Bar in 1957, took on this challenge in the 2000s with an advertising campaign that showed “real” women in an empowering light. “There are so few commercials that in any way are different, that challenge the stereotypical images,” notes ad industry critic Jean Kilbourne. Count Dove’s Real Beauty ads among them. One video, “You’re more beautiful than you think,” has received more than 68 million views, showcasing the message’s resonance with current generations.

Just as legacy brands must evolve, new brands should offer fresh perspectives to prove they’re culturally in step. As you get your brand off the ground, look for ways to round out its personality. A great place to start is with socially responsible messaging that promotes equality, fairness, and progress. How does your product or service enable your audience members to be their best selves?

2. Find the best meet-up spot.

Young consumers expect to find brands and products in a natural way as they explore their world, whether in person or online. A key tactic for staying relevant is showing up where your consumers are searching, hanging out, and going out. Get creative with it: Ads aren’t the only way to reach your audience.

For example, Jelmar, a 70-year-old company that manufactures CLR and Tarn-X products, created Spotify playlists to inspire happy cleaning vibes. Alison Gutterman, president and CEO, underscores the need to meet customers where they are. She notes that instead of waiting to be presented with a problem and its product fix, today’s consumers “self-identify issues and actively seek solutions. Because consumers have stopped being passive, brands have to follow suit and be where customers need them, when they need them.”

3. Enable personal growth.

Helping younger consumers meet their personal goals is one of the most powerful ways of staying relevant and top of mind. That’s because it appeals to this generation’s insatiable appetite for learning and personal growth. 

Provide ways for your potential customers to educate themselves and level up in skills. That may come in the form of video tutorials, online training, or other methods. Apple has put this tactic to good use in its Today at Apple program, which offers 30- to 90-minute training sessions. Taking place in its retail stores, the trainings cover topics like professional video editing. This sort of educational outreach can make a big difference for Gen Z consumers, accelerating them toward a tech-driven career or allowing them to make better use of the tools they own.

Startups need to be in tune with the times, and proving a brand’s cultural relevance is an effective way to appeal to the newest wave of consumers. Unlike SNL, you don’t need to hire a new cast of players. But you do need to re-strategize your messaging, meet potential customers on their own turf, and offer opportunities for personal growth. Whether a legacy brand or a brand-new startup, a company that demonstrates its significance will be able to fuel growth in the years ahead.

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6 Ways You Can Be a Happier Business Owner 22 Aug 2019, 5:45 am

Running a business is full of ups and downs. When things go well it’s one of the greatest and most accomplished feelings in the world. On the contrary, when things go south it can feel like there’s no more hope. While there will always be a few things out of your control it’s in your best interest to stay positive. Luckily for you, there are plenty of ways that you can become and stay happy as a business owner. Here are six of them.

Set Attainable Goals

One of the best ways you can be a happier business owner is by setting achievable goals. It’s great to be ambitious but if you’re constantly falling short of the mark it can be discouraging. Remember, it’s always better to overachieve than underdeliver.

Try setting one large goal each month with weekly goals that lead up to it. That way you can set yourself up for little victories along the way while keeping yourself on track.

Don’t Take “No” So Personally

As a business owner, you’re going to hear the word “No” ten times more than you’ll hear “Yes”. That’s just the nature of business.

You need to learn how to brush it off and move on to the next prospect. In fact, you should take the time to learn why that particular person wasn’t interested. This way you’ll gain value either way.

Be a Problem Solver

Think back to your High School days. Remember how good it felt when you finally solved that super long word problem in math class? That same feeling is alive and well in business.

Whether it’s for yourself or other employees you should always look to solve problems rather than create them. This will create a happier workplace all around.

Connect With Other Business Owners

The greatest thing about being a business owner is that you’re far from alone. There are millions of others just like you trying to accomplish the same goals. All these other business owners are a great source of support and feedback.

That said, you should take every opportunity you can to get out there and network. Whether it’s at an industry conference or at the local coffee shop you never know where a connection may take you.

Delegate, Delegate, Delegate

Happiness and productivity go hand in hand in business. Nobody wants to feel stagnant or that they aren’t providing value. If a task falls on your desk that you feel is out of your expertise, you need to delegate right away.

The misconception here is that delegating shows a sign of weakness or laziness. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Delegating shows strong leadership and the ability to properly manage a team. That said, you need to delegate often and as soon as work falls on your desk.

Find a Proper Work Life Balance

This section could have a whole article to itself. Achieving a work life balance is no easy task, especially for a business owner. It’s also one of the most important things you can do to keep happy and sane.

Nobody is expected to work all day and night. In fact, you’re actually less productive if you work ridiculous hours every day than if you work a standard number of hours. Follow the motto “work smart not hard” and try to put a hard stop to your workday. During your free time do your best to stay disconnected and spend time with friends and family. If you make this a routine you’ll find yourself more energized and motivated to attack work the next day.

Becoming a happier business owner won’t happen overnight. Try to make one change at a time and build it into a habit. Overtime you’ll notice yourself becoming happier and more productive in the long run.


Originally published here.

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Let Your Inner Self Shine 21 Aug 2019, 2:29 pm

Few things capture attention quite like the glimmer of a fine piece of jewelry.

But looking beyond this initial sparkle reveals an ugly truth about our favorite accessories: most jewelry is just so plain.  No matter how luxurious and timeless some pieces might be, the majority of jewelry you see these days is little more than yellow or white gold featuring simple, unimaginitive gem settings.

So while the pure shine might draw you in, very few pieces go deeper with their design elements.  There’s no real artistic flare in most cases that talks to you on an intimate level; instead, pieces are manufactured quickly and without much thought (other than profit).  Today’s jewelry leaves few opportunities for the wearer to be uniquely expressive – which is especially an issue for those who value individualistic style.

It’s time to bring flare back to the world of jewelry.  Introducing G&D Unique Designs: an up-and-coming online fine jewelry store with a commitment to unique, appealing design.

G&D’s creations take the concept of fine jewelry much deeper than today’s cookie-cutter designs do.  An embodiment of the Founder & designer’s personal passions, they represent a true form of art – along with a love for music and obsession with detail.  This is expressed throughout a diverse product range that includes 14K-18K pendants, gold rings, and more.

Above all, the company’s jewelry is crafted to create a moving experience for those who grace them – bringing our their inherent beauty while not straying from self-expression.  Custom pieces are available upon request, too.

G&D utilizes a proven, perfected process to deliver this for customers each and every time.  Each piece begins with a hand-drawn sketch by their talented designer, involving many hours of intricate pencil strokes.  The intended stone is then closely scrutinized against the sketch (ensuring aesthetic and measured perfection), and then decorated with precisely-chosen hand engravings.

Customers can browse and purchase jewelry in just seconds on G&D’s easy-to-use ecommerce store, with completely secure checkout and free shipping.  The site also includes sizing charts, care recommendations, and even an affiliate program for visitors who wish to sell G&D pieces in their own stores.  Satisfaction is guaranteed with each purchase and backed by 14-day returns.

Some of the more popular offerings you’ll find on the platform include:

The man behind the unique design is Gregory G. Simonov, a well-respected jewelry designer who founded the company in 2016.  Mr. Simonov has always been drawn to music as an art form – which he eventually intertwined into his career to create a new take on stunning jewelry.  Going forward, he hopes to continue expanding G&D’s reach through growth of the affiliate program and other marketing initiatives.

To see more of these beautiful products yourself and learn more about G&D Unique Designs, visit them online at https://www.gnduniquedesigns.com/.  The company can also be reached via email at info@gnduniquedesigns.com.

Photos: G&D Unique Designs

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ADM Labs: Leading the CBD Revolution 20 Aug 2019, 3:55 pm

It’s about time one of the Earth’s great natural gifts got the treatment it deserves.

 

Hemp has been grown for centuries throughout the globe, lauded in earlier times for its wide variety of commercial and industrial uses.  But back in 1937, it was made illegal due to the presence of cannabidiol (CBD) in its flower – keeping hundreds of millions of people not just from the plant, but CBD’s life-improving benefits as well.

 

Despite this, testing of CBD and other cannabinoids by scientists and doctors around the world has continued – and we now understand even more about its incredible ability to keep the body in balance.  Pain, sleep, appetite, mood, and even reproduction are just a handful of the many areas that CBD is proven to help manage and improve.

 

Now, with federal re-legalization coming last year, it’s take to take advantage of everything hemp and CBD have to offer without restraint.  The team at ADM Labs is leading the way as one of the fastest growing and most innovative wholesale producers in the CBD segment – utilizing state-of-the-art technologies that produce the highest quality products at affordable prices.

ADM Labs is a vertically integrated manufacturer, processor, and distributor of cannabinoid products.  From their impressive Denver facility, the company is specifically focused on CBD extraction – in addition to the wholesale of industrial hemp offerings.

 

Through strategic partnerships with OEMs and farms, ADM has secured next-generation extraction equipment as well as biomass for their genetics R&D. research and development.  They also leverage joint ventures with smaller production facilities to achieve scalability and meet growing production requirements.

 

This supply chain efficiency allows them to sell to wholesalers and other manufacturers at every stage of the extraction process – providing the full range of CBD products that hemp derivative producers & retailers need.  White label solutions are also provided to top brands worldwide.

 

Here’s a glimpse at the various products ADM sells:

 

  • Hemp biomass (obtained before extraction)
  • Crude hemp oil (obtained during extraction)
  • CBD distillate cannabinoid extract (obtained during distillation)
  • CBD isolate powder (obtained after removing all olis, waxes, and other plant matter)
  • Custom formulations to the customer’s specifications

Launched in 2018 by Founder Arman Motiwalla, ADM now boasts an expansive team of executives, managers, and directors hailing from diverse backgrounds.  The company is a subsidiary of ADM Group, a global business group with products and services spanning more than 100 countries.

 

ADM Labs now supplies 110 companies with premium quality, white-label hemp-based CBD products at competitive rates.  Going forward, they hope to continue growing their already versatile product line while expanding their efforts geographically.

 

For more information on how ADM Labs is thriving in this new hemp economy, pay them a visit online at www.adm-labs.com.  The Founder can also be reached directly at arman@admgroupintl.com.

 

Photos: ADM Labs

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The 5 Most Important Relationships for Startup Founders 20 Aug 2019, 8:00 am

It’s not that you don’t want to, but as a startup founder or small business owner, you simply don’t have time to build deep relationships with everyone you meet. 

While every person deserves courtesy and respect, you have to think carefully about how you spend your time. Fail to invest in the right relationships, and you could cost your company a big opportunity. Worse, you could walk headfirst into a problem a partner could have helped you avoid.

Who should founders consider their key partners? Ask whether you’re doing enough to keep these five relationships going strong:

1. Accountants

You trust your accountant to make sure your money goes where it should. But if you hit a payroll snag, do you know him or her well enough to actually pick up the phone? Better yet, does your accountant know you well enough to identify issues proactively?

According to research from payroll solutions provider OnPay, only 21% of small business owners talk to their accountants more than monthly. Most owners (61%) talk to their accountants quarterly or even less frequently. People who communicate that rarely can’t develop meaningful relationships.

An accountant you know well won’t just lend a hand at tax time. Your accountant can help optimize your cash flow, evaluate potential opportunities, and avoid mistakes that would cost you serious cash. For nearly every business question you have, an accountant holds the answer. 

2. Investors

Your startup may not have taken venture capital, but it has investors nonetheless. Whether you got funding from a local bank, a grant, family members, or a crowdfunding campaign, your investors deserve to know what you’re up to. In fact, the people who believed in your business enough to fund it might be able to help solve its biggest problems.

Regardless of who signed a check for your company’s future, the best investor relationships benefit both sides. You should never feel like your investor is a parental figure making sure you’ve done your chores. In strong investor relationships, each side helps the other stay informed about industry developments and brainstorm for the future.

Even when growth slows, keep your investors in the loop. They’d rather hear about your struggles early, when they can still offer help. This dynamic applies to crowdfunded companies, too. By keeping your backers informed, you can get early feedback on your company’s direction. You can assure your audience members that you remain a good steward of their funds.

3. Vendors

Your business can’t fulfill its promises without vendors. If your vendors see you as untrustworthy or rude, they won’t prioritize your orders. That could cause a chain reaction of problems, ending with unhappy customers.

Make sure your vendors have all the information they need to complete your orders. If you anticipate big changes next quarter, don’t wait until order day to drop an unexpected demand. A simple phone call to keep your vendor informed could save you serious headaches down the road.

Remember that your vendors run businesses, too. Be the kind of customer you want your own company to attract. Don’t haggle for every spare nickel or act like a VIP every time you get on the phone. Treat your vendors as equal partners: The closer your vendor relationships grow, the better your position when market winds change direction.

4. Mentors

Even the biggest names in business need advice sometimes. Before Facebook became one of the most valuable companies in the world, Mark Zuckerberg received business and life advice from Apple founder Steve Jobs. The two regularly shared ideas — Jobs even told Zuckerberg to make a spiritual pilgrimage to India at one point. The relationship made both men better leaders.

No one makes it to the top without help from people with experience. Your mentors may be former bosses, investors, or colleagues from other industries. Wherever they originate, don’t let those relationships stagnate. 

As in every good relationship, both sides benefit from a mentor-mentee arrangement. You don’t need to set up formal meetings to talk about your problems. Grab lunch or a drink after work once a month or so. Those little conversations build more trust than any big meeting could provide.

5. Family

Research from Bank of America revealed how much entrepreneurs rely on their families as they build their companies. While only 14% of founders depend on financial support from relatives, 57% receive emotional support. Many families even get involved in day-to-day operations, with 29% of entrepreneurs receiving volunteer help from family.

Plenty of entrepreneurs have struggled to balance work and family life. What they don’t realize, however, is that investments in family are often investments in business. In dark times, founders who feel supported by family members can rebound and try again. Those who let family relationships wane may not have the same support.

If you aren’t close with your blood relatives, don’t worry. Family can take many forms. Relationships with your circle of college friends, your trivia team, or your fellow founders can be just as gratifying and helpful. Whether you shared a bedroom as kids or a dorm room at school, make a point to keep your family involved. 

It takes a village to build a business. Prioritize the relationships that matter so you have the support you need when you need it. And remember: Relationships go both ways. When your vendors, family members, and mentors need you, be ready to help however you can.

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6 Things to Account for in Your Business Budget 20 Aug 2019, 5:45 am

One of my biggest pain points as a creative entrepreneur is budgets. Don’t get me wrong, apparently, I’m pretty good at managing money. The problem is I have a hard time conceptualizing what a business budget should look like.

Here are some of the questions I constantly ask myself as it pertains to a business budget:

  • How much should I be investing in my business?
  • What’s a good conversion for an ad?
  • Where should I be investing money?
  • Do I need to make any cuts?
  • When do I make those cuts?
  • What’s a good profit margin?

You see, despite the fact that I work in finance, I’m not very analytical. At least not when it comes to business budgets. I’m more of a big picture kind of person. And you know what? Most entrepreneurs are. That’s why we often need to hire financial professionals, CFOs or people who are way better at analytics than we are.

This very notion came up at a recent business retreat I attended. Since most of us are creatives, we get hung up on the details of a business budget. We literally drive ourselves crazy wondering if we’re making the right financial moves.

Fortunately, there was an attendee who was far more analytical which was extremely helpful. She gave us some major insights on what some business expenditures might look like. Additionally, every person in that room ran a very successful business, so it’s not like we’re totally clueless, we just think we are (that’s a topic for another time).

Here are some of the things to account for in your business budget. I want you to know this now so you’re not surprised later. Additionally, this comes from a combination of experience and having really smart financial people in my life which is a great segue to my first point.

Budget to hire smart financial people.

As I already mentioned, if you’re an entrepreneur you’re likely a visionary. Unless you happen to have an accounting background or really dig numbers, you probably need some help. Even if you do dig numbers, it’s way easier to handle other people’s businesses than it is to handle our own. And finally, even if you have the financial skills, your time may be better spent elsewhere.

Regardless of where you fall on the spectrum of financial know-how, you’re probably going to need to hire help. Period. At the very least, you’re going to need an accountant that can help you with tax planning.

Although accountants can be expensive, they pretty much pay for themselves with the amount of money they save you. Additionally, they know every legal trick in the book so you don’t overspend on taxes. For example, I recently deposited $2,000 into a SEP IRA so that I could deduct it from the taxes I owed. I ended up getting a $400 refund as a result.

Would I have known how to figure that out on my own? Nope. My accountant not only helped me bring down my tax liability, he also helped me save for retirement. Win-win.

Depending on the size of your business, you may at some point want to consider bringing on a CFO. Since I’m not there yet, I don’t have much to say on the topic, but I do know it’s worked well for many colleagues.

Equipment and tools

No matter what kind of business you’re in, you need some kind of tools to help you run it. Even people who run businesses from their laptops need to pay for services that help them run it. This includes email marketing software, e-commerce, web hosting and a CRM. If your business deals with inventory or equipment, then you must account for that as well.

The truth is it costs money to run a business. And that’s okay so long as you have allocated for it in the business budget. It’s also okay to layer things in over time. That’s what I’ve done as a bootstrapper and while it’s taken me longer, I don’t have debt and I don’t have anyone telling me what to do.

Marketing

Here’s where things get really interesting. While attending this retreat, the analytical attendee mentioned how businesses should be spending a minimum 10 percent of their revenue just on marketing.

To a beginning business owner, this sounds terrifying, but it actually makes a lot of sense. In order to keep growing your business, you need new leads. In order to get those leads, you need to market yourself.

For example, you may decide to spend money on ads because it brings you lots of new leads into a sales funnel. Some of those leads will convert into sales. So, if you’re revenue is $10K a month and you allocate $1k toward ads which covert into thousands of dollars, then you’re good.

The problem when it comes to marketing is most people don’t know what they are doing.However, that is a topic for another time. The point I’m trying to make here is that you do need to spend money on marketing in order to grow your business.

Now, what constitutes a marketing cost? This question did actually come up during the retreat. Technically, my all-in-one CRM system handles email marketing, but I would consider that more of a tool than a marketing cost. On the other hand, Instagram story ads and public relations definitely constitute as marketing.

Judging by my new friend’s benchmark, I’m investing the minimum that I should be investing. After seeing how successful my IG story ads are, I decided to start throwing in more money.

Unexpected or non-regular expenses

Unexpected and non-regular expenses used to be the bane of my business budget. After a few years of being surprised by them, now I know there will inevitably be something I have to pay for that’s not in my monthly budget.

Here are some examples from my own business:

  • An annual report for the state of Florida (State fees vary by state)
  • The occasional website maintenance or fix.
  • A non-regular graphic design cost like a media kit or worksheet
  • Web hosting which is once a year
  • Auto webinar software which is also once a year
  • My accountant’s fee for filing a federal tax return
  • Any class I may want to take
  • Tools and services that are billed annually
  • Random equipment like a podcasting mic or a camera

Now what I do is reserve some money in a business savings account for these expenses. After all, I know they are coming I just may not know or remember when.

Taxes

The last thing you want as an entrepreneur is to fall behind on taxes. It’s not fun. That’s why you need to make them a part of your business budget. For example, I know I need to set aside about $2,000 per month for taxes based on current profit. As an aside, this is also why you need to budget for hiring smart financial people. Just saying.

Contractors and Employees

I left contractors and employees for last because it depends on the business model and not everyone needs big teams. However, at the very least everyone needs an assistant of some kind.

The thing to remember is that hiring people can help you make more money and give you back your time. Therefore, it’s something you need to take into account in your business budget even if it means you do it slowly over time.

Final Thoughts

Knowing how to manage a business budget is an important part of running a successful business. At the end of the day, we cannot avoid the numbers, therefore, we must learn to befriend them.


Originally published here.

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Customers Want to See Company Partnerships 16 Aug 2019, 8:00 am

No one can do everything alone. Big businesses constantly partner to meet consumer needs. Why shouldn’t smaller companies leverage their own advantages to do the same?

In an era of constant connection, the evolution of consumer needs outpaces most companies’ ability to keep up. Amazon and Netflix have taught consumers that personalization should be the norm. Alone, startups and small businesses might struggle to meet higher expectations. Together, companies can deliver customer experiences that are more than the sum of their parts.

To give your customers the experiences they deserve, consider opportunities to leverage B2B partnerships:

1. Help one another provide more value.

Big companies can afford to handle multiple verticals. Smaller businesses simply don’t have that kind of cash. However, you can create the same experience at a fraction of the price by partnering with other businesses.

Smart home brand Plume, for instance, works with ISPs to bring smart home technology to the homes of ISP customers. Up against big-money ISPs, smaller outfits rarely have enough resources to offer the same variety of services and perks. Through this partnership, ISPs of all sizes can offer perks like Adaptive WiFi and AI security. 

Consider how businesses tangential to your industry could help you provide unexpected value. An auto rental company could work with a travel agency to help visitors find the most scenic rides. A pet brand and a cleaning solutions provider could offer a co-branded line of pet-friendly cleaning products. When it comes to mutually beneficial partnerships, the only limit is your imagination.

2. Link your loyalty programs.

If you don’t have a loyalty program yet, what are you waiting for? Loyalty programs provide more personalized customer experiences, increase referral traffic, and create social proof you can use to market your company.

Several companies offer merged loyalty programs to help consumers get the best of both worlds. Many airlines work with restaurant groups to reward diners when they use airline credit cards. That creates another type of program connection through the banks processing the payments.

If you don’t see an opportunity to partner with another company, consider integrating your loyalty programs (at least partially). This move could introduce you to a new customer base and create a short-term spike after the program goes live. But be cautious about the math to prevent opportunists from taking advantage of loopholes.

3. Join for a cause.

Even if your company and your potential partner have little in common, you can still join forces for the greater good. Now that 63% of consumers prefer to buy from purpose-driven brands, companies need reasons beyond profit to attract new business. You can do good for your cause while introducing your brand to an audience predisposed to view you favorably.

Don’t limit your search for a partner to your industry or the industries that directly affect yours. Consumers don’t care if your partnership begins and ends at your commitment to the issue. They just want to see brands champion the same values they do. 

If your company hasn’t yet identified a greater purpose, unite your leadership team to pick one that makes sense. Which issues matter to your people? You can take inspiration from others, but don’t borrow someone else’s mission outright. Find your calling, then look for others with whom to combine your efforts.

4. Look to corporations.

You don’t need 10-figure revenues to find advantages in a corporate partnership. Corporations and startups make great teams under the right circumstances. Your company can provide niche value to a corporate partner; your new big sibling can help with funding, vendor relationships, or new audience introductions.

If your business sells B2B products and services, don’t view potential partners through the lens you use with potential clients. This isn’t about making a sale. It’s about forming a long-term partnership that benefits both sides. When potential partners realize you want to work together — not make a deal — they’ll at least hear you out.

Joining the big leagues might sound intimidating, but don’t let the high stakes deter you. Take pride in your company’s agility and novelty. Understand what you bring to the table. Even if your corporate partnership never evolves into a business agreement, your new partner could help you find clients down the road.

Your customers will always want a little more — and so will everyone else’s. Do the right thing for your audience and your business by partnering with other companies. You’ll be able to provide a wider range of services, boost your value offering, and set the foundation for stronger growth.

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The Pros and Cons of Joining a Coworking Space 15 Aug 2019, 5:45 am

Have you considered joining a coworking space? After all, they seem to be popping up everywhere. Coworking spaces have also become synonymous with startup culture.

The truth is there are pros and cons to joining a coworking space. Take it from me, I was a member of one for two years and recently canceled my membership. Whether or not you’ll benefit from a coworking space really just depends on you, your team and your situation.

In an effort to help you make the best decision for yourself, I’m laying out the pros and cons of joining a coworking space.

Cost

Coworking spaces are generally pretty affordable. At the very least, they certainly cost far less money than leasing office space. CoWorking spaces are also usually in hot neighborhoods where a lot of business goes down.

Now, things have changed when it comes to the cost of coworking spaces which is actually one of the reasons I canceled my membership. There are now spaces available where you can go cowork for free, therefore paying to cowork doesn’t necessarily make sense. For example, I have a client in Denver who has access to free coworking spaces. Or, my bank (yes, my bank), is opening up cafes in my area that look like coworking spaces. I can go work there for free.

Of course, I can get away with working at a free space because I hardly ever have in-person meetings. If I was a lawyer or my clientele expects and office space, then it would be a little different. In that case, I could get a dedicated space at a coworking space for less than the cost of a lease.

Additionally, some apartment buildings are also now combined with work spaces. My friend lives in a loft and the upper floors of her building are office spaces. She can use them and it’s already included in her rent. With more options like this, it’s making coworking spaces a little obsolete.

Location

Coworking spaces are usually in good locations. Every hot neighborhood in my city has a few coworking spaces to choose from. In my case, I was able to walk to my coworking space from my apartment.

Additionally, they are usually in areas where there is a lot of business or commerce. This includes downtown areas, near main streets and, as I already mentioned, trendy neighborhoods.

The downside to this is traffic. Granted, I didn’t have to worry about it because I could walk to my space. However, I never understood why people would choose to drive to a coworking space given the traffic nightmare near all of them.

Another upside is if you have a local team, you can meet at the coworking space instead of your home. I don’t have a local team so this totally doesn’t apply to me.

The actual spaces.

I have to give it to coworking spaces, their interiors are amazing. There is a lot to be said for how our work environment affects our productivity, and coworking spaces take this very seriously.

Granted, I feel like some do this better than others. It can also be a matter of opinion. For example, I don’t get the dimly lit coworking spaces. They make me want to shut down. I’m also not a huge fan of mostly open floor planning or the community desk area being next to a bar.

But, like I said, that’s a matter of opinion. Overall, I have no cons about interiors.

Networking

Part of the appeal of joining a coworking space is having access to a network of other professionals.

As with interiors, some spaces do this better than others. For example, some coworking spaces give you access to an app or an online directory. Other coworking spaces are far better at putting on community events.

Either way networking is a key part of running a successful business and it’s really hard to do that from your home. It was actually joining a coworking space that helped me get more in tune with Miami startup culture. While none of my clientele is local to me, it still helps to know people in the area.

Furthermore, the only part I miss about needing to be at an office every day is being around other people. With a coworking space you have “coworkers” without the baggage of traditional coworkers.

marketing guide for business owners

Flexibility

One of the major pros of coworking spaces is the flexibility they allow you. The reason I joined a coworking space in the first place was because I had a situation going on at home that made it difficult for me to work. The coworking space provided the temporary solution I needed at the time.

Now that things have settled, I’ve canceled my membership because I no longer need it. I’m  one of those people who actually likes working from home. If I ever feel like I need to be around other humans I just go to a coffee shop. Or, as is the case now, I can cowork for free in other locations.

There is also something else you need to keep in mind. Different coworking spaces have different policies for contracts. For example, mine would lock you in for six months to a year which worked for what I needed at the time. Others are month to month. It depends on the space so make sure to shop around.

Coworking spaces also offer different options at different prices. They have day rates, weekly rates, community rates, dedicated desk rates and private office rates. Again, what you need depends on you.

Environment

The environment of coworking spaces is a tossup between pros and cons. To be fair, it’s a 50/50. Some spaces are definitely crazier than others, however here are my thoughts based on my personal experience.

The benefits of an environment in a coworking space is you’re around people who get you. I also notice people tend to be in a better mood. Often times its because they are working on stuff they actually like to do. Most people are also entrepreneurial and therefore pushing themselves to be better every day. It’s good to be around people like that.

Here’s the con: Sometimes its way too many people. Again, this could depend on location. The original location of where I went to cowork was great because it was quieter. When I moved and started going to another location, it was a different story entirely. There was barely a moment where I could get a phone booth to take a call. It’s also difficult to do stuff like film videos for clients or record podcasts without shelling out for your own private space which makes no sense for my business.

I’ve also been to coworking spaces that are like a party on a Friday. I walked in and thought, “Oh my gosh if it has this many people on a Friday I don’t even want to know about Tuesday.”

I have to be fair, though. This totally depends on the coworking space and it’s location. It’s not fair for me to group them all together and assume they are all like this.

Final Thoughts

Joining a coworking space can be a great move depending on your business. It certainly helped me when I needed it. Regardless of the fact that I canceled, I still believe they fit a major need in the market for business owners.

 


Originally published here.

The post The Pros and Cons of Joining a Coworking Space appeared first on KillerStartups.

How to Bootstrap a Six-Figure Business 13 Aug 2019, 5:45 am

I recently achieved a major goal I set for myself many years ago – to have a six-figure business by 30. I accomplished this without taking on debt and without using other people’s money. Although using other people’s money would be nice, it’s not a route I want because I want complete control of my business. If you feel the same way, then you need to learn how to bootstrap a six-figure business for yourself.

What is bootstrapping?

Bootstrapping is a method of funding your business which gives you complete control. With bootstrapping, you’re using your own money to grow the business. At first this looks like dipping into your savings. Over time, it looks like reinvesting some of the revenue back into the business.

A word of caution…

Don’t think you can bootstrap a six-figure business overnight. It actually took me five years of being self-employed to reach the six-figure mark. This because I had less access to capital and I did not want to get in over my head with credit cards.

I slowly built my business over time. This is important to keep in mind because in the world of perfect Instagram photos, entrepreneurship looks easy. It’s not. It will probably take more time and cost you more money than you think.

I don’t say this to scare you. I say this so you’re aware of what it actually takes to make this work. Far too many people try to bootstrap a six-figure business and don’t realize the amount of time, dedication and work.

Furthermore, I say this so you focus on generating as much revenue as you can from the get-go. The faster you generate, the more you can invest and the faster you can get to six-figures. With that being said, here’s how to bootstrap a six-figure business.

Reduce your personal expenses ASAP.

You can free up some money to bootstrap a six-figure business immediately by reducing your personal expenses. This also puts lets pressure on you because you can live off less. That way, more of the money you make can be reinvested back into the business.

Furthermore, the first couple of years can be rough. Any entrepreneur can tell you this is true. You’ll want to make sure you’re not in over your head as you grind it out. The easiest way to do that is to cut your personal expenses.

Know how you’re going to make money.

The next step to bootstrapping a six-figure business is to know how you’re going to make money. What products or services are you selling? How many sales do you need to close? What’s the price point? How many people do you need to speak with to close that many sales?

Here’s a secret that took me years to figure out. If you want to bootstrap a six-figure business quickly, start by selling products and services that are expensive. Last year I created my group coaching program which is $2,000 per sale. Because of this, I increased my revenue by 40 percent in 12 months without trying very hard.

As such, my current goal is to go harder on those sales because they make the most money the fastest. If you don’t have a high-end product, how can you create one? The truth is you need something to sell in order to bootstrap a six-figure business.

Speaking of which…

Learn how sell, negotiate and close deals.

If you need to make money, start selling.

I fervently believe that every entrepreneur should invest in education that helps them with selling. Because without sales, you essentially have no business.

When you try to bootstrap a six-figure business, its likely that the selling is your responsibility at first. This is because you’re not yet ready to hire and manage sales teams. That’s okay so long as you know how to close a deal.

If you’re uncomfortable with sales, I would start by working on your mindset. The truth is sales is an art. It’s also likely that most of what you’ve been taught to believe about sales is wrong. After that, it’s a matter of learning skills and techniques so you can sell, deal with objections and close the deal.

Just note that this does take practice. I once got rejected 60 times in one month because I didn’t yet know what I was doing. Now I am able to close deals and get credit card information over the phone. In fact, many of the prospects who rejected me back then are now my customers.

Don’t shy away from marketing yourself.

One mistake I see a lot of entrepreneurs make is shying away from marketing themselves. They tend to hide behind other people or just not use the tools that are at their disposal.

I’m here to tell you the harsh reality of the internet. We’re living in a time where you need to get people’s attention. That means you need to be everywhere and market yourself consistently.

This is one of the reasons why I do IG stories every day. It’s also why I email my list almost every single day and have my podcast syndicated everywhere possible. People consume content in different ways and they need to see you as much as possible.

In addition to putting yourself out there, you should learn the art of good marketing. Invest in learning how to write effective sales copy. If you’re able to do that, sales become easy.

For example, last week I wrote a specific email that I sent out to my list. The copy was so well written that people were literally calling my business phone inquiring about my coaching programs. That is the power of good marketing. Being able to get people to move like this makes it easier to bootstrap a six-figure business.

Finally, he who markets himself makes the money. You get people’s attention and build their trust over time. Because if no one knows who you are, it’s unlikely that they will buy from you.

high money roi

Don’t be afraid to invest some money.

I hate it when I see entrepreneurs who are scared of investing money into their businesses. The reality is that you will need to invest at some point if you want to bootstrap a six-figure business.

I understand the feeling of wanting to hoard money. We’re so afraid to part with it that we don’t understand the value of investing. However, I also understand how investing thousands leads to a return of tens of thousands. For example, I invested about $3500 in a mentor and made a return of $40,000 with what she taught me.

It took me a long time to get here and I see a lot of entrepreneurs get stuck when it comes time to invest. It’s no wonder that many of them stay small and never make it to the six-figure mark.

Here’s how I’ve come to see investing in my business. If I slap an investment on my credit card, then I have a few weeks to figure out how to make more sales to pay for it. Because the money is never actually there when you need it. Instead, you need to go find it.

Of course, this is done slowly and meticulously over time. You also need a lot of discipline so you don’t go haywire. That’s where having a trusted accountant can come in handy.


Originally published here.

The post How to Bootstrap a Six-Figure Business appeared first on KillerStartups.

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