Small Business News
Math and science are noble endeavors, but real leadership is taught in the arts. Here are four powerful lessons taught best by artists.
The Tony Awards for Broadway Theater are Sunday night, showcasing artists across America. As much as people spend money for movies, television, theater and music, why do business experts continue to ignore the incredible leadership teachings that come from the arts?
Several years ago, I published a journal article called Entrepreneurs: The Artists of the Business World, after discovering through an anecdotal survey that more than 15 percent of the Entrepreneurs' Organization membership had arts backgrounds, compared to less than 5 percent who studied business. (As a member and theater arts grad I figured I couldn't be the only one.) Since this elite organization requires applicants to show $1,000,000-plus revenue, its members must be doing something right. Below are four leadership lessons taught regularly in the arts.1. Lead a Project from Start to Finish
Many B-school programs culminate study with the writing of business plans that rarely lead to funding or success. Meanwhile, performing arts students must create a concept from scratch, refine it so they can articulate a compelling vision, recruit skilled labor, and manage everyone to completion on time and on budget, since moving opening night is never an option. They also get to sell their product and collect immediate customer response in the form of ticket sales and applause. This process is completed by millions of students several times a year, all over the world.2. Manage Dynamic People Effectively
People like to describe artists as eccentric and strange, and many are. So imagine trying to manage an entire company of these weirdos. And yet somehow, unlike your company, these people happily and consistently deliver highly creative and effective product, even with strict time and resource constraints. And the work they deliver almost always considers a powerful customer experience as the primary objective. Most artists are drilled repeatedly on how to lead their artistic colleagues in a collaborative manner to achieve an effective experience. And despite the frequent presence of professional egos that would crush a Goldman Sachs exec, they learn how to bring all people forward together, or no art would ever be created.3. Ensure Total Accountability
Let's say you are a stagehand in a simple community production of Hamlet. And you are given the job of placing the skull for the famous Yorick scene. The first time you forget, everyone in the production will chastise you. The second time you will be fired. And you will forever be known as the guy who screwed up the scene, or the violinist who went flat in Beethoven's Ninth, or the dancer who fell in the Nutcracker. Artists live and die by their dependability--yet non-artists consider them flaky and irresponsible! Artists develop in an environment where the production is only as good as its weakest participant. Individual performers with both big and small parts are inherently motivated to bring up the entire company rather than showboating personal performance like the sports players business people love to exalt. Even most stars in the arts know they shine best against a rich and unified background.4. Implement Big Picture Thinking
From the day you take a role in a production, art project or film, you immediately understand that you are part of something much bigger than yourself. The size of your contribution only matters as far as it contributes to the quality and impact of the whole. Artists willingly accept this approach as the entire success of output is dependent upon the merit of what they can deliver. Nepotism, longevity and cronyism may provide opportunity, but only true connection with the customer creates longevity. That forces all successful artists to submit their often-large egos to the service of the overall experience. Those who lead others collaboratively to do the same are rewarded with continued opportunity and success. Those who are selfish or stuck in their own vision are doomed to poverty and dissatisfaction.
You can gain these same lessons by engaging in the arts. Community theater, orchestras, galleries and dance companies are all amazing laboratories for creativity, communication and yes, leadership. People in the arts have these leadership concepts ingrained into them through repetitive, practical application. So if your engineers, sales people and managers are coming up short in these leadership areas, perhaps you should consider hiring a few theater, dance, art or music graduates to show them how it's done.
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What makes employees stay for the long haul when they can get higher pay by jumping around? The answer may surprise you.
As business owners, do we reward loyal employees to stay the course, or is jumping ship the way to get ahead? And if it's the latter, is this a business model for success or failure?
As the CEO of my online marketing company, VerticalResponse, I've spent the last 12 years leading and growing our business. We've had employees come and go throughout that journey. As I look at my team today, I'm reminded that there are a fair number of folks who have stuck with us from the early days back when we were packed in a tiny office with a portable air conditioner unit we called "swampthing" to the 28,000-square-foot floor with gorgeous views of downtown and the San Francisco Bay we have today.
But in the world of technology in the Bay Area, being a "lifer" is pretty unusual. Lots of folks are chasing the IPO dream and jump from company to company in pursuit of pay increases, swanky benefits and cashing out before turning 30. So what makes someone stay? I've got a few theories...It's in Their DNA
Every company has a culture, but on top of that culture is the DNA of the employees that are drawn to it. If you've got a group of employees who 1) are drawn to your company and what you do for the same reasons, and 2) have a shared understanding of your vision and know how their roles affect that, then you're doing something right. And it's these kind of employees that are usually in it for the long haul.They Like What They Do
In a 2012 Workforce Retention study by the American Psychological Association, 67 percent of Americans cited the reason they stay at their jobs was because "I enjoy the work I do."
Surprised? Pay was down on the charts as the No. 3 reason with 59 percent of respondents.
So do your employees really like what they do? We've got a member of our marketing team who's been with us for more than eight years. She started out on the front lines doing customer support for five years and now serves as our training and education manager. She's a great example of someone who grew with us and has evolved alongside the company. And, she's not just here for the paycheck. She genuinely likes what she does, loves the people she works with and knows how her role counts in what we are trying to do for our customers. Could she leave and make more money somewhere else? Maybe. But the point is, she is happy, contributing and valued here and she knows it.It Fits With Their Lifestyle
David W. Ballard, PsyD, MBA, head of APA's Psychologically Healthy Workplace Program, says, "Americans spend a majority of their waking hours at work and, as such, they want to have harmony between their job demands and the other parts of their lives."
Coming in a close second to enjoying what they do, nearly two-thirds of survey respondents said they choose to stay because their jobs fit well with the rest of their lives. Makes sense.
Creating an environment where employees feel a strong connection to the work they do and having a positive work environment has never been more important. How does that translate for your business? It depends, but could include flexible work arrangements like working at home, or working a flexible schedule. How about unlimited paid time off, or the ability to bring your dog to the office? You have to examine the DNA of your organization and find out what's of value to your team so you can create that environment in genuine and sincere ways that matter to the people who make it tick.
Do you have any examples of why people stay and why they go? I'd love to hear your perspective in the comments.
Sometimes you should keep your salary secret and sometimes you should proclaim it from the rooftops.
"I would never, ever disclose my current salary or salary history to a prospective employer even if it means ending the interview process. That is my advice to job hunters," says Nick Corcodilos, headhunter extraordinaire, at PBS News Hour. While I've never met Nick, he and I have exchanged numerous emails and he's advised me on my own job hunts, and I respect the heck out of him. In fact, you should sign up for his newsletter.
That said, I politely disagree with his hard-line position. There are some things you should never do when job hunting: answer your cell phone during an interview, get drunk when they take you to lunch or wear your Daisy Duke shorts to any interview that doesn't directly involve pole dancing. Disclosing your salary doesn't make that list.
Nick is right--it should be irrelevant. Companies should make offers based on what you can do for them, not what you did for your previous company. But, most of us don't sit down and calculate what an individual is really worth. We look at what another company thought the candidate was worth and then decide if that salary indicates that you're qualified to go further in the interview process. If your current salary is too low, you're disqualified because you obviously don't have the skills. (Regardless of whether you actually do or not.) And if your current salary is too high, you're disqualified without consideration of whether or not you're interested in that job for reasons other than dollar signs.
In a perfect world, I'd like to see companies be open with what they expect to pay the job and let the candidates self screen. But, the world isn't ideal. Right now, companies have the upper hand and make ridiculous demands--asking for copies of W2s, making people fill out ridiculously long online applications with questions like your high school class ranking. (And submitting applications through an online system is about guaranteed not to get you a job.)
So, in an ideal world, there'd be no angst around salaries, and no one but your accountant and your spouse would ever need to know your salary history. But, some companies are dumb as rocks when it comes to recruiting. (Of course, do you want to work for a dumb company?)
Then again, salary disclosure is sometimes a good thing. When? When you have a job that you like and it's a good salary and someone approaches you, it's perfectly reasonable to say, "Well, I'm currently doing X at Company Y and I make $Z. I'd need an increase to $Z+15% to even think about it." Now, Nick would argue that you should just say, "I'm looking for $Z+15%" to begin with.
But, here's one piece of psychology that he's missing out on: Many, many managers are only going to see you as having value if someone else sees you has having value. It's like toddlers fighting over identical toys. The one someone else has is infinitely better than the one on the shelf. And that's true with job candidates. If your current salary is good, asking for an even better one without the explanation makes you look greedy and somewhat naive about the process. If, however, you can demonstrate that other people think you're awesome and are rewarding you as such? Your chances of a plumb salary just went up.
And, if they choke and suddenly lose interest in you, you know that this isn't a job that was worth your time to seek out. But, this only works if you are already happy in your current role. Why? Because you have the power. If you aren't happy, then they don't need to know your salary because it shouldn't affect their evaluation of you as a candidate. But, the reality is, while Nick would walk away rather than disclose, not all job seekers have the option to do so.
And, therefore, you need to evaluate, do I give up this piece of personal information or do I hold my ground? If you can get to the hiring manager, you're probably golden, but if you're stuck at an HR wall, you'll probably have to confess your salary before you can get through. And business owners: If your HR department is putting up walls, consider replacing them with someone who knows how to value candidates' potential rather than their past.
Learn as much as you can about your customers and market. But leave room for imaginative ideas.
I advise a very creative business that, in the last few years, has energetically embraced the promise of database marketing. It's true that its executives came rather late to the technology and, like most companies, had a few engineering stumbles along the way. But now they have a system of sorts that keeps tracks of their customers and their purchases. For a small company, it's been a big step, and they know far more about their market than they used to.
But now that they have all their data, they are so enamored of it that they're paralyzed.
One of their product lines--the one that put the company on the map--is failing; the established customers are no longer buying and new interest has not materialized. So the company needs to make some key decisions: Should it ax the product altogether? Reduce the costs it incurs? Market differently? Or invent something new?
At no time are these simple questions but now that we have a sea of data, nobody can think without it. Any proposal--from revolutionary change to minor adjustment--is greeted with discussions of whether the data would bear it out. Creative ideas are rejected because, given the data structure, they can't really be tested. Unless of course we restructured the databases in which case, in a few months or so, perhaps....
Many of the finest database marketers recognize the dilemma we face. Data will tell you a great deal and help you make endless refinements and adjustments so that you can deliver delight. But big data won't deliver a big new idea, the concatenation of zeitgeist, information, and imagination.
And unless you set up your data systems so that you can experiment with big ideas often, quickly, and cheaply, you may find you know everything but understand nothing. Big data but small ideas.
You don't mean to do it, but in most offices it's hard to avoid. Bosses, don't give in to this time-suck.
Here's my nightmare scenario: I pull out my phone to call up my calendar for the next day, only to find that the entire day--we're talking 8 a.m. to 6p.m. (or later)--is booked solid with meetings. What happened to, um, actual work?
It's safe to say most people are addicted to meetings. It doesn't quite make sense, especially from a boss's perspective. Meetings are expensive. The hours your employees spend in meetings are hours when they're not working.
The Centre for Economics and Business Research reported that office workers spend an average of four hours per week in meetings. These same workers reported feeling like half of that time is wasted. Additionally, a Salary.com survey reported 47 percent of workers say meetings are the No. 1 time-waster at the office.
Obviously, not all meetings are unnecessary and unproductive. I spoke with project management and productivity expert Tony Wong to find out how to transform meetings and increase productivity. Here are his tips:
1. Timing matters.
Before you schedule your next meeting, ask yourself this: Do you really need 60 minutes to address the topic at hand? If you allot an entire hour for a meeting, your attendees will likely lengthen the meeting just for the sake of it.
Try reducing the length of your meetings to 30 minutes or less--10- and 15-minute meetings may even be all you need. To stay on schedule, always begin at the stated time, regardless of whether everyone has arrived, and end the meeting on time, even if you haven't completed your agenda.
2. Keep an eye on the size.
Inviting 10 people is similar to copying 10 people on an email. It's a sign of laziness. The more people you invite to your meeting, the more you sap productivity. Consider meetings VIP events--limit your invitations only to those whom are vital to the topic. As a rule, try for five people or less.
3. Choose a direction and stick with it.
There's nothing more annoying than meeting just to meet. Business meetings aren't effective when a decision needs to be made or for informational purposes. You can take care of that with a simple phone call or a company-wide email with a plea for no reply.
Unless it's a brainstorming session, a meeting should be called only to support and convey a previously made decision. A productive business meeting produces a committed plan of action. To stay on track, curb any irrelevant discussions, interruptions, and repeated points.
4. Define whether you're having a meeting or a work session.
The definition of a traditional business meeting has gotten lost over the years. This is likely how the long-winded meeting with unnecessary tasks came about. People easily confuse business meetings with group work sessions and brainstorming sessions. These two types of work settings require far more time than a standard meeting.
5. Ask attendees to come prepared.
This goes beyond putting together a brief agenda. Be sure all people are prepared in advance to work toward a concise plan of action--and have their materials and questions ready prior to entering the door.
6. Break bad habits.
Your bad habits are likely getting in the way of a quick and effective meeting. Be militant about accomplishing more at your meetings--break notoriously unproductive habits like long introductions and repetitive rambling. Even more challenging: Come to terms with the idea of turning down meetings that aren't vital to you or interrupt your deadlines. If you can't avoid the meeting altogether, set a time limit and leave accordingly.
The traditional business meeting just isn't working. Keep it short, concise, and when possible, eliminate it altogether.
What do you think? Is the business meeting broken?
An old e-mail exchange between Steve Jobs and James Murdoch illustrates how savvy negotiation works.
A series of emails about ebook prices between Apple and HarperCollins, including ones written by Steve Jobs, were recently released as part of the Department of Justice price-fixing suit against Apple and a number of major publishers. As the site Quartz pointed out, these offer some great insight into how Jobs negotiated.
However, Zachary Seward at Quartz called it an example of "hard-nosed" negotiation at which Jobs excelled. I'd take a different view. This is not hard-nosed. The emails show how an excellent negotiator used a series of principles to create the best conditions for winning. Let's look in greater detail at the exchange between Steve Jobs and James Murdoch, son of Rupert Murdoch and the ultimate decision maker, and see how Jobs ultimately got his way.
First, set the stage. Apple and HarperCollins had been discussing bringing the latter's ebooks into the iTunes store for the launch of the iPad. Apple had presented its standard contract. HarperCollins wanted to address the following issues:
- flexibility to price on a title-by-title basis outside Apple's pricing tiers
- no so-called most favored nation status, so Harper would not have to give Apple as good a deal as any other retailers in case the two companies disagreed on prices and HarperCollins wanted to make titles available through other outlets at higher prices and, potentially, higher income for those retailers
- a lower than 30 percent commission on new works
- six month windows on using an agency model (publisher sets the price and retailer gets a commission) instead of the 12-month window that Apple wanted
- concern that Apple wanted to set prices too high, meaning that competition with Amazon would be difficult
And yet, Jobs ultimately prevailed. Here is how.
1. Understand the importance of the negotiation.
According to one of the emails, Steve Jobs got on the phone with Murdoch right away. Jobs was a busy man, but he knew that some deals are critical. To have a credible showing of ebooks, he needed all the major publishers, including HarperCollins. However, there was another aspect of importance that didn't pass him by. If he caved on what he thought he really needed with one publisher, others would eventually find out and push back. Not only was the deal important in and of itself, but also in terms of the effect it could have on other deals.
2. Show that you understand the context and why your proposition is better.
Jobs knew, as did everyone in the publishing industry, that Amazon was driving much of the ebook business. Murdoch verified that Amazon paid $13 wholesale for an ebook title and sold it for $9.99--a loss, but Amazon wanted market share. However, buying high and selling low wouldn't last forever, as Jobs pointed out:
The current business model of companies like Amazon distributing ebooks below cost or without making a reasonable profit isn't sustainable for long. As ebooks become a larger business, distributors will need to make at least a small profit, and you will want this too so that they invest in the future of the business with infrastructure, marketing, etc.
Furthermore, Jobs argued that the $9 HarperCollins would get per title was actually sustainable and that the only way to pay more, given that in retail a 30 percent margin is relatively modest, would be to raise prices, angering consumers.
3. Show both kinds of value.
Jobs showed two kinds of value in his email exchange. One was positive value--what HarperCollins would get by working with Apple--and the other was negative, or what HarperCollins would lose by not working with Apple. For example, Jobs wrote that "Apple is the only other company currently capable of making a serious impact, and we have four of the six big publishers signed up already." On one hand, he offers HarperCollins a tool to oppose industry domination by Amazon. On the other, he offers a soft hint that if HarperCollins doesn't play ball, it may get left behind by its major competitors.
4. Lay out the reality.
The Jobs coup de grâce relates to the first point. When Murdoch shows signs of compromise, while trying, as Jobs did, to show positive and negative benefits to Apple, Jobs lays out a stark reality:
As I see it, HC has the following choices:
1. Throw in with Apple and see if we can all make a go of this to create a real mainstream ebooks market at $12.99 and $14.99.
2. Keep going with Amazon at $9.99. You will make a bit more money in the short term, but in the medium term Amazon will tell you they will be paying you 70% of $9.99. They have shareholders too.
3. Hold back your books from Amazon. Without a way for customers to buy your ebooks, they will steal them. This will be the start of piracy and once started there will be no stopping it. Trust me, I've seen this happen with my own eyes.
Maybe I'm missing something, but I don't see any other alternatives. Do you?
At that point, the gloves are off and Jobs shows that HarperCollins, and the wider industry, face a stark choice, and that he, Jobs, knows it and recognizes that giving in to Murdoch would actually mean putting HarperCollins in a medium-term bind.
5. Play the emotion
One of the biggest mistakes that businesspeople make is to assume that the process is a rational and logical one. But negotiation is almost always an emotional play. People make decisions because of ego, fear, greed, a need to please, and so on. Notice that Jobs shows the benefit and the risks by painting pictures and not enumerating lists. For instance, he mentions the 120 million customer credit card numbers on file. He deliberately left the image of all that potential money in Murdoch's mind.
You don't often see an extended example of a negotiation process handled by someone gifted in the field. It is worth reading through the transcript to follow the back and forth and see how skilled Jobs was.
As income inequality grows, companies that target middle-income consumers face a dwindling customer base.
"The rich get richer and the poor get poorer." This crusty old saying, unfortunately, describes economic trends that are dominating the United States. Some economists call it the "hourglass economy"--there are growing numbers of people at the high and low ends of the income spectrum, and fewer and fewer in the middle.
Though hiring a former Apple executive to be a telecommuting CEO was certainly a bonehead move for J.C. Penney, the hourglass economy is the real reason the company is struggling to stay alive, according to Rita Gunther McGrath, associate professor at Columbia Business School, and author of the new book The End of Competitive Advantage. Failure to understand how the economy was changing harmed the retail chain, which traditionally has targeted those shrinking mid-level earners, she says. The hourglass economy can take down your company, too, if you're not careful. That's why McGrath recommends three key tactics.
1. Pick your target market carefully
"Look at the market in two dimensions," McGrath says. "Are you going after large volumes and a bigger footprint at the low-income end, or will you be a niche player with bigger margins and probably slower growth at the upper end? It's going to be much harder if you try to land in the middle."
A company targeting low-income customers needs to be aware of the dynamics that can govern their daily lives, McGrath notes. For instance, many people at the low-income end of the scale live paycheck-to-paycheck, which means that they're only able to make large purchases early in the cycle, right after they've been paid. At the end of the cycle, they can only afford necessities. If you're a retailer, it's smart to stock your shelves in accordance with your customers' pay cycles.
On the other hand, McGrath says, "If you want to reach people who have more discretionary spending power, be aware that they don't want to buy the same things as all the other people with discretionary spending power." Small companies have a natural advantage in this arena, she adds, in that a customer who buys one of your products is unlikely to find that everyone he or she knows has one too.
"If you're targeting there, think very hard about the emotional component of what you're selling, and how does it set the buyer apart and make that person unique?" she recommends.
2. Don't ignore early signs of trouble.
If you own a small business and have been running it for a while, and you're starting to see a downward trend, take that very seriously, McGrath advises. "Don't make the mistake of assuming you're seeing a cyclical trend. You hear people say that sales are down but they'll be better next year. It may well be a permanent structural shift, and entrepreneurs often wait too long to ask those questions."
3. Stay flexible
In this economy, your best shot at safety is to be able to change your organization on a dime, McGrath says. "In this hourglass economy, be careful about fixed costs, or fixed commitments to a given business model. Leverage your partners' resources if you can, rather than building things for yourself."
This piece of advice comes with a helping of irony, since it was exactly this phenomenon that created the hourglass economy in the first place, according to McGrath. Companies seeking to stay nimble in uncertain economic conditions have sought to restrict the size of their full-time staff, relying on outsourcing and temporary or hourly workers. Those without highly marketable skills are left without any guarantee of continued employment, or even of full-time hours from their current employer. "For people who don't have valuable skills, 'I can replace you with three people tomorrow,' is not an empty threat," McGrath says. She notes that in retail, 15 years ago 70 percent of employees were permanent and 30 percent were temporary. Today, those proportions are reversed.
Whatever you do, keep in mind that the hourglass economy isn't going anywhere. "It's a continuing and growing phenomenon," McGrath says. "We're seeing a shift in power toward owners of capital and away from owners of labor. And so many institutions would all have to change at once to reverse this trend."
A fascinating new study took an in-depth look at how custodial staff understand their work and uncovered wisdom for those on every rung of the career ladder.
What’s the worst job in the world?
Answers certainly differ based on personal preference (my vote goes to anything involving heights). But cleaning up after hospital patients would surely be towards the top of most people’s lists. So what could janitors possibly have to teach entrepreneurs about career satisfaction?
A fascinating recent study uncovered a surprising answer.
Amy Wrzesniewski, now a professor at the Yale School of Management, had the radically simple idea of talking to the custodial staff at a hospital in detail about their jobs to discover what strategies they might employ to find satisfaction in their admittedly low-skilled, low-paid jobs. The wisdom she uncovered should serve to humble anyone who has ever made the error of thinking of those who work in the profession with condescension or not at all.
Turns out, they have much to teach even the most high-flying professionals about maximizing career satisfaction. The essence of this wisdom, author David Zax reports, is the idea of "job crafting." That doesn’t mean changing your work, it means carefully crafting how you think about your work. Some of the custodial staff, he reports,
Felt their labor was highly skilled, they described the work in “rich relational terms,” says Wrzesniewski, talking about their interactions with patients and visitors. Many of them reported going out of their way to learn as much as possible about the patients whose rooms they cleaned, down to which cleaning chemicals were likely to irritate them less. “It was not just that they were taking the same job and feeling better about it, pulling themselves up by their bootstraps and whistling. It was that they were doing a different job.”
This second, happier group didn’t see themselves as custodial workers at all. One described forming such a bond with patients that she continued to write letters to some of them after they were discharged. Another paid attention to which patients seemed to have few visitors or none at all, and would make sure to double back to spend some time with them... What these workers were doing, Wrzesniewski came to realize, was quietly creating the work that they wanted to do out of the work that they had been assigned -- work they found meaningful and worthwhile. Wrzesniewski and her colleagues call this practice “job crafting,” and they think it could be the key to happiness in all sorts of jobs.
The idea of job crafting is available to everyone, Wrzesniewski believes. Though there are obviously times you should quit a terrible job, the impulse to always look for the perfect career situation rather than try to find ways to thrive in your current one and connect with the value of the work you already do, makes a lot of people unnecessarily miserable.
Could you use the idea of job crafting to reconceptualize any of parts of your work that drive you nuts?
Start-up founders love to talk about wellness and fitness, but are you actually helping your employees achieve it?
Employees today value a healthy work-life balance as much as they value a promising paycheck. Not only does an offering like an employee wellness program provide a more positive work experience, but it can also boost camaraderie, morale and--best of all--productivity at the office.
What are the must-have elements of an employee wellness program at a start-up? We asked nine successful founders from the Young Entrepreneur Council to suggest a few program investments that will pay off.
1. Look for Programs Catered to Your Needs
I would suggest looking into organizations that are catered to helping companies with their wellness programs. If you are a knowledge worker, I would suggest something like Keyboard Athletes. --Michael Bruny, The New Art of Conference Networking
2. A Dedicated Nap Room (Really!)
We offer our employees the use of a dedicated nap room, with a sofa and comfortable sleeping space. A short rest can make all the difference between a tired employee and a fresh, motivated one. --Robert J. Moore, RJMetrics
3. Host Wellness Workshops
Corporate employees tend to suffer from lack of sleep, poor eating habits and burnout. Tony Schwartz of The Energy Project created a fantastic program to raise awareness of each of these areas. Awareness is what will ultimately lead to action; after the workshops, get feedback to determine what is most needed (i.e. napping pods, accountability groups, food or gym stipends or standing desks). --Jenny Blake, Life After College
4. Make Fitness a Part of Your Company's Culture
When developing an employee wellness program, be sure to have a goal in mind and a purpose for the program. Provide a tangible goal that your employees can reach to increase motivation. Whether it's training for a 5K or competing on the company's softball team, providing something your employees can participate in will help them remain active. --Heather Huhman, Come Recommended
5. Get Fitbit for Every Employee
I love my new Fitbit, a high-tech pedometer with wireless sync that allows me to compete against my friends or team for the most steps each day. Create a group for the start-up to see each other's progress and build in friendly competition. It'll encourage more "Let's walk to lunch" and activity around the office, as well as building the team as a unit.
--Kelly Azevedo, She's Got Systems
6. Give Your Kitchen a Makeover
The strongest wellness programs are holistic in nature. After creating an exercise routine, give your kitchen or snack shelf a makeover. For starters, stock your fridge with ready-to-eat quinoa (e.g. Minsley) and salad greens, fill your shelves with organic seeds and nuts (e.g. sunflower, sesame, pumpkin, pistachios, pecans) and get a robust water filter (e.g. Berkey).
--Kevon Saber, Fig
7. Consider Social Wellness
At 'ZinePak, we recently implemented the rule that every employee can take two paid days off per year to volunteer for a charity of his/her choice. It's an excellent opportunity to empower employees to help our community and help them feel like they're a part of something larger. Wellness isn't just about physical fitness; social and emotional wellness are equally important to overall well-being. --Brittany Hodak, 'ZinePak
8. Implement More Standing and Walking
By offering standup desks and encouraging walk-and-talk meetings, our team can make small changes to existing routines. Our employees have found that standing and walking throughout the day, instead of constantly sitting, keeps them more energized and better-focused. --Bobby Emamian, Prolific Interactive
9. Offer Flexible Working (Out) Hours
The biggest challenge facing employees who want to be healthier isn't always the cost of a gym membership, but the time to fit it in. Gyms are packed before and after work, so allowing employees gym time anytime can inspire everyone to get up and get moving instead of the typical post-lunch afternoon slump. --Derek Flanzraich, Greatist
Setbacks are inevitable; it's how you deal with them that determines your ultimate success.
It's easy to stay motivated when you're winning; what's challenging is staying motivated when things are going badly. Ultimately, success depends upon your ability to handle inevitable setbacks, according to Jeff Keller, author of the Attitude is Everything. Here's how:1. Realize they're temporary.
Every successful person has encountered setbacks, learning what doesn't work is an essential part of learning what does! Setbacks are a sign that you're making progress. Remember: God's delays are not God's denial.2. Recommit to your goals.
If you truly want to succeed, banish all thoughts of giving up before you accomplish your objective. Be willing to do whatever it takes to succeed, within legal and ethical bounds. You will get there eventually.3. Contact some positive colleagues.
Positive emotions are contagious, so this is a great time to reconnect with people who believe in themselves and believe in you. Give positive encouragement to others and they'll return the favor. Get energized together!4. Reset your timetable.
You may not be achieving success as quickly as you'd hoped, but success generally comes one small step at a time. This is a great time to "retrench" and think through what you might do differently to achieve your goals.5. Take action today.
Pursuing success is like riding a horse; if you get thrown off, you've got to get right back on it. Rather than dwell on the setback, take some action--right now--that will continue your momentum.
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What happens when your company's business model doesn't necessarily jive with local law? You go on the offensive. Companies in the "sharing economy" space are doing just that.
Some of the fastest-growing comanies in Silicon Valley have capitalized on the idea of collaborative consumption and asset sharing. The only problem, of course, is that local regulators around the country don't always have such a breezy view of the sharing economy. (Think, for instance, of the Airbnb hosts sued by their cities, or the cease-and-desist orders delivered to ride-sharing start-ups in San Francisco, as well as the legal battles faced by SideCar.)
According to multiple sources, groups of these peer-to-peer start-ups are beginning to band together in the face of regulatory scrutiny. A source at ride-sharing start-up Lyft told Inc. there are at least two initiatives in the works that that will bring together policy (and potentially lobbying) efforts to the sharing economy. It's a little unclear at this point how many groups are actually being formed and who, exactly, is involved, but the wheels are in motion.
In a time when tech companies are starting to behave like industry giants of the past, taking their interests--and their money--to K Street to influence legislation (consider Mark Zuckerberg's immigration lobby), it seems natural that several of these scrappy sharing-based start-ups are beginning to band together.
On May 24, Poltico.com first reported that Airbnb, Etsy, and travel start-up Vayable were teaming up to create a "new advocacy effort." But it seems that more than one group is actually in discussions about how to approach both advocacy and political/regulatory influence.
Airbnb did not respond to our request for interview. However, our request was apparently diverted to FitzGibbon Media, a Washington, D.C.-based communications firm, which confirmed via email that there will be a "major announcement in the coming weeks." Vayable did not return a request for comment.
Etsy, also named in the Politico article, denies its affilition with any particular group. However, in a statement e-mailed to us, its director of public policy, Althea Erickson writes:
We haven't joined any organization specifically, but we've been involved in many conversations with Airbnb and other companies about joint efforts to support the peer economy, which we believe can be a powerful engine for sustainable economic development. Our top priority is to advocate for Etsy sellers and ensure that they can start and build independent, creative businesses on their own terms. A good part of our policy work is to educate legislators, academics and the small business community about how Etsy sellers are a really different kind of entrepreneur.
While it's unclear so far which group, exactly, will be leading the charge, Inc. has confirmed the existence of at least one: BayShare, which describes itself as an "advocacy organization in the San Francisco Bay Area whose mission is to make the Bay Area the best place on the planet for sharing." Its site lists several notable member companies, including Airbnb, Lyft, RelayRides, and several others.
Its spokesperson, Milicent Johnson, says that although the site is live--along with an accompanying Facebook page--the group has not yet officially launched. She was careful not to divulge too much information before its member sites had a chance to prepare official statements.
"So much of this work is in its infancy," she said in a phone interview. "We're still trying to figure out how we want to have our coming out party."
Johnson said the group's mission will be three-fold: To unite companies facing similar issues, to educate the public about the sharing and peer-to-peer economy, and, most importantly, to work with city regulators when it comes to legal matters.
"There aren't that many peers in the sharing economy," she says. "There was a real need to seek out your counterparts."
Not suprisingly, San Francisco politicians have jumped on the collaboration economy bandwagon.
Last March, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee announced the formation of a "sharing economy" working group, which would "bring together City Departments, neighborhood and community stakeholders and sharing economy companies to...explore policy alternatives and legislation to modernize those laws and/or address emerging impacts and issues."
In a statement, Lee said that the "growing 'sharing economy' is leveraging technology and innovation to generate new jobs and income for San Franciscans in every neighborhood and at every income level...San Francisco must be at the forefront of nurturing its growth, modernizing our laws, and confronting emerging policy issues and concerns."
Blogger and venture capitalist Fred Wilson has a dream for the future of data science. The data's out there, he says. Analyze it yourself.
Call it DIY data science.
In March, venture capitalist Fred Wilson blogged about what he sees as a trove of publicly available data just waiting to be mined from the Internet. What's more, he thinks hobbyists and curious Internet users--not just professional data scientists--ought to be the ones mining it.
It appears that Wilson's hopes for do-it-yourself data science may be coming to fruition.
Last week, blogger and New York Times tech developer Alastair Coote dove into a pile of publicly-available data from the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and emerged with a digestible list of New York City's most popular commuter stops. After discovering that the MTA collected data on the number of subway turnstile swipes for each specific station, Coote decided to created a map of the 10 most popular rush-hour stops in the city.
This style of citizen science has Wilson excited about the possibilities for business owners and curious laypeople, and he was quick to re-post Coote's project to his own blog. Wilson views the easy accessibility of data as an opportunity for entrepreneurs to do what they do best: Create and innovate.
"I hope we all get into data hacking and start collaborating on this stuff together publicly. We might learn some interesting things about ourselves and our world at the same time," he wrote in another post on Thursday.
Before you ditch your existing data experts, however, consider the rebuttal: Shrikant Narasimhan, a data scientist and author of the blog TechSwamp, sees Wilson's vision as "unworkable at best." In a response to Wilson's DIY data science pitch, Narasimhan wrote:
"What is preventing the layperson right now from becoming data wizard is, quite simply, the lack of knowledge. The world of data science is quite exciting--and tools, techniques and education will only continue to improve and wow us--but 'DIY data science' will never be a thing."
You're more likely to succeed as an entrepreneur if you're motivated by helping solve other people's problems, not your own.
When you decided to become an entrepreneur, what reasons motivated that decision? For some people it is the opportunity to make a lot of money, the freedom to live by their own convictions, or to live a certain lifestyle. While these are great personal goals, too much focus on these things can lead you down the wrong path.
The decisions we make every day build upon our existing goals, values, and beliefs. We call upon these foundational thoughts to inform the decisions we make so that we don’t need to re-evaluate every detail and consequence every time we make a decision. Imagine how your product or service offering might be affected if your decisions are driven primarily by a desire to become wealthy or to set yourself free from mundane work. Do you immediately filter the options by what has the biggest immediate profit margins? Or, do you limit yourself to opportunities that you could do from a laptop while traveling the globe? If this is your focus, then are you actually solving any problems? Are you contributing value or focusing on extracting value?
Contrast this with setting your attention upon helping others. If you start by talking to prospective customers to understand their pain and find a problem they need solved so badly they will pay you for a solution, that’s a customer who not only will be thankful and loyal over time, they’ll likely spread the word and do your best marketing for you. That loyalty and vitality is startup gold, but is rarely accounted for in our early calculus of the best opportunities.
If you’re focused on calculating profit margins, you will likely miss the nuance of what problems truly need solutions. You’re also less likely to connect with a base of customers so deeply that they spread the word on your behalf or stick with you after competition enters the market. You’re less likely to realize the real opportunities, because you are less likely to be solving a real problem.
If you’re focused on high margins and high volume, this will often lead you to a market that is already peaking and nearing consolidation. Volume usually comes from the market having matured and high margins attract competition. One should be wary of this scenario-if it’s too good to be true, there’s a good chance you’re late to the party. This is the classic problem with chasing money: You’re one step too late and end up facing market consolidation before you’re ready to contend with it. Any value you may feel that you are contributing is likely redundant or inferior to others already entrenched in the market.
A similar challenge awaits if you limit yourself to looking for opportunities that fit your lifestyle. If you limit yourself to opportunities that you could pursue in your free time or while trekking the globe, for example, there’s a good chance you’ll land upon a thin business model that’s easy to setup and quick to generate cashflow, but never invests in building your value chain (better sourcing, delivery, customer service, etc). Affiliate marketing, drop-ship e-commerce websites, and “me too” mobile apps that add minimal new value to the market are examples that come to mind.
With these businesses, you are only contributing a thin layer of value over the top of other businesses who have made the necessary investments and own the entire value chain; you are putting a metaphoric cherry on top of someone else’s ice cream sundae and pretending it your own. But this won’t last for long. Businesses that facilitate your profit margins will eventually capture the inefficiency you’re exploiting, particularly if you do not make significant investments to reinforce your long-term value and capability to stand on your own as a business.
Neither chasing money nor chasing a lifestyle gives you the opportunity to build a lasting or meaningful business. They are temporary opportunities that only exist because of a gap between market demand and what suppliers are yet able to provide. Once the inefficiency of the market is corrected and there’s no longer that temporarily gap between supply and demand, the jig is up. And if you are focused on enriching yourself rather than helping others, this is the sort of opportunity you will most naturally align yourself with.
If you are serious about starting a lasting business, stop focusing on your own goals and instead focus your attention on serving others, discovering their needs and how to help them. Think about how to create significant value for a core group of people and how you can help them live a better life or accomplish their goals. This approach will naturally align your efforts with the market and put you a step ahead of competition, rather than always being a step behind. Who knows, you may even sleep better at night, knowing you’re making a difference somehow.
Tax and banking reforms could help the industry grow in more ways than one.
Two bills winding their way through Congress could help pot sellers launch their small businesses in the U.S.
First, Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., introduced the Small Business Tax Equity Act on Wednesday, which would change section 280E and allow medical marijuana dispensaries to take standard business deductions on their taxes. Another bill would help these dispensaries open bank accounts with more ease.
Similar bills have come and gone before, but lawmakers are hopeful our changing attitude toward pot--more than 52 percent of Americans support legalizing the drug--could push more legislation through Congress.
"There is an opportunity with lots of moving pieces in Congress," Blumenauer told U.S. News & World Report, noting these reforms could be tacked onto larger bills like tax reform and the farm bill. "These are relatively minor technical adjustments and in times past, things like this would find their way to be part of larger pieces of legislation."
Since 2011, the IRS has audited companies citing section 280E, which was meant for drug kingpins and companies who trafficked in “controlled substances.” But Henry Wykowski, a defense lawyer in California, told The Huffington Post, "The IRS is using this law in a way it was never intended to be used." In fact, a 2010 memo sent to members of Congress explains "neither section 280E nor the Controlled Substances Act make an exception for medically necessary marijuana."
Since only filing taxpayers can be hit with the section 280E penalty, "the result is, unfortunately, you're better off not filing," Wykowski said. It's what kept the market from retaining any sense of legitimacy and most sellers from wanting to enter.
Do you think pot sellers should have a stake in the small business landscape?
It's tough to land top engineers--let alone keep them around for a while. Are you giving them what they really want?
Over the last few years, I've studied what makes people happy at work. Most want very similar things--stable relationships with colleagues, engaging and challenging work, progress toward goals, and a sense of control in meeting those goals. For most people, happiness at work has little to do with a paycheck.
As soon as I packaged my insights into a theory I could stand behind, I read Michael Halligan's post "Benefits Matter, or Why I Won't Work for Your YCombinator Company." Halligan states that not only do benefits matter when hiring top tech talent, but so does commensurate pay. The problem is, commensurate pay for someone with 20+ years of engineering experience may not be commensurate with what a fledgling start-up can pay--even if it wanted to.
What Engineers Really Want
Surely my theory wasn't that off the grid? So I went back to my engineer comrades and asked them, what do you really, really want? Money and benefits, or happiness and meaning?
They didn't rattle off a list of health benefits, high salaries, or paid time off. The refrain was the same among just about every single one I talked with. What they want is freedom.
One path to freedom is money. Another path to freedom is time.
To keep your tech talent, you have to give them one or the other--time or money. To recruit and retain the best tech talent, you have to give them both.
But what's really happening in many start-ups is that engineers are squeezed from two ends--both their salary and their life (i.e. freedom) leaves a lot to be desired.
They're necessarily paid a smaller wage than they could garner elsewhere (usually off set by an equity stake that may or may not pay off) and they're pressured to work longer hours, leaving little time for a life outside of work.
If they're not building their own product or working for a company they really believe in, then this two-ended squeezing takes an unwelcome toll, which is when most of the good ones walk away. It's just not worth it.
However, Halligan's compensation ($18,000/year toward conference attendance, $2,500/year FSA, full health insurance with paid premiums, 30 days of PTO, to name a few) sounds more like magical thinking than solutions that could actually work in start-ups. Most large corporations can't afford these benefits.
Start-ups are not meant for everyone. If you want the high salary, a month of PTO, and full paid health insurance, perhaps the start-up gig isn't for you.
I see more tech talent leave, not because they aren't paid well, but because the financial sacrifice they're making to stay isn't offset by some other tangible work-balancing activities--weekends off to travel, meaningful side projects, positive company culture, flexible schedules, healthy relationships, or building something with the potential to make a real impact.
Without these humanizing activities outside of work and time to focus on them, engineers are little more than hired guns used to propel other people's dreams. Most of us won't stick around for someone else's dream. We will work, sweat, and bleed to be a part of something we believe in. Engineers are no different.
Want to keep your tech talent? Pay them well (enough). Treat them better. Empower them to dig deep creatively. Make sure they believe in what they're building, and get the hell out of their way.
What if you walked into a store and the clerks automatically knew your buying preferences? It's coming--and so are other technologies that change everything.
Part of my job is to pay attention to new trends in technology. In recent weeks, I have seen several new advancements that will dramatically change the way we interact with brands and each other.
How we choose to implement these technologies and who controls that interaction is yet to be determined, but one thing is clear: The entire concept of privacy and just how much we're entitled to as customers and citizens is up for debate.
Two very interesting new technologies:
Facedeals: What if a business recognized your face--and offered you personalized deals when you came through the door?
I don't know about you, but I love it when I walk into my local Starbucks and they already know what drink I am going to order. What if I could receive that same level of service if I drop into a Starbucks in another part of town--or even across the country?
I was on a panel with Dave McMullen from Red Pepper Agency a couple of weeks ago. His company has created a cool new technology called Facedeals. The technology recognizes you as you come into a store or restaurant and offers up a promotion based on information you have shared via your Facebook account. Think of it as Foursquare without having to sign in.
From my research with consumers, some will embrace this with open arms, while others will avoid it all costs. That has real implications for businesses that are considering it.
Node Gadget: What if your smartphone could measure body temperature from across the room?
Now imagine having a device you can carry with you anywhere that lets you point at someone across the room and read their temperature. Or detect the humidity and CO2 levels in the air? The possibility of this is already working, at least at a close proximity, via a technology created by George Yu called the Node Gadget.
Yu's cylindrical devices connect with your smartphone and provide an easy way to determine things about your environment--things as simple as detecting the air temperature to the exact color you might want to match from a paint or fabric swatch. There are infinite uses for both techies and businesses. Imagine, for example, the advantage if you are working with a customer and they want to match a specific color for their brand refresh or marketing campaign.
But there's a flip side. One of the applications for this technology could be the ability to detect if someone near you has a fever. What if the sensor can detect chemical residue from bomb-making or other illegal activities? Where does protection stop, and invasion of privacy begin?
Questions like this will have to be addressed as more technology comes onto the market that allow us to "know" more about each other and our customers. As a business owner, it's important that you understand the concerns and motivations of the customers you are working with to be successful with any new technology. Give your customers the opportunity to participate, or not, and be upfront with them about how the technology will be used to pave a road to a trusted relationship.
Awards can be a powerful marketing tool. Here's how to apply for them, win and tell the world.
Last week the company I founded was named the No. 1 Trademark Firm in the United States by Intellectual Property Today magazine. It was a tremendous accomplishment and a testament to all those who have worked so hard for us over the years to reach one of our initial goals.
A famous sports coach once said that awards are nice, but they are nothing more than reminders of your past accomplishments. What's next?
Although this may be true in sports, in business the landscape is slightly different. If used properly awards are tremendous marketing tools instantly establishing your credibility with prospective customers.
Consumers want to see accolades. They want to know something good about you. Awards provide valuable third-party corroboration of your value propositions.
So in reflecting upon our most recent accolade I thought I would share how we use awards in the day-to-day marketing of our business.1. Research
First, establish a program wherein you routinely seek out awards and ratings in your industry. A great starting point is your local Better Business Bureau wherein you should endeavor to apply for membership and maintain that all important A+ rating. Also, make sure to check industry-specific publications as well as general business and entrepreneurial publications as they often have awards for various criteria.2. Apply
Second, after understanding the qualifications, apply for the awards you have identified that would be indicias of reliability for your goods or services. Keep a list and know when and how you have to re-apply each year.
3. Shout It from the Mountain
Finally, when you win awards or are rated highly by a rating service shout it from the mountain. No one knows how great you are unless you tell them. Make sure when an award is bestowed upon you your potential consumers are surrounded with information announcing your accomplishments. Press releases. Advertisements. Banners on your website. These are just a few means to let them know.
Whether you're starting a company, developing a product, or selling yourself, your success is always dependent on the needs and wants of whoever you're trying to appeal to.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Everyone knows what that phrase means: beauty is subjective. But to me, it's always meant far more than that because so many things in life are subjective.
In business, your product is only good if customers are drawn to it, find it useful, and enjoy the experience. You can develop the world's greatest device or application, but if customers don't want it, need it, or enjoy using it, they won't buy it.
Likewise, your capabilities as a worker are only marketable if employers need what you have to offer. Lots of companies may pass on you, but as long as you find the one that likes your capabilities and style, that's a match made in business heaven.
In other words, real world success is always about understanding the needs and wants of your customers, your management, whoever you're trying to appeal to. It's very subjective and it isn't easy but it's nearly impossible if you lack that understanding because the truth is that your success is always in somebody else's hands.
Whether you're starting a company, developing a product, or selling yourself, I always tell people to take their perspective up a level. Before you start planning, developing, or selling, first do your best to understand what folks are looking for. Then figure out how to deliver the goods.Really Understanding
Said another way, the most successful companies are the ones with a deep understanding of the application for their product. How their customers want to buy it, use it, experience it. And guess what? They want their employees to have the same perspective.
Steve Jobs was always a brilliant marketer, but what propelled him and Apple to the top was his unique ability to understand what people wanted to do. Then he designed products to meet that application. He developed devices that effortlessly did what people most wanted to do.
It didn't surprise me in the least to hear that Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is looking to restructure the software giant and turn it into a "devices and services company." Why do you think that is? Ballmer learned the lesson from Jobs and Apple. Software may be Microsoft's expertise, but that's not what customers care about. They want complete solutions to their problems.
Also, demand for Xbox 360 has exploded since Microsoft began focusing not on the games, but on how people played them. Inventing Kinect, the body motion and voice-activated game controller, was a real breakthrough. And now Microsoft hopes to take that advantage to the next level by making the new Xbox One the hub for your living room.
Similarly, Intel Capital just launched a new $100 million fund to invest in what it calls perceptual computing technology, meaning how human senses interact with computing devices using voice recognition, facial recognition, eye tracking, or gesture control. Intel understands that demand for chips is all about making devices that use them more human-like in their interface.The Takeaway
Business success isn't really about you and your capabilities. It isn't even about your company's expertise or your product's cool new features.
It's about elevating your perception to understand the needs of your customer, your management, whomever you're trying to appeal to. Once you get a handle on that, then, and only then, look at what you've got and figure out what you need to deliver the goods.
That's when you should start planning your company, developing your product, or selling yourself or your ideas to management. These days, it's hard enough just to get a shot at an opportunity. In all likelihood, you won't get a second chance. Don't waste it.
Remember, beauty is always in the eye of the beholder. And your success is always in somebody else's hands. Always.
Smart tips for navigating management foibles in an open-plan environment.
The open-plan workspace may be the biggest boon to productivity in decades because it fosters collaboration, innovation and creativity among employees. But plenty of bosses stumble and even fall when it comes to managing effectively in today’s team-centered set-up.
Many leaders want to excel at collaboration, but instead are stuck in the behavioral patterns that worked well for them in the hierarchical and authoritative org structures where they first cut their executive teeth.
Carol Kinsey Goman, a management coach and career adviser, says that when these leaders “move to today’s collaborative environment, leadership - instead of being about power, status, authority, competence - becomes more about engaging other people, about getting workers to contribute and talk to one another, about building bonds and relationships for success.” High-status cues can now be the enemy.
The transition hasn’t been easy for many - and workers everywhere know it.
Goman recalls how one executive royally messed up at a weekend retreat for his team. “People were dressed in their khakis, their jeans, all the other informal clothing that are typical at retreats,” says Goman, who was sitting in the background.
Then in strode the exec - dressed as if he were about to attend a boardroom meeting in 20 minutes.
“He had the power tie, the briefcase, the Rolex watch, the Gucci - the whole bit. I saw what happened the minute he entered the room,” says Goman. “He was late, first of all - so, non-verbally, he was signaling that the meeting wasn’t really that important to him. Second, he came in dressed like he was in charge, which is fine if that’s the message he wanted to send.
“But he started out by saying, ‘I’m so glad to be here. We need all of your contributions, all of your collaborative work in order for us to hit our goals.’ The problem was,” adds Goman, “his words were derailed by the way he looked. And then, third, he stood at the head of the table, which again signaled that he was absolutely in charge.”
The workplace as a central location for collaboration and productivity isn’t going away any time soon. In fact, studies such as The Smart Workplace in 2030, by global manufacturer Johnson Controls, show that flexible workplaces will continue to respond “to a complex and competitive world [that is] focused on collaboration, innovation and creativity.”
While circumstances will vary, here are seven smart tips for managers (and the rank-and-file, for that matter) to succeed in today’s open-plan environment:
1. If you want other people to speak up, listen closely and use eye contact when they’re talking. “Face them - with your shoulders, your feet, knees, hips,” says Goman. “When you start to turn parts of your body away, even your feet, well, it looks like your feet want to leave the room, which is usually the case. Instead, align your body toward people.”
2. Remove barriers between yourself and others. That means laptops, briefcases, papers, books, purses - and smartphones.
3. Expand your presence, rather than compress yourself. “Women in particular tend to hold their arms tightly to their bodies.” Instead, take your place at the table, as it were. Demonstrate your involvement to those around you.
4. Dress as a member of the team, which you can do effectively no matter what your role.
5. Try sitting in the middle of the table, rather than instinctively grabbing the lead spot.
6. Know how you come across to others - and adjust that if necessary. Allow yourself to be videotaped and examine the results, Goman advises. “I’ve had executives tell me afterward, ‘Hell, I wouldn’t hire me,’” she says. A third party such as a career coach or valued colleague can share advice and insight.
7. Show empathy toward others. Younger employees in particular, says Goman, who are so adept at technology, may not always have the body language skills that can help them succeed in a collaborative environment.
This article was originally published on The Fiscal Times.
Thinking outside the box sounds great, but a bad out-of-the-box idea can kill your company.
The capacity to create a business idea and get someone else to understand that idea is a fascinating human trait. Ideas can only come from humans. There is not an app for generating unique ideas.
I believe business ideas come in two major forms: “inside the box” and “outside the box.”
Have you ever asked someone or a group of people to think outside the box? This question usually comes up with something isn’t going quite right or needs to be improved upon. The response is usually, "Sure, I'll think outside the box with you." These sessions are usually filled with a storm of ideas.
But have you ever considered thinking inside the box? More than likely you haven’t, because we don’t often define this box we refer to all the time.
If you have not defined your business box, an outside the box idea could kill your business. Defining the box is actually quite simple, but simple doesn’t necessarily mean easy. Dieting is simple, for example. You just need to consumer fewer calories than you expend. Yet few would say that dieting is easy.
So what is the box? It’s got three parts. The first, which is composed of what I call Way One thinking, is the development of business objectives. What I refer to as Way Two thinking is the creation of SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-bound) plans designed to support the business objectives. And finally, Way Three thinking is the enormous amount of energy the tasks require to execute the plan.
At my digital marketing agency, Mojo Media Labs, we have four categories of key business objectives: finance, customer, culture, and internal business operations. Within each key objective are two foundations, for a total of eight objectives. Each of these objectives is tied to multiple documented strategies that are needed to accomplish them. I could not count the tactics we use on a daily basis to ensure we are on plan. This is our box.
We are constantly thinking of inside the box business ideas that will help us be more efficient at our tasks, increase the R (results) in our SMART plans, and ensure we hit our objectives. An objective is a target. The shaft of the arrow is the plan and the fletching of the arrow is the tasks. Everything must be aligned in order to hit our intended target.
We define “outside the box” thinking as any business idea that falls outside our current objectives, plans and tasks. This structure allows us to keep the team focused on the target for longer periods of time. We evaluate the box every twelve months and build a new box. Can you see then how an “outside the box” business idea could pose as a distraction during the course of normal day-to-day business operations?
The box also helps identify if you are working "in" the business opposed to working "on" the business. Some people are more creative in the box, or working in the business. Some are more creative and more passionate while thinking outside the box, or on the business. The ROE® methodology helps define the box; that thing we both think and work “in” or “out” of.