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Get this: 92 percent of B2B customers watch online video and 43 percent of B2B customers watch online video when researching products and services for their business.
YouTube isn't just a platform for sharing videos, it's also one of the most popular search engines on the web--second only to Google. And YouTube is the third most popular website in the world, with over a billion unique visitors each month according to the company. Using YouTube for your business has the potential to energize your current customers, and attract new ones.
Still think YouTube is just for cat videos and the like? Well, if you're a business selling to another business you might want to take another look; 92 percent of B2B customers watch online video and 43 percent of B2B customers watch online video when researching products and services for their business, with 54 percent of these watching on YouTube. Here are a few ways you can harness the potential of video for your business.
Stand Out from the Crowd
Two-thirds of B2B customers consider three or more companies when purchasing and over half don't know which company to purchase from according to information from the recent Google Think B2B Conference. What can sway their decision? A brand's reputation was shown to be highly influential in how B2B customers decide.
We know that 22 million B2B customers watch YouTube videos every month, so how can you tell your story and express your brand in a compelling way to engage directly with your customers? Look at Cisco, a global provider of networking systems from routers to webinar software. They've developed a YouTube channel full of videos and tutorials to help prospective customers learn everything they want to know about network solutions. When you think routers you don't think,"oh, I'd love to watch some videos about that!" but Cisco presents their content in a way that hooks you from the get-go including their headline, "Welcome to the future-ready network."
At the core of good content marketing is providing utility to your prospects and customers and a great way to do this is using video. It's as easy as producing simple how-tos and showing how to solve common problems (just look at the Vine videos Lowes did recently full of simple six second home improvement tips). You can also talk about cool new tools and apps that will make your customers lives easier. At my e-mail marketing company, VerticalResponse, we recently began a once a week video series called What's New Weekly. Our social media manager and a weekly guest each pick a cool tool or app they want to share with our customers and record a quick video. We publish the video on our blog, share the link on our social media channels, and send out an email with a link to the video to our subscriber base. And slowly, we're building our YouTube subscribers from a measly five when we started to over 200 in a few short weeks. We still have a long way to go, but we're laying the bricks. You can do the same thing with a fairly simple set up. The VR team got everything they needed from Amazon for less than $150 (not including the camera).
We wouldn't be talking B2B if we didn't talk about generating leads, and you can do plenty of that with videos and YouTube. Here's the trick: make sure that with every video you produce that you include a call to action and an URL of a landing page or page back to your website where folks can learn more, sign up, register for a demo, etc. YouTube also offers overlay ads that you can use if you're a Google Adwords advertiser. According to YouTube, "The overlay will appear as soon as the video begins to play and can be closed by the user. You can use the overlay to share more information about the content of your video or to raise interest in your channel, other videos, or additional websites. When users click on the overlay, they are directed to your external website as specified in the overlay's destination URL."
How are you using video to grow your business? Share in the comments.
Lee Colan, founder of The L Group, explains why it's essential to identify and focus in on the one thing that really matters every day.
Instead of dumping your cash into a Swiss bank account, try tweaking inventory, accounts receivable, liabilities, equipment write-offs, retirement plans, and more.
Really? The Beanie Babies guy? Tax evasion?
It's true. Ty Warner, the college dropout who became a billionaire creating the Beanie Babies collectibles, pleaded guilty last Wednesday to tax evasion. He hid millions of dollars in a Swiss bank account and is facing five years in prison.
Don't hide your money in Switzerland (duh).
I'm pissed off, perhaps a little irrationally, because those dollars belong to me. For years, my daughter collected those ridiculous looking toys. Obsessed, she had them all: Safari the Giraffe, Slush-Husky, Nibbly the Bunny, Hannibal Lector. (Just kidding about Lector, but can you believe this stuff?) But those things weren't cheap. I sunk a lot of money into those ridiculous dolls. And then Warner squirreled my hard-earned cash into a Swiss bank account--so he could avoid paying taxes? Grrrr.
What makes me even more peeved is Warner's stupidity. No one wants to pay taxes. But that's the best he could come up with? Hiding cash in Switzerland? Every business owner I know goes to great lengths to minimize their tax burden. All he needed to do was hire a good accountant and practice a few of the legal, time-tested tax avoidance strategies that many of my clients do.
Here's how to "avoid," not "evade," taxes.
Inventory. Smart business owners know that the higher the inventory they have, the more taxes they have to pay. That's because when inventory depletes, it becomes a cost of sale and therefore an expense. So was Warner doing everything he could to keep his inventories at their minimum? Did he get write off bad or damaged goods? I would've been more than happy to torch a warehouse or two of it meant I'd rid the world of this Beanie Baby pestilence. Were his reserves for obsolete inventory suitably established and was older inventory written off according to an established policy? Was his manufacturing outsourced enough so that he could have others produce product and only ship to him when he needed (or just drop ship to his customers)? Doing everything he could to keep his inventory balances at their lowest would have kept his tax bills down. That's what smart business people do.
Accounts Receivable. I know it's hard to believe this, but not everyone wants a Beanie Baby. Shocking, yes, but true. So there must be certain situations where Warner's company shipped product and their deadbeat customers didn't pay them. I, for one, salute those people. Smart business owners keep a very close eye on their accounts receivable, establish reserves for those that are in question, and have a policy for writing off bad debts. That way they can stay on top of this deduction and keep their taxable income as low as possible.
Other reserves. Not everyone likes Beany Babies. My sons really enjoyed cutting the arms and legs off my daughter's Beanies once in a while. I always pretended not to notice. But did Warner make sure to have reserves for damaged or abused Beany Babies? Did his company take the time to reserve for inventory in transit or expenses that were incurred before the end of the year for which an invoice wasn't yet received? Did they do a good job considering other liabilities, such as lawsuits or contingencies, that should be reserved? Tax laws won't let you deduct this stuff until you actually incur the expense. But they need to be on your books, tracked, and then written off when allowed.
Equipment write-offs. Don't tell my daughter, but those cute little Beany Babies aren't created by their Beany Baby mommies and daddies. They're made by Satan. Okay, they're actually manufactured by huge, powerful machines. Those big machines are a potentially large tax deduction. The tax code (Section 179) allows many businesses to deduct up to $500,000 in equipment purchases a year. Unfortunately, this law is set to expire at the end of 2013. Maybe Warner's company was too big to take advantage of this deduction, but most small businesses are eligible. It's a great way to take a big deduction this year instead of having to depreciate your equipment over a few years.
Retirement plans. I guess Warner, if he gets sentenced to five years, has his retirement plan all figured out for now. But many small business owners I know, who are tax savvy, are sticking away as much money as possible into SEP, 401Ks, IRAs, Keoghs, and other retirement plans where they can deduct against their profits and put away money for the future. Why not put your money here instead of a Swiss bank account?
Accelerating income and expenses. People do this all the time, especially those lucky ducks who are small enough to still be on the cash basis of accounting. If you're one of those people, take advantage of this benefit, particularly if you think tax rates may go up. So, for example, business owners who anticipated that tax rates would rise in 2013 chose to accelerate their income into 2012. If you're going to pay taxes, you may as well pay them at a lower rate. No need to hide your assets in a Swiss bank account, get caught, go to jail, and ruin the hopes and dreams of countless little girls around the world.
Gifts. Speaking of little girls, do you have one? Or a son? If you do, you're allowed to give them a tax-free gift of up to $14,000 annually so you can save on estate taxes. Or you can contribute money into a 529 plan where it can grow (also tax-free) as long as you use it for your child's college education. I have three kids who just went off to college and those 529 plans were a huge help.
What else can we learn from the Beanie Babies fiasco?
First, apologizing doesn't help. No one cares if you paid more than a billion dollar in taxes over your lifetime (as Warner claimed). In fact, most of us are kind of amazed at how profitable those stupid Beanie Babies are. The more money you make, the more exposure you have, and the more chance you'll find yourself in the IRS' sights. The more in the public eye you are, the more careful you have to be. So maybe, Mr. Warner, if you charged just a little bit less for those stupid little Beanie Babies, you wouldn't find yourself in this predicament.
Sure, taxes are high. And they're probably going to keep going up, especially as we pay down our huge national deficits and debt. But you don't have to hide your money in a Swiss bank account for God's sake. If there's anything to be learned from Warner's ordeal, it's that you can ut back the amount of taxes you pay by being strategic. And speaking of cutting back, anyone interested in a few thousand slightly used Beanie Babies (including a dozen without arms and legs)? My daughter's off to college now and those tuition bills are enormous.
Think you're only on time because you hurry? Actually it's all that rushing that's making you late.
Does this sound familiar?
"For many years, the only way I knew to get from one place to another was to rush. I was chronically ‘running late.’ In fact I couldn’t conceive of managing time in any other way. I usually would get to an appointment in the nick of time, but never without a rush."
And how about this next observation, does it also ring true for you?
"It’s common to treat each other terribly when we’re 'in a hurry.'"
Both quotes come from a blog post by coach Linda Gabriel on happiness site Tiny Buddha. In-depth, thought-provoking and generous, the piece tells the story of Gabriel’s previous life as a chronically late working mother and is packed with details that many time-crunched business owners will identify with.
The set up and problem may be all too familiar, but Gabriel’s solution is far from expected. In fact, her eventual fix for her crazed schedule was simple but utterly counter-intuitive. She just stopped rushing.
Wait. What? How?
If that’s your reaction, the complete post is worth a read in full, but the essence of Gabriel’s argument is that, "rushing and being late are two sides of the same coin. You can’t have one without the other. When we are in rush mode, we believe we have to not be late in order not to rush.The truth is if you stop rushing, you’re far less likely to be late."
If you’re skeptical, Gabriel offers up her own life as an example and testifies that as soon as she vowed to stop hurrying everywhere, “much to my astonishment, I started to be on time. All the time. If I ran into traffic and arrived late, I just relaxed into it. More often than not the timing was perfect anyway.”
But if you find this too perfect to be believed, perhaps the best bet, she suggests, is simply to try it for yourself. What’s the worst that can happen after all?
For those hard-charging types who are about as likely to embrace this zen approach as they are to grow flippers and take to the sea, there is more practical advice available which involves handicapping your time estimates and investing in some more clocks. But perhaps don’t dismiss the wisdom of simply letting go of your stress and accepting whatever time you're actually going to arrive quite so quickly It may seem counter-intuitive at first, but it has strong backing from psychologists, doctors and thousands of years of spiritual tradition.
What do you make of Gabriel’s story?
Making big money is often less important to employees than satisfying these basic needs.
Contrary to popular belief, employees value many things more than the amount of money they're being paid. If they're treated right, employees will not only work for less, they'll be happier and more productive as they do so.
Based upon hundreds of conversations I've had about bosses and jobs, here's what employees really want:
1. To feel proud.
When asked what they do for a living, employees want to boast rather than apologize. They want the people they meet to be at least a little impressed, even if it's only because the employee has taken on a job that's generally thankless.
2. To be treated fairly.
While almost everyone realizes that life isn't fair, employees don't want the boss to make life more unfair than it already is. Employees hate favoritism. They expect the perks and promotions to go to the people who work hard, not the people who kiss butt.
3. To respect the boss.
Employees want respect from the boss, of course, but just as strong is the need to feel respect for the boss! Employees want to believe in that their boss is a leader who is worthy of their loyalty.
4. To be heard out.
Employees hate it when the boss doesn't have the time or the interest to listen to what they have to say. Employees don't expect the boss to always take their advice, but if the boss won't hear them out they (rightly) assume the boss doesn't care about them.
5. To have a personal life.
For many bosses (especially entrepreneurs) work is a way of life. Employees, however, usually think of friends and family as their "real" life. Even when they're committed to their job, they get twitchy when work keeps them away too much.
6. To be coached not micromanaged.
Employees want the boss's help when 1) they ask for it, or 2) they're floundering so badly they're afraid to ask for it. What employees don't want is to have the boss looking over their shoulder all the time.
7. To see the assh*les get fired.
In almost every workplace there are one or two jerks who make life miserable for everybody. Almost more than anything else, employees want the boss to fire those jerks. If the boss doesn't, employees know he's either a weakling, a fool, or a jerk himself.
8. To feel less stress.
People hate the sense that they've got too much to do and not enough time to do it. Bosses must plan carefully, anticipate problems and set realistic goals, so that they don't accidentally and unnecessarily add stress to employees' lives.
9. To have a little security.
No sane employee expects lifetime employment. Even so, it's hard to concentrate when you feel as if a sword is hanging over your head. Employees want to know that they're not wasting their time when they're giving your their best.
10. To beat the competition.
Finally, never underestimate the power of teamwork, especially when teamwork means grinding the other team into the dust. Employees don't want to be team players; they want to play on the winning team.
Why isn't money on the list of desires? Well, as it happens, I've seldom heard anybody complain about their salary per se, except in the context of the above desires (i.e. "they don't pay me enough to put up with this.")
Satisfy the ten desires above and your employees will remain loyal and hardworking, even if you're paying them less (and maybe even far less) than they might earn elsewhere.
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Tend to your marriage as carefully as you care for your company. (In other words: Don't do what I did.)
I have some significant but difficult news to share. After a decade of marriage, my wife and I have divorced. As with many divorced couples, the two of us never, ever thought we'd be here.
A critical factor in our decision was my evolution as an entrepreneur and a startup CEO, making me distant when I was on the road, and distracted when at home. I must confess that, at times, I was more married to my job as CEO of BzzAgent and more committed to the startup community than I'd been to my wife, Beth. The two of us might have stayed together if I had known what to do to keep her from feeling like a "founder widow," as she puts it.
Married to Your Startup, or Your Spouse?
If you're in a leadership role or live the lifestyle of a startup CEO, are you wedded to your career---or to your spouse? Is your real marriage at risk?
Let's face it. A focused entrepreneur is something like a drug addict: obsessive, aggressive, and focused intently on "scoring." For those with the startup "bug," everything--from hatching the company to building the team to creating the first product--is intoxicating, all-consuming and fulfilling in a way that is difficult to describe. Thinking of anything else feels impossible. Wrong, even. The high of actually seeing your idea spring to life can be compared to only one other all-consuming experience: true love.
How It All Began
Back when my wife and I first met in the mid-90s, I was leaving a stable, corporate job to try my hand at running my own show. Neither of us really understood what it meant to be part of a startup, but she said my ambition was intoxicating and she was proud of my drive to create something out of nothing.
Beth was a wonderful start-up wife, mentally supporting me through a myriad of stressful moments like partner issues and negotiations that led to the sale of my first few businesses. I remember her partnership well: She joined me on a last-minute trip from our home in Boston to New York to pay my respects to a co-worker's father who passed away. We spent countless hours discussing whether or not I should sell my first company and what I should do next. We planned trips together around my schedule. By the time BzzAgent, a social marketing company, was in full-swing, I was happy and she was proud.
The Truth About Startup Marriage
But there were signs of cracks in our foundation. One day I called Beth on a speaker phone from the office and asked her to write a post for one of my blog projects (the Bento Box) to articulate what it was like to be married to the CEO. She never liked being called on a speaker phone--especially with others in the room---and she didn't seem thrilled about being asked to write this telling piece. Even so, she started writing and a few days later sent me the post. It detailed how difficult it was to be a co-pilot to someone who was glued to his Blackberry, in the habit of leaving half-eaten pretzels all over the house (I forgot I was eating them), and constantly bemoaning "getting the barf-poop bug" on long flights." Yes, it ended with a touching note about my good qualities, but the impact of my thoughtless behavior on "us" was there. In writing. She was starting to doubt she wanted to be along for this nutty ride. Me? I wasn't willing to be different.
After the birth of our first child, I felt torn between the prioritization of family and the business. In Home Game, an autobiographical novel about being a new father, Michael Lewis writes that some fathers don't fall in love immediately with their children. He confided that it can take many months for love to happen and, for me, there was little doubt I fit that mold. In those first few months, my newborn was a fleshy bag of drool and poop; a distraction who kept me up at night and made my wife a touch unhinged. Of course, I fell in love soon enough. But not before Beth asked me why I wasn't sacrificing work to spend more time managing our new child. Selfishly, I told her: "I already have my baby." That was BzzAgent. That was work.
What a horrible thing to say.
When Startup Addiction Worsens
Our second child arrived in 2008 and the fractures were turning into a divide. There were now venture capital partners, a board of directors, and a full management team at BzzAgent. I had to be more attentive to the business than ever. Life-balance was impossible. When my wife said she wanted more help at home, I suggested we get full-time help. She didn't want that. She wanted me to be there for her and for the kids. But I wanted to be in New York, San Francisco, and London. I wanted to feel the energy of structuring deals, creating new ideas, shaking hands, and making smiles.
And as I learned to become a better executive, the startup addiction only worsened. I started investing in other startups, advising friends, sitting on boards, and even launching new business ideas. Sure, we had the home with the white picket fence (green, actually) and the two kids in the yard, but inside, Beth and I were living separate lives. Yeah, we did our time in couples' therapy and that served as a Band-Aid for some of this, but the truth became evident: I wanted to build companies and my wife wanted to build a family.
How to Avoid Startup-Induced Divorce
I've had some time to dwell on the reasons my marriage failed and what I might have done differently. I haven't figured everything out but if you are trying to balance being an entrepreneur with family, I do have some advice:
1. Choose a partner who wants to live the startup lifestyle.
This is easier said than done. When love is young, life promises to be as simple and blissful as it is during the courtship period. But if you can have any deep discussions before you officially commit, it would be whether you're both ready for this rollercoaster ride of entrepreneurship. More to the point, I've come to the following conclusion: a startup-oriented individual should be with one of two types of spouses. Either someone who is another startup-oriented person who gets the workaholic lifestyle, understands the importance of evening events (that look like parties but aren't), and rolls with the rowboat-in-the-middle-of-the-ocean emotional swells of a business that is changing every day. The alternative is a spouse who will be utterly--and almost to a fault--acquiescent to the needs of the entrepreneur. That means he or she is completely understanding when you're rarely home, flexible when schedules shift suddenly, supportive when you're forgetful, and accepting when you always have one eye on your smartphone. In short, this person would need to be a total saint.
In my case, my wife didn't sign up to be a startup executive's wife. I don't think either of us knew what that meant. She was too much her own woman to be totally deferential (and I loved her for that) but also didn't really get my insane drive to do more all the time. I wish we'd talked about that a lot more a lot earlier in our relationship.
2. Treat your spouse like a co-pilot.
After choosing a partner who is ready for the ups and downs of entrepreneurship, it's important to communicate to a fault. Over time, there's a natural tendency to pull back on discussions about work. Perhaps you're worn out from talking about work all day. Or maybe your spouse would rather set her hair on fire than hear about who-said-what at the office. But this is a kiss of death, because if both of you aren't somewhat in it together, there's no way you can understand each other's points of view well enough to remain true partners. I wish I had spoken up more often and asked for Beth's input.
3. Make time for each other--and time just for yourself.
You need three things: dates, breaks, and help. Make a standing dinner date night, and find the time to relax with each other at least once a week. Remember why you got married in the first place. Take breaks. Go on vacations and enjoy life without the distractions of kids and work. And get help from other people. As Michael Norman notes in his book Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending, one of the shortest routes to being happy is to create time. The best way to do that is to obtain resources when you can: Hire Taskrabbits to do odd jobs, get an accountant, hire a Nanny, and find free time to enjoy each other.
Also, a note on therapy: Most couples only go when there's something disabling enough to need it. My suggestion is therapy should become something consistent, that you find a couples' therapist to see at least once a quarter. Someone who helps you communicate even when it's hard. Someone who can be the canary-in-the-coal-mine to those tiny fractures that can turn into divides.
From Founder Wife to Widow
Beth and I only did these things from time to time. And, eventually, we found ourselves at the end of this section of our highway. We'll be fine. We're still incredible friends and we're moving forward as co-parents who have affection for each other and our kids. We still enjoy doing things as a family. As one friend recently remarked to us as our families enjoyed lunch together, "This is so not weird, it's weird."
Beth and I missed out on the opportunity to make a marriage that lasted forever. Looking back, I realize I could have nurtured our relationship and my company if I asked myself--and her--some tough questions early on. And then, if we'd decided to make the journey together, I should have tended to our marriage as carefully as I cared for my company.
I suppose there's a lesson in this for others. Act now. Do hard work on your relationship. If you treat it as important as your startup, you will have a solid chance of keeping your marriage alive as your business thrives.
LaSalle Network founder Tom Gimbel explains how to set up your temporary employees to succeed.
Explore the market, find a growing base of customers, and tailor your product to an everyday need.
This post is Part II in a series of articles about incubating a company. See Part I about how to incubate a company here.
When analyzing a market, it is important to identify ongoing trends and to search out companies capitalizing on them.
Recently, we’ve seen huge increases in P2P commerce as well as a significant expansion in the freelance economy, with one in six American workers projected to be freelancers by 2020. As transactions of physical goods, services, and intellectual property between peers become more prevalent, the need for simple, convenient, and binding agreements has increased dramatically.
With the rise of the collaborative economy, individuals want and need to protect themselves when transacting. At the same time, people want to transact quickly and are no longer willing to spend significant amounts of time and money on the legal process. In a world where the only options sometimes seem to be foregoing legal documentation and risking future disputes or resorting to overly complex and expensive legal solutions which yield agreements neither party can understand, Shake clearly offered a much-needed solution.
We started to dig into the market and the more we learned, the more excited we became. We surveyed all of the RRE portfolio companies and saw a real need for simplified legal documents. We also did broad market research and discovered that in the US alone, there are twenty-eight million small businesses, and forty-two million freelancers (up from six million in 2007). While a variety of low-cost online legal service providers existed, we felt that most of them focused mainly on physical printouts of legal documents and/or busy online forms that didn’t address the problem of confusing legalese. Additionally, it seemed that many legal startups were attempting to replace lawyers. Shake is doing something very different.
Rather than trying to replace lawyers, a goal we found unrealistic, we saw Shake as simplifying only those legal documents that require little personalization but are still critically important. We believed that start-ups would still require lawyers for many of their legal needs: incorporation, fund raising, debt, etc, but not for all of them. By focusing on supplementing existing legal services with a fast, cost-efficient solution for simple, routine agreements, we felt strongly that Shake could completely change the way that agreements are reached and formalized while also providing an obvious benefit and value proposition to users.
Our next step was to dig into the details of what our customers needed and to understand how those needs will change going forward. We spoke to start-ups about their everyday legal document needs (NDAs, Consulting Agreements, Bill of Sales, etc.), and we kept getting the same answers: either start-ups took a significant risk and did not document these transactions at all or they called their lawyers and received a boilerplate document for which they felt they were overcharged. When we spoke to some junior lawyers, they admitted that a lot of what they do is cutting and pasting names into document templates (or instructing clients to do so on their own).
Of course, we were only focusing on simple documents. With the number of U.S. small businesses on the rise, and the number of U.S. freelancers expected to reach sixty million by 2020, we felt comfortable that the need for such documents already existed, and would only increase in the coming years. Shake is not incorporating companies or filing patents, services for which we feel lawyers are both useful and necessary. It's merely streamlining a simple, yet costly, documentation process that already exists. Moreover, we decided to focus first on the five documents that fit the most pressing needs of those freelancers and startups we initially surveyed: NDAs, Bill of Sale, Consulting Agreements, Rental Agreements and Loan Agreements (money).
And as an investor, I love Shake because the company is solving a problem which affects a large--and growing--number of people: how best to transact, simply and without disputes. But ultimately, I believe in Shake not only as a VC with over twenty years experience but also as an individual with a use for it. Although incredibly useful for VCs and start-ups, Shake solutions are not intended only for those starting or funding tech companies. America is experiencing an unprecedented trend towards freelance work, and Americans are increasingly interested in working for themselves, and transacting with their peers. I quickly became confident that Shake was offering not only a great solution but a timely one.
OK, the market passes the sniff test. Next, deciding how much to invest to get the company to its next milestone.
One more quarter to go in 2013. Are you doing everything possible to make the most of it? Here are 5 tips to help.
A year just seems to fly by. Here you are in the fourth quarter already, with the holidays just around the corner and huge distractions coming from the federal government and Miley Cyrus. Some people get to this point and figure the year is nearly done, so they just wrap it up and get on to the parties--but that strategy can leave much good undone and many people disappointed, including you. This is the time for serious achievers to step up their game, squeeze out every last bit of energy and opportunity, and prepare to head into 2014 riding the wave of success.
1. Go Lean and Mean
If you eliminate the holidays, there are fewer than 80 working days--including weekends--before the end of the year. Most likely you have objectives on your list for 2013 that weren't realistic or necessary. And you may have added unexpected projects over the last nine months. They sit on a Post-it or strategic plan and get ignored daily. It's time to take those off the list and focus on what's important. With only a little time left, every minute is valuable, so don't waste them. Decide on two or three major goals that are important and achievable. Stretching is fine, but make sure the motivation is strong. The rest can be eliminated or go on the schedule for 2014. Then you'll be mentally free and ready to focus hard and attack these important few goals.
2. Take Stock
Much of what you anticipated would happen this year probably turned out to be different than you originally thought. Don't try and execute an aggressive approach based upon information and expectations that are months old. Take a day or two to disconnect from the day-to-day craziness to assess, think and plan the coming months. You might consider a consultant or diagnostic test to help you find your weaknesses. Figure out what's truly important and what obstacles are still in your way. Assess the resources you still have and make sure they are readily available to help you do what you need to do.
3. Add Structure
So often objectives are incomplete because there was no specific path to success. Or there might have been a plan, but there was no way to assess progress along the way. Don't leave your remaining plans subject to unintentional neglect. As growth guru Verne Harnish says, "What gets measured gets done." Put in place a realistic, highly-structured plan with measurable milestones and action steps. Include dates on each item so you can check in on your progress. Don't leave the plan in your documents or on Dropbox. Print it out and post copies at your desk and on your mirror at home so you get a daily reminder of your goal.
4. Make a Deal
There has to be a reason these objectives didn't make the priority list during the year. If you truly want to be accountable for getting them done, you'll have to think about the cause and effect of doing so. Think about the reasons you established these goals originally. Who will be negatively impacted if they don't get done? Find your motivating factors and sweeten the pot by setting a desirable and meaningful reward for yourself. It could be a visit to your favorite expensive restaurant, a new suit or even a vacation with your family. Whatever motivates you to step up and perform, attach it as a reward to drive you to the finish line.
5. Enlist Partners
Perhaps the reason these projects are behind is because you need support. Often people think they can do things on their own, only to find they don't have the expertise, capability or energy to finish by themselves. A little friendly boost can go a long way. It might be in the form of a colleague who helps, a mentor who coaches or even just a friend to cheer you on. Just the act of checking in with someone else weekly will boost your accountability and drive you forward. Engage someone now. Then you'll have someone else to help you celebrate your win on New Year's Eve.
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Startup Weekends are sprouting up all over the country--and offer valuable lessons in collaboration.
StartupWeekend.org recently launched its first startup event in South Carolina, in historic downtown Georgetown. In case you are not familiar with startup weekend events, which are conducted every weekend around the world, they typically unfold like this:
- A group of people with ideas gets together for the weekend.
- Business ideas are pitched at the beginning, and teams are formed.
- Ideas are refined, prototyped, turned into businesses, and eventually presented to a panel of judges.
- Prizes are awarded at the conclusion of the weekend to the teams with the most viable idea and best presentation.
Essentially, over a period of 54 hours, a myriad of real, viable companies, all with an MVP (minimal viable product), are created. It is a high-intensity, fast-paced weekend.
More impressive is that over 36% of these new companies continue for at least three months after the competition.
As a coach during the event, I assisted teams in refining their concepts, pitches and presentations. The event really reinforced my understanding of how important collaboration can be for innovation and idea generation.
In my line of work with Wild Creations, I meet numerous people who have great ideas for new products. Often, these individuals simply lack the experience, expertise or network to take the concept from idea to market. Beyond that, the biggest concern is typically theft of the idea. Even with non-disclosure agreements, or NDAs, many would-be entrepreneurs simply do not trust others with their idea.
Very few ideas are so proprietary or unique that they will avoid being knocked off or eventually created by someone else. Instead, entrepreneurs should consider collaborating to make their idea a reality. Here are some things to consider:
1. Embrace Collaboration
By bringing people into your "circle" and working with them, you will add much- needed expertise and cover areas of your new business where you are weakest. More important, by simply having a sounding board that will listen to your idea and provide feedback, you may discover early in the process that your business concept simply does not work. At this point, while it's still feasible, you can pivot in a new direction.
2. Participate in Collaboration
One of the great benefits of events like Startup Weekend is that you do not necessarily need to contribute a great business idea. You can, in fact, just choose to work with others, offering your expertise and professional strengths to create value for another team. By simply participating, you may very well find yourself generating new ideas of your own and, more important, forming the network of people who can help you.
3. Promote Collaboration
An interesting thing happened at Startup Weekend. When the value of the collaborative effort was understood, everyone let their guard down, worked together, and incredible progress was made. In order to get the full benefit of collaborating with others, all parties need to understand its value.
4. Implement Collaboration
Startup Weekends don't happen everywhere, but that shouldn't dissuade you from implementing your own collaboration efforts. Co-working spaces, such as the one that now operates in my city, Cowork MYR, are places where people share a common work space and, by mere proximity, end up discussing and sharing projects and collaborating. Often, the collaborators are in the tech field, such as programmers, developers and designers, but they bring with them a vast network of other valuable resources that could benefit entrepreneurs. If you can't find a co-working space in your city, then start one yourself. It's as simple as inviting smart, like-minded individuals together over coffee to discuss ideas.
In the interest of full disclosure, I am not advocating that if you have an idea for a new product or service you broadcast it to everyone within earshot. You should always weigh the pros and cons of such a decision, and if you are convinced that your idea is important enough to be protected, you should seek proper legal advice to do so, even if only for your peace of mind.
In my personal experience, however, I have seen incredible value and benefit come from the collaboration of individuals from a wide range of expertise. This past weekend solidified it for me. If you still have your doubts, then I would encourage you to try it yourself.
If nothing else, you will have a wonderful fraternal weekend experience with a great group of people!
Do you have an experience where collaborating helped (or hurt) your business? Please share with others below.
Make it more than a rubber stamp.
When was the last time checking a job candidate's references did you any good?
For many managers, a reference check is little more than a rubber stamp, the very last thing you do--or someone in human resources does--before making a formal offer. Yet consultant Lou Adler, CEO of the Adler Group, believes that's a wasted opportunity. Talking with an applicant's current and former employers can offer important insights, he says, into whether your target hire is actually a good cultural fit for your team.
"It's not a superficial aspect of [hiring]," he tells Build, explaining that reference checks can provide important caveats about the candidate's skills and personality. You just need to conduct yours effectively. Here's how.
1. Sneak up on weaknesses.
For legal or HR reasons, many companies aren't keen to answer questions about former employees like, "What are the candidate's weaknesses?" A better way to get this information is to ask the reference to judge the candidate on a scale of 1 to 10 in various areas of competency related to the position at hand, Adler (@LouA) says.
If the reference gives a rating of 7 or 8 for a given area, ask what it would take for the candidate to achieve a 9 or 10, he suggests. This forces the reference to address the areas where candidates still need to improve, which could help inform either your decision to hire or how you approach the new hire's role at your company.
2. "Laugh if the answer is no."
So says recruiting consultant Mel Kleiman. If you run into a manager who, for whatever reason, just won't open up, ask the reference whether they can confirm whether what the candidate said in his or her interview is true. "People will confirm what they can't tell you," Kleiman (@MelKleiman) tells Build.
You can create a system for doing this by asking candidates to rate themselves at a few competencies during the interview. Then, during the reference check, present these ratings, one by one, to the reluctant reference. Kleiman suggests asking, "Can you confirm? How about you just laugh if the answer is 'no'?"
3. Do we have a fit?
In an article for the Daily Muse, ShortStack CEO Jim Belosic (@shortstackjim) writes about using a candidate's references to gauge how they would fit into your company from a cultural perspective. "I also like to ask if a candidate's work area was clean or messy . . . and if he or she participated in any external activities, such as softball or volunteering. Think of what matters to you and your company culture, and use that as a guide for questions."
But tread lightly with questions like these, management consultant Alison Green (@AskAManager) cautions, because asking them risks alienating both the reference and the candidate. In an interview with Build, Green suggests asking cultural questions that have no obviously negative answer instead. An example: "Some people thrive in fast-paced environments but sometimes err on the side of losing precision, while others are incredibly precise but do better when there's more time to focus on their work--which sounds more like Jane?"
Tired of employees whose seemingly careless mistakes cost you time and money? Before you fire them, read this.
How many times have you asked yourself why no one else in your company has common sense? Dumb decisions, lack of interest, and no sign of self-motivation--these are criticisms I often hear about employees. Along with the common complaint: no one can do the job as well I do.
A few months ago I had a coaching session with a distraught business owner. One of his account managers neglected to communicate with a client whose account was performing poorly, resulting in the loss of their business. To make matters worse, he never even informed his boss about the problem. The account manager felt confident that he could fix the problem and deliver better results, so in his mind no communication was necessary. And this was not the first costly incident involving a lack of communication on this employee's part, yet he had outstanding technical and problem-solving skills.
In another instance I coached a woman whose customer service representative made frequent order entry errors. Again, this created a loss of revenue and poor client satisfaction results. It was difficult for this business owner to understand how such a simple, repetitive task could be so difficult for an otherwise intelligent person. This employee enjoyed speaking with customers and formed great relationships with them. She always went the extra mile to make sure the customer was happy and was great at producing add-on sales and at upselling.
So what would you do? Would you fire these employees? Probably not. The time and cost of finding, vetting, and training new employees is daunting for any small business owner. What they tend to do instead is either ignore the problem and stew in anger and frustration, or try to fix the employee's shortcomings. And that's the problem. We spend more time trying to fix weaknesses than we do in developing strengths.
What to Do
You're much better off assessing employees' strengths, natural talents, and interests. It's not unusual for an employee to excel in one area while consistently underperforming in others. When someone is placed in a job that doesn't play to their strengths they will disengage and underperform. As an entrepreneur it's difficult to understand this because you will wear whichever hat is necessary to make your company succeed. But no employee can maintain that level of commitment, especially if they feel incapable of doing their job because it isn't suited to them.
To get the maximum commitment and performance from your employees, you must put each of them on the right seat on the right bus or the bus will go nowhere but downhill. If your employees come to work each day to do what they do best rather than perform a role that doesn't fit them, they will have a positive impact on the future of your business.
Whether you are faced with an unhappy, poor performer or a new employee, the key is in how you design the job. That's what we did in each of the above scenarios, and it worked beautifully.
Start With the Job Description
Go back to the drawing board and avoid combining skills and qualities in your job descriptions that are not likely to be found in one core personality type. For instance, if you need a graphic designer don't include things like project management tasks in the job description. A creative is unlikely to excel in managing deadlines for others, following up on tedious details, and changing gears at the drop of a hat. Hire a graphic designer to design and you'll get great results. The project manager is a different personality type altogether.
It's also important to ask the right questions in an interview and to implement a process for testing qualities and skills. If you are hiring someone to manage accounts have them work through challenging scenarios with you. Role play, and ask them to offer solutions to an existing problem. Since you'll also want someone who communicates well in this role, test their abilities by introducing them to your team to see how they manage the conversations.
But most importantly use the tools that are available to you: aptitude and personality tests. This will help you to assign responsibilities that suit each person's skills, personal qualities, and talents. Some of these tools are complicated, others are quick and easy. You'll find free tests online that you can test drive to see how they work for you. I like Strengthsfinder 2.0. by Tom Rath. When you purchase the book, a code for a free strengths test is enclosed.
At some point you may want to consider a more in-depth analysis like Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, the Strong Interest Inventory, or the Keirsey Temperament Sorter. These involve a fee but in the long run it will save you time and money.
By doing your homework and putting more time into your search upfront you'll benefit for years to come. You'll have happy, productive employees who love to come to work each day. Now ask yourself, what's better than that?
Just because you can't do exactly what a customer asks doesn't mean you can't do something.
The day before I was going to ride a 105-mile gran fondo my bike broke. First I freaked: The route included four mountains and over 11,000 feet of climbing, I had been training for, oh, forever... and now this? So I hustled down to my local bike shop.
"Can you fix it?" I pleaded.
"Sure," the mechanic replied. "When do you need it?"
"Tomorrow!" I said.
His eyes narrowed. "Hmm. Let me look at our schedule." As he walked to a computer he said, "Why do you need it tomorrow?"
"I'm riding an event tomorrow," I said. "I could ride my other bike but between all the climbing and the gravel roads I'd really rather not."
"No doubt," he said. "You definitely need something light but also with a little give." Then he looked up from the computer. "I'm sorry, but we can't get it done today."
"But," he quickly continued, "We have a Domane we're using for test rides, and it's the right frame size for you. It's super light but is also designed for endurance and comfort. You could rent it for the day if you want."
And I did. Problem solved. I didn't get what I thought I wanted--but I did get what I came for. The mechanic used a process Matthew Dixon, co-author of "The Effortless Experience," terms, "Just because there's nothing you can do doesn't mean there's nothing you can do."
Here's how he describes the process:
1. Don't be so fast with a "no."
The key to making an alternative suggestion work for a customer is to avoid immediately sharing what is not available. Take a little time, since the customer has no idea how long it actually takes to process their request. Use that time to focus on the customer's actual interests, not just their stated request. Try to determine what's really going on, and how flexible they might be.
In my case, the mechanic probably knew right away he couldn't fix my bike in a day. Instead of saying so, though, he asked a few questions to find out what alternatives he might be able to suggest.
My request was, "Fix my bike today." My real need was, "I have to have the right bike for tomorrow's ride."
2. Don't try to explain your way out of a high-effort situation.
According to Dixon, the average rep at the average company wastes way too much of a customer's time and mental energy explaining why the customer can't have what they want. While doing so might seem logical, typically it comes across to the customer as defensive or combative: "All you're doing is justifying why your company can't give me what I want. How does that help me?"
And, as Dixon says, in customer service if you're defending, you're losing.
The mechanic didn't tell me why he couldn't fix the bike. He didn't talk about a backlog of work or needing to order parts. He told me he couldn't and quickly moved on to finding solutions.
3. Don't take the customer's request quite so literally.
In many cases, the service a customer requests and their actual issue may be very different. When you understand the full context, a different need may emerge.
I needed the right bike for a specific ride I had made a huge physical and emotional investment in. All I could think was, "I need my bike fixed!" I was too frantic to consider that it didn't have to be my bike, but the mechanic did because he didn't take my request literally.
Will this approach always work? Of course not, but the percentage of situations when alternative positioning could work definitely makes it worth trying--if you give your employees the latitude (and training) to address customer issues, that is. To make it work, you must allow your employees to tailor the resolution to the customer and the needs and outcomes that individual hopes to receive.
In my case, the "Just because there's nothing you can do doesn't mean there's nothing you can do" approach succeeded on multiple levels: One, I got a great bike for the ride and two, I liked it so much I later bought one.
Final note: Customer service books are often really boring. "Effortless Experience" is really good and describes a number of practical ways you can improve customer touch points, experiences, and service. Definitely worth a read.
Unless you successfully answer these fundamental questions for buyers, there's no deal.
Salespeople spend a lot of time crafting questions to probe potential customers and--hopefully--close the deal. But, regardless of your product or the size of your company, there are three fundamental questions you must answer for buyers before they will sign on the dotted line. And, when it comes to answering these questions, your behavior often speaks louder than words.
(I would like to say I came up with these questions, but I borrowed them from Lew Holtz, legendary football coach and author--and the man I consider my “long distance mentor.”)
1. Can I trust you?
Have you ever tried to buy from someone you didn’t trust? It’s difficult, isn’t it? Trust is fundamental to healthy human and business relationships. It is often said that a business is driven by relationships-;that it’s a “relationship” business. Smart sales representatives focus on cultivating trust, taking special care that they keep all commitments they make to clients and potential clients.
2. Do you care about me?
Have you ever been ignored by a sales rep or a store owner? The message they send when they ignore customers is that they don’t care--and they probably don’t. The most effective salespeople care about their customers and put the customer’s interest first, even ahead of their own. Along with being attentive to the customer’s purchasing needs, remembering details, such as birthdays or children’s names, is an effective way for salespeople to show they care.
3. Are you committed to excellence?
When you spend your money, you want to spend it wisely. That's why people prefer to buy from salespeople who truly know their industry and their products from top to bottom. Sales reps--particularly new reps--must be well educated on their products and able to succinctly describe them to customers. Showing you are committed to product education goes a long way toward demonstrating excellence.
Psychologists call it the Planning Fallacy. Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman explains why people so often get it wrong.
Thinking of advertising on Twitter? Better grab a copy of the company's S-1 IPO filing and read the fine print.
Twitter seems like a potentially strong advertising medium, and that's important to entrepreneurs in all industries. But as Facebook has shown, the hot new venue doesn't necessarily work for everyone, and there may be inherent issues that can cause problems for advertisers.
What would be great is more information than a company's own marketing or whatever might get picked up in the press. Luckily, Twitter has filed for its IPO, which means a lot of financial information and other insight is suddenly public knowledge. Here's some of what you'll want to know before signing an advertising contract.
How important is mobile to you today?
Twitter is becoming extremely dependent on mobile. About 75 percent of its users any month get onto the service from a mobile device. Of course, they may be using desktops or laptops with browsers as well. But the telling figure is that more than 65 percent of the company's advertising revenue comes from mobile.
From a pragmatic marketing view, that's not necessarily good or bad. The question is how you interact with your customers and prospects and how they interact with technology. If your target market is highly wired younger people who might as well have a smartphone or tablet surgically attached to one hand, then Twitter has something going for it.
However, if you are trying to reach people who are just as likely, or more so, to use a desktop or laptop, you've got a bit of a problem. You could end up effectively paying for ad impressions skewed toward mobile and away from a good portion of the people you want to reach.
Not all the marketing choices work well on mobile
Another implication of the mobile popularity is that there may be Twitter marketing programs that are less useful to you. Two of the company's big marketing options--promoted trends and promoted accounts--"receive less prominence" than on browser versions of Twitter. You might want to focus on promoted tweets, instead, which show up the same way on mobile.
Do your people use Twitter?
Twitter has about 215 million users each month, but that doesn't approach the perceived ubiquitous nature of a Facebook or Google. If you've got a largely U.S. audience, for example, then you need to know that in the second quarter of 2013, 77 percent of Twitter's monthly average users (MAUs) came from elsewhere. That still leaves about 50 million users in the U.S., which is a big number, but hardly universal. Furthermore, Twitter says that its big growth is likely to come from other countries. If you market globally, you might consider when is the proper time to begin a campaign because you want enough of an audience.
What are you paying for?
You can tell a lot about how a company thinks and acts from the metrics it uses. Among other things, Twitter puts heavy emphasis on what it calls timeline views. What is ultimately important is not just how many people use the service, but how often all those people collectively look at it. That's how Twitter measures ad revenue, for example--by the amount per thousand timeline views.
That doesn't tell you a thing about how the timeline views, which include every user refresh and search, are distributed. Could you could end up paying multiple times for users who see refreshed versions of the same ads, thereby wasting some of your ad budget?
There are no smoking guns, but there is enough information to suggest that instead of assuming that Twitter will bring you business, you should go through the S-1 filed with the SEC yourself. See what information about demographics, operations, and strategy could influence your marketing decisions.
Currently, the business depends almost entirely on advertising. To grow, it needs more and better ad opportunities, particularly overseas--but that's easier said than done.
Twitter's $1 billion initial public offering is one of the most eagerly-anticipated stock market events this year, but transitioning to a public company comes with a number of significant risks.
Before I get to those, here are some of the key financial stats about the company's projected value.
In August, Twitter valued its own stock at $20.62. With nearly half a billion internal shares at the time, the company valued itself at around $10 billion. Some analyst estimates have placed Twitter's potential common stock value as high as $30; on 472,613,753 shares outstanding, that would peg the company's value at $14 billion. (The company is likely to add more shares when it goes public, which would increase the company's value further.)
But the company is not profitable now, nor has it ever been. In 2012, Twitter reported a net loss of $80 million, a decrease of nearly 40 percent from the prior year. For the six months ended June 30, Twitter reported a loss of $70 million, an increase of 41 percent, on top of a $418 million deficit.
While lack of profitability is common for young high-tech companies, Twitter also has staggering revenue increases. Sales nearly tripled in 2012 to $317 million.
The road ahead includes plenty of challenges for the business. Here's where the major risks lie:
Slackening User Growth
The growth of Twitter's active user base, which hit 215 million by June 30, 2013, is slackening. And Twitter's S-1, filed late on Thursday, indicates the biggest opportunity for expansion will come from outside the U.S., but there's a revenue conundrum built into that. For a company that gets nearly 90 percent of its revenue from advertisers--primarily U.S.-based advertisers--it's going to have to fight harder and harder to maintain its growth rate here to get to profitability.
"Users outside the United States constituted 77 percent of our average monthly active users in the three months ended June 30, 2013, but our international revenue, as determined based on the billing location of our advertisers, was only 25 percent of our consolidated revenue in the three months ended June 30, 2013," the company reported in the S-1 filing.
In other words, Twitter is finding more opportunity where it currently has only a quarter of its revenue. But advertising income overseas represents only $0.30 per view, compared to $2.17 per view in the U.S., Twitter says.
The S-1 calls out Argentina, France, Japan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and South Africa as countries where it expects to have the highest growth rate for active users going forward.
A New Advertising Frontier
Analysts say Twitter will continue innovating no doubt around marketing programs, especially newer ones it currently has in place, such as linking commercial tweets to conversations people are having on Twitter with hashtags about television shows.
"Twitter will have to build out more than just the simple sponsored story or sponsored tweet and sponsored accounts, and to do that it will have to start to innovate with things like its TV offering," says Zachary Reiss-Davis, an analyst for Forrester Research, in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
That could include more highly-targeted ads served to customers while they are Tweeting, Reiss-Davis says, as well as a richer advertising experience coupled, perhaps, with other media forms like video.
Pressure to Prove Ad Performance
Social media advertising is a largely new and untested space, and the S-1 points out an associated risk for Twitter is convincing advertisers that new ways to reach customers will work.
"Advertisers will not continue to do business with us, or they will reduce the prices they are willing to pay to advertise with us, if we do not deliver ads in an effective manner, or if they do not believe that their investment in advertising with us will generate a competitive return relative to alternatives, including online, mobile, and traditional advertising platforms," Twitter reports.
Plenty of Competitors
Other risks the company faces are products and services from competitors such as Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, and Yahoo as well a slew of smaller companies.
Who Stands to Win
Some of the big winners from the planned IPO exit will be board director Evan Williams, who owns 12 percent of the company. The IPO will make him an instant billionaire. Co-founder Jack Dorsey, now a chairman, and chief executive of payment innovator Square, owns 5 percent of Twitter and will own stock worth about $500 million from the offering. Chief executive Richard Costolo owns a relatively modest 1.6 percent of Twitter.
Venture capital firms and early investors in the company include Benchmark Capital Partners, Spark Capital, and Union Square Ventures each will have a 5 percent ownership stake.
One of the big surprises in the S-1 is that the venture capital firm Rizvi Traverse Management, associated with Hollywood investor Suhail Rizvi, owns 15 percent of the company.
Co-founder Biz Stone, who left Twitter in 2011, was not listed in the S-1 as an owner.
Twitter will set its share price following a road show, expected to start as soon as three weeks from now, where it will present its offering to potential investors, to gauge interest. It will trade under the ticker TWTR. Goldman Sachs, the lead underwriter, says the offering will take place some time in the fourth quarter.
SurePayroll CEO Michael Alter talks about how small businesses can stay hopeful and successful during challenging economic times.
00:12 Michael Alter: Every month at SurePayroll, we ask a series of our customers, are they optimistic or pessimistic about the future of our economy. And unfortunately, we've been seeing that optimistic number running at about 60 percent optimistic about the future. Yet in normal times, we would expect to see that as 80 or 90 percent because by definition, let's face it, we're all "glass is half full" people, right? We wouldn't be trying to start businesses and build them and compete in the way we do if we didn't believe in the future and believe in our abilities to be successful. But we've got challenges with the fiscal cliff, we've got tax increase issues, we've got issues with the economy in Europe, and a potential slowdown in Asia. There's all sorts of things that can bring you down.
00:50 Alter: And so, how do you remain optimistic about the future? And I think a lot of that has to do with focusing on your business and what makes your business unique and how you're gonna differentiate yourself versus your competitors. Because no matter how bad things get, if you deliver a great service for a fair price and are there to back up what you're doing, you're gonna have a business. And you're gonna be able to keep growing that business. Maybe at the expense of some of your competitors but you know what, that's the beauty of America. We get to compete every day in the marketplace. So again, I would focus on having the best service, the best product, and the best people in my business, and I know I'm gonna win even in tough times.
CEO William Cyr keeps the company efficient by asking employees to constantly prioritize work using the '90% solution.'
00:11 William Cyr: So many big companies today are really struggling with "they get periods of growth, they expand, they hire more people, and then the growth slows, and they ultimately end up having to do mass layoffs." And it's almost a cliché now. It happens so frequently. Several companies have been through it several times. It's a big problem. And you say, why does it have to happen that way? Isn't there a better way to do this? And we've developed for ourselves what I would call the "90 percent solution." And the 90% solution means that you look at the scope of the work that you really need to do to be successful. Do a good strategic planning process, map out what you need to do. And then you only staff your organization to do 90% of it. And when you do that, what it does is it forces every employee to make priority choices everyday about what work is not gonna get done. And hopefully, the lowest value 10% is what gets dropped off, and that's what you expect every employee to do.
01:01 Cyr: Now that doesn't happen on day one, because every employee, every manager has been conditioned as part of their entire career to never say "they can't get it done," to always plan for doing more, or having a bigger organization get more done. But if you're really rigorous, and you say, we're gonna hold on to this 90 percent, they go through this natural evolutionary process where the organization kind of goes on tilt, they can't get all the work done, they're working long hours, people are getting frayed nerves, there's a lot of stress in the organization. And then ultimately, when that breakdown happens, that's when people are willing to change their approach or change their habits. And that's when you start having the conversations about doing a better job on priority setting. And the concept of priority setting changes the value from "I can do everything" to "I'm gonna be really good at priority setting."
01:45 Cyr: And when you change it to 'having that conversation is a victory or success' instead of a sign of weakness or a sign of failure, that's real cultural change. And we've done that. We've done that to the point where now it's okay to say, listen, you gave me 10 things to do. I'm only gonna do eight of them. Tell me which two you don't think make any sense. And that's not a sign of weakness. It's a sign of good disciplined strategic planning. As a result, we run our company today with one-third less overhead than our previous corporate owner had. And that's a big difference because that one-third less overhead, we've invested back in marketing support that has helped us take a business that was declining and make it grow.
02:20 Cyr: Now sustaining this 90 percent thing is not an easy thing to do because once you get it going and people are kind of comfortable and efficient, they sometimes drift back into their old habits, and they stop and think, "Well, jeez, if I had one more person, then I could get this extra piece of work done." But what they miss is adding one person in one part of the company oftentimes turns into another part of a person in the next function and two people in another function and three people in another function, and it never goes up evenly.
02:47 Cyr: In our company, you add one marketing person, they're incredibly productive people, they work incredibly hard. But they create a lot of work for our R&D people, for our market research people, for our salespeople, for our manufacturing people. And so before I add a marketing person, I wanna know that I'm really willing to operate with not just one more marketing person, but with eight people, more people across the company. And we recognize that residual effect. It makes you think twice about adding people. And that's been the discipline that we've practiced. And unfortunately, that discipline doesn't seem to happen very well in many of the big companies. They lose sight of the residual impact, they're silo-ed, they're too big to know what's going on across the whole company. But for us, that's the cure for corporate bloat, is the 90 percent solution.
Your employees are a tremendous reservoir of energy. If you're not currently tapping in, here are some ways to unleash their power.
As an entrepreneur, you work hard. Very hard. But make no mistake about it--you can't be the only one. To succeed in the long run, you need the active and engaged participation of your employees. This means unleashing the energy that is within each one of them. Here's how.
Catch Them Doing Something Right
Outstanding organizations share success with their employees. Management highlights constructive processes, strategies and employee ideas, then publicizes how they benefit the organization. When your employees are doing something right, let people know about it. Encourage outstanding, sustained performance by showing them how much their efforts are appreciated.
Set the Bar High
Set high standards for communication, productivity and professionalism throughout your organization. If at times these standards are not met, work closely with your employees to find ways to get back on track. Don't lower your standards. Instead, partner with your employees and take on challenges as a team. Enlist your their input to identify blocking issues, focus attention on possible solutions and strive to meet and exceed expectations.
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
Communicate professionally, clearly and often. Employees expect management's honest assessment of their performance. When things are running smoothly, highlight what is working and communicate success throughout the organization. When problems challenge progress, consider the potential impact you can have by constructively discussing your concerns. Use communication as a tool to inspire and motivate, as well as to direct and resolve problems.
Trust Your Employees
The best managers understand that organizational success is directly tied to the success of their employees, and they work to build bridges of trust. Establish trust by creating a safe, positive working environment with open and honest two-way communication. Give your people the benefit of the doubt, then help them up if they sometimes stumble.
Help Employees Grow
Set your employees up for success, not failure. Provide them with the tools and training to meet and exceed high standards. Encourage them to identify their strengths and motivations. Show them how your organization has benefitted from their efforts, and how this in turn benefits them. Determine what drives your people, then incorporate that into their daily tasks.
Create and Maintain a Productive Environment
Create and maintain a positive, industrious and pleasant working environment. Productive, motivated people drive outstanding organizations. Ensure employees feel challenged with their jobs, but not overwhelmed. Delegate tasks and encourage people into positions of greater complexity and responsibility whenever possible so employees are always in motion and have a stake in the organization's success.
Build a Community
Make sure your employees feel like they are a part of something special and that their efforts are truly appreciated. Partner with them by involving them directly in the success of the organization. Create and cultivate a sense of camaraderie, where people look forward to coming to work because they want to be a part of your company's success story.
By unleashing the energy of your employees and getting out of the way, you can create a high-energy workforce. Once this energy is fully unleashed, your business will grow by leaps and bounds.
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