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The CEO of one of the country's largest corporate travel management companies reflects on several serious setbacks and how his business overcame them.
Business travel wasn't always my niche. Nearly 30 years ago, I put my budding law career on hold to help my father jumpstart his struggling travel business. Today, that company, Ovation Travel Group, is the fifth largest corporate travel management company in the U.S., according to Business Travel News. Ovation has also appeared on the Inc. 5000 for the last five years.
With Ovation's 30th anniversary approaching, I've been reflecting on some of the setbacks we've experienced during the past three decades. Many of them stemmed from situations beyond our control. For instance, after the first Gulf War broke out in 1990, rising oil prices led companies to cut back on business travel. As a result, our business shrank by about 40 percent. When the airlines eliminated commissions for travel companies in 1995, we were forced to charge clients for our services for the first time. And, as a growing travel company based in lower Manhattan, the September 11 attacks nearly destroyed us. Business travel came to a screeching halt and our revenue dried up. Key employees lost loved ones, which became our focus as we struggled to rebound. By staying in constant communication, we built a sense of loyalty and dedication even as our employees worked at reduced pay. When the travel industry rebounded, we emerged as a stronger company. Here's a look at some other successful strategies we've employed during times of crisis:
Put All Hands on Deck
Treat the departments within your organization like SWAT teams. Encourage teams to work together and share ideas, deploy continuity plans, and overcome obstacles. Empower them to solve problems on the fly and report back to home base frequently.
Avoid Knee-jerk Spending Cuts
There’s a knee-jerk reaction to cut sales and marketing in times of crisis, but that approach might not fit into your overarching business strategy. After the September 11 attacks, instead of cutting sales and marketing while our business slumped, we shaved non-strategic spending, including costs related to accounting and IT, to avoid further layoffs, pay cuts, and furloughs.
During times of crisis, everyone in your business needs to be informed of the latest company news, success stories, and failures, along with the overall picture of how the company is doing. The more people know, the more involved they feel, and the more likely they are to become part of the solution.
Know Your Worth
When airlines cut our commissions, Ovation had to make up for the loss of our primary source of revenue. We began charging for services that had previously been free, but with some smart marketing and strategic communications, we proved our value to our clients. By articulating your value, you give your clients confidence in the services you’re providing.
Exude Confidence to Your Customers
During a crisis, it’s important to stay calm and let your clients know that you’re capable of handling it. When the SARS epidemic of 2002 effectively paralyzed international travel, we made an effort to communicate calmly and confidently to our clients, letting them know that we would book safe travel options for them and monitor their plans closely.
Think Outside the Ash Cloud
Thinking outside the box isn’t always enough. The eruption of the volcano in Iceland in 2010 created an enormous ash cloud that halted Trans-Atlantic travel for a very long week. We got creative and lined up the Queen Mary cruise ship to transport travelers back to the United States from Europe. A little creativity made all the difference to our clients.
With the uncertainty surrounding possible U.S. military action in Syria, which could seriously curtail international travel (again), we may be facing another crisis. Instead of panicking, we’re preparing by updating our business continuity plan and maintaining open lines of communication with our clients.
Housing employees in a company-built, $120 million housing complex may sound like smart strategy, but it also might make things too close for comfort.
You see all kinds of odd perks in the high tech industry: free food, massages, foosball tables, gym memberships. But Facebook has either gone either one step better or worse. Or maybe both at the same time.
Facebook apparently has plans for a "$120 million, 394-unit housing community within walking distance of its offices," according to the Wall Street Journal. It will even have a sports bar and dog daycare facility. We can presume high speed Internet will be everywhere.
Although a Facebook spokesperson said that this wasn't a move to increase retention, some employees have begun to wonder where they should live, as housing availability in Menlo Park, California, is tight.
21st Century Company Town
Of course the first thought many will have is how this could parallel the 19th and early 20th century concept of a company town. At times necessary to enable the large number of workers they needed (Hershey, Pennsylvania, was an example of a company town developed by the chocolate firm), some company towns also became largely synonymous with exploitation. A corporation would own the housing, food store, and anything else of substance and only take company script for payment. High prices would keep workers effective slaves, as they fell into debt and never made enough to clear it.
Facebook already has a reputation of creating an elaborate and attractive environment for workers. So why not return to the good old days when CEO Mark Zuckerberg and a coterie moved to California and rented a house. After all, having people in constant contact has to supercharge innovation, right? That's what the new entrepreneurial communes hope for, at least.
Not a chance. The assumption that people in close quarters during work and private hours will naturally generate great things is a big mistake. First of all, how anxious would you be to go into business with your parents and all live in the same house? It's OK, just wait: the panic attack will subside.
Although in any entrepreneurial endeavor there will be times when long hours are necessary, getting away from everyone you're around all day long is healthy. Who wants to have a phalanx of unwilling stalkers? Just as work can let some people get needed space from home, home should do the same for work. Interpersonal problems are just as likely, and I'd argue more, to blossom the more you are around coworkers.
The Cost to Innovation
As for innovation, it requires creativity and research shows that creativity requires the collision and melding of seemingly disconnected and different ideas. You want to absorb new experiences and different ideas to recharge yourself and have something to bring to attempts at innovation. When everyone is around each other too much, you cut down on the unexpected parts of life that are the fuel your creativity needs.
And let's consider some practicalities. Someone is fired or quits. So, what, suddenly the person has to find a new home? Talk about awkward moments in the hallways.
Facebook, there's nothing wrong with trying to ensure that employees have someplace to live. Maybe building housing will be the only option. But that seems hard to believe. Why not invest in a real estate developer who could build lots of housing for all the people who need it? That might offer a good return. And it's bound to be better than what you might get when co-workers get a little too close for comfort.
When Twitter goes public, many will become millionaires. Co-founder Ev Williams will become a billionaire. Here, he recalls the company's earliest days.
Ev Williams is about to join the billionaire club.
His 12 percent stake in Twitter makes him the company's largest shareholder, and according to the just-released S-1 filing, that stake will be worth $1.2 billion when Twitter goes public.
I spoke with Williams earlier this year when he was featured on the cover of Inc.'s February issue on the rules for success. At the time, he said his rule is "do less," reflecting on the focus and restraint he and his fellow Twitter co-founders showed in the company's earliest days. Much of that interview was left on the cutting room floor. Here's an extended version:
On focusing the idea:
"There are certain businesses that you know what they are when they're born. You don't necessarily know how big they are or what's going to make them successful, but Google, for example, was always a search engine.
With Twitter, it wasn't clear what it was. They called it a social network, they called it microblogging, but it was hard to define, because it didn't replace anything. There was this path of discovery with something like that, where over time you figure out what it is. Twitter actually changed from what we thought it was in the beginning, which we described as status updates and a social utility. It is that, in part, but the insight we eventually came to was Twitter was really more of an information network than it is a social network. That led to all kinds of design decisions, such as the inclusion of search and hashtags and the way retweets work. All this came because we were thinking deeply about the question: what is the essence of this product? It didn't reveal itself immediately and would have been a lot harder to get to had we not been focused on that."
On features that never were:
"Any time you're building a product, there are a million things you want to add to make it better, but the fact is the vast majority of them will not impact your success. It's more important to make those decisions well than it is to figure out how to increase productivity so you can add more and more.
Twitter's an example of this. Over the first year or two, we took away almost as many features as we added. We were sure we needed to add features for Twitter to make sense for a larger audience beyond the geeks that were using it at the time. We ended up never adding them. Whether or not they'd be good additions is hard to say, but clearly they weren't required for success. The No. 1 requested feature by users in the first year or two of Twitter was some way to group your Tweets, sort of like Google Circles. Users were dying for it. We thought it'd lead to a bunch of growth, and we were talking about it in 2006 and just never got around to it. It arguably would have been really bad, because it added complexity that wasn't necessary."
On starting slow:
"At Twitter, we had this mindset that we were going to do lots of different things. We probably would have moved on before there was any evidence of success. It didn't take off right away, and many of the most important things don't take off right away, they only take off after working on them for a long time and pursuing a vision that gets you to the essence of something, which is often only boiled down after lots of hard work and noodling on something... and maybe having doubts about it."
TRX founder Randy Hetrick explains how to identify the traits your business embodies and codify them to strengthen your team.
Thanks to continuing uncertainty about the effects of Obamacare, small businesses are remaining cautious.
In the midst of a government shutdown that swirls largely around healthcare, the only thing that appears certain about the Affordable Care Act is the uncertainty that surrounds it. As the ACA starts to take effect, small business owners are naming it the number one thing that’s holding them back from hiring, according to our September SurePayroll Small Business Scorecard survey.
Forty-three percent of small business owners said they need more clarity on healthcare reform to feel confident hiring again. In September, hiring was flat and the average paycheck dropped by 0.4 percent, suggesting small businesses are hesitant to spend right now, be it on new employees or paying their existing employees more.
Despite the continuing debate on its merits, healthcare reform seems to be here to stay. And while many have tried, no one seems to be able to sufficiently explain exactly how it will impact small businesses.
Small business owners are certainly nimble enough to work through a variety of conditions, but one thing that really discourages them is uncertainty. This was reflected in September, as optimism fell from 72 percent down to 59 percent.
This kind of uncertainty is unfortunate, because businesses seem to be doing fairly well. Seventy-one percent described the third quarter of business as matching or exceeding expectations, and 77 percent said the quarter was the same or better than the third quarter of 2013.
However, only one in two plan to invest in their businesses (through hiring, technology, marketing, etc.) in the fourth quarter.
Until we see exactly how the ACA is going to work, expect more of the same. Small businesses have been operating efficiently for a while now. They’re not going to take on additional risk until they see what the new healthcare law means to the bottom line.
Want to be successful? You have to communicate effectively. Here are 7 practices to master.
It doesn't matter whether you are in the business of delivering products or services--either way, your success depends heavily on communication. When things go wrong, you can almost always trace the problem to a breakdown in communication. And when things go right, it's usually great communicators who helped create the successful results. It's a necessary skill in every aspect of business, social and family life. How you communicate will determine if you lead, command respect, earn trust and are well liked. Poor communicators will suffer from confusion, low self-esteem and frustration.
Many of you have experienced great communicators such as Presidents Reagan and Clinton, and most of you have suffered through that boring lecture or maddening argument from a person who just couldn't make their point in a way you could comprehend. No need for you to be the offender. Just emulate these seven traits, and you'll rise to your highest potential and enjoy life along the way.
1. They Connect
So many people begin with their own agenda. They have something to say or prove, and so they just start right in without considering the person on the other end. Often they simply broadcast their message, assuming people will think it's the most important information in the world. Amazing communicators know that people won't start listening unless they connect intellectually and emotionally. There are too many internal voices and too much outside stimulus. Know your audience and start by conveying an emotional anecdote that shows your common perspective. People say that, when Bill Clinton talks with you, he makes you feel like you are the only person in the world. Let your listeners feel your empathy and know you value their importance.
2. They Engage
Next to boring lectures and overbearing shouting, I find the most frustrating communication to be where I have to carry the entire conversation. Amazing communicators know how to give and take in a reciprocal manner. Not only do they initiate conversation, they help drive the direction and encourage others to take part. They often mirror by repeating others' comments, concerns and feelings in a manner that shows understanding and interest. To be an amazing communicator, you should be well informed and yet ready to learn, listen and participate.
3. They Disarm
People are naturally on the defensive from over-communication these days. Amazing communicators are able to lower the defenses of those with whom they communicate. It's not that they are manipulative; rather they are comfortable, humble and authentic. They show genuine interest in the other person and use humor and authenticity to make themselves likable and nonthreatening. Get comfortable and confident in your own skin so you can give good energy in conversation and from the podium.
4. They Focus
If you want to lose an audience, directionless rambling is an easy way to do it. Amazing communicators are organized in their communication. If presenting, they carefully structure the ideas and stories to hold audience interest and make their points. They also work for consistency, since contradiction kills credibility and makes inner voices grow loud. Plan your conversations, thinking through what comes out of your mouth. Set structure to your speech and soon you'll be able to communicate ideas in an efficient and powerful way.
5. They Clarify
The most interesting conversations can delve into great detail. If you overwhelm your listeners, they will zone out from confusion or boredom. Reagan was best known for being simple and clear. Don't assume just because you understand what you're saying that your audience does. Amazing communicators find ways to simplify complex concepts without being condescending. Check in during the conversation to make sure everyone is still on board.
6. They Reinforce
How many times have you heard a speaker or had a conversation and, later, when asked what you remember, come up with a big fat zero? Don't blame yourself. Communication is the responsibility of the communicator. Amazing communicators understand people only retain ten percent of what they hear, and they are artful at reinforcing key points through storytelling, context and repetition. They do this without coming off as redundant or preachy. No one did this better than Dr. King. Make an effort to be dynamic and thoughtful in your delivery so listeners get depth and emphasis rather than a miscellany of concepts. What's the point of pontificating if no one gets it?
7. They Practice
Most amazing communicators didn't start that way. They learned from experts, practiced with coaches and studied technique. By committing time to improving, you are showing your friends and colleagues that you respect their time and attention. Chances are you have some weaknesses in your communication that could use improvement. Practice will help you in your life. Sure, there are a few naturals, but most of the professional speakers and leaders practice for many hours. Their business and careers depend on it. And, truthfully, so does yours.
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A look at the checkered history of public speaking, created in the snappy Pechakucha presentation style.
Interior designers have long believed that a properly arranged office can abet collaboration. Now some academic research is backing them up, and the result is something any organization can implement.
Can the interior design of an office improve teamwork? A preponderance of designers and organizations say "yes." We've written about Google's work spaces, and Fast Company recently interviewed designer Denise Cherry about "how to shake up the cubicle farm."
But few academic studies had made any connection between furniture's configurations and employee collaboration--until earlier this month, when Rui (Juliet) Zhu and Jennifer Argo published a research paper on the impact of office seating arrangements in the Journal of Consumer Research.
"When seated in a circular-shaped layout, individuals evaluate persuasive material more favorably when it contains family-oriented cues or majority endorsement information. In contrast, when seated in an angular-shaped seating arrangement, individuals evaluate persuasive material more favorably when it contains self-oriented cues or minority endorsement," notes the abstract.
In plain English, this means you're more likely to think like a consensus-seeking teammate when you sit facing your colleagues in something like a circle, and you're more likely to think like a me-first individual or devil's advocate when you sit in a square or rectangular arrangement.
Of course, consensus is not always the goal, and artificial harmony can hurt everyone. But in situations where you're trying to foster team chemistry and a sense of all-for-one, these findings demonstrate that "a subtle environmental cue--the shape of a seating arrangement--can activate fundamental human needs and consequently affect persuasion," the research abstract says.
If you're looking for a real-world example to bolster the research, we've got one: In her book, The Silent Language of Leaders, Carol Kinsey Goman shares what Sujit Patil, former head of corporate communications at Tata Chemicals, discovered.
"We experimented with a unique process during the integration meeting after one of our early M&As where seating arrangement during employee integration made a positive difference," Patil tells Goman. "We arranged chairs in concentric circles, rather than in a theater style or around a conference table that might have made one group seem dominant. This very subtle nonverbal communication was very powerful and ensured a feeling of equality among the managers from both the organizations. The participation level was much higher."
What's especially appealing about this example is that it cost nothing. All Tata Chemicals did was rearrange the chairs--just to see what would happen. That's something any organization could try.
What Would Make Employees More Productive and Creative? More Privacy
How a Customizable Workspace Environment Spurs Innovation
What Your Tone of Voice Is Telling Your Staff
Heard this one? Well, don't believe it. There's plenty of evidence that success doesn't have to be this way.
When you've got organizations like Aetna, Etsy, Kickstarter, and Meetup talking about the importance of mindfulness in their cultures and leadership styles, you know that business is radically changing.
As I spent time learning about "Mindfulness in the Digital Age" at the Wisdom 2.0 conference, it became apparent to me that mindfulness is indeed becoming mainstream. While I wouldn't call its pace break-neck, more like clipping along, mindful practices like mediation, compassion, self-awareness, and wellbeing are moving into the business world.
And here's the cool part--while the mindfulness movement is gaining some momentum you can get in now and still be considered an early adopter.
Wisdom 2.0 has a core mission "to not only live connected to one another through technology, but to do so in ways that are beneficial to our own well-being, effective in our work, and useful to the world."
I've been pondering the relationship between success and happiness for quite some time. My two days at the Wisdom 2.0 conference reignited the questions once again: Can you be an ambitious, successful person while also being a mindful, happy person? Can you really have both?
I know the idea that success and happiness are mutually exclusive is a remnant from a bygone era. I also know it just doesn't jive with how many successful people live their lives and run their companies.
So why is it a notion that some people continue clinging to? Why do we keep perpetuating the big lie that success can only be achieved at the expense of a happy life?
First, let's define success.
Most of us define success solely as achievement--when you meet enough goals, acquire enough possessions, or assume enough power then you're successful.
While I agree that achievement is an important part of success, used alone it is a short-sided response to the question, "What is success?" Perhaps success is a bit more complex than that.
Arianna Huffington is using her Third Metric movement to urge us to redefine success "to include well-being, wisdom, wonder, compassion and giving" in order to "chart a course to a new, more humane, more sustainable definition of success."
Not Mutually Exclusive
No longer do business leaders have to choose between leading a compassionate, healthy, and happy life and running a successful company that shares those values.
For the really successful people I know, it's not enough just to meet goals, acquire power, and have beautiful things--although those can be wonderful and used for good purposes.
They also want to create a life where they can enjoy and share those things with others. Successful people also know that how they live their lives is every bit a legacy as what they leave behind.
What would you consider "success" for you? Writing a bestselling book? Raising a grateful and happy child? Leading people to achieve great things and to love their work? Building a world-famous brand? IPO?
Whatever those worthy goals are, might I encourage you to think broader, not bigger?
Rather than just adding more goals to your already accomplished life, think about the longevity of your life and how you want to live it. Are you building a life to enjoy success once you've achieved it?
So, here's the lie: You can't be successful and happy.
And here's the truth as I see it: Success and happiness are intricately connected, require constant negotiating between the two, and ultimately feed one another.
Decision-making is a skill which requires constant practice.
Although everyone knows that success results from good decisions, few people bother to hone their decision-making skills. The following step-by-step process will help you make decisions like a champ:
1. Set a deadline.
The opposite of decision-making is indecision. Indecision drags things out until the world does the deciding for you. Therefore, every important decision must have a deadline, a specific time when you WILL make the decision.
2. Discover the knowns.
Informed decisions are better than shooting from the hip, so finding facts is helpful. However, when it comes to researching a decision, there's a point of diminishing returns. When you start obsessing on minor details, it's time stop fact-finding.
3. Gather relevant inputs.
If your decision requires other people to execute that decision, you MUST get their perspective prior to making the decision. If you skip this step, those people will not "own" the decision and therefore not execute it well.
The root of the word "decide" is the Latin word for "cut off." A decision cuts off the debate and cuts off the possibility of pursuing some other course of action. Once you've decided, you MUST now move to executing it, or it's not a real decision.
5. Explain your reasoning.
If other people have provided their perspective (in Step 3) and are now expected to execute the decision, they are more likely to execute well if you explain why you made that decision rather than pursue other options.
6. Never second guess.
Once you've made a decision, you must not question it, or seriously listen to other people question it, until you've obtained the results of executing that decision. Doing so pollutes the execution of the decision with indecision, thereby creating inaction.
7. Observe the results.
It's only after you (and your team, if they're involved) have made an honest and focused attempt to execute the decision that you stand back and observe the results. If the results are as expected, congratulations! If not, continue to step 8.
8. Adjust the decision.
Bullheadedness makes you just as helpless as indecision but with a lot more effort. Therefore, if you're not getting the results you expect, go back to Step 1. Use the knowledge you've gained to hone or change your decision.
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It's high time you make your team huddles more productive affairs. Here's how to do it.
When is the last time you were in a fantastic meeting? I'd venture to say the majority of internal meetings are painful and expensive time-sucks, especially if you consider the collective wages and time your company is losing for however many people to sit around and talk.
Sure, they're sometimes a necessary evil--not everything can be ironed out via other methods of communication. But how can you make sure your huddles are productive affairs? Here are some ideas.
1. Stop derailment before it starts.
Author of "Smart Leaders, Smarter Teams: How You and Your Team Get Unstuck to Get Results," Roger Schwarz recently wrote a guest blog for Harvard Business Review in which he said there are three things you can do to keep a meeting from going off-track.
First, spell out and get agreement on the purpose of each part of the meeting. If someone believes other issues need to be addressed they'll have the opportunity to say so instead of bringing them forward as rabbit trails once the meeting is rolling along.
"If it's not your meeting and there is no agenda, simply ask, 'Can we take a minute to get clear on the purpose and topics for the meeting to make sure we accomplish what you need?'" Schwarz writes.
Also, don't move to a new subject without properly closing out the prior one. Ask people if there's anything else that needs to be addressed regarding the topic. If someone isn't ready to move on, find out why not. Doing so lessens the chance they'll reintroduce the same subjects down the road.
And if you think someone is derailing a meeting, determine if they're doing it for a legitimate reason. Tactfully ask him or her how what they're talking about relates to the subject in question. Maybe there's a connection you or others hadn't considered.
2. Hold your stand-up meetings at 5 p.m.
Stand-up meetings aren't new, but making people do it at a time of day when they want to go home is an unconventional way to ensure a meeting doesn't stray off-course.
Here's what one LifeHacker commenter has to say about the idea:
I inherited chairmanship of a weekly meeting on warranty returns that typically drug out to between 1.5 to 2 hours and actually accomplished very little. Two thirds of the twenty people that attended had no reason to be there beyond the free doughnuts that were furnished, but had to have their say so (usually off topic). One morning, the big wheels had preempted the main conference room, and had taken all of the chairs from the smaller one we had to use (they took all the doughnuts too). The meeting took just 20 minutes. From then on I held the weekly meeting in the small conference room and made sure there were no chairs or doughnuts. Within 3 weeks the number of attendees had dropped dramatically and we were able to get back to work within 15 to 20 minutes with everything the meeting was supposed to accomplish done. Within a couple of months, attendance was down to the 4 people that really needed to be there and the meeting was moved to my office.
Another benefit of standing--it gets people off their butts. According to the American Heart Association nearly 179 million children and adults in the United States are overweight or obese. That's more than half the population and a huge factor in why employer insurance rates continue to climb.
3. Make sure everyone is on the same page.
LinkedIn has done away with in-meeting presentations because people can read them on their own. But CEO Jeff Weiner has some other strong beliefs about meeting etiquette. He stresses the importance of defining semantics. He writes:
It never ceases to amaze me how often meetings go off the rails by virtue of semantic differences. Picture a United Nations General Assembly gathering without the real-time translation headphones and you'll have the right visual. Words have power, and as such, it's worth investing time upfront to ensure everyone is on the same page in terms of what certain keywords, phrases, and concepts mean to the various constituencies around the table.
Weiner says it's also important to identify one person to "keep the car on the road" by making sure the conversation remains relevant, no one dominates the discussion, and adjunct discussions are taken offline.
4. Agree on rules and have them enforced by an issue-neutral person.
The worst offenders when it comes to derailing meetings are ramblers, bores, show-offs, latecomers, naysayers, timewasters, and minutia-minders, writes Charlie Hawkins, president of Seahawk Associates, an Albuquerque, New Mexico-based management resource for strategic planning, idea generation, and communications effectiveness.
The first thing to do, he says, is agree on ground rules. For example, your team could agree that meetings will start and end on time, a prioritized agenda will be followed and no side conversations are allowed. You could even make a rule that chronic latecomers will be tasked with facilitating the next meeting.
Then, when ramblers ramble, someone can raise the agenda rule. Use some kind of parking lot--a board, paper or other mechanism--for capturing side issues that can be addressed at a later time. And you can appease attention-seekers by giving them a job, such as timekeeper.
Hawkins says gentle but assertive facilitation is better than direct confrontation and should be employed by an issue-neutral person who's not the boss or someone otherwise invested in the outcome.
Work with a particularly disruptive person? Don't invite him or her to meetings. If that's not possible, the person's supervisor will have to initiate a frank conversation. This direct approach might not be fun for anyone, but it's worth doing if it results in less time wasted in meetings.
The start-up's new review policy isn't so sitting so well with users. Here's how to fix that.
Several months after Amazon acquired Goodreads, the social reading site is facing backlash over its new review policy.
The trouble began, as GigaOm reports, when Goodreads announced in mid-September plans to delete reviews about authors' behavior rather than their works. Presumably, the goal was to make the site more hospitable for authors, to whom Goodreads sells advertising and promotional packages.
Things didn't exactly go according to plan. Several of the site's most active users--Goodreads has over 20 million members--took to social media to complain about the deleted posts. Others fled to competitors such as BookLikes.
The company updated the policy two more times before finally emailing its members an apology on Wednesday. “We should have notified you and provided you with a copy of your content when we deleted the reviews," it read. But then, the company posted a FAQ addressing the policy, which only seemed to undermine its users' complaints.
Now that Goodreads members are monitoring their reviews more closely, the site faces an uphill battle in keeping them happy while promoting the authors who keep the company in business. To counter this problem, Goodreads may take a page from its owner, as Laura Hazard Owen suggests, and allow users to vote others' reviews as "helpful" or "not helpful." Theoretically, the best comments rise would to the top, users would have another way to engage, and the worst reviews would drop from the site.
Owens reports that Goodreads has hired a data scientist to help with the matter. Until then, the company should work on its PR strategy.
It goes a long way in contract negotiations and terminations, in company celebrations and closed deals, and in building strong relationships and cementing your role as a leader.
When I was in school, my teacher held each student accountable for what he or she learned. He insisted that we put our learning into practice doing math problems, rewriting essays, discussing book themes, and running science experiments. We did things over and over again--together--because that’s how humans learn best. It’s how we learn to drive a car, cook food, grow vegetables, and play basketball. It’s also how we learn to become more emotionally intelligent.
Emotional intelligence (EI or EQ) refers to the ability to recognize and regulate emotions in ourselves and others through four key elements: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness (or empathy), and relationship management. The goal is to become enlightened enough to recognize and regulate these areas. By doing so, we maximize our personal state of being, which in turn improves our interactions and relationships. The feedback loop guarantees benefits, many times over, back into our ways of being.
A heightened degree of emotional intelligence has personal benefits. For example, increased self-awareness helps you respond better to day-to-day situations you face as a citizen and consumer, such as poor customer service or road rage. In the same cases, a heightened level of empathy can help reduce the duration of these episodes and can lead to a healthier response from the other parties.
Emotional intelligence also translates to optimal outcomes as a leader in your business. In challenging situations such as contract negotiations and terminations, or even in positive cases such as company celebrations and closed deals, a high degree of EI can go a long way in building strong relationships and cementing your role as a strong leader.
What’s missing from the ways we tackle our emotional intelligence?
Businesses now take it for granted that effective leaders are highly emotionally intelligent. Studies say EQ can be learned and increased in adulthood, increases worker performance regardless of industry or position, and improves organizational performance and profits. But questions remain: How do we actually learn EI, put it to practical use on a daily basis, and know it’s working, especially in a fast-paced growing company?
From my experience, the answers are team-based learning, practice, and accountability.
The challenge with something as complex as EI is similar to other learning efforts we pursue as adults: it just can’t be learned and implemented by reading a book or attending a seminar. In those cases, the learning goes on the proverbial shelf and rarely gets pulled out over time. Instead, the subject matter must be learned with others so that our thoughts are shared and discussed, it must be practiced on a consistent basis, and we must have others who hold us accountable for the learning.
Learning has an effect when accountability is built in.
When we engage in learning with others over time--when accountability’s built in--we’re better able to assess whether our learning is having an effect. We reflect on the daily practice, share our learning with others, and hear what they have to say.
I can assert this because of my work at The Junto Institute, in which founders and leaders of growing companies learn together. One of the programs in the 10-month curriculum is a leadership forum licensed from The Liautaud Institute, which designed it and ran clinical trials that showed a 23 percent increase in EI for participating executives over a two-year period. Our particular take--in progress now for the first time, with startup CEOs--requires leaders to attend meetings together, practice specific habits, and then report on and discuss the outcomes with forum members.
Practical exercises help you put learning into practice.
At each monthly meeting, moderators assign participants a specific exercise (such as becoming a better listener) that he or she must practice during the following month. Each participant receives reminders and encouragement via short daily text messages that reinforce elements of the exercise. At the following meeting, participants share the highs and lows of their experiences. For example, one participant talked about how he moved his desk against the wall to remove the physical barrier between him and other employees when they walk into his office. He noticed that employees visited him more consistently because he would listen more attentively.
Layered on top of the leadership forum is a series of monthly classes, taught by seasoned entrepreneurs, that cover EI and business topics. Those topics are designed to reinforce elements of the program. At the start of each class, participants share their actions and outcomes since the prior class.
In one case, a participating CEO shared the outcome of an action he took as a result of two classes: self-management (EI topic), during which active listening was discussed, and financial management (business topic), in which profit margin formulas and cash flow management were covered. The experience he shared was when he "[practiced] active listening methods in meetings with buyers, resulting in more transparent information" that led to better terms for his company with regards to cash flows and profit margin.
Learning EI pays immediate dividends.
We’re anxious to assess the long-term impact the curriculum will have, but already have plenty of results to assess the short-term impact. (Outcomes get collected monthly from each program.) But participants got positive results right away. For example, the firing of a senior employee was handled well. Employees were more engaged and morale was higher. One said he got to the office earlier than he used to. Another said he learned how to better manage expectations of a new Head of Sales. A third said he was able to turn down an investor group while maintaining the relationship.
Each outcome is desirable for a leader of a growing company. At the surface, they may seem simplistic and obvious, but anyone in a leadership position knows how challenging it is to achieve just one of these. What it makes it more challenging--and what often leads us to giving up--is trying to accomplish these things by yourself and hoping for immediate results.
But when you learn with peers, you put the learning to practical use on a daily basis, and you share the ups and downs with those peers, you can also overcome the two hurdles of implementing learning as adults--practice and accountability. And even if that learning is for something as complex as emotional intelligence, you can start seeing results fairly quickly.
It all started with a little tool called Twittr and a 140-character rule. Here's a brief history of how the start-up became a $317 million business.
When Jack Dorsey sent out the first Tweet ever in 2006--"Just setting up my twttr"--few would have guessed that the service would eventually play a key role in everything from elections to citizen uprisings in the Middle East. (Even the founders didn't know what to make of Twitter.) Become a real company with a working business model? That was perhaps even harder to picture. But become a business Twitter did--in fact, a soon-to-be public business that reported $317 million in revenue in 2012. Read on to revisit Twitter's major milestones over the last nine years.
Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman says people always overestimate their ability to predict the future. He puts his faith instead in...algorithms.
Weeks after posting a Tweet that said it had secretly submitted documents to the SEC for a planned IPO, Twitter reveals them to the world.
Earlier this evening, Twitter filed its initial public company registration form, known as the S-1, with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
In so doing, Twitter joins a small but growing club of social media stars that have gone public in recent years, including Facebook and LinkedIn.
Twitter's S-1 is the first step in filing for an initial public offering, and it also represents the first time the private company has parted the iron curtain on details about its revenue and (lack of) income.
Key Numbers Revealed
In the S-1, Twitter reported that as of June 30, it had 218 million active users.
For the full year 2012, Twitter reported $317 million in revenue, nearly three times its revenue in 2011. For the six months ended June 30 2013, Twitter reported it had $253 million in revenue, about double its revenue compared to the same six months a year earlier.
Twitter said that it earned nearly 90 percent of its 2012 revenue, and revenue for the six months reported of 2013, from advertising.
As of June 30, 2013, Twitter had $418 million in debt.
Twitter Is Not Profitable
In 2012, the company 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.
That compares to Facebook's $1 billion in annual net income when it went public in May 2012.
Twitter's S-1 did not include an estimate for share price when it does list on an exchange.
Twitter's underwriting investment banks include Goldman, Sachs & Co., Morgan Stanley, J.P. Morgan, and BofA Merrill Lynch. According to SEC rules, the company's road show could begin as early as three weeks from now.
Registration Documents Confidential, at First
Twitter had previously announced its intention to file for an IPO in mid-September with this less-than-140-character Tweet that said: "We've confidentially submitted an S-1 to the SEC for a planned IPO. This Tweet does not constitute an offer of any securities for sale."
As an emerging growth company, with revenue or non-convertible debt less than $1 billion, Twitter qualified under a provision in the JOBS Act to initially file its public company registration documents with the SEC in secret.
Almost-bankers Alejandro Vlez and Nikhil Arora, who co-founded Back to the Roots mushroom-making kits, just wanted to do something they loved.
Still being small, Back to the Roots founders, Nikhil Arora and Alejandro Vlez look at every interaction as a necessary one, and don't want to screw anything up.
From the start, Back to the Roots founders Alejandro Vlez and Nikhil Arora have kept each other in check. "He's my boss, and I'm his boss," says Vlez.
"The hours don't matter, the pay doesn't matter," says Nikhil Arora who used to work a corporate job but found his passion when he co-founded Back to the Roots.