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Recently renewed by President Obama, the EB-5 Visa program links entrepreneurs to foreign investors.
When Jack Flechner purchased the Florida franchise rights to a New Orleans-based restaurant chain called VooDoo BBQ & Grill in 2011, he had big plans to open 26 stores over the next decade. His enthusiasm may have been somewhat unfounded.
Given the continued credit crunch, especially for risky ventures like restaurants, he had little luck in finding a bank or investors willing to finance his expansion plans. "Unless you're a large established business or have tremendous personal assets to use as collateral, the credit markets are difficult to crack," says Flechner. "Without the cash to expand, you're pretty much out of luck."
Flechner thought he had exhausted all his options, until he learned of a government-run program that offers access to low-cost capital supplied by foreign investors. Called the Immigrant Investor Pilot Program, but more commonly known as EB-5, the program is run by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, or USCIS, and enables foreign investors to earn green cards in return for investing $1 million or more in a U.S. business that creates at least 10 new jobs.
EB-5 has drawn some criticism since it was established in 1990. For some, the idea of allowing foreigners to essentially buy a green card is a little unsettling. There have also been reported abuses and fraud within the program, such as fudged job-creation numbers and money laundering. However, it has received bipartisan support in Congress and was recently renewed through 2015 by President Obama.
The program has had its fair share of high-profile successes as well. Jay Peak, a ski resort in Vermont, raised more than $200 million to build an assortment of hotels and lodges with the help of foreign investors. The new Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn, New York, home of the Brooklyn Nets basketball team, also tapped EB-5 funds. As a whole, it is estimated that close to $1 billion was raised through the EB-5 program in 2011.
Most of the investments made through the EB-5 program now go through entities known as USCIS regional centers, which act as conduits for foreign capital. There are 218 regional centers operating in the U.S., most of them based in rural or targeted employment areas. (If a regional center project is located in a rural or high-unemployment zone, then investors have to put up only a $500,000 stake rather than $1 million to qualify for a green card.)
To get his expansion on track, Flechner worked with Exclusive Visas, a Weston, Florida-based firm that helps businesses navigate the EB-5 program. It took about six months for the plan to be approved by the USCIS. It called for money to be raised in six phases, with the first phase targeting 10 investors who would invest a total of $5 million to build the first four restaurants, which would create about 175 jobs.
With the project approved, the Exclusive Visas team began shopping it to potential investors around the world. It began with China, whose investors have been the most active in the EB-5 program to date. "China is more aware and organized when it comes to EB-5," says Fred Burgess, co-founder of Exclusive Visas. "But we're also seeing a lot more interest from India and Brazil, along with countries like Egypt and Venezuela that have been going through political upheavals."
Flechner, who flew to China to meet with several potential investors, says it took four months to land the 10 investors for his first phase. Two were from China, and the others came from Canada, Nigeria, Bangladesh, and Norway. "We have our own little United Nations going on," he says.
A nice advantage of EB-5 is that because investors are participating to earn their green card, most are less concerned with receiving a large return. The investment in Flechner's business, for example, is structured as a five-year loan, with the investors receiving interest at 2 percent to 2.5 percent. Like typical investments, the money is considered "at risk."
"Investors like me are more concerned with just getting our initial investment back," says Anthony Korda, a British immigrant who invested in the Jay Peak project in 2006 to earn his visa and now works as an immigration attorney in Florida. "Although that's changing as more projects are started," he adds. Most of the projects funded through EB-5 to date have been in real estate, manufacturing, and restaurants, in part because it is easier for investors in those areas to estimate how many jobs are likely to be created.
Although the EB-5 program can be an alternative source of capital, there are several caveats. For one, the money doesn't come quickly. It often takes more than a year before funding makes it through the entire USCIS approval process. Then there are upfront administrative costs and consulting fees, along with any travel costs accrued in landing investors. Flechner says he spent about $100,000 before he raised his first dollar.
With his first four restaurants due to open early this year, Flechner is already working on landing investors for future restaurants. In addition, he has decided to invest in another restaurant franchise called Twin Peaks, which he also plans to fund through the EB-5 program. "This program is giving me the ability to open a lot of stores and employ a lot of people in Florida," he says.
Four new tablets designed for serious work.
For years, tablets have been touted as the Next Big Thing in consumer electronics. Finally, there are several models suitable for serious business use. We tested four tablets, running four different operating systems, to see how they stack up.
Acer Iconia W700
Our top pick, this Windows 8 tablet, which can run desktop versions of Microsoft Office programs, functions much like a laptop. The tablet has a sharp 11.6-inch, 1920- by 1080-pixel display and a speedy Intel Core i5 dual-core processor. It also has front- and rear-facing cameras, as do the other tablets here. During our test, it booted in 10 seconds, and the battery lasted nine hours. On the downside, the 2.1-pound tablet is a bit hefty and has a smaller app selection than do Apple or Android models. Cost: $999 for a 128GB solid-state storage drive
iPad Fourth Generation
The sleek 1.4-pound iPad, which runs on Apple's iOS platform, offers the best selection of business-friendly apps in our test group, including a full-featured version of Square's mobile cash register. The tablet's 2048- by 1536-pixel Retina display, which measures 9.7 inches, was crisp and colorful, topping the other models here. Powered by Apple's A6X processor, it booted up in 20 seconds during our test, and the battery lasted a respectable eight hours on a full charge. Cost: $499 for 16GB of storage
Google Nexus 10
A nice traveling companion, this 1.3-pound Android 4.2 tablet comes loaded with Google Now, an app that automatically serves up meeting reminders, flight details, and other timely information. Its 10-inch, 2560- by 1600-pixel display looked crystal clear during our test. The Nexus, which is made by Samsung, also includes a near-field-communication chip for transmitting data with a tap. Powered by an Exynos 5 dual-core processor, it booted in 19 seconds. One gripe: The battery lasts only seven hours. Cost: $399 for 16GB of storage
Surface with Windows RT
Much like the Acer, this 10.6-inch Windows RT tablet features Microsoft's new tile-based start screen and has a limited selection of business apps. The 1.5-pound Surface offers mobile versions of Office programs, but they are not designed for use by businesses. Powered by a quad-core processor, the Surface booted in 26 seconds, the slowest time among our group. During our test, its 1366- by 768-pixel display looked a bit washed out. The battery lasts eight hours. Cost: $499 for 32GB of storage
American manufacturing has a new artisanal image--and a new ad agency from the creative team of Crispin Porter + Bogusky.
The Made in America brand once embodied ruggedness and a kind of strait-laced patriotism, but recently it has morphed into a symbol of artisanal design and environmental sustainability. Fueled by a renewed enthusiasm for items sourced and produced in the U.S.--and supported by a new advertising agency devoted to American manufacturing--this locavore-tinged version of Made in America is gaining steam.
You can see it on display when you walk into Emil Congdon and Otis James's shared workshop in a converted automobile factory in downtown Nashville. Congdon's company, Emil Erwin, makes a line of handcrafted leather bags and accessories, while James produces custom bow ties and brawler caps. Both brands evoke a vintage chic that mixes traditional craftsmanship with modern sensibilities. And both have been wildly successful. "There's a real hunger for a return to quality," says Congdon. That can't happen, he adds, when manufacturers go offshore for cheap workers and inferior materials.
It's a sentiment echoed in a recent survey by Boston Consulting Group, which found that 80 percent of domestic consumers are willing to pay a premium for products made in the U.S. America's luxe, high-quality image also extends overseas. The survey found that 60 percent of Chinese consumers are willing to pay extra for American-made products.
The artisanal version of Made in America got another boost last April, when three former Crispin Porter + Bogusky admen--Dave Schiff, Scott Prindle, and John Kieselhorst--launched Made Movement. The Boulder, Colorado-based agency focuses only on American-made products. CP+B co-founder Alex Bogusky is an investor and partner. Now at 30 employees and growing, Made Movement has a client roster that includes New Belgium Brewing and Seventh Generation.
CP+B became known for its stunt-PR tactics and subversive humor, and Made Movement takes a similar approach. Except instead of creating subservient chickens for Burger King and filing fake "taste infringement" lawsuits for Coke Zero, the team is finding ways to work its irony-soaked magic for smaller brands committed to U.S. manufacturing. In November, Made Movement created a campaign for ScentSicles, an Atlanta company that makes pine-scented Christmas ornaments. The team developed a website that allowed visitors to remotely decorate a rotating Christmas tree with ScentSicles using a robotic arm while two mustached funnymen heaped gentle scorn.
Made Movement's own website is just as quirky. Rather than create a traditional agency site, the co-founders created an e-commerce store. "Most ad-agency sites have portfolios of previous work, client lists, and a mission statement," says Schiff. "We felt like we had a big opportunity to do something different." The online market, dubbed the Made Collection, offers American-made products from agency clients and other companies, including Otis James's ties. The agency receives a percentage of each sale.
Shoppers are frequently reminded that they are supporting other Americans. Each product description includes information about the company that created the item. Browse a handmade leather satchel ($1,395) from Ghurka in Norwalk, Connecticut, and you'll learn that founder Marley Hodgson employs 35 people and draws his inspiration from antique Nepalese military gear. Shoppers also receive "boom points"--loyalty rewards redeemable for special deals--which represent the economic impact of their purchases in local communities. "That was our way of offering important information about purchases without being too didactic or sanctimonious about it," Schiff says. So far, more than 2,500 items have been sold through the site.
The Made Movement co-founders say they are motivated by the idea that their agency might help create jobs--or at least help keep good ones here. And that more than makes up for the fact that they have gone from representing marquee names with vast budgets to mostly obscure brands operating on a shoestring. "This isn't an idea that we've market-researched to death," says Schiff. "We're driven by our passion. We'd like to believe that we're making a difference in people's lives."
In 2012, these countries had the highest global reputations among the 50 nations ranked. The U.S. has held the top spot four years in a row.
1. United States
3. United Kingdom
source: AnholT-GfK Roper Nation Brands Index
The best investors aren't just those with the most cash. They're the ones who really care about what your company stands for.
One the first goals--not to say obsessions--of any entrepreneur who wants to build a lasting, valuable company is to get funded. I have one piece of advice to anyone on that quest: Don't follow the money. Follow the passion. Find investors who believe what you believe, who see the world the way you do, and who want you to succeed almost as much as you do.
Remember that taking investors into your business isn't just a one-time financial transaction. It's entering a long-term relationship. You're marrying these people. You’ll be connected to them for as long as your business exists, which will hopefully be a very long time! And just as in any marriage, you need to fully think things through.
Step 1: Check Your Potential Investors' History
What companies have your potential investors funded in the past? What boards have they sat on? You're looking for people with experience shepherding companies (successfully!) that were once similar to what you are now--a small scrappy disruptor in an established industry, maybe, or a start-up with a valuable technological breakthrough. Make sure to talk to the founders of those success stories, to learn how your potential investors operate. Most important, make sure you also talk to the founders of companies they funded that weren’t successful, to see how they were treated. While your company is no doubt destined for greatness, you can be sure there will be rough patches. You should be wary of investors with a record of abandoning companies when things get tough.
Step 2: Value Those With Experience
As an analogy, I always point out to fellow entrepreneurs that if you’re planning to climb Kilimanjaro, the easiest way to start is to find 10 people who have already done it and pick their brains. What did they pack? How did they train? Who did they take with them? What path did they take to the top? For example, one of our investors, Lee Barba, climbed his version of Kilimanjaro as the founder and CEO of thinkorswim Group, which created a suite of online tools for individual investors. We've been able to avoid a lot of painful mistakes thanks to Lee's experience.
Step 3: Align Your Visions
When looking for your own investors, you absolutely must align your agendas from the start. What will the company’s goals be? How will you define a successful year? Where is the company headed in the next few months and years? You’ll need people who are passionate about the product, but also people with realistic, agreed-upon, and clearly defined goals for your business.
Step 4: Consider Who Will Make Great Board Members
Many of your investors will retain an active day-to-day role at your company as board members. When you hear “board members,” you might think of people who check in for quarterly board meetings and vanish for the rest of the time. I recommend you aim way higher than that.
The LearnVest Board serves as mentors to me in the office as much as they’re mentors outside its walls. To cite one example: Our chair, Ann Kaplan, is a former managing director of Goldman Sachs, a teacher at Columbia Business School, and for years has been a leader in organizations that promote financial literacy for women. She was aligned with our vision before I even had a vision.
I’ve learned that a phenomenal board member…
In other words, the right investor is not only about your bottom line. Rather, she is also truly passionate about your mission, deeply familiar with your business model, and able to impart trusted guidance. You should realize that finding those perfect matches can't be done in a hurry. So don't jump at the first deep pocket that comes your way. Take your time. Your business will be better for it. I know mine is.
Before you spend another hour at the office, consider if it will be time well-spent. Here's how.
For a long time, the picture of a good employee in the U.S. has been someone who stays late, comes in on weekends, and always appears to be grinding away. People like this sometimes make a big show of how busy they are. In actuality, though, productivity isn't about how much you're working; it's about how much you're accomplishing.
As Americans get smarter about efficiency in the office, many have started to accept more non-traditional ways of being productive like working remotely, using technology, and prioritizing. A Harvard business school professor recently chronicled changes like this in The New York Times.
Everyone appreciates a dedicated worker, but sometimes perfect is the enemy of great. Keeping a project moving forward is often more effective than waiting until it's totally polished. An object in motion, after all, tends to stay in motion. If you're overly meticulous, it can be hard to keep going.
Think of it this way: If you're planning a trip to the moon, the most important parts of the trip are the exit trajectory and the re-entry trajectory, not what kind of water you're serving on the shuttle. Attention to detail is one thing; analysis paralysis is another.
So how do you advise employees on the best ways to organize and prioritize? I go back to what a mentor once told me: Think about your work in A, B, and C buckets.
Bucket A: These are tasks you have to get done right and get done now. The work that truly matters to your core business. You better, for instance, be able to handle a customer service matter right the first time an individual calls.
Bucket B: These assignments don't have to be perfect or great, but you probably should get them done (it will be noticeable if you don't): your logo on an invoice, a voice recording for when you're out of the office, appropriate packaging for your shipments.
Bucket C: The stuff in this category is usually stuck in a drawer somewhere, or at the bottom of a long-forgotten list. You hope they don't come back to bite you, though some of them might. When you're running a small business with only a few employees, you have to make choices.
It's never a bad time to think about how you and your employees are doing things. Is your staff wasting time on the non-essential? Do you have projects that have been lingering? Get it done, or put it in the C Bucket.
It's easy to say your company aims to shake up its industry. But are you taking the steps you need to follow through?
Disruption is the goal of most entrepreneurs. It's almost a cliché: You recognize a need in the marketplace, you come up with a solution, and you set out to solve it as powerfully as possible. If you have to rattle the business models of a few incumbents in the process, well, that's what entrepreneurship is for.
The only problem with disruption is, it's easier to talk about than actually to do. We're not perfect, but when I look at what we have accomplished, I'd break our path down into five steps that any business could follow:
Step 1. Identify a big problem
What pain point is your company solving? Are you simply taking an existing idea and improving upon it? Or are you figuring out something that no one else has? As you answer these questions, be as specific as possible. At a minimum, your concept of the problem should address the cause (what the incumbents in your field are doing or have done historically), those suffering the most from the problem (the sweet spot of your market), and others who are trying to solve it (your competitors).
What this looks like for me: When it came to financial planning, there had been a huge gap in the market. On the one hand, there were countless books that covered general issues but were no help on personal questions. And on the other, there were very expensive advisers who offered their services only if you had millions stashed in the bank.
To make matters worse, there was an impossible conundrum: To work with financial planners, you needed to have enough money to be of interest to them. But in order to amass that much money, you had to work with a financial planner. I experienced this gap personally when I graduated from college and searched high and low for financial advice that spoke to me directly. I came up empty-handed.
That's where most people would leave it, but not an entrepreneur. I decided to come up with a solution.
Step 2: Build the best team
Going it alone is not an option. To cause disruption, you’ll need to enlist a phenomenal team of people who share a passion for your mission, think outside the box, and are always ready to roll up their sleeves and get dirty. A disprutive team has to be willing to put in those crazy start-up hours without complaint, and it must be driven not by immediate returns but by the thrill of building something new--and much better.
What this looks like for me: We drew on people from a broad range of industries, including financial services--I myself started out as a trader at Morgan Stanley. That worked well for us. As a result of that focus, our team is full of people who understand the realities of financial planning at a deep level but also profoundly understand where the system leaves room for improvement.
To keep that disruptive edge, everyone needs to feel a sense of ownership in the company's mission, and at LearnVest we take that literally. Everyone at the company gets options. Ownership, I've found, is a great way to truly inspire innovation.
Step 3: Get feedback and go quickly back to the drawing board
As you get engrossed in building a company, it’s all too easy to lose sight of the people you're doing all the work for: your customers. You need to keep lines of communication open with them--because, after all, they're the only ones who can truly tell you what you should be doing. So build up a constant stream of feedback. See what your customers want--then get back to building it for them.
What this looks like for me: We conduct qualitative research through our network, known as LearnVest Labs. We watch how users interact with our products, find out what really does change their money behavior, and learn how we can better serve them.
We also have an active feedback email address where we read all messages personally, and we register every single user request and question on our social-media accounts.
Then we take what we learn and apply it to every product at LearnVest. For example, we made the Money Center--where, among other things, you can track your spending--as user friendly and intuitive as possible. We modeled the feature after an email inbox, with spending categories represented as “folders.”
Step 4: Be flexible
There are a lot of channels you can use to build a disruptive business. Though you should hold tight to your big idea, you must be willing to adapt and adjust on the details.
What this looks like for me: Innovative technology is at the heart of what we do, and it's the key to our disruption. Through LearnVest Planning, we have a team of Certified Financial Planners™ who create step-by-step, customized financial plans that people can realistically follow--and our technology helps them do it at a price that traditional financial services firms can't even come close to. We also have an editorial arm that produces simple, unbiased, original content that doesn't try to steer you toward particular investments or gloss over risks.
The disruption also comes from our pricing model. For example, to break the traditional financial planning fee structure, under which the price tag for a financial plan typically runs around $3,000, we’ve introduced subscription pricing (a setup fee + $19/month). Our idea is to make financial planning as easy as joining the gym--because, well, it should be that easy.
Step 5: Live Your Brand
As an entrepreneur, the line between personal life and work life often blurs. You’re living and breathing your company, and to keep that disruptive edge, it’s critical to develop a company culture around your brand.
What this looks like for me: The LearnVest brand is about being smart with your money, and of course, all of our employees have actually gone through the financial planning process. They know our products intimately (and practice our philosophy daily) because they use LearnVest in their everyday lives.
But LearnVest's brand is also about spending on the things that make you truly happy. In our office, we keep a communal jar where everyone can see it. When anyone on the team goes above and beyond, we celebrate his or her achievements by contributing a $5 bill to the jar. Once the jar builds up to a reasonable sum, we use the funds to treat the whole team to something special. Most recently, for example, the jar funded a companywide happy hour.
And why not? You need a hungry team to run a disruptive business. It's only natural that the team occasionally gets thirsty, too.
Survey reveals that today's employees favor far more colorful excuses than, say, "My dog ate my homework."
Employees pouring out of offices in the Northeast Friday had Winter Storm Nemo to thank for management-sanctioned early departures, but a recent survey released by CareerBuilder reveals that regular employee lateness may be a more pressing issue for workplaces.
Apparently, 26 percent of full-time employees surveyed confessed to being late at least once a month, and 16 percent are late at least once a week.
More noteworthy than regular tardiness, however, were some of the excuses provided. Though traffic, weather, oversleeping, child care, and public transportation were blamed most often, many employees chose to get more creative with their explanations for delayed arrivals.
Included in the “why I’m late” hall of fame:
1. The employee who said his car wouldn’t start because the Breathalyzer showed he was intoxicated.
2. The employee who supposedly delivered a baby on the highway shoulder.
3. The employee who used a photo to prove he/she was the victim of a bear attack.
4. The employee who dropped her purse into a coin-operated newspaper dispenser—the change she needed to get it out was inside her purse!
5. The employee who left his apartment wearing his roommate’s girlfriend’s shoes.
6. The employee whose wife froze the keys to his truck in a glass of water.
7. The employee who botched a home haircut and had to wait for a barber shop to open and salvage his mane.
8. The employee who drove to a previous office instead.
9. The employee who was late because she was putting a raincoat on a cement lawn duck in advance of expected afternoon showers.
But excuses are not an area in which points are awarded for creativity.
Employees who blame ducks, babies, and bears (oh, my!) for preventing promptness might want to take a look at another number in the survey: More than one-third of hiring managers say they have fired someone because he or she was late.
Your data is following your employees out the door. How to stem the tide.
Ever email a document to your home email account? What about transferring some specs to your iPad so you can study them on your flight? Did you delete them when you were done with them?
You probably answered yes, yes, and no. Intellectual property is so easily transferred from device to device that we don't think about it being property the same way our office chair is property. When someone quits a job, they wouldn't think about packing up their desk and filing cabinet and hauling it out to the parking lot. And if someone did, I bet you'd try to stop them. ("Hey, Joe! Put the desk down!")
But 50 percent of employees who left jobs in 2012 (either by choice or by involuntary termination) took confidential data with them, according to a new survey by Symantec. And 40 percent of those employees plan to use that data in future jobs.
A full 62 percent of employees say that it's okay to transfer data to personal devices, and the majority never delete it, because they don't think it's important to do so. Additionally, Symantec found that 56 percent of people believe that it is okay to use a competitor's confidential data, which means that your employees could be sitting at their desks right now violating intellectual property law. (And some probably have in the past and some probably will in the future.) This puts your company at risk, even if you didn't ask them to do it.
How do you stop this from happening? There's never going to be a 100 percent solution, but here are 5 ideas to help keep your data safe and make sure you aren't violating any intellectual property laws.
Give 'em what they need. Smart phones, laptops, and iPads are expensive. You may feel it's more practical to require employees to use their personal phones for business. And since you already paid for a laptop (or desktop computer), you don't really see the need for an iPad. Think again. Consider shelling out the money for the smart phone. Let your employees use it for personal calls, so they don't have to take two with them everywhere, but when they quit, the phone gets handed back to you, along with any uploaded data.
Make it clear. It should go without saying that employees shouldn't take data when they leave an organization. Unfortunately, maybe it needs to be said: The survey show most employees are doing it and don't even think it's wrong. If you don't want your data walking out the door, speak up. You need a specific data policy whether your company has two or 2,000 employees.
Tell new hires you hired them for their brains. While it's tempting to make use of a previous employer's data that your new employee has sitting in his personal email account, it could open your company up to a lot of trouble. As part of your new hire paperwork, consider including a document which clearly states that use of another company's intellectual property is prohibited.
Data check at the door. Turnover happens. Whether your employee is leaving for a "new opportunity"or you're kicking him to the curb, ask specifically if he has any confidential information on personal devices. State clearly that it needs to be removed and have your lawyer draft a document for him to sign saying that he has removed all such data.
Don't forget hard copies. Most of your intellectual property resides in electronic formats. But, some people work best off hard copies and make liberal use of printers. Remind people that, while it's fine to work from home on a project, all documents should be shredded or returned to the office when that project is finished.
Your intellectual property is what makes your company great. Don't let it get away from you.
It's a challenge being a winner if people think you're a loser. Here's how to improve the way you are perceived.
Image is everything, at least at first. Right or wrong, that first impression goes a long way in shaping how people feel about you until you impress them to think otherwise. You can feel successful people when they walk into a room. Attention goes their way in an instant. Everyone wants to be like them or near them. It doesn't matter if they are CEOs, salespersons or carpenters. Some people are naturally blessed with a successful aura, but most have to find their inner confidence and learn to polish at least some aspects of their image.
If you project a loser image, people will treat you like a loser right from the start. You want people to think you are a winner from Day One. Winners get hired. Winners get funding. Winners get promotions. Winners attract top talent. Winners invite opportunity.
Here are seven tips to improve your image, so people will recognize you as a winner right off the bat.1. Look Good for Any Occasion
You don't have to be rich to look good. Acceptable business attire today is relative. A suit is as much out of place at Zappos as sweats and flip-flops are on Wall Street. Just pay attention to detail and dress appropriately. Want to upgrade your image? Always dress one notch higher than what's expected. If dress is business casual, put on a suit. If it's khakis and polo shirts, bring out the sport jacket. Dress it up and accessorize tastefully. Hire a style expert if you're tasteless.
And, yes, shoes matter. In a room full of suits and khakis, your shoes say a ton about your personality, so keep them stylish and nice. Lastly, don't forget grooming. Interesting hair and nails are fine as long as they intentionally communicate the image you wish to project. Unfinished or unkempt says you can't take care of yourself. Keep healthy, and have good posture. Don't project yourself as a hot mess.2. Write and Speak Correctly
Do you answer, "I'm doing good" when asked "How are you today?" Using the proper grammatical answer, "I'm doing well," may seem minor, but small infractions are big to those who judge you. People do notice. Improve your grammar, spelling, and especially, your diction. If English is your second language, you'll need to work harder. It may not be politically correct, but sadly many Americans still believe, if only subconsciously, that people who don't speak and write English well are less intelligent than those who do. Don't let them dismiss you because of the way you speak and write.3. Master the Art of Intelligent Conversation
If all you talk about is your company, your job, your family, or the Kardashians, you won't be considered at the top of your or anyone else's game. Be up on current events. Be a lifelong learner. Take courses, read books, listen to interesting podcasts. Travel and learn about different cultures, even if they are only a few miles away. Then find a way to relate these lessons in interesting and valuable ways to people around you. Make it so people look forward to hearing what's next. And most important, know when to shut up. Make sure the conversation is reciprocal, or it's not a conversation; it's a lecture.4. Be Charitable
People are impressed by selfless givers. Granted, these are tight times, and not everyone has extra money. But you can be charitable in many ways. Give your time, energy, and wisdom to people around you as well as those in dire need. Help the person flailing in the office, or the friend hurting, or the disaster victim, or anyone trying to build a better life. Just find a cause and give. People will notice and respect you for it. Including the most important person...you.5. Be Organized
Regardless of net worth or position, when you're unorganized, it shows and irritates those around you. People may still accept your importance, but they'll also believe you're out of control. You are judged on little things like timely response to messages and email. Showing up late disrespects others and makes you look careless or worse, indifferent. There are plenty of tools in your smartphone. Use them. Get an assistant if you have to. And quit dragging all your stuff around. Travel light. If you look organized and efficient, people will think you've got it together.6. Make People Feel Important
Successful people know how to make it all about the other person. When face to face, have a firm handshake, make eye contact, and show respect by being present. Help people feel that what they have to say is important and worth your time. Understand and use the power of gratitude, be it with small gifts, time, or a simple thank-you. These are powerful tools that used authentically will elevate your image.7. Spend Time With Successful People
You are always judged on the company you keep. Build a circle of people you respect and admire, and you, too, will be respected and admired by the people important to you. No one else matters.
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Journaling isn't just for angsty teenagers. A work diary can help entrepreneurs pinpoint problems and improve their professional performance.
Journaling may conjure connotations of angsty teenagers pouring their emotional ups and downs out while locked in their bedrooms, but keeping a daily diary is actually a tool used by many of the world's most successful people.
From Oprah Winfrey to General George S. Patton and artist Andy Warhol, many high achievers use their journals to reveal areas of their careers in need of amplification or improvement. Should you join them?
Yes, suggests Madeline Stilley recently on Business Insider. In the post, Stilley shares her experiences with a journaling assignment she was given in graduate school. The professor asked the students to take a few minutes each day to reflect on the following questions in writing:
- What events stand out in my mind from the workday, and how did they affect my inner work life?
- What progress did I make today, and how did it affect my inner work life?
- What nourishes and catalysts supported me and my work today? How can I sustain them tomorrow?
- What one thing can I do to make progress on my important work tomorrow?
- What setbacks did I have today, and how did they affect my inner work life? What can I learn from them?
- What toxins and inhibitors affected me and my work today? How can I weaken or avoid them tomorrow?
The journal may have started as a class requirement, but Stilley reports it soon became a useful career tool that helps her identify problems, notice patterns, and brainstorm solutions.
"During the last five to ten minutes of every work day, I would begin to reflect, and without fail, a few key events would stand out that I wanted to iron out on paper," she writes. "This tool assisted me in pinpointing communication errors, enhancing relationships with colleagues, and learning to be a better listener. After the term ended, I found myself opening up the Word document every afternoon to reflect because I thoroughly enjoyed the activity. I found that it improved my awareness and decision-making."
She's not alone, according to Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer, co-authors of The Progress Principle. On the HBR Blog Network, they have argued that professional journaling is an effective tool for self-reflection, helping professionals improve their focus, patience, planning, and personal growth. "We asked over 200 knowledge workers to send us a daily diary report every day throughout," they report.
"Keeping regular work diaries, which took no more than ten minutes a day, gave many of our research participants a new perspective on themselves as professionals and what they needed to improve," they conclude.
Would keeping a work journal be a good use of 10 minutes of your busy day?
Do you need to take your business into uncharted territory to accelerate growth? Here are four areas of expansion to consider.
Some companies can successfully serve a niche market for years. Many others, however, will need to explore new markets, new customers, new products, or new competencies at some point to continue their growth path.
Entering a new market requires the same level of careful planning, adequate investment, effective strategy, and execution that you dedicated to building the original business. Here are four areas in which your business can expand--and the approach you need to successfully execute in each.1. New Geographies
For many companies, the best way to accelerate growth is to bring a core product to new territories. Although using a proven product or service might seem like the safest path to expansion, this approach does come with significant risk. Entering a new part of the country or the globe requires in-depth knowledge around market dynamics in the new territory. This includes information about competitors, potential customers, projected market growth, the regulatory environment, and political factors--among others. Investing the appropriate resources (both time and money) to gather relevant intelligence before choosing a new market is critical to mitigating your risk.2. New Products or Services
Diversifying your portfolio of products and services spreads risk across the business instead of concentrating it on one or two core offerings. A great example of a company that's succeeded in this area is Starbucks. The company that started as a local coffee-bean roaster and retailer experienced rapid growth in the 1990s, expanding to 61 countries. This growth came to a halt in the late 2000s, however, requiring Starbucks to close hundreds of underperforming stores and eliminate thousands of jobs.
Facing stagnant growth, Starbucks changed its strategy. Rather than sell more of the same product at more stores, it began selling more products at fewer stores. By translating the core business (coffeehouses) into a range of products (instant coffee, at-home brewing machines, bottled beverages, ice cream, and beyond), Starbucks has been able to reduce risk and bounce back from its low point during the recession.3. New Customer Groups
Similar to diversifying a product portfolio, businesses can use their core competencies to expand to new customer segments. The Gap serves as a great example. Beginning as an affordable-clothing retailer for middle-class adults, the Gap has since expanded organically to GapKids, babyGap, and GapBody and created four additional brands targeting different segments: Banana Republic for more affluent professionals, Old Navy for teenagers, Piperlime for the fashion-conscious, and Athleta for active women. More recently, the company expanded into the luxury market through the acquisition of Intermix. A key element of its expansion: using a single e-commerce platform to serve all its customer segments.4. New Competencies
Solving new problems for existing customers can lead to upselling and cross-selling opportunities, but it often requires new skills and expertise. One of our clients, a traditional security provider, wanted to expand into an emerging, sophisticated security market at the enterprise level. This was outside of the client's "comfort zone"--historically, its offerings were less sophisticated. So it acquired a security-integration-software company, then used its existing book of business, security monitoring infrastructure, and sales channels to expand its offerings to customers and shorten time to market.
Deciding whether to expand via any of these avenues requires a clear understanding of your customers' needs and the dynamics of the market you wish to enter. But leaving your comfort zone can often lead to accelerated growth for your business.
Please send us your thoughts at Karlandbill@avondalestrategicpartners.com
Associate Lindsay Comstock contributed to this article.
Large companies spent a collective $84 billion to buy tech start-ups last year. Check out who made the most deals and what motivated them.
When you're an entrepreneur, getting acquired is always a possibility and one of the down-the-road exit strategies you keep in the back of your mind. But in high tech, the pace of big companies buying small firms has exploded to a degree that might surprise you. Try 2,357 private tech firms bought in 2012 for a total of about $84 billion, according to private company market analyst PrivCo.
PrivCo looked at the top 100 acquiring companies. You might be surprised at who's gobbling up start-ups the fastest. Here are the top five in order of the number of acquisitions, according to PrivCo:
That's right, Apple's not in the top five. Neither is Microsoft or Oracle or HP. But privately held Twitter is.
More important, the pace of acquisitions is feverish. Why? The answer is "defense," according to PrivCo CEO Sam Hamadeh. There are two things tech-related companies--and that includes private equity firms like Thoma Bravo, which was the most active acquirer in the private equity field--are trying to achieve.
Raising the body count
These firms need more talent, and the race for engineers and designers has probably never been hotter. Look at the email trail in the employee suit alleging that Apple, Adobe, Google, Intel, and others had entered into "do not poach" agreements. (Six big tech companies entered a DOJ settlement over the allegations in 2010.)
When you can't get the people you want through direct hires, so-called acqui-hiring, or buying a company simply to bring the employees and expertise on board, has become the new normal in Silicon Valley. And given the cash war chests in place, some of the giants may acqui-hire not for planned projects but simply to keep key human resources out of the hands of competitors.
Was someone innovating? 'Cause it wasn't us
The other reason for the massive binge is the quest to find the Next Big Thing, which probably won't come out of the bowels of a very large company. I recently wrote about how an IPO can kill innovation. Notice that of the top five acquiring companies, only one is private. And I'd argue that because of the pressure to pump up revenue, Twitter probably has had to shift the way it does business and become more staid.
This is another two-pronged activity. First, if there's something hot, a big company might want to incorporate the technology into what it does. Apple is an example, as much of the groundbreaking work in mobile technology and interfaces it has displayed came from companies it acquired.
But there's the darker part, as well--keeping potential market upstarts and disrupters at bay. As Hamadeh put it to me, "As soon as buyers like Facebook [the No. 1 most active buyer in 2012, and it wasn't even public for the first four months of 2012] and Twitter [and now Google] see any traction from a new app or piece of software, they buy it and then kill it. It has become easier than trying to compete with something totally new."
What's the future?
All signs seem to indicate that things will get only hotter in 2013. "High yield debt and leveraged loans are at their lowest rates," Hamadeh says. "That drives M&A. The junk bond index is at a historic low. I saw one just under 4 percent. It's stunning that a leveraged buyout could issue a junk bond [at that rate] and investors are so stretched for yield that they took it." Even 6 percent for a risky investment is very low.
Plus, there's all that cash that companies have on the balance sheet. Interest rates are so low that the capital offers little return parked in a bank. So the big companies are investing via acquisition.
"Unless something changes, 2013 is on track to be even stronger in acquisitions of private companies," he says.
The founder of LocalVox offers a few choice words of wisdom for ambitious self-starters hunting for a mentor.
Start-up founders and employees have raw talent, but need real mentorship to thrive. Trevor Sumner offers his best career wisdom to would-be entrepreneurs.
Before processing any opinion from an "expert," you have to be cognizant of the biases that "expert" might have. So let me state mine outright: I am not a career coach, I'm a serial entrepreneur. I graduated Princeton in 1998 in an age where you seemingly had to be an idiot not to get caught up in the Internet craze. We were all going to be millionaires, you see.
But in the false promise of our irrational exuberance, I found where I did belong: start-ups. I have always worked for start-ups, eventually founding my own company, LocalVox. But they're not for everyone--they are exciting, challenging, dynamic, interesting and emotional. They breed tremendous bonds among team members.
Perhaps more than anything else, they are driven by great and often young people looking to build a career and able to take a risk early on. These are often people with tremendous raw talent in need of mentorship and career advice.
Ultimately, I believe you will excel at what you are driven by--your passions. When the gas tank is empty and it is 1 in the morning, you need to want to be there, wherever that may be. You need to make others want to be there too. So you better love what you do. A lot. So above all else, as an important litmus test, never take a job or start a company you are not excited to tell your friends about--period.
Here are three pieces of advice I've learned to take to heart:
1. It's about people.
Although it feels like every job is the crucial next step in your career, in hindsight, it's often just one of many. That's not to say you should take it lightly, just that every gig is part of a much longer journey. It's important to be at least a little over your head in any new role. Don't worry, you'll grow into it. If you are not in over your head, over-perform and look up the organization for a better fit and start positioning yourself now.
One of the most valuable ways to accelerate your learning is to find a great mentor. Nothing substitutes for having a seasoned guide to help you understand and navigate issues above your pay grade, give you context for what you are doing and be thoughtful about what skills you need to acquire.
If you can't find a mentor where you work, find someone outside of the organization. You will find asking for help to be surprisingly effective. Be open, honest and thankful and listen for the nuggets of wisdom that will change your life.
Unfortunately, the converse of the mentorship rule also holds true: a bad boss or mentor trumps all. Be careful of bozos, psychos and those who don't really care about you. There are more of them than anyone would like, and it's too easy to pick up bad habits or, worse, accept a bad situation. Don't get trapped by inertia.
Lastly, remember that what you bring to the table in any job is more than just skills. No (wo)man is an island. You can only scale to a party of one, and the connections you bring are just as, if not more valuable than your skills. If you can connect to an ecosystem of people to better answer questions, learn best practices and drive partnerships, you are much more valuable than your skillset alone.
2. Act like an owner--become a founder.
There is a vast difference between being a part of an initiative and driving it. Are you driving forward or waiting for instructions? Are you proactive or reactive? Don't wait to be "caught" when mistakes are made. It builds much more trust to be the first to explain when mistakes are made and how to correct them.
Understand what drives the business and why what you are doing is important in that overall context. Think about what could be exponentially better for the company. Experiment. Throw around ideas. Ask. Listen.
Every business is looking for leaders. Leaders try to find creative solutions, challenge the current thinking and find ways to innovate. So should you, on your own initiative.
Being an owner also means being a positive teammate. Avoid negativity when communicating horizontally and below. Lead by example and do whatever it takes to get the job done. Over the long term, strive to become a founder--the ultimate driver. It's the richest, most challenging and most rewarding thing you can do.
3. Be really smart with your money.
Being a founder or following a career that you are passionate about may involve risk, and you need a certain amount of freedom to take it on. This is not career advice per se, but it is important to manage your spending. Your freedom is a simple equation:
(Dollars in the bank) / (Expenses per month)
And it's harder to move the numerator than the denominator. So keep your costs low, save your pennies. Stay resilient. Don't make a bad decision and end up in a passionless career because of the money. Find happiness in what you do by having the freedom to make the right choice for you over the long term.
These sage pieces of advice were collected from multiple mentors; others were lessons from challenging environments. Hopefully they lead you on a path of happiness, fulfillment and a career full of rewarding memories and accomplishments.
Trevor Sumner is the founder of LocalVox, a rapidly growing start-up in New York City that provides a software platform to help local businesses market themselves online. @TrevorSumner @LocalVox
Customers are increasingly reluctant to have their data mined by marketers, but marketers need it. Collision ahead? Perhaps.
According to recent reports, consumers are increasingly reluctant to have their personal data trawled by Internet services, yet marketers are on a mission to mine that information with greater precision.
Are the two on a collision course?
A new survey reveals consumers are well aware that their personal data is a gold mine for marketers. A whopping 75 percent of respondents are aware their data is being collected, according to a data privacy survey administered by Ovum, a London-based analyst house. The survey, which solicited 11,000 respondents in 11 countries, also found that 68 percent said they would select a do-not-track feature, so that their online movements aren’t always monitored.
"More and more consumers are deciding to effectively become invisible in data terms on the Internet," said Mark Little, principal analyst at Ovum, to business tech and IT news site InfoWorld. "It will shake the Internet economy as more and more users decide they don't want to be tracked."
A large number of responders also said they believe their personal data is the lifeblood of many Internet companies: 46 percent say they believe these companies rely on selling customer data to survive.
And their assumptions may well be right. A separate survey administered by Infogroup Targeting Solutions and Yesmail Interactive, which drew responses from over 700 of the world’s top marketers, found that making the most of big data is a top concern for marketers in 2013.
At present, the findings said, marketers are so overwhelmed by the amount of information on digital and social channels that they are “data-rich and insight-poor,” a situation many want to correct.
A whopping 68 percent of marketers said they expect data-related expenditures to increase in 2013, and 56 percent plan on hiring new employees to handle data collection or analysis.
The survey findings went on:
While marketers have improved their ability to collect data, they’re still learning how to analyze it. In 2013, most marketers are ramping up spending on the people and technology that will provide the data-driven insights they need to help them understand their customers on a much deeper level across channels.
For the moment, while 47 percent of the marketers surveyed said they perform regular quality control—weekly or monthly—to clean customer data, more than a quarter said they couldn’t remember the last time they performed quality control on their customer data.
The new salesperson is "plugged into" an industry rather than plodding from customer to customer.
Traditionally, business-to-business selling involves face-to-face conversations. However, the road warrior is becoming increasingly rare in the business world, according to a study by Dr. James Oldroyd, the world's top researcher in the mathematics of selling.
His research recently revealed that corporate hiring for "outside" sales positions had leveled off at a measly 0.5 percent annual growth. By contrast, corporate hiring for "inside" sales positions was growing 15 times faster!
Even salespeople who DO meet with customers face to face are doing so much less frequently than in the past. Oldroyd's study revealed that more than two-fifths of all customer conversations conducted by "outside" salespeople are done over the phone.
The shift away from face-to-face selling is driving many top companies to hire and cultivate people who can become subject-matter experts and communicate with customers with a combination of email, phone, texting, social media, and Web conferencing.
Oddly, the sales training world doesn't seem to have caught up with this trend. Probably 90 percent of the sales training courses available assume that there will be face-to-face meetings. The other 10 percent cover cold calling.
Every day I get emails from business owners and salespeople who are struggling to adapt to this new way of selling. The problem is that they're attempting to use selling concepts and skills that are rapidly becoming obsolete.
If you read Sales Source regularly, you've probably noticed that I seldom post about sales situations that depend on a face-to-face meeting (e.g., "having a great handshake" or "dress for success"). Now you know why.
Over the next few months, I'm going to put an extra emphasis on ideas and techniques that are particularly appropriate for this new kind of selling environment. So if your job involves selling, you might want to sign up for my Twitter feed or my free newsletter.
Countries across the globe have begun to set up "start-up cities" that aim to foster entrepreneurship. The big question is: Will it work?
While an enterprising spirit is a traditional aspect of the American culture, now it seems other nations are taking big measures to encourage innovators within their own borders.
Over the last few years, a handful of governments and international organizations have set up incubator metropolises dubbed “start-up cities.” These are locales that specifically promote and foster entrepreneurial ideas and networking.
Here's a look at four of the world's "start-up cities":
National University of Singapore
In 2011, the National University of Singapore built a Stanford-style dormitory on its campus. Its purpose is to house 90 of NUS’s entrepreneurial students there and sit back, waiting for the startup juices to flow. The 90 college students have weekly brainstorming sessions, pitch ideas to prospective investors, and have a steady lineup of successful entrepreneurs who come to speak and answer questions.
The devise comes as Singapore ascends among Asia’s advancing economies. The island of about 5 million people grew its software industry to $28 billion last year, according to Bloomberg, and its accolades are stacking up: it came in No. 2 in the Forum’s 2012-2013 Global Competitiveness Index, behind Switzerland.
With this pedigree, Singapore’s government has a five-year plan to foster technological growth and bolster the country’s status as an entrepreneurial hub.
In November, Startup Canada, a government-backed nonprofit led by entrepreneurs, announced its intent to create start-up communities dispersed across the North American country. The goal is to increase entrepreneurship and opportunities for them. The start-up communities will begin in test-mode in 10 cities, where participants will receive mentorship and organize local events.
It’s part of a larger push for entrepreneurship in Canada. Startup Canada conducted a national tour last year and incorporated input from more than 20,000 entrepreneurs to figure how to best serve them. Also coming soon is a national campaign to inform citizens of the impact entrepreneurship has on the economy and a social network for the demographic called Startup Canada Connect.
The Russian government dedicated $3 billion to set up a tech hub in Skolkovo in 2010. It will include a research university, a “technopark” to accommodate 1,000 start-ups, and 40 research and development centers for corporations. The Economist reported that the government wishes to lay a foundation for startup success, and the Skolkovo Foundation will provide an initial cash outlay, with the hope that venture capitalists will jump in as well.
Skolkovo also has a partnership with MIT, which agreed to initiate the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology to spawn tech-savvy thinkers. The hub is about halfway through development right now, with construction plans in the hands of architecture firms.
Aalto University, Helsinki
The Finnish government expanded its interest in national entrepreneurship in 2008. It set up a venture capital fund called Finnvera that helps early-stage start-ups get off the ground, and co-funded a series of business accelerators that act as advisors and investors for new companies with high growth potential.
To inspire young minds, Finland also established Aalto University outside of Helsinki in 2010. In an old warehouse next to the school, students created the Start-Up Sauna, a business accelerator with partial funding from the government where students can network, receive coaching, and plan field trips to Silicon Valley.
Success stories out of Finland include Niklas Zennström, founder of Skype, and Rovio Entertainment, the company that created Angry Birds.
The booking website says it has grown 250%, but some of its users are still facing courts for illegal renting.
The San Francisco-based start-up hosts more than 300,000 listings on its website, up from 120,000 a year ago, the report said. It opened 11 global offices in 2012 and served 3 million people.
While the report included tales from homeowners, the report omitted stories of unaware citizens served with court orders for violating rental laws and leases. It also did not mention that it is reportedly under investigation by Dutch authorities or that up to 50 percent of its New York-based listings could be in potential violation of housing laws.
Airbnb’s response to fostering illegal activities has been to work with local governments and shape rental laws, particularly in New York; Airbnb’s global head of public policy, David Hantman, told Skrift he wanted New York to flourish into a model city for the service.
“It’s not always easy to know how a given city official or legislative body may interpret a law on the books,” Hantman wrote on Dec. 21 to explain the challenges Airbnb faces in New York, adding that in some cities, the laws are “over-restrictive” but it’s up to users to know the laws before listing on the site.
Meanwhile, Airbnb announced Tuesday plans to launch in Korea.
How is a business like an apple tree? Sharpen your pruning shears and find out.
Back in July, I wrote about our efforts to bring more focus and discipline to 37signals by parting ways with some of our older products. We were so committed to eliminating nonessential offerings that we decided to sell a service that was generating $17,000 a month in profit. "We're a small company with a small team," I wrote, "and we have to use our resources wisely."
Today, we're about to launch two products. Both of them are significant departures from the way we usually do things. And we have a bunch more ideas in the pipeline.
Whatever happened to that newfound emphasis on focus? Was that a mistake? Did I change my mind?
Let me explain--by telling you about my apple trees.
I live in Chicago but own some property up in Wisconsin. There's an old stone farmhouse, a couple of barns, some majestic oaks, rolling prairie, a river, and a few apple trees.
I've been trying to learn how to properly prune them. The trees are handsome and healthy, but if you don't pay attention, they can grow unwieldy and succumb to a variety of ailments. There are any number of reasons to prune a tree. You might do it to make it look prettier. Or you might trim one area in order to favor other limbs. It could be to cut away disease or to prevent a new disease from taking root. It could be to get the tree to generate more fruit.
So I'm regularly taking a saw or shears to my apple trees. Sometimes, when I'm done, I step back and am not necessarily pleased with what I see. In fact, a freshly pruned apple tree can be a sad sight, looking thinner and weaker than it did before you started. But that's an illusion.
In almost every case, cutting things back is a way of favoring what is left. You help the tree flourish by picking the winners. What's more, pruning opens up new opportunities for your tree. Light gets in where it couldn't before. Air circulates better. And new growth appears. If you did the pruning right, you've given your tree a stronger foundation for the future.
Now, back to my business. A few months after cutting back our product line, something unexpected happened: We sprouted some new ideas. During a discussion about one of our products, a couple of ideas suddenly emerged for new ones. I can't go into specifics just yet, but one is a variation on an existing product, and the other is entirely new, something we've never offered. We're finishing them up right now and are pretty excited.
I am convinced that these ideas never would have emerged had we shied away from cutting some of our old items. Or, to put it in more arboreal terms--as a business, you won't grow strong new limbs if you don't prune the old ones.
In fact, I believe that a healthy company is like a healthy tree: Well-developed roots (your vision), a strong trunk (your people), and vibrant leaves (your products) work together to convert the sun (revenue) into energy (profits).
Hokey? Perhaps. But I often find inspiration in nature. Besides, it's high time we entrepreneurs stop using those hackneyed sports and military metaphors. But that's a topic for another day.
Whether you hail from Mars or Venus may say a lot about how you email--and how your colleagues perceive you.
Earlier this week, CNBC news anchor Maria Bartiromo announced during a segment on Closing Bell that one of her New Year’s resolutions was to start "emailing like a guy."
What does that mean, exactly?, websites like Business Insider were quick to question.
It might be more straightforward than you think, says Deborah Tannen, a linguistics professor at Georgetown University and author of You Just Don’t Understand: Women and Men in Conversation.
Consider the colleague who signs business correspondence "xo" or softens an authoritative statement with a smiley face. There's one in your office, right?
"In general, women tend to write longer emails and are more likely to use expression or--I am inclined to say--emotion," says Tannen. "Women tend to mix personal talk with work talk."
Naturally, men also talk about things besides work (small talk is not gender specific)--but they tend to be subjects like sports or shared hobbies, which are construed as neutral, not personal, topics. While women insert emotional or humorous phrases to show that they are well intentioned, men sometimes perceive this as a form of oversharing.
But is emailing "like a woman" all bad? Yes and no, Tannen says. In the workplace, being open and emotionally transparent with team members might result in greater trust and collaboration.
"In terms of getting work done, [women's] style of communication is going to work well with people who share and value that style," she says. However, when women who communicate in a more personal or informal style are being evaluated by superiors who do not share or value this style, the use of emotional text can be perceived as frivolous.
Yet men aren't exactly in the clear, either. Tannen says the use of sarcasm also varies widely by gender. Men tend to use sarcasm more frequently than women, and the connotations often vary. Women tend to use sarcasm in a negative way, while men use it jokingly or when teasing colleagues.
"This can be difficult for women to understand," explains Tannen, who adds that nonverbal communication formats (such as email or text) can contribute to the misinterpretation of humor between colleagues--both male and female.
When making a joke in person, she says, the speaker can gauge how her statement is being received and correct herself if the joke is misinterpreted. However, if the person being addressed is not there to provide feedback to the speaker, an inappropriately placed piece of humor or affection can have more lasting damage.
Tannen's advice to men and women in the workplace? You probably don't have to worry about "emailing like a woman." Just take a moment to consider whether the words--or emoticons--you use in business correspondence fall into the category of overly informal. That smiley face with a tongue hanging out (:P)? Save that one for friends.
Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer has a reputation for being late. You really don't want to be like her.
Some people might say they're late because they get involved in something and just can't extract themselves. Or they feel they work crazy hours so they're exempt from the clock. Business Insider recently reported Marissa Mayer's lateness is a holdover from the culture at her previous employer, Google.
But I think tardiness is the height of disrespect: whether you're a founder, tech guru, graphic artist, or salesperson. A late person is downright self-centered and doesn't give a damn about wasting other people's time.
I've developed strict policies about lateness to make sure no colleague, customer, or supplier is kept waiting--ever. This isn't just because I think time management is important; it's because people who ignore time constraints are a drain on my business.
If you or your team members are late....
You'll lose money.
At my company, Metal Mafia, I have a strict start time; all staff members are to be in their seats and ready to work at 9 a.m. sharp. This means that their coffee is poured, their coats and other items are stowed, and their mind is focused on business.
I think about it like this: If Jim wanders in five minutes late for a meeting with Sally because he stopped for Starbucks on the way, five minutes of Sally's time has been wasted, and the business loses five minutes during which each employee could have been helping customers. Co-workers need to be able to count on access to their counterparts during defined business hours. Failing to enforce this allows your company to lose productivity, which ultimately causes the business to lose money.
You'll ruin your image.
When you tell a client or a supplier that you will meet at a certain time, and then you don't show up at the appointed hour, you put a dent in your credibility.
If one of my account executives were to tell a customer she would call on Tuesday to help with his order and then didn't call until Wednesday or Thursday, it would be easy for that customer to make the mental leap that an order promised to ship today might not actually go out until next week.
A business that is committed to a customer or partner shows that commitment, first and foremost, by showing up, as agreed upon. Allowing anyone on your team to be less than 100 percent committed to punctuality allows your brand to be tarnished.
You'll decrease your efficiency.
As a manager, I make sure that my staff members have the right workload. If an employee is not able to complete her tasks in the allotted time, barring some rare extenuating circumstance, she is not well organized. Her projects, colleagues, and customers will all suffer because of it.
A customer who doesn't get told about a limited-time sale on the first day doesn't have as much time to shop as someone who found out right away. A call that does not get returned on the same day is an opportunity slipping away or a problem being allowed to fester.
Companies that have staying power are companies that do everything--not just launch products and deliver merchandise (though that's crucial, too)--in a timely manner.
There is no get-out-of-jail-free card when it comes to being punctual. You either care enough to be on time or you don't. Excuses are just a way to hide that.