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Are We In Another Dot Com Bubble? Maybe Not

June 17, 2015 - 7:00am

We are in the middle of a tech boom, not a bubble that's about to burst. Here's why.

The dotcom era took away the hopes and dreams of many entrepreneurs, from online toy purveyors to delivery van services. The long-lasting success of Amazon is one thing; the quick rise of Uber seems to suggest were are in the middle of another bubble about to explode. That's not realistic, says Jenny Q. Ta, the CEO of the social media company Sqeeqee who spent many years riding the wave of tech success. Here, she shares some insights into why we are in a tech boon, not a bubble.

Tech Startup Valuations

"In 2000, tech company valuations tended to be based on little more than wishful thinking. Today's valuations, however, are less overblown and more realistically grounded in revenues, cash flows, and price-to-earnings ratios, which all combine with today's more sustainable business models to significantly decrease risk. According to Cue Ball Capital's Tony Tjan and Andrew Fu, top tech companies' PE ratios were in the 80-90x range in 2000. 'Nowadays,' say the two experts, 'valuations are much more sober: the average NASDAQ-listed company today trades at around 21x PE, and even high-flying companies such as Apple, the most valuable company ever, trades at only 15x PE.' Tjan and Fu also tell us that in 2000, median tech company sales revenues were a low $17 million, compared to median sales of $92 million in 2014."

VC Funding Trends

"Venture capital fundraising, while on the rise, is still far below the peak levels that indicated trouble was brewing during the dot-com era. According to Bill Maris of Techcrunch, VCs raised $100 billion in 2000, while VC funds raised in 2014 were only one-third that amount. The overall sums of private capital raised by today's tech startups over longer periods of time are indicators of industry health. The fact that viable companies are able to sustain their business models by infusing them with readily available capital while they move closer to determining the best course of action for their long-term viability makes it more likely that they will succeed over time."

Time from Launch to IPO

"During the dot-com bubble, tech startups went public far more quickly than they do today. At that time, according to Tjan and Fu, median age at IPO was five years, whereas today's median age at IPO has more than doubled, to 11 years. This lengthier period allows more time for startups to build revenues and develop the stability they need to succeed."

State of Technology

"Solid and sustainable technological innovation undergirds today's tech startups-innovation that was virtually absent during the dot-com era. Mobile technology and the power it places into the hands of today's companies is one example of a technology that is revolutionizing the way companies do business. Cloud technology is another. And while cloud technology-in the form of SaaS (software as a service)-is certainly changing the economics of doing business, it's nevertheless clear that technology is exploding in ways that help empower businesses to greater success."

Realities of Hindsight

"The ability to look back at the lessons learned through the dot-com disaster has many companies that are considering merging with or acquiring startups taking a closer look at what they'll actually be getting if they opt to sign on the dotted line. VCs are also casting a more critical and discriminating eye toward the startups that approach them for funding. In one sense, the voices of those who predict doom and gloom are actually making the success of the right companies more likely rather than less by inspiring caution in potential funders and thus encouraging more careful scrutiny of their prospective funding recipients."

What to Do if You Think You’re Going to Get Fired

June 17, 2015 - 7:00am

If you see the writing on the wall, sometimes the best thing to do is to proactively talk to your boss.

If you suspect you're in danger of being fired, you don't just need to sit back and worry and wait for it to happen. If you're proactive about addressing it, you have a pretty good chance of making the situation better for yourself. I'm not saying you can magically keep your job, but you might be able to turn a pretty unpleasant situation into something much more manageable.

Start by asking your manager to talk honestly with you. Tell him or her that you know you're not excelling in the position-or if that's not strictly accurate, that you know he or she isn't happy with your performance-and ask what you could do to improve. Then-and this is key-ask for his or her honest assessment of whether you're likely to be able to make the improvements needed to succeed in the job in the long run.

Maybe you'll get helpful information that you can use to turn things around-but if instead you get a bleak assessment of your future in that job, this is where there's a hidden opportunity most people don't use.

Say something like, "I appreciate you being candid with me. I wonder if we can make arrangements now to plan for a transition that will be as smooth as possible for both of us. I'm going to go on trying to do a good job, but knowing that you don't believe a positive outcome is likely, it sounds like I should also start looking for a new position. If that's the case, would you be willing to work with me while I conduct a job search? That obviously will help me, and it will give you time to search for a replacement and have a smooth transition, and I can be as involved as you'd like in bringing the new person up to speed."

Many managers are likely to hear this with relief. No one wants to fire an employee if it can be avoided, both for legal reasons and because, for most people, it's a tough thing to do and can be emotionally draining. By making it easy for your employer to end the relationship and offering terms that help you both, you're maximizing the chance that they'll work with you in the way you've proposed. You'll get some grace time to find a new job, you won't have to explain a termination in future job searches, and you'll gain more control over the situation than you'd otherwise have.

One important caveat: There's no guarantee your employer will take you up on this. You know your company culture and your manager best, and you should take those into account before proceeding this way. In some situations, some (not all) companies might respond with, "It sounds like you're resigning, and we'll accept that." So proceed with caution, and let your knowledge of your employer be your guide.

The One Thing You Must Do First Before You Can a Great Person

June 17, 2015 - 6:00am

To be 100% better at anything you need to start over, rethinking the problem inside-out, upside down and backwards.

A few weeks ago I received an email with this comment from the co-founder of a vocational school focused on user experience (UX) design.

We used performance-based hiring to identify our final candidates. In some cases, they had no previous professional teaching/faculty experience but have turned out to be fantastic at their jobs because of their passion for coaching and teaching.

As I learned later the founders of the school were reluctant to use traditional hiring methods based on years of teaching experience. Instead they wanted to hire people who could coach students one-on-one in actual design situations whether they had teaching experience or not. However, the Midwestern state initially refused to certify the school since it required all instructors to have a Masters degree in teaching.

The co-founder fought long and hard to override this unnecessary prerequisite. Five years later he now runs a highly-regarded school for designers that's getting accolades from the companies that are hiring their students.

Overvaluing skills and experiences is a core problem in every company. As a result, there are many great people who won't get interviewed or hired because 90% of the required prerequisites listed on the 5.4 million open U.S. jobs are unnecessary. This is a national problem that gets little notice.

Earlier this year I wrote an article, How to Become 100% at Better at Anything. In the post I contended that it's easy to become 20% better at anything. You just need to be more efficient. To be 100% better at anything you need to start over, rethinking the problem inside-out, upside down and backwards. But even getting to this point starts by recognizing that being more efficient doing the wrong things won't yield the right solution.

This is especially true when it comes to hiring. While I could write a book on how to hire highly motivated and extremely competent people for any job, let me summarize how to start over.

Recognize that job descriptions that list skills, competencies, behaviors and personality traits are not job descriptions.

Most job descriptions aren't actually job descriptions. They're people descriptions. Jobs don't have skills and traits. People do. Jobs are things people do, not skills people have.

Convert your people descriptions into actual job descriptions that define the work that people need to do.

Here are some simple ways to create these performance-based job descriptions:

  • Circle the most important skills and traits on your people descriptions and ask, "How is this used on the job?" It will be task leading with an action verb like build, design, create, complete or handle.
  • Ask, "What do the best people doing this work do differently than an average person doing this work?"
  • Define the areas in the job that need to be improved or overhauled. Start all of these with an action verb then describe the task to be performed.
  • Define all of the big team-related projects. Again, use an action verb like collaborate, influence and coordinate and describe who's on the team and the task.
  • Define the employee value proposition (EVP).

    If you want to hire a good person with multiple opportunities, you'll need to understand the person's intrinsic motivators. To do this you'll need to answer this question with specific insight, not generic boilerplate: "Why is this job better than similar jobs in competing companies and what would cause a top person to leave his or her current job for something other than money?"

    Understand your company's actual culture, not the idealistic one you think it is.

    Little about your company's culture is up to you. Most of it depends on the growth rate of your company, the competitiveness of your industry, the company's strategy, the hiring manager's management style and content of the job itself. This Culture Builder Tool will help you define your company's actual culture. Fitting candidates into your actual culture requires every recruiter, interviewer and hiring manager to first remove their blinders.

    Fifth, create a remarkable Candidate Experience (CX).

    The quality of your CX will determine the quality of the people you see and hire. Whether there's an abundance of talent for your open jobs or a scarcity, build your CX under the assumption there's a scarcity. This means everyone, including the hiring manager and every interviewer, shows respect every step of the way to every candidate, you clarify job expectations up front, you assume every person you meet has multiple opportunities and you conduct an in-depth Performance-based Interview that focuses on the person's ability and motivation to do the actual work required.

    You know you have a first-class CX when even those who don't receive an offer thank you for a remarkable experience. Hiring better people has an enormous strategic impact on a company's competitive ability. Achieving it starts by starting over, not by being more efficient doing what you're now doing. And starting over is what you must do first.

    Should your business really compete on 'Shark Tank'?

    June 17, 2015 - 5:55am

    You have a better chance of being struck by lightning than getting your 15 minutes of fame on Shark Tank or The Profit.

    Let me say right off that I love reality shows for entrepreneurs. I find them extremely entertaining, and I think they do a lot of good--first, by inspiring people to become entrepreneurs and, second, by providing numerous valuable business lessons. You can learn a tremendous amount from these shows about what type of investor you want and how to approach one: what to say, what not to say, what questions you’re likely to get in return, what preparation you need to do, and so on.

    But you’ll do yourself more good by watching the shows than by trying to get on one, because the odds of being chosen are so small. There are thousands of entrepreneurs competing for the same few slots. You probably have a better chance of being struck by lightning than of winding up on a show. In fact, you probably have a better chance of finding outside investors if you spend the time you would competing for an appearance on Shark Tank or The Profit on your business instead.

    Don’t get me wrong. I understand completely just how valuable the publicity of being on TV can be. If your business is already up and running, if you have a good product, if your greatest need is to reach a wider audience, you can’t beat the exposure you’ll get by appearing on a popular show on national television. It’s a fabulous way to introduce yourself to the world, whether or not anyone decides to invest in your business as a result.

    But you also have to consider what you’ll be sacrificing if you don’t get selected, as is overwhelmingly likely. As I’ve noted before, entrepreneurs have two crucial resources, both of which are limited: money and time. You can lose some money and a lot of time chasing your 15 minutes of fame. Wouldn’t you be better off focusing on the immediate needs of your business?

    The Design Firm That Ups Silicon Alley's Coolness

    June 17, 2015 - 5:50am
    Co-founders Jason Horvath and Bill Hilgendorf launched Uhuru Design in 2004.

    Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Uhuru Design has grown rapidly since its inception, in part by selecting "progressive" clients.

    Back in 2004, two years after graduating from the Rhode Island School of Design, friends Jason Horvath and Bill Hilgendorf launched their own, scrappy design firm, hand-crafting furniture for predominately residential clients (or whoever was willing to pay them.)

    Eleven years later, Uhuru Design counts $4 million in annual revenue, with projections that more than double that figure in 2015. Interestingly, the bohemian, Brooklyn-based designers mostly have New York's growing tech community to thank.

    The pieces began falling into place for the company in 2012, when it landed its first major client, Google. The tech giant commissioned two of Uhuru's B-55 rocker chairs for its San Francisco offices. From there, the co-founders began offering bespoke furniture pieces, as well as product and interior design services, to the likes of Vice Media, Shake Shack, and WeWork, to name three.

    Today, Uhuru makes it a point to only work with clients it finds "progressive." It just so happens that these types of companies are also--much of the time--"upstarts," as Horvath calls them.

    "Back when we were getting started, we were working with some other companies that we didn't have as much say in what was going on in the process, and that was not what we wanted to do," Horvath says. Now, as revenue streams in, "we focus our bids competitively towards the ones we want."

    So what do they do for their startup clients?

    Bespoke by Design

    Uhuru's design aesthetic oftentimes centers on wood and metal, for a minimalist, Scandinavian feel: "Almost every piece that we do incorporates those two elements," says Horvath, which he says nods to a broader trend in startup world. "A hot one is the black on black theme, like a beautiful charred oak with a hand blackened steel that creates beautiful lines in a white space," he adds. "We used that quite a lot in the Vice project."

    Once an Uhuru design gets OKed by the client, pieces are manufactured at one of three locations, depending on the scale of the project. Some items, specifically the ones expected to have the "highest visual impact," are crafted locally at the firm's flagship facility in Brooklyn. For mid-size orders, Uhuru sources from six-acre farm in Pennsylvania, which Horvath describes as "a hub in the wheel of original production." Uhuru also has facilities in Vietnam for the big projects, such as furnishing entire hotels or restaurants. Even that facility fits with the company's overall mission. "They [the Vietnamese] care immensely about craft," Horvath explains.

    Clash of the Titans

    Working on larger projects with "progressive" clients, as opposed to one-offs with individuals, does pose some unique challenges.

    For one thing, as with Vice and Shake Shack, Uhuru often collaborates with different teams--third party architects, as well as the startups' own designers--and sometimes that means clashing personalities. "We give everyone options and you settle on a design and then someone from upper management will step in and say, 'I don't like that,' and you have to go back to the drawing board," says Horvath. In these situations, he adds, it's best to be flexible and "stay fluid."

    There's also an environmental cost that comes in manufacturing thousands of pieces for corporate clients, which Uhuru works hard to minimize. Consider Shake Shack: The design team originally approached Uhuru themselves, requesting thousands of stools derived from the firm's original 'Hulihee' chair concept. Knowing the amount of wood that this would require, Uhuru altered the chair's dimensions, crafting a half-inch-thick seat as opposed to a one-inch-thick seat. "It was the first time we'd really challenged ourselves to reflect the use of material in a more appropriate way," says Horvath.

    Another example: For a project for the Starwood Hotels, Uhuru elected to finger joint smaller scraps of wood together for benches, as opposed to using whole planks. Uhuru gets creative in other ways, too, using reclaimed materials when it can: These range from wood from bourbon barrels to planks from the Coney Island boardwalk.

    The Way Forward

    For its design aesthetic, creativity, and environmental savvy, Uhuru has already attracted the attention of New York City's great design voices, with some pieces residing in the Smithsonian and Brooklyn Museum's permanent collections. And in January of 2014, Uhuru opened its first showroom in New York City's Tribeca nieghborhood. In the future, it plans to continue embracing the challenge of large-scale production: More projects with hotels may be on the horizon, hints Horvath.

    The company's core values will hold fast, as reflected by the word 'Uhuru' itself, which means freedom in Swahili. Horvath adds: "What [Uhuru] meant was freedom for us to design how we wanted, and live our lives how we wanted. It's allowed us an underlying sense of freedom for all the projects that we do, and the clients that we work with."

    How This Entrepreneur Broke Free of Chains Once and for All

    June 17, 2015 - 5:30am

    Find out what makes this sleek, belt-driven bike the best designed product of 2015.

    Ask just about any designer which quality is vital for building products that stand the test of time, and they'll say 'simplicity.' David Weiner would surely agree. As the founder of New York City-based Priority Bicycles, he set out to create what he calls "maintenance free" bikes for the recreational rider. While the bells and whistles are few, the absence of an actual bike chain is the real differentiating quality. Just think: No chain, no grease. The bike's sparse yet elegant design helped it win Inc.'s 2015 Best in Class Design Award for the personal transport category. Inc. spoke with Weiner about what it's like to design an award-winning bicycle. - As told to Edward Cox

    The idea to create the Priority bike came through many years working with my hands in a bike shop. And even though I left the bicycle industry to work for a software and enterprise software firm, all of my friends in New York would ask me what bike to buy. That's when I really started thinking about how to make the bike simpler, easier to own and more affordable.

    Our bikes aren't for racers. Our bikes are for going to the farmer's market, or getting to work easily or playing with your kids. We really went feature by feature in the bicycle and said 'what does the person really need as a recreational cyclist and what are features that we can add, or features that we can subtract to make the bike perfect for recreational use?' We combined newer technology with some of the older technology to make a modern classic product.

    Most notably, we started with the chain, which is a magnet for people's hands and clothing, and gets grease all over you. We replaced it with a belt instead. Do people really need 21 gears? Most people don't. Three gears is plenty. We used aluminum instead of a steel frame so it's really lightweight. Similarly we put a really comfortable seat on it, because we know people don't want to get off their bike and have their back or their butt hurt.

    In the software industry, I designed very complex business systems and those business systems are designed to make business transaction flows more simple. No matter if I'm designing software or bikes, I try to find humanity in complex models. In a world where everybody wants to add features, I take a step back and say 'what does the average person need to accomplish?' And 'how do we make it as simple as possible? Whether it is through as few clicks as possible or whether it's through fewer features, we aim to solve the human problem and not just iterate on features.

    I'll also say we never set out to design a beautiful bike. We set out to make cycling simpler. We really focused on essential function. What are the essential functions that you are trying to solve for and make sure form follows those functions. If it's not essential don't put it in there. Our world these days are overwhelmed with choices and we can try and help people come up with what the essential great bike is and that's what we are aiming to deliver on.

    5 Leadership Lessons from the NBA Champion Golden State Warriors

    June 17, 2015 - 5:30am

    A rookie coach and a bunch of upstarts defy the odds. Here's what you can learn from their success.

    Nobody saw it coming.

    A rookie head coach. A team with plenty of young talent, but who wasn't truly battle-tested. An organization that hadn't won a championship in 40 years.

    How did the Golden State Warriors make the jump from good team to NBA champion?

    Here are five leadership lessons you can take and apply to your own business:

    1. Listen to your employees. All of them.

    Steve Kerr may be a rookie head coach, but he won five championships as a player and learned firsthand from coaching greats Gregg Popovich and Phil Jackson, among others.

    Still, Kerr knew the value of surrounding himself with great assistants. So he hired Alvin Gentry and Ron Adams, two of the top strategists in the game.

    Kerr is also known to invite opinions from players and even interns. For example, after the first three games of the series the Warriors trailed the Cavs 2-1 and looked stymied. One of the lowest-ranking members of the coaching staff, "special assistant to the head coach" Nick U'ren, suggested inserting Andre Iguodala into the starting lineup for the first time this season.

    Kerr liked the idea and implemented it. The result?

    The Warriors won the next three games in a row.

    Every company tries to hire well. Your challenge? Cultivate an environment where you can take advantage of all those great people.

    2. Make decisions that are best for the team. Not the individual.

    Andre Iguodala is an 11 year veteran of the league. His impressive accomplishments include being named to the NBA all-star team, twice to the NBA all-defensive team, and two gold medals as a member of Team USA.

    How do you think he felt when Kerr removed him from the starting lineup at the beginning of the season and asked him to come off the bench?

    Iguodala wasn't the only player who had to swallow his pride. Former all-star David Lee went from starter to being used in a limited capacity, and defensive stalwart Andrew Bogut all but disappeared from the rotation half-way through these finals.

    All season long, Kerr has preached sacrifice for the betterment of the team. How did it turn out?

    David Lee returned to make a key contribution to the series. Bogut accepted the change and allowed the Warriors to gain a major advantage.

    And Iguodala?

    He became the NBA finals Most Valuable Player--the first ever to win the award without starting a single game in the regular season.

    As a leader, you have to make decisions for the betterment of your company.

    It's natural for people to resist change. But get them to buy in, and you'll take everyone to the next level.

    3. Keep confident.

    In game two, regular season MVP Stephen Curry had one of the worst games of his career. He made 5-23 shots from the field and 2-15 from three-point range. It was the most missed three-pointers in a single game in NBA finals history.

    Much credit was given to Cavs role player Matthew Dellavedova and his defense. Headlines touted him as "the Curry-stopper", and "Curry's kryptonite".

    Did Curry lose confidence? Did he allow the naysayers to get the best of him?

    Hardly. He responded by scoring over 20 points per game for the rest of the series, exploding for 37 in the pivotal game 5.

    No matter how primed you are for a specific event, it's natural to lose confidence at times. A poor night's sleep or a costly mistake can greatly affect mood and morale.

    But everyone has a bad day. You're the same person you were before. Trust your process and the hard work you've put in to this point, and push forward.

    4. Don't forget to have fun.

    Kerr's philosophy, reiterated throughout the season, is "basketball should be fun".

    This is seen nowhere clearer than at Warriors practices. The beginning of these sessions has been described by players as "chaos", "balls flying everywhere" and "a complete circus".

    But there's a method to the madness. Players get motivated as they warm up to blasting music. When Kerr competes with players in shooting contests, he gains their respect. And when staff members inject humor into film sessions, players and coaches bond.

    Your employees probably spend more time with each other than anyone else--even their families. It's impossible to remain engaged 100% of the time.

    Offering your people opportunities to lighten up can help them to focus when it counts.

    5. Set the bar high.

    Before the season, no major newspaper or sports journal predicted the Warriors to finish as NBA champions. Why would they? The Warriors lost in the first round of the playoffs last year and their leader had never coached an NBA game.

    But Warriors owner Joe Lacob, General Manager Bob Myers, and Coach Kerr had different ideas. They knew what type of talent the team had, and were confident in their plan to win. Why not now?

    If you aim for B-level performance, that's the highest you'll ever achieve. Shoot for the stars, and you just might do something great.

    Don't believe me?

    Just ask the rookie coach and his group of upstarts.

    Interested in more business lessons from the Warriors? Check out our previous article, which pegged them as the hottest team in basketball back at the beginning of the season.

    12 Books Steve Jobs Wanted You to Read

    June 16, 2015 - 11:00pm

    According to some Buddhists, Steve Jobs has already been reincarnated as a "celestial warrior-philosopher." If so, these are the books he might still recommend.

    Toward the end of his life, Steve Jobs was open to the idea of an afterlife. Not long after his untimely death, a Buddhist sect claimed that Jobs had been reincarnated as a "celestial warrior-philosopher living in a mystical glass palace hovering above his old office."

    If that's true, perhaps in the moments that's he's not screaming "NO! NO! NO!" to the awkward way Tim Cook has launched the iWatch, Jobs is wondering why more people aren't reading the books he loves (or loved, as the case may be.)

    What strikes me most about Jobs's book list is that ten of the twelve are about a single individual overcoming enormous odds and obstacles in order to transform either the world, himself or both. Sorta makes sense, eh?

    1. 1984 by George Orwell

    What it's about: One man's desperate struggle against an all pervasive state that is committed to controlling people's thoughts as well as their behaviors.

    Fun factoid: The book inspired the famous Apple 1984 super bowl commercial that pre-announced the Macintosh.

    Best quote: "Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them."

    2. "Atlas Shrugged" by Ayn Rand

    What it's about: A single individual brings the world to a halt by convincing the world's innovators to withdraw from it.

    Fun factoid: One of the last movies that Steve Jobs dying was the critically-panned Atlas Shrugged Part 1.

    Best quote: "Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark in the hopeless swamps of the not-quite, the not-yet, and the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish in lonely frustration for the life you deserved and have never been able to reach. The world you desire can be won. It exists.. it is real.. it is possible.. it's yours."

    3. "Autobiography of a Yogi" by Paramahansa Yogananda

    What it's about: The author, by describing his individual life experiences attempts to explain the laws behind both the ordinary events and miracles alike.

    Fun factoid: This was the only eBook found on Jobs' personal iPad 2.

    Best quote:

    "You may control a mad elephant;
    You may shut the mouth of the bear and the tiger;
    Ride the lion and play with the cobra;
    By alchemy you may learn your livelihood;
    You may wander through the universe incognito;
    Make vassals of the gods; be ever youthful;
    You may walk in water and live in fire;
    But control of the mind is better and more difficult."

    4. "Be Here Now" by Baba Ram Dass

    What it's about: Describes the author's spiritual transformation through Yoga.

    Fun factoid: Steve Jobs credited this book with convincing him to try the hallucinogenic drug LSD.

    Best quote: "The cosmic humor is that if you desire to move mountains and you continue to purify yourself, ultimately you will arrive at the place where you are able to move mountains. But in order to arrive at this position of power you will have had to give up being he-who-wanted-to-move-mountains so that you can be he-who-put-the-mountain-there-in-the-first-place. The humor is that finally when you have the power to move the mountain, you are the person who placed it there-so there the mountain stays."

    5. "Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism" by Chogyam Trungpa

    What it's about: The book argues against the tendency to see spirituality as a form of self-improvement and that instead that liberation comes from the letting go of the self.

    Fun factoid: Trungpa's beliefs in reincarnation may have sparked the speculation that Jobs himself has been reincarnated.

    Best quote: "If you are a warrior, decency means that you are not cheating anybody at all. You are not even about to cheat anybody. There is a sense of straightforwardness and simplicity. With setting-sun vision, or vision based on cowardice, straightforwardness is always a problem. If people have some story or news to tell somebody else, first of all they are either excited or disappointed. Then they begin to figure out how to tell their news. They develop a plan, which leads them completely away from simply telling it. By the time a person hears the news, it is not news at all, but opinion. It becomes a message of some kind, rather than fresh, straightforward news. Decency is the absence of strategy. It is of utmost importance to realize that the warrior's approach should be simple-minded sometimes, very simple and straightforward. That makes it very beautiful: you having nothing up your sleeve; therefore a sense of genuineness comes through. That is decency."

    6. "Diet for a Small Planet" by Frances Moore Lappe

    What it's about: Rules for a healthy diet along with many recipes for protein-rich meals that do not include meat.

    Fun factiod: Jobs became a vegetarian after reading this book.

    What it's about: "We're just a drop in the bucket, and that's meaningless. But we say, 'No, wait a minute. If you have a bucket, those raindrops fill it up very fast. Being a drop in the bucket is magnificent.' The problem is we cannot see the bucket. Our work is helping people see that there is a bucket. There are all these people all over the world who are creating this bucket of hope. And so our drops are incredibly significant."

    Odd factoid:

    7. "Inside the Tornado" by Geoffrey A. Moore

    What it's about: This sequel to Moore's masterwork Crossing the Chasm provides a roadmap for marketers who want to help innovators reach customers.

    Fun Factoid: Apple's product release cycle is closely tied to Geoffrey Moore's theory of early adopters as key to a technology's eventual success.

    Best quote: "After the better part of a century being content with letters, telegrams, and telephones, we have in the past thirty years adopted touch-tone phones, direct-dial long distance, Federal Express, answering machines, fax machines, voice mail, e-mail, and now Internet addresses. In every case, until a certain mass was reached, we didn't really need to convert. But as soon as it was, it became unacceptable not to participate. As members of a market, our behavior is invariable: we move as a herd, we mill and mill and mill around, and then all of a sudden we stampede."

    8. "Moby Dick" by Herman Melville

    What it's about: The book describes the monomaniacal quest of Captain Ahab to revenge himself on the albino sperm whale Moby Dick which had on a previous voyage destroyed Ahab's ship and bit off his leg.

    Fun factoid: In the book, the anti-hero Captain Ahab maniacally pursues his goal of killing the white whale. It's not hard to draw a comparison between that and Jobs's determination to out-invent and out-market the entire computer industry.

    Best quote: "Towards thee I roll, thou all-destroying but unconquering whale; to the last I grapple with thee; from hell's heart I stab at thee; for hate's sake I spit my last breath at thee."

    9. "Only the Paranoid Survive" by Andrew S. Grove

    What it's about: Probably the best "Here's how I did and you can too" books from a successful CEO. Unlike most such authors, Grove delves as deeply into his failures as his successes.

    Fun factoid: Apple is the only PC companies that has successfully migrated an operating system from one CPU architecture to another completely different architecture.

    Best quote: "The sad news is, nobody owes you a career. Your career is literally your own business. You own it as a sole proprietor. You have one employee: yourself. You are in competition with millions fo similar businesses: millions of other employees all over the world. You need to accept ownership of your career, your skills and the timing of your moves. It is your responsibility to protext this personal business of yours from harm and to position it to benefit from changes in the environment. Nobody else can do that for you."

    10. "The Innovator's Dilemma" by Clayton Christensen

    What it's about: The book presents the classic argument that technology no longer develops incrementally and instead is subject to regular "disruptions" that favor small, nimble companies and organizations.

    Fun factoid: As of 2014, Christensen still believed that Job's iconic products, the iPad and the iPhone are ripe for disruption.

    Best quote: "When faced with a disruptive technology, people and processes in a mainstream organization cannot be expected to allocate freely the critical financial and human resources needed to carve out a strong position in the small, emerging market. It is very difficult for a company whose cost structure is tailored to compete in high-end markets to be profitable in low-end markets as well. Creating an independent organization, with a cost structure honed to achieve profitability at the low margins characteristic of most disruptive technologies, is the only viable way for established firms to harness this principle."

    11. "The Tao of Programming" by Geoffrey James

    What it's about: A collection of parables about computer programming based upon the classics of Taoism.

    Fun factoid: I put this on the list because Steve Jobs personally told me that he liked it.

    Best quote:

    "A manager went to the master programmer and showed him the requirements document for a new application. The manager asked the master: "How long will it take to design this system if I assign five programmers to it?"

    "It will take one year," said the master promptly.

    "But we need this system immediately or even sooner! How long will it take if I assign ten programmers to it?"

    The master programmer frowned. "In that case, it will take two years."

    "And what if I assign a hundred programmers to it?"

    The master programmer shrugged. "Then the design will never be completed."

    12. "Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind" by Shunryu Suzuki

    What it's about: It provides the basics of Zen and Zen meditation.

    Why he liked it: including the method that Jobs himself used to center himself during difficult moments in his career.

    Fun factoid: Prior to the publication of this book in 1970, Zen Buddhism was virtually unknown in the United States.

    Best quote: " Even though you try to put people under control, it is impossible. You cannot do it. The best way to control people is to encourage them to be mischievous. Then they will be in control in a wider sense. To give your sheep or cow a large spacious meadow is the way to control him. So it is with people: first let them do what they want, and watch them. This is the best policy. To ignore them is not good. That is the worst policy. The second worst is trying to control them. The best one is to watch them, just to watch them, without trying to control them."

    9 Things Warren Buffett Says You Should Do to Be Happy and Successful

    June 16, 2015 - 8:40pm

    The legendary investor wants you to be as successful as he is, and he's willing to tell you how.

    Warren Buffett knows a thing or three about becoming wealthy and successful, and the Oracle of Omaha is not averse to handing out mostly excellent advice to others who'd like to follow in his footsteps.

    The personal finance site GOBankingRates has pulled together 14 pieces of advice Buffett has given to graduating classes and/or young people. They're all great tips for the young-but also excellent advice that all of us should follow, no matter what age we are. Here are some of the best-you can find the full list here.

    1. Invest in yourself before anything else.

    "Investing in yourself is the best thing you can do--anything that improves your own talents," Buffett told "Good Morning America." That's excellent advice, whether it's education or training, to improve a skill you already have or learn a new one-or whether it's starting a company of your own. (In case it's the latter, here are 10 Steps to Success as an Entrepreneur.)

    2. Change bad habits as soon as you can.

    Habits can make or break you, Buffett says. "I see people with these self-destructive behavior patterns," he say. "They really are entrapped by them."

    The trick, he says, is to get out of the trap before it closes on you, which is why he advised graduating students at the University of Florida to form good habits as soon as possible. "You can get rid of it a lot easier at your age than at my age, because most behaviors are habitual," he told them. "The chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken."

    True enough, but if you're older than a college senior, don't despair. Though it may be tougher, habits can be changed at any time in life. Here's the secret to how to do it.

    3. Know your own strengths and weaknesses.

    Use that knowledge to capitalize on the things that you do well, and avoid the risks of getting in over your head in your weaker areas, Buffett advises. "You don't have to be an expert on everything, but knowing where the perimeter of that circle of what you know and what you don't know is, and staying inside of it is all important," he's said.

    4. Never risk something you need to get something you don't need.

    It's not that taking risks is wrong-but only do it for the right reasons, Buffett explained to the University of Florida class. He added that he's seen both businesses and individuals take big risks out of greed when they should have held back.

    "If you risk something that is important to you for something that is unimportant to you, it just doesn't make sense," he said. "I don't care if the odds you succeed are 99 to 1 or 1,000 to 1 that you succeed."

    5. Find work you love.

    "You really should take a job that if you were independently wealthy that would be the job you would take," Buffett said in that same commencement speech. "You will learn something, you will be excited about it, and you will jump out of bed. You can't miss." Finding work you love is a better bet than doing something because it pays well or because it would look good on your resume, he added. I couldn't agree more.

    6. Surround yourself with people you admire.

    Buffett has often talked about the importance of mentorship, and the role his own mentor, Columbia professor Benjamin Graham played in Buffett's life. But even beyond that, he advised a high school student to spend time with people whose qualities you aspire to. "Pick out associates whose behavior is better than yours and you'll drift in that direction."

    7. Face down your fears.

    Don't let fear stop you from doing things, especially things you know you must do to be successful, Buffett advises. In fact, he did this himself-he was once terribly afraid of public speaking so he took a Dale Carnegie course to improve this skill. He's now one of the most sought-after and frequently quoted speakers in the world. You don't need to go that far, but if there are things you're afraid to do, or that you know are your weak points, do what you must to get better at them and become more comfortable doing them.

    8. Your time is a precious resource. Use it accordingly.

    Bill Gates once wrote that being jealously protective of his time was an important lesson he'd learned from Buffett. "There are only 24 hours in everyone's day. Warren has a keen sense of this. He doesn't let his calendar get filled up with useless meetings." Even though you're not a multi-billionaire, you shouldn't either.

    9. Never ignore a great opportunity.

    Though much of his advice is on the conservative, cautious side, Buffett is a big believer in grabbing opportunities with both hands when good ones arise. "Big opportunities in life have to be seized," he said in a commencement speech at Georgia State. "We don't do very many things, but when we get the chance to do something that's right and big, we've got to do it. And even to do it in a small scale is just as big a mistake almost as not doing it at all. You've really got to grab them when they come, because you're not going to get 500 great opportunities."

    Learn These 5 Things About Presentation From Donald Trump

    June 16, 2015 - 7:05pm

    Donald Trump's presidential announcement offered many levels of oratory. Here's what you can learn from it.

    Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.

    Businesspeople are drawn to politics for the same reasons they're drawn to extramarital affairs.

    They think they can improve the lot of others, while enjoying the ego-boost.

    Everyone should therefore be deeply excited about Donald Trump's announcement today that he will run for president.

    He can only add color (orange, to be precise) to the political arena, as he raises his own brand to ever higher levels.

    You, though, must be wondering what you can learn from his presenting skills.

    I am here to tell you.

    1. Don't Commit Unforced Errors. There's a temptation when you stand in front of an audience -- or, in Trump's case, every human in America -- to just start talking and hope that what comes out of your mouth is coherent. Trump, for example, said that he would be "the greatest jobs president that God ever created." What he may have forgotten is that he's most famous for uttering the phrase "You're Fired." When you're presenting to an audience, try to anticipate every last interpretation of what you're going to say. Otherwise you might suffer that painful silence that every presenter dreads.

    2. Substantiate Where Possible. When you make an argument during a presentation, it's always nice to back it up with at least one factual surprise. If you can tell your audience something they didn't expect, or even know, you'll have them on your side. By contrast, Trump offered this assertion that just floated in its own odor: "When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best [sic]. They're sending people that have lots of problems. They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists." Source: Donald Trump's mouth.

    3. Judge Your Personal Anecdotes Very Carefully. During Trump's speech he bemoaned the fact -- as he sees it -- that America never beats anyone, especially China. He added: "I beat China all the time." Sadly, he didn't substantiate. Does he beat China in negotiations? Does he beat China in sheer televisual magnetism? Does he beat Chinese people to the buffet at his hotel or doing laps in one of his swimming pools? If you're going to tell a personal anecdote, make it relevant and perhaps even self-deprecatory. Otherwise, you might sound like a dreadful blowhard who's more interested in himself than in his audience.

    4. Don't Be A Blowhard (Though It's Tempting). We in America struggle to not tell people how great we are. We do it on LinkedIn. We do it in bars and on dates. Trump couldn't resist, in the middle of his very serious speech about our nation and its future, to muse: "I have the best courses in the world." No, he wasn't speaking of presentation courses, nor of educational courses. He was speaking of golf courses. Blowing your own trumpet, especially when you blow it about something manifestly trivial, won't endear you to your audience. It'll make them think that you love yourself above all things.

    5. Don't Paint Too Bleak A Picture (Though It's Tempting). It's easy to tell those to whom you're presenting that their situation is dire. This is, of course, your way of telling them you're going to be their savior. It's a very tricky tightrope upon which to tiptoe. You might make them question whether your blowhardiness and general wind-filled rhetoric is altogether devoid of substance. Sadly, Trump got a touch carried away when he offered: "The American Dream Is Dead." Which conjured up a picture of America as a corpse. No client really wants to be thought of as a corpse. Clients have feelings too.

    Why Some Startup CEOs Fire Themselves

    June 16, 2015 - 6:00pm

    Evernote CEO Phil Libin's decision to step down came as a surprise. But he's not the only founder who's felt like he's not the right person for the job.

    CEOs are responsible for doing everything in their power to identify and remove all hurdles in the way of their company's success. And in some cases, that means getting out of the way themselves.

    Co-founder of organic yogurt company Stonyfield Farm Gary Hirshberg, for example, said he knew he had to step down as CEO after it dawned on him that he was bored. "I'm a creator," he said. "Not a manager."

    Most recently, Evernote CEO Phil Libin said he is looking for a new chief executive for his company. Libin, who describes himself as a product person, said he has been searching for a "professional CEO for a while," The Information reported.

    Evernote, which makes productivity software, has been valued at slightly more than $1 billion since 2012. Citing an anonymous source, The Information reported that the company brought in $40 million in revenue last year. However, Evernote faces stiff competition from workplace software creators like Slack, Dropbox, Box and Google.

    Though a handful of enterprise software companies might consider Evernote an acquisition target, Libin isn't expected to give up on his goal of seeing the company through to an IPO. He has said that he wants the seven-year-old startup to one day be a 100-year-old company.

    Libin wasn't available to comment on his reasons for stepping down from his current role. (The company said in a statement that he had every intention of remaining involved with Evernote once he has found a successor.) But like Libin, who emphasizes his product skills over his management ones, other former CEOs have indicated that they, too, were less crazy about certain aspects of the company than with others.

    "I was really realizing that I was getting less and less interested in the day-to-day challenges," Hirshberg explained at an Inc. leadership forum. "We weren't having the crises that we had had in that early startup. And, as you know, crises have a way of keeping you absolutely gripped and absolutely focused."

    So, like Nasty Gal founder Sophia Amoruso and Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison also have done, Hirshberg moved from CEO to company chairman, where he took on a more advisory role.

    Alexis Maybank, former CEO of the shopping website Gilt Groupe, took a different approach and settled into a more narrow position. Maybank sees herself as an ideas person, and she wanted to be able to get new projects off of the ground. Accordingly, the marketing department was the best place for her, she said.

    "There're some people who love every single phase," Maybank has told Inc. "I never had a goal to run a public company. I never had a goal to run a 5-to-10,000 person business. I want to be part of it, but it's not what I love."

    Whether Libin thinks he doesn't have what it takes to run a public company -- or if he just doesn't want to -- he has identified what he thinks a lasting company needs. And that is a strong sense of culture, which he told Fast Company is the "only important thing."

    "The culture is much more important than the current product. The product is the current product, the culture is the next hundred products," he said. "This is what's going to produce everything."

    Are You a Broke Entrepreneur Like Me? Here Are 5 Options to Consider

    June 16, 2015 - 5:50pm

    Life as an entrepreneur has its ups and downs. One day you're making hay, the next day you're shoveling manure. Here are some options.

    "Time is up, I need a job"

    This is the stark reality that many entrepreneurs often face.

    This is the reality that I face today.

    It's not that earth-shattering of a confession really. After all, depending on which statics you read, somewhere between 70 - 90% of entrepreneurs fail.

    But, what if you're not failing? What if you're just not succeeding enough to keep going?

    That's the position that I'm in, and one that many entrepreneurs find themselves in.

    What you're building isn't yet fundable, or hasn't driven enough sales. You've maxed out your credit cards and you've drained your savings.

    You have responsibilities, which in my case means a family to support, a home to maintain and a future to consider.

    It's a hard reality to face and one every entrepreneur hopes to never encounter.

    Regardless, here I am. And, like any entrepreneur in my position, you do what you have to do to survive and be able to fight another day.

    But, what exactly does that mean?

    It's a question I'm now facing and exploring.

    If you're a programmer or designer, it's easy enough to pick up a few side projects which can be very lucrative. In fact, many find the variety of this path interesting enough to make it their full-time focus.

    What about non-technical entrepreneurs? The ones that tend to get the assumptive title of "jack of all trades, master of nothing."

    While that title can sometimes be true, often times non-technical entrepreneurs have a specific area of expertise which is just as marketable and desirable as a designer or developer. In my case, that's marketing and growth.

    So, what are the options:

    Get a full-time job

    It may seem like the obvious choice, but, for a couple of reasons, many entrepreneurs are hesitant to take this big of a leap. First, it feels permanent, as in they feel it will be the end of the entrepreneurial journey. And second, if there is any interest in continuing your current business, it will be drastically more difficult.

    On the plus side, taking a break from your ventures and offering your specific skill without the additional distractions, can be both refreshing and extremely beneficial for both you and your employer.

    Entrepreneurial-minded employees are often-times some of the most ambitious people on a team. You just need to allow yourself to be dedicated.

    Consult or pick up contract work

    There will always be companies that are looking for a fling. A short-term arrangement between you and a company without the commitment of a fully-committed marriage.

    Depending on your specific expertise, these arrangements can either be project specific or time-based.

    In my case, I've been brought into companies to help them build a marketing team as a consultant. But, I've also been contracted by companies to help with tactical implementation to generate press, build communities and drive new customers.

    Figure out a way to package your expertise and start making it available.

    Find flexible sources of income

    The on-demand economy we find ourselves in is ripe with opportunities for people who need to pick up extra income, while continuing to pursue their passion.

    Uber, Instacart, Lyft, TaskRabbit ... there are a ton of companies popping up that are offering flexible and independent employment.

    On a recent trip to Atlanta, I took an early morning Uber ride to the airport. In speaking with my driver, he mentioned that he was a morning person (which I had already gathered on my own) and decided to be an Uber driver because his clients were never up as early as him.

    He was a full-time real estate agent and found Uber to be, not only a way to make extra money, but also a great way to network with potential clients.

    His last five real estate clients started out as passengers in his car.

    Personally, I've followed more traditional sources, such as writing and speaking, which are also options to drive additional income.

    Become an Entrepreneur-in-Residence

    If you're not familiar with the role, an Entrepreneur in Residence (EIR) is someone that is temporally hired by a venture capital firm to simultaneously help provide guidance and expertise to investments while also continuing to work on their business.

    Often times, the VC firm will have the first rights to invest in the company that the EIR is building.

    This can be an ideal situation for an entrepreneur, but the opportunities are not easy to come by.

    Usually speaking, the VC firm will bring on someone they've had prior experience with or come with a strong recommendation.

    Utilize your network

    If you find yourself in a similar position to mine, one of the best things you can do is to call on your network. While it might feel embarrassing (it does for me), there is no shame in asking for help.

    EVERY entrepreneur goes through highs and lows.

    You never know what will come from asking until you ... ask.


    These are the options I face today as an entrepreneur, as I suspect many others face as well.

    To be honest, I'm not sure where I'll end up, which is both frightening and exciting at the same time.

    If you're in a similar boat and want to chat, have ideas to share or want a marketing guy (option 6), feel free to reach out to me on Twitter or contact me here.

    How Spider-Man Can Rescue Colt from Bankruptcy

    June 16, 2015 - 5:01pm

    How do you turn around a legendary gun-maker brand in bankruptcy? The revival of Marvel Comics provides an inspiring, useful playbook for any branding comeback story.

    Colt Defense, the storied American weapons maker whose innovations include the 1911 pistol and the M16, filed for bankruptcy earlier this week. Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, another iconic manufacturer admitted its days were numbered. HMT mechanical watches, which for decades "were India's go-to gifts for graduations, weddings and retirements," is closing soon, reports the Wall Street Journal.

    What do these companies have in common, besides their downturn in fortune? They both have strong, recognizable brands giving them a form of cultural currency in their nations of origin. And if either company plans on staging a comeback, then the key will be finding new ways to parlay that currency into a new value proposition for customers.

    That, at least, is the chief takeaway you can glean from other iconic brand comebacks--be it Lego, J.Crew, or countless others. The tactics may differ, depending on particular circumstances, but in all cases, the brand and its original ideals remain a rallying point as the company adapts to the future. As Colt and HMT try to figure out what to do next, they'd do well to learn from a turnaround in an industry that couldn't be more different than guns and watches: comic books.

    Marvel's Killer Assets

    When you own the rights to Spider-Man and Captain America, you own some serious intellectual property. Despite these seemingly insuperable assets, Marvel battled bankruptcy in 1996. Its comeback was so successful that Disney acquired Marvel for $4 billion in 2009.

    How did it happen? Chris Zook, no stranger to corporate turnarounds as a partner at Bain & Company, believes the Marvel comeback followed a familiar script. "The renewal of Marvel was based not on leaping to new hot markets, or dramatic new technologies, but the reapplication of the strongest assets in the company’s historic core," he writes in the Harvard Business Review.

    In Marvel's case, those assets were its loyal customer base, its brand, and its collection of roughly 5,000 characters--many of whom were immortal brands in their own right. Those assets were valuable, Zook notes, because they allowed Marvel to deploy "a repeatable formula." That is, if you own the rights to Spider-Man, you can continually devise new ways to license them: movies, games, more comics, sequels, and spinoffs.

    Specifically, Marvel tapped into the latent potential of its assets. Hard as it may be to believe today, from a business standpoint, prior to its bankruptcy, Marvel was focused more on paper and ink than it was on films. The realization that its assets would be worth more in a new environment--movies--was central to the turnaround.

    "We found that 90% of strategic comebacks were fueled, in part, by assets in the original core business ...that were adapted to a new environment and took on new value that had not been previously recognized," writes Zook. Other examples of once-latent assets that fueled a turnaround include IBM's service business and Apple's software interface differentiation.

    How HMT and Colt Can Adapt

    Mahendra Bisht, president of the workers' union at HMT, believes the watchmaker can rise again by finding new ways to monetize its latent assets: precision machines and workers who know how to use them. Instead of making watches, he believes the company can reinvent itself as a manufacturer of weapons and ordnance. He shared with the Wall Street Journal a list of items the plant has already made: bullet inserts, ammunition carriers, pins and brackets for Indian air force jets.

    You can find a parallel to HMT in the story of Marlin Steel, which famously reinvented itself about 12 years ago. At the time, it made $800,000 a year selling wire bagel baskets, and was sinking fast because of competition from Chinese factories, who charged less for comparable baskets.

    Serendipitously, Marlin Steel received a sales call from an engineer at Boeing who wanted 20 wire baskets to hold airplane parts and move them around the factory. The engineer was willing to pay $24 per basket, while the bagel shops were balking at $6.

    It was then that Marlin Steel realized that its ability to make wire baskets was--in some ways--a latent asset. It had far more value for Boeing than it did for bagel makers. Boeing was to Marlin what the movies were to Marvel. If HMT can find its Boeing, it will have taken the first step toward its own revival.

    As for Colt, its story resembles Marvel's in one significant way: its placement in pop culture. In fact, Colt products are woven into American history. Here's a list of significant Colt moments, courtesy of Paul M. Barrett's superb feature on Bloomberg:

    • William F. "Buffalo Bill" Cody purchased a Colt Peacemaker in 1883.
    • George S. Patton Jr. bought a .38 revolver in 1912.
    • American officers carried Colt .45 pistols into World War I, World War II, Korea, and Vietnam.
    • Colt made M16 rifles that GIs took into Vietnam.
    • Colt made M4s that U.S. soldiers took to Iraq and Afghanistan.
    • John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, and Bruce Willis used Colts in movies.
    • Captain John Miller (played by Tom Hanks in Saving Private Ryan) used a Colt.

    That's the sort of history no johnny-come-lately brand can fake. In addition, Patton's Colt .45 revolver recently fetched $75,000 in an auction, providing a certain level of fiscal proof: Colt's brand (intermixed with Patton's) has value on the open market.

    The question is whether Colt can find customers for its brand's intellectual property, which boasts a distinct mixture of iconography and history. When you imagine content-craving customers who'd potentially license this intellectual property--in the same way moviemakers and toymakers license Marvel characters--you can come up with some interesting names, including Disney, which through its A&E Networks subsidiary, owns The History Channel and The Military History Channel.

    Nor is it farfetched to think of a Colt comeback as a weapons maker. For while Colt has struggled, other gunmakers have thrived. "Shares of both Ruger and Smith & Wesson are up roughly 60% since the start of 2015, far outpacing the broader market," notes Matthew Rocco on Fox Business. Perhaps after Colt emerges from bankruptcy, one of these companies will buy it and find new ways to leverage the brand--and all it has stood for, through the years.

    Colorado Court Rules Companies Can Fire Employees for Using Medical Marijuana After Work

    June 16, 2015 - 4:28pm

    Although he was not found to have been inebriated while at work, a Dish Network employee was terminated after testing positive for pot.

    In the great experiment of Colorado's legal marijuana market, things get sticky. The law states that anyone over 21 can use buy and use pot legally. But now the state's highest court has ruled that employers are legally allowed to fire any staffer who tests positive for marijuana, even if it's not a result of being under the influence during work hours.

    On Monday, Colorado's Supreme Court ruled that employers can terminate employees who use medical marijuana to treat illnesses or symptoms. The decision in Coats v. Dish Network could become a precedent adopted by other states that legalize marijuana.

    The case centered around Brandon Coats, a quadriplegic, who was fired by Dish after he failed a company drug test in 2010. Coats had a doctor's authorization to use medical marijuana, which was legalized in Colorado in 2000, and was never found to be high during work. The company has a zero-tolerance policy for drugs that are illegal under federal law, however, so Coats was terminated.

    Colorado's "lawful activities" statute states that employees cannot be fired for a lawful act, but the judge ruled that the statute only protects activities that are legal on both the state and federal level.

    Lawsuits of this type are happening at an increased clip, says Todd Wulffson, a partner at California-based employment and labor law firm Carothers DiSante & Freudenberger. Wulffson has been representing companies who get sued after firing employees who use marijuana. He told Inc. back in March about the ins and outs of creating a drug policy that is right for your office.

    For starters, you need to be aware of your state's laws concerning marijuana. Wulffson says if you want to protect your business from lawsuits, a zero-tolerance policy is best until the federal law changes. He adds, though, that it is possible to tell whether employees were high at the time a drug test was administered, rather than just at some time during the weeks before the test. (THC stays in body fat, meaning that a person can smoke a few weeks before a test and come up positive.) A few companies do allow their employees to take smoke breaks, he says.

    Whatever policy you choose, remember that 86 percent of Americans support the legalization of medical marijuana, so an overly restrictive stance may chase some of your workers to another employer. And let's be honest, do you want to be mentioned in the same breath as the meanest company in America?

    What Donald Trump's Run Can Teach You About Self-Promotion

    June 16, 2015 - 4:14pm

    Trump may not be a serious contender in the 2016 presidential race, but he'll add a brash entrepreneurial voice.

    Real estate mogul and reality television star Donald Trump announced from New York on Tuesday that he too will join the 2016 race for president.

    Trump becomes the twelfth Republican candidate, following an announcement from Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor, on Monday that he also plans to run.

    Trump, who has toyed with running for president numerous times over the past two decades, brings a brash and outspoken voice to a crowded contest, but he is not seen as a serious challenger. He is expected to add more distraction to an already confusing race, some political experts say, but many business owners are likely to find his anti-tax, anti-Affordable Care Act, anti-regulation stance appealing.

    And perhaps others are just likely to enjoy the theater of it all, as well as the large, entrepreneurial expectations.

    “All of my life I have heard a really, really successful person cannot run for public office, yet that is the kind of mindset you need to make this country great again,” Trump said from Trump Tower in Manhattan. “I am officially running for president of the United States and we are going to make our country great again.”

    But Trump certainly has his work cut out for him trying to connect with voters. Trump, one of the wealthiest men in the world, is expected to release documents that detail his net worth later on Tuesday. With assets of about $9 billion, according to the Washington Post, he is the wealthiest Republican candidate to be running, far outpacing Carly Fiorina. The former chief executive of Hewlett-Packard has a net worth of a $59 million.

    And while Trump is frequently given to hyperbole and grandiosity, he can often go on tangents that put him outside the mainstream of voters. For instance, he again questioned the authenticity of President Obama’s birth certificate in an interview with Fox newscaster Sean Hannity at the Conservative Political Action Conference this winter.

    He has called Obamacare “a total lie” and a “complete and total disaster,” and has advocated for building an extensive wall along the Mexican border as a solution for immigration issues between the two countries.

    At the same time, he has also advocated for rebuilding U.S. infrastructure including airports and roads, and maintaining entitlements such as social security and Medicare by increasing jobs and overall prosperity.

    Trump, who turned his father’s much smaller New York real estate company into a world-famous brand, currently owns large, glitzy properties throughout the U.S. including 40 Wall Street and Trump International Hotel Las Vegas. But his enterprises don’t stop there, as Trump has published books, such as the somewhat iconic Art of the Deal, and marketed colognes with names like “Empire” and “Success.” He also owns the highly popular Miss Universe and Miss USA pageants.

    If nothing else, Trump’s presidential run will raise his business profile, political observers say.

    “Trump’s greatest talent is self-promotion, and a presidential run presents a grand stage for this,” says John Hudak, a fellow in government studies at Brookings Institution, the public policy think tank in Washington, D.C. “He’s trying to raise a high profile even higher.”

    World's Coolest Offices: 5 Amazing Outdoor Workspaces

    June 16, 2015 - 3:59pm

    Studies show natural light is great for productivity. Here are five great on-demand outdoor workspaces.

    5 Things People Want in Social Media Today

    June 16, 2015 - 3:35pm
    What do people want in social media today, and what will they want tomorrow?

    How Techstars Is Supercharging Its Accelerator

    June 16, 2015 - 3:04pm
    David Cohen's accelerator has acquired UP Global, the non-profit for entrepreneurs first started by Steve Case.

    5 Tools to Make Your Smartphone Even Smarter

    June 16, 2015 - 2:47pm
    You think your mobile device can do a lot? With just a few accessories it can do much, much more.

    Stressful Day? Use These 7 Tricks to Turn It Around

    June 16, 2015 - 2:45pm
    Everyone gets stressed out at times. Here are seven quick, easy, and healthy ways to relieve stress so you can be more productive and happy.


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