Tag Archive | "entrepreneur"

6 Things Every Entrepreneur Needs in a Great Smartphone


Like most hungry entrepreneurs, Jason Saltzman is constantly on-the-go, managing a growing team as well as a thriving business, reports Entrepreneur. As the founder and CEO of New York City-based shared workspace Alley, he needs a smartphone to keep up with him. So do you.

In this video, Saltzman outlines his six must-have features for any great smartphone:

  1. Long-lasting battery/fast charging
  2. Size
  3. Water resistance/durability
  4. An always-updating platform (like Android)
  5. Expandable memory
  6. A great camera

“Things change, schedules change, you need to completely stay on top of things,” Saltzman says. “Having the phone with the right technology will help you do that and help you run your day.”

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Burning The Boats: How We Found Success By Getting Rid Of Our Safety Net


In 1519, eleven ships carrying 600 Spaniards landed on an inland plateau that would one day be known as Mexico. Their goal was to conquer an empire that had amassed a massive fortune of gold, silver, and precious gems, reports Forbes. However, with just 600 men, most of whom were vastly under supplied, the prospect of conquering the vast Aztec empire seemed like an impossible task.

However, Cortes was undeterred. Rather than charge forward upon landing in Mexico, Cortes gathered his men on the beach and promptly gave the order to burn the ships they just arrived on, effectively destroying their only escape route. The only choice left was to push forward and succeed.

Taking the underlying morality of Cortes’ actions out of the equation for a moment, it’s easy to see how many entrepreneurs often find themselves in similar circumstances. To be a startup is to contend with a constant sense of being outmanned, outgunned, and out planned. On the surface, the idea of a small, often poorly supplied team making waves in the world may seem just as ludicrous as trying to conquer an empire with only 600 men, but they’re really not that different.

Sometimes, burning your ships and eliminating your safety net is the only way to inspire team members to push forward in the face of daunting odds. My team and I did it at BodeTree, and it was the best decision we ever made.

When we first launched BodeTree, our plan was to sell our products directly to small business owners, helping them to cut out the proverbial middleman when it came to managing their finances. We charged down this path for several years and achieved moderate success. However, we knew that in order to gain the scale we were looking for, we would have to explore other options.

We ultimately chose to shift our focus away from direct to consumer sales and towards working with large institutional partners. This move enabled us to gain scale rapidly and grow the business into what it is today. The shift was not going to be an easy one, and we knew that the sales cycle for selling to institutions can be long and painful.

At first, we merely dipped our toe into the market. Our institutional sales channel was, to be frank, an afterthought at first. We continued to support and market our direct presence and thought that we could serve two masters. For us, the direct channel was a safety net. If selling to institutional partners proved to be too difficult or time consuming, we could always fall back on what we had built. We had our ships anchored in the bay, providing an escape route if the going got tough. As a result, we failed to fully commit to our new channel.

Once I realized this, I knew what had to be done. We had to burn our ships if we were to have any chance of succeeding. It was a terrifying decision to make, because we had invested so much into that effort. All of our marketing materials, brand presence, and technical features were designed around the idea of selling directly to the small business owner. To back away from this decision meant reworking our entire approach and making changes to the team we had assembled.

The decision was made in early 2014, and proved to be just as difficult as we feared. We had to replace team members and refocus the entire organization. We continued to allow direct sign ups and to support our existing customers, but we effectively have shut down all of our marketing efforts centered around that channel.

Our mantra became “all institutions, all the time.” To make matters worse, sales did not start rolling in. In fact, they stalled for months on end. The team grew nervous, and investors questioned the all-in approach we were taking. In spite of this, we maintained our course and never looked back. Over time, things started to turn around. Then, they started to accelerate faster than any of us could have expected.

It was our decision to “burn our ships” and commit fully to our institutional strategy that enabled us to persevere and eventually thrive. Had we had the safety net of our direct efforts waiting in the wings, we never would have been able to succeed. I think that there is some primal response that only surfaces when faced with a life-or-death situation. Too often, we limit ourselves by holding on to our escape routes and safety nets. Sometimes, you just have to burn the ships in order to move forward.

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8 Small Things People Use to Judge Your Personality


The human brain is hardwired to judge. This survival mechanism makes it very hard to meet someone without evaluating and interpreting their behavior, reports Entrepreneur.

While we tend to think that our judgments are based on the content of conversations and other obvious behaviors, the research says otherwise. In fact, the majority of our judgments are focused on smaller, subtler things, such as handshakes and body language. We often form complete opinions about people based solely on these behaviors.

We are so good at judging other people’s personalities based on small things that, in a University of Kansas study, subjects accurately predicted people’s personality traits, such as extroversion/introversion, emotional stability, agreeableness, conscientiousness, and openness, simply by looking at pictures of the shoes they wore.

Our unconscious behaviors have a language of their own, and their words aren’t always kind. These behaviors have likely become an integral part of who you are, and if you don’t spend much time thinking about them, now is a good time to start, because they could be sabotaging your career.

1. How you treat waiters and receptionists. 

How you treat support staff is so indicative of your makeup that it has become a common interview tactic. By gauging how you interact with support staff on your way in and out of the building, interviewers get a sense for how you treat people in general. Most people act the part when they’re speaking to the hiring manager or other “important” people, but some will pull a Jekyll and Hyde act the moment they walk out the door, treating others with disdain or indifference. Business lunches are another place this comes to light. No matter how nice you are to the people you have lunch with, it’s all for naught if those people witness you behaving badly toward others.

2. How often you check your phone. 

There’s nothing more frustrating than someone pulling out their phone mid-conversation. Doing so conveys a lack of respect, attention, listening skills, and willpower. Unless it’s an emergency, it’s wise to keep your phone holstered. A study from Elon University confirms that pulling out your phone during a conversation lowers both the quality and quantity of face-to-face interactions.

3. Repetitive, nervous habits. 

Touching your nails or face or picking at your skin typically indicates that you’re nervous, overwhelmed, and not in control. Research from the University of Michigan suggests that these nervous habits are indicative of a perfectionistic personality, and that perfectionists are more likely to engage in these habits when they’re frustrated or bored.

4. How long you take to ask questions. 

Have you ever had a conversation with someone where they talked about themselves the entire time? The amount of time someone allows to pass before they take an interest in you is a strong personality indicator. People who only talk about themselves tend to be loud, self-absorbed “takers.” People who only ask questions and share little about themselves are usually quiet, humble “givers.” Those who strike a nice balance of give-and-take are reciprocators and good conversationalists.

5. Your handshake. 

It’s common for people to associate a weak handshake with a lack of confidence and an overall lackadaisical attitude. A study at the University of Alabama showed that, although it isn’t safe to draw assumptions about someone’s competence based on their handshake, you can accurately identify personality traits. Specifically, the study found that a firm handshake equates with being less shy, less neurotic, and more extroverted.

6. Tardiness. 

Showing up late leads people to think that you lack respect and tend to procrastinate, as well as being lazy or disinterested. Contrary to these perceptions, a San Diego State University study by Jeff Conte revealed that tardiness is typically seen in people who multitask, or are high in relaxed, Type B personality traits. Conte’s study found that Type B individuals are often late because they experience time more slowly than the rest of us. Bottom line here is not to read too much into people showing up late. It’s better to ask what’s behind it than to make assumptions.

7. Handwriting. 

There are all manner of false stereotypes attempting to relate your handwriting to your personality. For example, people believe that how hard you press down on the paper relates to how uptight you are, the slant of your writing indicates introversion or extroversion, and the neatness/sloppiness of your writing reveals organizational tendencies. The research is inconclusive at best when it comes to handwriting and personality. If you have an important letter to write, I’d suggest sticking to the keyboard to keep things neutral.

8. Eye contact. 

The key to eye contact is balance. While it’s important to maintain eye contact, doing so 100 percent of the time is perceived as aggressive and creepy. At the same time, if you only maintain eye contact for a small portion of the conversation, you’ll come across as disinterested, shy, or embarrassed. Studies show that maintaining eye contact for roughly 60 percent of a conversation strikes the right balance and makes you come across as interested, friendly, and trustworthy.

Bringing It All Together

Sometimes the little things in life make a big difference. It’s good to be ready for them, so that you can make a strong impression.

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13 Confident Ways to Overcome Your Shyness


Shyness can truly hold people back–partly because those who are shy tend to avoid public situations and speaking up, and partly because they experience so much chronic anxiety.

If that’s you, take comfort in knowing you are far from alone–four out of 10 people consider themselves shy.

But here’s the good news: Shyness can be overcome. With time and effort and a desire to change, it’s possible to break through, reports Inc.

If your shyness is severe, you may need help from a therapist or counselor, but most people can overcome it on their own.

Take your first steps in getting past shyness with these 13 techniques to help you become a more confident you.

1. Don’t tell.

There’s no need to advertise your shyness. Those who are close to you already know, and others may never even have an opportunity to notice. It’s not as visible as you probably think.

2. Keep it light.

If others bring up your shyness, keep your tone casual. If it becomes part of a discussion, speak of it lightheartedly.

3. Change your tone.

If you blush when you’re uncomfortable, don’t equate it with shyness. Let it stand on its own: “I’ve always been quick to blush.”

4. Avoid the label.

Don’t label yourself as shy–or as anything. Let yourself be defined as a unique individual, not a single trait.

5. Stop self-sabotaging.

Sometimes we really are our own worst enemy. Don’t allow your inner critic to put you down. Instead, analyze the power of that voice so you can defuse it.

6. Know your strengths.

Make a list of all your positive qualities–enlist a friend or family member to help if you need to–and read or recite it when you’re feeling insecure. Let it remind you how much you have to offer.

7. Choose relationships carefully.

Shy people tend to have fewer but deeper friendships–which means your choice of friend or partner is even more important. Give your time to the people in your life who are responsive, warm, and encouraging.

8. Avoid bullies and teases.

There are always a few people who are willing to be cruel or sarcastic if it makes for a good punch line, some who just have no sense of what’s appropriate, and some who don’t care whom they hurt. Keep a healthy distance from these people.

9. Watch carefully.

Most of us are hardest on ourselves, so make a habit of observing others (without making a big deal out of it). You may find that other people are suffering from their own symptoms of insecurity and that you are not alone.

10. Remember that one bad moment doesn’t mean a bad day.

Especially when you spend a lot of time inside your own head, as shy people tend to do, it’s easy to distort experiences, to think that your shyness ruined an entire event–when chances are it wasn’t a big deal to anyone but you.

11. Shut down your imagination.

Shy people sometimes feel disapproval or rejection even when it isn’t there. People probably like you much more than you give yourself credit for.

12. Stare it down.

Sometimes when you’re scared, the best thing to do is to face it head on. If you’re frightened, just stare it down and lean into it.

13. Name it.

Make a list of all your jitters and worries. Name them, plan how you’re going to eliminate them, and move forward.

Suffering from shyness shouldn’t keep you from the success you are seeking, so try these simple tools and make them work for you–in fact, they’re good techniques to try whether you’re shy or not.

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An Interview with Tony Wanderon


Tony Wanderon is a serial entrepreneur, a former agent, current chief executive of National Auto Care and a private pilot. Agent Entrepreneur caught up with Wanderon to discuss his automotive industry career, what it takes to be a great agent and why parachutes are overrated.

AE: Tony, where are you from and how did you get into the car business?

Wanderon: I was born in Miami. I grew up there, went to school there, met my wife, Christine, there, had kids there, built a company there and then sold that company to American Heritage Life. My dad and grandparents were in the car business. I started when I was 12, in the used-car get-ready department, washing cars and starting them up.

AE: Did you take over your family’s operation?

Wanderon: I worked there through high school and then went to college for two years. I didn’t finish. I started bartending and making good money and it was hard to make it to class. So I worked in restaurants until I was 22, then I got back into F&I at the Chevy dealership that my father was the GM at.

In 1986, I was approached by Rick McMahon, who owned an F&I development company called ERJ Insurance Group. The dealership where I worked sold his warranty and credit life products. As Rick was growing his F&I business, he offered me a job to help him with a new relationship he started with Avis Car Sales, which required him to help open and train F&I in over 200 locations around the country.

AE: What did McMahon see in a young Tony Wanderon?

Wanderon: I think it was probably my desire, my understanding of and love for the business and how I presented myself. And I think he got me at a pretty fair price.

AE: Did you enjoy training?

Wanderon: The training part was fun. That went on for my first three years. In 1989, my son, Spencer, was born. I flew home from a two-week training trip in L.A., Hawaii and Seattle, and Christine had Spencer the night I got home — a month early, by the way. That’s when I came to the decision it was time to start building a business in South Florida, so I could be with my family more.

From 1990 to ’96, we focused on the South Florida market and, over time, we pretty much owned the market. We grew so fast. We soon had over 100 dealers, both big and small. In addition, I found a product that no one really had ever marketed and we put a lot of focus on developing and offering GAP under our ERJ brand. Around that same time, one of my first and best dealers, Dick Assmar, promoted us to his fellow Nissan dealers, which allowed us to grow that market. He also introduced me to the regional VP at Nissan and told them they should hire us to help them with Security+Plus, which we started in the early ’90s and continues today. I still feel that I owe much of my success to Dick for the way he supported me and our company.

That Nissan relationship brought us into national growth mode. We were writing 15,000 to 20,000 GAP policies a year as an administrator. In addition, our development business was growing at over 30% per year. At the peak of that growth, we became an American Heritage Life (AHL) agent. After a presentation I did for a large dealer group, the chairman of AHL, who had attended, came to me and said he wanted to acquire ERJ. Selling was not something that we were looking to do, but in 1997, it was the right time with the right company, so we sold.

Two years later, Allstate Insurance Company bought AHL for its workplace products. I really do not think that our division had any influence, one way or another, when they bought AHL, but I thought it was a great opportunity to prove that our business was a great one for them as well. For the first two years after Allstate, I remained in Miami, running ERJ. In 2001, I was asked to become president of the division. I accepted and relocated to Jacksonville.

AE: I remember when you left Allstate. It was a big surprise.

Wanderon: I like to say I’ve been married for 29 years and that was my only divorce. It was great to have a brand and I built that division and that company with a great team. I learned a lot and met some great people, but I would never go back to working in that type of environment again. I’m into an entrepreneurial, fast-moving organization.

AE: So you started Family First Dealer Services.

Wanderon: My sister, Courtney, and I started it in the dining room of my house. We hired our first employee and pretty soon there were five of us. We were doing a lot of consulting work and generating a lot of business, but our goal was to get back into being an agent-centric product provider. With my long history and clear success with GAP, we focused on that first and introduced our FFDS GAP in 2012. That year, I think we did less than $15 million in sales — which we were pound of — but in 2015, we exceeded $100 million and we now employ more than 100 people.

AE: How did the merger with National Auto Care come about?

Wanderon: In 2013, an opportunity presented itself with Trivest Partners. They had acquired National Auto Care, then known as NAC, and asked if I would go up to Ohio and give them my opinion of the organization. My opinion was this: Here was this company with some great people that really made me feel at home when I was there. They were also a very solid, customer-focused team, and that excited me. Finally, it opened my eyes to the fact that FFDS was missing an important product segment in vehicle service agreements.

NAC was missing some key things as well, but I knew that FFDS could fill in those blanks and that, together, we could both grow and support our agents better, now and into the future. So in November of 2013, we merged our two companies. As I said previously, our growth has been great and our agents have been amazing in supporting us the past few years.

Now, coming from where I came from, this isn’t “big.” It still feels like a family deal, but it is much more than that. And part of that is we have great agents who have been instrumental in our success. Our culture here is to not have as many agents as possible; it’s about having 50 great agents, one in each state and maybe two in the larger states. Unlike many of our competitors, we don’t compete directly with our agents. We’re here to build those partnerships. Having worked as an agent myself, providing that commitment and support probably means more to me than most.

AE: Is the industry’s perception of agents changing? When the magazine and Agent Summit launched, there was a lot of talk about shaking off the image of the guy driving from store to store with a trunk full of products. You don’t really hear about that anymore. The focus is on business development, F&I training, compliance and reinsurance.

Wanderon: There have always been great, good and not-so-good agents. I think that one of the qualities of a great agent is clearly understanding who they work for and that profits are reciprocal. Dealers rely on their agents to help them keep their businesses growing. A lot of the guys who worked for Pat Ryan are super-successful agents because they were part of a very professional training and support organization, and that is how we ran our agency as well.

In addition to training, back when I started, there used to be two or three products and maybe 10 to 15 companies marketing them. Now there are 50 or more products from which dealers can choose and hundreds of administrators and providers. Great agents understand the value that each product has to the dealer, the customer and the agency. Those not-so good agents frustrate me because all they do is sell price, which just hurts everything we have done to advance the industry’s reputation.

But we have to hold people and each other accountable. At the conference, we — and I mean everyone — is training and educating each other. That, I think, has been the greatest benefit of the conference. We really started to bring people together to share good, quality information. When you see other agents outside of the competitive environment, you see them in a different light.

Look at Joel Kansanback and Bill Kelly at Automotive Development Group. In 2015, they were our agency of the year. They were also my agent of the year with my prior company seven years before. Today, they are 10 or 20 times bigger, but they’re still providing quality service, that’s something special when you grow that much and keep up that high level of service. At the conference, other agents can go up to them and say, “How did you get here? How can I do that?” And they will tell you. That’s progress. It was not as open as it is today.

AE: Those are good guys. I think they would be helpful, and I think they would say it’s a good time to be in the industry.

Wanderon: It’s a challenging time. You have to do something to separate yourself. How do you compete against corporate jets, private yachts and big brand names? You show the dealers why all of that costs them money without any return. From my perspective, you can separate yourself by providing great service that fits the dealer’s needs and being persistent.

I once called on a dealer who said, “All you guys are pestering me to buy something. Come back after a year. If you’re still around, I’ll buy something from you.” I did go back. He didn’t remember me, but he kept his word. I signed him up for our warranty business. Persistence pays.

AE: You mentioned there used to be only two or three F&I products, one of which was credit insurance. In our last issue, we interviewed agents and providers who are still having a lot of success with it. The voice of dissent was Brian Crisorio at UDS. He agreed it could be valuable but said there are too many other good products out there to make a hard push for credit insurance.

Wanderon: Credit life and disability can be a great deal for the customer, particularly at a certain point in your life. But for dealers, licensing is an issue, and it is expensive, at least compared to other products. It makes a massive impact on customers’ payments. And I think it was regulated down to the point of being a challenge.

We wrote a lot of credit insurance, but personally, I’m more on Crisorio’s side. There are a lot of options outside the F&I office for customers who are underinsured. But some customers need it, and that’s why you have the menu. You don’t have to force them to buy anything.

That’s what excited me about GAP. I saw a product that would take care of the bank’s negative equity position, keep the customer from going upside-down and protect the dealer’s brand. Which one would I like to have personally? Clearly, GAP, and that’s what it often comes down to.

AE: Do you believe Millennial car buyers make good F&I customers?

Wanderon: I don’t look at someone and say, “You’re 20 years old. You’re different.” I say, “Are you smart or not so smart?” Our job is to offer the products that are going to help them. The service contract is a good example. How can a young customer afford a $2,000 or $3,000 repair when they’re struggling to make their monthly payments? And it has to be affordable. Can they afford another $10 a month? Probably. Could they afford $60 a month? Maybe not.

I don’t know why anyone would be afraid of an educated younger person who has questions. You need to offer products not for your own commission, but because the customer really needs them. If you can explain why, you have an opportunity.

AE: Indeed. Last question, Tony: What do you like to do in your spare time?

Wanderon: I fly. I’ve been working on it for a while. I got my license and bought the plane two years ago. We use it for short trips to visit family. I’ll fly up to Ohio once in a while, too. I like flying because it teaches you discipline. You have to go through your checklists and make sure everything’s right.

AE: What kind of plane did you buy?

Wanderon: It’s a Cirrus SR22. You may know it as the plane that has a built-in parachute. The former CEO of Walmart made a parachute landing last year. I guess it’s nice to have if something goes wrong, but you can’t get too comfortable up there. If you like the parachute because it gives you a false sense of security, you shouldn’t have it.

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Redefining Leadership: How One Leader Changed His Ways


Behind every good company culture, there’s an even better leader, reports Forbes. In my experience, a workplace takes on the personalities of their leaders, for better or for worse. In fact, an honest evaluation of your employees’ opinions will likely clarify the exact places where leadership and culture meet, or in some cases clash to create a disconnect – and that disconnect really matters. When employees are unhappy with leadership, productivity drops, turnover rates spike and bottom lines suffer. This begs the question, why isn’t there more of a focus on people as the leading indicator of company success? Are we aware of how our employees perceive our leadership styles?

For over a year now, I’ve been working closely with a senior leader at our company, Chris. Through his story, I want to convince you to side with me on one big idea: that the “directive” form of leadership, where we simply tell people what to do and they do it, is not the best route to success. Although it is often revered as the default model in the corporate world, there’s an approach that is much more effective – and leaders like Chris prove that it is possible to change your ways.

Having moved from running my own small company to working in a large, public company, I got to know many leaders like Chris, who had climbed the corporate ladder very successfully, hitting or exceeding their targets and getting that next promotion. Chris had been promoted multiple times, he regularly met and exceeded goals and metrics – and he subscribed to a traditional form of leadership. Like many, Chris attributed his achievements to his blend of command and control leadership with a non-apologetic drive for success. But when our company executives emphasized the notion that effective leadership meant not only hitting targets, but also covering the people side of things, we challenged his understanding of success.

As a first step, I worked with data from our most recent employee engagement survey. Our leaders were used to understanding things in terms of metrics, so this proved to be the most effective way to deliver the message.

As suspected, we found that while some of our leaders met and exceeded their company targets, their teams were feeling left behind. The data showed that Chris’s team was reporting low engagement and personal investment, and often felt disconnected from him as a leader. When Chris received that feedback, he was not only shocked – he was hurt. Nobody wants to hear that they’re viewed poorly, especially by their own team. As such, I had to approach him with great sensitivity and work to earn his trust.

Aligned with this traditional mode of leadership, leaders like Chris prioritized goal attainment over everything else – even the well-being of their own employees. With a little guidance, I hoped to help Chris realize the positive impact of growing the careers and lives of his own employees and to feel inspired to adjust his approach.

Because Chris was so emotionally impacted by the results of the survey, I found that he was receptive to the idea of working with me. Chris was realizing that his upward mobility in the company would depend on his ability to adopt a more collaborative leadership style – and personally, he wanted to be more well-regarded by his team. Although we all operate differently, most of us want to be liked by our peers. That base desire is a great motivator to start what can otherwise be a daunting process.

It was time to get to work. We started in on a series of coaching sessions that provided Chris with small steps that could make a big impact on his team. We set realistic goals that came down to simple adjustments in style – how to be inclusive in meetings, how to listen to employee ideas, and how to care for employees by showing them compassion in the totality of their lives. We conducted focus groups with front-line team members, we moved away from delegation and embraced inclusion – Chris even attended a team bowling night.

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