Tag Archive | "entrepreneur"

Why You Should Ditch the Keyboard and Meet in Person Instead

Face-to-face communication is a dying art, or so it seems in the digital age. The majority of our communication with clients now takes place over email and instant messaging. While digital communication certainly has its advantages, experts warn their overuse may lead to some fundamental flaws that could derail your success, reports Entrepreneur.

Michael Diettrich-Chastain, a business consultant in Asheville, N.C., who helps business leaders understand the human side of their business, says while digital communication now prevails, we should beware the consequences of avoiding face-to-face meetings altogether. Diettrich-Chastain says some important elements of communication are lost in digital exchanges. Although phone conversations now sound an intimate way of connecting, even these don’t allow for body language and eye contact that are only available to you in an in-person meeting.

“All of these elements of communication help shape the conversation,” says Diettrich-Chastain.

There are many benefits to face-to-face time, including:

Convey importance. 

“If you’re meeting with a client, an in-person meeting tells your client your intentions are serious,” he says. Showing up in person tells your client the meeting is valuable to you because you’re willing to spend your time, and theirs.

Less room for misinterpretation. 

“A face-to-face meeting is most important when there can be no room for interpretation regarding the exchange of information,” says Diettrich-Chastain. The loss of tonality and body language in an email conversation can lead to misunderstandings. Face-to-face exchanges remove these elements for error, making it more likely that your message will come across as you intended.

Reading thought and emotions.

Facial expressions and body language can tell the story in a way email and phone conversations never can. Face-to-face interactions mean you can read these physical cues and change the way you’re presenting your information or open the door for you to ask, “What do you think?”  If you see a furrowed brow sitting across the table from you, you may want to clarify what you just said to avoid confusion, something you would never know existed if you were simply sending an email.

Immediate response. 

Forget sitting around waiting for an answer to your email. A face-to-face sit down means you’ll get a response right away. This can be particularly important when working on a time-sensitive project.

Capture attention. 

When communicating over email or even over the phone, it can be difficult to gauge how interested someone is in what you’re talking about. Are they checking their email while you’re talking on the phone, or just skimming your email? People’s attention spans are higher when they’re meeting in person rather than reading an email or even listening to someone over the phone. In a face-to-face meeting, there’s nowhere to hide. Disengagement is obvious, while the opposite – a head nod or smile – can instantly show you engagement and agreement.

Posted in Small Business TipsComments (0)

How To Be A Strong Business Competitor In Your 20s

As a business professional in my 20s, I faced many challenges. Some were real. Some were imagined. But, there was one inescapable truth through which others viewed, and often judged, me: “You’re young. What do you really know?” Having recently escaped my 20s, I can look back with clarity of hindsight and see how exciting, yet trying, that decade can be, reports Forbes.

Exciting because I was bold and adventurous. Trying because I struggled to figure out how I fit into a fast-moving world. I tried new things, knowing that if I failed, it wasn’t the end of the world. I had a lot of life left to find something that would work. I dove head-first into new opportunities, determined to “take on hell with a squirt gun,” inspired by numerous examples of people in their 20s accomplishing greatness.

As Emerson said, “Life is a journey, not a destination.” Every day we can and should learn something. As I look back, I learned many lessons, mostly the hard way, on my journey as a 20-something in business:

1. Be conservative

I enjoy changing haircuts and clothing styles often to be cutting edge, but I learned that people judged me by how I looked. So, I decided that I would not let my clothing be out of step with the norm in my industry. If someone notices what you are wearing (for good or bad), they will automatically attribute it to your youth. “Fitting-in” in this instance is a good thing because it allows people to focus on you as a professional and not on you as a young person or fashion victim. It’s better to play it safe; dress and act conservatively for the sake of “winning the game.”

2. Be thorough

What I lacked in experience I made up for in research and study. Like me, you grew up with the Internet, so use it. Do your homework—a lot of it. At a young age, mental absorption capabilities and brain elasticity are very strong, letting you to retain information easier than your older colleagues.

Within your industry, study everything you can get your hands on. Read as many books (or listen to audiobooks) as are available. Set a Google Alert and read news on your topic. Don’t let anything happen in your industry without knowing about it. It won’t take long before you are on the cutting edge with the trends in your field.

As I reached out for advice from older colleagues in my industry, I sadly and repeatedly found that burnout and previous success (or lack thereof) caused the vast majority of them be jaded, complacent, comfortable, uninterested and often ignorant of technological or methodological advancements. I developed an edge over them with my extensive research and study.

3. Be sure

I had strong opinions, but because I was young, most people were unlikely to give credence to what I said until I was able to cite reputable sources supporting my position. Therefore, use the information you gather to validate your statements when you can. Your aptitude for accuracy will be a breath of fresh air that others will grow to rely on.

4. Be confident

You’re now conservative in your appearance, thorough in your studies, and sure in your statements. Add confidence to the mix. I’ve found that people often doubt their own positions and when pressed will give in to the view of someone with more confidence.

Since you have compiled and absorbed the latest and greatest information in your industry, speak with the confidence that comes not only from your own informed mind but also with the added authority that comes from those you study and from whom you learn. If you sound weak, you will not inspire confidence in others.

5. Be humble

Contrary to popular belief, humility is not thinking less of yourself, or denying your gifts or abilities. It is thinking about yourself less and about others more. This mindset is exemplified in a service-based attitude which frees you to focus on being a person of value who contributes to the well-being of others through your work. I’ve found that when I started to focus on adding value to other people, I became valuable to them, thus increasing my value at large.

When you’re humble you realize that you have a right to disagree with other people, but never the right to disrespect them.

6. Be consistent

“In essence, if we want to direct our lives, we must take control of our consistent actions. It’s not what we do once in awhile that shapes our lives, but what we do consistently.” — Tony Robbins

Because my attention span is short, I am naturally distracted by “bright and shiny things.” WARNING: This does lead to the road of consistency. In the past, it has caused me to pivot at the drop of a hat to something new if I caught a whiff of success in a different method or organization. Big mistake. Recognizing that this is part of my nature has helped me develop a series of internal “checks and balances” that helped me manage this and in doing so, have improved my ability to act with consistency.

Have patience and remain steadfast in your work and research, so as to give yourself a fighting chance so that you do not come across as impulsive to those around you, which will be interpreted as a weakness. Or worse.

Be consistent or else you’ll be seen as untrustworthy. Remember, “Trust is built with consistency.” — Lincoln Chafee

7. Be kind

The only thing worse than a “know-it-all” is a young know-it-all. Remember that people already have prejudices about you because you’re young. Don’t let your knowledge become annoying because you’re cocky. There is a big difference between confidence and cockiness that lies in the delivery of what you say. My mom always said, “It’s not what you say. It’s how you say it.” Additionally, let your manner of speech be clean so as not to unnecessarily offend anyone.

Be considerate and remember that while you are here to do a job, so is everyone else. And, for the most part, everyone is trying their best. Be respectful of that.

Go out of your way to be nice. Care about others. Help them. When we treat others the way we would like them to treat us, good things happen.

Being intelligent and helpful in your 20s paves the way for a career and life filled with connections and accomplishments that will carry you through to the very end, as long as you continue to learn and grow.

When you’re conservative, thorough, sure, confident, humble, consistent and kind, you will receive attention and naturally endear yourself to people. They will see you as a powerful young professional, full of potential.

Posted in Small Business TipsComments (0)

5 Lessons From People Who Retired at 40

Most people believe that retiring by 40 is something achieved only by lottery winners, celebrities, trust-fund babies and tech tycoons.

But there is a growing movement of young retirees who are smashing our conventional beliefs about what it really takes to retire early, reports Entrepreneur.  They’re not born rich, they’re not lottery winners and they’re not Silicon Valley insiders.

They come from all walks of life. Some had high-paying careers in finance or engineering, while others were schoolteachers or writers. Some were entrepreneurs, while others worked 9-5 jobs.

Still, those in the early-retirement movement do share one common trait: They typically adopt a contrarian mindset that produces a fascinating lifestyle, spending, and retirement planning insights. Here are five lessons from the lives of early retirees that we can all apply.

1. They understand the math of financial independence. 

Conventional wisdom suggests that in order to retire, you need a huge nest egg and an income stream that nearly matches your working salary. A 2012 Aon Hewitt study found that in order to retire, the average employee surveyed required a nest egg 11 times his or her career pay. These people also needed to replace a whopping 85 percent of their annual salary.

The problem with these numbers is that they don’t account for the spending side of the retirement equation. Young retirees have discovered that the magic number is not income, it’s actually their savings rate as a percentage of their take-home pay. When we keep that in mind, early retirement suddenly looks a lot more attainable.

As Peter Adeney of the popular early retirement blog Mr Money Mustache has explained: “If you are spending 100 percent of your income, you will never be prepared to retire . . . If you are spending 0 percent of your income [meaning that somehow you’re managing to live], and can maintain this after retirement, you can retire right now.”

This early retirement calculator shows how elegantly simple the math can be. It doesn’t matter whether you earn $500,000 a year or $50,000 a year. If you can save 50 percent of your take-home pay, you can retire in 16.6 years. If you save 75 percent, you can retire in just 7.1 years.

A higher income certainly makes it easier to save a large percentage of your take-home pay, but maximizing the savings percentage is the key to early retirement math.

2. They spend less, but are just as happy. 

Young retirees spend well below their means. While it may not be surprising that big savers manage to retire early, it’s worth noting that many early retirees don’t view spending less money as a sacrifice at all. In fact, many have developed a mindset that is perfectly content (even proud) of minimizing their consumption.

“Whenever we consider buying stuff, we’re usually fixated on price, but what we’re really after is how much joy this new thing will bring us,” explains J. Money from BudgetsAreSexy.com. “I’m just as happy drinking beer at home as I am at a bar . . . I’m just as happy eating pb&j as I am hitting a new restaurant.

“Does that mean I don’t still eat out or buy new clothes or drink tasty beers for 10 times the price?” J. Money continues. “Heck no — I love doing those things, too! However, when comparing ‘happiness levels’ only, they’re not that far apart. If at all. So, I do more of the free/cheap stuff and continue having a sweet quality of life.”

3. They invest early and over decades, not years. 

Young retirees don’t have access to any investing secrets. Instead of trying to beat the market, they keep it simple. Many use indexing and asset allocation as a steady, long-term investing game-plan that happens over decades, rather than months or years.

Early retirees also started investing earlier than their peers, giving compound interest extra time to work its magic. To illustrate the power of investing early, Jim Wang of WalletHacks points out that, assuming a standard 7 percent return, someone who invested $100 a month from age 20 to 30 would still end up with more money than someone who invested $100 a month from ages 30 to 60.

4. They avoid high investment fees. 

Young retirees know to avoid investment vehicles loaded with high fees. “A lot of people know they need to start investing, but they don’t really know how to get started,“ says Nate Tsang from the financial comparison site InvestmentZen.com. “As a result, they look to their bank for investing advice.

“The problem is that most banks promote actively managed funds that charge exorbitant fees, despite academic research showing that these funds consistently underperform the S&P 500.”

So what’s a cost-effective alternative? Robo-advisors are an emerging technology that use algorithms to build and manage investor portfolios, giving novice investors low-cost access to sophisticated investment management.

Tsang notes that although robo-advisors offer an easy, low-cost way to invest, they are not a one-size-fits-all solution. “Each robo-advisor has their own asset allocation methodology, different features and different fee structures,” says Tsang. “Make sure you pick one with the features you need at the right price. If you’re investing in taxable accounts for example, then tax-loss harvesting might be important to you.

“You also have to compare the fees and see how they might affect your returns. Using a robo advisor comparison tool can let you quickly identify the product best suited to meet your investing goals.”

5. They buy cash-flowing assets. 

Alternative investments are a smart way to diversify a portfolio and provide income to support early retirement. Real-estate investing is perhaps the most popular alternative investment.

But real-estate investing success isn’t as simple as buying a property and hoping it will appreciate in value. Investors must do significant due diligence and identify properties that meet the 1 percent rule of thumb, which states that in order to generate cash flow, an income property’s gross monthly rent must be at least 1 percent of its purchase price.

Income-producing websites are another alternative investment and have been growing in popularity among the early-retirement crowd. They can be acquired for a multiple of two to three times annual profit, which translates to a 33 percent to 50 percent annualized return.

While returns can be high, website acquisitions require more hands-on experience than traditional investments. Anyone looking to acquire a website is well advised to become educated on digital business models. He or she should also expect to spend many hours doing due diligence before finding a suitable business for sale at the right price.

Final Thoughts 

Most people don’t believe that they can retire by 40, so they don’t even try. But perhaps the biggest lesson from the early-retirement movement is that in order to hit ambitious goals, one needs to build one’s lifestyle around them.

No one said, of course, that retiring by 40 is easy, but the early-retirement movement is showing that with the right strategy and mindset, it’s an attainable goal for many who choose to pursue it.

Posted in Small Business TipsComments (0)

Every Entrepreneur Struggles With Uncertainty: Here’s How I Learned To Deal With It

The only thing that is certain in life is uncertainty. There are countless things that keep business founders and leaders awake at night. Clients, employees, investors and everything in between can, and often do cause terrible uncertainty and along with it, stress and anxiety. We all deal with uncertainty in different ways, but coping with it healthfully is something few very few manage to do, reports Forbes.

I’ve been guilty of allowing uncertainty to get to me in the context of running dealing my company, BodeTree. It’s a very exciting time for us as we’re growing rapidly and working with new partners every day. We’re also about to begin our latest fundraising round to add some fuel to our growth engine. Fundraising, no matter how well your business is doing, is always a stressful process. When you couple a capital raise, dramatic growth, and the possibility of several game-changing partnerships coming online, it’s safe to say that I’m operating in an uncertain environment.

I was lamenting my situation with one of my trusted mentors the other day, and as usual he provided sage advice. He said, “Chris, you have to understand that maturity of mind is the capacity to endure uncertainty.” His profound, yet simple words struck a chord with me. Uncertainty is part of life, but it doesn’t have to be an anxiety-inducing, momentum crippling experience. Instead, he helped me realize that everyone has the potential to choose a different path; a path of positivity and joy, even in the face of the most uncertain situations.

A mature mind is self-aware

A strong sense of self-awareness is a vital trait that every member of the team needs to develop and nurture. Without it, it’s impossible to control your reaction to the trials and tribulations that life so often presents. This is especially important for leaders, as their actions (either conscious or unconscious) set the tone for the entire organization.

The first step towards self-awareness is to recognize and be open about the things that cause stress, anxiety, and negativity in your life. This enables you to prepare yourself and your team for challenging situations well ahead of time. Positivity and negativity are a choice; the only trick is that you have to be self-aware enough to recognize it.

A mature mind recognizes that control is an illusion 

Humans have a persistent and particularly nasty tendency to try to control everything around them. A strong argument can be made that fruitless attempts at control are generally at the root of all suffering. Business leaders, in particular, tend to box themselves and their team into painful situations when they try to exert control over things that cannot be controlled. This futility leads to anger, frustration, and irrational decisions. Once this behavior takes hold, it builds on itself and can spread like wildfire throughout an organization.

The key to fostering positivity and a functional team is the ability to recognize that control is simply an illusion. Once you stop trying to control your circumstances, you open yourself up to countless possibilities. Understanding this allows you to find new and positive ways to react to the challenges you encounter along the way. The only thing you have control over is your outlook.

A mature mind has the ability to find the joy in any situation

Everyone has the ability to find the joy in any circumstance, regardless of how challenging it seems. Joy can often be found in the suffering itself, as it helps you learn more about yourself and grow stronger. It’s a choice we have the ability to make. Almost every situation can be viewed in a positive light if you look from the right angle. I challenge my team to pause and find the good in every situation they encounter. With enough practice, positivity becomes your default setting.

Posted in Small Business TipsComments (0)

9 Habits Of Profoundly Influential People

Influential people have a profound impact on everyone they encounter. Yet, they achieve this only because they exert so much influence inside, on themselves, reports Forbes.

We see only their outside.

We see them innovate, speak their mind, and propel themselves forward toward bigger and better things.

And, yet, we’re missing the best part.

The confidence and wherewithal that make their influence possible are earned. It’s a labor of love that influential people pursue behind the scenes, every single day.

And while what people are influenced by changes with the season, the unique habits of influential people remain constant. Their focused pursuit of excellence is driven by nine habits that you can emulate and absorb until your influence expands:

1. They think for themselves

Influential people aren’t buffeted by the latest trend or by public opinion. They form their opinions carefully, based on the facts. They’re more than willing to change their mind when the facts support it, but they aren’t influenced by what other people think, only by what theyknow.

2. They are graciously disruptive

Influential people are never satisfied with the status quo. They’re the ones who constantly ask, “What if?” and “Why not?” They’re not afraid to challenge conventional wisdom, and they don’t disrupt things for the sake of being disruptive; they do it to make things better.

3. They inspire conversation

When influential people speak, conversations spread like ripples in a pond. And those ripples are multidirectional; influencers inspireeveryone around them to explore new ideas and think differently about their work.

4. They leverage their networks

Influential people know how to make lasting connections. Not only do they know a lot of people, they get to know their connections’ connections. More importantly, they add value to everyone in their network. They share advice and know how, and they make connections between people who should get to know each other.

5. They focus only on what really matters

Influential people aren’t distracted by trivialities. They’re able to cut through the static and clutter, focus on what matters, and point it out to everyone else. They speak only when they have something important to say, and they never bore people with idle banter.

6. They welcome disagreement

Influential people do not react emotionally and defensively to dissenting opinions—they welcome them. They’re humble enough to know that they don’t know everything and that someone else might see something they missed. And if that person is right, they embrace the idea wholeheartedly because they care more about the end result than being right.

7. They are proactive

Influential people don’t wait for things like new ideas and new technologies to find them; they seek those things out. These early adopters always want to anticipate what’s next. They’re influential because they see what’s coming, and they see what’s coming because they intentionally look for it. Then they spread the word.

8. They respond rather than react

If someone criticizes an influential person for making a mistake, or if someone else makes a critical mistake, influential people don’t react immediately and emotionally. They wait. They think. And then they deliver an appropriate response. Influential people know how important relationships are, and they won’t let an emotional overreaction harm theirs. They also know that emotions are contagious, and overreacting has a negative influence on everyone around them.

9. They believe

Influential people always expect the best. They believe in their own power to achieve their dreams, and they believe others share that same power. They believe that nothing is out of reach, and that belief inspires those around them to stretch for their own goals. They firmly believe that one person can change the world.

Bringing It All Together

To increase your influence, you need to freely share your skills and insights, and you must be passionate in your pursuit of a greater future.

Posted in Small Business TipsComments (0)

4 Ways to Balance Running Your Business With Building Your Culture

As a long-time entrepreneur, I’ve always set my autopilot mode on growing the business. Startups especially are filled with the stresses that go along with a new business — and understandably so, as determination and tenacity usually mean the difference between succeeding and failing.

But as the number of staff grows from 10 to 100, the way we operate as entrepreneurs starts to change. While driving the business forward will always be a priority, we begin to see the importance of company culture. People want to work for a successful business, but they’ll ultimately stay because of the workplace environment. Shifting gears from business owner to culture nurturer might not come naturally and can be challenging.

Nurturing your culture takes a bit more effort than just having a beer truck roll into the parking lot on Friday afternoon, reports Entrepreneur. This effort demands a constant drumbeat and continuity. At CoreDial, we shaped our business culture around entrepreneurship, innovation, accountability and candidness, and to achieve those goals, I had to learn that there is no easy approach to fostering a company culture. It takes time. But if done right, it can be incredibly rewarding.

For those growing a business, here are four key lessons I learned about how to achieve a balance between running a business and building a company culture.

1Learn to play games at work.

Accepting that the office is a place for more than just hard work was difficult. The best example comes from when we moved to a bigger office, which included a game room. As a team, we wanted to create an environment where employees enjoyed coming to work and were challenged to bring their A game every day, but could still appreciate fun perks without feeling a sense of entitlement.

I myself wanted to some informal space where employees could recharge their engines, catch up with fellow employees, relax and just get to know one other better. The goal was to create a friendly environment, but I had to ask myself, “Will team members take advantage of the situation, or will this ultimately help workplace productivity?” And I honestly wasn’t sure of the answer.

For example, I saw employees playing when there was lots of work to be done. And I admit that I found it hard at first to strike a balance, but our “games” goal turned out to be a great success. Letting the team know it was okay to blow off steam or take a breath created more team bonding and camaraderie, which went a long way to creating a friendlier and more creative environment.

And that in turn ultimately increased overall productivity for our business. I first had to see the bigger picture of how to make a larger team happy outside of their daily tasks.

2. Learn to host meetings that matter.

No one likes meetings, and making meetings productive can be a challenge. As entrepreneurs, we want our employees to communicate, collaborate and share their thoughts and ideas openly. However we also want to keep meetings focused, and ensure we are efficient and effective with our time.

At CoreDial, I’ve found that adopting the Agile process, with stand-upScrum meetings, works very well for the software and engineering teams. The Scrum meeting style forces attendees to stand up, share what they did yesterday and what they’ll do today and discuss any issues or challenges they face in their work. Standing up is important. I found that it helps teams get to the point and get moving.

For other departments, meeting efficiency comes down to basic time and meeting management. Get there on time, have an agenda, include the right key stakeholders, and get to the point. We promote a culture of candidness, which encourages people to speak freely. The key is to remind people that as long as they are professional and respectful, anyone should be able to say anything without fear of speaking out of turn.

We quash politics whenever we see or hear signs of it. Having a politics-free environment is empowering for every team member, but to achieve this goal does take the leadership team reminding staffers of the fact that they can and should speak up.

3. Learn to listen from the bottom up.

When the business is only 10 people, it is easy to know and stay in touch with everyone. As the business grows, however, it gets harder and harder to be in front of everyone, everyday. The challenge is to stay connected with employees across the business, and to listen to their needs. To accomplish this has entailed looking at how we hire new people and what kind of support we can put in place.

While, in the past, we focused on bringing top talent into the business — people who could do their jobs well — we now look for people that can also nurture young talent and shape a positive environment for them. Mentoring is a really important tool for business culture. It goes beyond just training each employee.

Mentoring can be a tool for listening and developing the business in a way that meets the needs of existing staff, as well as those of millennials, who are new to the working environment and have a variety of different experiences and expectations. It is important to have trusted advisors and mentors, but you also need a mechanism for listening from the bottom up.

A positive corporate culture isn’t just about keeping great workers, it’s also about developing them and providing them with opportunities for continued professional growth.

4. Learn to practice your culture everyday.

A business takes small steps that grow in importance as it adds employees. Most companies start out with an entrepreneurial spirit at its core, and that is critical to building an awesome company, with a compelling product or service.

But if your business experiences rapid growth, sometimes that entrepreneurial spirit can fizzle out. It takes an ongoing commitment from all levels of leadership and a bit of hard work to make sure that entrepreneurship becomes part of how all employees operate. It can get lost when only one-off events occur. The key is consistency.

I’ve learned that success in building a business culture means regularly meeting with employees at all levels, making the effort to organize activities, communicating openly and recognizing contributions on a monthly basis. We have a committee dedicated to this goal, and we are all challenged to contribute.

The payoff is new ideas, happier employees and better products and services for our customers. And that’s worth the effort even if it isn’t easy.

Posted in Small Business TipsComments (0)