5 Tips on Managing an All-Millennial Office (From a Millennial CEO)

It’s been about two years since millennials surpassed gen Xers to become the largest share of the American workforce. As that gap continues to widen, C-suite executives should start thinking about how this shift might impact their business. Because believe it or not, the new kids won’t be so new in just a few years. Older millennials are moving into leadership positions, while fresh college graduates are chasing similar success.

From tightening promotion timelines to building a culture that prides being a part of something bigger than ourselves, I’ve managed to grow my startup, Gather, to more than 50 people strong in just three years. Pulling from a number of personal experiences (as a millennial myself), you can lean on these five tips to better manage and build out a stronger team of millennials.

1. Dish out professional development dollars.

When it comes to entry-level employees who might not have as much experience as others within your organization, professional development is crucial. Not only does it prepare your staff to take on bigger and better challenges, but it also keeps them engaged and active both in and outside of work.

You can drive home the importance of professional development by providing a reasonable annual stipend (we provide $1,500) to employees after they hit an anniversary, such as the six-month or one-year mark. Whether courses or conferences, the money will help your team accelerate their careers and take advantage of exciting opportunities for growth. And while this is an upfront expense, the experience and learning your team will bring back to your company are invaluable. You can also choose to host events that are specific to teams within the office — for instance, having different departments across your organization learn from each other by offering training sessions over lunch or monthly presentations.

No matter which strategy works best for your company, promoting professional development fosters a growth mindset among your workers — something that’s a core value at our office. Instilling the beliefs that learning is a lifelong process, feedback is always welcome, and that mistakes are opportunities for improvement ensures that your team will continue to strive for growth throughout their careers.

2. Diversify employee engagement.

There’s no denying workplace friendships make coming into the office every day that much easier. In fact, 46 percent of professionals say they’re happier when they have strong friendships with their co-workers, according to a survey from LinkedIn and Censuswide. And these work friendships are even more important among millennials. More than half of all 18- to 24-year-olds say workplace friendships make them feel happy and motivated.

By hosting engaging events (and I don’t just mean happy hours) you can facilitate strong relationships among your millennial workforce. But, do yourself a favor and get creative. We like to set up an annual, city-wide scavenger hunt to foster some healthy competition and get employees mingling cross-team. Or, you can throw a Silicon Valley viewing party (something we do) to bring everyone together around something you know they’ll relate to. Better yet, give your team a say in the types of activities you put on. The more invested employees are in a particular event, the more likely they’ll attend.

3. Compress promotion timelines.

Millennials aren’t too keen on waiting around for promotions. More than four out of five millennials expect a promotion or raise at least every other year. To help meet these demands, I’ve worked with my leadership team at Gather to create entry-level roles that feature more opportunity for promotion than your typical role.

This works well for entry-level sales or support positions. Where you might typically have a promotion timeline of a year to a year-and-a-half, these roles promote around the six- to nine-month mark. For big teams of entry-level positions, we use objective goals and milestone markers to promote at faster rates. That way employees are engaged year-round and know exactly what to aim for. Such measures also go a long way toward making employees feel like they’re valued.

Be careful, however, of asking for too much from new employees. Millennials — specifically new staff joining right out of college — often come in with high confidence and low competence. Instead, developing realistic goals from quarter to quarter will help you provide ample opportunity for advancement without overwhelming employees who still have plenty to learn.

4. Provide the opportunity to be part of something bigger.

It’s true, money matters, but money’s also not the only thing millennials are looking for in a job. For six in 10 millennials, a sense of purpose is part of the reason they chose to work for their current employers. Give your employees a better idea of what your business is striving to accomplish by encouraging cross-team interaction. That way they can see all the great work that’s going on across the entire organization.

Organizational silos often leave new employees wondering what others in the office are working on and how their efforts fit within the grand scheme of things. Promote a culture of being a part of something bigger than yourself by promoting collaboration with others — and that means executive leadership too.

It’s also crucial to hire employees who are already committed to your company’s goals and mission. Doing so helps ensure your staff remains passionate about the work they’re doing, and who they’re doing it for, for the long-run.

5. Encourage Radical Candor.

Feedback in the workplace is often a touchy subject — but it doesn’t have to be. At Gather, we use a transparent approach known as Radical Candor to speed up the personal and professional development of our employees. Too many managers feel they have to choose between being a jerk or pretending that things are going smoothly, even when they’re not. By pushing managers to highlight accomplishments, as well as areas for improvement, Radical Candor helps foster an open and honest work environment that’s designed to both nurture and challenge employees.

Already the largest share of the American workforce, millennials are poised to play an increasingly prominent role in offices around the country. But, using these five tips, you can better position your business as a place millennials not only start, but grow their careers.

Original Article:www.entrepreneur.com

Pitching Your Business to a Journalist? Here’s What Works.

Entrepreneurs often ask me if publicists’ pitches really lead to stories. Journalists don’t like answering that. When we bite on a publicist’s suggestion, we feel like we aren’t doing our jobs — that rather than hunting down a great yarn, we just ran with what fell in our laps. But the honest answer is: Yes, sometimes a pitch works. And I’ll tell you the background from one such story in this issue, so you can see how it happens.

It began on February 1, when a publicist named Leila Belcher emailed our senior editor, Alexandra Zissu. Subject line: “Hi Alexandra — How Project 7 Gum Rose from the Ashes.” (Side note: A marketer recently told me that he ran an experiment and found that customers opened his emails more often when he put their name in the subject. Did that make a difference here?) The pitch was one paragraph; it said that Project 7 founder Tyler Merrick had a “particularly interesting and inspiring story” of rebuilding his company after it went under.

 The pitch didn’t offer much detail, but it did hit upon a theme — problem-solving — that we love to write about. And it offered growth numbers, so Zissu knew the rebound was legit. She dashed off a response: “Why did it fail, and how did he make it rise/what worked 2nd time around that didn’t work 1st time?” She was searching for three things. One, is there a compelling story? Two, is the entrepreneur open about his mistakes (which not everyone is, even if their publicists claim they are)? And three, did he learn something that our readers would find valuable?

Usually, publicists reply to these kinds of questions themselves. But this publicist forwarded a personal response from Merrick, her client, who explained in detail how he went wrong. (In brief: He sold mediocre products that he thought people would buy because a slice of sales went to charity. It didn’t work.) “Founders need to be more vulnerable and transparent about their failures and struggles,” he concluded.

This was a bull’s-eye in ways Merrick may not have realized. Many publicists will read a writer’s or an editor’s work before pitching so they can target those most likely to be interested in a particular story. In this case, there was no way to have known that at Entrepreneur, Zissu and I have had many conversations about how to cover social missions. She believes strongly in them. I worry that stories about them aren’t compelling — just a ticker of good intentions, with no lessons for readers. Here, Merrick represented both sides: His company has a social mission but had to learn hard business truths.

She got Merrick on the phone. “He was the most transparent person I’ve talked to for Entrepreneur,” Zissu says. And that’s how the perfect mix came together: a pitch that targeted what a publication covers and what a specific editor is interested in, an entrepreneur who is comfortable opening up and a story that readers will benefit from. Sure, it wasn’t gumshoe reporting — but no journalist will turn that one down.

Original Article:www.entrepreneur.com

What Male and Female Leaders Can Learn From Each Other

In the television show Mad Men, which depicted a Madison Avenue ad agency in the 60s, women were secretaries and men were bosses — drunk bosses most of the time. As the show progressed toward the beginning of the 70s, we saw the female characters gradually take on leadership roles with great success, bringing an entirely different style of management to the fictional ad agency.

Today, in the real world, women hold about half of all management and professional positions in the United States, but only about 4 percent of CEO positions in the S&P 500. The disparity is a sensitive subject that Matthew McCreight, senior partner at Schaffer Consulting, took head-on when he was asked to address the Women in Insurance Leadership Conference earlier this year.

 McCreight was initially reluctant to address the audience, especially when he learned that his topic would be — “What can women learn from effective male leaders.” The provocative title however, wasn’t meant to imply that men have all the answers and women need to learn from them, but rather, it was meant to be a starting point for a discussion on the differences between how women and men lead.

McCreight interviewed 31 women in senior leadership roles to get their input, and he gained some valuable insights. Yes, the disparity is due at least in part to the “secret handshake” phenomenon and inherent bias, but more telling was the fact that there are indeed differences between how men and women lead.

The difference in leadership styles became clear with a telling anecdote. “A woman was in a senior role in a company,” McCreight said. “The CEO had staff meetings every Monday at 8:00 am, so she had to bring her nanny to her house every Sunday night so that she could get out of the house and get to that meeting. So finally after a number of years, she was asked how it was going, and she said, ‘This thing is killing me!’ The CEO offhandedly said, ‘Why don’t we move it to 10?'” For all those years, the female leader didn’t ask, and the male leader didn’t offer.

There is a stereotype of male leaders being aggressive. One of the respondents in McCreight’s interviews said that the best male leaders don’t fit the stereotype, and instead show more empathy, a quality that is more often associated with female leaders. Many of the women interviewed also said that the best male leaders don’t always insist on having their own way, are open to other opinions and listen to their teams before making a decision. It would seem then, that despite the question focusing on what women leaders can learn from men, male leaders can learn a lot from their female counterparts as well.

Many of the women in McCreight’s survey took the opportunity for an inward look, suggesting that it would be beneficial for women leaders to speak up more, with one respondent noting that while women do well on assigned tasks, men will speak up to grab the assignments they want.

Some of the more interesting responses to the survey question, “What would you say are some of the more noteworthy leadership practices you have learned from effective male leaders?” include:

  • Power. Enjoy being the boss, and don’t be afraid to make decisions. Men are very good at enjoying the power. Some women can be almost embarrassed to admit they like to be in charge and to have power.
  • Don’t wait to be asked. Volunteer to take the lead on an assignment.
  • The best male leaders I have witnessed don’t fit the stereotype. They emanate empathy, something you would perhaps not expect.

The second part of the question, “What advice do you have for aspiring women leaders in how to go about learning from effective male leaders” also yielded some great insights:

  • Remember that if there is something to deliver, you as the leader can only spend a maximum of 30 percent of that activity’s time thinking about it, and you have to give your people 70 percent of the time to deliver. So make a decision, and get on with it.
  • Observe, but don’t discount your strengths as a woman. The best run companies have a diversity of thought. You don’t have to be like everybody else.
  • Network like crazy.
  • Go out of your way to engage with male leaders, and ask for guidance on specific topics. Don’t be wishy-washy in what you want to know. Male leaders love to be asked to give advice. It boosts their feeling of power. Many men still don’t naturally reach out to females in business so we need to take the lead.
  • If you need to, fake confidence and gravitas until you are no longer faking.

And perhaps the most important piece of advice to female leaders that came from the survey was this — “You can learn from anyone, male or female. You don’t have to listen to what male leaders tell you if you don’t think that’s the right thing. You don’t have to be a ‘good girl’ and do what you are told. Do what you think is right!”

Original Article:www.entrepreneur.com

Two Influential Gen Zers Explain How to Market to Young Consumers

The best marketers are those who are most in tune with their customers. They understand what consumers want, when they want it and how they want it delivered.

Of course, this level of understanding is much easier to discuss than achieve. It’s often challenging to figure out what motivates a consumer.

Lately, top brands and executives are turning to youth marketers for advice. This move makes a lot of sense. After all, what better way to gain insight into customers than to talk to leading influencers who happen to be your target customers?

 Two of the most successful gen Z marketers today are Connor Blakley, age 17, and Deep Patel, age 18.

Young but poised, Blakley and Patel have been consulting for Fortune 500 companies for years now. The two clearly understand how generation Z thinks and, more importantly, how to meaningfully engage and form lasting relationships with this group.

Currently, if you want to learn about marketing to gen Z, you have a limited selection of sources. That’s why Patel and Blakley are building YouthLogix, a publication for all things related to youth marketing.

Their goal is straightforward: to provide resources for marketers so that they can better understand how to reach this new, influential and diverse generation of consumers.

Here are eight innovative ways that brands can reach gen Z:

1. Consider influencer marketing.

Members of generation Z have grown up with a screen in their hands. Because of this, they’ve been able to establish genuine relationships with influencers across platforms such as YouTube, Snapchat and Instagram.

These connections are much deeper and more prevalent than we’ve ever seen throughout history. As a result, gen Z knows all about influencers. They connect with these people every day, and they even have emotional relationships with them.

This is a huge opportunity for brands to partner with influencers to help spread a message. The connection is a fragile one, but it nevertheless creates a direct channel for reaching vast numbers of gen Z consumers.

2. Don’t rely on dotcoms.

Gen Z will not search the web for your dotcom website. They often go through social outlets.

What that implies is that in order to reach the eyeballs of gen Z kids, brands need to find the channels where those consumers are looking. Most likely, those channels will be somewhere other than a traditional website.

3. Use visuals.

A big difference between gen Z and previous consumers is a shorter attention span. That means marketers and brands will need to build content that consumers can digest easily and quickly.

Gifs are a great tool for brands to deliver their messages concisely and powerfully. They pack a punch and can be delivered across many media platforms to find their audience. Because of their concise and efficient nature, gifs and other short clips are a perfect way to appeal to gen Z.

4. Follow the “new social contract.”

Some interesting research has been done on the way in which gen Z consumers prefer to interact with brands. Researchers have concluded that dealing with gen Z requires a new type of social contract.

Gen Z likes brands that can engage them, provide a relatable and personalized experience through social media, reward their loyalty and maintain consistentcy across all channels.

5. Seek quality over coolness.

Although they appreciate conciseness, generation Z seeks quality as well. In addition to being extremely cost conscious, gen Z consumers know great value when they see it.

They’ll always side with high-quality products and content over what may be perceived as cool.

6. Blend the online and offline spheres.

For gen Z, there is no separation between the offline and online worlds. Just as they interact and form relationships in person, gen Zers build real friendships with people they meet online.

This phenomenon occurs with not only other people, but also brands and companies. The most in-tune companies will always build a strong online connection with their customers so that they can best understand their wants and needs.

7. Recognize purchasing drivers.

According to a study conducted by Penn Schoen Berland, nearly half of gen Z says cost is the deciding factor when making a big purchase. A secondary factor is whether the product helps them reach a goal. This is an important deviation from the traditional marketing standard.

A gen Zer is a tough but extremely valuable customer if you can convince them that your product or service is worth the price and actually provides value. If you can accomplish this task, then you can expect a long-term customer.

8. Aim for consistency.

Consistency is crucial when you interact with gen Z consumers. They are tough and stubborn. They will also remember all of the interactions that they have with companies and brands.

That is both good and bad. Gen Z will reward you if you show them you are valuable. However, they will never forget a poor interaction, either in person or online. Creating consistent, quality interactions with gen Z is a key part of connecting to this influential consumer group.

Original Article:www.entrepreneur.com

How to Make Money in Real Estate, Even If You’re Not in the Real Estate Business

When I founded a financial services company 24 years ago, I was focused on my core business — hiring the right people, navigating arcane regulations and recruiting clients.

As my business grew, so did my rent. I asked myself why I was paying someone else when I could just buy it myself. That’s how I got into real estate. In fact, it’s how many entrepreneurs get into real estate. It starts with their own balance sheet and gradually grows into a lucrative side practice — sometimes more financially rewarding than the initial business they launched.

Moving forward, I decided to buy my own offices. Throughout the years, I have bought and sold more than 50 properties, from commercial office buildings to single family houses. I even purchased a funeral home.

Do you know how much formal real estate training I have? Zero. If you’re a successful business owner in any other industry, you can be successful in real estate, if you’re careful and follow these simple rules.

1. Buy what you know.

If you buy real estate handbooks or take pricey classes, the first lesson they’ll teach you is this: Do your homework and research. As if that isn’t true in any industry.

However, if you’re successful in your industry, you already know a lot. You’ve likely scoured the area — and maybe other regions and states — for the best rates on the most suitable and energy-efficient offices for your needs. You’re keenly aware of what’s a good deal for the square footage you desire and which areas are the most convenient for your employees and your clients. In other words, you’re more qualified to buy a particular type of office building than many real estate professionals.

2. Let go of your ego.

Last month, I sold a funeral home in a low-income area for twice what I paid for it in 1996, while also raking in significant rent in that time. Meanwhile, I have friends who own pricey glass towers visible from the Interstate — because they like to go to parties, brag about the buildings they own, and hear, “Hey, I know that place!”

Few people know the places I’ve bought and sold. Because I don’t care about cache, I don’t pay an “ego markup.” I can negotiate harder and pay less. Then I can market my properties to tenants and owners who are just as savvy about finding a good deal as I am. It turns out there are more dealmakers out there than successful businesses willing to spend extra for a fancy address.

3. Recession-proof your purchases.

Along those lines, I look for the best values because I seek recession-proof properties. A friend of mine just bought a beautiful office building for $252 a square foot. He’s smart and hardworking, and I expect he’ll make money on the deal. Me? I’ll never pay that much for anything.

Real estate is a notorious boom-or-bust business, and like the stock market, it’s nearly impossible to time it perfectly. What I’ve learned is this: Recessions devastate the high-end commercial markets, but it doesn’t put everyone out of business. Those businesses trying to cut back will often ditch their high-priced offices for more modest ones — and I own many of those.

Bottom line: I not only profit as much as my friends with nicer properties, I sleep better at night knowing the things I can’t control won’t badly hurt me.

4. Sell to people just like you.

Buying a valuable property for the best price is only half the transaction. It won’t matter how good the deal is if you can’t turn around and rent it or sell it. Real estate agents and brokers spend a lot of their time trying to locate tenants and buyers, and it’s a percentage game. Many nibbles never actually bite.

You have an advantage, however. You’ve bought property you’ve used yourself, so you’re not only an expert in that kind of space, you can step into the shoes of your customers. You instinctually know how to market your offices. You also have a sharp marketing weapon. Hey, I’m not only a real estate owner, I’m a customer. I understand your needs.

5. Don’t believe your own hype.

Those who succeed in their core businesses and then dabble in real estate can do quite well. They can also overreach. It’s almost a stereotype: “I’ve conquered my industry, so that obviously means I can be a real estate genius, too!”

If you stretch beyond the spaces you know, you can still make money. What did I know about horse ranches before I bought one? Nothing. However, I knew I didn’t know. Tying this back to the beginning, I did my homework.

So, this is my most important piece of advice: Better to end your real estate career simply buying your own offices than believing you’re bulletproof and buying properties that are riskier than you think.

Original Article:www.entrepreneur.com

6 Super Simple Content Marketing Hacks to Double Your Lead Generation

If lead generation is the engine that drives your business, then content marketing is the premium grade gasoline you use to fill that engine. The power of content marketing has made it easier than ever to implement evergreen lead generation strategies and convert those leads into happy satisfied customers.

While most of you probably understand the basics of using content marketing for lead generation, there are a few simple hacks you can implement to double your results almost overnight and generate leads in numbers that will boggle your mind.

 Today, I am going to show you six of those hacks.

1. Write content that goes deep

The first hack is also one of the simplest. For SEO and branding purposes, long form content is always better. Writing longer and more in-depth content enables you to provide more value to your audience, share a more detailed message, and as an added bonus, is absolutely loved by Google.

Nearly every marketing expert agrees that the average length of viral articles is around 2,400 words, so if you plan on generating leads through your company’s blog then increasing the length of your content is a good place to start.

But this doesn’t give you permission to create redundant or tangential copy that makes people question why they clicked through to your website in the first place. Each word must provide value to fulfill your visitors’ intention.

2. Use content upgrades for your lead magnets

Have you ever been surfing a website or reading an article on the latest technological advancements when all of the sudden you are hit with an on-page pop up promoting a lead magnet regarding health & fitness?

I didn’t think so.

Even if you’ve never experienced an example quite this extreme, it’s obvious that the lead magnets you are promoting need to be congruent with the content on the page your viewers are reading.

These are often referred to as content upgrades. Content upgrades are post-specific lead magnets that are designed to enhance the user’s experience in exchange for some contact details.

For example, someone who blogs about programming may provide cheat sheets with code snippets outlined in their article. A chiropractor who writes about back health may provide a series of videos demonstrating stretches outlined in their blog post.

But these lead magnets are more than whipping up random checklists. You need to create content upgrades that are centered around what your audience truly wants.

If you want to quickly boost the number of leads generated, then start creating a slew of post specific offers for your most popular articles outlined in your analytics reports.

3. Link to webinars directly within content

Webinars are hands down one of the single most effective lead generation and marketing tactics available to the modern entrepreneur. But their power means nothing if you are not promoting them correctly.

One of the first steps that you need to take to fully unleash the potential of a well-designed webinar is to promote your webinars in the body of all of your articles, emails and in the subtext of your videos.

It might seem like an easy hack, but it will have a massive impact on your ability to generate leads.

4. Use multi-touch content marketing campaigns

Generating a lead is good, but after the initial generation, you are still miles away from converting that lead to trust your brand and make a purchase. This is why designing multi-touch content is a necessity for the modern entrepreneur.

You need to design campaigns that allow you to connect with your new lead on a recurring basis until you have developed enough rapport to streamline the sales process.

5. Include tweetable quotes in the body of your articles

A great way to quickly grow your Twitter following and rapidly grow your lead generation capacity is by including tweetable quotes in the body of your articles.

This is a simple hack that requires nothing more than an easy to download WordPress plugin or a service like Click to Tweet. It can result in a massive growth to your Twitter following and a rapid increase in the number of leads you generate through social media.

6. Include share buttons in your emails and on your web page

If you took my advice from step one and you are creating killer long-form content, members of your email list will naturally want to share this content.

To take advantage of this and make the process as seamless and pain-free as possible, include share buttons in all of your emails and at the end of every piece of content that you write. This will simplify the sharing process and radically increase your odds of generating social hype for your brand and your content.

Content marketing is one of the greatest weapons in your lead generation arsenal and equipped with the above seven hacks, you are well on your way to becoming a lead generating ninja in no time.

While the above tips are relatively simple to implement, they require a significant amount of testing and optimizing before their full potential will be realized. Start implementing them today and get ready to reap the rewards.

Original Article:www.entrepreneur.com

3 Takeaways for Business Owners in Light of the Federal Interest Rate Hikes

“We don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out” was the reported response of a major record label executive in 1962 to a demo he listened to from some up-and-coming rock and rollers. He was wrong on two counts: Rock and roll has obviously lived on. And the group which he referred to? The Beatles.

That’s a good reminder for today’s business owners: Relying on your “instincts” to determine your growth strategy is risky. Even though some business leaders like Apple’s Steve Jobs and Virgin’s Richard Branson are recognized for their belief in soft factors (Branson even reportedly said, “I rely far more on gut instinct than researching huge amounts of statistics”), small businesses don’t have the luxury of a corporate cushion to protect them from bad instincts.

 Instead, monitoring key predictors, like federal interest-rate hikes, as opposed to relying on instincts, provides a far better road map for the future. According to the latest quarterly Private Capital Access (PCA) Index report from Dun & Bradstreet and our research team at Pepperdine University’s Graziadio School of Business and Management, the December 2016 federal interest rate hike did adversely affect businesses’ operations.

Mid-sized businesses reported both a decline in profitability — down six percentage points from the previous quarter — and an inability to hire new employees due to the higher interest-rate environment. Profitability was down six points in the first quarter of 2017, versus the last quarter of 2016.

Given that additional rate increases are anticipated for this year, small business owners must keep the potential impact of rate hikes in mind as they consider hiring and expanding over the next year. Specifically, here are three operational principles to follow, to maintain stable, profitable operations:

1. Base operational decisions on contracts that are signed, not those that are anticipated.

This year, we witnessed an increase in reports from businessess that the current financing environment is restricting their ability to hire new employees, and an increase in the percentage of small businesses anticipating that they will seek financing in the next six months for “working capital fluctuations,” compared to small businesses in 2016.

That’s almost certainly a result of rate hikes, which can impact the ability of businesses to borrow capital to maintain facilities, hire employees and expand operations.

Rather than obtaining financing to hire new employees until new business is firmly locked down, consider incentivizing employees to put in additional work, or using temporary contract labor. That may bridge the gap and allow you to avoid having to obtain financing.

2. Monitor economic growth to ascertain likely timing for future rate increases.

We found that fewer mid-sized businesses were able to qualify for credit in early 2017, compared to late 2016. It’s likely that slower-than-expected growth in the last few months played a role in that decision, although Fed officials called the slowdown “transitory.” If business owners need to access capital for operations, they should stay abreast of developments not only in financing rates, but also national job gains and unemployment trends.

They should factor that into the likelihood of whether or not future rate increases are on the horizon (the next hike could come as soon as June).

3. Consider alternative forms of financing.

Access to loans may be more challenging as traditional lenders tighten criteria for “risky” loans to small businesses. Be careful with “cash advance” forms of financing such as factoring or merchant cash advance since they are very expensive once all the fees are considered.

Asset-based lending (ABL) can be a good option since these loans are inherently less risky for the lender and therefore will typically have a very competitive interest rate. Companies can borrow against nearly any type of tangible asset, including accounts receivable, inventory, equipment, purchase orders and real estate.

 The old adage that economic recovery starts on Wall Street and ends on Main Street is still true today, and business owners need to adjust their business strategies accordingly. Instincts are terrific, but for small businesses, there is no substitute for careful monitoring of solid economic indicators.
Original Article:www.entrepreneur.com

How to Lead When Others Are Hesitant to Follow

Job titles, gold lettering on doorways and spiffy business cards just don’t cut it: When a new CEO arrives at a company, that spiffy new job title alone won’t garner him or her that hoped-for respect.

The Dale Carnegie Employee Engagement Study suggested as much, noting that 70 percent of workers in its survey said they didn’t click with new leaders whom they lacked confidence in.

In other words, new CEOs have the unenviable task of proving their worth to their employees, especially if they follow on the heels of a beloved founder. Just saying that, “There’s a new sheriff in town” doesn’t give mployees a sense of comfort. They want proof that their town is safe. If they don’t get that proof, their new CEO will lose their faith before pinning on his or her I.D. badge.

A crisis of faith

One example of a high-profile CEO transition struggle was the recent attempt at Ralph Lauren to modernize the brand.

Stefan Larsson was the new guy, assuning the role vacated by the empire’s founder and namesake, but his was a match that lasted only 15 months. Why? Blame a disconnect between the founder and new CEO: In this case, the disconnect was how best to restore the street cred the company had once had and to translate it into the current market.

Such disagreements between these two parties can happen, especially if their respective visions don’t align or their strengths don’t complement each other’s.

Absent a founder’s blessing, in fact, no CEO can start on solid footing. And the occurrence of in-fighting and friction won’t go unnoticed by employees, who will end up taking sides. It’s a dire situation for any organization, one that stops productivity, growth and profitability in its tracks.

Of course, sometimes it’s not just the founder-CEO connection that’s flawed. Many new CEOs hit the ground running, but forget to communicate openly and frequently with their teams. In other words, CEOs who don’t ingratiate themselves to staff and aren’t bolstered by the business’s founder risk losing loyalty — from everyone.

Win the people, win your freedom.

What happens when the announcement of the new CEO occurs? Is the event one that’s morale-inducing or one that’s soul-killing? If you’re one of these new CEOs, here’s how to keep your head and win employee buy-in immediately:

1. Open your book. During any transition, the troops grow restless and appreciate transparency. When the transition includes a new CEO coming in the door, make communication your top priority.

Brad Rencher learned this lesson when he ascended to a C-suite position at Adobe. When he got there, he quickly realized he wasn’t gaining momentum with employees. but, Bradchat, Rencher’s weekly blog, changed that. The series allowed him to use technology to start meaningful dialogues with others in the organization.

2. Buddy up with influencers. Every company has key people. As CEO, make a point to find, meet and make inroads with as many of those influencers as possible. Without this kind of grassroots process, you’ll be off to a rocky start.

Hewlett-Packard’s Meg Whitman believed in getting executives out from behind their desks and into the rank and file. So, she moved higher-ups’ desk spaces to cubicles and allowed them to naturally co-mingle with staff; this showed employees that they had their leadership’s backing and gave them access to those staff at any time.

3. Audit your environment. Get the corporate culture right, and you’ll fit in; get it wrong, and you’ll look out of place every single day.

It all begins with what you wear — really. If you’re a CEO at a casual company, ditch the Brooks Brothers double-breasted seersucker. Proper imaging will help you gain internal advocates and send the positive message that you understand and appreciate the work culture.

We’ve worked with several startups that have ended up experiencing CEO transitions as they began to scale. The most successful transitions we have seen occur when the incoming CEO takes the time to understand not only the vision of the founders, but also the culture those founders built.

Another example is Belfor CEO Sheldon Yellen. After an employee called him “intimidating,” he decided to never to wear suits and ties again on the job. Though wardrobe may seem like a small change, getting on the same level as your employees can be just the thing to get them on board the bandwagon.

4. Go easy on the gas. Use a measured, methodical approach when implementing change. Don’t be like the 50 percent of businesses (surveyed by Heidrick & Struggles and Stanford’s Rock Center for Corporate Governance) that indicated they lacked blueprints for a CEO transition period.

New leadership is vital to a company’s success, but that doesn’t mean that you, the new CEO, should make improvements and snap decisions on an hourly basis. Even presidential candidates have transition teams to help them implement positive change at a steady, acceptable pace that doesn’t scare employees.

Is the introduction of a new CEO a challenge even when the founder is actively involved? Absolutely. But no one said that having the corner office would be a golden-parachute-styled cake walk. So, focus on leading your team into the future. If you establish the right amount of trust up-front, and display confidence and compassion, even the most tentative employees will follow.

Original Article:www.entrepreneur.com

The NBA’s Marketing Superstar

If you found yourself near Atlanta’s Philip’s Arena in early January 2015, you likely would have seen crowds of people, dressed up (by basketball game standards), pouring into the stadium, staring at their phones.

They were all on Tinder.

Yep, Tinder. As a wildly unorthodox — but no doubt genius — marketing exercise, the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks hosted its first “Swipe Right Night,” inviting Tinder users to meet up at the game. The event was such a success that they did it again in March 2016; participants shared photos on social media and the event made news nationwide.

 Behind this idea and many other innovative, out-of-the-box marketing strategies was Melissa Proctor, CMO for the Hawks. Proctor and her marketing team have employed fresh thinking to attract the attention of the Atlanta public and it has paid off. In August, the Hawks released its schedule on Twitter using only emojis.

Proctor’s creative thinking has resulted in increased excitement around the Hawks. I sat down with her between strategy sessions and speaking engagements (her next appearance will be at business conference NextCon) to discuss how she determines her target audience and the best advice she’s received.

With so many NBA teams vying for fans and ticket sales, how do you compete?

In my mind, when others zig, we zag. I don’t really think of other teams as our only competition. Our competition is anything that can entertain you, which could be a Netflix show, the nearest restaurant, a fashion show — basically anything happening within Atlanta is competition from an entertainment standpoint. We are selling entertainment. We don’t just look at the world of sports.

Who is your target audience and how do you reach them?

Next-generation Atlantans are our target audience. Atlanta is an interesting place because we experienced a major population boom after the 1996 Olympics (population soared from 3.5 million in the mid-90s to 5.5 million today). A lot of people settled here from places like Boston and New York — people who already had allegiances to the Celtics or Knicks. We can’t change those allegiances, but we can be the team for the children of those residents. That is our goal.

We’ve taken this really seriously and done things like design our jerseys to be the coolest jerseys when those kids play the NBA 2K17 video game. Everything we do is through the filter of attracting that audience.

What are some of the biggest challenges facing sports marketing these days?

Across the board, teams are looking to create deeper fan engagement. They are focusing more on mobile and how to integrate that experience with fans in the arena and at home. I’ve heard about teams considering virtual reality opportunities for fans to help build brand loyalty. Content is also huge right now. Players are becoming their own brands and publishing their own content, which helps fans interact. We’ve seen that happen within music and other industries. It is now coming into the sports world, too.

What does your average day look like?

Every day is different for me, but I’d say meetings are a constant — lots of lunches, breakfasts and general networking events. Marketing is about collaboration and connecting with others. I have an amazing team and we have a lot of brainstorming sessions. Just yesterday we had an Oreo cookie birthday party for a team member. We try to keep it light and fun.

When I’m not in meetings, I do my best to be available and answer questions. Good ideas can come from anywhere; it isn’t the loudest voice in the room that has the power. It is about a team that can collaborate.

What is the best business advice you’ve ever received?

No one manages your career but you. A lot of people who work in corporations are looking for someone to give them their next opportunity or waiting for a job to open. Instead, create the job you want. Go into your career with an entrepreneurial mindset and watch amazing things happen.

Original Article:www.entrepreneur.com

#9 Lessons Successful Start-ups Learnt The Hard Way

We tend to think of the journey of successful start-up as a smooth sailing ship. The entrepreneurs are smart, resourceful, have the best ideas and a good team, what could go wrong? A lot!

Trouble comes to every start-up. Factors such as a bad judgment call, lack of planning or being distracted by the noise and attention — every leader has to face a storm.

Save yourself a lot of headache by learning from the mistakes these 9 start-ups learnt the hard way, early on.

1. Right Level Of Leadership

While starting a company, you tend to hire a lot of interns and entry-level people to run the company to save on money. This is the biggest mistake most entrepreneurs make. Initially, we too, hired a lot of front line employees without building the leadership team. This turned out to be a huge gap and impacted not only the decision making, but also the productivity of the employees, who were in serious need of guidance and mentorship.

Entrepreneurs should manage the pace of growth in a way they are able to build the right level of leadership to guide the company in the right direction, before it gets to a point of no return. Grow the team only at a pace where you have enough structures in place to ensure that everybody in the team is able to attain their potential.

It is crucial to ensure that the team behind a start-up is always functioning as a well-oiled engine.

— Shesh Rao Paplikar, Co-founder, BHIVE Workspace

2. Loyal Customers

There isn’t a foolproof plan to have a successful start-up from day one. In the initial days, it is easy to be enamored with the idea of ‘your’ business. Looking at the broader goal one might miss out on some crucial aspects of the business. Granted, being a new start-up, we make good choices as well as a few bad ones, but then learning from our mistakes should be the immediate step. While starting up we need to be cautious of steps that can derail us from our path to success.

Being a start-up, most of our energy goes into a) improving the product experience for customers, and b) getting new customers on board. And in the initial days, we made a mistake of not involving our best customers for both. We realized over time, that your loyal customers are always ready to take out time and put in efforts to help you improve. Additionally, they are your biggest brand ambassadors and the strongest bridge to the potential customers.

We have made involving them a regular practice now over the past quarters. Our best customers get access to early features, and are constantly giving us feedback to improve. Additionally, we are observing that referrals and recommendations from them have become our biggest channel of acquisition. We are seeing that on an average, loyal customers are now providing us with 10 times more worth than before. And all of this has happened, because we decided to reach out to them, a practice I would urge every start up to follow.

— SachinJaiswal, Cofounder, Niki.ai

3. Give Your Customers The Best Value For What They Pay

Well, there’s surely been a bunch of mistakes we’ve made along the way and learnt quickly, from them!

But if I had to pick our greatest mistake, I’d say it was something we did when we had just about started out. This was during our first year of operations, when we had opened up our hub #1 (we’re at 13 now) in Mohan estate, Delhi. This was a renovated basement space which had the capacity to seat about 100 members.

We were severely bootstrapped at that stage and this drove us to think various ‘jugaads’ to save cost. It was our first summer in Delhi, and everyone knows they can be killer. We had not planned ahead and our ‘batcave’ wasn’t equipped with AC’s. So, when the peak of summer rolled around, we decided it would be a great idea to cool the hub with water coolers.

Cheap and effective right? Wrong. They served the purpose for only a short while till it started getting humid. Even at this stage, instead of bringing in ACs, we tried our jugaads on removing the humidity, which didn’t work. Needless to say, this inconvenienced our members and disrupted operations to such an extent that fitting out AC’s was done poste-haste and the episode was quickly brushed under the rug. Until now!

Lesson learnt: Don’t. They can tell and it’ll hurt your brand value. You can’t give a sub-par product because you are bootstrapped.

Give your customers the best value for what they pay. Giving them a sub-par product because you are bootstrapped is not an option.

— Pranay Gupta, Co-founder, 91springboard

4. Filter Out Information You Receive

For me, one for the biggest mistakes was getting distracted by noise.

As an entrepreneur, you will have to filter out the information you receive from tens of sources. This can include positives like media fame, overly celebrating team members, large customer wins and fundraising, which can put you in a temporary high.

On the other hand, this can include negatives like media gossips, interest from competitor’s investors, frivolous lawsuits and tons of meeting requests from every tom, dick and harry, who are trying to make money out of you.

As you scale, the spectrum of this noise increases multi-fold and eats up a lot of your productive bandwidth. Only your own filtering skills, methods or tools can help you stay focused yet flexible enough not to miss out on anything important.

— DhruvilSanghvi, Co-founder, LogiNext

5. Establish A Set Of Values

I think a mistake LBB made was not setting a strong team & hiring culture early on. LBB misfired on some of the early hires we made, because we weren’t sure of who we wanted or what kinds of teams were the best to build our company.

Since then, we’ve learned to establish a tone for the values of our organization and only seek those who resonate with these values on our team. Although it lengthens the hiring process at times, it ensures that we have a good fit; and both employee and company learn and succeed with each other.

— DhruvMathur, Co-founder, Little Black Book

6. Believe In Your Ideas

One of the biggest learning from my mistakes during the entrepreneurial journey has been to never underestimate your own potential. Believe in your idea and your capabilities.  Move fast. And in case you fail, fail fast and fail cheap. Never work towards making the perfect product. Launch a beta, test waters, get feedback. Move towards your goal.

— SaireeChahal, Founder, Sheroes

7. Put Your Customer Before The Product

The biggest mistake we did at Zarget was to commit ourselves to a feature which we believed was the next big thing. We were simultaneously working on two features — one required less technical effort while the other one took center-stage at our production camp. We spent time and manpower on perfecting and was sure about it being a hit.
On launch, the market reaction took us by surprise! The feature we nurtured didn’t create the impact we expected while the other feature went on to become our customer’s favourite. At times, it is not about the technical brilliance of a product but how a simple solution can connect with your customers on a personal level. This insight took a back seat amidst our deliberations about the product.

We learnt it the hard way — “Always put your customer before the product!”

Arvind Parthibam, Founder, Zarget

8. Choose A Robust Payment Solution

It goes without saying that one faces many hurdles while running a start-up. Apart from the technological challenges, there are organizational and business challenges that one has to tread. Since we focused a lot on hiring the right talent initially, thankfully we did not face a lot of organizational and technical challenges.

However, we did face a business problem once we started making inroads into the market — choosing a robust payment solution. Vidooly being a SaaS company deals with customers who use its tools and dashboards through a pay as you go model which has to be recurring. That’s why, in the initial stages when we did not have the right recurring payment system in place, we faced quite a few issues in holding on to our customers. This was just an oversight for us and we rectified it after trying out some of the best online payment solutions available. I feel when someone is building a global SaaS product, it has to be taken care of in day one.

— SubratKar, Co-founder, Vidooly

9. Set ESOP Plans For Employees

The biggest mistake we made starting up was to not have an ESOP pool for future talent — something we corrected later. I think it is table stakes to have a large and attractive ESOP pool for present and future employees so you can attract the right kind of talent

Original Article:www.entrepreneur.com