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Gold Level Contributor

According to a survey by Comcast Business, almost 80% of the SBMs owners feel they are more prepared for a second wave of Covid-19. (Pixabay)

Since March, small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) have borne the brunt of the Covid-19 crisis, but they're more prepared for a second wave, according to a report.

Comcast Business conducted a survey in August to take the pulse of SMBs as the coronavirus flares and subsides across the U.S. One-in-five (21%) businesses believed they had returned to normal operations while more than half (53%) said it would take six months to a year and another 23% felt it would take more than a year to return to normal.

On the plus side, 87% o

"Mom-and-pop" businesses were hit particularly hard by shelter-in-place policies during the onset of Covid-19, with many unable to re-open once they were allowed to. In addition to not being able to have customers in their businesses, Comcast Business' Christian Nascimento, vice president of product management and strategy, said they were also not as prepared as larger organizations on implementing virtual strategies.

"We're certainly seeing increased optimism from SMB customers," Nascimento said. "We're also seeing businesses doing different things, and they're trying to make up for it."

Businesses have innovated their connectivity by placing Wi-Fi access points closer to doors so customers can access their internet services without entering. Nascimento said fitness centers and yoga instructors are now using Zoom conferences to broadcast their lessons and reach customers.

"I think that generally SMBs have kind of rallied and rebounded a bit and kind of adapted using new technology," Nascimento said.  "And I think now that as things have kind of flattened a bit that we do see some of that coming back. Businesses took a look at the types of broadband and connectivity that they had to make sure that they were sufficient to support the new way that they would be doing business.

"They found additional applications, or new applications, to ride on that broadband network that can help them do business, whether it was Zoom calls or online collaboration. Whether it was just new ways to take orders or whether it was Wi-Fi enabled POS (point of sales) systems."

The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the digital transformation of businesses across the spectrum. Without Covid-19, 31% of the companies said they would have never implemented the technologies that they did, with 23% projecting it would have taken them one to three years to implement the changes. Going forward, the SMBs that have become more digital-centric feel better prepared.

When asked about the resources they relied on to adapt to the “new normal,” 43% of SMB owners turned to no one, 29% depended on business partners and 22% relied upon industry peers.

Though various technology companies introduced free solutions and offerings for small businesses, 82%, surprisingly, did not take advantage of such opportunities.

While SMB owners have become more inventive, they're still not taking full advantage of the available resources, experts and services that could help them navigate the current environment, rethink their strategies, and eliminate unnecessary expenses, according to Comcast Business' survey and report.

While SMB owners have adjusted to Covid-19 on the tech side, 65% said they were still stressed out in August while 68% responded that they were losing at least one hour of sleep each night.

Nascimento said Comcast Business launched Comcast Business at Home to offer remote workers enterprise-grade broadband connectivity during the pandemic. Comcast Business At Home offers enterprise-grade internet connectivity and better security for remote employees, all of which is separate from the residential broadband tiers.

Comcast Business will launch additional products on top of Comcast Business at Home in order to better connect remote workers to their corporate infrastructures, according to Nascimento.

"I think the hallmark of a small business owner is that they're scrappy, that they adapt, and they kind of make do with what happens," Nascimento said. "That's what happened here. I think that they found new ways to use the internet to run their businesses and applications."

For the survey, Comcast Business contacted SMB owners, presidents, and CEOs to ask them about how their business had been impacted by COVID-19, how they are currently managing their business, and associated recovery plan.  The survey was conducted online, and 594 respondents were collected between August 18 and August 23.

Originally published by
Mike Robuk | September 29, 2020
Fierce Telecom

 

 

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Gold Level Contributor

How to Make Smart Bets in Business

Image credit: Adam Gault | Getty Images

Think through potential pitfalls and feel more secure regarding your investments and time.

 is full of bets, especially where investing is concerned. If you’re interested in rolling the dice by purchasing a business, making an angel investment in a startup or even allocating your hard-earned  for your first employee, it’s important to know what makes a smart bet and how to protect yourself from a worst-case scenario. It’s worth stating that even deciding to go into a business of your own is a form of a bet, and merits the same type of background due-diligence.

This may require testing or gaining new knowledge, but a thorough understanding is critical, especially with glaring statistics regarding the failure rate for startups at a whopping 50 percent, according to Small Biz Genius. With statistics like these, there’s no way to ensure success. However,  there are definitely ways to think through potential pitfalls in business models and feel more secure regarding where you invest your money and your time.

Verify demand through popularity

When it comes down to it, a sure bet in business is dependent upon how much customers want what it is that you’re selling. If you can do some  and verify demand, you’re in good shape. Demand can come from the product’s value — such as its ability to solve a problem — or even from the person who’s selling the product, like a major celebrity who has established trust with millions of followers online. 

This is one of the reasons why big influencers and celebrities can land lucrative book deals. Publishers know that whatever they release will fly off the shelves. The demand from their fanbase is verifiable. Take comedian Amy Schumer, who landed a rumored $8-10 million book deal for 2016's The Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo.

Verify demand through testing

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Image: Tim Gouw - Unsplash

Fundraising as a first-time founder is really hard  Don't put all your egss in one investor's basket.

To go out and fundraise as a first-time founder is really freaking hard. 

And reading investors’ mysterious signals is one of the toughest challenges. If you get it wrong, it can end up costing you your entire company. 

In 99% of cases, investors act nice and friendly in meetings and seem positive about your startup. They are professionals who want to build relationships; it’s part of their job. 

During a meeting they might say, “This is interesting, it fits into our strategy,” or they might even say, “We could maybe invest €1m.”

However, somewhere around here the intentions get lost in translation — and founders take that friendliness and discussion of possibilities as a commitment. 

They think, “It’s done, investor on board!” 

And then they make a big mistake: they stop talking to other investors.

Kiss a lot of frogs

I’ve seen founders wait out the two-to-three months fundraising process with one investor at a time until they have no more runway left. It’s painful to see — so let me share some VC secrets with you, based on my own experience inside a VC firm. 

A real investment process couldn’t be any more different to what you see on TV’s Dragons’ Den. Thousands of founders pitch in to join the TV show, and once you’re in front of the investors there are two scenarios. 

Either the investors praise you and invest… or, they don’t like what you offer and can be painfully honest about it. 

Startup founders in Europe looking to raise capital from traditional investors face a very different process.

In reality, it’s quite easy to get into the room with the investor and have a friendly meeting. What is hard is taking a couple of investor meetings and turning that into a term sheet.

Let me explain with some data. The German VC fund Speedinvest shared its deal flow data for 2019. There, we find some interesting facts to guide founders through the opaque investment process. 

Speedinvest received 1,422 pitch decks in 2019. Almost half of those startups were invited for a meeting. In other words, as a founder you just need to have a pitch deck which is slightly better than the average to get on the phone with the investor! 

But after that, it gets really tough. Speedinvest has a conversion rate of less than 1% from first meeting to term sheet. Those are slim odds for a founder.

From what I’ve seen, other VCs have similar numbers.

We also have some investors that seem to commit orally but never send a term sheet as expected. According to a survey of 110 founders by Christoph Janz at VC firm Point Nine, 47% of founders claim that an investor made them believe they had a deal, but never sent a term sheet. Even worse, 14% of founders have experienced an investor backing out of a signed term sheet. 

As a secret columnist shared in Sifted, investors can act in horrible ways that will hurt your business. 

As a founder, this is really what you should expect when you go out on your fundraising tour. 

Is it me?

So why does this happen?

First of all, investors tend to be extroverts, as their job succeeds or fails based on the network of people around them. 

Secondly, investors will never make a decision based on only one meeting, or even two. Investors will always be super friendly and positive to get all the information they need to make a final decision. Some of them might even be meeting you just because they want to milk you for information about the market — and end up investing in your competitor.

Getting all that information, whether from you, online, or other connections, takes time. It’s not until then that the investor can be confident enough to give you a clear “Yes” or “No.” Until that time, all that you’ll get is “Yeah, maybe!” And in most of those cases, that “Maybe” will lead to a “No, not this time.”

To be clear, I’m not talking about the investors who say “Maybe” and then you never hear from them again. That subject needs its own article. 

Be unfaithful

The solution to this problem is easy, but time consuming. Even if one investor tells you maybe, and seems positive — you need to keep on meeting other investors. 

Fundraising is not like dating. Go ahead and be unfaithful. The investor is dating multiple founders in parallel — you should do the same! 

It’s not until you have the engagement ring on your finger that you can truly start to settle down. And even if you have a term sheet, you still want to keep your options open. When you’ve signed the shareholder agreement and you’re walking down the aisle, then you’ll wave all other investors goodbye.

Originally published by
Melinda Elmborg | September 25, 2020
sifted.eu

Melinda Elmborg was previously an investor at the French VC firm Daphni, and is now a startup coach.

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Gold Level Contributor

Image credit: Thomas Barwick | Getty Images

More than ever, we need leaders. Because of the current health crisis that has fast-forwarded our lives into the digital future, and the veil being lifted on the history of systemic racism, it's time we collectively redefine what makes a great  — and fast. It has become obvious that the old way we defined leadership is in desperate need of an update. 

The core competencies of great leaders haven't changed. Leaders still need drive, stamina and a keen eye for the right strategies. What has changed is the awareness of the interpersonal skills required to be a great leader and create great leaders. Today's leaders need to be curious about what makes their teams tick and understand the key to unlocking everybody's greatest potential is by how well they can connect their team with their teammates. 

We asked some members of the Mogul network about the leadership traits they think are most important. Given the state of the world, we should all be evaluating the way we communicate with each other. Here are the five skills they highlighted. 

1. Empathy 

There's no mistake empathy is number one on this list. It is the compass that should guide the way we conduct business. Although it might be easy to act polite to the person on the next side of a video call, politeness doesn't inspire. 

Politeness is good practice, but whether you're in product, HR, sales, marketing, in the C-suite or on the board, your organization's goal should be to positively impact the people you work with and the customers you serve. The only way to do this is to empathize. Share, listen, find common ground and connect. Put yourself on their screen and try to understand where they're coming from and how they feel. 

This doesn't mean turning Zoom meetings into therapy sessions, but our metrics count on our ability to find common ground and connect with potential business collaborators. Once we establish a real connection, then we can discuss business.

2. Vulnerability 

If you're focused on how your organization is making an impact on people's lives, then you'll know what it's like to feel pride, joy, exhaustion, anger and heartbreak — all in just the last three months. People want to be inspired, so be open about the organization's trials and tribulations from your vantage point. Our current global climate is stressful, to say the least, so allowing your team to see that you are human will make them work harder for you. 

3. Patience 

Love is patient; love is kind. And if you love what you do, showing patience with the people who are helping you shouldn't be a problem. Being patient is an opportunity to provide an essential service we all innately do — teach. 

Additionally, four-year colleges might face a loss of up to 20 percent in fall enrollment, according to SimpsonScarborough, a higher  research and marketing company. As Gen Z enters the workforce, they are bound to have some gaps in their education due to the rise of online . There are plenty of upskilling opportunities (such as HubspotLinkedIn or Mogul Learning courses), and encouraging them to further their education will pay dividends.

4. Humility

In the Tao Te Ching, on Tao leadership, Lao Tzu says, "The best leaders are those the people hardly know exist." Suppose you're a leader who loves praise — more power to you. But the best leaders are the ones who highlight others, especially when they don't have to. 

Did you secure a new strategic partnership? Praise the colleague that did the outreach on your behalf. Did you hit your sales goals for the quarter? Shout out your AEs for their ability to connect with prospects and create interest quickly. You may have put the strategy together, but if you are not the one pulling all the levers, give credit where credit is due. 

It would behoove you not to share the wealth of recognition. Leaders who take a tablespoon of humility in service of bonding with the people around them are the ones that continuously come out ahead. 

5. Generosity 

Generosity is the most underrated business strategy. If a colleague requests a few minutes extra after a video call for a few clarifying questions, be generous with your time. If somebody who works for you would like to ask you some questions about how you've developed in your career, be generous with your knowledge. Generosity circulates intelligence from generation to generation.

Generosity is also the most authentic sign of confidence. Sharing what you've learned is telling the world that the knowledge you have is free to absorb in hopes of bettering our society. And it is worth sharing with those who show interest. It's not unheard of for a wide-eyed intern to turn into a partner down the road. Those who make the best successors are those who had proclivities for leadership in the first place. Those who hold their cards too close run the risk of suppressing talent until the talent goes elsewhere. 

We all can continually practice these  to ensure we're inspiring those around us to do their best work. As leaders, we need to take the time to learn about our talent as much as they are willing to open up and share. Share this with a current or a future leader.

Originally written by
Tiffany Pham - Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor - CEO of Mogul | September 22, 2020
for Entrepreneur

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Gold Level Contributor

Image: Tim Gouw - Unsplash

Staying in business and staying financially solvent are part of surviving a pandemic.  USC experts talk about stresses and uncertainties for employees, their employers and the unemployed.

Workers are worried. Supply chain breaks have left shelves bare, and bank balances are hitting zero. The COVID-19 shutdown is forcing anyone trying to stay afloat to prepare for the worst.

Bankruptcy is bearing down on many low-income workers, many of whom were not ready for emergency expenses even before the lockdown, according to bankruptcy expert Robert K. Rasmussen of the USC Gould School of Law.

“Before the pandemic, it was estimated that 40% of Americans would struggle to meet an unexpected bill of $400,” he said. “The bankruptcy court system probably does not have sufficient resources to process and resolve the coming wave of cases. If Congress neither restores the supplemental unemployment benefits nor acts to increase the capacity of the bankruptcy system, courts will be inundated.”

Bankruptcy isn’t the only legal risk for businesses navigating the evolving pandemic landscape.

“An array of legal issues awaits employers, from Cal/OSHA citations and worker’s compensation liabilities to wrongful death lawsuits,” said Thomas Lenz, a USC Gould lecturer.

While gratitude for a pandemic-era paycheck may ease workplace tensions, Lenz advises employers to keep on top of changing safety standards and stay flexible.

“Employers who are good listeners and nimble in the face of constant change are most likely to succeed in these times,” he said. “Surmounting these challenges can make businesses and working relationships stronger.”

Pandemic has meant big issues for small businesses

Always running on thinner resources and reserves, small businesses have to go without navigational guidance for the sudden economic, regulatory and health changes that came with COVID-19.

“Many business owners are working five times as hard for 15% of the money they made last year,” said Michael Chasalow, director of the Small Business Clinic at USC Gould. “They don’t have a team of lawyers that can help them navigate the sea of COVID rules and regulations that change frequently and impact operations at every level.”

Chasalow believes adaptation will keep some in businesses, like gyms operating in parking lots, while others may simply ride out the storm — an option not open to operations that are forced to fundamentally rethink the ways they bring in revenue.

Kristen Jaconi, a professor of the practice in accounting at the USC Marshall School of Business and an expert in risk management, shares three such examples.

“Will an attempt by the NCAA and college conferences to impose a bubble or a series of bubbles around college basketball herald the end of amateur athletics as we know it?” she asks. “Will Amazon, often labeled the e-commerce slayer of the mall, ironically become its savior as the primary anchor tenant and a brick-and-mortar pillar? Will studios releasing their films only on streaming platforms or video-on-demand during the pandemic effectively finish off the movie theater?”

COVID-19 exposes need to shore up supply chain

The pandemic exposed weaknesses in the worldwide supply chain, which has become globally integrated over the past three decades. Medical professionals were left without personal protective equipment, and consumers faced scattered shortages.

Nick Vyas, executive director for the Center for Global Supply Chain Management at USC Marshall, believes those disruptions will lead to improvement.

“There are many efforts to bridge the gap, including those by industry experts and academic researchers,” he said. “Companies, communities and government will be held responsible to help ensure future supply chain network designs are in place to mitigate issues and keep their respective citizens out of harm’s way.”

Originally published by
Ron Mackovich | September 22, 2020
USC News

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How to Know if an Online Marketing Expert is Actually Credible

 

We've all heard of "SEO experts," "thought leaders" or "best-selling authors" who claim to have the perfect strategies to boost your bottom line. Here's how to tell if they're legit.

The Internet is filled with information — but only some of it is accurate. The rest of it ranges from unsupported opinions masquerading as fact to outright “fake news” from fraudsters who claim to have expert advice with credible data. In some cases, these sources are obvious in their lack of , but others are more challenging to identify, thanks to slick websites and “deepfake” visual . That’s just the issues consumers face trying to discern what they should and shouldn’t believe. 

When entrepreneurs and  people seek advice about aspects of their business, such as online marketing, they might not know where to turn. With so many blogs, articles, ebooks and webinars from those claiming to be the most experienced digital marketers out there, how can you distinguish valuable information from worthless advice? 

It can be confusing to know who to listen to and who to ignore. Here are some ways to tell if an online marketing “expert” deserves your attention or not. 

 

Quality, not quantity

It’s important to let go of credibility factors such as the number of years in business and company size that don’t really convey skill. Many agencies have been able to stay in business by selling low-quality marketing services and recycled advice. 

You will need to do a deeper dive into a company’s history to assess online marketing expertise. 

Reviews, references and client testimonials

Don’t just look at their recommendations on . Look for reviews that span the  expert’s history. You can also ask directly for references and contact companies that are listed on the marketing firm’s website to learn more about their capabilities and results. Checking these real-world examples of expertise will yield a better picture of whether or not the marketing firm’s advice resulted in positive change for its clients. 

Try to contact a few clients to see a pattern in the results, whether it be content marketing, , email marketing,  marketing or any other strategy. There might be one or two dissatisfied clients who do not accurately reflect the online marketing expert’s expertise. The more companies you can check with, the better sense you can gain of the provider’s expertise and credibility. 

Thought leadership delivery

If you have the opportunity to see the online marketing expert present at a conference, event or webinar, take the time to listen to their delivery and the meat of their message. Note whether they've been a keynote speaker, especially at a reputable summit or conference. 

Additionally, look for their online content published in the form of blog posts, presentations, ebooks, podcasts or  videos. Once you’ve read through or watched this content, evaluate it with the following questions:

  • Did you learn something new that you can put into action? Or did it sound recycled?

  • Was it full of research and data indicating a comprehensive study, or did it contain merely unsubstantiated information and generic opinions?

  • Did the strategist provide real-world examples and case studies or just vague, unproven concepts?

Hearing and reading what the online marketing expert has to say can help classify their real level of knowledge and ability. 

Awards and accolades

Official recognition for expertise by one’s peers is often a good sign that you will be working with a credible resource. The problem is that so many of today’s awards are competitions with entry fees that are more PR vehicles and assessment of revenue growth than a legitimate sign of quality work and expertise. 

Look for recent awards that recognize excellence in marketing work or recent campaigns that made a difference. Even listicle articles that contain examples of digital marketing strategy best practices featuring your potential candidate can be better indicators than some “fastest-growing” accolades. 

 

Active industry association

A true online marketing expert will likely be involved in advancing the industry. This might mean they are members of a local interactive marketing association or national chapter or they have become involved in the larger association activity. 

Look for active membership with the Digital Marketing Association, American Marketing Association and Search Marketing Association, just to name a few reputable professional groups. You should be able to look up a member or inquire with the association for confirmation of membership. 

Package deals 

Many companies positioning themselves as online marketing experts target  who need marketing assistance on a limited budget. Some of these agencies might offer monthly packages that promise the moon but deliver significantly less. 

Having interviewed some of these small business owners, I learned that these  packages are supposed to help drive traffic and generate leads. In the end, however, these companies end up with telemarketing calls and junk emails selling them digital marketing services or discounted  AdWords programs versus qualified leads. 

These faux digital marketing agencies often create a low-quality website and reuse blog content. They may also re-sell client data to third-party companies. The work doesn’t show any real awareness or understanding of your industry, audience or niche. The results never appear, but the automatic monthly charge shows up consistently on the small business owner’s credit card bill. 

Stay far away from marketing influencers that want to sell you a packaged program such as this. It’s like snake oil for the modern age. Although it’s often pitched to be the perfect solution for all, it’s really the solution for none. 

Due diligence 

We've all heard of "SEO experts," "thought leaders" or "best-selling authors" who claim to have the perfect strategies to boost your bottom line. You should always conduct further research to ensure you are not working with a scam artist. Check intelligence conducted by companies that focus solely on uncovering scams. These include the Federal Trade Commission, the Attorney General’s office for both your state and the state in which the marketing firm is located, and the Better Business Bureau. 

Referrals

One of the best ways to check the credibility of a marketing professional is to ask a trusted colleague for a referral based on their own experiences. A company that is winning at online marketing may well be tapping the expertise of a powerhouse online marketing talent or agency.  

 

 

Originally by: John Boitnott

on September 21st, 2020 

https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/356113

 

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Creativity Is Your Best Problem-Solving Tool -- Here's How to Harness It

 

Your success as an entrepreneur is contingent on your ability to solve problems effectively, and one of the best tools you have for the job is your creativity.

 

Entrepreneurs are  at heart. Most businesses are designed to solve some kind of consumer problem; for example, you might sell a product that allows people to do something they’d otherwise be incapable of or sell a service that makes someone’s life easier. And in the course of business leadership, you’ll be responsible for solving a multitude of problems, from high-level challenges like how to become more profitable to low-level challenges like how to resolve an inter-employee conflict.

Your success is contingent on your ability to solve problems effectively, and one of the best tools you have for the job is your creativity. But why is creativity so valuable in solving problems, and how can you make the best use of it?

Why creativity is your best problem-solving tool

Creativity is the ability to come up with original ideas. In other words, you can think in new ways, and come up with strategies that aren’t conventional.

This is beneficial when problem solving for several reasons:

  • Novel strategy discovery (and differentiation). You know that differentiating your business is vital if you want to stand out in the industry. Sometimes, coming up with unique solutions to common problems is the only way to achieve that differentiation. Is there a way you can serve your customers in a way that none of your competitors can? Is there a novel strategy that nobody has utilized to improve profitability? Creativity helps you stumble upon these unique, undiscovered tactics.
  • Breaking past conventional barriers. Creativity is also important for breaking through conventional barriers to advancement. If you run into a complex problem that’s always been solved a certain way, with a handful of disadvantages, you may be able to eliminate those disadvantages with a creative new approach.
  • Finding optimal solutions. Coming up with original ideas is also a way to get closer to “optimal” solutions. If you generate one or two basic ideas, you’ll have limited options for how to move forward. Through creativity, you can generate five or six ideas, and you’ll have a much better chance at improving upon your “first instinct” approaches.

How to harness creativity

Here’s the big issue with creativity: You can’t force it. There’s no way to sit down and simply power through a creative  session. Instead, the most impressive creative breakthroughs tend to happen spontaneously, and when people least expect them.

That said, there are some strategies you can use to boost your creative potential and allow yourself to think in more dynamic ways.

  • Improve creativity in yourself and others. First, understand that you’re not the only person on your team — and you’re certainly not the only team member capable of coming up with creative ideas. You can easily boost your total creative potential by improving creativity in both yourself and the people around you. This means applying the same strategies to your team that you’re applying to yourself and fostering an environment that both encourages and rewards creative thinking from employees.
  • Give yourself more time. One of the best steps you can take is to give yourself more time. This isn’t always possible; sometimes, you’ll need to make an immediate decision or act immediately to start resolving a problem. But if you have a few days to think about something, give yourself each of those days. More time means you’ll think through more variables, and you’ll have more time to naturally stumble upon a solution, which leads to our next point.
  • Get bored. Boredom has a negative connotation, but it’s actually good for your mind. When we’re bored, our minds aren’t active, which means they can wander freely (and start connecting ideas in unique ways). This is why so many people claim to come up with great ideas in the shower, or while on a long drive; being bored helps you generate more creative concepts.
  • Talk to others. No matter how naturally creative you are, your mind is still going to be limited based on your current knowledge, perspectives and experiences. If you want to expand your creative horizons, you need to talk to other people who have different sets of knowledge, perspectives and experiences. See the world through their eyes and ask what they think about your current dilemmas; they may have valuable insights that can lead you to a new solution.
  • Stimulate yourself with creative work. It’s also a good  to creatively stimulate yourself with art and creative works from other people. Even simple measures, like hanging abstract art in your office or playing jazz music while you’re working, can have a profound effect.
  • Take inspiration from outside the box. Finally, look for inspiration in unconventional places. If you’re trying to solve a problem in your specific industry, you might look at businesses like yours, including current competitors and similar businesses that have existed in the past. However, it may be better to look at how companies in other industries have solved the problem; they may have a fundamentally different approach that opens your mind to new possibilities.

With these strategies, you’ll start thinking more creatively as an entrepreneur. Over time, creative modes of thinking will become more natural to you and you’ll be able to come up with more novel solutions to the challenges you face regularly. Keep improving to see even better results and start solving your business problems from entirely new angles.

 

 

Originally posted by: Timothy Carter

on September 10th, 2020

https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/355445 

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Gold Level Contributor

 

Turning an idea into a valuable solution that makes a difference is a feeling that is worth every sleepless night, but how many of those nights are you willing to take before calling it a night? These five tips will help you build your startup with more clarity. GETTY

 

No one starts a business they want to fail. Yet, very few entrepreneurs do whatever it takes to build a successful business. Most startups die the day they are born. Rarely because they are bad ideas but usually because the founders are not committed enough to build a startup that succeeds.

Even the entrepreneurs that last to see their product on the market with paying customers can eventually get overwhelmed with the accumulation of challenges and roadblocks. I have been there and I know exactly how it feels.

Turning an idea into a valuable solution that makes a difference is a feeling that is worth every sleepless night, but how many of those nights are you willing to take before calling it a night? These five tips will help you build your startup with more clarity.

1. Don’t Take Your Time

Whether or not you have the required resources to start, get to work quickly. If things work out, you’re in business and if they don’t, you move to the next venture. If you need funding, seek funding. If you failed to seek funding, find a different path.

Sitting on an idea or product for months and years costs you time and money. When you don’t free up your mind to focus on a venture, you are truly committed to, even if you’re not spending a minute or a dime on your current project, you’re wasting time, which means you’re wasting money generated through the value you could be creating with a different project.

2. Cut Your Learning Curve

The brain of an entrepreneur is an idea factory. We see a problem, we instantly think of solutions. If there’s no problem, we start thinking about how we can improve existing solutions. This problem-solving mindset is a blessing and a curse.

There will always be an opportunity of a lifetime, an offer you cannot refuse, the next billion-dollar space, all of which initially seem like a much easier path to success. The truth is, you can’t flip an idea or an opportunity. You can’t buy an undervalued idea, build and sell it overnight. Capturing a new opportunity means starting from the beginning, even if it seems like you’d be ahead of the curve. It means learning the space, business, key players and market.

The tip is simple. Capture opportunities in areas you’re familiar with and stick to it for as long as it takes to build a successful business, whether it’s your first or fiftieth idea. When you know the space, you can move faster by making fewer mistakes and leveraging resources like connections you may have already spent years building. Move even faster by hiring people that are experts in your space.

3. Capture Opportunity-Driven Ventures

A necessity-driven business is when entrepreneurs look for a business opportunity based on the return they can potentially generate to substitute or complement their income. This is not to be confused with a side hustle or passive income-generating projects. The difference is in how entrepreneurs approach the opportunity. A necessity-driven business means starting a business out of a necessity to make money.

Research shows that opportunity-driven businesses are more likely to succeed and thrive. They’re when you identify and focus on capturing an opportunity by prioritizing long-term over short-term returns. This goes back to distractions and chasing shiny objects. There is no such thing as overnight success. 

4. Minimize Guessing

As an entrepreneur, many of your decisions will be based on gut feelings and instincts rather than facts and concrete data. All of today’s most successful founders had to make such decisions. And they learned a thing or two over the years. Seek help!

Just like building a startup in an industry you are familiar with can help you cut your learning curve, asking entrepreneurs who have been in your shoes will do the same. The reason is that making a mistake will teach you a new thing. You can learn the same lessons by getting it right sooner through the support of mentors. Research shows that mentored entrepreneurs are five times more likely to start their business and 12% more likely to stay in business after a year.

5. Take Calculated Risks

When you finally decide to build your startup idea, just making the decision to start can feel like a risky decision. This is before even thinking about making any investment or taking any action. The relationship between risk and return is crystal clear. If you don’t take risks, you will have to settle for mediocre to no returns.

Smart entrepreneurs take calculated risks. Focusing on industries you’re familiar with, starting opportunity-driven ventures and seeking mentorship will help you take calculated risks. Finally, remember not to take your time.

Originally published 
September 19, 2020
Abdo Riani Senior Contributor
Forbes.com Entrepreneurs

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More than one-third of the American workforce freelance amid the Covid-19 pandemic, contributing $1.2 trillion to the U.S. economy, a study by Upwork revealed Tuesday. This was a 22% increase since 2019 and it was fueled in part by an influx of younger, highly-skilled professionals seeking flexible alternatives to traditional employment. 

Upwork’s seventh annual study entitled Freelance Forward surveyed more than 6,000 U.S. workers over the age of 18 and found that 59 million Americans performed freelance work in the past 12 months, representing 36% of the U.S. workforce, an increase of 2 million freelancers since 2019. It was conducted June 15 to July 7.

 Key findings offer surprising trends. Among them:

Freelancing increases earning potential: Of those who quit their full-time job in order to freelance, 75% say they earn the same or more in pay than when they had a traditional employer.

Professionals are likely to consider freelance work in the future: 58% of non-freelancers who are new to remote work due to the pandemic are now considering freelancing in the future.

Young adults are turning to freelancing for economic opportunity: Amid a tough job market for recent college graduates, half of the Gen Z workforce (age 18-22) have freelanced in the past year, and of those, more than a third (36%) started since the onset of Covid-19.

More professionals are freelancing full-time: The share of independent professionals who earn a living freelancing full-time has increased 8 percentage points to 36% since 2019. 

Freelancing is helping to hone skills: 59% of freelancers have participated in skills training in the last six months vs. 36% of non-freelancers.

Companies of all sizes turn to freelancers: There is a burst in demand for people to support customer services as well as ecommerce development, web and mobile design.

According to Upwork president and CEO Hayden Brown, “It’s not surprising freelancing is on the rise in this era of uncertainty.”

She noted another driver is the growth in remote work. “We expect this trend to continue as companies increasingly rely on freelancers as essential contributors to their own operations.” 

Freelance jobs most in demand today are in computers/mathematics, and in finance/business operations, according to the report. Even before Covid-19, 26% of freelancers worked entirely remote and 46% worked remotely more than half the time.

“The changing dynamics to the workforce that has occurred during the crisis demonstrate the value that freelancing provides to both businesses and workers,” added Adam Ozimek, Upwork’s chief economist. Disruptions in education have made flexibility key during a time when demands for child and elder care, along with job responsibilities, have grown.

Society’s perception about freelance is also changing. Seventy-one percent of freelancers say perceptions of freelancing as a career are becoming more positive, the survey revealed.

Meanwhile, 67% of full-time freelancers say that freelancing has prepared them to cope with the uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic better than those in traditional jobs.

Here’s a snapshot of the freelance economy:

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Originally published by
Lori Loannou | September 15, 2020
CNBC

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Image source: Photo by RF._.studio from Pexels

Businesses all over the world have taken a hit due to COVID-19 followed by lockdown and social distancing. While some sectors like logistics, ed-tech, pharmaceutical and consumer goods are thriving, most other businesses need to prepare to deal with the long-term economic impact coronavirus will leave on their businesses.  

Due to COVID-19, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) World Economic Outlook projects GDP will fall to negative 6 per cent for five of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries: Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. The Asian Development Bank forecasts ASEAN GDP growth to be just 1 per cent in 2020. 

While entrepreneurs faced many difficulties in raising money and establishing a sense of trust among the customers, it was especially difficult for women entrepreneurs. The struggle to be taken seriously was a reality for them. And this pandemic has added to their difficulties. 

What problems do women face during COVID-19? 

The year 2020 marks 25 years of the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, which was once declared as the most progressive blueprint for advancing women’s rights. Despite the years that have passed since, this continues to be far from reality for many working women, especially women entrepreneurs, who have had to deal with significant changes in their lifestyles in the wake of the pandemic, both personally and professionally. 

Women face lots of challenges trying to balance work with the increased household responsibilities, including childcare due to school closures. Women bear an unequal share of unpaid care responsibilities, which have increased due to the pandemic. Across the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, women are also spending two hours more per day on unpaid work at home than men, post COVID-19 pandemic. 

Often women operate businesses with lower levels of capitalization and are more reliant on self-financing. Consequently, a decrease in revenue due to the COVID-19 crisis has immediate implications for entrepreneurs’ incomes and their ability to finance their cost of living. Women entrepreneurs may be at greater risk of having to close for prolonged periods, with substantially reduced or no revenue. 

Women’s entrepreneurship in developing countries is at a greater risk, as women’s anticipated vulnerability through the COVID-19 crisis will likely be exacerbated. The exposure to health risks due to inadequate or underdeveloped health-care infrastructure is of immediate concern. 

What can be done? 

A major problem women entrepreneurs face is accessing finance for their businesses. A new model of lending that is faster, easier, more cost-effective and more transparent is being offered by Fintech lenders for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).

This is done by using advanced analytics platforms and artificial intelligence to assess transactional and alternative data, FinTech lenders are gaining a much deeper understanding of SMEs. They can establish the businesses' creditworthiness, evaluate risk more easily, and issue loans in as little as 24 hours. FinTech lenders are setting up payments infrastructure to facilitate easy payments and sales for SMEs and micro-entrepreneurs, and using such channels to provide them with loans based on payments data. 

Transferring all the existing entrepreneurship training and mentoring to online channels. Business advice and consultancy services can also be given to women entrepreneurs on a digital platform. This can include advising women on how to stabilise businesses that are in difficulty and to help them take their business from offline-to-online (o-2-o). 

Fintech start-ups are leveraging innovative payment technologies such as sound waves to provide contactless payments services for customers with legacy phones or in areas with slow/no internet coverage. This is especially useful for women entrepreneurs in rural areas. 

Going digital helps women entrepreneurs gain customer confidence because this promotes hygienic transactions through contactless transactions. Fintech also makes it easier to track digital transactions. History of transfers, inflow, and disbursements are easily available on their mobile phones. 

Fintech can also help entrepreneurs develop an effective strategy in making a profit by providing rich customer insight. Their transaction logs will indicate consumer patterns so they can know which product is in demand, how much more they can earn, and even the demographics of their target customers. 

How’s fintech helping to level up? 

Xin’An Bank, UNCDF partner association under the i3 Program funded by MetLife Foundation, has launched an AI-based product named as ‘Goddess AI’ in China. This app processes small amounts of loans to women entrepreneurs in under 24 hours. 

CaixaBank and the international organisation Vital Voices, whose mission is to support and invest in women leaders across the globe, have created a virtual mentoring platform to help women entrepreneurs and founders of SMEs and start-ups across Europe, who are currently facing professional challenges due to COVID-19. 

Originally published by
Neha Mehta | Tuesday 15 September 2020
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Entrepreneurship is a journey that no one is ever fully prepared to take. No matter how much time you spent researching and learning things before you started, there are always things you’ll wish you had done differently in hindsight.

While you can’t prepare for every possible scenario, you can arm yourself for some common challenges and circumstances by learning from others’ experiences. We asked members of Young Entrepreneur Council what they wished they knew before they launched their businesses and what difference they think it would have made. Ten of them shared their insights below.

1. Raising Capital Is Harder Than It Looks

Raising capital looks so easy, as big rounds of capital seem to flow to almost every startup company, right? Wrong. Knowing that Silicon Valley and global investment firms are painfully critical and difficult to work with would have been helpful. Most give you 20 minutes to pitch them with a junior associate. Some take your business model and share it with other holding companies they have previously invested in. So be careful who you share the details of your business with. A better option is to start slow and work to get to profitability as quickly as possible. It will decrease your stress and give you a larger valuation when you actually want to raise a round of funding to speed up growth. - Tom FinnLeggUP Inc.

 

2. Long-Term Success Trumps Instant Results

I wish I had been more conscious of the fact that long-term success trumps instant results every time. Too many times in the beginning, I was looking for results quickly when I should have been more focused on brand building and laying down solid groundwork. Eventually, when the brand started seeing success, I was then able to see and credit almost all of it to the little things we did to lay down a solid foundation. Those little victories in the beginning eventually turned into big victories down the line. Too many entrepreneurs give up or shift focus when they don’t see the fruits of their labor instantly. - Ankit PatelObvi

 

3. Build Solid Systems And A Strong Team Early On

I wish I'd know before I launched my business how important it is to build solid systems and a strong team early on. As a motivated, type A solo founder, I thought I had to do it all myself. Many of the systems I built early on were not suitable for scaling the company. Honing in on your "special sauce" while creating systems others can follow is the key to creating a company that can grow and scale over time. - Rachel LipsonBlue Balloon Songwriting for Small People

 

4. The Team Experience Matters

I wish someone had taken the time to sit down and really impress upon me the importance of building more meaningful relationships with the people on our team, and not cheaping out on the “team experience.” As it is, that doesn’t always come naturally to me—I’m more of a workhorse entrepreneur than a socialite. That personality trait amplified by the long hours and thin spread (in time and finances) in the early days of building a business can easily lead to very transactional-feeling relationships with a small team, whereas a boutique should be differentiated by tighter bonds. I wonder, in hindsight, if I might have retained a few more early star players had I put more effort and prioritization on those connections. - Jake Goldman10up Inc.

 

5. It's Harder Than You Think To Juggle Family And Business

I wish someone would've told me how hard it would be starting a family while owning and running a business, especially as a woman. Everything at the time felt like an impossible burden—dealing with pregnancy side effects while trying to put in the same amount of hours, debating what kind and how long of maternity leave to take, feeling the pressure to return to work right away and figuring out which hours of the day to be CEO and which to be a mom. Thankfully women are a lot more open now about their experiences and sharing their struggles, but eight years ago it wasn't something that was discussed. I now try to share my experiences with other women when I can to help better prepare them for that adjustment. - Leila LewisBe Inspired PR

 

6. You Don't Have To Do Everything To Win Customers

I wish I knew that a business doesn't have to do everything in order to win customers. When I first started out, I was so intimidated by the competition and what I thought businesses wanted that I assembled a team that could pretty much do all things. This ultimately led to problems as we were bloated with too much overhead and had talented people and skill sets that just weren't good for the bottom line. A business doesn't need to be, and oftentimes shouldn't be, good at everything. It should focus on its core service or product. Large companies can often make these mistakes and then just return back to their core. As an entrepreneur starting out, you often don't have the luxury to make these mistakes. Don't expand your services or products too much in the beginning. Find a winner and double down. - Jason KhooZupo

 

7. Get As Much Hands-On Training And Experience As You Can First

I wish I would have spent more time working in and learning about how a small business operated before launching my own in my late 20s. Observing and learning from other successful small business owners would have cut down my learning curve and I would not have made nearly as many mistakes in the beginning. Getting hands-on training from the beginning definitely lessens the learning. So, my suggestion to other aspiring entrepreneurs is to get as much relevant and real-world experience as you can before going out on your own. You'll be much more equipped to handle uncertainty and not make silly mistakes that all new entrepreneurs make in the early days. - Kristin Kimberly MarquetMarquet Media, LLC

 

8. You Get What You Pay For

When you’re starting out, it’s tempting to hire the cheapest freelancers you can find. It’s also tempting not to hire qualified lawyers or accountants to handle the crucial side of the business. The cost of trying to save money on people critical to the success of your business can be enormous. An essential cost to keep in mind even at the outset is opportunity cost. Say you’re an online business and you hire a cheap developer in an effort to save money upfront. Project how much money you’ll have lost when 18 months later you still don’t have a site that functions how you want it to. When you factor in opportunity cost, the expense of hiring a professional web development agency in the first place might seem like a bargain. - Matt DiggityDiggity Marketing

 

9. Charge What You're Worth

We undervalued our services by a lot in the early days because we were scared to charge what we truly thought we were worth. This had the effect of making us not profitable and making people question our credibility as a company because they wondered why we were so much cheaper than competitors. Now we are still priced under most of our competitors but we are charging enough to make a profit and be a good value for our customers. - Kelsey RaymondInfluence & Co.

 

10. Just Start And Iterate As You Go

Speed is important in growing your business. But it's not just speed in acquiring customers—it's also adjusting quickly to market demands. Your idea or first product or service rarely ever is the final one. Look at it as a first draft—only in this case, be open to ending up with a totally different write-up when you're done. You won't get your break as an entrepreneur till you find product-market fit. And you can only find product-market fit when you start and iterate as you go. For me, when I find myself thinking about the beginning stages of my business, I realize my willingness to quickly create something and put it out there was vital to success. Let the market help you shape your product to their needs. - Samuel ThimothyOneIMS

 

 

Originally posted by: Expert Panel at Young Entrepreneur Council 

on September 10th, 2020

 

https://www.forbes.com/sites/theyec/2020/09/10/10-things-youll-wish-you-knew-before-launching-your-business/#521311212635

 

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If you are thinking about opening a business, planning is key to getting started on the right foot. A thorough and well-written business plan makes all the difference in organizing and marketing your business, seeking funding, and measuring your success.

That being said, developing a business plan can seem daunting at first, even if you have an MBA or background in business. The fact that there are so many templates for business plans can also exacerbate that overwhelming feeling. Fortunately, you can choose the format that is tailored best for you and your business. It just needs to have the following components.

 

1. Executive Summary

Every business should be able to be summarized in an elevator pitch so think of this as a high-level introduction to your business and your reasons for starting it. Your executive summary should include your mission statement of your business’s aims and values, the product or service you are selling, and your business’s name and location. 

 

2. Goals

As we should individually do so in life, you should set short- and long-term goals for your business. A way to distinguish between the two is to set short-term goals for the next four to six months and long-term ones for the next one to three years.

 

3. Audience

Defining the target audience for your products or services is crucial to your success. Taking the time to determine if you are targeting the general market or a particular demographic based on age range, gender, or race, and whether it is local, regional or national will help guide the next two components of your business plan.

 

4. Market

Now that you have determined your business and its audience, you need a full understanding of the sphere where it is operating. Look at ways your particular business can improve upon existing models in your market and fill market gaps. In addition, you should fully understand your competitors and how your product or service is different from what they offer.

5. Promotion

With these previous areas defined, it is now time to determine how you will market and promote your product or service to your target audience. In developing your marketing and promotion strategy, determine the tactics best for reaching your audience. Social media can advertise your business with little to no cost, but newsletters, pay-per-click ads, email marketing, or search engine optimization are also cost-effective options.

 

6. Budget and Expenses

The final step of your plan should include a budget with operational expenses, monthly and daily expenses, marketing, and any debt related to the business. It should also include future financial projections, along with current financial performance.

These components will lead to a plan to help launch your business and bring it to life. Once you complete your business plan, I recommend having it carefully reviewed by a business partner, advisor, or accountant before moving forward with it.

 

 

Originally posted by: Rhett Buttle 

on September 9ty, 2020

 

https://www.forbes.com/sites/rhettbuttle/2020/09/09/six-essential-components-of-a-sound-business-plan/#1779850d1672

 

 

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I Took Over an Entire Convention With The Smallest Booth -- Here's How

 

Trade shows offer an unmatched opportunity for connecting with potential customers; this strategy can help you make the most of them.

 

Traditional trade conventions are an outstanding way to show off your products or services and connect with potential customers and partners. But just like on the , there’s a lot of noise you need to overcome to stand out and make people want to walk over to your booth instead of someone else’s. I have a simple strategy I’ve used with enormous success for this very purpose.

The survey-raffle combo

In my previous company, Sunbelt Software, we focused on selling products to system administrators. So, in terms of events, we hit up  tech conferences and similar trade shows. Those events usually brought in anywhere from 4,000-8,000 people, so we knew they would be a fantastic opportunity to rub elbows in a huge way — if we could just figure out how to draw people to us.

We had to think — what could we do that would appeal universally to this particular demographic and that would outshine the other vendors even if we couldn’t anticipate what they’d offer?

And then we had our “Aha!” moment. With a raffle, we could generate positive interest with a little friendly suspense, taking advantage of everybody’s natural inclination to want to beat the odds, which at a trade show are much better than the .

Of course, there was the little problem of the raffle item. We had to make sure it was something people would really go nuts for, or nobody would drop by the booth to get scanned and grab a ticket. The solution? A quick survey of our fellow techies to find out what they thought would be the ultimate, super-cool giveaway for a trade show.

After doing the survey, we went to TechEd 2006 in . Our booth was nothing special, just a 10-by-10 space. But based on the survey results, we’d brought in — picture this — a spectacular custom-painted Harley Davidson chopper.

The buzz was overwhelming. We could tell that everybody was itching for a shot, imagining themselves getting away from technical code, security and so on and winning the freedom the bike boldly offered. To get a ticket, though, they had to register with us. And did they ever.

By the  the show ended at 4 p.m., it was pretty obvious our strategy had paid off. Crowds of people were gathered around our booth to see who would win. We had someone get up on a ladder with a megaphone and pull a number from the raffle barrel. There was a terrific moment of tension, and then everybody gave a mix of oh-wells and congratulations as a very happy attendee came up to claim the bike. Everybody had a great time, and for our effort, we walked out of the show with practically every attendee there in our database.

 

Making the technique your own for the long-term

Because this trick was so successful, it was a no brainer for us to keep doing it — so we’ve been using raffles at shows for a number of years now. It’s something that you can use at virtually any conference, and the sequence of survey-raffle-get leads isn’t going to change much regardless of which industry your event might be for. 

But there are two caveats. 

First, make sure that you introduce your raffle at the right time at events that have a sufficient audience. We tried this strategy in the early days of KnowBe4, but there just weren’t enough people at the show to make it worth it.

Secondly, be flexible in what you raffle off based on your survey results. If we were to do this today, people might tell us that their ultimate giveaway item isn’t a Harley chopper anymore. It could be a  Model 3 or any other number of things you normally wouldn’t associate with your own . You always need to listen to your audience and decide from there, and you should give people at least a little bit of an idea about what they might see to drive interest.

As you keep these points in mind, remember that there are a lot of convenient ways to survey your audience, such as with an online form. You can use whatever makes sense given your timeframe, resources and your audience’s known preferences. And you’ll have two ways to get the items you’re going to raffle. The first is to approach the company that makes or sells what people want and ask them if they'll donate the item for the exposure they’ll get at the show, which can be a great way to make new connections and build lasting partnerships. But you can also purchase the raffle item yourself if you have the budget to do so — you just need to have some evidence that the value of the leads you’ll get will outpace the cost of the raffle item.

 

Visibility and fun in one package

Raffles at trade shows work largely because, on top of offering fantastic visibility, they’re super fun. Most people don’t have one going on, so attendees naturally will turn their  to what’s different. And people like the idea that they’ll leave with more than they put in — that they’ll come out ahead compared to everybody else. 

So yes, there’s definitely a serious side to business and getting yourself out there. But you should be able to enjoy yourself along with your customers, too! With a convention raffle, you can do both with enormous success. 

 

 

Originally posted by: Stu Sjouwerman

on September 9th, 2020

 

https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/355490

 

 

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COVID-19 has led to the cancellation of almost every conference and corporate event planned for 2020. While this was initially a heavy blow, video technology has allowed speakers and companies to start organizing virtual conferences to make up for lost events.

A virtual conference has all the benefits of a physical conference, only it’s done remotely rather than in a conference center. This list lays out some of the best upcoming virtual conferences you can check out for you and your team:

E-commerce 

1. E-Commerce Week- September 28th - October 2nd

Los Angeles has become quite the e-commerce mecca, and Hawke Media (headquartered in LA) is proud to spearhead a week to celebrate the city's e-commerce businesses. It will be an opportunity to share ideas on how to grow e-commerce brands with some of the best in the industry. From September 28th to October 2nd, Hawke Media is teaming up with the City and Mayor of Los Angeles to bring you the inaugural LA E-Commerce Week. 

Although it’s focused on the LA e-commerce community, this week is meant to include participants from all over the world. Due to the global pandemic, and in the spirit of e-commerce, all of the programs will be held online, so anyone is welcome to participate.

Customer Experience

2. Five9 CX Summit - September 16th 

Five9 knows how important it is to treat customers right. Its software is built to help businesses do just that, and its CX Summit will be just as beneficial for business owners. A panel of keynote speakers from Five9 will discuss how customer service can unlock your business’ potential by creating a more human experience. It’ll also touch on adjusting during COVID-19, something most businesses have been grappling with recently.

Entrepreneurship

3. Global Leaders Organization (GLO) - Recurring

This free event was created for business owners to help grow their businesses.  The recurring events are all interactive and free to attend via Microsoft Teams Live each Thursday at 10 a.m. ET. Past speakers have included names like entrepreneur extraordinaire Mark Cuban and music moguls Pitbull and Akon. If you miss a livestream, you can always catch it in their archives. The content provided since the Coronavirus has been very tactical for business owners, helping them not only to survive but thrive during the pandemic. 

Recruiting and Talent

4. Talent Development Virtual Summit - September 14-18

Hiring practices are extremely important, but employee retention is even more so. Talent development pays off the investment you make in each employee, and helps them be happier and more successful within your organization. The Talent Development Virtual Summit will focus on key aspects of that idea, from development programs and culture building to diversity and inclusion practices. It’s also now hosting a Talent Development Think Tank membership, built to help organizations work together to meet their goals in this area.

Marketing

5. Brand ManageCamp - October 27th - 29th

Your first concern when looking at virtual conferences is sitting through hours of speaking. Brand ManageCamp promises to take the proper approach, breaking the days up evenly and allowing for proper breaks for everyone participating from home. Not only will this help accommodate your needs better, it complements the slate of marketing lessons they have prepared for almost every category imaginable. 

6. Retail Ascendant - October 27th, October 28th - 29th

Some of the world’s most progressive marketing and retail leaders come together at these closed-door/no-press forums to share their stories and build relationships. These meetings have enabled an impressive community of CMOs, Chief Customer Officers, and marketing leaders to elevate their personal and professional influence. The semi-annual face-to-face events are now 100% virtual due to COVID-19. The upcoming forum (October 27th) will focus on helping retailers lead their companies back to growth. The following forum (October 28th - 29th) will focus on marketers and the adaptations they’ll need to market in a “cookie-less world”.

7. MarketingProfs B2B Forum - November 4th & 5th

This forum has been a highlight for business-to-business (B2B) marketers for years. While Marketing Profs are disappointed they can’t hold a physical event this season, they’re putting a neat twist into their upcoming event. The two-day event will have over 41 sessions with all the information you need to take your game to the next level. When you purchase tickets to their jam-packed digital forum, you’ll also receive a year long subscription to all of their training resources and B2B community.

Management 

8. Empower Conference - September 8th - 10th

This conference caters to the needs of HR leaders, executives, team managers, and any one else in a position of leadership. The goal is to help create a world-class workplace within your organization. So many problems can be solved and even avoided through good leadership and a unified team. Attending this conference will give you the leadership tips and advice you need to move your team forward.

Decide which aspect of your business needs the most improvement, and check out the corresponding events. Each of these conferences will be well worth your time. Don’t let the Coronavirus slow you down, use it as a chance to grow through virtual conferences.

 

 

Originally posted by: John Hall 

on September 8th, 2020 

 

https://www.forbes.com/sites/johnhall/2020/09/08/virtual-conferences-to-have-on-the-radar-for-2020/#35a564d35da7

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3 Reasons Empathy is Good for Business

3 Reasons Empathy is Good for Business

 

Soft skills are vital for leaders, regardless of your industry. Here's why being empathetic plays a major role in successfully growing your company.

 

Good business leaders today need a whole slew of skills and traits to stand out and get results, not the least of which is . This characteristic can easily put you and your company on the fast track to success. But why exactly is empathy so powerful, and how can you develop it in yourself and your team?

Why empathy matters

There are three main reasons why empathy is crucial for professionals: 

 

1. You sell to a person, not to an organization

Sometimes, you might sell to a group instead of an individual. But at the end of the day, you’re still selling to people with real feelings and experiences — not an inanimate entity. So you have to have a very clear perspective of who your current or potential customer is. Having a very transparent, clean line of communication with them, understanding what problems they need to manage and understanding what they have to have to get their job done is a must. It is what keeps your  viable and prevents them from withering on the vine.

 

2. Feeling heard builds true connection

Active listening is a natural part of building empathy and mutual understanding. When you let customers or prospects truly talk about what their problems are and hear them out in an engaged way, you’re better able to show them that you grasp what they’re struggling with. They start to feel like there’s finally someone on the other side who understands what they’re going through or thinking, making it much easier to get a relationship started. And relationships ultimately are what businesses are all about.

Importantly, active listening isn’t just about parroting back what you’ve heard (e.g, “What I’m hearing from you is…”) or making eye contact. It’s about training yourself to mentally slow down and wait until the person has finished talking to form your response, rather than formulating an answer as they talk and trying to make sure the conversation steers to points you personally want to make. Get as comfortable as you can with waiting to answer, because the silence can encourage them to continue and direct the conversation in a deeper way.  Pause to think critically after they are done, too, so that the person you’re talking to grasps you really are respectfully and fully considering what they’ve just told you.

 

3. Empathy translates immediately into free cash flow

If all of your staff have a high level of empathy with your prospects and customers, then they can provide them with fantastic service. That’s the number one factor that translates to word-of-mouth support. It’s advertising you can never buy that has a direct, positive influence on your bottom line. Once you have that support, your business can enjoy much better stability, which makes it easier to compete and flexibly adapt in tough times. It also ups the odds you’ll have the resources to invest in innovation, staffing or whatever else you need.

 

Teaching empathy effectively downstream

Being empathetic on your own is good, but teaching others how to be empathetic is far better, because you’ll have many different people who can connect with others on behalf of your business.

But how can you do this well? It’s pretty simple — just be an example.

Strategies like active listening are a powerful start to modeling good empathy for others. But you also want to explain and show the difference between System 1 and System 2 thinking. These systems, as behavioral economist Daniel Kahneman describes, give a simple overview of how we process most information. System 1 thinking, which you might call reactive or intuition, is quick and emotional. System 2 thinking is more rational and takes a bit of time. 

In a business environment, you usually don’t want to get into System 1 thinking. You want to stick to System 2 thinking and stay cool, calm and collected. And as a teacher and model, you need to explain to your team how to deal with employees, coworkers, customers and prospects with a level-headed — rather than impulsive — approach.

 

Your best tool for cutting what doesn’t work

Empathy is a valuable knife that can cut away much of the inefficiencies and communication problems businesses face. And although it’s great to look for empathetic people right off the bat during the hiring process, don’t be afraid to be a teacher. Modeling it for your team and reinforcing the behavior can totally change your company atmosphere, so be observant and have the courage to open up when it counts.

 

 

 

Orginally posted by: Stu Sjouweman

on September 9th, 2020 

 

https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/355491

 

 

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Silver Level Contributor

It’s an early weekday morning. You wake up and get ready for the day in some shape or form. You then head to your desk, or perhaps a familiar space that you’ve come to know as your workstation for the last several months.

You’re still working frequently on your computer, only now, those in-person meetings of the past have been replaced with a series of tiles featuring the faces of colleagues. This has become our primary form of communication, one that workers around the country were thrust into in March in a hurried transition to remote work.

Now almost six months into work in this virtual world, Kerry Gibson, assistant professor of organizational behavior, says it’s time to evaluate our approach to video conferencing, specifically whether every conversation requires a camera.

Reflecting on Our Normal

Last week, Zoom experienced a four-hour partial outage across the United States. The block of time may have been a moment of panic for some, but it provided a much-needed reprieve for others.

Though today’s video conferencing tools offer benefits for remote work, such as adding comments through chat without disrupting the flow of the meeting, not every conversation may need to be conducted over video, says Gibson.

“What organizations need to be thinking about right now is how they can create a sense of belonging and inclusion when workers are remote.”

Kerry Gibson, assistant professor of organizational behavior

“Rather than quantity of meetings, I’d prefer to see organizations focus on the quality,” she says. “What organizations need to be thinking about right now is how they can create a sense of belonging and inclusion when workers are remote. Creating a community at work is needed now more than ever.”

With fewer opportunities for contact, managing and coaching employees individually is even more critical in this era of remote work, Gibson says.

“While I understand the sentiment that we are all in this together, we are also all in this differently,” she says. “We make a mistake when we assume our experience in the pandemic is the same as others’ experience. Organizations should make the time to reflect on what’s working and what isn’t at both the team level and the organizational level, too.”

Room for Innovation

As remote work seemingly appears to become a more substantial part of our future by the day, Gibson says there remains a need to re-create office small talk we have long been used to, namely through the casual conversations with colleagues in the hall, the kitchen, or by the water cooler.

“How can we do that now? I think we underestimated the power of those encounters,” says Gibson. “The organization that can figure out how to innovate around creating those type of interactions—whether it is the organization itself or the video conference providers—will be well-positioned in the future.”

When will in-person meetings resume on a regular basis? That remains uncertain. When the time comes, it’s likely they’ll occur in a new format.

“The longer we live in this predominately virtual meeting space, the larger the impact will be to our meeting norms of the future,” says Gibson. “I doubt in-person meetings will disappear altogether, but I do suspect they’ll be different than they used to be.”

Originally published by
Bryan Lipiner | September 2, 2020
Babson Thought & Action

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Finding funding might be harder during the pandemic. But there are some startups thinking outside the box to attain theirs.

Finding funding tougher than ever

Almost eight months in to the pandemic and many startups are still fighting to survive. Finding funding has become harder in an era the New York Times calls “The Great Unwinding.” But not every startup is succumbing to a bleak fate. Some have shown unique strategies for attaining funding. Here, we’ll delve into a few examples of startup companies whose founders have managed to snag funding and stay afloat amid the crashing waters of coronavirus. 

Government contracts

Payam Banazadeh, CEO of Capella Space, told Graham Winfrey, senior technology editor for Inc., that it would behoove tech startups to look into acquiring government contracts if possible. His Silicon Valley-based satellite communications startup snagged a lucrative government contract with the Department of Defense. “The government seeks startups that are doing unique things. If they find a product they like, they’re going to pursue it. Government contracts help raise additional funding while also de-risking companies in the eyes of investors,” Banazadeh said. 

Funding conversations matter

Nesh is a company based in Houston that acts as a smart assistant for the energy industry. The startup spent the pandemic engaged in conversations with potential investors. “It’s easier to talk to investors at this time. We’ve had more conversations in the past few months than all of 2019, but nobody is willing to write checks just yet,” said Sidd Gupta, founder of Nesh, to Crunchbase News, a tech startup-centric outlet. 

The Houston-based company also pivoted by expanding into other oil and gas areas like renewables. Nesh even decided to make its platform accessible free of charge during the shutdown. 

Take matters into your own hands

Laally is a breastfeeding assistance device company. During their funding strategizing, they examined all the usual funding avenues: VC, angels, debt, non-profit and potential partnerships with bigger entities. Most of these sources asked for proof of concept and a proven history of solid sales before even thinking of putting money on the table. 

Well, that wasn’t possible for founders Max and Kate Spivak. They decided to go it alone. Self-funding. “As a family and rookie entrepreneurs, we made the decision to put our money in the balance and hire a partner for the tech part of the business,” Max Spivak said told Crunchbase News

“Even when things got rough as the pandemic worsened, and they did get very rough for us, we didn’t have pressure from investors to liquidate assets or investors demanding their money back. That’s because we were our own funders,” said Kate Spivak. 

Creativity conquers COVID-19

Sometimes adversity is the mother of creativity. These three startup founders stepped outside the box of traditional funding strategies. They discovered ways to change their companies and attain funding during a pandemic that has its foot on the neck of the economy. 

Thanks to people like Sidd Gupta, Payam Banazadeh, and the Spivaks, startup founders have a better idea of what they need to do for their startups to live another day. For their companies to see a light at the end of an 8-month long tunnel. The pandemic might have our faces covered, our friends at arm’s length, and our jobs in limbo. But it cannot strip away the power of human ingenuity, innovation, and creativity. The founders named above are walking proof. 

Originally published by
Rene Cantu
University of Houston

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Image: Unsplash - Pablo Varela

The evidence is in: Nice guys and gals don’t finish last, and being a selfish jerk doesn’t get you ahead.

That’s the clear conclusion from research that tracked disagreeable people—those with selfish, combative, manipulative personalities—from college or graduate school to where they landed in their careers about 14 years later.

“I was surprised by the consistency of the findings. No matter the individual or the context, disagreeableness did not give people an advantage in the competition for power — even in more cutthroat, ‘dog-eat-dog’ organizational cultures,” said Berkeley Haas professor Cameron Anderson, who co-authored the study with UC Berkeley psychology professor Oliver P. John, Berkeley Haas doctoral student Daron L. Sharps and associate professor Christopher J. Soto of Colby College.

The paper was published today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Two longitudinal studies

The researchers conducted two studies of people who had completed personality assessments as undergraduates or MBA students at three universities. They surveyed the same people more than a decade later, asking about their power and rank in their workplace hierarchies, as well as the culture of their organizations. They also asked their co-workers about the study participants’ workplace behavior and rank. Across the board, they found those with who scored high on disagreeable traits were not more likely to have attained power than those who were generous, trustworthy and generally nice.

That’s not to say that jerks don’t reach positions of power. It’s just that they don’t get ahead faster than others, and being a jerk simply doesn’t help, Anderson said. That’s because any power boost they get from being intimidating is offset by their poor interpersonal relationships, the researchers found. In contrast, they found that extroverts were the most likely to have advanced in their organizations, based on their sociability, energy and assertiveness — findings backed up by prior research.

“The bad news here is that organizations do place disagreeable individuals in charge just as often as agreeable people,” Anderson said. “In other words, they allow jerks to gain power at the same rate as anyone else, even though jerks in power can do serious damage to the organization.”

Toxic role models

The age-old question of whether being aggressively Machiavellian helps people get ahead has long interested Anderson, who studies social status. It’s a critical question for managers, because ample research has shown that jerks in positions of power are abusive, prioritize their own self-interests, create corrupt cultures and, ultimately, cause their organizations to fail. They also serve as toxic role models for society at large.

For example, people who read former-Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ biography might think, “Maybe if I become an even bigger asshole, I’ll be successful like Steve,” the authors note in their paper.

“My advice to managers would be to pay attention to agreeableness as an important qualification for positions of power and leadership,” Anderson said. “Prior research is clear: Agreeable people in power produce better outcomes.”

While there’s clearly no shortage of jerks in power, there’s been little empirical research to settle the question of whether being disagreeable actually helps them get there, or is simply incidental to their success. Anderson and his co-authors set out to create a research design that would clear up the debate. (They pre-registered their analysis for both studies on aspredicted.org.)

Defining disagreeableness

What defines a jerk? The participants had all completed the Big Five Inventory (BFI), an assessment based on general consensus among psychologists of the five fundamental personality dimensions: openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, neuroticism and agreeableness. It was developed by Anderson’s co-author, John, who directs the Berkeley Personality Lab. In addition, some of the participants also completed a second personality assessment, the NEO Personality Inventory-Revised (NEO PI-R).

“Disagreeableness is a relatively stable aspect of personality that involves the tendency to behave in quarrelsome, cold, callous and selfish ways,” the researchers explained. “…Disagreeable people tend to be hostile and abusive to others, deceive and manipulate others for their own gain and ignore others’ concerns or welfare.”

In the first study, which involved 457 participants, the researchers found no relationship between power and disagreeableness, no matter whether the person had scored high or low on those traits. That was true regardless of gender, race or ethnicity, industry or the cultural norms in the organization.

Four paths to power

The second study went deeper, looking at the four main ways people attain power: through dominant-aggressive behavior, or using fear and intimidation; political behavior, or building alliances with influential people; communal behavior, or helping others; and competent behavior, or being good at one’s job. They also asked the subjects’ co-workers to rate the subjects’ places in the hierarchy, as well as their workplace behavior. Interestingly, the co-workers’ ratings largely matched the subjects’ self-assessments.

This analysis allowed the researchers to better understand why disagreeable people do not get ahead faster than others. Even though jerks tend to engage in dominant behavior, their lack of communal behavior cancels out any advantage their aggressiveness gives them, they concluded.

Anderson noted that the findings don’t directly speak to whether disagreeableness helps or hurts in attaining power in the realm of electoral politics, where the power dynamics are different than in organizations. But there are some likely parallels. “Having a strong set of alliances is generally important to power in all areas of life,” he said. “Disagreeable politicians might have more difficulty maintaining necessary alliances because of their toxic behavior.”

Originally published by
Laura Counts | August 31, 2020
Berkeley Haas

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Silver Level Contributor

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With some colleges opening their doors to students, others opting for virtual learning, and some embracing a hybrid model, students are left under a cloud of uncertainty about their college experience. Now more than ever, as guidelines and decisions continue to change, excellent communication from colleges is essential to ensuring student success. Professors are no longer the only ones communicating with students, and they need clear and timely communication on safety, new procedures, payments, course selection and more. That is why higher education institutions must rethink the way they communicate, and provide the same level of top-notch customer service that parents and students expect from a host of other industries.

Colleges and universities are taking definitive action to attract and retain students, but these efforts have been further complicated by the constraints of the pandemic. In addition, bureaucracy and long hold times have historically yielded dissatisfaction among college students. According to an Academic Impressions survey, only six higher education professionals from 79 colleges and universities graded their school’s student-centric service with an “A.” To improve and optimize communication practices in this setting requires building a culture around it.

 

Originally posted by:

Brad Birnbaum
August 31st, 2020

https://www.forbes.com/sites/bradbirnbaum/2020/08/31/why-higher-education-needs-to-think-customer-service-to-ensure-student-success/#58fc90995797

 

 

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Image: Mimi Thian - Unsplash

Supervisors with good people-management skills keep employees happier and less likely to quit, but might not spur higher productivity, a new study has found.

In a paper forthcoming in The Journal of Political Economy based on research at a large tech company, Berkeley Haas Prof. Steve Tadelis and co-author Mitchell Hoffman of the University of Toronto found that employees who were assigned to managers who scored high on people-management skills were less likely to leave the company than those assigned to less-skilled managers.

“The success of companies depends crucially on the relationships between managers and their subordinates, but whether or not managers specifically influence employee performance or decision-making has not been well-studied,” Tadelis said. “We found a very clear connection in terms of a company’s ability to retain its best employees.”

Tadelis and Hoffman gathered data from surveys of employees working in a variety of jobs, such as engineering, finance, or marketing. The company conducted annual surveys that asked the employees about a range of topics—from whether their manager was trustworthy to whether the manager provided adequate coaching—and used the responses to create a measure of the supervisors’ skills. Along with personnel data on the employees, the researchers then analyzed the extent to which good people-management skills affected several employee outcomes.

Turnover is a critical issue in the tech sector, since replacing workers is difficult due to the specialized knowledge many jobs require. “There’s tremendous competition over talent in tech,” Tadelis says. “Losing good people is really painful.”

Their results showed that, indeed, supervisors with good people-management skills kept employees from quitting their jobs. Specifically, if an employee moved from a manager ranked in the bottom 10% of the people-management score to a manager ranked at 90% or above, they would be 60% less likely to leave the company, the researchers concluded.

They also looked at resignations from highly valued employees to determine whether the firm “regretted” the loss. Firms keep information on which employees are top performers in order to determine future promotions or for rehiring, if the company tries to incentivize someone to return. The researchers found an even stronger association between managers’ scores and regretted quits, showing that good managers prevented good employees from leaving the company.

The results were also stronger for employees at higher levels of the company, suggesting that a manager’s people-management skills are particularly important for employees who may have more demanding jobs.

Interestingly, they found that supervisors’ people-management skills were not associated with other measurable outcomes. The authors found no evidence that better managers helped spur more employee patents, or led to better subjective job performance or a higher probability of promotion. The authors interpret these results as evidence that better people management skills may not make workers more productive, but do improve their job satisfaction. Tadelis cautioned that at a high-tech company, it is difficult to measure individual productivity, so there may be other benefits to having better people-management skills that could not be measured in the study.

The reserachers also found that managers with good people skills were viewed more favorably by the company and rewarded for their abilities. A manager at the 90th percentile of the people-management score was three times more likely to be promoted relative to a manager at the 10th percentile. This finding, along with the result that good managers were more impactful at higher levels of the company, indicates that the company was effective in putting good managers into positions where they could make the most impact.

Finally, the authors calculated that if a manager moved from the 10th to the 90th percentile of the management score, employee costs would be reduced by 5% due to the lower rates of turnover, and the company would benefit dramatically from these savings

“More and more companies are introducing more sophisticated tools for human resource analytics,” said Tadelis. “Our research shows that HR data and surveys that are gathered by some companies can be used effectively to improve HR outcomes.”

Originally published by
AUGUST 25, 2020|BY MORGAN FOY
Berkeley Haas

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