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It's the end of the Microsoft model and the dawn of a new technology era, says former AOL CEO Barry Schuler.
To find the biggest technology opportunities of the next decade, you have to understand the ways computer operating systems are evolving.
Barry Schuler, who as a former CEO of AOL is one of the pioneers of the modern internet, sat down with Inc. editor-in-chief Eric Schurenberg to talk about the most exciting developments he sees in his work as managing director for venture-capital fund DFJ Growth.
In addition to clearly disruptive businesses like Tesla and SpaceX, both of which DFJ backed, Schuler pinpointed a sea change in computer operating systems as one of the key areas for startups and business growth over the next several years.
"Our whole worlds have really been driven by the Microsoft model," he said. But the concept of a desktop operating system with cohesive software and a server network has been upended by the rise of device-agnostic apps and cloud-based computing. According to Schuler, "That whole model, that monolithic OS model, and everything that plugs into it, that coherent world, is being exploded."
The reason? Schuler sees the classic "Mac versus PC" battle as increasingly less relevant in the face of advancing technology, universal applications, and how consumers use both. Today, said Schuler, "what you care about is you can get your stuff anywhere, everywhere, from every place you want it."
As the old divisions fade away and internet access points expand--cell phones, TVs, wearables--technology is entering everyday life in a way that it never has before, along with an enormous amount of data, which will allow customization on a massive scale.
"This signal and that signal can make everything work in a very customized way," Schuler said. Bringing big data-driven technology to everyday life "will be the big theme that drives the next decade."
Barry Schuler on World-Changing Opportunities in Technology
Government shutdown, be damned: 2013 was the best year for going public in almost a decade, according to a new report.
According to an Ernst & Young report, released Tuesday, it was the best year for IPOs since 2004, as businesses overcame obstacles like the fourth quarter government shutdown and filed for a nearly decade-high record of IPOs.
By the end of 2013, the report says a projected 222 companies will have gone public. That's a 67 percent increase from 2012, when just 133 companies filed for IPO. These companies weren't just flopping on the public markets either. The report shows they yielded higher average first day returns than newly public companies did in 2012.
According to Ernst & Young's America's IPO Leader Jackie Kelley, 2013 saw a number of factors come together to support companies looking to go public. Economic conditions were strong and market volatility was low, and as companies continued to demonstrate sturdy post-IPO performances, it kept the ball rolling. Kelley adds, "We also had a huge backlog of private equity investments over the last five to seven years, and private equity firms are now looking to exit those investments." Indeed, 40 percent of the companies that went public this year were backed by private equity firms.
The best part is, this winning streak isn't over yet, according to Kelley. "The fact that we have a strong Q4 this year will boost the momentum going into 2014," she predicts.
Together the 222 companies that went public raised some $59.7 billion. While this year did see some high profile consumer-facing IPOs of companies like Twitter and Zulily, healthcare companies had the most public offerings, followed by high technology, and energy. But as sectors begin to blur (who can really distinguish a high tech company from a consumer products company these days?) and companies begin to identify themselves by a variety of sectors, there may be a shuffling of the deck in terms of which companies succeed in future IPOs. "The sector blurring will create some interesting IPO activity over the next year or so," Kelley predicts. "We'll have some really disruptive, innovative companies, and people will be saying, 'What are they?'"
As for that small matter of the government shutting down this year? Kelley says most companies saw it coming and raced to get their paperwork in order beforehand, so by the time the government did close for business, Kelley says, "It was a non-event."
Eric Ries spoke with Inc. about startup management at the Lean Startup Conference going on in San Francisco this week.
Eric Ries is best known for pioneering the Lean Startup movement, a methodology designed to eliminate waste during a company's development. Since his book "The Lean Startup" was published in 2011, Ries has hosted an event based on the same theme. This week's Lean Startup Conference in San Francisco had about 1,500 attendees. In between sessions, I caught up with Ries and asked him about his work leading up to the conference and also about an ongoing problem he's been working on.
At a talk yesterday, one speaker discussed the "wrong things" to worry about as a founder. What was one "wrong thing" that you were worried about as a young founder?
Oh man. Here’s what I thought was going to happen. I thought that when you launch a product, on the first day -- literally that first day -- some enterprising investigative reporter would try it, it wouldn’t work, and you’d get a horrible front-page headline "You’re an Idiot Cause Your Product Doesn’t Work."
And so my cofounders and I spent ludicrous amounts of time debating, arguing what features are in or out, what is the right standard of quality. Is this good enough or does it need more polish? Everything was all about have we done enough, enough, enough? The underlying assumption to everything we did is if we take longer, the product will be better. And there’s not a lot of evidence for that thesis.
Another big topic here is how to be more extroverted. How can the more reserved founders here stand out in the crowd?
I’m actually very introverted. This is very unnatural for me. The day of a conference like this, I’m wrecked and exhausted by the end. It’s very draining. And a lot of founders are that way actually. You have to be able to master pitching and selling your startup to be a founder of any quality.
Look at the successful founders. It’s not like [Mark Zuckerberg] was a masterful public speaker when he started. It’s not about extroversion and salesmanship. It’s really about learning how to communicate your vision clearly.
And if you can do that then you can find people that that will resonate with and that will make the sale. Eventually as you get more successful you can both hire people who are much more outgoing than you are to do the functions of your job that require that outgoingness. All of that stuff is important, but I think clarity of communication is the first step.
What's the future of startup management?
I think when we look back on this time decades from now, we will realize that everything we know about how to manage startup is the tiniest tip of the iceberg for a lot of stuff to come. One example: what are the specific metrics that startups should report progress to their stakeholders in? To VCs, to corporate CFOs, or to your spouse if you’re a garage entrepreneur?
People use vanity metrics, and the traction numbers and the big hockey sticks. People report progress that way, and they think that’s fine. But you yourself as the entrepreneur set up the goal posts using vanity metrics, and so when you then go back and say oh I’ve learned a new accounting system, it sounds like you’re making an excuse.
For example, you’re used to being judged by pageviews, and your pageviews are killing it. You have some time go by and you have no pageviews, but you’re like, "But we have such good engagement!" No editor in the world is going to fall for it.
You have to have established the criteria ahead of time. I’ve seen this in media, in health care, you name it. I’ve seen this problem play out. You have to set up the new goal posts from the beginning, be consistent in their use, and you have to be able to explain why they’re the right goal posts.
Keeping a clear vision for your company's trajectory is hard, especially when you have two new users every second. Here's what Weiner does to stay on the right path.
The social network for business professionals grew its 2013 third-quarter revenue a whopping 56 percent over the same period last year, to $393 million. Financial success makes any CEO look good, but Weiner says explosive growth can distract a leader from his or her vision for the company's future.
"Hyper-growth companies often get so caught up with innovation and the adrenaline rush that they chase the next bright shiny thing at the expense of getting their launch trajectory right," he told Knowledge@Wharton, the University of Pennsylvania business school's blog.
During a recent Wharton School fireside chat, Weiner spoke about the skills that help him keep on his planned trajectory. Below are the three rules he follows for leading, hiring, and inspiring his employees.
Don't tell your troops what to do.
As elementary as it may sound, knowing the difference between being a leader and a manager is crucial to effective leadership, Weiner says. "When I was younger, I didn't understand the difference," he says. "For me, leadership is the ability to inspire others to achieve shared objectives." So when you're in a jam and you need your employees to hit a certain goal, remember the distinction. "Managers tell people what to do. Leaders inspire them to do it," he says.
Hire with vision.
Every hyper-growth company will constantly be hiring. But the secret is to know how to hire employees who will help bring you seamlessly into the future. Weiner says that LinkedIn has been around for 10 years in large part because of it hiring tactics. He looks for candidates with what he calls "technology vision." "It's invaluable to have someone on the team who understands technology and the way it's going to be changing society," he says. "Then the job is to get in front of those trends and unlock a tremendous amount of value."
But hiring is only part of it. The other part is making sure you, as a leader, demonstrate the values you require your staff to possess. "We set about establishing very clearly what our values were. And far more important than that, we live them," he says.
Focus on the next play.
A great leader makes sure his or her team is always focused on its next goal, not its past accomplishments or failures. Taking a philosophy from Duke men's basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski, Weiner says his company's mantra is "Next Play." "Every time the Duke Blue Devils complete a sequence, on either the offense or defensive side of the court, no matter how well or poorly they performed, the coach yells out the same thing: 'Next Play,'" Weiner says. During LinkedIn's final days as a private company, Weiner witnessed just how well the philosophy worked. As he spoke with his employees, they talked about "'next play this,'" and "'next play that,'" instead of the IPO as the end of the game, he says.
In a vocabulary crash course, computer scientist Scott Friedman told non-technical people how to talk technology.
It goes without saying that clear communication within a company is key. There's just one problem. As a non-technical manager, how do you hire -- let alone communicate with -- a group of people who literally work in a different language? In other words, how can you talk like a programmer if you're not a programmer?
Talking Like a Programmer
To start, you need to get the basic terms down cold. San Francisco's General Assembly, an international educational institution that teaches technology skills, offers a single two-hour crash course on tech vocabulary for non-programmers. This week, I sat in on the session, along with about 80 other non-programmers.
Course instructor Scott Friedman, PhD, chief technologist at UCLA, explained why it's so important to get the terms straight. "If you mess something up, what happens? Wall comes down. 'You're an idiot. I'm not talking to you anymore,'" he said, imitating a fed up programmer. "To programmers distinctions matter," Friedman said.
This stems from the fact that computers are useless machines unless their users are precise. Likewise, programmers are precise people, and you need to respect that as much as you can, Friedman said. So learn the lingo. That's step one.
Talking to a Programmer
Step two is the fun part -- actually taking programmers. Friedman spent the last quarter of the class discussing how to find and hire the best programmers. He acknowledged that for non-technical founders, hiring can be difficult because there's little else to go on but a gut feeling. However, pay close attention to that gut feeling, he advised.
"If someone is giving you a bad vibe, move on. There are plenty of programmers out there, particularly people doing this kind of work," Friedman said. He outlined three other tips for vetting your candidates:
Check references. You should always talk to other people who have hired them, especially if those managers are technical people and can really vouch for the candidate's work.
Look at their work. Have them show you other things they've done, and ask them what their specific contributions to the project were. If it's a complex web page, it's unlikely that they designed the entire thing by themselves. If they tell you they did, they could be lying.
Don't be intimated. Yes, they're smart but so are you.
"Once you find this person, believe me, you'll know. It's like dating or anything else," Friedman said. "But don't let outstanding be the enemy of pretty good. Because in the end you need to get something done."
Here are some simple changes you can use to make board meetings more efficient.
Most board meetings are "update meetings" where management downloads its status to a group of investors. These outside board members spend most of the board meeting trying to reacquaint themselves with the company’s business and critical issues.
This is hardly ideal and some simple changes could help management avoid both issues. Put simply, the majority of board meetings becomes an exercise in management trying to reassure investors that "we’re doing a good job" and for investors to sounds smart so they can prove that "we’re adding value."
Both of the functions are a waste of time. So most board meetings become bored meetings.
I’ve attended more than 150 board meetings in the last few years alone. Every time I think to write a post about this I figure the most recent board meeting I’ve attended will think it’s about them so I don’t bother. So I’m going to write a series of board meetings posts unrelated to anybody or maybe an amalgamation of them all. These posts are not about any individual company even though they’ve all heard me say these things often.
Today’s post is about doing the proper planning so you get the most out of the two to three hours that you’ve set.
If you don’t plan your board meeting I promise you that you won’t maximize the limited time you have with your board.
What should your goal for a board meeting be?
If I’m in your shoes I’d think about what is most critical to help your business succeed. If you’re a venture-backed tech company or even an early-stage business fueled by angel or seed money I assume you have a good group of board members or advisors who will give you time to be helpful and they want to be helpful. I’d want to maximize the amount of time these outsiders could spar with management on the key issues in my business.
So my board management (pre meeting, meeting, post meeting) goals would be to:
1. Provide enough information that non management board members could have a real debate about my strategic issues
2. Have the maximum amount of time in person dedicated to discussing the most important topics
3. Get board members to help me with things they are uniquely positions to help with - mostly introductions, recruiting or coaching my team members
4. And of course you must also get your board administration done. This should take the least amount of time possible.
Ideal Board Meeting
With the limited time you have together as a group, I’d want the following ratio of time spent
1. Provide information / context (15%)
2. Discuss, debate and potentially reach decisions on the most important topics (70%)
3. Deal with company admin: 409a valuations, approve stock options, vote on key measures (15%)
Ineffecient Board Meeting
In my nearly 15 years of attending board meetings I can tell you that the distribution of time actually spent on these activities while you’re in person is more like:
1. Provide information (40-50%)
2. Discuss topics but not the most important ones (20-25%)
3. Discuss most important topics (10-20%)
4. Discuss what intro’s investors could provide you, even if "off topic" or "not hugely relevant" (5-10%)
5. Explain and discuss company admin (10-20%)
The most important message from today’s post I’d like to impart is that board meetings that serve as update meetings are simply a waste of valuable time. You feel good about yourselves because you escape the board meeting with no controversy and you feel good about your presentation and all of the positive reinforcement.
If you have experienced people around the table wouldn’t you rather hear their points-of-view on the issues that have you waking up in the middle of the night?
- Should we charge for our product or be freemium?
- Should we ramp up sales hires now or wait for more traction?
- Should we charge SaaS revenue, ad revenue or volumetric billing revenue?
- Should we cut staff early since our revenue isn’t growing?
- Should we hire the head of a business unit who has turned out to be a bad seed?
- Should we raise capital now while valuations are strong or wait until next year when we have more traction?
- Do we have the right product strategy?
You don’t even have to follow the advice they give. You could simply hear everybody’s opinions, debate them on the answers, ask for evidence of where this has worked / not worked. And importantly ask for introductions to portfolio companies who have been through similar issues.
The single most important changes you could make immediately to get more out of board meetings would be:
- Get the "company update" information out early in a presentation format sent 72 hours before the meeting (48 hours at the least). Let board members know that you’re not walking through this in the actual meeting
- Schedule 1:1 calls 1 week before the meeting to walk each board member through the key issues / performance metrics in the business. This is also helpful because you can find out if they have anything on their mind that they’d want to discuss at the board meeting. There should be no surprises at board meetings and having these short calls in advance will help control that
- Set the agenda of your board meeting as dealing with the most important topic items. Make it clear that this is what you’ll discuss during the meeting. Even better if they have reading materials to prepare for this discussion
- Write down the things that were actually agreed in the meeting and the introductions promised (the ones you want to pursue, anyways) and follow up after the board. I find that most boards are so relieved to be done with the meeting and “get back to work” that they don’t chase up on actions promised and they don’t send a timely reminder of the key agreements reached to lock down and memorialize those agreements.
This article was originally published on Mark Suster's blog, Both Sides of the Table.
Our job candidates often worry that they don't have enough industry experience to work for us. Doesn't matter.You can do a lot with “smart.” An intelligent, competent person is capable of learning the necessary procedures and policies that make your business tick. But dedication, motivation, and passion? Those crucial traits can’t be taught. At Lexion Capital, our administrative branch is composed of a tight-knit team who hail from a wide range of backgrounds. More often than not, they don't have finance experience. In interviews, candidates for our back-office positions often make a point of qualifying that they lack finance experience. They are surprised to learn that I’m not necessarily looking for someone who has worked at a finance firm; I’m looking for bright, enthusiastic individuals who share our values, love our mission, and have a history of very high achievement. As CEO, I realize that great ideas can come from any level of the company, from people with all levels of experience. A smart staff who bring a patchwork of perspectives and are excited about the company generate creative, inventive solutions. Fresh to the world of finance, they often have different ways of looking at our problems. Know what can and can’t be trained. Skills can be learned. Attitude is a different story. I have a friend who is a very enterprising restaurateur. His initial restaurant was a true labor of love. A tight-knit team helped get the venture off the ground. Now, a few years later his franchise is very successful, with several locations. At one of his locations, the general manager was bringing down the entire team with his poor attitude and negativity. Even after a conversation with his superiors, the general manager failed to change. Though he was competent at the work itself and had been with the restaurant since the beginning, this person was no longer adding to the success of the business--he was significantly detracting from it. When I asked my friend how he felt about having to let this person go, he admitted that it was very difficult. The general manager was stunned. “But we brought in someone new,” my friend said, “who is not just capable but happy to be there.” As an entrepreneur, each and every employee is an investment. Ask yourself: Does this person add unique value? You literally can’t afford the naysayer who discourages or detracts from the team’s efforts. In certain cases, enthusiasm goes farther than mere experience. A bright employee who is eager to learn can become a standout contributor, given the chance to build a foundation in the necessary skills. These employees can make more valuable additions to your team than those who may have the more traditional backgrounds but lack passion for the larger mission. An investment in the right people will yield infinite returns--and the benefits can only compound.
Are you obsessed with the same metrics investors care about? Here are three investor-friendly ways of looking at fast-growth businesses.
Nothing seems to grab headlines more easily than a company that raises, say, $50 million and is valued at $2 billion. No revenue? Never mind. Doesn’t matter. Then there’s the promising young company that actually has $20 million in sales but only manages to eek out a valuation of $200 million. Sounds like en episode of “VCs Gone Wild, ” doesn’t it?
But, when you look deeper, it’s all about metrics -- and maybe not the metrics that you, the entrepreneur, are most focused on.
That’s why business owners have to know how venture capitalists think. Key metrics for growth-stage companies can vary as much as their products and services. Nothing is more important than calibrating an appropriate valuation for your company. Most entrepreneurs think the correct valuation is the highest one they can get. Nope. You want the valuation that sets achievable expectations. Let's face it: If the term "down round" doesn't strike fear into your heart, it should.
Traditionally, revenue and profit have been the gold standard metrics. But those metrics rarely reveal what really makes growth-stage companies tick. That’s because they are in expansion mode and will be operating at a loss and burning cash. In addition, the metrics venture capitalists focus on have evolved over the years. And the competition for good deals can drive prices up too.
To help out with all this voodoo, here are some of the most popular metrics that venture investors consider.
Investors who love the sound of a predictably-ringing cash register pay a premium for businesses who can achieve this. The subscription revenue model used to be limited to domains such as magazines, pay TV, phone companies and fitness centers. Now the entire software industry has moved in this direction with the introduction of “Software as a Service,” or SaaS, where you pay a monthly fee and get free updates rather than buy a specific version for a set price.
The beauty of this model: once the costs of acquiring a subscriber are established, and you've figured out how long they stay (life time value) and what the cancelation rate or “churn” will be, investors can predictably calculate how each dollar invested will increase the value of the business. Who doesn’t love predictability?
If They Come, We Will Build It
Audience growth is eye candy to venture capitalists, especially for Internet companies where dramatic audience growth has drawn breathtaking valuations even before there was a penny of revenue. The presumption is that if you have something that the masses are flocking to, ultimately you'll figure out some way to monetize it. The social trinity of Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, followed by Instagram, Tumblr and Waze, have all garnered nosebleed valuations yet this way. These successes have driven valuations of the next wave--Pinterest, Snapchat and so on--right into orbit.
Freemium is a go-to-market approach that allows customers to try a product before buying. Customers who like buy the whole thing, or maybe some extra features (common in games such as Candy Crush). This model often goes hand-in-hand with recurring revenue, since the free version may convert into a subscription. Here VC’s will focus on conversion rates: what percentage of free users ultimately start paying.
So there you have it: three popular models VCs love. But consider this: expansion stage investors care most about the growth rate of the metrics most relevant to your business model. How fast you get profitable may be less important than you think. Dramatic growth is the real gold standard. If you can demonstrate annual--and sustainable--growth rates of 100% or more in your key metrics, you will have no shortage of investors knocking at your door with buckets of cash.
A stellar holiday weekend was a step in the right direction for the daily-deals site. But don't call it a comeback just yet.
There was much speculation over whether Groupon would bounce back after CEO Andrew Mason was pushed out of the daily-deals company in July. Over the summer that seemed likely, as Groupon’s stock doubled since July 2012 and shares more than quadrupled since tanking last November.
The trend seemed to continue over the four-day Thanksgiving weekend, when Groupon enjoyed its best holiday retail sales ever, thanks to Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Sales rose nearly 30 percent from the same period the previous year, reports Seeking Alpha, and more than half those transactions came from mobile.
More than 50 million people in 43 countries have downloaded Groupon's new app, which the company unveiled in November. But with its stock well below its November 2011 IPO price of $20, the jury is still out on whether transforming itself into an online marketplace will be its saving grace.
Since becoming chief executive in July, Eric Lefkofsky has said he wants to transition Groupon from a daily-deals company into an e-commerce company. That means reducing reliance on e-mail blasts and building a repository of offers for browsing on mobile and desktop platforms. Lefkofsky also says he hopes to elevate Groupon's offers from teeth whitening coupons and laser hair removal to high-end restaurants, household products, and vacations.
"We're trying to convey this basic message, which is we want Groupon to be the place you start with when you want to buy anything, anywhere, any time," Lefkofsky told The Los Angeles Times in August.
By some measures, the company's efforts to realize that goal are working. A Groupon spokesperson told Inc. its number of active daily deals grew to 65,000 in North America in the third quarter of this year, compared with 54,000 in the second quarter. And the company says it has made strides in improving its search and personalization features. The launch of a freebies market, where consumers can snap up giveaways, samples, and coupons, has also generated much-needed buzz.
These are bold moves, but Forrester analyst Sucharita Mulpuru isn’t convinced they're helping, despite those holiday sales. During this period, it's expected that more people will open their e-mails and pick up their phones, she says. The question for Groupon, as for any retailer, is whether it can keep those customers coming back.
“One good Thanksgiving Day won't turn around anyone's business--everyone in e-commerce had a great Thanksgiving week this year," she says. "They need to find great deals and continue generating value for customers every day for the rest of their future to have a true turnaround.”
It's tough to get a small business loan, but not impossible. Check out six ways to improve your chances next time.
Having a bank turn you down for a loan really sucks, I can tell you from experience. It's humiliating, causing you to doubt your own worth and want to huddle in your bedroom, with the shades down.
Don't give in to that temptation. A rejected loan application is not necessarily a judgment against your earning power, the prospects for your business, or even the value of your assets. So take a brief break to do whatever bucks up your spirits and then follow these tips from Roberto Barragan, CEO of alternative lender Aquaria Funds:
1. Don't take it personally.
Never were the words "It's the economy, stupid!" more apt. "It continues to be a very difficult small business loan environment," Barragan says. Bank regulators look closely at small business loans, he explains. Even if a business has never missed a payment, broke even in its second year, and turned a small profit in its third, they may require the bank to keep more money in reserve to cover what they perceive as a risky loan. That means many banks will be reluctant to write small business loans, even to solid, money-making businesses.
2. Ask why.
The bank will send a letter to notify you of its decision, but that letter will likely contain little actual info. But a loan turn-down is a chance to learn how to improve your chances next time, so don't miss that opportunity: Grit your teeth, get on the phone, and ask the loan officer you worked with to explain exactly why you were rejected.
"There's nothing to be shy about," Barragan says. "Say, 'Explain to me what I missed. What can I do to get a loan in the future?'"
3. Check your credit score.
According to Barragan, this is a big tripping point for small business borrowers--their personal credit history gets in the way. If you have a foreclosure or short sale in your past, or even excessive credit card debt, it can hurt your credit score and thus your chances for a business loan.
"Nowadays, banks are looking for a credit score of 720 or better," he says. And, he adds, a credit score below 680 will be a real impediment to all facets of starting a business, since not only will it be hard to get a loan, but a commercial landlord may ask for a higher deposit, for example.
Your first step is to get a copy of your credit report and see if there are any errors on it--if there are, you can write to the credit bureaus and ask for a correction. Pay down outstanding credit card bills and other (non-mortgage) debt, and make sure to make payments on time.
4. Reconsider your tax strategy.
Many small business owners take every deduction they can when filing their taxes, to lower their net income as much as possible. While this is a good strategy for decreasing your tax bill, it can backfire when it comes to getting a loan, Barragan warns, because it will make your small business appear unprofitable. (And if you're tempted to submit a different tax return to the bank from the one you send to Uncle Sam--don't. They can check.)
If you're going to apply for another loan soon and your 2012 tax return shows little income, consider filing your 2013 return as soon as you can after January 1--after all, there's no rule that says you have to wait till April 15. It's also always an option to file an amended tax return showing higher profits for this year, though you will likely have to pay additional taxes and possibly penalties.
5. Put your own assets on the line.
Barragan recalls one client who wanted a $400,000 loan to open a beauty salon but was unwilling to put up her house equity as collateral. "You can't put all the risk on the bank," he says. "You have to have some skin in the game."
6. Look beyond banks.
There are many ways to get business loans outside the banking industry, Barragan says, so if you've been turned down and don't have good prospects for a bank loan, look for alternatives. To find them, start with the local SBA office or small business development center. "Almost every city and state has state-sponsored small business loan programs," he says.
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I wasn't ready to start a business, but South Africa inspired me. Nelson Mandela and his family have given me incredible boosts of confidence--and motivation--along the way. Here's what I've learned from working with them.
"As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same."
They say that the third time's a charm. In my case, a second trip to South Africa was when the magic happened.
It was during that journey that I serendipitously attended the first Soweto Wine Festival and learned that the residual effects of apartheid meant that South Africa's burgeoning $3 billion wine industry has less than 2 percent black ownership. That's appalling considering blacks represent more than 80 percent of the country's population.
My husband and I were inspired to launch Heritage Link Brands to improve these statistics. Our mission in starting HLB--our company that markets, imports, and distributes South African wine in the United States--was to introduce people to products that showcase the best quality out of Africa, rooted in stories of perseverance and triumph. Wine is an ideal conduit to encourage economic empowerment, which must still catch up to the political freedom South Africa achieved when apartheid ended almost 20 years ago.
It's pretty much impossible to root your work in South Africa and not be inspired by the energy that Nelson Mandela infused into his nation. His presence can feel larger than life, even though one of the characteristics that so attracted the world was his humility--a humility that made him a relatable "everyman's hero" who inspired others to realize that they too, could be heroes, if only they had the courage to follow their dreams.
Today, I also have the pleasure of working directly with the Mandela family. In 2010 I encountered a story about the launch of the House of Mandela wine brand, led by Nelson Mandela's daughter and his granddaughter, Dr. Makaziwe Mandela and Tukwini Mandela. I cold-called the company--and it worked. In two years, we were the exclusive importer of the House of Mandela wine in the United States.Focusing on the Mission
I've learned a lot working with the Mandelas. Our work has reinforced the importance of choosing partners for which you align on mission: We knew it was no coincidence when we learned about their brand's commitment to courage, compassion, and community. We are both family-focused businesses with a focus on generational prosperity, and we also share a commitment to sustainable business practices; the House of Mandela was recently named 2013 Fair Trade Winery of the Year by the NY International Wine Competition.
Working with the Mandela family gave me the rare opportunity to see Nelson Mandela in the context of something bigger than him: family. This great man could have taken most of the credit for his accomplishments, but instead, he actively and consistently chose to stay humble. Rather than focus solely on himself, he actively encouraged his offspring to stay true to themselves and pursue their passions, as long as they did it in a way that honored their family and heritage.Realizing the Goal is Bigger than You
Nelson Mandela's mindset truly inspired me. When we decided to found Heritage Link Brands, we weren't wine connoisseurs--in fact, I wasn't even aware of South Africa's black wine producers! I was scared and frequently second-guessed my decision to found a small business: was I ready to take a leap of faith into entrepreneurship, drain our family's savings, navigate the discrimination of South Africa's largest agricultural industry, or enter into one of the most highly-regulated industries in the U.S. and compete against huge wine companies? Hell no! I wasn't ready for any of it! I didn't know exactly how I was going to surpass those challenges, but I did understand early on that through our business, I had the power to do good in a way that would benefit not only generations of our family, but also families across Africa and the Diaspora, for hundreds of years to come. I charged on.
Today, HLB is the largest importer and marketer of black-produced wine from Africa and its Diaspora. Working with South Africa's first family has certainly heightened our platform to introduce the world to all our wine brands. Our award-winning wines are served worldwide aboard three airlines, and recent placements with Target and Walmart confirm our capacity to compete with publically traded competitors. And if you want to help carry forward the legacy, just ask your local wine shop to carry the House of Mandela wines. You can also purchase them on our website.Letting Your Light Shine
I never had the honor of meeting Nelson Mandela directly, but consider myself fortunate to have gotten to know him indirectly, through his family. Working with the Mandela family has deepened my understanding that Heritage Link Brands is not just about me and my husband, our wine producers, or even just the African continent. It's about leaving the world a better place through our work, and appreciating all the people who allow us to meet our mission.
Accordingly, to honor Nelson Mandela's legacy, Heritage Link Brands is proud to announce that as part of our work, we will be honoring everyday heroes: the veterans, homemakers, pilots, janitors, and wine workers whose quiet and consistent work allows us to introduce the world to the good coming out of Africa! Because as Nelson Mandela taught us, consistently doing the everyday tasks with excellence results in the extraordinary.
It is indeed a long walk to freedom--whether political, economical, or social. Working with the Mandela family has taught me that my entrepreneurial road has been paved not only by the iconic heroes, but also the everyday heroes whose work is just as important. And for that, I will forever be humbly thankful.
Forget Zuckerberg. These are the entrepreneurs you'll want to be watching next year.
These visionary founders are making their mark on everything from cybersecurity and e-commerce to mobile payments and robots. And that's only what they've accomplished so far. Here are the founders you'll want to keep your eye on in 2014.
Why she's important: Grenier spearheaded the creation and deployment of PackBots who fought with our troops and the mega-hit Roomba Vacuuming Robot. Now she's on her second act, a startup for flying robots. Watch for: Grenier's name being spoken in the same breath as drones, which Congress may deem legal by 2015. With lawmarkers considering commercial use of flying robots, CyPhy might become a household name.
Why he's important: Valued at $5.04 billion, Cavens' Seattle-based startup soared 88 percent in its initial public offering last month. It's also <href="http://www.inc.com/jeremy-quittner/billionaire-club-zulily.html ">nearly tripled its workforce to 950 employees in the past two years. Watch for: The four-year-old company breaking new ground in retail, proving flash sales can work. It's profitable, though it could stand to earn a lot more.
Why he's important: Pay Pal's old anti-fraud strategy has metamorphosed into one of the biggest players in the burgeoning "big data" industry. This week, the company closed a funding round pegging its value at $9 billion. Watch for: More hiring (employee ranks have grown to 1,200 from 700 a year ago), lucrative partnerships with pharmaceutical and investment companies, and IPO rumors. Palantir has yet to turn profitable.
Why he's important: The 28-year-old CEO of the billion-dollar cloud-computing company was named Inc. entrepreneur of the year. Watch for: Box to go public. Rumor has it Levie tapped Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse, and JPMorgan Chase & Co. to and raise about $500 million.
Why he's important: Dorsey's mobile payments startup set the standard for everyone else. Last we checked, it was processing $10 billion annually. Meanwhile, more than 40,000 retailers were using its mobile card readers. Watch for: An IPO as soon as next year, according to The Los Angeles Times. Today Square is used at more than 250,000 locations in the U.S. and Canada.
Why he's important: Kalanick has some saying Uber "has the potential to radically remake the American landscape." And $258 million in funding from Google is nothing to sniff at. Watch for: Home deliveries and brand partnerships with the likes of Home Depot. It's all about exposure, and the startup's Christmas tree delivery service is just the beginning of its commercial binge.
Why he's important: His Internet streaming service is so innovative, it's transforming the way we watch television. Traditional broadcasters view this as copyright infringement and keep taking him to court--where he's winning. Watch for: More legal victories and perhaps a visit to the Supreme Court. Kanojia hopes to expand from its New York home base to 22 cities by the end of this year and could wind up in even more next year.
Why he's important: After a successful launch on Kickstarter with the SmartThings starter kit, Hawkinson devoted the past year to building a platform that connects a range of devices to the web. Watch for: With $12.5 million in Series A funding to toy with, Hawkinson hopes to broaden the company's reach online and offline. He'll also encourage more products to be built for SmartThings' platform.
Why he's important: GoPro sales have reportedly more than doubled each year since the camera's debut in 2004. Woodman says the company sold 2.3 million cameras in 2012 and grossed $521 million. Watch for: Serious growth. The nine-year-old company comprised 21.5 percent of digital camcorder shipments in the first half of last year, according to IDC data cited in Forbes, and the introduction of an interchangeable lens and smartphone lens ensures mass appeal.
Why she's important: From Goldman Sachs to Casall, a Swedish lifestyle company, Mei knows what makes startups tick and how to keep those customers coming back--the well-edited e-commerce site draws over 3 million visits while shipping to over 200 countries. Watch for: More luxury partnerships that put its name on the map. The startup recently teamed up with luxury leather maker Treccani Milano.
Why he's important: Nonstop computer attacks, better known as distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, are a real pain in the neck for corporate websites. Trusted applications, like Prince's, can protect them. Why he's important: Who wants to be held liable for a data breach? As security and speed become bigger musts for consumers, small businesses will flock to CloudFlare.
According to a new report, optimism is high in the small business community, cautious though it may be.
Small business owners are feeling far more optimistic than they were a year ago, but they're still holding off on taking major risks.
That's the key finding to The Hartford's annual Small Business Success Study. The financial servicer's survey of more than 2,500 business owners was recently released and was conducted over the summer.
Overall, 48 percent of companies say they are optimistic that the economy will improve in the next year. While not a majority, that's up big time from 33 percent a year ago.
However, an air of caution underlies that figure. While optimism appears to be up, 69 percent of companies said they are not taking any more risks than they were a year ago. Only 16 percent have said they are taking more risks.
And the survey turned up another caveat about that optimistic outlook, showing a stark contrast between younger and older companies. While 64 percent of owners of 1-to-2-year-old companies said they were optimistic, just 36 percent of owners of 40-or-more-year-old companies said the same.
The survey turned up a number of other interesting data points:
- 53 percent of small business owners say their priority is maintaining their company at its current size, compared to just 36 percent who prioritize growth.
- 70 percent of business owners think their company is operating successfully, an incremental improvement from 68 percent last year.
- Only 15 percent would take a job at another company and give up their business, even if they could be guaranteed equal or greater success in that role.
You don't have data and you don't have time. Here's how to make a choice anyway.
In the era of big data, it is wise to wait for all the information before you make a big decision. But sometimes it's time to choose--and the information just isn't there yet.
"During my time at McKinsey, we were often called on to advise a client to make an important decision without the benefit of a lot of data," he writes. "A good example was when a client asked us to evaluate whether it should move into an adjacent, but new, market. We often didn’t know how that market would grow over time, or what kind of market share our client would get in the new market."
Ranadive prescribes three-step process, anchoring them to that example. When you have to make a snap decision, ask yourself the following three questions.
1. What was your day one hypothesis? The idea here is if you put a premium on developing an early hypothesis, "you always have a decision that you can stand behind at any point in time," Ranadive writes. A smart organization puts a premium on how they go about creating this early hypothesis, Ranadive says, by reading whatever they can get their hands on or interviewing industry experts.
2. Do you at least know the general direction this decision will bring you? Along similar lines as point one, you might not know how much you stand to gain or lose by entering a market. But you should probably have a sense for whether you will stand to gain. If you can't make a pinpoint projection but can be what Radavine calls "directionally right," and if that's the only kind of benchmark you have, then you might as well act on it.
3. What do you have to believe for this to be the right choice? In other words, if you decide to go ahead with this idea and based on what you already know, does it have a reasonable chance of actually working out? As an example, Radavine says to suppose in the hypothesis phase you learned that the new market you want to enter has a $250 million market. The mandate, self-imposed or otherwise, that you're working with is that you must be able to capture $50 million within three years. Do the math, and that's 20 percent. Is it reasonable that you can capture 20 percent of this new market by then? If not--there might be other competitors in the space that make it impossible to tell, or you might not have experience entering new markets--you might have to shut this initiative down, at least until you have the data that can better inform your decision.
Here is a round up of Inc.'s favorite entrepreneur-made products for 2013.
When you hear the word entrepreneur, many think of the hot-shot founders of big tech companies, like Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg. But there are still entrepreneurs out there that make physical, tangible goods. Here is a round up of Inc.'s favorite entrepreneur-made products for 2013.
The straight-side pint glass is a thing of the past when it comes to serving India Pale Ales. Dogfish Head Craft Brewery founder Sam Calagione and Sierra Nevada founder Ken Grossman have partnered up with German glassware company Spiegelau to reinvent the beer glass. Their creation? A tapered, 19-ounce glass. The glass, made from raw quartz, features three ridges that stimulate CO2 bubbles to bring out flavor. It is available form $9 on the Spiegelau website.
With a band of nylon cord and Italian leather, Miansai's M2 Chronograph watch is the brainchild of Miansai's founder, Michael Saiger. It features a second hand shaped like a fishhook, a hand-milled 39-millimeter stainless steel case, Japanese Quartz movements and Swiss sapphire crystal. The watch retails at $355 and the 45-employee company sells accessories in 36 countries.
With cherry wood casings reclaimed from flooring and furniture companies, LSTN's Cherry Wood Troubadours sell for $150 online and in stores around the country. With each headphone purchase, LSTN--founded by Joe Huff and Bridget Hilton--makes a donation to the Starkey Hearing Foundation, which uses the money to provide people in need with hearing aids.
Worried about biking after dark? Have no fear--and don't even worry about reflectors. Pure Fix Cycles' Zulu bike is coated in a sunlight activated, weatherproof, phosphorescent paint. One hour in direct sunlight translates to one hour of glow-time at night for the bike. The fixed gear ride features a steal frame and 700 x 28 tires. You can buy the Zulu, other fixed-gear bikes and cycling accessories from Pure Fix Cycles on the company's website and in bike shops across the country.
Rick and Michael Mast made chocolate as a hobby until 2007, when they opened Mast Brothers in Brooklyn, New York. Today, they handcraft chocolate bars in a 2,500-square-foot factory in Brooklyn's Williamsburg neighborhood. The bars are made from organic beans sourced from Madagascar, Belize, Papua New Guinea, and the Dominican Republic and shipped to the U.S. by sailboat. They are available at mastbrothers.com and in specialty stores for about $10 each.
Painted by artist Serena Mitnik-Miller, this $1,800 all-around polyurethane foam and fiberglass board with curved sides and a concave nose, was shaped by Ashley Lloyd Thompson in collaboration with surfboard maker Bing. One of the few female surfboard shapers and founder of Ashley Llloyd Surfboards, Thompson makes 40 to 80 custom surfboards per year in her Santa Cruz workshop. This and other models are available in boutique surf shops and on the Bing website.
Designed for extreme shooting, the GoPro Hero3 Black Edition features a new wide-angle video mode and 25 percent more battery life than its predecessor. The $399 unit weighs 1.4 pounds and includes a 3.9-inch-square waterproof case, a mount, and a three-way pivot arm. Nick Woodman was inspired to create a wearable sports camera during a surfing tour of Australia and founded GoPro in 2002. The company now sells cameras, mounts, and other accessories worldwide.
With 25 percent more battery life than it's predecessor, the 1.4 pound GoPro Hero3 Black Edition camera features a new wide-angle video mode, comes with a mount, a three-way pivot arm and includes a 3.9-inch-square waterproof case. This model retails at $399, but GoPro--founded in 2002 by Nick Woodman--sells other cameras, mounts and accessories worldwide.
The Zebra, a Kayak-for-auto-insurance startup, just landed a seed round from, among others, famed investor Mark Cuban. The founder explains how he did it.
It all started with a cold email. Subject line: "Want to disrupt the insurance industry?"
That's the message Adam Lyons sent to Mark Cuban about his new startup The Zebra, a little more than a year ago. Today, having closed a $3 million extended seed round from Cuban, among others, the company is officially launching to the public.
The Zebra is a like Kayak for auto insurance, comparing rates from hundreds of carriers across the country. Lyons (and yes, he does get a lot of jokes about lions and zebras) first conceived of the idea while working in the insurance industry in London, where the vast majority of auto insurance is bought through comparison engines.
"I didn't understand why that didn't exist here in the U.S.," he remembers thinking.
He soon discovered why. Auto insurance, it turns out, is regulated state to state, so a comparison engine would have to take into account each state's regulations. And unlike the airline industry, which has aggregate databases of prices from which sites like Kayak can gather their data, there's no such thing for the auto insurance industry.
In 2012, Lyons founded The Zebra and developed the concept in the Pittsburgh-based accelerator, Alpha Lab. Users can log on, enter some information like their credit score and location (The Zebra doesn't require users to give their names or contact information), and get real-time insurance quotes.
The Big Pitch
Unlike many startup founders, Lyons had no trouble finding willing investors. "We had a lot of options on the table, and it became clear that funding wouldn't be a problem," he says. "When you're starting out, usually the big concern is: can we get money? For us, it became: can we get the right people?"
Cuban, Lyons thought, was the right kind of people, so he sent him an email. "I read every email I get," Cuban says. "I delete 99 percent of them before the end of the first paragraph, but Adam got right to the point, and I liked the concept of Zebra."
Cuban says there are four key criteria he looks for in any startup he's considering investing in:
- a unique product
- a motivated and educated team
- knowledge of the market
- a demonstration that the big dream can work in practice.
"They were already doing the work," Cuban says of Lyons and his team. "It wasn't just a plan. They were already executing on it."
Lyons' emails alone convinced Cuban to invest in The Zebra months before the investor ever met the 26-year-old founder in person. Lyons' secret? "Don't try to get a yes immediately. You're going for a maybe," he says. "You want questions asked. Just be prepared to answer them."
The Zebra previously raised $1.5 million in seed funding, bringing the total seed round to $4.5 million. Among the startup's other investors are Simon Nixon, founder of the financial services price comparison engine MoneySuperMarket, as well as Mike Maples Jr., managing parter of the Floodgate Fund. Lyons plans to use the money to hire 40 insurance agents and additional engineers.
There are still hurdles ahead of The Zebra, namely, Cuban says "getting buy-in from some carriers." Currently, The Zebra has partnered with 22 insurance carriers, so when customers buy insurance from those carriers, The Zebra gets a cut. Still, there are hundreds more carriers out there. And while The Zebra can display quotes, users can't actually buy the insurance through the site, so Lyons is hoping that eventually those larger carriers, who are more hesitant about the service, will come around.
"A lot of companies were really excited, but when you're creating anything that’s disruptive you'll get push back from bigger incumbents," he says. "We're not an insurance company. We're a consumer advocate."
2013 was a banner year for great sales books. Here are my picks for the best of the best.
Last month, I posted the 5 Most Inspirational Books of 2013. Those books provide a foundation for success but (as most of you already realize), it's your ability to sell that will determine if you're truly success.
With that in mind, here are the best of the best sales books that were published last year. All of them are "must reads" for anyone serious about making serious money in business.
Subtitle: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others
Author: Daniel H. Pink
Why You Should Read It: While the sample "pitches" Pink gives are fairly dreadful, the main point of this book is that everyone is selling all the time. This observation is crucial to understanding both business specifically and human beings in general.
Best Quote: "Selling in all its dimensions--whether pushing Buicks on a car lot or pitching ideas in a meeting--has changed more in the last ten years than it did over the previous hundred."
Subtitle: How People, Not Technology, Seal the Deal
Author: Joanne Black
Why You Should Read It: In this easy read, referral-selling expert Black explains how to transcend technology and make connections with real people.
Best Quote: "Even with whisper-light computing power and immediate, 140-character Twitter posts, we are a face-to-face species, one that thrives on interpersonal communication and being in the presence of like-minded individuals."
Subtitle: The 39 Essential Rules for Delivering Sensational Service
Author: Lee Cockerell
Why You Should Read It: The reason that most customers give for buying elsewhere is that they got bad customer service. This book explains how to turn service into something that creates new customers, rather than driving away existing ones. It's also an absurdly easy read.
Best Quote: "At the end of the day, everything a business leader does is in the service of customer service."
Subtitle: : The Definitive Guide to Working Less and Making More
Author: Perry Marshall
Why You Should Read It: This is a definitive guide to the way that that the Pareto principle plays itself out in sales and in time management. I've posted about this in the past, but this book really drives the point home.
Best Quote: "If you have 30 customers, you're tempted to treat them all the same. Well, they're not really the same at all. Odds are [that] 20 percent of your business comes from just one of them."
Subtitle: Proven Actions You Must Take to Make Easier, Faster, Bigger Sales....Now and Forever
Author: Jeffrey Gitomer
Why You Should Read It: When it comes to selling, anything by Gitomer is worth reading. This book contains the essence of his current thinking and therefore should be in every sales library.
Best Quote: "Figure out where your value message is with respect to your customer perception of it and their willingness to receive it. Then do the one thing that 95% of salespeople will not do: work your ass off. Today."
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Gilt founder Kevin Ryan advises entrepreneurs to find the best candidates by spending more time on the hiring process.
Better-looking teens get higher grades and grow up to make more money than less-attractive peers, according to a new study.
Good-looking high school students have a great advantage over their less attractive peers in terms of grades and professional success, a new study to be released Friday finds.
According to the study, which pulled from data on 9,000 U.S. high school students from the class of 1994-95 through their 20s and 30s, shows that more attractive teens have higher GPAs and as adults receive higher pay.
The research is published in the report, Physical Attractiveness and the Accumulation of Social and Human Capital in Adolescence and Young Adulthood. The pool of students was a nationally representative sample of 9,000 teens from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, and interviewers rated the students' attractiveness, looked at their grade point averages, and conducted multiple interviews through adulthood.
"The attractive do have a GPA advantage (over) the average," sociologist Rachel Gordon of the University of Illinois-Chicago told USA Today.
The study found that the more-attractive students had greater advantages through high school and into their professional career. Gordon says the good-looking teens were on a brighter path to success--they were more likely to receive a college degree and land a better-paying job than their average-looking and "ugly" counterparts.
But the beautiful people also had some disadvantages, Gordon says, which may have a negative impact on grades and health. More attractive high schoolers were found to drink more heavily and have more sexual partners.
Caroline Heldman, an associate professor of politics at Occidental College in Los Angeles familiar with the study, says that a society that values looks may actually harm women shooting for executive positions in business. "Attractive women will get a benefit overall in occupations, but when you're talking about leadership positions, being sexually attractive actually works against you," Heldman told USA Today.
Compared with average-looking teens, the students rated by the researchers as "below average" didn't show an overall disadvantage when it came to grades. But those rated "on the ugly side of looks" were found to have fewer friends and be more depressed than their average-looking peers in high school and through early adulthood.
But what does this mean for entrepreneurs? Jack Dorsey gets a lot of flack for worrying about his looks, but maybe he is on to something. For company founders, consider these findings when you're building up your company. The study could not find an attractive bias with teachers, but it isn't out of the realm of possibility. Earlier studies have found that more attractive professionals get paid more, so make sure an attractive bias isn't informing your business decisions or hiring process.
What do you think? Is there an advantage to being attractive in business? Are all those heartthrob entrepreneurs earning their big bucks? Entreprenseurs like Dorsey and Gauri Nanda, founder of Nanda Home, certainly have the looks, but both also have the brains. Let us know your reaction to this study.
Nothing stays the same in the business world, and sometimes employees have a hard time with that. Here are five ways you can help them roll with whatever comes next.
Mergers, buy-outs, downsizing: These are just a few of the ways in which companies can transform literally overnight. While these moves often help a company remain competitive, they also result in profound changes to organizational structure or other disruptions to the status quo. Helping your employees overcome the anxiety that comes along with such changes can be very challenging.
Here are some ways that you can help:
Take Time to Watch and Listen
If you know changes are looming--and they are for most organizations--take time to watch and listen carefully to your employees. Whether it's a major restructuring or a modification to a well-established procedure, change (or even the anxiety over impending change) can unsettle your employees and negatively impact the workplace. Sometimes employees will express their anxiety directly to you, but other times their anxiety becomes apparent through changes in their behavior or performance. This is especially the case when change threatens their comfortable and stabile routines. Take time to observe and listen to the pulse of your organization, and then take steps to deal with the anxiety that you may detect.
Demonstrate Your Genuine Concern
Great bosses realize that they can't achieve their goals if their people aren't performing at their very best. Employees, especially in times of stress and challenge, look to management for solutions. They seek guidance when they feel uncertain and isolated from organizational decisions that are out of their control. As a first step, be an example of transparency and honesty. Open the lines of communication between management and employees. Talk openly and regularly about what you know, and encourage input. Show you truly care about your people's welfare by understanding their concerns and by doing whatever you can to help them. This not only helps you solve any problems you have direct influence over, but also helps them by allowing them to talk freely about what is troubling them.
Fix What You Can
After hearing concerns and gathering input, fix the things that you have control over. Often, uncertainty results from miscommunication or misunderstandings. If, after listening to your employees, you discover an easy solution to dispel their angst, take the initiative to fix whatever you can as quickly as you can. A reassuring word or guidance from management can have a profoundly positive impact on employees in times of uncertainty. If you find the problems caused by change are beyond your scope, avoid promising your employees things you cannot deliver or have no business promising them in the first place.
Be Positive and Look for Opportunity
Remain positive. Challenge your employees to take initiative and seek out solutions, new ideas, or cost savings. Look at standard procedures and policies and rework them, or propose alternatives with the bottom line in mind. When times are unsettled, it may appear to employees their efforts are not appreciated by management. By encouraging them to take the initiative you help them to keep moving forward, focused on what can or might be done, rather than fixating on events over which they have no control. As a group, come up with creative solutions to the new challenges created by change.
Train and Prepare
If you have the opportunity and the resources, make time available to your employees to learn new skills. Give them an opportunity to prepare for change with more skills or experience. Preparation and training can help them transition more easily into new roles, or look for work in another areas or organizations, should it become a necessity.
While your crystal ball may not be able to tell you exactly what is coming around the corner in 2014, reviewing the steps above so that you can implement them quickly can help everyone cope better with change in the coming year. A little time spent on this now will save you a lot of time later.
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