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3 Ways to Work Meditation Into Your Busy Day

Inc Small Business - Mon, 04/14/2014 - 2:40am

Has all the interest in mindfulness got you intrigued? Here are a few ways to dip a toe in the water and see if meditation is for you.

No doubt you’ve noticed that mindfulness and meditation have moved out of the monastery and into corporate America.

The topic is so hot that Wisdom 2.0, a conference, started in 2009, dedicated to exploring how to be more mindful about our technology use, now has a waiting list that runs into the hundreds. There are meditation apps galore, and organizations from Google to the Marine Corps have embraced the idea of promoting mindfulness. Some longtime meditators and Buddhists are even complaining that this new frenzy is corrupting the real meaning of mindfulness.

With all the interest, maybe you’ve considered seeing what all the fuss is about, but embracing a wisdom tradition thousands of years old is pretty intimidating.

How can the average entrepreneur with a jam-packed schedule get started? PsyBlog recently rounded up quick and easy ways to fit a little meditation into your day. Some are less appropriate for business owners (the candle meditation, for example, isn’t recommended for those sitting at a desk stacked with invoices), but here are a few that might work for you:

Walking Meditation

If you already go for a walk now and again to clear your head, then you have all the time and opportunity you need to give meditation a whirl. A 10- to 15-minute solitary spin in the park is the perfect opportunity to try walking meditation. PsyBlog explains: "As when cultivating all forms of mindfulness, it’s about focusing the attention. At first, people often concentrate on the sensation of their feet touching the ground. Then you could just as easily focus on your breath or move the attention around your body, part by part. The key, though, is to develop a sort of relaxed attention. When your mind wanders away, bring it back gently, without judging yourself."

Eating Meditation

No excuses available for this one. Everyone eats, so everyone has the opportunity to inject a little mindfulness into mealtime. "When you take the first bite of any meal, just take a moment to really pay attention to the taste. Look at the food carefully, feel the textures in your mouth, smell it and notice how your body reacts to it. You don’t need to keep this up all the way through the meal, but use it every now and then to focus your attention," PsyBlog instructs.

The Email Swap-out

For many of us, our first impulse when we need to take a break is to open up email or social media. Next time you’re feeling the need to refresh your concentration, why not try a few minutes of mindfulness instead? It’s supersimple, according to the post: "Turn away from the computer/tablet/smartphone and sit for a moment noticing the sensations in your mind and body. How do you feel? What can you hear? Try to be as present in that moment. If your mind wanders off to tasks that you have to complete or starts working over things that happened yesterday, let these go. Gently bring your mind’s focus back to the present."

Are you interested in finding out what all the fuss around mindfulness is about?

Categories: Small Business News

Private Equity: A CEO's Best Friend

Inc Small Business - Sat, 04/12/2014 - 6:43am

Do private equity firms deserve your distrust?

By John Grafer

Do private equity firms deserve your distrust? Some do. They invest in your company, strip out costs, pursue short-term results, and flip your company to the next owner as soon as possible to maximize returns for their investors regardless of the consequences for the other stakeholders-;the employees, the customers, the suppliers, the community, and you. Employees may be undercompensated, customers may feel like they didn’t receive what they paid for, suppliers may believe they were taken advantage of, the community may be unhappy with your practices, and you may end up feeling like you work for the man.

Why does this happen? Incentives. Typically, private equity firms raise capital from investors and are required by a written agreement to return remaining capital and any profits in less than 10 years. So if the private equity firm invests in your company in the sixth year of its fund, it usually has to begin the sale process no more than three years later. This artificial time horizon creates pressure for the private equity firm to deliver favorable financial results in the short run. After all, investors likely won’t invest in the private equity firm’s next fund without them.

Would changing the incentives also change the outcome for all stakeholders? We believe the answer is “yes.” By connecting investors’ time horizons with yours, the incentives are aligned and so are the behaviors. So eliminate the artificial 10-year horizon and find a patient source of capital. The first part is easy-;just change the term in the written document.

But what kind of investor is willing to execute that document and potentially wait more than 10 years for a return of capital? A business founder, owner, or operator like you who understands what you understand-;that the evolution of a business and its culture takes years or decades, not months. These investors are often entrepreneurs who’ve also experienced significant liquidity events and want to re-invest in the next generation of entrepreneurs. They think in terms of generations, not Wall Street quarters, and they’re an ideal source of patient capital.

An evergreen fund with an investor base comprised of individuals and family offices seeking long-term value aligns incentives. It allows the private equity firm to think like a partner, not act like your owner. That could mean paying better employees a little more; sharing proprietary customer order information with your suppliers so they can be active and efficient members of your supply chain; educating your customer regarding when NOT to buy your product; and working with a local government to invest in a training facility that provides your business with skilled team members and enables the community to flourish.

These are all seemingly poor decisions if short-term cash flow is the most important metric. But, when the objective is long-term value creation for all stakeholders, decisions like these are the foundation of success.

And the virtuous cycle that ensues is self-fulfilling. For example, when employees believe they are fairly treated, they work smarter to make better products and provide better services. As a result, the customer has a better experience, knows you care about him/her, and becomes unshakably loyal to your business for the long run. Your business becomes a defensible leader that is the envy of the industry. It then attracts better talent, experiences reduced hiring and training costs, provides even better products and services, and so on. Paradoxically, profit turns out to be a reflection of what you give, not a measure of what you get.

But this stakeholder-centric approach isn’t for every founder or CEO. Psychologically, it takes someone capable of recognizing that he or she can’t do it alone. That the leap from scrambling to scaling may require a tedious reconstruction of business processes. That extracting one’s self from the details and daily fire drills to shift from working IN the business to working ON the business may require relinquishing control of decisions that have always been within the leader’s domain. And that the best ideas for transforming an industry may come from a well-orchestrated employee survey or an experienced board member with no experience in that industry.

Practically speaking, it takes defining, articulating, and executing success measures, key performance indicators, a disciplined and strategic hiring practice, strategically aligned compensation plans, dashboards that shed light on paradigm-shifting decisions, and many other seemingly mundane undertakings that professionalize the business.

It’s hard work, and it requires humility and teamwork. But we love helping businesses grow so, for us, it’s good business.

John Grafer is a principal at Satori Capital.

About Satori Capital
Satori Capital is the preferred capital partner for companies building significant long-term value through a sustainable approach. Based in Dallas, Texas, Satori’s team has a long and successful track record as private equity investors and founders and CEOs of privately owned and publicly traded companies. Satori partners with talented management teams to accelerate the growth of companies with at least $3 million of EBITDA that are "built to last" and meet a set of criteria described as “sustainability.” These businesses deliver strong returns by operating with a long-term perspective, committing to their mission or purpose, and focusing on creating value for all stakeholders.

Categories: Small Business News

How to Hire Employees You'll Never Meet in Person

Inc Small Business - Fri, 04/11/2014 - 3:12pm

iCracked, an iPhone repair service that has hired hundreds of remote workers, has developed an elaborate interview process to make sure it gets the right people.

Redwood City, California's iCracked employs an army of technicians dedicated to fixing customers' broken iPhones. The company, started in 2010 by A.J. Forsythe and Anthony Martin, had 40 employees before the founders' college graduation.

Since then, iCracked has received funding from Y Combinator and SV Angel, and the founders predict $25 to $30 million in revenue this year. But every one of the more than 500 technicians, or "iTechs," it now has work remotely, in cities throughout the U.S. and 10 other countries.

So how do you manage to keep a solid culture with so many far-flung affiliates? Forsythe says it boils down to having a killer hiring process that accurately hires passionate, self-motivated people with a knack for fixing things.

"We screen out 99 to 99-and-a-half percent of all applicants before we hire someone," he says. "For three years we have refined our process by asking: 'Who do we want carrying our brand and interacting with people who want to use and trust our service?' Doing our due diligence up front and making sure we hire the best people in the country is key, and now we have an entire network of top iTechs around the world."

Below, check out the major elements of iCracked's extensive hiring process (which it conducts online or via a mobile app), along with Forsythe's rules for ensuring you hire remote employees that will represent your company exactly how you want them to.

The Perfect Employee

Forsythe says it starts with defining your ideal candidate, someone who will be the perfect example of what your company is. "What we are looking for in our iTechs is genuine curiosity. We are targeting the tinkerers, people who enjoy taking apart things and fixing them," he says. "But we also want them to have high moral standards and ethics to uphold relationships with customers. iTechs are driven by themselves and create their own success. We supply the tools and the network of customers, but it comes down to how driven they are by a passion to help people."

Personality Test

Since the iTechs are licensed affiliates, they need to be independent and entrepreneurial. Forsythe says that after candidates fill out a brief application, they undergo a personality test that screens for the three main characteristics all iTechs need. "We are looking for curiosity, drive, and strong ethics," he says. "This set of characteristics is modeled around Robert Stephens, founder of Geek Squad, who said it's impossible to teach people be curious, driven, and ethical--it's all about how they have been molded throughout life."

During the personality test, candidates are asked to agree or disagree with statements about themselves, such as "You are usually the first to react to a sudden event, such as the telephone ringing or an unexpected question;" "You tend to be unbiased even if this might endanger your good relations with people;" and "You trust reason rather than feelings."

One-way Interview

After the personality test, candidates have to do a one-way interview. The automated system poses questions and candidates record their answers via a computer or smartphone camera.

Candidates can re-record their answers, but need to answer them in one minute or less for the final version. The questions range from "What are 10 things you can do with a roll of duct tape?" to "If you could work on a project for any company in the world, who would it be, and why?" Again though, the main attribute iCracked is looking for is a self-starting attitude: "Above all else, finding driven individuals is our priority. You don't want your employees to ask, 'What do you want me to do?' You want them to say, 'Can I do this?'" Forsythe says. "Finding driven people makes it easier to scale the business because everyone is on the same wavelength and pulling in the same direction."

Categories: Small Business News

Why You Should Pay No Attention to the Tech Sell-Off

Inc Small Business - Fri, 04/11/2014 - 1:18pm

Tech companies may have fallen out favor with investors temporarily, but that's no reason to panic. Here's what it really means to your company.

The sell-off in technology shares this week may have you wondering whether other investors have lost their appetite for technology startups.

The short answer: Not by a long shot.

Great companies are immune to the vicissitudes of the stock market, and the sell-off should further support the idea that your time is best spent on business fundamentals, no matter what.

"The best businesses are largely indifferent to these normal variant ups and downs in stock price," says Ross Fubini, a partner specializing in tech startups at Canaan Partners, of Menlo Park, California.

On Thursday, the NASDAQ fell 129 points to 4,054, a 3 percent decrease, and the biggest decline the tech-heavy index has had in three years. Similarly, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 266 points to 16,170, a 1.6 percent decrease.

The sell-off continued on Friday, with the Dow shedding an additional 144 points to 16,026, and the NASDAQ losing 55 points to 3,998 in late afternoon trading.

The rocky week follows what has so far been a white-hot year for technology initial public offerings, whose dollar volumes have risen to levels not seen since before the Dotcom bubble burst in 2000. Although many of the companies going public lack profits--Twitter and Box, as just two recent examples, reported hundreds of millions of dollars worth of losses in their Securities and Exchange Commission filings--they are a far cry from many of the hollow IPOs of the 1990s, experts say.

"Today the tech sector is stocked with good companies," says John Backus, founder and managing partner of New Atlantic Ventures. "Even most recent IPOs have solid revenue and business models. What some still lack is earnings."

Backus and Fubini note that there's definitely room for further downward momentum, particularly as investors abandon unprofitable startups in a flight to safety with more established, profitable names.

But they're banking on--and here's where you should pay attention--companies with solid business plans and focus.

"[We] are more focused on the next set of founders who are coming up in the sector," Fubini says. "These entrepreneurs and leaders don't think about the waves in the public markets. They think about the work that needs to get done today to be the next great IPO."

Categories: Small Business News

How the Facebook-Oculus Deal Really Went Down

Inc Small Business - Fri, 04/11/2014 - 12:29pm

Hint: If Mark Zuckerberg invites your founding team over for dinner, it's on like Donkey Kong.

Brendan Iribe is beaming.

As he takes the stage at the f.ounders conference, a private gathering of tech-company leaders in New York City, on Thursday, his smile is so broad his interviewer, CNN's Laurie Siegal, repeatedly ribs him about it.

There's good reason: The startup that Iribe, along with three co-founders, has been working on for the past two years, just became Facebook's second-largest acquisition, to the tune of $2 billion.

That's no small feat for a company that began as the vision of a teenager living in a trailer in his parents' driveway in Long Beach, California. That teenager was Iribe's co-founder Palmer Luckey, who is now 21. Iribe says when he began working with Luckey, the Oculus Rift, the augmented-reality headset whose beta version they are selling and developing for consumers, was an idea that "we just thought would be a fun project."

Prior to working on Oculus VR, and becoming the company's genial CEO, Iribe was the chief product officer at Gaikai, a cloud-streaming company acquired by Sony in 2012. Oculus VR's two other co-founders are gaming-industry veterans with decades of experience: Laird Malamed, former senior vice president at Activision Blizzard, and John Carmack, best known for his roles in creating the computer games Doom and Quake.

The "fun project" raised $2.4 million in 2012 on the crowdfunding website Kickstarter to build its first augmented-reality goggles and release a developer kit to allow individuals to build software for the hardware, which was cobbled together from readily-available parts, largely from cell phones. It also raised venture-capital funding in 2013, for a total of $93.4 million in funding.

The acquisition by Facebook means a significant payout to venture-capital investors, as well as the team working on the Oculus Rift. (Sources report that Marc Andreessen, whose firm invested in Oculus and who sits on Facebook's board, recused himself from the negotiations.) On Thursday, Iribe explained how the deal with Facebook came about.

Turns out, it all started with a phone call.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg last year got Iribe on the phone, and they had a 10-minute conversation, as Iribe recalls. They talked a bit about the business--but when it came to the hardware and virtual reality, Iribe says, he told Zuckerberg, "You have to see it to believe it."

At the end of 2013, Iribe says he was becoming friends with Zuckerberg, and his team made the trip from Irvine, where Oculus is based, to Menlo Park, California, where Facebook is. Around this time, they hooked Zuckerberg up to an Oculus headset, a beta headset for developers. Within a month, they hooked him up to a consumer-model prototype, which has no visual pixelization, and nearly no lag time in viewing. As Iribe recalls, Zuckerberg's response was: "So that was kind of one of the coolest things I've ever seen in my life. How can I help?"

Iribe says at the time he wasn't thinking that phrase meant money, but he came to the realization that funding would be increasingly important to his company, which relies on creating, making, and selling costly hardware. He knew Oculus would have to decide whether to attempt to raise additional VC funding in the coming year, or start looking for an acquisition.

While the Oculus team and board mulled its fate, Facebook acquired messaging startup WhatsApp for a staggering $19 billion in February.

Even during that lull in communications with Facebook, Oculus didn't "talk to other companies or shop it around at all," Iribe says.

Iribe and the founding team took another trip to Silicon Valley after the WhatsApp deal was solidified. They met with Zuckerberg and a core team at noon, and again over dinner at the Zuckerberg residence. Iribe says that's when it became clear everyone wanted to make a deal work out for Facebook and Oculus: "I don't know if he put anything in the dinner felt like the right thing to do."

As for actually hammering out the terms of the deal, Iribe says that, as with any acquisition process with Facebook, the pace was breakneck and involved, essentially, locking the teams and their lawyers in an office at Facebook headquarters until negotiations were done. The $2 billion deal took three-and-a-half days to hammer out and was announced publicly March 26.

From Zuckerberg's statement:

After games, we're going to make Oculus a platform for many other experiences. Imagine enjoying a courtside seat at a game, studying in a classroom of students and teachers all over the world or consulting with a doctor face-to-face--just by putting on goggles in your home.

This is really a new communication platform. By feeling truly present, you can share unbounded spaces and experiences with the people in your life. Imagine sharing not just moments with your friends online, but entire experiences and adventures.

After closing the deal, Iribe and his team went back to the Los Angeles area. He says he went to sleep: "I was hallucinating a bit." Only it wasn't virtual reality this time.

Categories: Small Business News

How Technology Will Impact Your Productivity

Inc Small Business - Fri, 04/11/2014 - 10:49am

In an interview, artificial intelligence expert Colin Lewis discussed the very next ways you'll see Artificial Intelligence impact your productivity.

A few weeks ago, a post appeared in on Harvard Business Review asserting that the future of productivity lies in Artificial Intelligence (A.I.).

Looking at the ways in which technology companies are investing in this area, Colin Lewis, a behavioral economist who provides advisory services in robotics and A.I., made the case that advancements in this field are on the brink of transforming the way people spend thier time.

But how is A.I. already affecting productivity -- if at all? Apple offers the voice-activated personal assistant Siri. Google Now continuously runs in the background on Google products, automatically organizing information and offering users reminders and suggestions. And earlier this month, Microsoft unveiled Cortana, also a voice-activated search and navigation system.

Lewis recently spoke with Inc. and discussed the way that people currently use these technologies. He also gave some predictions about the very next advancements in A.I. that will be a huge boon to personal productivity.

Why isn't this technology used more frequently? Could it be that it's just not advanced enough yet?

I put it more down to human nature. Our own procrastination if you like. We're not taught to simply pick up Siri. So it's people.

Are you suggesting that because this technology has learning capabilities, if individuals use it more, the better it will perform?

Exactly. Absolutely. It's like everything. The more we put into it, the more we get back from it.

What other kind of adoption hurdles do digital personal assistants face?

We want to see a reward. Every time we use a new app, there has to be a reward.

When you're building a schedule, you don't see instant gratification immediately. But when you have a schedule for a flight, or a meeting, and Siri or Google tell you that the traffic is heavy and you should be leaving sooner than you had planned -- that gives you some reward.

In what way can we expect to see the technology advance next?

I think when it can actually start to reason with you. Let's say you're debating an appointment. Which one is most important? And it can actually debate that with you and give you a hypothesis as it were -- why one could be preferred over the other.

How has your everyday changed ever since you started using Google and Siri religiously?

I believe it actually keeps me in a good time frame. I achieve things in an orderly manner. Without it, I would struggle. You know it's so easy just to spend that extra 30 minutes sitting in a cafe or chatting with colleagues or friends. These nudges, as it were, I think are terrific.

Whatever can nudge us in the direction of doing the things that we want to do. And that's what it's about isn't? We want to do these things.

I tend to break things into really small steps. Before I write [contributed Harvard Business Review] articles, I actually collate the research. What Siri should be doing is collating that research for me. It doesn't yet, but it will.

Any parting words?

Use it. Really, the more we use it the more it understands. It anticipates. That's exactly what I'm beginning to find.

Categories: Small Business News

Need a Loan? Now's the Time to Hit Up Small Banks

Inc Small Business - Fri, 04/11/2014 - 10:31am

Fundamentals for small businesses have improved, which puts you in the driver's seat when it comes to finding favorable loans.

If small businesses are the motor of the economy, small banks and credit unions are providing much of the gas.

In March, small bank lending to small businesses went up, as loans from big banks and alternative lenders dipped, according to the latest report by Biz2Credit, an online loan marketplace.

This is good news for entrepreneurs still trying to dig out from the recession, or looking for cash to grow that doesn't come with the higher interest rates charged by alternative lenders.

A look at the numbers shows that small bank loan approval rates rose to 51.6 percent, compared to 51.4 percent in February. (Similarly, credit union approval increased to 43.6 percent compared to 43.4 percent in February.) Meanwhile, big bank approvals dipped to 18.8 percent, compared to 19.1 percent in February.

"This is the first month since the October government shutdown that big bank approval rates have dropped," says Rohit Arora, chief executive of Biz2Credit.

The reasons for the big bank pullback, Arora says, are three-fold. First, big banks have more challenging underwriting standards and they may be waiting for 2013 tax returns from businesses. The harsh winter has also wrought havoc on business sales as customers stayed home and businesses themselves pulled in and perhaps sought fewer loans. Lastly, Arora says, banks haven't done a good job automating their loan processes, so it slows down their loan approvals.

In the past few years, smaller banks have responded to regulators and altered their small business lending strategies, bolstering their commercial and industrial loans, and turning away from more speculative commercial real estate loans. They've also benefitted from the Small Business Administration's Advantage loans of up to $350,000, the guaranteed portion of which they can easily sell on the secondary market, Arora says. Big banks, by contrast, are less interested in these smaller loans.

Alternative lending also fell, to 63.6 percent compared to 63.9 percent in February. In December of 2013, alternative lending approvals were as high as 67.3 percent, Biz2Credit reports.

Alternative lenders, which usually charge much higher rates for their loans and take daily debits from small business accounts, came into their own during the worst years of the recession when banks generally stopped extending credit.

But as economic conditions have improved, so have the fundamentals of small businesses, and that makes it more of a buyer's market.

"Alternative lending has really boomed and they’ve used the online space really well as more customers have migrated online," Arora says. "But the underlying cash flow of businesses is improving and they are less desperate to borrow at any cost.'

Categories: Small Business News

This Is How Startups "Level Up" After Raising Money

Inc Small Business - Fri, 04/11/2014 - 10:29am

So you've just closed a round of funding. Here's what to do now that you've leveled up.

One of the interesting things about being a VC is that you often see companies in transition. If you're an early investor like I am, that often means writing the first $2-3 million check into a business that previously had either survived on fumes or on a $500,000 angel round.

I also see companies as they move from having taken $1-5 million from me to their next round where they raise $8-15 million from Series B investors, and sometimes I lead at this round (we're stage agnostic but 80 percent of our deals are seed A).

Moving from a company that had less resources (and presumably by the time they're raising, depleted resources) to a company with newfound resources can be telling.

I have seen many companies raise their first $3 million and still act like a company that has no resources at all. And while this might sound to the inexperienced person like a sensible idea -- it is not. In a VC business when you raise additional capital you need to "level up" and act the round you are.

Of course I'm not preaching crazy, irrational spend or having Kid Rock at your next company party. But you do need to find a way to do activities that are more scalable. The founders are (or should be) the most valuable resources in the company and scaling implies that you bring in others to help accomplish tasks that allow the founders to get more leverage.

In some cases this is about getting routine tasks off of the founders' plates. It's why I wrote this post that the controversial first hire after an A round out to be an office manager / assistant / HR person who handles everything from stocking supplies to booking travel to scheduling group meetings. All of those things that you do yourself as a badge of honor in the early days are simply not your best use of time.

I'd say 20 percent of startups I see level-up early after their A round. What they do with the money is add more engineers and maybe hiring a marketing person. These are important leveling-up activities, but the CEO is often still up at 10 pm fucking around with QuickBooks entries.

Another obvious hire is thus a financial controller or finance director -- preferably somebody with business planning experiences and not just an accountant. This allows a CEO to create a spreadsheet of expected activities over the next year but not spend the additional eight hours perfecting and adjusting it. CEOs need leverage.

When you hire somebody really strong in this function, you can also give her the task of creating your board presentations. The average CEO spends 8-12 hours (sometimes more) preparing for board meetings. What if that time could go into thinking through the companies most important strategic issues, talking early with investors about their views and adjusting the strategic discussion slides rather than the update deck?

Level up. Act your stage.

I see the same thing happen at the transition from A round to B round. You've now raised your $10 million and you're doing $1-5 million run rate revenues so you actually have income. But you're still in shitty offices that make it hard to hire talented new employees who are looking to join a company "going somewhere" -- not a company full of scrappers.

B round companies need to also look for scaling opportunities. The best ones bring in more executive leadership so you can appropriate allocate resources across sales, marketing, product, engineering and support. The best ones by now have an amazing finance leader who often doubles as head of internal operations. This finance director now deals with finding office space, managing legal issues, implementing HR policies as well as doing accounting and planning board meetings.

Other B-round scaling issues? Often it is a good idea to have a junior PR person in your company to interface with whatever PR firms you work with. Often the seat-of-the-pants decision making has to evolve into company processes so groups can make good decisions. You finally need to start planning your product roadmap a bit further than your two-week sprints so that the rest of the organization has a chance to preplan for new features.

At the B-round great teams often hire their first business development person. While the CEO is still probably leading the charge on all biz dev deals of importance, there are the five sub meetings between open and close of a deal that require time and attention. You can do them all yourself, of course. But at what cost? Which other activities will get less attention than your negotiation over how the year-3 exit clause on your biz dev relationship will work?

If it's an enterprise software company you can no longer rely on tacit knowledge to win sales campaigns. I've written before about the infrastructure you need to provide:

Swiss Army Knife tool kits

Objection Handling training

Arming & Aiming teams with sales collateral, target client accounts, moving slow-moving deals to the marketing dept

And then there is the C round

The company raises $15-25 million or more.

The first thing I often do at this stage is counsel the CEO that it's time to be exactly that. The CEO of a seed-round company is still the doer of all tasks. Chief janitor if you will. Flipper of burgers. The CEO of an A or B round company still has her handles on the wheel doing all of the driving and often doing tasks herself.

At the C round she needs to level up.

By now the CEO either has super competent people running the functional parts of her business or she needs to bring in more heavyweight professionals to do so. The C-round CEO has to be more leader, less doer. The C-round CEO still gets her hands dirty but shouldn't be a control freak or become a bottleneck in the organization.

You hired a head of product for a reason. You paid him the big bucks because he wasn't the kind of person ready to take a risk with no pay when you started. But you have him now. Let him do his fucking job.

Your job is to sit down with him and plan out a strategic roadmap. Your job is to challenge his thinking because you've been spending the last few years in front of customers, competitors, partners and investors and you should have a more intuitive sense of the future. But your job isn't to make every decision for him. You're the coach, mentor, cheerleader.

As a leader it IS ok to overrule your head of product or other functions. After all, building organizations is about making difficult decisions across all functions and by definition this means overruling individual silos at times. But you can't exercise this prerogative often and keep talented people on your team.

If you end up intervening too much it's either because that functional leader isn't strong enough and it's time for an upgrade, or it means that you're overbearing and it's likely that your most talented people will seek greener pastures.

As a VC I look for the signs of leaders who are likely to be these kinds of task masters because I don't believe they are great team builders. This behavior very often comes out in meetings and presentations as the leader talks over his staff, tops and tails everything his team says or is downright condescending or rude. I have written about this before.

And while many leaders are like this and have pulled it off successfully -- it takes an extraordinary leader to be able to be an asshole and still attract and retain talented people. And it's often through sheer success of the company more than a desire for people to work with that leader.

So my counsel at this stage is often: build out your senior team, let them do their jobs, become a leader more than just a doer, allocate your time to the higher-level tasks like setting company goals, managing investors, talking to partners, managing the press, etc. And mostly your job anyways is to be chief psychologist to the uber-talented team you've built rather than being chief dictator.

One of the more important posts I wrote on this topic is that leaders should "dip, not skip." Meaning it is OK to reach down into the organization to have one's fingers on the pulse, but change should be delivered through your direct reports not through you.

And as companies move beyond the C-round the CEOs often become "captains of industry" which requires one to also build a personal network of other captains which can have a profound effect on large business development deals, M&A activities, mega financings, etc. These things don't happen by themselves.

They happen to those that level up.

This article was originally published on Mark Suster's blog, Both Sides of the Table.

Categories: Small Business News

What I Learned From My First Time Writing on LinkedIn

Inc Small Business - Fri, 04/11/2014 - 9:35am

Posting your views on the social network's publishing platform is a lot like a first date: Make the right moves, and you'll develop a rewarding relationship.

I was feeling pretty much the way you probably did on your first date: I was nervous, apprehensive, unsure of what to do and, of course, looking for a signal that I was making the right moves.

I'm speaking, of course, about my very first experience writing a post on LinkedIn's publishing platform. Once limited solely to influencers such as Richard Branson and Bill Gates, LinkedIn recently opened the platform to all subscribers.

Since then, many people have been clamoring to make their voices heard on the site. But not everyone on LinkedIn is going to break through the clutter and strike it rich. Here's an account of my experience, and what you can take from it when you try it for yourself.

Proper grooming

As with any important first date, I did several things to prepare. First, I thought long and hard about what I'd done right on my personal blog, which I began publishing in 2006, and continues to help my Klout score.

Next I looked to the Romeos and Don Juans of the LinkedIn world: people who'd already succeeded in wooing readers to their LinkedIn posts. What did they do to get a coy reader to say 'yes'? The most helpful was Neal Schaffer, a social media expert who provided no fewer than nine practical tips.

And last, but certainly not least, I asked our firm's resident expert on all matters social, Sam Ford, coauthor of Spreadable Media: Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture for his thoughts on how I could make my first date a successful one.

The Moment of Truth

The writing process was déjà vu. As I sat down at my desk, I could feel the very same sweat bead up on my forehead as it did the night of my first date. And sure enough, my fingers trembled as they did when I reached out to hold my date's hand. Only this time they were aimed at a keyboard and I was trying to formulate a headline and angle.

Finally, just like that night long ago, I made my move. I finished writing (the subject I decided on was authenticity in advertising) and hit "post."

The result: I'd rate my LinkedIn performance about the same as I would my real first date: a four on a scale of one to 10. My post ended up getting 132 views and 2 likes. Decent, but certainly nothing worth bragging about in the men's room.

What I Did Right

1. I created what, in my mind, was a provocative headline ("A Germ of Truth in a Petri Dish Full of Lies").

2. I immediately established who I was (a PR pro and entrepreneur) so readers could determine if the post's content would be relevant to them.

3. I provided a link to a third-party source to help illustrate my post.

4. I took a strong point of view on the issue.

5. I used self-deprecating humor to end my post in an authentic, and vulnerable, fashion--hoping that, as it did on Twitter, Facebook, and my Repman blog, the good-night kiss would warrant a second date.

What I Failed to Do:

1. Show off the goods. I didn't tell readers I contribute two columns every week to or that I had been named a finalist for Ernst & Young's Entrepreneur of the Year competition. Nor did I tell them I'm a published McGraw-Hill author. And I also managed to leave out the fact that my firm had been named best PR agency of the year, B2B agency of the year, and the top workplace of the year by Crain's New York Business. For all LinkedIn readers knew, I could have been the fruit stand guy peddling strawberries on the corner of Park Avenue and 32nd Street.

2. Make my move early. Although my post was no longer than my typical blog or columns, it was probably twice the length it needed to be. As Schaffer advised in his tips column, posts should be around 300 words. "For professionals where time is money, many simply don't have the time to read a longer post. Keep it short and simple when possible."

3. Be mindful of my date's needs. While I did share my LinkedIn post on Facebook, Twitter, and my Repman blog, I did not follow Schaffer's advice to summarize the LinkedIn blog on my other channels and provide a link back to LinkedIn. And while I did embed one link to a third party, I should have provided more. No wonder my readers responded like a date who wanted to go home!

4. Be up front about my inexperience. I didn't start, or end, my LinkedIn post by letting readers know I was new at this. As a result, I lost any potential sympathy vote. I also lost the opportunity to engage with a brand-new audience by asking that age-old question at the end, "How was it for you?"

5. Enlisting help. Several members of the original LinkedIn program write about advertising, marketing, and PR. I should have mentioned these existing influencers, and embedded links to posts they've written on similar subjects. I also should have quoted some thought leaders with whom I'm already connected on LinkedIn.

I'm anxious to go on a second date with LinkedIn's publishing platform. Next time, though, I'll be better prepared and a bit more confident. I'm not suggesting I'm about to become the Warren Beatty of LinkedIn, but I do think my second time will be much better than the first. And least I hope that's what she'll say.

Categories: Small Business News

Heartbleed Proves the Password Is Dead. This Is What You Need Now

Inc Small Business - Fri, 04/11/2014 - 9:07am

The password had its day. There is a better way to protect yourself and your business--and you need to start using it today.

R.I.P., password. You were a good idea, and damned useful, in your time, but your time has passed.

The Heartbleed bug has made plain what everyone in cybersecurity already knew, whether they admit it or not: Passwords are dying. All of them. Got one of those fancy pieces of software that invents a unique and un-rememberable password for every one of your accounts? It's not enough. Do you make a new password for every service, based on a phrase so that you can remember it but the dictionary can't find it? That's certainly worth doing, but it may not help you.

The Heartbleed fiasco is just the latest in a series of events that demonstrate the password's obsolescence. In the past year or so, Evernote, LivingSocial, and Drupal are just three of the high-profile online services where passwords were stolen despite having been encrypted.

Even if that weren't true, it might not matter, as computers get fast enough, and algorithms sophisticated enough to guess the passwords of many or most users by brute force--even those smart enough not to use their kids' names, birth dates, alma maters, or anything else a clever bit of software could sniff out. Anything from your bank to your social media account that you access simply by typing a password into a computer or mobile device is not as secure as it should be or could be--no matter how sophisticated that password may be.

There's a better alternative. It's called two-factor authentication. It's widely available and growing. And it virtually guarantees no hacker in a distant country will be able to break into your accounts.

Two-factor authentication depends on at least two of the following three things:

1. Something you have

There are several choices in this category including "tokens" with LED screens that generate a secret code, USB devices that carry encryption information and will automatically enter a password into a laptop or PC, and other devices. But the item most quickly gaining popularity is something you doubtless already possess: a smartphone.

Many online services such as Google, PayPal, and many banks already offer an option which asks you to type in a code sent by SMS to your phone when signing in for the first time from a computer or mobile device. The Google Authenticator app will automatically generate such a code (handy if you're in a place with no cell phone signal) and the LaunchKey app will open on your phone when you attempt to sign in, so that you can simply swipe the phone to show that you have it. The list of services and companies that offer two-factor authentication is growing daily, and will see a big spike as a result of Heartbleed.

What if you lose your phone? There's always a fallback in which the service will either phone your landline or request a special backup password supplied when you first sign up. Using something you have as authentication reduces the danger from things like Heartbleed and other remote hacks nearly to zero.

2. Something you are

This is the fun stuff, where cybersecurity wanders into the realm of science fiction. Fingerprint scanners are already commonplace on laptops and the latest iPhone, but that's just the beginning. Facial recognition technology rapidly being developed enables devices with a camera, such as a PC, tablet, or smartphone, to recognize you simply by your looks. Voice biometrics technology soon to be deployed by some banks will allow their systems to tell who you are by listening to you speak.

And--who knew?--your heartbeat is as unique as your fingerprint. One startup is taking advantage of that by offering a $79 (pre-order price) bracelet that tracks your pulse and automatically signs you in to your accounts.

3. Something you know

Which brings us back to the password. Nope, we're not abandoning it entirely. Tokens and smartphones can be stolen, or even hacked. Apple's fingerprint reader has been fooled, although the hack involved lifting the user's fingerprint and then reproducing it with latex and a special printer. And even facial recognition technology isn't completely infallible. "Liveness" checks that guard against photographs by waiting for you to blink may be hacked by digitally flashing a series of three photographs with the eyes obscured in the middle one.

No form of authentication is absolutely secure, so you're always better off using at least two. The good old password, created at a cost of $0 and easily deployed anytime anywhere is an easy choice as one of them, as long as it's not the only one. I've been using two-factor authentication myself everywhere it's an option ever since reading this account of a Gmail hack which could easily have been avoided.

What about you?

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Categories: Small Business News

The Source of Pixar's Magic

Inc Small Business - Fri, 04/11/2014 - 9:00am

Pixar's co-founder Ed Catmull explains how to foster an innovative and creative culture.

Since Woody and Buzz first burst from the toy box in 1995, Pixar's 14 films have managed the hat trick of being at once technically inventive, emotionally resonant, and commercially gratifying. Ed Catmull, president of Pixar Animation Studios (and of Walt Disney Animation Studios, since the 2006 merger), built the studio with--among others--Steve Jobs and storytelling maestro John Lasseter. In his new book, Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration, Catmull explains how they created a culture in which no one is without a voice and new ideas are protected. Catmull recently spoke with Inc. editor-at-large Leigh Buchanan.

Pixar originally built computers that processed high-resolution images. How did those origins influence your approach to innovation?

Because we started as a hardware company, I learned about manufacturing. And I was surprised that some principles of creativity came out of that environment, although people didn't think of it that way. That's why I found what Toyota did so remarkable. The company thought about the assembly line as a way to get product out. But it also engaged people in solving problems. And that turned the company into a creative environment. I saw that I had been defining creativity too narrowly.

How do you manage the tension between building on something that has proved successful and creating something wholly new and original?

A director will say, "Here are things that I think are interesting." And some of those ideas will be pretty far out. A rat that can cook. An old man who goes off in a house attached to balloons. These are not obviously commercial ideas. Other ideas look as if they will be more commercial up front. If, at Disney, we do a musical like Frozen, we know it has a good chance of being successful. When we do a Cars film, we know how it is going to do. So we try to blend things we know will do well and things that aren't obvious at all. By putting into the hopper both high-risk and low-risk, we signal to the team that we want it to be creative. But we're not betting it all on high-risk things, which would turn us into a boutique art studio.

Some companies run into trouble because they overly rely on the audience response. They say, "I am going to tweak the product in response to what the audience has shown it likes." But that results in incremental change and makes it more difficult to conceive of and to allow for something radically new. And you need both. You want to be in the middle ground between those two pulls.

Your book's title refers to "unseen forces" that hobble creativity. What are those?

There are levels to what we can't see, starting with the fact that, as we grow in management responsibility, people start to behave differently around us. You go into meetings where people have prepared for you. They don't want any surprises. That makes it harder for you to get information.

Then there's this imperative toward clarity that screws a lot of companies up. People want clarity, and so the leader tries to give it to them. But real clarity may not be there, in the situation. That leads to oversimplification and a false sense of confidence. At the same time, there are all these random events that have influences we don't appreciate. Right now, there are things going on in this organization, and I can't see them. So I have to be more aware, always probing, always looking for clues.

What roles do metrics and analysis play in an organization whose deliverables involve aesthetics and emotion?

When we make a film, we have hundreds of people producing hundreds of thousands of pieces of artwork. It's orchestrated in a very complex way, and we've got a lot of tools to assess the flow of information around the studio. So we can do quite a bit of analysis. But a lot goes on that we can't measure. And, in fact, there's a danger that measuring tools might lock us into a way of thinking. So every once in a while, we'll step back and say, "Let's break out of that mode of thinking and look at this in an entirely different way." For us, it's got to be a mix between the gut, instinctual side, and getting real data.

Pixar seems like a company that has never run low on ideas. Have you ever experienced fallow periods?

We are never short of ideas. But an idea is extremely complex. By the time consumers see something, they may think it's this one simple thing, with a name, like an iPod or an iPad. But underneath that thing are millions of ideas. So this notion of "the idea" is the wrong way to think of it. The question is always, Do we have a team that can tackle interesting problems and solve them?

For a company that experiments so much, you've managed to hold quality very steady. How?

Pixar has had 14 successful releases in a row. Every one of them opened at No. 1 at the box office. But that started--right at the beginning--with us saying, "We are going to screw up. Things are going to go wrong." And things did go wrong. We've had meltdowns along the way. Most people aren't aware of that because they only see the final product. We've had fairly big problems. But when they happened, we recognized them and we did a restart. In recognizing and catching a problem, regardless of the stage, we have been able to maintain a pretty high standard.

Pixar's keystone process is the Braintrust, a meeting used to deliver constructive feedback on works in progress. Can a company just put something like that in place? Or must it develop over time?

Disney's team members, knowing about Pixar's Braintrust, had put together something they called the Storytrust. But they didn't actually know how it operated. We explained to them that the idea was to remove power dynamics from the room. But a few months into it, we realized they were deferring to what John [Lasseter] thought before they would say what they thought. That's counter to what the Braintrust is about. We explained why deferring to John was actually damaging to them. They got better, but it took a few years before they were operating at a very high level. The reason is, it's not sufficient to say we trust each other. Trust can only be earned over a period of time. Now, [the Disney meeting] has turned into a remarkable room. But it took work.

What did Disney's acquisition of Pixar teach you about combining cultures without diluting creativity?

At the time of the acquisition, we put together a list of things we thought were important to our culture. It was a rather broad list. Some of it was a little on the silly side, and some of it was absolutely crucial. But at the time, we didn't know which was which. The agreement was that, though we were wholly owned by Disney, we would still do things in a unique, Pixar way. So we have different systems and policies.

Because John and I were in charge of Disney Animation, we made a clear choice that we would not merge the two studios, nor allow the studios to do any production work for each other at all. We felt this was important culturally, because when a studio solved a problem, then it had the psychological benefit of knowing that it did it on its own. Now people are proud to be part of Disney, but they believe they are Pixar. It's been a model for taking an existing strong culture and letting it thrive.

Categories: Small Business News

EPA Issues Proposed Rule Concerning Formaldehyde Emissions Standards for Composite Wood Products

SBA Office of Advocacy - Fri, 04/11/2014 - 8:32am
Page Title:  EPA Issues Proposed Rule Concerning Formaldehyde Emissions Standards for Composite Wood Products Page summary: 

On June 10, 2013, EPA issued a proposed rule in the Federal Register concerning formaldehyde emissions standards for composite wood products. EPA has now reopened the comment period for 30 days for that standard and will hold a public meeting for April 28, 2014 from 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.  Public comments are now due May 8, 2014.

On June 10, 2013, EPA issued a proposed rule in the Federal Register concerning formaldehyde emissions standards for composite wood products.

read more

Categories: Small Business News

5 Business Books You Should Read This Spring

Inc Small Business - Fri, 04/11/2014 - 8:15am

Why? They're great. And they'll help you become greater.

I promise they're all good:

1. Step Up: Lead in Six Moments That Matter, by Henry Evans and Colm Foster. You lead all day, every day, but some moments really matter, and what you do in those moments makes all the difference.

Short on theory (but not too short) and long on practical applications, Step Up is a great book for anyone who needs to know how to step up more often--and when you think about it, title or no title, we all need to step up more often.

2. Ditch the Pitch: The Art of Improvised Persuasion, by Steve Yastrow. Though theoretically just a sales book, Ditch the Pitch delves into understanding people's real needs and interests so you can make a genuine connection.

Everyone gets hung up on perfecting an elevator pitch, but at its heart, business is two people coming together and extending trust. Yastrow shows how, if you want to influence and persuade, you don't have to become a different person--you just need to adapt to those around you and let who you really are shine through.

3. Haunted Empire: Apple After Steve Jobs, by Yukari Iwatani Kane. If a steady diet of how-to books has left you feeling flat, read Haunted Empire. It's a nonfiction book based on exceptional reporting that reads like a novel.

If you think you know everything there is to know about Apple or Jobs, you're wrong. Plus, Kane digs deeply enough into personalities that you'll recognize parallels to yourself and your employees, which makes this a practical book after all.

4. Talk Like TED: The 9 Public Speaking Secrets of the World's Top Minds, by Carmine Gallo. I know. There are tons of books and articles that use the TED Talk theme to help you improve your speaking and presentation skills.

No problem. This is the best one. You'll learn how to become a better speaker--and better yet, you'll be excited about becoming a better speaker.

Plus, you'll find a slew of examples of Talks you can watch and learn from, even though that might take you on an hours-long journey down the TED Talk rabbit hole. (Don't say I didn't warn you.)

5. Hope Runs: An American Tourist, a Kenyan Boy, a Journey of Redemption, by Claire Diaz-Ortiz and Samuel Ikua Gachagua. An American woman goes to Kenya, by chance meets a young orphan boy, and in time their lives are forever changed.

Trite and clichéd? Hardly. Hope Runs is the best book I've read in a long time. Unflinching, thoughtful, and honest, it will definitely make you rethink what you're doing with your life.

And it shows that all it takes to find a little more meaning in our lives is to walk through just one of the many doors that are already open but that we never seem to notice.

Until now.

Categories: Small Business News

6 Ways to Deal With Frustrating People

Inc Small Business - Fri, 04/11/2014 - 8:00am

Are some people driving you crazy and blocking your path to success? Try these six tips to remove them as obstacles.

I find one of the biggest challenges in business is having to work with lots of people who don't always see things the same way or share motivations. Diversity of opinion can be very helpful, but so often these people will intentionally or unintentionally slow you down or block your way. Regardless of their intent, one way or another you still have to resolve their concerns to move forward.

Because any innovative forward progress is likely to stimulate pushback and resistance, you need a solid set of tools to deal with those who will stand as roadblocks to your success. Just because they frustrate you doesn't mean they have to keep you from achieving your objectives. These six tips and a little determination can help you overcome any adversary.

1. Figure out the why. Sure, some people are random and arbitrary, but most reasonable people have a motive for being a roadblock. Do some digging to find out this person's true objectives. Someone's contrary nature may have nothing to do with you, but if you can get to the root, you can figure out a way to placate the person and find some sort of compromise. Until you find out exactly why he or she is contradictory, you are wasting valuable time and energy stabbing in the dark.

2. Speak someone's language. So often, frustrating encounters are simple errors of communication. You may have knowledge and expertise in a specific area that is unfamiliar to your opponent. It also may be that he or she is the one with relevant knowledge and experience. Either way, you are better off sharing what you know and working together in an atmosphere of understanding. Take the time to ask for the person's perspective on the issue at hand. Once you know how he or she conceptualizes the situation, and the vocabulary the person grasps most intuitively, you can clear any static out of the channel.

3. Give them what they want. One of the secrets to successful negotiation is finding out what the other party wants most. What is the one thing someone most desires to leave the table with? What will he or she leave behind? Once you know what the person wants, lay out the circumstances under which you can give it, if at all possible. And remember--the thing doesn't have to be an object. It can be an opportunity, emotional or social recognition, or other reward. It can even be protection from a perceived threat on someone's horizon. If you can't meet his or her needs fully, have the person suggest an alternative and show that you are willing to work toward a compromise for the greater good.

4. Get the person invested in you. People work harder to be polite and accommodating to someone they like and respect. So, work to build a positive relationship with the person in the grand scheme. Take a genuine interest in his or her needs and wants. Show empathy and understanding for the person's concerns. Help him or her understand that you are a person who is more than just a goal-oriented taskmaster. Help the person see the greater good of your objectives in a way that is exciting and inspiring.

5. Go around someone. Sometimes, you just cannot bring people around to your way of thinking. If that happens, look for other routes to your objective. Ideally, you want the people causing your frustration to back down and remove themselves from the path. But if they won't, use your creativity to find other routes to achieve your objectives. No need to disrespect anyone in the process. Today's obstacle may be tomorrow's supporter.

6. Examine yourself. The man across the table may currently be the bane of your existence. But you are probably also the bane of his. Perhaps you are guilty of emotional resistance, territoriality, or obtuseness. Take a break from the battle and reflect on your own behavior. There might be ways for you to open yourself up to him, demonstrate good faith, and de-escalate tension. You can even ask your nemesis specifically what you can do to right the situation. You might be surprised at the simplicity of the response. At the very least, you will have assessed to a point at which you can clearly identify the source of the conflict.

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Categories: Small Business News

3 Tax Tricks for the Worst Procrastinators

Inc Small Business - Fri, 04/11/2014 - 7:30am

You still have the weekend to try to save on your taxes.

Mark Twain said, "Never put off until tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow." Well, a few days after tomorrow is officially April 15, and there isn't any time left to procrastinate on your taxes. With these tips, even the most time-constrained, frenzied entrepreneur can get taxes filed on time, without errors, and maybe even save a few hard-earned dollars.

First, let's quickly brush up on the changes to tax laws. The American Taxpayer Relief Act, or ATRA, and the Affordable Care Act, or ACA, created some changes from prior years. Certain individuals are now subject to a 0.9 percent additional Medicare tax on wages, self-employment income, and other compensation received. ATRA permanently extended the income tax rates enacted in 2001 and 2003. Top-earning entrepreneurs will be subject to a 39.6 percent top marginal tax rate. To add salt to those wounds caused by a higher marginal tax rate, high-income entrepreneurs may not be able to deduct the full amount of their personal exemptions or itemized deductions. On the positive side, entrepreneurs living in no-income-tax states, like Texas, Nevada, or Florida, will be able to take a deduction for state and local sales taxes paid.

With that in mind, here are three ways you might save a few dollars, even at this late hour.

  • If you worked more than one job in 2013, be sure to claim a credit for any overpaid Social Security taxes withheld from your wages.
  • Include all carryovers (investment interest, capital losses, and charitable contributions) from your prior year's tax return.
  • Consider setting up a simplified employee pension (SEP). As long as the SEP is set up before the filing of the return and the contribution to the plan is timely made, this can be a procrastinator’s best friend to reduce taxes.

If filing your taxes by April 15 still seems impossible, you can request an automatic six-month extension, which will give you until October 15 to file. This is accomplished by filing Internal Revenue Service Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return. But beware, the full payment of your tax bill is still due on April 15.

Categories: Small Business News

6 Proven Ways to Work with a Bad Boss

Inc Small Business - Fri, 04/11/2014 - 7:06am

No one likes a jerk, and when the jerk is your boss it can be downright terrifying. But you have more control than you think. Much more.

Dislike your boss? You're not alone. According to research on the topic, three out of four employees say that dealing with their boss is the worst and most stressful part of their job. Two-thirds say they would happily take a new boss over a pay raise. According to Karin Hurt, author of Overcoming an Imperfect Boss, "The secret to a healthy boss-subordinate relationship is to remember that it's just that, a relationship. You're two messy human beings doing the best you can."

Boss-subordinate relationships are unnatural by design: You look to a person you have not chosen (and whom you may or may not respect) for affirmation, evaluation, and reward. In order to succeed you have to figure out what will make this person like you and adjust accordingly. To turn around even the most difficult boss relationship apply these six proven approaches.

1. Don't Become a Jerk Yourself

Whatever you do, don't sit around commiserating with coworkers about your bad boss. Stay focused on the work and avoid the gossip. If you need to talk to someone, choose HR or other formal support. Pay close attention to how the stress is impacting you, your team, and your family. Find folks who will tell you the truth. Bad behavior is contagious. Be sure you stay true to your own personal leadership philosophy.

2. Say something

If you think you've got a bad boss, and everyone else does too, I challenge you to go deeper. Get to know him. Tell him the truth. If everybody's frustrated, he knows it. Chances are, under all that bluster, he's starving for help. Ask about the pressures he's under, and how you can best help. Find out whether you're doing something that unleashes his inner jerk, and adjust as best you can.

3. Make her life easier

Is a well-known law of nature: Bad bosses get worse under stress. Do what you can to ease your boss’s pain. Do what you say you will, without needing to be reminded. Get ahead of deadlines. Communicate frequently in bulleted summaries. Your boss knows there are problems; shielding her from them will only make her nervous. She will sleep better knowing you're all over it.

4. Reduce dependency

It's not your boss's responsibility to motivate you, develop you, or direct your career. That's your job. Sure, the best leaders will help you grow, but never forget who's really in charge--you. So if your boss doesn't have it to give, don't waste time being frustrated. Stop coveting thy co-worker's boss, and find the support you need. Get a mentor. Develop stronger peer relationships. Work on special projects that expose you to other leaders and their styles.

5. Be true to yourself

Find ways to ground yourself. Exercise, meditation, and prayer are all good options. Remember that this bad boss is just one transient person in your life. This season will end, but you will live with who you are becoming forever.

6. Learn by (negative) example

You can learn as much from a bad boss as a good one. Pay close attention to the impact your boss's behavior has on you and your teammates. What doesn't kill you will make you a stronger leader. Keep a journal or make a running list. Make a vow to never be "that guy."

Remember: Leadership isn't easy, for your boss or for you. Consider your relationship with your boss as a learning laboratory. Leverage every interaction to improve your own leadership. Be the boss you wish you had.

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Categories: Small Business News

Disrupt Your Own Business

Inc Small Business - Fri, 04/11/2014 - 7:00am

Stew Leonard Jr. pushes you to embrace change in your business.

Categories: Small Business News

How to Act Like a Startup, Even When You're Not

Inc Small Business - Fri, 04/11/2014 - 7:00am

Just because you've grown into a big company doesn't mean you have to let go of your roots

Being an entrepreneur means never having to be corporate. But growing companies can be susceptible to changes in their environment. How do you retain a startup culture as you continue to grow? We asked members of the Entrepreneurs' Organization to share their experiences and insights regarding this topic.

Ensure the team comes first.

"We celebrate our wins with champagne and cheeses, huddle up every Monday morning to discuss the previous week's work, and go on annual team-building retreats, among other things. A big part of sustaining our culture is hiring people on the basis of our core values, and having leaders who emulate these values and beliefs--namely, have fun and enjoy the work. That's where it all starts."

Mark Shipley, EO Albany

President and chief strategic officer, Smith & Jones

Start the day with action.

"Our firm has an action-packed learning, recognition, and issue-driven 25-minute meeting every morning. We start the morning with a music video of one team member's choice, and usually end it with a funny saying or video. We have found this meeting to be a big culture builder, because everyone starts the day off on the right foot and gets to check in with the team. We usually have about 30 people in attendance."

Andrew Propst, EO Idaho

President, Park Place Property Management, CRMC

Fuel competition.

"We keep it fun and competitive. To maintain a healthy level of competition, we've set up regular challenges among the departments. For example, we have Feast Fridays, on which we eat together as a company and pitch creative television-show ideas. Winners are rewarded and losers clean the office. We also fuel a competitive environment. It allows us to keep the startup culture alive in a rapidly growing company."

Steve Gatena, EO Los Angeles

CEO, REP Interactive

Constantly communicate, no matter the distance.

"We have a global team working virtually around the clock, and we pride ourselves on our listening and understanding skills. Through our quarterly Skype sessions in which our international team comes together to listen to ideas and brainstorm for the future, all employees are encouraged to share their ideas for how the company and community can develop. We listen, we understand, and we develop to build relationships with our customers and our team members."

Jimmy Chiang, EO Orange County

CEO, Way Basics

Make fun a priority.

"Last year, we created a Director of Employee Happiness position. The director is responsible for planning companywide events, training programs, and more. For example, we created DSi University to help employees understand all aspects of the business and not just their day-to-day jobs. We also held a book club, in which we all read the same business book in groups. These activities keep employees engaged in the business and its overall success, which is one of the benefits of a startup culture."

Tom Turner, EO Nashville

President, DSi

Categories: Small Business News

How to Make Your Meetings Insanely Productive

Inc Small Business - Fri, 04/11/2014 - 6:30am

One simple change to your meeting protocol will eliminate 90 percent of the time that's wasted.

The time wasted in business meetings is like the weather: Everyone complains about it, but nobody ever does anything about it. Well, today we're going to change that.

The biggest misconception about business meetings is that they're a good way to communicate and share information. Frankly, that's ludicrous.

When meetings are used for conveying information, it forces everyone to spend time and mental energy understanding what was said and what it means.

Then, when it comes to making decisions about what needs to be done, everyone is thinking on the fly using that half-digested information.

By contrast, when everyone comes into a meeting knowing what has happened (i.e., information), you can jump immediately to discussing what needs to happen next and then making decisions to make that happen.

In other words, use your valuable meeting time to create the future rather than summarize the past.

Every meeting should have a pre-meeting email that summarizes the information that's needed to make decisions as well as a tentative agenda of the decisions that need to be made.

Yes, this requires more upfront work than simply calling a meeting where everyone goes over their list. It means preparing for the meeting rather than taking the lazy path of just showing up.

But think about the benefits! No more sitting through long presentations. No more spinning your wheels while everyone else gets up to speed. No more showing up at a meeting just to discover what it's about.

You go in, you discuss what to do, you make a decision. Boom! A meeting that would have taken an hour or more only takes 10 to 15 minutes.

Multiply this times the number of meetings that you (and everyone else) attend each year and you're talking about hundreds or even thousands of person-hours that can now be spent doing something productive.

That's a truly insane increase in productivity. All because of a little prep work. It's really that easy.

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Categories: Small Business News

4 Ways Your Brain Can Ruin Your Chances for Success

Inc Small Business - Fri, 04/11/2014 - 6:00am

Everything can be going along swimmingly--and then your pesky subconscious gets in the way. Don't let these four thought patterns trip you up.

The statistics for startup success can be grim. Approximately 75 percent of all startups fail, and about 90 percent of all products fail. Yet every day, new entrepreneurs dream up products and services and jump into the startup fray.

What's really tripping up the ones who barely make it out of the starting gate? The economy, of course, doesn't make things easy. But perhaps there's something much closer to home that increases the challenge.

Our brains are powerful processing tools, but just like most technology, they can be buggy. Your subconscious thinking can negatively affect the outcome of your startup, causing you to make mistakes. It only takes a small error in judgment to kill a fledgling startup.

Here are four ways your subconscious thinking might be ruining your chances for success, and how to combat these tendencies:

You fall victim to confirmation bias.

A psychological study with 8,000 participants showed people are twice as likely to seek out information that confirms what they already believe--that's called confirmation bias. A 2009 study by Ohio State also showed people spent 36 percent more time reading information aligned with their point of view than that which challenged it.

Obviously, this can be a problem for startup founders. If you surround yourself with yes men, no one will be able to challenge your ideas and help you improve them. It's hard to understand your target audience or the actual reality of your industry if you only surround yourself with information backing up your "perfect" idea.

The Fix: Encourage those on your team to present alternative perspectives. Spend time thinking about the possibility of your venture failing, and ask yourself what could go wrong. By stepping outside of your bubble, you can anticipate problems before they actually arise.

You use the past to predict the future.

If you flip a coin and it keeps landing on heads, is it then more likely to land on tails on the next flip? If you keep buying lottery tickets, are you bound to win eventually? The gambler's fallacy, or the expectation that past events will have an impact on future outcomes, can be all too present in startup thinking.

For example, the success rate for first-time entrepreneurs is just 18 percent, but it only rises to 20 percent for entrepreneurs who have failed in the past. Just because you fell down once, doesn't mean you're destined to cross the finish line this time.

The Fix: Don't assume your company is due success. If your startup isn't gaining the traction you expected, don't sit back and wait for magic to happen. Instead, identify the barriers to success and start breaking them down. Make your team look at your product or service honestly, and figure out where the problem may lie.

You're hard-wired to procrastinate.

If you've ever spent an hour looking at baby animals instead of doing work, you probably understand procrastination. Yet this everyday time-wasting can really add up to big holes in your productivity. Plus, it can be a very, very hard habit to shake.

Joseph Ferrari, a professor of psychology at DePaul University, has found as many as 20 percent of people may actually be chronic procrastinators. And as stress mounts, the siren lure of time-wasting can become deafening.

The Fix: Researchers Dan Ariely and Klaus Wertenbroch found "precommitment," or setting meaningful deadlines, can help procrastinators on follow-through. Though internal deadlines aren't as effective as external ones, they can help cut down on procrastinating behavior.

Another fix is simple forgiveness, which can allow you to let go of past mistakes and focus on the future. Tim Pychyl, a professor at Carleton University in Canada, found students who forgave themselves after procrastinating did better on their next exam. Let go of hard feelings, and refocus on hitting your startup's deadlines.

You measure your value against others.

Your day is going great until you hop on Facebook (see above tendency) and read about all of your friends' personal and professional successes. Suddenly, the small win your company had this morning doesn't seem so great.

People tend to compare themselves with others and judge the value of one option through comparison. Comparing yourself with big, established companies or other startups in your space can dishearten your team and ultimately spell disaster.

The Fix: It's good to know your competitors, but don't fixate. If you want to compare your startup, look instead for ways to improve on your industry or ways your company is presenting a unique idea.

The brain is an imperfect organ, so it's important to recognize and correct the subconscious thinking that can get your startup into trouble. If you do, you'll increase your odds of finding success.

What do you think? What are some thought processes getting in your way? Sound off in the comments!

Categories: Small Business News
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