It takes more than just a great idea to succeed in business.
BY MARTIN ZWILLING, FOUNDER AND CEO, STARTUP PROFESSIONALS @STARTUPPRO
Everyone who starts or owns a business expects to be the best of breed, but only a few achieve that status. As a startup mentor and adviser, I often contemplate what makes the difference between winners and losers.
I'm convinced that it's a lot more than the foibles of any specific market, availability of funding, and just luck of the draw. I believe the best make their own luck.
I've noticed that the top performers in business, as in most other professions, have a common set of traits in the way they think, as well as act. So if you aspire to be the next Jeff Bezos or Bill Gates in business, you might want to compare the following traits with your own, and focus on adopting the ones you don't have, as much as you focus on your next idea to change the world:
1. Figure out first what you most want to achieve in life.
I find business people all around me who are working hard to make more money, when what they really want is a work-life balance that allows them to enjoy family and help others. I advise them to find their personal passion, rather than trying to achieve someone else's view of success.
2. Stop dreaming about your passion and start acting on it.
Too many aspiring entrepreneurs I know are very quick to come up with new ideas, but are not so quick on the execution side. To be successful in business, you need a high focus on results, as well as thinking. Business implementation requires determination and never giving up.
3. Constantly strive to learn new things and do things better.
The best of you see yourselves as lifelong learners, and able to adapt to change, no matter what your age or level of experience. Always keep looking for ways to improve and grow, rather than ways to slow down and let the business run itself. In other words, stay hungry and humble.
4. Face and conquer your fear of a step into the unknown.
Average business people push their fears ahead of them, and never make the next big step. We all have fears of the unknown, but the best of you will document the challenges ahead of you, and tackle them one by one with a plan, getting the help and learning from each success and failure.
5. Build relationships to complement your strengths.
We all have strengths and weaknesses, so don't be fooled by your ego. Starting and running a business is not a solo operation, so building the right relationships is key. Capitalize on these relationships by listening well and delegating well. Tap into the strengths of others to fill your gaps.
The relationship between Bill Gates and Warren Buffett is a prime example. While they have always been in totally different businesses, both still give much credit to the other for their own success. They have long been good friends and learned from each other.
6. Grow yourself by growing the people around you.
The best business people are also the best mentors and coaches. They are not afraid of giving someone a lead or inspiring them to move on to bigger and better things. By helping others, you become stronger in your eyes as well as theirs. They may someday be able to come back and pull you along.
Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Atlantic and the Virgin Group, now controls more than 400 companies in various fields. He attributes much of his success to his focus on growing the best people, and giving them the opportunity to run his new companies.
7. Strive to build a legacy as well as a business.
Leaving a legacy larger than your business requires that you keep a focus on the bigger picture. The best business people not only build a successful business, they change the world--perhaps by improving the environment, helping the less fortunate, or fostering a disruptive technology.
According to many people who know him, Elon Musk has always put a higher purpose above making money. His focus on SpaceX, Tesla, Solar City, and other initiatives all have a large component of "shaping the future," as well as meeting business objectives.
I believe these traits of proven top performers in business, as well as other professions, are the keys to success that you must emulate, even more than finding that unique innovation or huge untapped market opportunity.
Above all, it's important to move quickly from thinking to doing, learn from your mistakes, and recognize when it's time to pivot as the world changes around you.
Read more from INC.
COVID-19 made what was once optional into a mandatory part of business strategy, and 2021 will only move the needle further to the digital side, Forrester predicts.
Forrester has released its predictions for digital business in 2021, and it sees big changes coming as the post-pandemic era continues to rapidly transform the business landscape. "What many considered optional became imperative overnight," Forrester said of digital business, citing that one retailer saw five years' worth of digital adoption happen in only five months due to COVID-19 lockdowns.
2021 is the year, Forrester predicts, the majority of businesses will invest in having a full-fledged digital presence.
Like other reports comprising Forrester's larger portfolio of 2021 predictions, this one on digital business breaks down into five key points.
1. 20% of worldwide businesses will create digital divisions
Digital engagement will become the number one driver of customer value in 2021, Forrester predicts, and many global organizations will join organizations like BP, John Deere, and Siemens in launching data, artificial intelligence (AI), and software-driven divisions.
SEE: TechRepublic Premium editorial calendar: IT policies, checklists, toolkits, and research for download (TechRepublic Premium)
"By the end of 2021, we expect 30% of $1 billion-plus firms to have a significant digital product portfolio and 20% to stand up digital divisions dedicated to launching disruptive products," Forrester said.
2. Cloud-first strategies will dominate digital growth
"Every new digital division will embrace innovation through ecosystems, and we expect a further 50% of enterprises to make cloud-centric transformation a priority, moving business-critical operational apps and all experience apps into the cloud," Forrester predicts.
A key part of this strategy will be aligning internal and external resources, which Forrester said organizations should do with a specific strategy in mind, like a customer or business outcome.
3. "Buy" buttons will be everywhere
2021 will be a year in which businesses will toss a variety of sales channels at the wall to see which ones stick. "It won't just be a decision between Shopify+ versus custom-coding a headless commerce solution—or Facebook Shops versus Amazon Business. It will be about experimenting with all these channels to build new types of direct customer relationships," Forrester said.
A desire to stand out among the competition will further drive adoption of deep personalization, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) sales, and other content-first strategies, Forrester predicts.
4. DOP will further replace ERP, leading to more platform innovation
Digital operations platforms (DOP), which combine back-office business tools into a single product, were hot in 2020, and they'll continue to grow as a replacement for legacy enterprise resource planning (ERP) software. Greater DOP adoption will push vendors to differentiate their products, which is a good thing for their clients.
"New DOP offerings will become AI-based and ecosystem-oriented, tailored to industry and even micro-vertical use cases and requirements. The payoff is digital bedrock for operations and insights—and surfacing the competitive core of your business to new products and experiences," Forrester said.
5. Outcomes-based pricing will grow for digital transformation services
Businesses looking to embrace digital business strategies will be looking to lots of outside vendors, and Forrester said that 50% of new transformation services contracts will include a pay structure based on meeting particular outcomes.
SEE: Chatbot trends: How organizations are leveraging AI chatbots (free PDF) (TechRepublic)
"Buyers of transformation services will expect providers to bring alliances, end-to-end expertise, and software and data assets to accelerate time-to-value," Forrester said. Consultants, tech service providers, and other agencies will need to be aware of this potential and plan budgets accordingly.
Read more from TechRepublic
Follow these four principles to transform from a great company to the benchmark in the industry.
ENTREPRENEUR LEADERSHIP NETWORK WRITER
Co Founder & CMO at Tekrevol
"If I was down to my last dollar, I would spend it on public relations." —Bill Gates
Every year, millions of startups are launched across the world, each with its own unique selling point, each with a new solution. We hear about some of them, but some we never find out about. These startups use all the latest technology, understand the basic business principles and spend months, if not years, perfecting their services or product.
Many of these businesses show early-stage promise. They have customers, their technology works or their service is being bought. Where they lack or get stuck is scaling that initial success and interest from their target audience. Translating that potential into a successful and established business is where most entrepreneurs struggle.
This is where PR comes into play, and every entrepreneur should invest in it. Here’s why.
Related: 10 Ways to Get Global PR Exposure
1. Build confidence in your brand
For entrepreneurs, it is important to understand what the target audience reads, what it watches and which digital platforms it uses. It is also crucial to understand where consumers get their information.
For example, if you’re a business that targets entrepreneurs, you know that most aspiring entrepreneurs read publications such as Entrepreneur, Forbes, Inc., and Business.com.
If you own a restaurant, you want to make sure your restaurant is listed on platforms such as Yelp (and has positive reviews), because that’s where people go to assess whether a restaurant is worth going to. Two aspects of PR come into play here: thought leadership and profile listing.
With thought leadership, you can build your own persona and following as an entrepreneur. This gives you an edge when you talk to potential clients who are choosing between you and one of your competitors. Potential clients look at your brand on the internet, and when they do, they should be able to see you as an entrepreneur and your brand listed on reputable platforms.
This creates the perception that you are trustworthy, an industry leader and an expert. This gives you a competitive edge, increases your conversion potential, and boosts your revenue, active user count and the number of clients you have.
With profile listing, it's essentially the same, except instead of positioning yourself as the entrepreneur on an entrepreneurial platform, you directly position your business on a more business-oriented platform. At the end of the day, the benefits are the same.
Related: How to Do PR When You're Bootstrapped and Don't Have Connections
2. Establish yourself as an industry leader
PR isn’t just about writing fancy articles. As an entrepreneur, one of the best things you can do is to leverage opportunities to become a guest on a podcast or get interviewed by a reputable network or organization.
Here, you first have to identify the mediums your audience is most active on. As the co-founder of an app-development company, I am always looking to leverage opportunities to appear as a guest on podcasts that most aspiring entrepreneurs or small business owners listen to (for example, Mixergy).
Similarly, someone who owns a design or an animation studio would leverage platforms such as 99designs or Design Rush. This tells your target audience that the platforms they consider trustworthy consider you trustworthy, establishing your business and brand as an industry leader.
Related: Using PR to Generate New Leads Is More Important Than Ever
3. Become a part of the conversation
If you look toward the more retail, digital products, or ecommerce side of the world, you will see another trend.
If your product has good quality and you’re an industry leader, you’re more likely to be part of conversations between friends and family. When a few people in the circle of a potential customer talk positively about your brand, there’s pressure on that potential customer to join in on the conversation, be it about one of Nike’s most famous football shoes series, the Hypervenom, or about the new collection that H&M recently launched.
If your brand is part of conversations, your target audience is psychology pressured to engage with you simply because all of their friends and family are doing the same. Facebook wasn’t always the tech giant it is today; neither was its tech as exquisite as it is today. Yet, because some people were on Facebook, and Facebook was able to create a digital lifestyle unlike any other platform, two people using Facebook meant that their friends felt that they were missing out on that lifestyle or experience.
Thus they joined Facebook, then their friends joined Facebook, and then theirs joined Facebook. This is a cycle that PR helps to create.
Another example is Apple. Apple’s PR team has successfully created the narrative that the Apple experience is like none other. That’s why everywhere you see, Apple products are seen as the standard and their experience as unique.
This is because Apple’s communication in establishing itself as the ultimate benchmark matched their incredible technology. Their identity and positioning became viral and their users reverberated and validated their claim of producing superior consumer tech, helping the company scale rapidly from its initial potential.
Related: Less Selling, More Storytelling: 5 Expert Tips on Doing Low-Cost PR for Your New Business
4. Create a narrative
Your communication and PR activities aren’t a substitute for great tech, products or services, but they are essential for you to transform from a great company to the benchmark in the industry. Your product quality can convince people to engage with you, but it is your PR that compels them to become ambassadors for your brand.
Once you invest in your communication and PR, you are able to convince people that their positive opinion of your brand isn’t just an opinion, it is a fact.
Once people within your target audience understand what makes you the best and are willing to spread the narrative, you can successfully take that initial potential and use it to scale rapidly within your niche.
Read more from Entrepreneur
Want to make more money? These strategies will help you exceed your revenue goals.
ENTREPRENEUR LEADERSHIP NETWORK CONTRIBUTOR
High Performance Growth Marketer
Having your business turn into a success is hard work, and you need to adapt to the times while organizing things as you go. There are several actions you can do to help your business increase its revenue. Making sure each area of your company gets attention is crucial to ensure small things don't fall by the wayside.
Related: 7 Growth-Mindset Principles
As a business owner, you may feel as though you're juggling a hundred things at once. This is because you have to wear a lot of different hats when managing their company. They need to check possible ways of improving their daily operations.
1. Build your website
Having a user-friendly site that's up to date is a vital part of growing your company. A website design that's modern and functional will keep your enterprise moving forward. In today’s competitive market, having a presence is not enough. An optimized and well-designed site can help your business generate new leads and provide a 30% or greater increase in your overall conversion rate. Reward customers for visiting your online space through promotional offers and discount deals.
2. Know your competition
Knowing what your competitors are doing is a great way to improve how you’re operating. You might be able to learn something from them. Strategies they’ve been using for years will be new to you and may offer a great payoff.
Related: Why Being Resilient Is the First Step to Growth
3. Value creativity
Standing out from your competitors is an essential step in growing any enterprise. Be open to any new ideas and remember that creative solutions can come from a lot of places. You can do innovative things like hosting events to promote new products you have.
4. Provide great service
Customer service is something that can either make or break a business. If a client feels heard and acknowledged, chances are they'll stay loyal. You need to make a point of going the extra mile, increasing the likelihood that clients will refer you.
5. Understand your customer
Your consumers are the core of your company. They're the lifeblood of any industry, and that's why you need to make sure you know what they want and need. Make use of consumer feedback to improve how you deal with your client base.
6. Get a grip on social media
Promoting your business using social media platforms can increase your customer reach and allow you to gain information from them. Tracking what consumers are saying about your company online gives you an invaluable insight into their experience. It also provides you with a great place to advertise to potential clients.
7. Develop an email list
A quick and effective way to reach a vast amount of clients is through an email list. This requires you to have a funnel through which to generate leads. Ensure that your sales department understands the importance of sourcing these and turning them into active clients.
Related: Easy Tips for Building a Powerful Email List
8. Expand your network
We all know the phrase "it’s not what you know, but rather who you know." Networking is a great way to expand your professional relationships and gain insight into how others in the market are coping. It will also allow you to potentially meet investors that can improve the health of your enterprise.
9. Amp up your exposure
No one will work with you if they don't know your company exists, so increasing your visibility is crucial. Optimizing your SEOs will increase the likelihood that you'll show up on one of the first pages of an internet search. If you're operating from a physical location, make sure it's visible on apps like Google Maps so consumers can find you.
10. Nurture supplier relationships
Your suppliers are an essential part of your enterprise. If you maintain a good relationship with them, they'll be more likely to help you out if problems arise in the future. Try to make sure the exchanges are mutually beneficial and don't be late with your payments.
11. Focus on training your staff
Having a competent team in place will help you delegate responsibilities and build your enterprise into a success. Improving your employee's sense of importance within the company will give them more incentive to work hard and do their best. Provide them with opportunities to get training and improve their knowledge base for a more rounded experience
12. Know your finances
Understanding the financial health of your company is essential to have a healthier bottom line. It's good to keep track of the business's debt so that you know what choices you can make for your company's future.
Keeping your enterprise going through tough times can be difficult, but it can be done if you're willing to put in the work. Your company can always stand to adapt to innovations in the market.
Ensure you have a website and are present on social media, create email lists to generate leads. Check out what your competition is doing, learn from them, but stand out. Nurture your relationships with your suppliers, employees, and clients. Putting in the extra time now will help you reap the rewards in the future
Read more from Entrepreneur
ENTREPRENEUR LEADERSHIP NETWORK CONTRIBUTOR
Millennial Entrepreneur, Fashion Influencer, Activist
Social media has become a quintessential element in today's marketing mix. Approximately 3.5 billion people were active on the multitude of platforms in 2020 alone, and according to a report by oberlo.com, people spend about three hours daily on said platforms. Moreover, 54 percent of social browsers are there searching for products.
It's easy to see how harnessing social media is essential to ensuring rapid and sustainable growth. In a recent conversation, digital marketing expert Rei Prendi, CEO of Elektronika.al, shared five ways in which businesses can leverage social media to achieve explosive scaling power.
1. Building out a strong presence
In today's day and age, potential clients would probably visit your social media profiles before visiting your website. As Prendi says, "Social media is where they go to get the feel and flavor of your brand. When potential clients Google you, ensure that your business ranks high on the search results."
Invest time and resources in building your social media handles as well. Design a compelling logo for your brand or business, and take time to create a unique website. In the digital world, it's all about portraying your brand effectively. Take it one step at a time, and build your digital presence gradually.
Related: 15 Ways to Scale Your Business and Make More Money
2. Focus your efforts and diversify
There is such a diverse range of social media platforms to choose from; it's challenging to know which ones to focus on for the most effective results. According to Prendi, "The trick is to understand where your target audience or niche hangs out. Focus on those areas first and gradually diversify from there."
Build your Facebook and Instagram handles to begin with. Depending on the nature of your business, look at leveraging other platforms, too. If you're into art, try Pinterest. Do you often share more video-based content? Perhaps building a YouTube channel for your brand would make sense. Having a strong and varied social media presence makes your business look more credible.
3. Create powerful content
Though it may seem obvious, crafting compelling content is no easy task. Your content echoes your brand identity. It's critical that it be striking, relevant to your audience and add value. Instead of static images, post videos of your products, latest offerings and other services. Ensure that there is a personal touch. Put up posts of yourself talking about your services or sharing useful information with your audience. Figure out what people are liking or responding to and build on that for the long haul.
4. Build a niche for your brand
Every business and brand has an area where they should strive to be an absolute authority. However, today's marketplace is an extremely competitive one, and standing out from the crowd can be tricky. "It is essential to demonstrate your core competencies and niche to your audience," Prendi agrees. "They need to know exactly what you do and understand what makes you the best at it."
If you have any qualifications, specialization, or degrees that help bolster your niche, let your audience know. Share informative content and DIY videos, or spend time building an attractive website that details your services. With a focused approach, clients will have more faith in you and your services, and thus growth will follow.
5. Engage your audience
People love brands that they can interact with effectively. Prendi elucidates: "Interacting regularly and effectively with your audience online will yield multifaceted benefits. It helps inspire trust and loyalty, which translates into more business."
You can host Q&As, create interactive polls, post quirky stories, respond to customer queries and listen to customer feedback. Clients can often help you understand your shortcomings, and so you can work at solving those challenges. Build a stellar bond with your audience, and growth is inevitable.
Related: How to Leverage Paid Social Media With Retargeting
The world is going digital, and there are no two ways about it. Those that embrace change and adapt are the ones who will survive. Understanding and effectively leveraging social media can help you scale your business and take a quantum leap in terms of rapid growth.
Read more from Entrepreneur
If two businesses are pretty much the same, why would anybody work for or buy from the one run by a jerk?
ENTREPRENEUR LEADERSHIP NETWORK VIP
The success of a business is due in large part to the personalities of the people who run it. You can have the most amazing, innovative ideas, but if you have a toxic personality that repels even your most loyal customers and most diligent employees, you may be singlehandedly costing your business time and money.
As a manager or leader in your business, it’s important to recognize that you wield influence over your company, which can either help make or break your business. Much of that impact comes from how you communicate and interact with others. Are you projecting the qualities that make others want to work to build your company… or work at finding another job?
Take a hard look at your qualities and personality traits. Are you doing more harm than good? If you find you’re harboring any of the following 11 toxic personality traits, it’s time to make some serious changes.
1. Low emotional intelligence.
In a nutshell, having low emotional intelligence, or EQ, is toxic for business as it affects everyone you come in contact with. EQ is often just as important as your actual IQ (or raw intelligence). EQ helps you understand others and recognize what motivates them. A strong EQ is the foundation for working cooperatively with a group and creating a sense of cohesion at work.
Low EQ leads to poor communication skills. It damages your credibility and makes others feel less confident in you. When you’re emotionally intelligent, you’re aware of your emotions, as well as the feelings and needs of those around you. Having a high EQ helps you manage social situations and relationships, and enables you to regulate your emotions accordingly.
Related: Why Emotional Intelligence Is Crucial for Success (Infographic)
2. Chronic sarcasm.
A little bit of sarcasm can come across as funny at times, but if you live to spout sarcastic comments, you may be unwittingly creating a toxic environment. This is especially true if you focus your snark on belittling others or enjoy giving backhanded comments to subordinates.
If you think your constant sarcastic comments are scoring points or making you look smart, think again. Sarcasm makes you seem bitter, angry and arrogant. Try being nice. Treat everyone with a level of decorum and respect. Resist the urge to chide others or throw verbal zingers to get a laugh at someone else’s expense.
The ability to think on your feet and be open to suggestions and ideas is crucial to being able to adapt to unexpected changes in any business. When you’re too rigid in your thinking and decision-making, you can inadvertently limit your options or be unable to make quick adjustments as needed -- and this will adversely affect your business.
Yes, planning and scheduling are a necessary part of any business, but you also need to weigh the importance of following through with a particular strategy or method versus what you may gain (or lose) by sticking to your guns. Any successful company will sometimes need to exercise flexibility and find creative solutions in unexpected situations. Work to be part of the solution, not the problem.
Related: The 5 Worst Leadership Qualities: How Many Does Your Boss Have?
4. Not following through.
Failed promises and flaky leadership diminish your credibility with those you work with. If you want to preserve your influence and earn the respect of others, you’re going to need to learn to follow through and follow up.
That means being dependable, hearing others out and acting with integrity. If you say you’re going to do something, do it. And just as important, work to build trust and mutual respect with colleagues, employees, clients and customers. Support those around you, be there for them, and you will earn yourself and your business a loyal following.
The success or failure of a business is often based on timing -- knowing when to leap and when to stand back, analyze and consider your options. But making these decisions requires an ability to step back and have the patience to contemplate the bigger picture.
Business is a balancing act of aggressiveness and reservation. Impatience can lead to hasty decisions that lock you into a bad arrangement. Being determined and eager is a good thing; being rash and making snap decisions is not.
6. Being a control freak.
We usually assume that the most successful people in business are those who have all their ducks in a row -- they have a meticulous plan and know exactly where each decimal goes. But if everything is perfectly lined up, you’re only allowing yourself to see as far as the end of that list. Anything beyond those computations or conclusions is also beyond you and your control, and this can leave you flailing.
Being a control freak hampers your ability to make quick decisions. You can easily become overwhelmed by your sense of perfectionism and grow frustrated when things don’t go as planned. What if, instead of trying to control everything, you embraced the unpredictable? Give it a try and see how liberating it is to let go.
Related: How to Stop Being A Control Freak
7. Lacking empathy.
It’s easy to feel cynical sometimes, but those who fundamentally lack empathy or fail to show compassion will find their toxic attitude is corrupting their company. Cynicism makes you look defensive and angry. Empathy helps others feel connected and understood. We’re naturally drawn to those who are supportive and seem relatable.
By showing we care and understand what others are going through, we create a supportive atmosphere that draws people in. Empathy and caring make others feel valued, and that makes customers more inclined to stay loyal and employees more inclined to work hard. So, when you feel cynicism creeping in, remember that showing your human side and letting people know you care can also be profitable.
8. Being closed-minded.
Closed-minded people tend to want to point fingers at others rather than accept responsibility when things go wrong. They believe they have the answers to everything, so they have a hard time listening to what others have to say.
No matter how certain you are, make sure you hear others out. Even if your way ends up being the best, you’ll be a better leader and your business will grow if you’re open to hearing other perspectives and suggestions. Seek to be radically open-minded. It may be hard on your ego, but it will shift your whole business perspective. Don’t allow an obstinate or narrow-minded attitude keep you from hearing out-of-the-box ideas and making good decisions.
9. Constant complaining.
Nobody likes a pessimist. If you’re constantly complaining, you’re not only bringing everyone else down, you’re being unproductive and making everyone else more unproductive to boot. Plus, you come across as a high-maintenance whiner.
If you spend all your energy grumbling and lamenting, you’re reinforcing a negative mindset in yourself and driving everyone else away. Pay attention to how often you say negative things. If you can’t get through a conversation without complaining, you have a problem.
Related: How Complaining Rewires Your Brain for Negativity
10. Managing with fear.
Are you a “my way or the highway” type of manager? This mindset is absolutely toxic to businesses. Many leaders use fear-based measures to control others without being aware of what they’re doing. These are the managers who wield a big stick and keep everyone on edge. They use tacit threats and scare tactics to get others to do what they want.
Managing with fear creates a culture based on suspicion and angst, in which no one wants to admit to a mistake, voice disagreement or offer new ideas, all for fear of being rejected or beaten down. Successful companies strive to create a healthy, happy, creative atmosphere where good work can be done and a strong business can be built.
Narcissists are noxious to a business because their enlarged ego keeps them from listening to anyone who contradicts them. They really don’t want to hear what you have to say if you’re not in line with their thinking. Oh, and they’re also completely self-focused. If that’s you, then this is your wake-up call.
Your self-centered ways are not only denying others an opportunity to share possibly inspiring ideas; you’re also hurting your organization and frustrating everyone you work with. Try to think about others every now and then. Your career and your business will thank you.
Read more from Entrepreneur
Businesses across the nation have taken financial hits. How did you financially support yourselves to keep your doors open?
BY CHEVAZ CLARKE
Meet Paul and Anthony Ramirez, a pair of brothers and bar owners in New York City's Bronx, who have been working to rebrand the borough for the past decade. The duo owns several small businesses aimed at supporting entrepreneurs and promoting positive imagery of the Bronx and Queens. Seven years ago, they opened the Bronx Beer Hall in the center of a historic marketplace where they could celebrate the community. The brothers spoke with CBS News to share how they were able to avoid shutting down during the coronavirus pandemic.
CBS News: What was the Bronx Beer Hall like before the pandemic hit?
Anthony Ramirez: Before COVID, our mission was to, as always, improve the image of the Bronx and help introduce people to what the Bronx has to offer in both arts and culture. We had a rotating schedule of things to keep people engaged. Anything from karaoke, and trivia, to emo and vinyl nights. We would transition from a touristy lunch crowd to a pre-drink dinner crowd. And then a whole nightlife started. Around us, there's nine different vendors including a butcher, pizzeria and an Italian deli. We were giving people a different reason to have a connection with this market setting. COVID left us no choice but to figure out other ways.
What immediate changes did you make back in March?
Anthony: COVID hit and we had to cancel all of our events. We tried our best to keep employees on as long as we could. We have a staff of 10, who depend on us as much as we depend on them. We decided we weren't gonna be getting paid for a while, and that's fine, as long as we could take care of our employees. We were still considered essential, we're in the center of the marketplace. So we introduced a reduced schedule and reduced staffing and realized very quickly that no one was leaving their house for anything.
For a lot of our staff, in addition to the pay, tips are a big part of their income — can't get tipped if no one's coming. So we kind of looked at the numbers, and we realized that we'd be doing them a disservice by keeping them on and it'd be better to lay them off so that they could collect unemployment.
How did you adapt?
Anthony: We had to keep coming up with new ideas and new products to make people want to stop by as they do their weekly grocery runs. The first thing we realized is that people weren't going to be standing there drinking draft beer. So we had to find ways to make sure they can transport all of that draft beer.
We got 64-inch jugs and started offering a more diverse selection of cans of beer. We also had to drop prices considerably as well as change our branding. For example, our Bronxville Hall growlers, became homeschooling growlers, because everyone was homeschooling.
We even made two bars so that would alleviate any issues of people lining up six feet apart and being outside the market. Now, we have a craft beer box that we're working on, hopefully in time for the holidays that people could gift.
Businesses across the nation have taken financial hits. How did you financially support yourselves to keep your doors open?
Anthony: We applied for everything that came our way. We were behind on rent, we had to pay bills, etc. We were able to get some funding through a couple of our businesses, enough to sustain us probably for a couple months. But it wasn't the easiest process, especially when you're struggling to keep your doors open and then you have to figure out how to get through this application process. We're very community-focused, and so getting through the process ourselves was daunting, and then seeing the issues our neighbors were having and helping them was even wilder. Like, this guy's never opened a laptop before. How is he supposed to get the funding that he needs if I'm having trouble?
How is the business doing with outdoor dining?
Anthony: Someone always comes to me without fail and says, "Man, those streets are packed, you guys must be doing great. COVID is not affecting you at all." And behind my mask, I'm like you are out of your mind. I mean, you got six tables outdoors, and you have 100 tables indoors, it's a fraction of your business. A lot of people, unfortunately, who have small businesses run on debt. They get their product upfront, and then they pay their vendors after the fact. It's not sustainable when you're serving only a fraction of your normal audience.
There are many small businesses that were not as fortunate as yours and were forced to permanently shut down. What does the future of small businesses look like to you?
Anthony: It's about our community. We're the ones that are going to sustain one another, and we're the ones who are going to keep small businesses in business. It's the community race deciding that you're not going to save the two bucks by going on Amazon, but go to the corner and buy what you need for two more dollars, understanding that they're their costs and their operational costs are different.
I think, unfortunately, we'll see a lot more businesses closed before the end of 2020, and in the beginning of 2021, and if the pandemic hits again, then it'll be even worse. Right now, people are scraping by and hoping that things improve. And it's a scary time to own a small business.
Read more from CBS News
Among the many priorities left to be accomplished this Congress, none is more important than renewing the Paycheck Protection Program. It should have happened this summer. It needed to happen this fall. Enough is enough. Let’s get this done.
Coronavirus cases and hospitalizations are surging across the nation. State and local governments are responding with a variety of public health measures aimed at dealing with this reality. We can debate those measures, but what cannot be debated is that when the combination of government action and the realities of a public health pandemic wreak destruction, we need to act.
This is what we were able to do on a bipartisan basis in March. The Paycheck Protection Program ended up being the single most integral part of the COVID-19 response package. The program succeeded in “helping smaller firms withstand sharp revenue declines during the shutdown and keeping workers connected to their employers,” as the left-leaning Brookings Institution put it, but congressional inaction allowed PPP to expire in August.
Instead of passing a new round of PPP relief and throwing these businesses a lifeline in the process, Democrats calculated that sitting on their hands and denying Republicans a perceived victory would be better for their political fortunes.
Not only did their behavior backfire politically, as Republicans made surprising electoral gains in the House, it also left countless small businesses vulnerable and more Americans without jobs.
American workers are not simply a bargaining chip to be played when politicians like Speaker Pelosi need “leverage,” to use her chosen word. And yet as we stare into the abyss once again, Democratic leaders appear unwilling to provide a new lifeline to our small businesses and their employees.
There are only two plausible explanations for their reckless obstruction.
First, they do not believe support for small business is necessary. Recent headlines make clear that anyone who buys this is delusional:
“[Seven] months into the pandemic, small business owners don’t know how much longer they can hold on.”
“Small-Business Failures Loom as Federal Aid Dries Up”
“Covid Is Crushing Small Businesses. That’s Bad News for American Innovation.”
In that case, the only other explanation is that Democrats continue to play politics and use small business owners and employees as leverage for other negotiations. This is not only plausible, but what some of my more sensible colleagues have told me.
This is the way things always work in Washington, but with small businesses going out of business every single day, it must stop. As COVID-19 rates soar in every state, increased public health restrictions are seemingly inevitable. A doctor advising Joe Biden on the coronavirus is pushing for an unthinkable four-to-six-week lockdown. Yet Democrats in Congress will only help small businesses if Republicans agree to a laundry list of contentious policies.
This isn’t just reckless governance. It’s wildly immoral.
We are better than this as a nation.
And let me speak to my Republican colleagues who have expressed concern about America’s rising debts. You are correct. I ran for the Senate in 2010 because of the same concerns, and I am very aware of the impact diverting our future productive capacity toward debt payments will have on our ability to remain a strong and prosperous nation. But that is not relevant to this discussion today.
The coronavirus pandemic has already killed tens of thousands of American small businesses. Many more may not make it through this winter. Millions of people can become detached from the workplace, unable to provide for themselves, their families, and their communities. The long-term structural damage to our economy, our small businesses, and our workers that we face today is unprecedented. Fiscal conservatism is not a suicide pact.
Sen. Susan Collins and I have already submitted the right solution to the problem before us: a streamlined, standalone bill that would provide $250 billion in relief in the form of a second round of PPP funds, partially offset by the existing $130 billion in the account. Such a solution would intentionally exclude other kinds of relief that lack the bipartisan support PPP has enjoyed since it was first formulated.
Senate Democrats unanimously voted against this proposal in the fall, but they will soon have another chance to do the right thing.
With winter fast approaching and coronavirus cases once again surging, American small businesses are going to be forced to fight for their lives, far more even than they did this summer and fall. Any politician who sees this crisis as an opportunity for political haggling — and not a matter of the utmost ethical and practical urgency — has forfeited his or her claim to moral authority.
Marco Rubio is the senior senator from Florida and the chairman of the Senate Committee on Small Business Entrepreneurship.
Read more from Washington Examiner
At 33 years old, founder Apoorva Mehta's grocery delivery app has a valuation of $17.7 billion.
ENTREPRENEUR LEADERSHIP NETWORK CONTRIBUTOR
Founder and Consultant, Hefty Media Group
Instacart is having one heck of a year. The company spent $27 million on efforts to help secure the recent victory of Proposition 22 in California, which will shift labor laws that benefit gig economy-driven startups. But prior to their success at the ballot box, the company was already stacking up one achievement after another this year.
In April 2020, Instacart had its first profitable month of operation, an increasingly rare find in Silicon Valley. And successful strategic partnerships continue to emerge; in Q3, the delivery app added retail giants Sephora and Bed Bath & Beyond to its options.
Thanks to additional investment rounds in 2020, the app’s valuation has more than doubled, making founder and CEO Apoorva Mehta a billionaire at just 33 years old. But prior to founding the mammoth grocery delivery app, Mehta was a failure many times over. What was different about his approach to Instacart that made the company soar?
Related: California Votes to Strip Employee Protections From Uber and Lyft Drivers
Over 20 failed startups in a two-year period
Starting a business takes grit. In addition to overcoming bleak statistics – 20% of businesses fail in the first year and 50% fail within five years – being a startup founder requires passion, drive and a good deal of trial and error.
A software engineer by profession, Mehta left his career at Amazon to explore entrepreneurship. He found the challenge of startup culture to be intellectually demanding and stimulating; in one particular business pursuit, he spent a year building out a social networking platform specifically for lawyers.
A critical piece was missing from the equation, though: passion. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times in 2017, Mehta noted that “When I went home, I wouldn’t think about it because I didn’t care about lawyers.” If you’re feeling the same way about your business or side hustle… change something immediately.
Related: The Difference Between Inspiration and Motivation
The San Francisco-based entrepreneur loved to cook, and Mehta recalls the inconvenience of having to run around town to pick up certain special ingredients. Just like that, a business idea was born.
Timing is everything
The value proposition of Instacart is nothing new and had even been the business model of publicly-traded companies in the past. But the way consumers were acclimating to smartphone ecommerce was creating a huge opportunity.
Mehta had extensively studied the success and failure of Webvan, a grocery delivery company that climbed to a valuation of $1.2 billion after its 1999 IPO. Less than three years later, that company went bankrupt.
This time was different, though. In observing the steady rise of fellow San Francisco startup Uber, Mehta knew customers were becoming increasingly comfortable with app-based transactions. The timing was right for a new brand to step in and run to the front. Mehta built Instacart’s prototype in about a month, and he even delivered groceries himself at the start to work out any kinks.
Related: 6 Reasons Why You Should Prototype Your Idea Before Developing It
How to develop your next business idea
Passion is critical for any startup success, but it’s important to also know your market and ensure you don’t end up building something no one wants. Here are a few ways to improve your chances of success.
Read more from Entrepreneur
These success stories debunk the common misconception that you have to quit your day job to turn your side hustle into a thriving business.
ENTREPRENEUR LEADERSHIP NETWORK CONTRIBUTOR
Founder & Entrepreneur
While people have engaged in some form of “side hustles” for centuries, the practice has gained much more prominence over the last two decades. Since the advent of the Internet, millions of 9-to-5 workers have put their extra time and resources toward making money through side hustles. According to a Bankrate survey, nearly half of full-time workers take part in some form of “side hustle” outside of their traditional job.
These activities can range from starting a fashion blog to working as a freelance delivery driver — and everything in between. When my co-founder Sabine and I pivoted Dormzi from being a service-based network to a marketplace powered by young people, our vision was to help students lean into their side hustles. One of the challenges we've been seeing since doing so is that many aspiring entrepreneurs believe that they would have to completely drop their 9-to-5 job or schooling to turn their side hustles into thriving businesses. Fortunately, this is frequently not the case. To show how to turn your side hustle into a full-time business, let’s look at a few real-world success stories:
Big businesses that started as side hustles
It’s a common misconception that your side hustle cannot become a successful business unless you dedicate 100% of your time and money to it. While it’s true that you cannot just expect a side hustle to become something more without any effort on your part, you can turn a side hustle into a full-time business without quitting your day job. How exactly can you do this? By regularly funding your side hustle with a portion of your 9-to-5 paycheck.
It sounds too easy to be true, right? The fact is that many side hustles remain side hustles because people don’t put additional funds into them. For example, if you provide writing services, you could pay to develop a website that markets your services and makes you look more professional. Without a website, you’ll likely struggle to gain new clients and turn your side hustle into a long-term business venture.
Related: 50 Ideas for a Lucrative Side Hustle
So, to refute the naysayers, let’s take a look at some entrepreneurs who invested in their side hustles and now run extremely profitable businesses:
Aytekin Tank, Founder of JotForm
Before founding JotForm in 2006, Aytekin Tank worked as a senior web developer for a large Internet media company in New York City. During his five-year tenure, Aytekin Tank was frequently tasked with creating tools with which editors could create unique forms, like surveys. However, Aytekin Tank often found the existing tools on the market wholly insufficient.
Thus, JotForm was born. While Aytekin Tank toiled away at his day job, he spent his free time developing what would become one of the most popular online form builder tools in the world. His work as a senior web developer provided enough additional funds to turn his ideas into a reality. Over time, Aytekin Tank put away a small fraction of his paycheck until he was ready to launch JotForm. Then, he had the funds to hire a team, grow his start-up into a full-time business, and become one of the dominant forces in his niche. Today, JotForm has over 2 million subscribers and counting!
Andrew Mason, Founder of Groupon
While Andrew Mason working toward a Public Policy Degree at the University of Chicago, he started developing The Point, a platform that introduced the “tipping point” concept of donating funds towards a particular cause. With The Point, users could collectively fundraise in support of a common goal. However, if the goal did not reach a certain number of supporters or a minimum monetary amount, no one would be charged and the goal would be abandoned. This “tipping point” concept would later form the basis of Andrew Mason’s subsequent endeavor, Groupon, with partners Brad Keywell and Eric Lefkofsky.
Related: 18 Side Hustles That Can Help You Turn a Profit in 2020
Andrew Mason and his partners put a great deal of time and effort into The Point, which proved to be a failed idea, due in part to its lack of focus. However, they found that one aspect of The Point was particularly popular: collective buying power with group deals. Thus, in 2008, Groupon was born.
Andrew Mason worked as a server and a series of other odd jobs to pay his way through college and put aside funds to create The Point. Additionally, he was able to launch The Point with funds from his future Groupon partners. Even once The Point turned out to be a bust, Brad Keywell and Eric Lefkofsky stuck by Andrew’s side. The trio turned their initial failure into a massive success, creating a company that is now valued at more than $2.4 billion!
Eren Bali, founder of Udemy
In the mid-2000s, Eren Bali worked as a freelance web developer based in Turkey. While working for various clients, including the now-defunct Speeddate.com, Bali was putting his extra time and funds toward his own passion project. In 2007, he developed software for a live virtual classroom. He saw a lot of potential in his new creation, so he saved up the funds to move his base of operations to Silicon Valley.
Once in California, Eren Bali met up with Oktay Caglar and Gagan Biyani to found Udemy, an open online course provider. The site launched in 2010 with minimal funding. In fact, Eren Bali and his partners tried and failed 30 times to gain the interest of investors. However, the early success of the platform allowed them to raise $1 million in just a few months. Later, Groupon investors Eric Lefkofsky and Brad Keywell would help raise more capital for the burgeoning company. By early 2020, Udemy was valued at approximately $2 billion!
How to Turn Your Side Hustle into a Full-Time Business
It’s easy to look at success stories and feel that these side-hustlers-turned-business-owners just got lucky. While there is a certain amount of luck involved in every entrepreneurial endeavor, there are actionable steps you can take to turn your side hustle into a successful full-time business. Based on the examples above, you can reverse engineer their experiences to find a process that works for you. So, let’s take notes from successful entrepreneurs like Aytekin Tank, Andrew Mason, and Eren Bali!
Related: Get Access to Kim Perell's Side Hustle Accelerator for Just $30 for a Limited Time
Find and perfect your idea
In all three examples above, the founders of successful side-hustle businesses had ideas that they put into action. Often times, these ideas combined their existing skills or passions with a gap in the market. For example, let’s say that you are an excellent communicator and have expert knowledge in a particular niche. You could begin consulting for businesses in that niche. From there, you could set aside funds from your job to market and grow your side-hustle consultation services into a full-time business! This brings us to the second important step…
Develop a funding strategy
Most people begin side hustles to make money. However, to turn a side hustle into a business, you’ll need some starting capital. As a result, you’ll likely need to dedicate a small portion of your paycheck toward building your side hustle. This may sound counter-intuitive, but it’s actually a sound business strategy.
Think about it; if you quit your job just to focus on your side hustle, you greatly reduce your income and risk putting all of your eggs in one unpredictable basket. Alternatively, if you regularly set aside funds from your job (or your side hustle) to build your business, you’re essentially investing in your future without taking on any additional risk. Over time, this nest egg could be enough to get your business up-and-running. If you still need more capital, you could always look for investors or take out a small business loan to get things moving!
Launch your business
It may seem like an unimportant distinction, but a side hustle becomes a business once you identify it as such. Side hustles are essentially part-time, temporary work to make extra cash; businesses are long-term investments with the potential to grow and create much larger returns. So, once you officially launch your business as an LLC or similar entity, you’ve taken an important step in your transition from side hustler to business owner!
As illustrated in the stories above, side hustles are generally low-risk. You spend a little bit of extra time and money to (hopefully) make more money or develop a unique idea. However, launching a business entails much more risk. When Aytekin Tank formed JotForm, he struggled to pay and manage his ever-growing staff. Andrew Manson’s first business launch, The Point, turned out to be a momentous failure, though it led him to develop a much better and more profitable website. Finally, Eren Bali and his business partners failed dozens of times to secure funding before finally getting the capital they needed to grow their business. In all three examples, these entrepreneurs launched their side-hustle businesses in spite of the inherent risks.
Time to get started
Turning a side hustle into a big business doesn’t mean you need to quit your day job. In fact, a day job has allowed hundreds of entrepreneurs to routinely fund their side hustles, eventually transforming them into full-time businesses. Up-and-coming entrepreneurs sometimes argue that leaving their much-hated nine-to-five jobs to focus on a full-time business will increase their chances of success. While there is validity to the point that you can’t just “set it and forget it,” you don’t need to completely upend your financial life or career to build your business. Instead, routinely fund and dedicate extra time to your side hustle until your ready to launch your business venture.
The Side Hustle Accelerator program developed by our VIP expert Kim Perell is full of amazing content including a hand-picked directory of 100+ Side Hustles you can start today! This step-by-step program was built for anyone ready to start their side hustle. Get started today and take advantage of this huge discount.
Read more from Entrepreneur
Summary. To enable real innovative growth, boards and company leaders must structure top organizational roles to give innovative efforts the resources and attention they need. In the authors’ work on business model innovation with over 100 large and medium-sized companies, they found that companies looking for transformation have two good options: an entrepreneurial CEO or a... more
Innovation thrives when it has power and status within an organization. To enable real innovative growth — and rapid response in the face of such crises such as Covid-19 — boards and company leaders must structure top organizational roles to give innovative efforts the resources and attention they need. In our work on business model innovation with over 100 large and medium-sized companies, we’ve found that companies looking for transformation have two good options: an entrepreneurial CEO or a powerful chief entrepreneur.
Too often, companies have heads of innovation who report to a senior vice president, who in turn reports to a C-level executive like a chief technology officer. This is sufficient for optimizing a company’s current business model, but it’s not enough for a company seeking radical reinvention.
We worked with a head of innovation who ran an innovation lab at a large South African bank, for example. His teams developed breakthrough offerings that had some early traction with customers, but he couldn’t take these ideas to scale without his leadership’s buy-in. Despite his efforts, their attention was pulled elsewhere and ultimately his team’s ideas went nowhere. Does this sound familiar?
Drucker Forum 2020
This article is one in a series related to the 12th Global Peter Drucker Forum, with the theme “Leadership Everywhere,” taking place as a virtual conference from October 28-30. See the program here.
The Entrepreneurial CEO
The first alternative to this approach is to hire an entrepreneurial CEO — a leader who is actively involved in developing and managing a portfolio of new ventures. While most leaders understand that they need to both manage the current business and explore future opportunities, an entrepreneurial CEO spends a substantial amount of their time — typically over one-third — leading innovation. The CEO’s high engagement provides a clear signal to the rest of the company about the importance of innovation generally. But they’re also critical to innovative efforts because they have the power to make key decisions and allocate key resources, power that often evades an innovation head placed further down on the org chart.
For example, consider Ernest L. Cu, who is the entrepreneurial CEO of Globe, the leading Filipino telecoms company. Cu views innovation as the “life blood” of Globe and he dedicates over 30% of his leadership time to meeting with innovation teams, reviewing the progress of innovation projects and ensuring that the innovation teams are properly resourced.
Beyond signaling the importance of innovation to the company, his active role allows Cu to remove the barriers that get in the way of the implementation of new ideas. For example, when an innovation team at Globe was working to launch Gcash, their e-wallet for mobile payments, it became clear that the team needed access to the company’s 84 million mobile customers. Cu found out that it was difficult for the team to get permission for that access because they were viewed as “… a nuisance little business that doesn’t really make any money.” In response, Cu took a leader from the core business who understood the company well and moved them to GCash to drive its growth. This cross-pollination helped GCash get access to the resources it needed to scale. G-Cash is now the leading e-wallet for mobile transactions in the Philippines with over 20 million users. If Cu hadn’t spent the time to understand what was holding GCash up, the team might never have gotten the high-level resource re-allocation it needed to succeed.
Even with an entrepreneurial CEO in place, however, their attention can be pulled in other directions. The board can drive the CEO’s entrepreneurial behavior by requiring that they report on two portfolios — one for the core business and another for innovation. The board can also track the percentage of revenue coming from new products and services launched within the last three years. 3M, for example, has set stretch goals for their leaders that require up to 30% of revenue to come from new product launched in the last 3 years.
Still, even an entrepreneurial CEO cannot be 100% focused on innovation; a big part of their attention is always taken up by running the core business. And many CEOs simply lack entrepreneurial skills. In these situations, the company should consider appointing a Chief Entrepreneur instead.
The Chief Entrepreneur
In 2008, Peter Ma, Founder and Chairman of the Chinese company Ping An, believed his company would get disrupted if he didn’t shift it from being a financial conglomerate to a technology company. To drive this change, Ma appointed as Co-CEO Jessica Tan who was given the mandate and responsibility of driving innovation under the title of group executive director. But in effect, Jessica Tan became Ping An’s chief entrepreneur.
This change allowed Ping An to build a strong innovation portfolio that transcended industry boundaries in five distinct technology-related areas beyond banking and insurance. For example, the company launched Good Doctor which became the world’s largest healthcare platform with over 300 million users. Since 2010, Ping An has moved from being ranked 383 on the Fortune Global 500 to 21st in 2020.
Importantly, from our work we’ve come to believe that the chief entrepreneur should be equal in power and rank to a non-entrepreneurial CEO. We have observed that heads of innovation which report to a non-entrepreneurial CEO are worse off when compared to those which report to an entrepreneurial CEO because, in the former case, innovation remains a second-class citizen. Equality in rank also allows the chief entrepreneur to be able to make decisions to allocate resources as leaders as Cu was able to do.
The major disadvantage of this arrangement, of course, is the likelihood of tension between the CEO and the chief entrepreneur. This is especially the case where innovation teams depend on resources from the core business to scale their ideas. This arrangement works well when the CEO doesn’t see the chief entrepreneur as an enemy but as an ally. The board can help reduce friction by clearly delineating where each leader’s role begins and ends. They should also take care to define the success threshold at which the new businesses driven by the chief entrepreneur can transition to the core business to be managed by the CEO.
The tensions between running a core business and building for a future will always persist. But to get serious about growth and change, companies need to bring responsibility for innovation into the hands of top-level leaders so they can address those tensions head on — while giving innovation the attention it needs.
Read more on Innovation or related topics Organizational structure and Boards
Read more from Harvard Business Review
Love creates happiness, and happiness generates sales.
ENTREPRENEUR LEADERSHIP NETWORK WRITER
In his book, The Art of Freedom, Jesse Panama proclaims that the philosophy of love lends a business a competitive advantage. Though it may seem counterintuitive, his suggestion to run a business with love — yes, love — is actually a quite pragmatic way to approach most endeavors. Panama sums up the technique simply as, “Treat the people in your market or audience (your tribe) like family.”
If there’s one word that describes family, it’s love. If there’s one phrase that directs corporate businesses, it’s competitive advantage. Given these truths, the question becomes, how does an organization marry “love” and “competitive advantage” to achieve greater employee satisfaction and produce better bottom-line results? And, is it really important to do so?
Research says, “Yes!” Before suggesting ways to satisfy love languages, let’s cover the research confirming the importance of love and happiness in sales. The director of an 80-year study of adult development, George Vaillant stated, “Happiness is love. Full stop.” The study followed Harvard graduates over their lifetime and determined loving relationships as the most prominent indicator of both happiness and income. In addition to strong marriages, the study reported social engagement and support from friends, groups and volunteer activities as key components of happiness.
Related: 20 Secrets to Living a Happier Life
If love equals happiness, how does happiness impact business productivity? A 2019 study by the University of Oxford indicates employees are 13% more productive when they’re happy. In his book, The Buddha and the Badass, Vishen Lakhani recounts his interview with Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage, and details the following statistics: "When the brain is in a positive state, productivity rises by 31%, sales success increases by 37%, intelligence, creativity and memory all improve dramatically. Doctors primed to be happy are 19% better at making the right diagnosis."
The value of facilitating love and happiness as a competitive advantage for greater sales in a corporate setting is clear. However, for many — especially traditional corporations — the concept of love, and even happiness, in the office may be a totally foreign concept.
Love languages can bridge the gap and help executives connect with employees for increased corporate cohesiveness, camaraderie and sales. And just as love-language dynamics are unique within each relationship, the same is true in the office. While love languages are universally explained, the application of them is very individualized — and different for every person. A person’s love language represents actions that make them feel most loved, and most people have two: a primary and secondary love language. Knowing a person’s love language can give corporate bosses clues into how to spur connection and efficiency for employees. The following are suggested love-language adaptations that can be easily applied to the office environment:
In addition to providing straightforward thanks, recognition can also be more elaborate with specific awards and public acknowledgment of a person’s ability or achievement.
Corporate events, training and outings can also provide co-workers the opportunity to experience quality time with staff outside of the office where more casual social customs govern over professional ones. Herein lies the true connection point — and connection is essential to happiness. According to Vishen Lakhiani, founder of personal development company Mindvalley, “When you bring connection to your workplace you give people and yourself one of the greatest gifts in the world — and the gift with the highest correlation to human happiness. The gift of belonging.”
Another way companies can support physical touch is to bring in professionals and practitioners who can support employees with services like chair massage, physical therapy and chiropractic care.
Related: Starting a Business That Increases Your Happiness Will Make You A Better Person
Given the statistical support of love and happiness as proven ways to increase sales in the workplace, there’s no question a corporate culture that nurtures employee satisfaction is a logical choice for both the employer and the workforce. Corporate love languages offer a framework to foster love, self-worth and connection as one of the greatest competitive advantages an organization can utilize.
Read more from Entrepreneur
Ascend Agency CEO Jonathan Jadali tells us why it's crucial to think beyond sales when trying to build a loyal customer base
ENTREPRENEUR LEADERSHIP NETWORK CONTRIBUTOR
Millennial Entrepreneur, Fashion Influencer, Activist
Branding is the most commonly used phrase in business circles, but is also often the least understood.
For Jonathan Jadali, CEO of Ascend Agency, a PR form that works with top Fortune 500 companies, a brand is not a tangible thing. As he told me in a recent conversation, it is “a strong feeling that a business creates in the minds of its customers, that creates an emotional bond and passion for their businesses and produces loyalty.”
Here are some more insights into Jadali's three-step approach to creating a brand that lasts.
Related: 5 Tips for Harnessing Social Media to Scale Your Online Business
1. Find your soul
A business without a soul might get sales, but can never build a following. “I have worked with scores of companies, and I always noticed which ones had a strong brand the moment I received their initial emails," Jadali explains. "I could feel the soul of the company oozing out from the letters as I read them. Until you find your soul, the 'why' behind your business, it’s hard to make any kind of impact."
This discovery phase should start with an internal audit of your brand’s marketing approach, services and products, as well as an external audit of your customer base’s sentiment towards your industry as a whole and your company in particular. You then need to delete the features you don't like and incorporate the ones you want.
Once that's accomplished, infuse this focus into your design (logos, graphics, etc.), staff training, social media content, customer touchpoints and email campaigns. The ability to consistently reflect your purpose in all areas of your business is what begins to build that connected feeling in your customer’s hearts.
2. Develop cult devotion
Respect, they say, is reciprocal, and so is loyalty. It is unwise to expect extreme commitment from a customer base that you are not extremely loyal to, and you cannot be dedicated to a base whose needs you don't know.
As Jadali says, “Most of the brands want to build a cult following from their customer base, but as we dig into brand strategy, most of the companies either do not know exactly who that audience is supposed to be or they haven’t spent time developing cult devotion to their base themselves.”
Every company must spend time in “base discernment.” The first step is to find the common feature of your base, be it age range, lifestyle, gender, fashion preferences, health condition, locality, etc. Then you need to start building your brand image around these discoveries. For instance, an all-black-marketing theme may work for a men’s brand, but might fail miserably for a female-targeted line.
3. Always show up with value
“With all content you put out, every campaign you start and every place you appear, you are animating your company in one direction or the other," Jadali ecourages. "It is similar to how we perceive people; your brand has a personality that is discerned by what you associate yourself with, where you show up, what you say and how you say it. If all you do is marketing, you reduce your chances of making sales."
Showing up on the right platforms where you are sure to meet your client base is also key. For instance, a brand that caters to teenage girls needs to take TikTok more seriously than most. “Authority positioning,” as Jonathan Jadali terms it, is the art of making sure your brand is seen where it matters the most. One needs to undertake an empirical approach to guest posting, social media marketing and SEO. It is far better to appear in fewer places than to appear in the wrong places; businesses should spend more time researching than they do simply trying to get featured.
When you do show up, you must market efficiently, but beyond that, you must find all possible ways to identify with your customer base and to build the chemistry they share with your brand. This could often mean offering non-marketing value to your customer base and identifying with their sentiments.
An active presence on all relevant platforms is a necessary part of your PR strategy. It doesn’t just enable you to identify more with your base; it also helps you monitor the chatter to know how customers feel. This way, you can always pivot your business to make sure your purpose is being fulfilled.
Related: 3 Ways Tourism Hotspots Will Evolve After Lockdown
Marketing, sales, staff, products and services may form the necessary infrastructure to run your business profitably, but mastering the art of effective branding is the necessary ingredient for remaining profitable perpetually.
Read more from Entrepreneur
Start by having the courage to take a big swing.
ENTREPRENEUR LEADERSHIP NETWORK CONTRIBUTOR
Founder of Content Hacker™, Express Writers
As entrepreneurs, we’re always itching for growth. Although we love looking back at all we’ve accomplished, what truly excites us are the milestones ahead.
The problem is that business growth is not constant. There are hiatuses along the way, and if we don’t see the bigger picture, we can get lost in the patches of shade and twists in the road. What’s more, there are challenges that make us question if continuing to fight for our dreams of success is really worthwhile.
The key is to keep focused with the right mindset and growth strategies in our arsenal. Here are four to add to yours.
Related: Want Your Book to Land Bestseller Status? Follow These Steps
1. Practice the "10x > 10 percent" growth mindset
A lot of people take a few cards from the deck of life, shuffle them around, and play the “safest” ones. The result is that they get the security they crave, but that’s all. They’ll never experience what it’s like to live their wildest dreams of success.
The 10x > 10 percent mindset is just the opposite. It’s thinking of the biggest outcome you can get from anything you do. It’s stepping out of your comfort zone and fearlessly reaching out for what you want.
For example, your goal is to increase your business’s revenue next year. With the 10 percent growth mindset, you’ll plan to increase it from $5,000 a month to $5,500 a month. On the other hand, the 10x growth mindset pushes you to grow it from $5,000 a month to $50,000 a month.
For example: I practiced the 10x > 10% mindset when rehauling our content strategy services at Express Writers. I could have “played it safe” and fixed a typo or added a small extra feature. But I didn’t want that. Instead, I wanted to grow 10x, which is why I rehauled the entire product, rewrote all the internal training for my team, and turned what used to be a five-page analysis into a 25-slide deck. Our old content strategy plan offered a minimal list of content suggestions; the new one comes complete with a full SEMrush site audit, website health score, analysis of your current domain, a deep-dive into what’s trending by 5000% in Google Trends for your industry, and a full-fledged budget you can use to map out content that achieves traffic.
The result? We had clients raving about the new plan.
Grow by 10, not by 10%. Learn more about this here. But, there’s a caveat. That leads me to No. 2.
2. Remember that every day you hang on is a win
It’s important to keep in mind that not every day can be a 10x day. There will be tough days and days when you’ll wonder if what you’re doing is worth the struggle.
During these days, don’t give up. I personally love what Instagram growth expert Derik Zimmerman says about hanging on. “Somebody out there will give up today,” he says. “But not you.”
When things get exceptionally rough, sit down and take a moment to breathe. Tell yourself you’ll give up tomorrow, just not today. When the next day comes, repeat the process until you’re ready to fly out of the rut you’re stuck in and start conquering your goals once more.
3. Remind yourself that you can’t do everything at once
Success happens in small steps, instead of all at once. In the course of growing a business, there will be times when things get overwhelming. There are too many steps to the top, and we can’t be sure if we’ll ever be able to reach it.
When you’re feeling this way, remember to give yourself time. Set long-term goals, then focus all your effort on taking one single step towards them. Keep practicing your craft and growing, and you will get there sooner than you expected.
Related: Why You Need to 'Upskill' to Keep on Top of Trends
4. Prioritize healthy connections
We all have our dreams of making it to the top, but we must remember that we won’t make it if we’re alone. Even the greatest historical figures had someone to lean on, like Michelangelo did with his friend Vittoria Colonna.
It’s not any different in business. If we want to go far, we need a support system to lift us up when we fall and keep us going during the hard days. It pays to have people who care for us.
When we work with people who care about what we do, we set ourselves up for success.
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When the going gets tough, the tough get busy adapting.
ENTREPRENEUR LEADERSHIP NETWORK CONTRIBUTOR
Co-founder of Techincon and Senior Business Consultant for Microsoft
It’s been a tough year for many industries, but this has also caused companies to pivot, get smarter and allow innovative ideas to emerge. New ideas are everywhere, ranging from enterprise-level strategies to simple tweaks in the way we purchase products and services.
In any crisis, the companies that come out on top look at the new landscape, see what has changed and rethink their offerings to meet the needs of the moment. Here are three examples of how to pivot, adapt and thrive in the present uncertainty.
1. Use subscription tech to level the digital playing field
When the pandemic hit, stay-at-home orders forced everything from business meetings to elementary school classes to go online virtually overnight. This shift quickly revealed not only the color of your co-workers’ couches, but also the country’s pervasive digital divide.
Even in the banking industry, there are digital haves and have-nots. The big national banks can afford to invest in advanced technology, which benefits their operations and their account holders. That’s not always the case for America’s community banks, which provide vital services to local and small businesses, especially in rural areas. Even when community banks have the resources to build out their tech, they’re unlikely to bring these solutions to market as quickly as large competitors.
Creating faster access to technology is key to making sure these banks stay competitive. In August, FIS launched ClearEdge, a pre-integrated bundle of technologies for operating a highly efficient, modern bank — all via an affordable, subscription-based model. Combining payments processing, decision intelligence and regulatory-compliance technologies in one suite allows a small team to deliver like a large one, and a subscription model puts it within reach.
Banking isn’t the only industry where subscription models have helped bridge the digital divide. When Adobe transformed its Creative Suite into Creative Cloud, the more flexible pricing plans enabled the company to meet the needs of individual graphic designers, photographers and other creatives.
Consider whether there are consumers whose pain points you could solve but who can’t afford your product. Providing it via subscription can both level the digital playing field and grow your customer base.
Related: Why a Subscription Revenue Model Might Be the Answer for Your Business
2. Help consumers make their home their castle with 'direct-to-castle' shipping
We’re all spending a lot of time at home these days. Even as workplaces across the country begin a cautious reopen, many employees’ homes continue to do double duty as living and working spaces. This has led to booming sales in home furnishings, much of it online. Business Insider reports that Target tripled its online sales over last year, with its home category experiencing a 30 percent increase.
How can you pounce on this nesting trend when consumers are still making fewer and shorter trips to stores? Stay competitive by hopping on the direct-to-consumer bandwagon.
When brick-and-mortar retail ground to a near halt this spring, it changed a lot of consumer behavior. At one point it would have felt absurd to buy a mattress online without giving it a test run first. Now direct-to-consumer mattress brands like Purple and Casper have made it commonplace.
Art is the latest sector to make the shift. Whether consumers are in need of a good Zoom background or something to hang on the bare wall they can no longer ignore, Nick Ford, founder of Big Wall Décor, has them covered. Ford recognized the needs the pandemic spawned and met them in two ways.
He prints art on fabric, which then locks into metal frames. This allows him to ship a 4x6-foot piece in a small tube direct to the consumer. He uses Instagram — not just a thumbnail — to show buyers how the art will look in their home.
This simple shift has created a whole new customer base for outsized wall art. Retooling your offering for DTC delivery could do the same for you.
Related: Launching a Direct to Consumer Brand? Here Are the 8 Success Secrets.
3. Banish consumers’ boredom the way they want you to
If there’s one thing we’ve learned about a global pandemic, it’s that people want to take their minds off it. Art organizations and entertainment providers tried to oblige, streaming everything from plays at the UK’s National Theater to concerts by Bruce Springsteen.
Yet not all entertainment companies saw increases in sales this year. Movie chains are facing bankruptcy, and direct-to-home film releases have been hit and miss. Streaming has done well, especially Amazon’s recent viewership numbers for “Borat 2.” But Quibi didn’t even make it a year. Clearly, concept and execution still matter.
One consistently bright spot is video game sales, which saw a year-over-year increase of 37 percent in August. This stat is especially interesting given that new consoles (Xbox Series X, PlayStation 5) are just now coming out.
Conventional consumer forecasting would tell you that gamers would wait to purchase new titles in anticipation of next-gen consoles. So, why this seemingly odd purchasing behavior?
As Gearbox founder Randy Pitchford explained to the Dallas Business Journal, the growth is due in part to mobile phone gaming, which now has three times more players than console gaming. Gaming companies have also adapted to the entertainment needs of people during a pandemic. This summer proved to be just as sales-heavy as Christmas, as consumers looked for ways to stay entertained while sticking close to home.
Related: The Future of the Entertainment Industry Beyond 2020
The lessons for entertainment entrepreneurs are clear. If you want to compete in this environment, create good content (something Quibi failed to do), make it mobile-friendly and prepare for audiences to consume it on their terms.
For every company that folded during a crisis, others (Procter & Gamble, Microsoft, Airbnb, et al.) were born. If you can identify — and meet — new consumer needs now, your company could experience a competitive rebirth.
Read more from Entrepreneur
Arguably, doing business, as usual, is no longer an option given the financial impact the global health crisis has had on businesses. Since March, owners of enterprises have had to go back to the drawing board to reimagine their strategies in order to pivot and keep the doors open digitally. For women business owners, the impact has been even greater.
According to a recent study by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, women-owned businesses have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. One highlight from the study is, “The number of female business owners who ranked their business's overall health as ‘somewhat or very good’ fell 13 points during the pandemic, from 60% in January to 47% in July 2020. By contrast, the number of male business owners reporting a ‘good’ business health status only fell five points in the same period (67% to 62%).”
By the numbers, women might have more challenges recovering in the years to come.
Tami Erwin, CEO of Verizon Business, Gabrielle Rabinovitch, Vice President of Investor Relations at PayPal, and Kathryn Chase, Head of US Small Business Banking at Citibank recently joined forces as a part of Verizon’s Women in Business mentorship program to offer sound advice to those looking to reinvent their business during a LinkedIn Live discussion.
To extend the reach of that conversation, each of the leaders responded to a number of questions in efforts to provide women with a guide as they find ways to bounce back in business.
What It Takes To Reinvent A Business
Adaptability is a must within business - and that reigns true now more than ever during the pandemic. What does reinventing ones business look like for small business owners in this day and age?
Tami Erwin: Digital transformation for small businesses went from a nice to have to a must. Before the pandemic, small businesses struggled with scaling, moving to the cloud and ineffective marketing and promotion. In today’s world, if you don’t have a digital front door, you’re out of business. As our customers are reinventing their businesses, we are seeing them invest in technology that enables digital transactions, remote collaboration such as video conferencing tools like Blue Jeans and security.
Gabrielle Rabinovitch: The pandemic has accelerated ecommerce by three to five years, according to some studies. That means it is more important than ever to use technology to drive your business and help level the playing field with larger businesses. Whether that is taking your personal training business and creating a virtual training app or using tools like PayPal to sell online to a much broader base of potential consumers. At PayPal, we’ve seen our small businesses get very creative to manage and thrive through all the change that is happening. We’re actually about to launch a podcast on this very topic, called “Adaptables.” Look out for that!
Kathryn Chase: Many owners, when faced with the shut-down, quickly adjusted their business models. We saw many introduce safety protocols for clients that allowed them to remain open while adhering to CDC guidelines. They provided PPE for employees and required customers to wear masks - and business continued. Some small businesses also created new products to meet demands created by the pandemic. For example, we worked with a Plexiglas display company that quickly pivoted to produce “sneeze protectors” for retail businesses.
Strategy And Adaptability Are Key
What strategies can business owners create to smoothly transform their services and how they operate their business?
Rabinovitch: One of the silver linings of this period has been that we are all going through this together. As a result, I think there is more leeway than ever for business owners to try something new and be transparent with their customers and community that they are experimenting with changes. I think that level of authenticity is important because it brings people along on the journey, helps them root for you and can lead to some really powerful feedback that helps business owners iterate.
We’ve seen some businesses pivot to new business models to stay in business. For example, Student Athlete Coaching and Consulting had to change their business model from training and coaching student athletes to selling memorabilia while providing free virtual coaching sessions. The ability to get creative helped them survive the pandemic and – in some aspects – come out stronger.
Businesses also need to identify new ways to reach their audience. This might be selling on social media or moving beyond one storefront and building a more robust ecosystem where consumers can find them.
Chase: Adaptation is the key. Think outside of the box to modify your products and services. Streamline where possible and ask your customers and employees what changes can be made. Consult with your industry peers to determine best practices, speak with your banker to determine what other small business clients are doing to transform, and do your own research – there is a lot of useful information that you can find online to help spark ideas.
Erwin: A mobile-first strategy should be a priority for small business owners looking to seamlessly transform their businesses. Leveraging tools that enable remote work and providing employees with the same features and functionality as they would have in the office, are crucial for the future of these businesses. We’ve seen greater adoption of these types of solutions during the pandemic from businesses of all sizes.
As funding opportunities continue to present themselves for women in business, how can women prepare themselves to apply for grants, loans, and venture capital? Can you also touch on the importance of being able to discern when it’s time to take advantage of those opportunities?
Rabinovitch: As you prepare to look at funding opportunities, it’s important take stock of your business today, what your ambitions for it are in the future and what type of partner you want to work with. Loans and venture capital both provide funding to your business but have different implications over the long-term. Ultimately, you should evaluate what is available to you and what fits with your long-term vision for the business.
Chase: The best way for women to prepare to apply for grants, loans and venture capital is to organize your ideas and clearly outline a workable business model. As they say, the definition of luck is being prepared when an opportunity arises. Also, consult with a small business banker to understand what can be financed conventionally and what might require investors. The Small Business Administration is offering a variety of options, including the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans and Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL), while the Federal Reserve has offered the Main Street Lending Program. With all of these options, it’s important.
Pandemic-Proof Your Business
As business owners find ways to create pandemic-proof business models, what advice do you have for them as they plan to do business in the future?
Chase: Protect themselves, their employees, and their customers. Plan for the long term and be prepared for opportunity when things return to “normal.” There may also be opportunities now to refinance debt and business mortgages at lower rates or seek loan modifications if applicable.
Rabinovitch: We’re living in a 6-foot-distance world, and many consumers are hoping to eliminate human contact altogether: 87% of shoppers currently prefer stores with self-service options, and contactless payments such as QR codes are becoming more popular. These trends are likely to last, meaning we’ll see effects on in-store payments as well as online. If you were holding out on starting to sell online or upgrade your technology before the pandemic, now is the time to do so. Consumer behavior has shifted and, despite the challenges, it brings a lot of opportunities to reach a broader customer base as well.
Together Everyone Achieves More
What are some of the things that business owners should be mindful of as they reimagine their business – especially as it relates to keeping customers, employees, and partners in mind?
Erwin: Network security is paramount for small businesses as remote work has become the norm. Mobile security, in particular, is a higher priority than ever before. For example, one of the largest vulnerabilities for small businesses is that employees may not be using enterprise-owned devices. This leaves organizations with security vulnerabilities. In fact, 81% of small business executives reported cyberthreats posed a “moderate-to-significant” risk, yet 39% admitted to sacrificing mobile security to “get the job done.”
Reimagining the flexibility of the workplace is key for business owners. Finding balance is the hardest part because while we are working from home, it often feels like we’re living at work. As we all try to get our work done, most of us have increased duties and distractions at home. Women have been specifically hit hardest during this time. In fact, during COVID-19, women spend approximately fifteen hours more on domestic labor per week than men. We need to keep this in mind and try our best to accommodate our customers, employees and partners.
Read more from Forbes
A rising tide lifts all boats.
ENTREPRENEUR LEADERSHIP NETWORK VIP
Founder and CEO of Complete SET Agency
Innovation is no longer something that companies should strive for but something that’s become necessary for survival. That said, it’s long been difficult for big businesses to keep pace with the innovation of smaller businesses and more nimble startups. As a result, corporations are fiercely working to find ways to encourage innovation, for example through innovation labs, building disruptive cultures, or hiring chief innovation officers.
While these shifts have helped and have enabled big companies to establish cultures of innovation, there’s one increasingly popular way that many companies have found to encourage innovation: collaborations with startups. When done correctly, these collaborations can be mutually beneficial and can help both parties develop, gain a competitive advantage, and ensure long-term success.
Why corporate and startup collaboration is so Important
A 2017 Unilever Foundry report predicted that “startups and corporate collaboration will evolve from an optional extra to a business-critical investment in the next five years.”
In fact, that report goes on to predict that corporates and startups will even share space and work in the same physical space by 2025, driven in part by some of the key benefits that these partnerships provide like the ability to learn something new, improved efficiency, and the chance to find new ways to solve problems.
For corporations, the ability to innovate is the biggest advantage of this partnership. Startups offer big businesses agility, energy, access to new technology, increased understanding of target markets, and customer-focused innovation. At the core, startups provide corporations with the speed and focus that can help them outpace industry competition.
Related: Genius Loves Company: 4 Ways to Cultivate Creative Collaboration
For startups, the greatest advantage of this relationship is often the resources that corporations can provide. Big businesses provide the necessary revenue to free startups from needing additional investors and to give them a chance to focus on their long-term interests. This is a key benefit for startups, who generally have few resources and are under great pressure to make those resources go as far as possible. In addition, the relationship offers startups a chance to develop and scale products, to enhance their reputation, to develop a competitive advantage, and to learn from an established business’s market knowledge, experience, and expertise.
Tips for establishing an effective collaboration
While there are many benefits from this type of collaboration, it does not come without risks for both parties. However, being strategic throughout all phases of the process can ensure that it’s a positive experience for all. Here are a few keys to keep in mind when considering a collaboration:
Focus on strategic fit
Experts advise that the single most important factor when it comes to the success of this type of collaboration is strategic fit. A study by Imaginatik and Mass Challenge found that 44% of respondents reported that this is the most important determinant of success. The report went on to explain that, “strategic intent determines not only which startups a corporation chooses to interact with, but also how they build the relationship, as well as which vehicles, processes, and people are involved.”
Related: Points to check before letting a large company enter your business
For startups, focusing on strategic fit means understanding what they’re going to accomplish for a particular company, specifically understanding what the startup can provide and why a business would benefit from the partnership. For corporations, this means really doing the research and getting all the necessary information to understand what a particular startup can do, how it works, and what the business will gain from the partnership.
I spoke with Dr. Cheryl Robinson, founder of Embrace the Pivot, about the importance of strategic fit in partnerships. She reminded me that sometimes patience is the name of the game. "Early stage companies often do not have the luxury of the optimal organization to partner with but they do always have the power to say no to suboptimal ones. Partnerships should bring solutions not problems...and if that clarity of fit is not there then don't be afraid to say no to a deal" Robinson said in our interview.
Startups should focus on multiple corporations
One common mistake startups make is becoming singularly focused on one business. This increases the risks and can lead to startups becoming more of a consultant for one corporation than a meaningful collaborator. A key way for startups to minimize the risks of corporate collaborations is by reaching out to multiple businesses and avoiding the pitfall of putting all of their eggs in one basket.
Set clear expectations and realistic timelines
From the outset, both parties should establish clear expectations for the collaboration, including timelines. As work progresses, it’s important to regularly revisit and revise these expectations to ensure that all parties are working towards the right goals.
As part of the expectation setting, it’s a good idea to set timelines. This is often a point of conflict, as startups move quickly and businesses generally do not. Both parties should set realistic timelines, with startups understanding there will be a need to be patient and corporations appreciating that they should move as quickly as possible to fully benefit from the partnership.
Work to maintain a two-way collaboration
Too often, corporations dominate the relationship and it’s not truly a collaboration. This is bad for both parties and takes away many of the benefits of this relationship. Both parties should work to avoid this common pitfall and to ensure that the relationship is a two-way collaboration where both parties are heard and equally valued.
Collaborations between startups and corporations can be difficult and carry some risks. That said, they’re an increasingly essential way for both parties to grow and thrive. Leaders should work to get the most out of this type of relationship by being strategic about how relationships are established and developed.
Related: 7 Great Collaboration Tools for Your Business
Read more from Entrepreneur
All that really means is reversing the innovative transformation you've undergone.
ENTREPRENEUR LEADERSHIP NETWORK WRITER
Founder and Principal of HPWP Group
If you’re like most entrepreneurs, you experienced a moment of clarity when the pandemic became reality. Suddenly, the weight of what was happening hit you. You had to acknowledge, “Well, things are going to be different.” With little to no information about how the crisis would impact your industry, customers and business overall, you were forced to pivot or adapt your regular operations.
No business was left untouched by the pandemic. It pushed our world off the edge of stability and routine and into a new era of innovation. Already, traditional industries such as travel, legal and finance have made leaps and bounds in their technology adoption and workplace flexibility — all out of necessity.
‘Back to normal’ actually means moving backward
The pandemic served as a catalyst for change. It pressured businesses to get further ahead of trends, think differently and pivot accordingly. As a recent Barrett Values Centre survey put it, “The degree of transformation we have seen in the last six weeks would normally have required at least five years to take place.” For example, remote work shifted from a “privilege” to a responsibility. Having seen how much more productive their employees are at home, companies are reacting by becoming more individually flexible.
Related: How the Coronavirus Has Changed the Future of Work
But already, many are asking, “When will we go back to normal?” That line of thinking is damaging to your business and your industry as a whole. The silver lining to this crisis was the innovation it sparked and encouraged. Going “back to normal” is just that: moving backward and reversing the transformation you’ve undergone. In some ways, this pandemic marked a major wake-up call to society, similar to World War II’s wake-up call to the terrible power of prejudice or climate change’s wake-up call to the need for more sustainable solutions.
Related: What If the New Normal Is Better?
In the case of the pandemic, entrepreneurs experienced a wake-up call to practice breakthrough thinking. The status quo didn’t work anymore, so businesses were forced to adapt their cultures and processes to modern technology, society and less hierarchical structures. These changes likely affected everything from your operational workflows to your sales approach.
Sidestep the traps of regression
Growing pains are natural, but they’re worth it when change is long overdue. And because you’ve already made the necessary adjustments and pivoted your business, it’s time to let go of your dream of returning to normal and embrace transformation. To do this, you have to avoid the traps that entice you back into old, irrelevant ways of thinking. Below are three common traps you might run into as well as advice for how to evade them.
Trap #1: Ignoring your employees’ voices
In traditional hierarchical organizations, leaders and employees are separated by a chain of command. This structure creates silos and limits productivity and innovation. But because the pandemic forced many companies to pivot overnight, leaders had to work more collaboratively with employees. They encouraged open communication and feedback while they navigated changes.
As a leader, it’s vital that you continue to encourage employees to think creatively and speak up. Just keep in mind that many employees have become timid. I was once in a meeting with six different managers who wouldn’t say anything bad about the company. People have been conditioned to follow the status quo, so it will take some effort to break through.
You’ll need to facilitate opportunities for discussion and help your employees feel comfortable voicing their opinions. Company meetings won’t cut it, which is why IQTalent Partners has eight small groups meet every eight weeks to talk in a relaxed environment. That’s what will keep you moving forward, not an ineffective echo chamber.
Trap #2: Taking a cookie-cutter approach
What works for one employee won’t necessarily work for the next. For example, extroverted employees such as your salespeople have a harder time working remotely without human interaction. And parents with young children might be pulling out their hair trying to entertain, educate and take care of their kids full-time while also working normal hours.
If you spent extra time listening to employees at the start of the pandemic, don’t go back to a distanced approach. Keep having one-on-one meetings with employees. Ask them questions like, “What barriers are you facing right now?” and, “What schedule do you believe is the most productive for you?”
Just make sure to take into account the individuality and personal situations of your team. General surveys and policies won’t work for everyone, so leave the final decisions up to employees. Twitter, for example, is letting employees decide whether they’d prefer to work from home “forever.” The more you trust your employees and offer them solutions that fit their lives, the more engaged and aligned they’ll be with your culture and vision.
Trap #3: Getting too comfortable
It might be tempting to view the Covid-19 pandemic as a crisis to overcome so that you can get back to normal. However, if you do this, you’ll miss out on a chance to permanently change for the better. It’s all about perspective: Is the glass half empty or half full?
Don’t get too comfortable. Take advantage of the solutions you’ve been forced to come up with and continue brainstorming new ways to improve your business. Motivational and educational speakers can help foster new ideas, and meetings that you cut or shorten free up valuable time for innovation. After all, organizations spend about 15 percent of their time in meetings. What could you accomplish with an extra hour per day?
The trick to changing your perspective is breaking out of the “run” mindset. If you’re only focusing on the bottom line — sales amounts, client numbers or overall revenue — you’ll be blind to your employees’ (and your company’s) overall potential. Instead, ask yourself, “How do I take this asset that I’m only utilizing 10 percent of and maximize it to 90 percent?”
Related: Bouncing Back: Taking Care of Your Team After a Company Crisis
No one knows how the next phase of Covid-19 will affect businesses. However, it will likely continue pushing leaders toward a more innovative, digital-friendly world. By avoiding pitfalls to old ways of thinking, you can ensure that your business remains viable and competitive for years to come. What steps will you take to maintain your company’s momentum?
Read more from Entrepreneur
Innovative ideas start with looking at obstacles causing real harm.
ENTREPRENEUR LEADERSHIP NETWORK VIP
Co-founder of Hostt
Business without innovation isn’t business at all; it’s stagnation.
The reality is, half of the S&P 500 is projected to be replaced over the next decade. Leaders who settle for stagnation won’t see their companies join or remain in the S&P’s ranks.
Market-leading innovations aren’t typically built by dreamers who simply want something different. Most great innovations are borne of necessity, formulated to solve problems that couldn’t be handled any other way.
For better or worse, the hurdles today’s companies face are higher than ever before. While some will surely fail to surmount them, others will rise to the challenge with next-generation innovations.
While that’s a tall order, it’s not impossible. Here’s how to translate your toughest challenges into innovations.
Related: Necessity Is The Mother Of Invention
1. Ask customers about problems, not solutions
Customers are great at pointing out problems, but they’re awfully bad at looking beyond their current reality. Most people were just fine booking hotel rooms until Airbnb showed that cheaper, bespoke stays could be had by renting directly from homeowners.
The key is to read between the lines. Take websites: While many sites still aren’t optimized for mobile devices, six in 10 consumers aren’t willing to install corporate mobile apps.
Ask consumers, and they might tell you companies simply need better apps. But why not take the Airbnb approach? Genesis, a marketing-technology firm, created the App-Less platform to provide the same user experience as an app without the need for a download.
Listen to the customer’s problems, but take any solutions they suggest with a grain of salt. As long as it solves their problem with a solid user experience, they’ll adopt it without question.
2. Dig into demand-use gaps
In some markets, demand doesn’t match up with usage patterns. A good example is contact-tracing apps. In the middle of a pandemic, people would surely be desperate for ways to know whether they’ve come into contact with someone with Covid-19, right?
Maybe, but these tools’ user metrics tell a different story. In the three weeks after its launch, the French national contact tracing platform was used only 68 times to report positive test results, sending only 14 notifications.
Why aren’t contact-tracing apps succeeding? The answer is two-fold: privacy and usability. No one wants to report their every move in an app, and many contact-tracing apps are cumbersome to use well.
One solution to this challenge is NOVID, a contact-tracing app that records no personal information and works on iOS devices without interfering with day-to-day use. By using ultrasound technology, NOVID gets around having to track users via GPS, protecting their privacy.
The surest sign that NOVID got it right? It’s been adopted by major cities like Santa Fe, New Mexico, as well as educational institutions like Grand Valley State University.
3. Do good, and the rest will follow
Bill Gates made billions off his computing innovations. Jeff Bezos became even wealthier from Amazon. While great innovations do often pay off financially, forget about income potential for the time being. First, focus on elegantly fulfilling an unmet need. If your innovation does that, it’s highly likely to be profitable.
Start with an issue you care about, like climate change. For years, fighting global warming was seen as unprofitable, but when the need is as pressing and global as climate change, there’s almost always a business solution to be found.
One company that might have found it is Climeworks, a Swiss company founded in 2009 to take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. At the time of Climeworks’ founding, the market for sequestered carbon was unclear. Nevertheless, its founders forged ahead. By commercializing stored carbon, Climeworks scored $75 million in funding as well as a partnership with automotive giant Audi.
Most great ideas do not start with dollar signs. Ask yourself what you’re passionate about, and start there. You’ll find your way financially, and you might even strike it big.
Related: 198 Free Tools to Help You Through the Coronavirus Pandemic
Now more than ever, the world needs innovation. If your company is going to make its mark, forget about finding some elusive genius to hire. Start with problems, especially those that are doing real harm. Find out why other solutions haven’t worked, and fill that gap with something that changes the world.
Read more from Entrepeurneur
Some business owners are building expansion strategies for 2021, while others simply want stability in the face of so much uncertainty.
ENTREPRENEUR LEADERSHIP NETWORK VIP
Journalist, Digital Media Consultant and Investor
Recently, we’ve seen signs that many businesses are reopening during the last quarter of 2020. Yet uncertainty remains. In some states, businesses have reopened in recent weeks only to be told to close or reduce their capacity for customers. It’s becoming increasingly challenging to plan for the future. Consequently, many business owners and leaders might wonder how they can develop a growth strategy for 2021.
What you need is a strategic direction to provide purpose for your business and help you set realistic goals to accomplish in the coming year.
Here are some ways to build your 2021 business strategy during this last quarter of 2020:
Related: 5 Essential Ways to Help You and Your Business Thrive During Lockdown
Focus on what you can do
All the rules and regulations have told you what your business can’t do. What you need to do now is look solely at what you can do. For example, when restaurants were told they couldn’t serve customers indoors, they transitioned to delivery, takeout and large outdoor patios. No matter what type of business you operate, this is the mindset to develop and use for your 2021 business strategy.
The can-do strategy will start with a list of what is possible. Here are some possible examples:
Extend your product launch schedule
If your small business develops new products, then your 2021 business strategy should address those launches with a new understanding of the changes wrought in 2020. Everything from a lack of raw materials to illness-triggered factory shutdowns brought many product launches to a grinding halt.
Use that experience to develop a new timeline for product development, assuming that many of those factors may continue to impact the process. Expanding your timeframe for product launches will also help you make strategic business decisions about labor, marketing and more.
Related: Why You Should Speed Up Your Digital Transformation During the Crisis
Provide valuable resources for customers
Focus your business strategy for 2021 on your customers and customer-facing actions, such as adding to the value you deliver to them, and the ways in which those actions assist with your revenue objectives.
On the sales side, providing more options for financial assistance could help new customers make their purchases. Examples include layaway, structured payment plan services and other payment options that address smaller cash flows and decreased consumer confidence.
For marketing purposes, you also have considerable time and opportunity to plan content and provide access to similar valuable resources that provide information to your customers and prospects. These tactics might not deliver immediate revenue, but it can be effective to engage prospects now so they are ready to buy when things improve.
Use the time to make improvements
Look at the blank canvas 2021 offers as an opportunity to improve. Some businesses may have been putting off a complete digital transformation. If that’s the case for your company, now is the ideal time for transforming more manual and paper-based processes to a digital format.
Your business strategy can focus on detailing this transformation, including the timeline for testing and implementing those new digital processes. Doing so will better prepare you for when business picks up again. You may then find you can better connect with customers and offer them the digital experiences they have come to expect in other parts of their lives.
Related: 4 Ways to Determine If Now Is the Right Time to Launch Your Business
Develop a multi-plan approach
With uncertainty anticipated to continue in 2021, it’s good to have one or more backup plans for your business. Lay out potential contingencies that you may face in the coming year and use this time to craft strategic responses.
These strategic plans can address different scenarios like ongoing health concerns, reopening at a slower pace, continued openings and closings, remote and on-demand environments, and full reopening. Build out each of these plans, using the experience of 2020 to help develop key tactics. Many of these tactics may have already proven effective this year or they may be ones you are still testing.
Research tactics that worked for other businesses, even those you have not yet implemented, perhaps because your strategy focused on a return to a recognizable environment.
Now, in addressing different potential developments, much of what you plan for may feel as though you are a startup testing the waters once more. Building out these multiple business plans can also prepare you better for any pivots from one scenario to another.
More certainty than uncertainty
As you review these approaches to creating your 2021 business growth strategy, you’ll undoubtedly find plenty of actions you can take with certainty to counteract the doubt that seems so pervasive. By proactively addressing the areas listed here, you can keep your focus on moving your small business forward with resiliency and a positive outlook that the future is bright.
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With so many possibilities out there, you don't have to manually complete every task.
ENTREPRENEUR LEADERSHIP NETWORK CONTRIBUTOR
Co-founder of SchoolSafe
Multitask much? According to science, you’re either fooling yourself into thinking you’re productive or simply stressing yourself out for no good reason. Sure, you might feel efficient when you’re running around, but as a Cleveland Clinic article asserts, our brains aren’t designed to tackle more than one high-level function at a time. We just can’t take it all in, even if we’re powered up on coffee.
So how can we avoid trying to do everything at once? The answer is pretty simple: Get help. Assistance can come in countless forms: colleagues, perhaps a student intern, maybe even a family member. Help can also come via technology. Specifically, automation tools aimed at making life easier. As a recent Zapier poll showed, 64 percent of people are already on the automation bandwagon. Don’t worry: There’s room for you, too.
If you’re exhausted from trying to juggle too many tasks at once, your solution could be as close as a new addition to your tech stack. Which responsibilities should you automate? Consider five key areas.
1. Set and forget social
Is your team tweeting and posting by hand? Though it might be worth occasionally jumping onto social media trending topics, most messaging can be scheduled. This ensures you’re staying top of mind without having to remember when to hit the “submit” button.
Hootsuite has been a pioneer in creating an easy-to-follow framework for posting and listening on classic and emerging social sites. Nevertheless, other contenders are making their mark, including AgoraPulse and its focus on delivering high engagement, even on relatively untested platforms like TikTok.
2. Stop manually managing contracts
Selling doesn’t have to be synonymous with paper shuffling. Regrettably, far too many businesspeople waste time chasing down documents instead of focusing on to-dos that require more thought and consideration. Take sending and editing contracts, for instance. Why spend days or weeks going back and forth through in-person meetings, faxed papers or emailed PDFs when you can do everything in an encrypted portal?
Industry disruptors like PandaDoc help improve your sales automation by allowing real-time edits to get contracts signed, sealed and delivered — virtually and legally. This allows you to improve your productivity without losing the vital personal touch with clients whether you’re trying to snag bids or generate invoices.
3. Modernize your inventory flow
Supply-chain management is an essential part of keeping operations moving forward. Unfortunately, it’s a tedious task, especially when employees are tasked with tracking, stocking and ordering inventory. Inventory can come in countless forms: widgets used to make products, or goods sold through an ecommerce platform. And it can all be automated.
Many platforms exist to help keep your supply chain from breaking down. Companies like Oracle have even added an AI component to their supply chain solutions, giving you in-depth insights as well as streamlined answers to your toughest chain-management problems. It’s extraordinarily helpful to have all your inventory information in one cloud-based location where you can gain insights or fulfill orders instantly.
Related: E-commerce is growing thanks to women: study
4. Call in your chatbot
Customers are going to have questions. The same questions. And they’re going to ask them again and again. Instead of asking your service representatives to respond to frequently asked questions and eat up valuable time on the phone or online with consumers, turn to automated chatbots.
Today’s chatbots are surprisingly effective in helping customers problem-solve. An advanced chatbot system powered by machine learning can be taught not just what people tend to ask, but the language they use. The chatbot can then “fetch” answers, such as sending a customer to a specific web page or instructive video. If you’re hesitant to see how reliable a chatbot can be at automating service, check out the advanced chatbots at Capital One and HelloFresh’s sites for inspiration.
5. Retire your paycheck calculator.
Unless you’re someone who lives for being tethered to a calculator, you’re probably not excited about double-checking your employees’ paychecks every week. Anytime you find yourself writing regular checks to vendors or independent contractors, you could be automating your actions and pivoting your attention to scaling your business.
Provider systems including Gusto and Paychex can accurately calculate anything from payroll to tax forms. After inputting the basic data into your software, you can sit back and let it do its thing. Gone are the days of spending your precious time on these more mundane tasks.
Related: 3 Tips on How to Grow and Scale Your Company During the Pandemic
Until someone invents a time machine, you’re stuck with 24 hours in a day. Instead of trying to cram every little responsibility into a limited timeframe, take advantage of automation. Who knows? Maybe you’ll find yourself with enough extra minutes to enjoy your first sips of coffee.
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Don't consider yourself quite as tech-savvy as other rival entrepreneurs? Good news: You don't have to fall behind.
ENTREPRENEUR LEADERSHIP NETWORK VIP
Founder of Echelon Copy LLC
Saying that we live in a “digital age” may feel a bit cliche, but there's no denying that the internet and social media have revolutionized the way we interact. Survey data from the Pew Research Center reveals that 81 percent of Americans use the web daily, with 28 percent saying they are online “almost constantly.”
This dependence on digital tools also spills over into the business world. The pandemic has accelerated online shopping trends, and countless companies rely on SaaS and PaaS tools to keep their operations running smoothly.
For entrepreneurs, this reliance on technology creates new opportunities, but it also requires that startups use the right tech tools and technologies themselves. Consider this a starter kit.
1. Cloud native technology
“Cloud native technology is no longer a ‘good to have’ — it’s absolutely essential,” Karan Nangru, founder of cloud native consulting and solutions firm StatusNeo, shared with me during a recent email exchange. "Cloud native tech offers speed, scalability and elasticity that businesses of all sizes can leverage to their advantage. The ability to build and run cutting-edge solutions that are hosted on public, private or hybrid cloud environments and leverage containers, microservices, immutable infrastructure, APIs and serverless computing is now mainstream."
Enterprise businesses, as well as entrepreneurs, have one focus in common — business transformation. In most cases, technology enables this transformation, while cloud native platform services accelerate it.
Related: It’s Time to Prepare for a Multi-Cloud Future
2. Marketing tools
The digital age has introduced a host of new marketing techniques, and successful entrepreneurs must use each of these tools if they wish to reach their customers. Social media, email campaigns, SEO and PPC represent a significant source of traffic and customers for brands.
Of course, many startups don’t have the financial resources to hire an advertising agency. The good news is marketing tools make it easier and more affordable to manage each task. For example, HootSuite allows startups to schedule social media posts weeks in advance, while Mailchimp helps entrepreneurs create and manage email campaigns.
Modern marketing tools take a big-picture approach, offering campaign analytics and integration with other cloud platforms. Many even provide tutorials and guides to help your team implement best practices that will yield a better ROI for your campaigns.
3. Machine-powered data monitoring
One of the biggest advantages of modern tech tools is their ability to collect data. By learning more about your customers or the efficiency of your processes, you can make key changes to your business to improve your profitability.
Obtaining data is one thing. Knowing how to use it is another. That is why many startups are turning to machine-learning tools that automatically monitor data trends and provide insights to reveal what the numbers actually mean.
In an email conversation, Victor Zhang, co-founder of analytics monitoring company, Orbiter, explained, “Machine- learning software enables the analysis of normal behavior for metrics within your system. Using this baseline, machine- learning modeling can also determine whether any changes that take place are abnormal. These abnormalities trigger proactive alerts so you become aware of important trends impacting your business’ ecosystem. By turning numbers and data into meaningful information, entrepreneurs can take swift action to improve their business.”
4. Customer relationship management software
Because customers are so important, it should hardly be surprising that there is an entire segment of tech tools dedicated to them. Customer relationship management (CRM) software gives companies greater power in how they handle these vital relationships.
CRMs collect a wide range of information that can help your sales team convert leads into sales or improve customer retention metrics. For example, tracking customer touch points with your brand will help sales staff know which prospects are most likely to convert, so they can prioritize customer outreach appropriately.
When used effectively, CRM tools can make a big difference for your bottom line. A survey from Capterra found that 47 percent of CRM users said the software “significantly improved” retention and customer satisfaction.
Related: The Best CRM Software for 2020
5. Basic automation
There are only 24 hours in a day, yet entrepreneurs often feel like they need an extra hour or three to manage everything that's on their plate. This is especially true of solopreneurs, who are tasked with running an entire business on their own.
While there are many tasks that are essential in any startup, many of these are mundane, rote activities that don’t have as great of a contribution to your company’s growth. This makes automation tools or the use of a virtual assistant essential for overworked entrepreneurs.
Automation tools can help with everything from expense tracking and sending reminders for appointments to generating contracts or managing client on-boarding. In fact, WorkMarket’s 2020 In(Sight) Report found that 78 percent of business leaders felt that automation could help them save three hours per day — or roughly 360 hours over the course of the year.
With strategic automation, you can open up a lot of time for tasks that have a greater contribution to your bottom line.
Use the right tools to get the right outcomes
No matter what industry you’re trying to make a splash in, the right technology tools will make all the difference for your startup. With software that enables collaboration, helps you gain better insights regarding the status of your business or simply automates basic tasks, you will have the resources necessary for meaningful growth.
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Plenty of will be needing guidance and support through the pandemic and beyond.
Kedma Ough, MBA
ENTREPRENEUR LEADERSHIP NETWORK CONTRIBUTOR
CEO of Target Funding
In case it's not apparent, this pandemic has fundamentally shifted the landscape for all businesses, notably smaller enterprises where “doing more with less” is a daily reality. While there are new financial-aid options from federal and regional business-development agencies, these will not be accessible to all owners, and this reality brings the need for evolving one’s business into acute focus. And that's something that leveraging an external business consultant can directly support with the right vetting.
The term business coach, which has become more mainstream over the past dozen or so years, appropriately connotes an ongoing mentorship relationship that's intimate to the influence of both individual leaders and — by extension — their organizations.
Finding that partner to take your business to greater heights requires a strategy with the same due diligence that would be exerted in finding critical, long-term employees. During a search I recently undertook for “business coach” via LinkedIn, more than six million potential connections were returned (“needle in a haystack” comes to mind). But here are some criteria I apply when winnowing down such overwhelming options to an ideal match.
Related: 9 Qualities You Need to Look for in a Business Coach
1. Industry Knowledge
Ensure that prospective candidates have a solid understanding of your industry, market opportunity and the subtle differentiators that define either success or failure. Even seemingly mundane skillsets (e.g. accounting, human resources, etc.) have unique attributes that are industry-segment-specific. It should be clearly known where these are critical to consulting outcomes, and prior reference work should be directly attributable to related domain challenges.
2. Expertise in Your Discipline
It can be unrealistic to assume a single individual will have deep expertise in all areas. While generalists exist with good depth and breadth of knowledge, more often coaches will have a bias to a specific discipline, like sales and marketing, operations or strategy. Depending on the size and maturity of your company, a more deeply focused advisor may be what's needed.
3. Culture and Value Alignment
Receiving input on existing process, methodology or even outcomes impacting behaviors in your organization can be met with resistance if the advisor hasn't established trust and a rapport. Personality match is a key consideration, but this must exist alongside strengths in communication traits that may help bridge gaps in your current culture (e.g. constructive confrontation of difficult truths).
4. What Superpowers They Bring
While a business coach may have multiple strengths, it is important to probe for the underlying trait they can pinpoint your organization's needs. As an example, do they have the ability to see the gap space between what is being done currently and where it should be? Can they discern what is being shared explicitly from what is unstated but needed to shape a strategy for change?
5. Proof of Results
Credible business coaches will talk in terms of concrete results from past engagements, whether quantitative or qualitative in nature (e.g. directly attributed increase in sales, improved team participation in organizational success, etc.). Also look to seek out references (more on that below) that can provide additional context for how these results were achieved, and with what level of accuracy on implementation guidance.
6. Industry References
Look for previous work and affiliations that are directly relatable to your focus (even when in a niche sub-segment) and which can found without complex discovery, such as published membership in reputable advocacy or credentialing organizations. Prioritize any information that showcases opinions and credibility, such as speaking engagements with industry groups (conferences, podcasts, etc.) or published articles (credible trade periodicals/websites, etc.).
7. Knowledge Currency
Every business domain is constantly adapting to shifting market forces and opportunities, and advisors must be up to date. Without an awareness of contemporary trends and options, guidance could simply fall flat, leading to wasted efforts. Credible coaches should understand and be able to comment handily on recent, relevant actions, whether they be legislative changes, demographic market shifts or industry sales and buying patterns.
Related: Consider This Before Hiring a Business Coach
Finding the business coach (or coaches) that will positively influence your enterprise is something we all should consider. For leaders who might be tentative about inviting such an external influence, I can confidently state that when coupled with the selection criteria, the results can be positively transformative.
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