2018 will be the year of the Podcast. Is it time to add podcasting to your marketing mix?

One of the most popular marketing topics in 2017 was video marketing. Every marketer was thinking about how to incorporate video into their strategies. After all, a picture tells a thousand words right?

With the growing popularity of smart speakers/personal assistants, maybe it’s time to focus on a new tactic – podcasting.

Podcasting is the new blogging – not

I saw the phrase “podcasting is the new blogging” on a news site, and it made me think about the effort we put into our blog writing. Some of us spend hours researching, outlining and writing blogs and columns, laboring over the right words to say in the right way. Is it possible we may be wasting some of our time? Would we be smarter to develop our ideas and share them through a podcast, leaving the writing part (and the cursed “passive voice) fall by the wayside?

There’s no video involved, so we don’t need to look good, and we don’t have to invest in expensive computer equipment for video creation and editing. Podcasting seems like the perfect way to share ideas.

It’s not that simple. Podcasting is not a replacement for good writing – blogs, whitepapers, and ebooks. And it’s not a replacement for video. It’s also not necessarily cheaper or easy to do. But it could be a great addition to your marketing mix if you approach it with the right strategy and mindset.

Tips for getting started with a podcast

As part of the marketing plan for one of my clients, we have decided to develop a podcast. This is a dip into the waters to see if we can build an audience by offering useful content in the market. There are a couple of other podcasts in this market, but none by a vendor and only one other focused on our particular niche. So there’s opportunity, but there’s also the risk that people won’t want to hear from a vendor.

Why did we decide to try a podcast? The team has a wealth of insights and information they want to share. They also have a lot of connections to experts and customers who are willing to share their expertise – we know the content is there. It’s not about peddling products and solutions. The challenge is now figuring out the best way to implement it.

The Globe and Mail article mentioned above noted that podcasting is a labor-intensive process. You have to plan the podcast, record it, edit it, distribute and market it. The article said it could easily take 10-20 hours per episode. We are hoping to start on a small scale, but that amount of time sounds about right.

There’s a lot of information available on how to run a podcast. Here are a few of those suggestions:

Planning the podcast theme

Before you start working on individual shows, you need to decide on an overall theme for your show. Who is the audience and do they listen to podcasts? Can you generate enough of an audience to make the effort worth it? What’s your goal with the podcast? What type of information do you want to share? What pains are you trying to solve? Have your goals and expected performance metrics understood before you start. They may evolve, but you need that starting line.

Hosting

Where will you host the podcast? There are many hosting options available including Blubrry and PodBean. Pretty much all of the hosting services include the ability to share your podcast show on iTunes, Google Play, and Stitcher.

Maybe you are considering hosting your podcast on your website directly. Think about the size of the files you will not only be storing, but streaming out to your audience. The bandwidth alone might kill your budget. Plus, you don’t have those automatic integrations with iTunes and Google Play – and they are very helpful in getting your podcast available quickly.

Developing a schedule

One very important thing you need to be is consistent. Decide on a schedule that you know you can stick with and then plan out a few months of topics. This will give you time to pull together the content and the guest hosts you want. You can make the schedule available on your website and share it on social media to generate interest.

Podfly.net, a boutique podcasting company that helps companies create podcasts, includes show notes you need for each show:

  • A compelling show title
  • A subtitle
  • A description paragraph
  • Time-stamped key takeaways
  • Links and mentions
  • Tweetables

To script or not to script

There’s a lot of discussion on whether you should script your podcast or not – and what scripting actually means. You could write your script out word for word, ensuring you cover everything you need to. This works when you are doing the show on your own or with an internal team, but if you are interviewing or talking with an expert or client, you can’t script the conversation word for word. You need to think about how you’ll sound when you script word for word. Think about some of the webinars you’ve attended and how stilted they sound – those people are reading off a script.

Reading off a script doesn’t have to sound bad, but it will take practice to make the conversation sound natural. Another option is scripting a complete outline but leave the actual discussion be natural. An outline ensures you are covering all your points and it gives you a consistent structure for the show. The most conversational approach is a flexible, rough list of bullet points around a theme or topic.

You don’t have to stick to one approach only, but it’s important to be aware of each style and what you need to do to prepare. (The Podcast Host provides lots of guidance on scripting, where I found this information)

Engage your listeners outside the podcast

Don’t think of a podcast as the only way to engage with your listeners. To help you build a loyal audience, think about how you can leverage social media to build and continue the conversations you have on your podcast. Consider a Facebook Group and create a Twitter hashtag or specific account to grow the conversation.

Promotion and distribution

Make sure you are promoting and talking about your Podcast on your website – links on the homepage,  blog post summaries of episodes with a link to the podcast, LinkedIn company page notifications, and updates, LinkedIn posts from the host and guest hosts summarizing the conversation and linking to the full podcast are also helpful. Give your guest hosts a way to promote the podcast as well and request the audience sign up for notifications of upcoming episodes so you can email them.

You might also want to consider getting set up with Alexa Skills to have your podcast showing up on Amazon for the Echo or Show.

There are visual components

Although a podcast is audio only, there is some artwork you need for your podcast to brand it. You may decide to brand it closely to your company brand or to keep it completely separate. Make sure you know what you need and make it look professional.

The equipment and software required

You can’t do a podcast with some investment in software and equipment. I think you can start with some inexpensive options and build from there. For recording and mixing, Audacity is a free open source tool that’s pretty easy to use (I’ve used it to add music to the opening of a podcast and to edit out dead zones that don’t add value).

Clear audio is critical. If you are recording a podcast where everyone isn’t in the same space, you want to be sure everyone’s audio and internet connection are solid. For regular hosts, you should have special microphones that improve the quality of your audio. Here’s a post that gives you a range of microphone options.

Finding the ROI in a podcast

Can you determine the ROI of a podcast? The answer depends on the purpose of your podcast. You can offer advertising spots in your podcast, have sponsors and do other advertising tactics that will bring in revenue for your podcast.

IAB did some research on podcast revenues in 2016 and indicated that US ad revenues for podcasts were expected to hit over $220 million in 2017. The latest stats aren’t out to see if we hit that target, but we know it will be up from the $119 million in 2016.

Advertisers need to know they are getting something for their money. Analytics around listeners become important to have, so make sure wherever you host and distribute your podcast includes a way to track audience engagement.

Of course, analytics are important regardless of whether you are trying to determine ROI. You want to know the number of subscribers, how many listened to each podcast, how much of the podcast they listened, and other key statistics.

My take

I am excited to start developing a podcast with my client. But I have no misconceptions about the work that is required to create a compelling story that our identified audience will want to listen to on a regular basis. I also know the budget is not high; we will start small with the financial investment. The sound quality is critical, the topics and conversations even more critical.

I’ll let you know how it works out and what lessons we learn after being active a few months. Until then, share your experiences in the comments. Any advice you can give someone starting up a podcast or looking to grow one in place?

Editor’s note: for more on the pros and cons of audio content on Alexa, check out Jon Reed’s How to get a halfway decent tech news Flash Briefing from Alexa – tips for enterprise readers. This article was first posted in Diginomica.com

 Image credit – Broadcast © fotomek – Fotolia.com

How the ‘Airbnb for Pets’ Became a $70 Million Business

How the 'Airbnb for Pets' Became a $70 Million Business

In 2010, Aaron Hirschhorn went on vacation, leaving his dog Rocky at a kennel in Los Angeles. When he returned, the goldendoodle was severely traumatized.

“She was hiding under my desk for two days afterward,” the science teacher-turned-VC remembers. Figuring he could provide a more personal service, Hirschhorn naturally did what any entrepreneurial dog-lover would: He started his own pet-boarding business. The venture was successful, to say the least; in one year, he generated around $35,000 in sales. “We started realizing that if we–who have no real experience–can do this, then pretty much anybody can,” he says.

Back then, the sharing economy–or what was then known as “collaborative consumption”–was still in its infancy, but Hirschhorn recognized it as a major opportunity. By March 2012, he had launched DogVacay, an online service connecting pet owners to sitters in L.A. and San Francisco; by the following summer, he expanded to several other U.S. cities and Canada. Today, the website books more than $70 million in annual sales and aims to significantly reduce reliance on kennels much as Airbnb has captured millions in revenue from the hotel industry.

The cost to board a pet with DogVacay is around $30 per night, and the startup takes a 20 percent transaction fee. That’s generally cheaper than kennels, which range from $25 to $45 per night depending on your location, according to the pet pharmacy PetCare Rx.Besides dogs, DogVacay provides sitters for cats, as well as less common house pets such as chinchillas, ferrets, and even chickens.

DogVacay is the latest in a series of tech startups taking aim at the traditional pet care industry, and the market opportunity is great. In 2016, Americans spent roughly $60 billion on their pets, according to research firm IBISWorld, which expects that number to increase by 7 percent annually through 2021. In addition to the more standard boarding and grooming, startups are now offering niche products and services, including wearable fitness trackers, game consoles, and even sex dolls. (If your canine just can’t stop humping the furniture, consider buying him an inflatable toy from the French online retailer Hot Doll.)

Investors agree that the future of the industry is bright. “There’s a macro trend that Americans are having children later in life, and related to that is that there are more dogs than there are children in the U.S.,” notes Ben Ling, an investment partner with Khosla Ventures who has invested in DogVacay. “So unless that trend materially reverses, it is a fact that [pet tech] is here to stay, and not a fad.”

Although even Hirschhorn concedes that some pet tech is nothing more than “silly gadgets”–think webcam-equipped treat-dispensing devices–many businesses have lately drawn the attention of venture capitalists. Between 2012 and 2016, as much as $486 million was invested in the global pet tech sector across 172 deals, according to CB Insights data. DogVacay has raised more than $47 million to date, from investors including Andreessen Horowitz, First Round Capital, and Benchmark Capital.

“2016 was a strong year for pet-tech financing,” notes Alex Paci, a tech industry analyst with CB Insights. “Investors are betting on early companies in the space and clearly see promise.”

A complex platform

Of course, as with many young companies in the sharing economy, DogVacay faces significant obstacles, including handling its rapid growth. The company facilitates as many as 40,000 pet stays a night, and counts more than 60,000 registered hosts on its platform. “It’s a simple business model, but the actual management of it is extraordinarily intense,” says Hirschhorn.

To his point, the startup now has more than 100 employees, many of whom are engineers tasked with continuously refining the platform. For example, a pet owner can search for a sitter who has experience with specific conditions–say, a pet that gets separation anxiety–and who is available on certain dates.

Unfortunately, bad apples can get through, despite a rigorous vetting process that involves background checks and online training seminars. In August 2016, an Oakland couple was devastated to learn that their six-year-old dog, Pippen, had died while in the care of a DogVacay sitter, who had left the animal in a hot car. “In situations like that, we do our very best to support our customers through it,” Hirschhorn says, adding that the sitter was immediately kicked off of the site. DogVacay also offers pet insurance, which covers up to $25,000 for any kind of accident or injury a pet sustains during its stay.

The company faces stiff competition, including from Rover.com, the Seattle pet-sitting service that reportedly generates more than $100 million in annual sales. Hirschhorn says he isn’t concerned, given that other startups account for a small percentage of the overall pet-sitting market.

“We don’t even necessarily view [other sites] as competitors,” he says. “We’re all working to accomplish the same mission of making dog ownership easier. To me, the competitor is the local kennel, or your neighbor, or your mom.”

Hirschhorn declined to comment on whether DogVacay is profitable, though the company said last year that it expects to be in the black in 2017. Beyond this year, it plans to focus on expanding its core business, which now operates across the U.S. and in parts of Canada. The startup also recently expanded to include dog walking and day care, and soon it plans on partnering with wearable fitness trackers–so owners can monitor Fido’s body temperature, breathing, and heart rate.

The company’s success has been good news for Rocky the fearful goldendoodle, who no longer has to spend her time in kennels. Hirschhorn, speaking while on vacation in the Dominican Republic, says that she’s currently boarding with a DogVacay sitter. “From the pictures I’ve gotten of Rocky at the beach, on a hike, and passed out in her bed,” he adds, “I’m pretty sure she’s having as much fun on vacay as we are.”

 

Interview How Airbnb’s Early Adopters Saved the Company

24 things you can do in an extra hour!

How odd that so much of life is dependent upon time. Lives are measured in years. We count down the minutes and seconds in a game and measure our productivity by months and quarters. The clock speeds when you’re enjoying a project and drags when someone is droning on and on in a meeting. Your ability to control time is nonexistent, which can be frustrating when you really need it. And who doesn’t want just a bit more time, an extra hour each day? Well here’s your chance.

When daylight savings time ends this weekend you can actually gain the benefit of an extra hour. We’ll set the clocks back one hour on Sunday and yet our body clocks will still be on Saturday’s rhythm. Instead of waking up at 7 a.m. it will magically be 6 a.m.  As long as you maintain the same wake up pattern you now get to start your day with an extra hour. Its like manna from heaven. For the next 126 days you have been granted an additional 60 glorious minutes for whatever you want. So that you don’t waste this precious time, I have put together a list of 24 ideas on how to make the most of this gift. If these ideas aren’t sufficiently inspiring, by all means share your own hourly activities in the comments.

  1. Catch up on all of your email.
  2. Hand-write and send five thank-you notes to people who support you.
  3. Brainstorm with a couple of colleagues on how to make the office run better.
  4. Plan a romantic evening for your significant other.
  5. Investigate two of your competitors.
  6. Google yourself. If that takes five minutes, Google all your co-workers.
  7. Make a list of pros and cons about yourself as a contributor to the company.
  8. Identify a role model and send them a handwritten invitation to lunch.
  9. Get in that much needed physical work out.
  10. Plan a weekend trip with your family.
  11. Learn a foreign language (This will require all 126 hours).
  12. Have lunch with your boss, partner or colleague.
  13. Call an old friend or relative you have neglected.
  14. Update your LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter profiles and your resume.
  15. Sharpen your powers of observation by watching people in a crowded area.
  16. Volunteer for a charity you like.
  17. Make a playlist of inspiring work music.
  18. Meditate.
  19. Clean up the desktop on your computer (or your desk).
  20. Plan the perfect dinner party.
  21. Read that business book that’s been waiting.
  22. Write a short story.
  23. Give yourself a clothing makeover. (Yes, that means shopping.)
  24. Read all my previous columns. (If you found value in this one of course.)

Note:  Yes, of course I realize that technically you must go to bed later to gain the hour of time each day. But honestly, aren’t some of the ideas above worth sacrificing an hour of sleep?

4 Smart Financial Moves for Businesses

 

There are traits that entrepreneurs often have in common, traits that make them the type of people that don’t just have an idea, but act on it: drive, creativity, and a sense of vision, to name a few. A strong understanding of finance, however, isn’t always one of them. I’ve known many business owners that make the best widget or provide the best services in the world, but don’t know what their financial information is telling them, or, in turn, how to make decisions based on that information. I’ve seen this lack of financial understanding become a deterrent to the growth of many businesses and an accelerant to the failure of others.

If you’re bootstrapping or working on a budget, the expertise of a CFO may not be a luxury you can afford. Even if you’ve successfully scaled your business, knowing a few core financial principles is essential as you continue to grow. Below are four pieces of financial knowledge that, even if you know nothing else, can help you keep a pulse on your company’s financial health and make better, more informed business decisions.

Know Your Net
Net profit margin is the single most important financial metric. A company’s net profit margin indicates the amount of profit a company makes for each dollar of sales. Net profit margin, expressed as a percentage, is your company’s net income divided by sales. Consider this metric to be an insurance hedge: it shows the ability of a company to still be profitable if dollars of profit decrease. Amazingly, it is an overlooked metric, even when analysts are evaluating public companies. If nothing else, just knowing, tracking, and guarding this metric would make most companies very successful.

Let’s say Company A has $100 in sales and $20 in profit. Company B has $200 in sales and $30 in profit. You might look at these two companies and say Company B is healthier, since it has higher sales and more profits. However, you have to dig deeper. In this case, the net profit margin tells the story: Company A has a 20 percent net profit margin and Company B has a 15 percent net profit margin. In other words, Company A is more efficient, getting 20 cents out of every dollar of sales. In turn, Company A may be easier to scale and less vulnerable if sales drop slightly. It’s likely that Company A could see sales fall more than Company B and still remain solvent.

Think (Cash Flow) Positive
Positive cash flow can free you up to think strategically. The “cash flow from operations” line on the cash flow statement shows, somewhat intuitively, how much cash is going into a company from regular operations for a certain period of time. If you do not have positive cash flow, you will not be able to pay your bills, or, worse, you’ll always be worried about whether you have enough cash. When you’re worried about cash all the time, your number one priority is survival. Positive cash flow frees you up to think strategically, instead of just thinking about how you’re going to keep the lights on. When companies go under, lack of cash flow is often the primary culprit. This all may seem obvious, but in my experience in working with many companies, few have a healthy command of cash flow.

Also, keep in mind that a lot of companies equate profit with cash, which is almost always wrong. Contrary to popular belief, a company could be profitable and still not be generating positive cash flow. Consider a company that sells $100 in products, but all the sales are on account. In this case, the company doesn’t collect cash; instead, it has generated $100 in accounts receivable (AR), a non-cash asset on the balance sheet. Even though you generated $100 in sales, you didn’t receive any cash for those sales. As an aside, my personal preference would be to never have an AR policy and to have all cash/credit card/debit/check sales. Too many companies give credit to their customers automatically without really understanding the consequences of doing so.

Borrow Wisely
You might not be ready to borrow. When I started out in business, I borrowed money much too readily, before my business models were really proven. Here’s the central problem with borrowing money: it needs to be paid back every single month, independently of how your business is doing. This is a bit of a truism, but if you don’t owe money, you can’t go bankrupt. I have no problem with borrowing money to expand a proven business model. When you know your business model is working, aggressive expansion through borrowing might be a great thing. However, my experience is that entrepreneurs pull that trigger too early and when companies borrow too early, they are often saddled into making short term decisions that are based on cash flow constraints, instead of long run, strategic decisions that can make them very successful. It’s the same scenario described above: when you’ve taken on too much debt, your decisions are aimed at survival (making the next payment), not the long term success of the company. It’s up to you to figure out whether borrowing is in your best interest. Personally, I can think of no good reason for a startup to borrow money. Almost any startup business can and should be bootstrapped.

Look for Ways to Leverage Sales and Profit
Know how your people, assets, and debt leverage sales and profit. This one is a little bit more abstract, and harder to describe. I’m always trying to figure out which resources and activities leverage sales and profit the most. In finance, there are only a few things that we really manage and control: people, assets/“stuff,” and debt. I always like to look at and evaluate the relationship between A) how much I increase people, debt, assets/stuff and B) the impact on profits and sales. So, for example, if we increased our payroll expense by 10 percent last month, what did revenues do and what did profits do? Try to compare the rate of change for one of these factors against the rate of change in sales and profits. This may seem like an academic point, but it’s not. If we bought a piece of equipment, we would hope that sales or profits have gone up with that piece of equipment. If you added 10 percent to payroll, you’d hope that revenues increased more than 10 percent from that type of move. There are formulas you can use for this, but really, it’s all about getting people to think critically about the things they manage and the impact of those things on sales, profits, and cash. This is simply common sense applied in a financial context. When this is done the right way, it isn’t just done on specific important decisions; it’s done regularly, in aggregate to measure every decision made at the company.

Getting a good accountant to help with all of this is recommended. Many accountants view their role as just helping with bookkeeping and tax preparation, but a good accountant should help you run your business.

Connecticut Websites

The One Interview Question You Have to Ask

The best way to find out if a job candidate is a good fit for your company? Ask this one revealing question.

 

I’ve been told my interview style is “different.” But after interviewing dozens of candidates a week for years, I’ve learned a few things I hope will help other entrepreneurs trying to hire in this tough market. In a start-up like mine, hiring is ultra-binary: bringing on the wrong person sucks precious time and energy away from your most pressing opportunities, but hiring the right person can give your company the fuel it needs to accelerate.

Unfortunately, when faced with several candidates with impressive resumes, many entrepreneurs spend too much time “selling” their companies and not enough time transparently sharing their challenges. At the end of the interview, you have zero visibility into whether this candidate is a fit. All too often, entrepreneurs don’t ask the single most important question that can help them identify the best candidate: How would you solve our biggest business challenge? This challenge can be anything and changes over time. For example, your biggest challenge might be customer acquisition, and three months down the road, it might be fundraising.

Asking every interview candidate to solve your toughest business problem may seem like a hefty task, but I’ve found that being vulnerable and exposing your deepest, darkest challenge provides several important insights into the candidate. First, you’ll find out if the candidate is the kind of person who is energized by a challenge or overwhelmed and scared by it. No matter how good the resume and pedigree, if the candidate is someone whose shoulders slump when presented with a gory mess, they’re probably not the right fit for a start-up. It’s better to know that upfront. Problem-solvers who excel in the start-up environment physically lean-in, perk up, and are visibly energized when you share your deepest, darkest challenge. And those are the people you want to grab, hold onto, and never let go of.

Another benefit? When you noodle over a problem with people, you can tell pretty quickly how thoroughly they think through problems, and, as a result, how likely they will be to succesfully execute a plan. I look for people who think deeply enough to anticipate the hairy issues their proposed solution might raise, take these issues seriously, and naturally engage in planning for how to overcome them.

Finally, by batting around potential solutions to a tough problem, I can see if a candidate is genuinely collaborative. Everyone claims to be collaborative, but few people actually are. Luckily, this is a trait that’s remarkably easy to test for in an interview. True collaboration means having a willingness to discuss your problem-solving process with someone else and inviting them to provide their own solutions. Just listening doesn’t equal collaboration. And just ceding control isn’t collaboration either. You have to have the confidence to set the direction, but also the insight to be genuinely open to modifying your course based on other people’s ideas. There’s no better way to test whether someone is actually collaborative than to attempt to solve a problem together.

The other big advantage to asking this one question in every interview is that it actually “hooks” the right people. Candidates who are the right fit for the job won’t be able to get your problem out of their heads, because it’s real, and they’re itching to make a difference. To find people who will help you solve your deepest, darkest challenges, invite them to collaborate from the get-go.

How to Get from Collaboration to Execution

Startup Weekend.org

recently launched its first startup event in South Carolina, inhistoric downtown Georgetown.  In case you are not familiar with startup weekend events, which are conducted every weekend around the world, they typically unfold like this:

  • A group of people with ideas gets together for the weekend.
  • Business ideas are pitched at the beginning, and teams are formed.
  • Ideas are refined, prototyped, turned into businesses, and eventually presented to a panel of judges.
  • Prizes are awarded at the conclusion of the weekend to the teams with the most viable idea and best presentation.

Essentially, over a period of 54 hours, a myriad of real, viable companies, all with an MVP (minimal viable product), are created.  It is a high-intensity, fast-paced weekend.

More impressive is that over 36% of these new companies continue for at least three months after the competition.

As a coach during the event, I assisted teams in refining their concepts, pitches and presentations. The event really reinforced my understanding of how important collaboration can be for innovation and idea generation.

In my line of work with Wild Creations, I meet numerous people who have great ideas for new products.  Often, these individuals simply lack the experience, expertise or network to take the concept from idea to market.  Beyond that, the biggest concern is typically theft of the idea.  Even with non-disclosure agreements, or NDAs, many would-be entrepreneurs simply do not trust others with their idea.

Very few ideas are so proprietary or unique that they will avoid being knocked off or eventually created by someone else.  Instead, entrepreneurs should consider collaborating to make their idea a reality.  Here are some things to consider:

1. Embrace Collaboration

By bringing people into your “circle” and working with them, you will add much- needed expertise and cover areas of your new business where you are weakest.  More important, by simply having a sounding board that will listen to your idea and provide feedback, you may discover early in the process that your business concept simply does not work.  At this point, while it’s still feasible, you can pivot in a new direction.

2. Participate in Collaboration

One of the great benefits of events like Startup Weekend is that you do not necessarily need to contribute a great business idea.  You can, in fact, just choose to work with others, offering your expertise and professional strengths to create value for another team.  By simply participating, you may very well find yourself generating new ideas of your own and, more important, forming the network of people who can help you.

3. Promote Collaboration

An interesting thing happened at Startup Weekend.  When the value of the collaborative effort was understood, everyone let their guard down, worked together, and incredible progress was made.  In order to get the full benefit of collaborating with others, all parties need to understand its value.

4. Implement Collaboration

Startup Weekends don’t happen everywhere, but that shouldn’t dissuade you from implementing your own collaboration efforts.  Co-working spaces, such as the one that now operates in my city, Cowork MYR, are places where people share a common work space and, by mere proximity, end up discussing and sharing projects and collaborating.  Often, the collaborators are in the tech field, such as programmers, developers and designers, but they bring with them a vast network of other valuable resources that could benefit entrepreneurs.  If you can’t find a co-working space in your city, then start one yourself.  It’s as simple as inviting smart, like-minded individuals together over coffee to discuss ideas.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am not advocating that if you have an idea for a new product or service you broadcast it to everyone within earshot.  You should always weigh the pros and cons of such a decision, and if you are convinced that your idea is important enough to be protected, you should seek proper legal advice to do so, even if only for your peace of mind.

In my personal experience, however, I have seen incredible value and benefit come from the collaboration of individuals from a wide range of expertise. This past weekend solidified it for me.  If you still have your doubts, then I would encourage you to try it yourself.

If nothing else, you will have a wonderful fraternal weekend experience with a great group of people!

Do you have an experience where collaborating helped (or hurt) your business?  Please share with others below.

Never want to be late Again?

Stop Rushing BY 

Think you’re only on time because you hurry? Actually it’s all that rushing that’s making you late.

 

Does this sound familiar?

“For many years, the only way I knew to get from one place to another was to rush. I was chronically ‘running late.’ In fact I couldn’t conceive of managing time in any other way. I usually would get to an appointment in the nick of time, but never without a rush.”

And how about this next observation, does it also ring true for you?

“It’s common to treat each other terribly when we’re ‘in a hurry.'”

Both quotes come from a blog post by coach Linda Gabriel on happiness site Tiny Buddha.In-depth, thought-provoking and generous, the piece tells the story of Gabriel’s previous life as a chronically late working mother and is packed with details that many time-crunched business owners will identify with.

The set up and problem may be all too familiar, but Gabriel’s solution is far from expected. In fact, her eventual fix for her crazed schedule was simple but utterly counter-intuitive. She just stopped rushing.

Wait. What? How?

If that’s your reaction, the complete post is worth a read in full, but the essence of Gabriel’s argument is that, “rushing and being late are two sides of the same coin. You can’t have one without the other. When we are in rush mode, we believe we have to not be late in order not to rush.The truth is if you stop rushing, you’re far less likely to be late.”

If you’re skeptical, Gabriel offers up her own life as an example and testifies that as soon as she vowed to stop hurrying everywhere, “much to my astonishment, I started to be on time. All the time. If I ran into traffic and arrived late, I just relaxed into it. More often than not the timing was perfect anyway.”

But if you find this too perfect to be believed, perhaps the best bet, she suggests, is simply to try it for yourself. What’s the worst that can happen after all?

For those hard-charging types who are about as likely to embrace this zen approach as they are to grow flippers and take to the sea, there is more practical advice availablewhich involves handicapping your time estimates and investing in some more clocks. But perhaps don’t dismiss the wisdom of simply letting go of your stress and accepting whatever time you’re actually going to arrive quite so quickly It may seem counter-intuitive at first, but it has strong backing from psychologists, doctors and thousands of years of spiritual tradition.

 

5 Lessons from an Overnight Success

These two entrepreneurs obsessed about failure. But they never stopped to think about what would happen if they succeeded.

 

When Brittany Hodak and Kim Kaupe launched ‘ZinePak, a New York-based entertainment company two-and-a-half years ago, they knew they had a lot to learn. Apparently, they’re pretty fast learners because this year they were named to Advertising Age‘s 40 Under 40 list and ‘ZinePak is currently vying for the title of the Wall Street Journal’s Start-up of the Year in an online documentary series. But this is the shortlist. In addition to a multitude of honors and awards, these young entrepreneurs have already established partnerships with celebrities like Taylor Swift, KISS, Justin Bieber, and the Beach Boys to sell nearly two million ‘ZinePaks, which are custom publications, in 18 countries.

One of the smartest things an entrepreneur can do is to learn from others who have an established record of success. So I asked Hodak about the most important lessons she and Kaupe have learned along their impressive journey. Here’s what she had to say.

Lesson #1: Always stay two steps ahead.

Being a business owner means always embracing new challenges and looking for new opportunities, even when you’re on a successful path already. Don’t wait for failure or obstacles to arise to begin looking for alternate opportunities. 

Example:  Kim and I founded ‘ZinePak in 2011 with a focus on enhancing the physical CD experience. We partnered with Walmart, believing that music fans would be drawn to owning more CDs if they were packaged in collectible fan magazines with exclusive merchandise, and we were right. Although we grew 350 percent in 2012 and are approaching $15 million in consumer spending on ‘ZinePaks, we know that fans also access their favorite tunes via streaming services. We have to stay ahead of the changing landscape in the marketplace.

Lesson #2: Never be the smartest person in the room.

Focus on being a great leader instead of a great doer. Surround yourself with the best experts and employees you can find so that you’re never the most knowledgeable person about anything other than the future of your company.

Example:  In the beginning I thought the key to success was knowing as much as possible about everything. I spent months trying to master details about print production, retail marketing, PR, sales, and about a dozen other disciplines. But this quickly lead to burn out and poor productivity. Even if you’re great at a lot of things, you should only focus on a few. A company can’t grow if one person is doing the majority of the work. ‘ZinePak’s team now includes six fantastic employees all with their own specialities: an amazing accountant, a great attorney, dozens of incredible freelancers, and one of the best business coaches in the industry.

Lesson #3: It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.

Whether it’s looking for a more creative solution to a problem or going outside of ordinary communication channels to make something happen, the cliche is true: It is easier to ask for forgiveness later than get permission upfront.

Example:  Sometimes ordinary business channels just aren’t conducive to getting things done. In the past year, Kim and I have employed the “get it done now, ask for permission later” strategy to help green-light projects, get meetings with high-level executives, and score publicity for ‘ZinePak. Whether it’s booking an interview without running it by our publicist or taking a guerrilla-style meeting with an artist backstage without having an official time slot on the tour manager’s agenda, a whatever-it-takes attitude is important for growing a business.

Lesson #4: “No” doesn’t always mean “no.”

Don’t take “no” to mean that you shouldn’t continue to have a dialogue with someone you want to work with. Also, don’t ever take “no” for an answer from someone without the authority to tell you “yes.”

Example: Selling an idea to a junior person just means that he or she will have to spend time pitching your idea up the ladder until it gets to the ultimate decision maker. This isn’t an effective use of time or resources. Go directly to the decision makers whenever possible, even if it’s difficult to get time on their schedules. The extra effort will be worth the work. And if he/she doesn’t say “yes” immediately, keep pursuing the relationship.

Lesson #5: Don’t be afraid of the unknown.

Don’t feel like you need to have all the answers or predict the future. Surround yourself with smart people and commit to making the best decisions you can with the information available to you at any given time. 

Example: When Kim and I decided to quit our corporate jobs and start a company, we spent a lot of time talking about what we would do if the business failed. We never even considered what we would do if the business was successful. We certainly did not think that within two years we’d be leading a multi-million-dollar entertainment company with distribution across the globe! Every day, we are faced with new challenges and new decisions to make. We’ve learned that very few decisions are permanent, and even fewer are impossible to recover from. Lead your team from a place of confidence instead of fear to set the tone for success, even in the face of the unknown.

4 Ways To Make Your Workspace More Productive

Researchers have found some utterly surprising ways to minimize distractions and insert subtle signals to help your staff focus. productive

What’s happening around you can be just as important as what’s going on in your head. Open floor plans might promote collaboration, but they are clearly hotbeds of distraction. So there’s a trade-off: More collaboration, less productivity.

Other research has yielded more surprising results.

It turns out, for example, that bad weather is good for productivity.

 

It all comes down to distractions, according to a Harvard Business School study. The more distracted people are by the opportunities good weather offers, the less they get done at work. Though no business owner can control the weather, there are ways to work with it. Orienting desks away from windows can boost productivity, for example. Francesca Gino, a Harvard Business School associate professor and co-author of the study, also suggests allowing employees to work shorter hours on good weather days, provided they clock out later when the weather is bad.

Décor also matters. Do you cringe at cloying posters of adorable kittens? Get over it. Several recent studies have made the peculiar claim that cute imagery enhances mental focus. The first, published in 2009, came out of the University of Virginia’s psychology department and showed that viewing “very cute images” of puppies and kittens enhanced fine motor skills. Then, last year, researchers at Hiroshima University found that subjects who viewed pictures of baby animals, as opposed to adult animals or pictures of food, performed better on both dexterity tests and a visual search test.

That last finding suggests that viewing cute images doesn’t just heighten our evolutionary instinct to be physically careful around babies. It makes us mentally careful, too. “If people can concentrate on the task at hand without being distracted by other things, their productivity should increase,” says lead researcher Hiroshi Nittono.

Simply turning up the thermostat can increase productivity throughout your workplace. A study of office workers at a Florida insurance company, conducted by Cornell’s Human Factors and Ergonomics Laboratory, found that as office temperatures increased from 68 degrees to 77 degrees, typing errors decreased 44 percent. Meanwhile, typing output improved a whopping 150 percent.

A Connecticut Digital Design Agency

Web Site Design & Development, Web Application Development, Mobile Application Development