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How To Be A Leader When Machines Are Smarter Than You

Image via Pixabay  The majority of business professionals I meet these days accept that we are now deep in the digital age, where mountains of data are gathered on everything we do, online and offline. Yet most executives are struggling with how to harness this data with artificial intelligence and machine learning, and use it to hone their intuition and improve their business leadership. In fact, I believe that to be a successful leader in this new era requires a different way of thinking and a different set of skills, to complement the gut instinct reliance of past leaders. Leaders today need to understand and utilize the algorithmic compute power of artificial intelligence that supports the hyper-personalization in everything from shopping to news delivery to dating today. Some peo...

7 Steps To A Winning Social Media Marketing Campaign

Image via Pixabay  Most startups, and many big businesses, still don’t have a clue on how to use social media productively for marketing their business. They randomly churn for hours a day on a couple of their favorite social media platforms, with little thought given to goals, objectives, or metrics; and ultimately give up and fall back to traditional marketing approaches. The first thing that entrepreneurs need to realize is that the process and framework for making social media marketing work are different from traditional marketing, and trial and error certainly doesn’t work. Ric Dragon, an expert in online marketing, in his classic book. “Social Marketology,” outlined the best set of steps I have seen so far for this current world: Focus on desired outcomes first. Valid social me...

8 Career Advancement Principles Of Ownership Thinking

Image via Flickr by Lyncconf Games Based on my own business experience of many years on both sides of the owner-employee role, I believe that one of the quickest ways to improve your employee career is to think like an owner. Conversely, the best owners are those who relate to the positions of their employees. I’m convinced that is why many great business leaders remember working their way up the ranks. For example, Howard Schultz was not the founder of Starbucks, but started his career in one of their first 60 shops. After various roles in this one, he worked his way up the corporate ranks to run the organization of now almost 30,000 stores. Steve Jobs started his technical career creating circuit boards at Atari, before joining Steve Wozniak to build personal computers in his garage...

How To Practice As Well As Preach Being Accountable

Image via Flickr by Cabinet Office It’s easy to say to people on your team that they must be accountable for their actions, but it’s not so easy to tell them how to do it. It’s even harder to give them the mindset of wanting to be accountable. In fact, many business leaders forget that they are the role model for accountability, and don’t audit their own actions to make sure that they always practice what they preach. In a classic book, “The Difference: When Good Enough Isn’t Enough,” Subir Chowdhury shines a bright light on both these issues. Chowdhury is one of the world’s leading management consultants, and he argues that accountability is only one part of a real caring culture that must be built and maintained to achieve a sustainable competitive difference. The other key parts o...

8 Pragmatic Reasons Not To Wait For The Next Bubble

Image via Pixabay  According to The Washington Post and WSJ, the economy has been slowing down around the world, and the US will follow suit before 2019 ends. Yet if you wait for an economy bubble before starting your new business, you will be making a comparable mistake to the people who thought during the dot-com bubble “all I have to do is a startup, and I’ll be rich.” In reality, what matters more is who you are, not when you do it. Like Paul Graham, founder of Y-Combinator, said a long time ago, I see startups succeed or fail every day based primarily on the qualities of the founders. The economy has some effect, but as a predictor of success it’s a rounding error compared to the founders. If you’re worried about threats to the survival of your company, do...

6 Changes To Your Hiring Process To Attract The Best

Image via Max Pixel  Startup investors tell me they invest in a new venture with a higher caliber of people, rather than the product or service, and I agree. In my role as a business advisor, I see successful businesses most often emerging from great teams rather than great products. Yet I find the people building teams are usually product experts, often with no experience in team building. Of course, it’s no surprise that most entrepreneurs don’t have a background in hiring teams, and don’t have a budget for training or human resource consultants. But these days with all the resources on the Internet and elsewhere, there is no excuse for not keeping up on the latest insights, best practices, and technology in the area of hiring, motivating, and training. For example, I just remembere...

6 Actions To Find The Perfect Angel For Your Startup

Image via Max Pixel  Fundraising is brutal. Actually, according to Paul Graham of Y-Combinator fame, “Raising money is the second hardest part of starting a startup. The hardest part is making something people want.” More startups may fail for that reason, but a close second is the difficulty of raising money. A while back, I outlined “The 10 Best Sources of Cash to Start Your Business” for startups, listing angel investors as alternative six. I still get a lot of questions on these mysterious and often invisible investors, so here is another attempt to bring them out of the ether. By definition, an angel investor is not an “institutional investor.” Venture capitalists (VCs) are paid to invest other people’s money, and measured on the rate of return they get. Angels are typically high...

8 All Too Painful Entrepreneur Negotiation Mistakes

Image via Pixabay  One of the things I have learned the hard way over my years in business, and in advising others, is that it takes more than passion, creativity, and hard work to start and grow a business. A key skill that many of you don’t appreciate is the ability to effectively manage the negotiations that come with every business. The results are lost opportunity, poor contracts, or a failed business. For example, one of the first decisions that most of you entrepreneurs face is how much equity to give to early investors, co-founders, and key new hires. These are tough and sensitive decisions, especially for technologists and introverts, who may prefer to let their innovations speak for them. With that context, I was pleased to see a new book, “Entrepreneurial Negotiation,” by S...

6 Signals That Your Startup Could Be The Next Google

Image by Origa via Wikipedia  I tell entrepreneurs that Google was an “exception” to all the investment and startup rules, but I’ve always wondered what it takes to be an exception. Since every business is built by unique individuals, I’m totally convinced that exceptional people are the key to an exceptional company. To check out the Google founders, and because I still see so many business plans that are modeled after Google (more search engines, and more billion dollar growth models), I had to take a look at the classic book about them a while back, called “Inside Larry & Sergey’s Brain,” by Richard L. Brandt. It didn’t disappoint me. This book was not sanctioned by Larry Page and Sergey Brin, so it’s not a love story. All the controversy is highlighted, but the message still s...

7 Guidelines For Picking Business Battles You Can Win

Image via Pixabay  Many entrepreneurs are not prepared for conflict, or actively avoid it. Their vision, passion, and focus are so strong that they can’t imagine someone disagreeing, much less fighting them to the death. But the reality is that startups are composed of smart people, with emotions as well as intellects, working in close proximity under much pressure, so conflicts will occur. In fact, most business conflict is constructive and should be embraced in steering through the maze of innovation and change that is part of every successful business. Surround yourself with “yes” people, and you may feel good initially, but the brick walls no one mentions will hurt later. On the other extreme, constant and unmanaged conflict will quickly drive your startup to be dysfunctional. Her...

Artificial Intelligence Can Help Or Hurt Any Business

Image via Pixabay  Everyone has heard about the big potential for using artificial intelligence (AI) to expand your business, but many of the small businesses I mentor are still wary of embracing it, because they don’t understand how it works, and fear losing control and unintended consequences. My advice is that AI is here, so it behooves all of us to learn how to use it properly and move forward. For example, it is a no-brainer to first take advantage of the wave of new capabilities for data collection and smarter analysis to improve productivity and marketing. What is not so obvious is how to create and roll out solutions that can directly impact customer trust or financial well-being. There have been too many recent glitches, such as evidence of devices invading our privacy. To pu...

9 Simple Approaches To Creating A Sure-Fire Startup

Image via Jisc As an advisor to startups and entrepreneurs, I often hear the myth that all new businesses must start with a great idea. I have to disagree. I believe the best entrepreneurs start by finding a large opportunity, and only then use good ideas to capitalize on that opportunity. The best opportunities are recognized from painful needs, plus a growing population of customers with money to spend. For example, technologist entrepreneurs often come up with a new device or application, just because they can, and assume everyone will want one. Social entrepreneurs pitch me their latest idea for eliminating world hunger (producing algae), but may forget that really hungry people probably don’t have any money. It takes a real selling opportunity to sustain a business idea. You will find...

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