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4 Keys To A Super-Charged Team And Workplace Culture

Startup work environments are always chaos, but they can still be great environments to work in, or they can be terrible. Whether yours is terrible or great, that same tone flows out to your customers, and regulates your productivity inside. You as the founder are the starting point and definer, so you need to get it right. What does it take to create a positive workplace culture? I did some research on this, and compared it with my own experience. I’ve concluded and the experts agree that it’s all about understanding people, and overtly optimizing the factors that drive them at work. Ed Muzio, in his classic book “Make Work Great: Super Charge Your Team, Reinvent the Culture, and Gain Influence One Person at a Time,” summarized four key influences which I have also seen as follows: We are...

How To Tune Business Strategy For Long-Term Success

The biggest challenge these days doesn’t seem to be in starting a new business, but sustaining it against the onslaught of market changes and new competitors that emerge every day. Yet, as an angel investor, I still see too many new business owners who are convinced that their biggest challenge is to get money to start, and once launched with some initial success, they can relax. In my other role of business advisor, I see examples often of startups that may have taken success for granted too early. A recent high-profile one, Theranos, the blood-testing company, had no trouble getting customers, but promised more than their technology could deliver, Another, Shyp, an early on-demand delivery platform, blamed their demise on premature scaling. The keys to sustainable success require you to ...

5 Questions To Help Solve The Tough Business Problems

In my role as a business advisor, one of the attributes I often see in a good leader is the ability and willingness to ask good questions, before moving forward or issuing edicts, potentially in the wrong direction. We all have mental barriers – those unquestioned assumptions, unexplored options, or unchallenged rules of thumb that keep us stuck at a lower level of effectiveness. Thus, an essential skill for anyone who wants to push the limits of their team and their business is the ability to ask questions that expose and remove those mental obstacles. The challenge is to frame questions that can provoke people into thinking about the problems in a new way, and to ask these questions in a style that doesn’t elicit defensiveness, resistance, or fear. I saw this challenge outlined well in a...

How Modern Companies Have Redefined Customer Support

Too many business owners still think of “customer support” as an after-sale process to rectify customer problems with completed transactions. The world has changed. With the advent of instant communication and social media, customer service starts at the first hint of interest by you, and never ends for repeat customers. One bad customer experience will kill not only one customer, but many future ones, who hear the message via social media and friends. For example, the days are gone when simply replacing a purchase or giving your money back was considered premium service. Now, if your web site is not clear and clean, or you don’t have a chat robot for a product question online, you may be abandoned as providing poor customer service, just as certainly as having to wait in a long product ex...

How Modern Companies Have Redefined Customer Support

Too many business owners still think of “customer support” as an after-sale process to rectify customer problems with completed transactions. The world has changed. With the advent of instant communication and social media, customer service starts at the first hint of interest by you, and never ends for repeat customers. One bad customer experience will kill not only one customer, but many future ones, who hear the message via social media and friends. For example, the days are gone when simply replacing a purchase or giving your money back was considered premium service. Now, if your web site is not clear and clean, or you don’t have a chat robot for a product question online, you may be abandoned as providing poor customer service, just as certainly as having to wait in a long product ex...

Security And Privacy Are Both A Risk and Opportunity

With the ITRC 2018 End-of-Year Data Breach Report revealing a 126 percent increase in stolen sensitive personal information, there is a growing population out there worried about all the people intent on hurting them. My recommendation to entrepreneurs is to recognize these concerns as an opportunity to make people’s life better, rather than worry and dodge the risk. I continue to believe that most of the data gathering in the real world, and on the Internet, is done by businesses to help you find what you want, protect you, and improve your experience, rather than invade your privacy or scam you. We all just need your help in managing personal data correctly, and making sure you are part of the solution, rather than part of the problem. That challenge is a major business opportunity, as w...

10 Tips To New Venture Leaders To Never Stop Learning

You probably think that the fact that you have started your own business validates your leadership ability. It may confirm that you were a leader yesterday, but do you have what it takes to be a leader tomorrow? In this era of rapid change, you can’t afford to stop learning, or you will find that your competitors, your customers, and your team, may soon be following someone else. In fact, you may have noticed in a recent study, that the business CEO turnover rate last year was the highest in 10 years, and may go even higher this year. Real business leadership requires continuous improvement, just like your products and processes. Fortunately, contrary to popular opinion, the evidence is that leadership is not a birthright, and can be learned and improved. Most people agree that leadership ...

7 Messages All New Entrepreneurs Should Take To Heart

When you have been on the startup firing line, you quickly learn that any insight from experts and entrepreneurs who have been there before you can make the difference between failure and success. Yet, many new entrepreneurs brazenly assume they are bulletproof, and march blindly into the fray. The result is that half or more of startups fail in the first two years. I don’t think anyone proclaims to have any silver bullets, but there are common failure threads that appear all too often. There are many books written about failure in startups, and I don’t recommend any of them. I prefer the more positive approach of getting you better prepared up-front, as outlined in the classic book “It’s Your Biz” by Susan Wilson Solovic. Susan has years of experience in the small business trenches, and r...

10 Change Recommendations To Meet Business Pressures

Every business professional needs to stay cool under pressure, to be a top performer, and for the sake of their own health. Yet everyone has a melting point – a critical threshold where pressure causes them to respond irrationally. Many people believe their threshold is permanently set by family genetics, or cultural influences, but I believe anyone can train themselves to stay cool. In my role as a business advisor, I’ve seen it happen many times as business leaders mature, and I’ve felt the change in myself over time. I’ve always been looking for the specific behaviors required to make the change, so I was pleased to see some real guidance in a classic book, “The Melting Point,” by Dr. Christian Marcolli, a world-class expert on sustainable high performance. I like his ten behavioral cha...

Why Amazon Is the Undisputed E-Commerce Growth Leader

Everyone wants to grow and innovate like Amazon these days. From meager beginnings selling books online back in 1994, Amazon is currently the largest e-commerce retailer and cloud computing platform in the world, and now dominates even the giant Walmart. In my role as a business advisor, I’ve long wondered how to pass their secrets along to other new ventures. Recently, I saw some help in that regard in a new book, “Think Like Amazon,” by John Rossman, a former top executive at Amazon. He launched and scaled their Marketplace business, and now heads his own firm to help clients innovate and grow in this digital era. He offers over 50 guiding principles, distilled from his tenure at Amazon, to become a digital leader in today’s marketplace. For those of you who don’t have time to read the w...

5 Team Dynamics That Raise Real Barriers To Progress

Managing and motivating a team in a startup is more than just using the right interpersonal skills. It’s more than providing recognition, tangible incentives, and clear work goals. A key influencer of satisfaction and motivation, top-ranked by employees, is positive progress and the completion of meaningful work. Sometimes you have to manage progress, not people. “Busy work” and “grunt work” are deadly terms in a startup environment. So are setbacks, project cancellations, and frequent changes of direction that make people doubt that the work they are doing will ever see the light of day. These points are illustrated in detail in “The Progress Principle,” a classic book from the Harvard Business School, by Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer. They explain that work progress and setbacks matte...

7 Keys To Exponential Growth Driven By The Whole Team

Many startups and entrepreneurs I advise still default to growing their business via the traditional top-down, order-taking culture. I’m convinced that you can’t stay competitive that way with today’s customers, and today’s employees. It’s time to push decision making down into the organization –insisting that the people closest to the customer and the markets learn and make the decisions. I saw strong validation for this approach in the classic book, “Sense & Respond,” by Jeff Gothelf and Josh Seiden. They argue that successful organizations spend more time building and maintaining a learning culture of listening to customers, enabling their team to make decisions, and creating new products continuously. Here are seven key elements of the culture we both espouse: Accept that you don’t...

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