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9 Things Entrepreneurs Need to Know

By Rieva Lesonsky

G1. Going for the Gold

In the spirit of the just-underway Olympic Games, check out the infographic below from Campaigner detailing five strategies you can use to go for the gold with your email campaigns.


2. 7 Ways to Build an Olympic-Caliber Business Team

Guest post by Andrew Neitlich, founder and director of the Center for Executive Coaching.

With the Summer Olympics here, one can’t help but raise the question that many business leaders ask when the Olympics rolls around: “How do we create Olympic-caliber teams in our company?” This kind of question can lead to some cringe-worthy clichés about what makes a team. Following are seven strategies to do what it really takes.

1—Figure out what kind of team you really want. Many leaders and managers talk in vague terms about teams, when sometimes they don’t even want a team at all. Jon Katzenbach’s classic book The Wisdom of Teams notes the huge differences between a working group and a team. In a working group, people come to work, do their jobs, and go home. They don’t go out of their way for their colleagues, and basically want to get the job done and be left alone. A team can increase performance exponentially compared to a working group, and it takes a lot more time, commitment, and effort to become a true team. In a team, people care about each other, go the extra mile, and figure out how to work closely together to perform at the highest levels. Many leaders set up incentives and structures for people to come together as working groups, yet they talk as if they really have a team.

At the same time, there are many different types of teams. In a symphony, everyone works together in perfect synchronicity, following the exact score. Contrast this to a jazz band, which encourages improvisation and creativity and sometimes creates the music on the spot. Getting back to the sports analogy, a winning basketball team has specialized roles for each player, and works fluidly to find openings, pass the ball, and make baskets. At the other end of the spectrum in terms of coordination, there is the swim team or track team, in which players compete more or less individually in order to help the overall team win.

If you don’t define what kind of team you expect, and support people to create that type of team, you won’t get the kinds of results you intended.

2—Answer the question, “How do we become the kind of organization that attracts Olympic-caliber talent?” Olympic-caliber teams have Olympic-caliber talent. If you want to attract Olympic-caliber talent to your organization, you need to be the type of organization—and have the type of leaders—where Olympic-caliber talent would want to work. Every year certain companies make the ‘Best Companies to Work For’ list—and some of them make the list every single year without fail. Whether you are a Fortune 500 company or a small business, you can put in place the kinds of incentives, career paths, management team, and culture that encourage people to do their best and also tell others about how great it is to work with you.

3—Create an environment that continuously challenges, engages, rewards, and develops top talent. Olympians love challenge. They love the rewards that come with winning. They want the best coaches to develop them. They thrive on autonomy and the opportunity to keep improving and being the best. While a lot of their passion and drive is internal, they still need the type of environment in which they can thrive. Does your company help people to thrive, or does it cause people to feel stagnant within a year or two? If you want people to thrive, create jobs with autonomy. Encouraging coaching and ongoing development at all levels. Give everyone a path to keep moving forward and up in the organization.

4—Set clear goals. For most Olympians, the goal is to win a gold medal. In organizations, many teams have fuzzy goals, too many goals, goals that overlap or conflict with other teams, or goals that aren’t terribly inspiring. Almost every piece of literature ever written about creating a high-performing team notes that having a clear goal is the most important thing that a team can have to reach success. It is even more important than who leads the team.

5—Focus on the few disciplined habits and routines that lead to excellence. Olympic-caliber athletes have a clear routine and specific habits they know will lead to success. They practice and then execute on these habits relentlessly. Swimming legend Michael Phelps never missed a swim workout while he was developing as a youth swimmer. Basketball icon Larry Bird would come before practice and stay after practice to practice his shooting. Members of top teams are extremely disciplined in their own routines—whether it is providing consistent customer service, trading stocks, or reducing error rates to zero. At the same time, Olympians spend about 95% of their time practicing, training, or getting coaching and the rest to executing. In workplaces, it is the opposite. Executives, managers and their teams spend 99% of their time executing and devote almost no time to practice, training, or being coached. To develop great teams, build in more time for team members to practice, train, and get coaching.

6—Model unrelenting positivity and grit. I have had the opportunity to interview Olympic and professional athletes. One common theme they mention is that they all have had coaches, mentors, and other teammates who were incredibly positive. They always saw possibility, even in the face of setbacks or conflicts. As a result, they kept moving forward and expected others to do the same. How well are you modeling positivity and grit for your teams?

7—Build chemistry. Organizations have employees scattered all over the world. Often, to save money and time, they insist on meeting virtually rather than in person. In contrast, Olympic-caliber teams realize how important it is to get to know each other face to face, break bread outside of work, and build chemistry. For an example of what it really takes to build team chemistry, see the movie Remember the Titans. We are human beings, wired for in-person contact. Even if it costs a bit more money and time, Olympic-caliber teams need to make time to bring everyone together, spend time outside of work getting to know one another, and build true chemistry. Otherwise, trust won’t be as high as it otherwise could be.


3. Just How Big is Back-to-School?

Really big—according to The Shelf, an influencer marketing agency and service. U.S. sales alone are expected to reach nearly $829 billion, up 2.6% from last year. Check out the infographic below—and see why back-to-school is the 2nd-biggest retail event every year. For more, take a look at this blog as well.

Courtesy of: The Shelf


4. SMBs Drive Productivity through Unified Communications 

According to a recent survey from Jabra, between one-third and two-thirds of all SMBs will either add unified communications (UC) or replace existing systems with UC within the next 1-2 years. The study also found that nearly half of all SMBs believe having employees use headsets to keep their hands free while on a call is important and mobility is a priority for about one third.

Another study from Jabra found that call-centric workers, such as those who support customers or serve in an advisory capacity, are more productive and 25% more engaged in their jobs when enabled with the right supporting technologies. These technologies could include advanced headsets that enable crisp-sounding calls, offer comfort for long call durations and include noise-canceling technologies to insulate from noise and interruptions.

As open offices get more ubiquitous, noise levels become a problem for many workers. As Mark Derby, Jabra VP says, “Productivity and concentration are critical in the increasingly competitive small business environment.” At a recent business conference Holger Reisinger, Jabra’s SVP of Business Solutions showed me several really innovative products all designed to keep workers productive. The products, including Jabra’s Speak and Evolve series of portable speakerphones and headsets, “deliver active and passive noise cancellation, integrated busy lights and easy to use, plug and play connectivity to ensure they are meeting customer needs and providing superior levels of service.”

Two to take a look:

1—Jabra Speak 510: A portable speakerphone that can turn any conversation into a productive conference call in seconds. An intuitive speakerphone that connects via USB and Bluetooth with crystal clear sound. All the conference call capabilities without the complexity. And it’s so light and portable—you can literally take it with your anywhere.

2—Jabra Evolve 40: The Jabra Evolve headsets are easy to set up and easy to use. The Evolve 40 is a wired office headset that reduces background noise, allowing you and your staff to stay focused in noisy environments. You can control your calls through a dedicated control unit. Available in stereo or mono versions. You will also love these headsets if you are a solo entrepreneur and work in a shared office space.

Jabra recommends taking these steps to make the most of your UC investment:

Drive productivity with seamless integration: SMBs need access to the right tools to be fast, flexible and efficient so they can focus on developing their business and increasing customer loyalty. Plug-and-play, intuitive UC solutions help to facilitate employee adoption and maximize the organization’s investment. Businesses should also look for the ability to easily switch between Lync and Skype for Business and mobile devices so that employees can continue to be productive on the go.

Improve concentration: Studies tell us that, on average, employees are distracted at work every three minutes and that it can take you as long as 25 minutes to refocus. These distractions are only increasing as office designs become more open. That’s why noise cancellation is a must for growing businesses. The technology enables crystal clear sound when on calls and improves employee focus on the task at hand, helping drive business productivity and the bottom line.

Make the most of every call: 89% of customers will leave for a competitor after a negative customer experience. Given that, SMBs should treat every call as a chance to strengthen your customer relationships and drive business growth. Hands free devices not only allow employees to better serve customers but they ensure limited hold time and an overall better customer experience.


5. Women Small Business Owners More Optimistic

Women small business owners are feeling more optimistic about annual revenue and growth expectations than their male counterparts, according to the inaugural Bank of America Women Business Owner Spotlight.

According to the study, 54% of women entrepreneurs expect their revenues to increase over the next 12 months, compared to 48% of male small business owners. Plus, 60% of women business owners expect to grow their businesses over the next five years (vs. 52% of men). The two main sources of funding used by women entrepreneurs as they grow include their business credit cards (28%) and bank funding (23%).

Year over year, women small business owners’ confidence has largely remained steady (declining by 3 percentage points or less) as their male counterparts’ confidence has declined. The number of male entrepreneurs who expect revenue to increase over the next 12 months has declined by 18 percentage points, and the number planning to grow their businesses over the next five years fell by 16 percentage points since spring 2015.

Sounds like great news, but Sharon Miller, managing director, head of Small Business, Bank of America says, “Women small business owners do express concerns about certain areas, which they are taking into account as they continue to grow.”

Women small business owners say glass ceiling exists, but split on whether it limits their opportunities. A majority of both women (77%) and men (56%) small business owners surveyed believe the glass ceiling exists for some women and minorities. Despite a strong majority acknowledging the glass ceiling, 54% of female entrepreneurs don’t feel impacted by it, while 46% have felt limited by the glass ceiling at some point in their careers.

Despite that, the majority of female small business owners believe they have the same access as their male counterparts to clients (79%) and outside resources (75%). However, 28% still feel they do not have the same access to capital as their male counterparts, and 25% say they don’t have the same access to new business.

Female small business owners feeling empowered and successful. When asked how being a small business owner makes them feel, 49% of female small business owners surveyed say it makes them feel empowered, (10 percentage points higher than their male counterparts), 54% say it makes them feel successful, and 35% say it makes them feel more content.

Economic concerns impacting women small business owners. While both women and men small business owners share similar views on top economic concerns over the next 12 months, more women small business owners are concerned about:

  • Corporate tax rates (54% of women vs. 45% of men).
  • Strength of the U.S. dollar (59% of women vs. 45% of men).
  • Commodities prices (52% of women vs. 44% of men).

Women small business owners are more likely to support raising the minimum wage; 55% of women entrepreneurs think raising the minimum wage would have a positive impact on the economy, compared to only 41% of men.

For more, check out the infographic below.  

Women's Spotlight Infographic_7 28 16_FINAL


6. 5 Security Threats to Watch Out for This Summer

Summer may be almost over, but with the weeks left, small businesses need to be ever vigilant in making sure you don’t let your guard down and increase the risk of data breach incidents. As the VIPRE antivirus team at ThreatTrack Security reports, from malware to hackers to malicious insiders to data thieves, there’s no shortage of security concerns.  “Cybercriminal organizations don’t take summer vacations, and many employees just don’t realize the security risks they are taking,” says Usman Choudhary, chief product officer at ThreatTrack Security.

So what should you watch out for? Here are 5 email and online threats ThreatTrack warns us to be aware of:

1—Sensationalized political posts for 2016 elections. Today’s campaigns are fought not just on the airwaves, but also on the internet, as voters of all stripes will be searching voraciously for news and information about the candidates. Cybercriminals will take advantage of election interest with a deluge of Trump/Clinton-style spam, advertisements and redirects throughout the summer to gather personal information and compromise devices. Be wary and check the URL before clicking.

2—Phishing emails focused on travel and vacation. With many vacationers taking trips and using credit cards, people need to be extra vigilant about which emails and links they choose to open or click while on the road or when planning. According to the American Hotel & Lodging Association, fraudsters take in $1.3 billion a year in online hotel scams. Watch out for emails promising some kind of super discount and double check that website – trusted URLs should have a small lock and start with https:// as opposed to just http://. Don’t enter your information—especially payment—through a non-verified link. The old adage definitely applies here: if the deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.

3—Zika virus and other health concerns. The Zika virus is already a top story. People are understandably a bit more anxious about the virus and its health effects. The Securities and Exchange Commission, for instance, recently issued an alert warning about Zika investment scams. Cybercriminals will continue to take advantage of this common fear to help mask their scams.

4—Major sporting events. Any major news, entertainment or sporting event will have a campaign behind it. Watch out for unsolicited emails and pop-up websites offering discounted tickets or other products and services. Be cautious before clicking on a link, banner ad or attachment.

5—Kids on summer vacation. Children are home from school, sometimes unsupervised, and they tend to spend a lot of time on their devices during the summer months. Unless parents take precautions, children will find applications and other types of files to download that may not be safe or appropriate while they’re at work. Installing a good parental control program will help minimize their vulnerability on the internet.

Finally, don’t open unknown emails or divulge sensitive information unless you’ve verified the legitimacy of the organization, person or website. And don’t provide others with access to your devices or accounts. Be aware of unsolicited requests for tech support requiring the download of software that enables others to remotely access your PC. Hackers will use legitimate remote administration tools as weapons for breaking into networks. Likewise, employers should be sure to lock down these tools so only authorized users have access. While these tools provide added convenience for remote workers, they also serve as a potential gateway for attack.

As always, protect your systems against unnecessary vulnerabilities. Regularly update your applications with the latest software patches and be sure to install antivirus software and set it for automatic updates. For a free trial, visit VIPRE for Business and VIPRE for Home.


7. Women’s Initiative Awards

The Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards (CWIA) Prize has increased to $100,000, from $20,000, per winner.  Since launching in 2006, the Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards has striven to support and recognize creative women who are making concrete contributions to finding effective and affordable solutions for the future of the planet and their local economies.

This is the 10th year of the CWIA awards. And in that time, the businesses honored have:

  • Created more than 5,000 new jobs
  • Had a positive social impact (97% feel this way)
  • Lasted—over 80% of ventures are still operating

The deadline to enter this year’s contest is August 31. Required criteria include:

  • An original for-profit business creation
  • In the start-up phase: between 2-3 years of operations
  • The main leadership position must be filled by a woman

Interested? You can enter here.


8. Marketing Conference Guide

Looking to attend a marketing conference this year? There’s certainly a lot to choose from. To make your decision a little easier Matt Zajechowski and the team from Digital Third Coast have created an interactive map displaying all the major marketing conferences in the United States this year.

Along with being able to choose a marketing conference by geographical location, you can also filter by date, specialty and cost. They also list the hashtag for each conference (making it easy to see what people are tweeting about), direct you to the website of each conference, and give you the ability to add each conference you are attending or have interest in directly to your calendar.

They plan to continually update the map as information for next year’s conferences are announced.


9. Control Your Financial Data

Xero recently announced an integration with Wells Fargo, offering small businesses better access to, and control of, their financial data. The goal is to “help small businesses capture a true picture of their financial position and empower our mutual customers to control their financial data. We believe this will fundamentally rewire how small businesses operate, and light a fire in the engine room of our economies.”

According to the companies, “The foundation of the financial web is the very important connection between secure bank feeds and accounting. It enables small business owners, working in the cloud, to do their bank reconciliations on their mobile phone while riding the train into work, or capture a real-time view of their cash flow ending the monthly stress of catch-up. As simple as it sounds, it fundamentally changes how a business can operate—anytime, from any device with insights to help them make decisions on the fly.”

Xero believes, “The financial web is set to revolutionize financial services to small businesses, simplifying and streamlining services to give small business owners better insights into their business and access to capital. It frees up businesses to focus on what they do best. And it allows banks to innovate fast and quickly deliver new services, tools, and technology to their customers.”