Entrepreneurs, Make the Most of Your Vacation With These Six Tips

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Learn how to actually disconnect if you want to come back energized and ready for new challenges.

Published in Inc.

As an entrepreneur, you've probably had to shelve your vacation plans on several occasions, when faced with a business emergency or if you simply didn't have anyone to leave in charge and trust to run things smoothly in your absence. The few times you did manage to go on vacation, you found you were unable to completely disconnect, constantly worrying about your business and always checking your phone and email. Under these conditions, time off from work can end up feeling even more stressful instead of allowing you the opportunity to relax and recharge.

These six entrepreneurs explain why leaving work at work is crucial for your health and that of your business, and offer their best tips on how even the busiest entrepreneur can make the most of their vacation.

Disconnect for real.

Truly unplugging has become increasingly difficult when you have instant internet access almost anywhere in the world. Going on vacation in an area without coverage may be the only way to truly disconnect.

"I recently took a five-day trip to an area with no cell service and no Wi-Fi, and it was a more productive time to relax than longer trips where I had my cell by my side," says Rachel Beider, founder of Massage Williamsburg, Massage Greenpoint and Massage Outpost. "Taking a few days to seriously unplug adds so much value to a vacation."

Set a rule to not create more work.

"I love the idea of disconnecting entirely, but I can't," says Passport Co-founder and COO Aaron Schwartz. "So, when I take a vacation, I set a very specific rule and ask my team to hold me to it."

More specifically, Schwartz stays away from creating any new projects while away. "I am allowed to reply to emails and Slack in order to 'unblock' projects. But I'm not allowed to create work for myself or anyone. The team only brings critical work to my attention, and I feel energized because I'm only doing priority work," he explains.

Take more frequent, shorter vacations.

Many entrepreneurs find it difficult to go on vacation longer than a couple of days at a time, so "taking more two- to three-night getaways can be more productive and beneficial than taking one or two extended vacations," believes Shawn Schulze, president of HomeArea.com.

"It's enough time to get away and recharge, but also not so long that you feel overwhelmed when getting back into the swing of things," he says.

Utilize travel time for work.

Another way of making the most of your vacation, but not feeling completely cut off from work, is to use any periods of inactivity to get things done.

"I love to use airplane or other travel time to get work done," says Network Under 40 Founder Darrah Brustein "It frees me up to feel less anxious about not working during my vacation, and I often get into a flow because no one is trying to call or speak to me."

Be in the moment.

Just going away on vacation is not enough if you're not able to let go of your worries and enjoy the moment, according to Zev Herman, sales manager of Superior Lighting. "I find the best way to relax is to do something immersive that forces you to be in the moment. Snorkeling and swimming are great. Being with your family is obviously the most important thing."

Chances are that if you actually stop and take a breath, you will get more creative, interesting ideas than when you're overwhelmed with work in a stuffy office. "If you carry a notebook, you can grab an idea and feel confident you can return to it later," Herman adds.

Make it memorable.

"As an entrepreneur, time away from the office is a precious, way-too-limited resource. Make your vacations count by doing something you're going to look back on fondly," says Brittany Hodak, co-founder of The Superfan Company.

According to Hodak, spending a memorable vacation in a place you enjoy will not only help you relax but also serve as a goal for renewed productivity and hard work when you come back. "When you're back in the grind, you can break out pictures and say, 'That was incredible. I've got to keep plugging away at X so I can go back there soon.' It becomes a reward in the moment and a goal for the future."

Pitching The Press: A Simple Strategy For Small Businesses To Grow With Media Coverage

 Photo by  rawpixel  on  Unsplash

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

I wrote this article for Forbes, originally published here.

As a small business, getting the press coverage you need to support your company's growth can be frustrating and challenging — especially if you've put out press releases or emailed your favorite publications and heard nothing but radio silence in return. I have found a ton of success in getting press using the following method, which entrepreneurs can utilize to bypass all the noise and get straight to the source.

First, find your angle and what you'd like to talk about. Maybe it's a current event or trend, or something you've noticed about your customers or clients, or an observation about a shift or change in your industry. It could also be common mistakes people make when choosing your service or product, things people may not know about your field or a behind-the-scenes look at the day-to-day of your kind of business. The point of press is to bring traffic to your website, establish yourself as a professional in your industry and give you credibility with your customers. Plus, it provides you with something tangible to share on social media that clients can engage with and be excited about. To be written about, or even just to be quoted in an article, is a win-win all around.

But here's something not everyone knows: Reaching out to magazines directly can be a total waste of time.

Chances are, the people reading your emails to websites or magazines don't know — or perhaps don't care — who you are or what you do. Instead, seek out the writers who have written articles about the topic you're discussing, specifically in the publications or sites that interest you. Contacting writers is the key here because they always need sources and pitches, and they already have sold this topic or concept to the magazine or site before. You can find individual writers by searching for the topic by publication, in the News section of Google. This increases your chances of identifying a writer with a connection to the site or publication.

For example, if I want to establish myself online as a professional by being quoted in a particular newspaper, I might research who's written for that paper on a topic similar to the one I'd like to comment on. You might think that is redundant, but it's actually helpful to reach out regarding something similar because the writer has experience pitching or selling that type of story to their publisher. For massage therapists like me, these search terms might look like, "back pain, anxiety, [newspaper name]." For a gym owner, it could look like a recent fitness trend to comment on in a health magazine. A chiropractor might look for "weight lifting injuries" in the Times. A psychologist might search for who's written about stress or PTSD recently for an industry journal.

After you've identified a writer who has written for the desired publication or site within the last six months, reach out to them directly. Most journalists have a website, a Twitter account or other online presence with a contact form or public email address for tips. When you email them, be sure to mention that you enjoyed a recent article of theirs and that you've noticed this trend in your clients/this industry shift/this mistake people make, etc. Reference the topic that interests you that you'd like to discuss, and be brief and to the point. Your reach-out email should not be longer than four or five sentences. Authenticity is important — try not to be "salesy," as this is a very soft pitch. You don't need to write the article for them. Your goal is to offer your idea and ask if they are interested in researching it further.

If the writer is interested, they may respond to you with lots of questions. It will be helpful to also provide your new contact with other industry leaders they could interview as well. Reach out to different writers at several publications on the same or a similar topic until one bites. Make sure your email includes your name, contact info and website in the signature line, so that the writer can link to you or get in touch for follow-ups. Don't be discouraged if you don't hear back right away; it's a numbers game.

I have successfully used this method to get quotes published — and in turn, generate interest for my business — in various mainstream magazines and newspapers. It truly pays off when you become the go-to person for insider insights about your industry.

Nine Tips For Hiring A COO Who Is The Best Fit For Your Business, from FORBES

If your business has grown substantially since it was founded, you may be contemplating hiring a chief operations officer (COO). If so, congratulations. This is a big step. It's also one that should be taken seriously, as a COO will help run the organization so that you can focus on broader business goals.

1. Define your vision.

Since there is a huge variety in what a COO does, hiring for the position can be tricky. Here are two tactical steps I would take when looking to hire a COO. First, have a vision. COOs should have a defined vision with which to work. COOs can certainly contribute to refining or even reinventing a vision, but it's best to have one predefined by the top leader. Some of the most successful COOs are people who successfully executed on a predefined strategy. Second, think creatively. Understand that a candidate with years of COO experience may not fit your company's culture or know how to effectively engage your organization's operating model. On the other hand, a divergent candidate with the right skills could breathe new life into the leadership suite. - Robert J ChoiRJC & Company Transformation Consultants

2. Identify your needs and compensate well.

Determine if you should look for a COO from within the company or hire someone from outside. While an insider will come with institutional knowledge, an outsider will bring a fresh perspective. Unfortunately, there are instances of both succeeding and failing. Simplify the process by defining your needs at the onset. Visualize where you want your business to be five years from now and look at how a new COO fits into the scheme of things. Create a detailed job description geared toward the future and look for potential candidates accordingly. To attract the best, you will need to offer a competitive salary. Gauge salary norms by going through job listings from competitors and on online platforms such as PayScale.com and Salary.com, or by networking with peers from your industry. - Derek RobinsonTop Notch Dezigns

3. Make a wish list.

When looking for my COO, I made a detailed list of everything I wanted. Through this list, I got very clear on the dynamics and expectations for our relationship. I looked for someone who would honor the experience and passion of our team and be able to find the balance of leveraging their strengths, helping each team member become more successful than they could ever imagine while stepping into leadership. I wanted someone who had shared values around family, passion, equality and tolerance. They needed to be oriented toward growth and results: for themselves, for our team and for the company. Lastly, I wanted someone who was comfortable challenging me and telling me what they really think. - Rachel BeiderMassage Greenpoint, Massage Williamsburg, Massage Outpost

4. Don't wing it.

If you are in a place where you can hire a COO, then that is a good sign for your business. It means your business is more than just operating; it is thriving. When you begin your search, have a plan of attack. A COO is hired to handle daily operations so that the CEO can work on the business’s long-term strategy and goals. A COO is your second in command, which means the person you hire needs to be able think independently and stay in sync with your goals, mission and brand when talking to stakeholders, even if the person disagrees with your thinking in private. With this being understood, clearly outline the duties of the COO. Adding another leader to the mix can cause confusion inside and outside the company, as well as a loss of time and resources, if the position is not clearly defined. Also, determine what type of experiences and skills you want the person in this role to possess. It’s never a good idea to have a carbon copy of yourself. You want someone to challenge your ideas and bring new ones to the table. Now that you know what you want and need, look at the people within your organization to see if anyone fits the bill. This can be a good approach because you already know that you can work with this person effectively. However, this can cause resentment among other employees. Hiring an outside candidate means fresh ideas. Regardless of what route you take, remember that the CEO-COO power structure is difficult, and takes even more finesse to work well in smaller organizations. For this to truly work for your organization, relinquish some control to the COO but make it crystal clear that they must always follow your lead. - Blair ThomaseMerchantBroker

5. Ask how they are qualified.

Any officer you hire is going to be your right hand, and a COO is your go-to person between you and the people running your company. But you have to ask yourself if a resume full of work experience can tell you anything about that person's character, work ethic or desire to succeed. We live in a world of successful business owners and startups, so sometimes your best COO may currently be working. While an unemployed candidate could look enticing, they may not have the drive you need for someone on your board. Create relationships with people who are successful in fields that require traits that you need in an officer, and offer board positions to people who are currently extremely successful at what they do. A chief position is not a job, it is a creative role that requires action. - Jason CriddleJason Criddle and Associates

 

6. Move slowly.

Finding a good COO for your company is, without exaggeration, as important as finding the right spouse. You need to be in a similar mindset when making this decision because both are long-term commitments with extremely high stakes. My recommendation is to take your time finding the proper candidate and thoroughly vet him or her before making the decision. It's a good idea to pick someone who has been working for your company for a long time and understands the way it functions and the way you think. You don't necessarily want someone who thinks the same as you, but you do want someone who can work with you and shares your vision. Do not rush this decision under any circumstances. I cannot stress this enough. You have to take the time to know that he or she will be competent and a good fit. - Bryce WelkerCrush The PM Exam

7. Get referrals and understand their values.

The best employees often come from those we know, as this ensures similar values and brand alignment. When looking for a winning candidate for any job, it’s important to understand both the hard and soft skills needed, as well as the values framework that is best for the business. An example is the thinking that young people are great at entrepreneurial “work all the time” environments, but this is less feasible when they grow up and have families themselves. This doesn’t mean you need to hire a COO that doesn't have the experience you need. What’s important is understanding which values and corresponding actions are required for a successful candidate at different levels of the organization. - Baruch LabunskiRank Secure

8. Review their track record.The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. Why not let history verify what the candidate tells you? Anyone applying to be COO needs to go through extensive background checks. You’re not just looking for an employee, you’re looking for a partner and someone you can trust to manage your business. The best way to determine the best candidate for this position is to simply look at their track record. What other businesses have they served as COO? How successful was that company under his or her management? Are there any online reviews about that company? Most importantly, what does that company’s financial situation look like? These are all questions you need to ask about the person you're considering to help run your company. Ultimately, that will tell you how they will treat your business. -  Codie Sanchez,  Www.CodieSanchez.com

9. Look for growth and hunger.

Do your research. If there aren't members of your own management team who have shown growth and a well-rounded education, look for qualities like this in similar industries. Pay attention to your competition and the employment pool. The candidates who have grown through departments in their businesses, learning different facets of the same company and rising through the ranks each time, are poised for growth and possess hunger that can be harnessed for moving your business forward. Our COO began in a labor position on the production floor right out of high school, rose to manager, cross-trained to sales and made it to VP of sales before accepting the COO position. He accepted every opportunity for training, education and challenge that we threw his way with astronomical results. - Brandon StapperNonstop Signs

Article published in FORBES

10 Ways to Dazzle Your Customers with an In-Store Experience

Making sure your customers have the best experience when they shop at your brick-and-mortar location will turn them into loyal consumers who return frequently and buy even more from your store.

That’s why we asked 10 successful entrepreneurs from Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) the following question:

Q. Brick-and-mortar stores have advantages over their online counterparts. What is one way you can make sure customers have a positive in–store experience they’ll want to repeat?

1. Focus on customer experience

 

For brick and mortar stores to survive in the age of online shopping, they need to focus on what they do best: providing product advice and insider knowledge like online sites never can. Nothing beats this. I browse in-store because it is enjoyable, and when accompanied by knowledgeable salespeople, I’ll take home 10 times more things than I would if I am just looking for a specific item online. —Vanessa NornbergMetal Mafia

2. Offer superior service

 

When you own a brick-and-mortar store, you can provide yourcustomers with high-touch and personalized customer service that they would not be able to get in an online setting. You can show different product demonstrations, offer in–store VIP programs and events, reconnect with old customers, and consider the overall customer experience from their perspective. —Kristin MarquetCreative Development Agency, LLC

3. Take advantage of the face-to-face encounter

 

If customers trust you, they will be loyal to you. That’s why transparency is so important. Keeping information secret and not being honest about your intentions will damage your relationship with customers. With a brick-and-mortar store, you have a chance to genuinely get to know your customers and their needs. Don’t treat them like any other patron. Smile and engage them, then find out their names and what brings them into your store. —Blair ThomaseMerchantBroker

4. Observe, then suggest

 

One thing still missing (even with 24/7 customer service chats and phones) is the ability for a human being to make observations and suggest products. Websites can suggest other products that other customers frequently buy together, but that is not the same as saying, “Hey, I notice your dog is pulling you around the store. Can I offer a suggestion for a training product that might help with that?” —Alisha Navarro2 Hounds Design

5. Be sensitive to customers‘ shopping style

 

My favorite stores have this in common: The staff are attentive but not overly so. They don’t ask me if I need help every two minutes, but when I do need help, they know the stock well enough to respond intelligently. Sensitivity to the customer’s social preferences is key, and it’s something that online retail can’t replicate. —Vik PatelFuture Hosting

 

6. Make eye contact

 

One strong way to make sure customers have a glowingly positive in–store experience is training your staff to make eye contact and to smile. At my massage studio, our goal is to be “the best part of our clients’ day, every day.” —Rachel BeiderMassage Greenpoint

 

7. Be polite and offer free swag

 

We are primarily an online retailer, but we do get local pickup orders and it is essential that we wow them! We carry their items to the car for them and give them a free lanyard of their favorite sports team (Go Miami Heat!). Some customer place pick-up orders just to come see us, even though they know we offer free delivery. —Michael BarnhillSpecialist ID 

 

8. Provide in-store entertainment

 

Apple has done an incredible job with this, providing in–storeentertainment to their customers and making the environment enjoyable. Use digital displays, interactive games, and strong music that appeal to your target audience’s psychographics. As part of entertaining them, make sure you appeal to the five senses, with enticing scents, engaging visuals, and of course, fun music. —Marcela De VivoMulligan Funding

9. Let them test your products

 

Have presentations and demonstrations, or offer free samples of your product. Give people a hands-on experience that the internet can’t give them. No matter how big or small you are, you can take a tip from the big innovators like Apple. An Apple Store is more than a distribution point; it is an experience. To compete with the internet, you need to experiment with creative options. —Zev HermanSuperior Lighting

10. Design a welcoming space

 

In our mattress showrooms, we’ve trained our staff as sleep specialists to educate customers about our products and provide strategies for improving their sleep habits. We encourage customers to come in and take a nap, providing them with a space they can enjoy. For your retail store, design a welcoming space that encourages customers to come in, learn more about yourbrand and products, and simply relax. —Firas KittanehAmerisleep

 

More at: https://www.allbusiness.com/10-ways-to-dazzle-customers-in-store-experience-116438-1.html

Streamlining your Startup - Rachel Beider on Small Business Trends

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Ensuring your business flows effectively is key to the success of your company. In the first few years of any business, it can be difficult to achieve a new level of efficiency that you are comfortable with, and that helps your operations steadily keep up with demand. That’s why we asked 15 entrepreneurs from the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) the following:

“How can you successfully streamline operations when there’s so much else to focus on in the first few years of business?

 

How to Streamline Operations at Your Startup

Here’s what YEC community members had to say:

1. Create an Operations Manual and Software

“Streamline your efforts by creating a dynamic manual of operations and by using free management software, such as Podio, to get information out of your head and make it more easily accessible to your growing team. This also helps create generative thinking to problem solve.” ~ Rachel BeiderMassage GreenpointMassage Williamsburg

 

2. Review Processes Often

“When processes aren’t streamlined, your business will be faced with customer complaints, frustrated employees, mistakes, delays and wasted resources. A business, especially a small one or a startup, can’t afford to not streamline processes. A good place to start is with designating an employee to regularly map and analyze processes to avoid inefficiencies, low productivity and poor customer satisfaction. ” ~ Blair ThomaseMerchantBroker

 

3. Process, Document, Train

“The only way to build and scale a company is to create replicable processes and document them. Otherwise, employee turnover will lead to massive brain drain and your team will be re-learning from mistakes that have been made before. Ensure the team has access to these documents, and train new employees during onboarding. Teach people that if a process breaks, they need to fix and document the changes. ” ~ Jonathan GassNomad Financial

4. Implement Automation Technology

“You can implement various platforms and tools that automate tasks for you. This maintains a streamlined organization so you don’t add people just to do very basic, yet time-consuming tasks. ” ~ Serenity GibbonsCalendar.com

5. Make Operations a Priority

“One of your early hires should be a natural operations person, even if that’s not their formal role. What you’re looking for is the type of person that naturally organizes as they go, and if you give them the reins to do that, they will. ” ~ Tim ChavesZipBooks Accounting Software

6. Look for Multifaceted Talent

“Look to bring on talent that can assist in multiple areas or that is willing to learn more skills to do so. This can keep the streamlined effect while allowing you the time to focus on strategy and execution. ” ~ Drew HendricksButtercup

 

7. Have a Mentor

“Use a mentor to help you focus on the process and operations. It helps to have an expert guide your work and show you what you may not see. ” ~ Murray NewlandsChattyPeople

8. Hire the Right People

“There are a lot of processes you can streamline yourself — but there’s nothing like efficient, hard-working employees to make those processes easier for you. If you’re filling your company with out-of-the-box thinkers who believe in the mission of your company, you’re going to see processes streamlining left and right.” ~ Kevin ConnerBroadbandSearch

9. Focus on Systems Over Strategies

“The first thing is to focus on your systems over your strategies in order to streamline the process. How are you going to track your revenue and what systems pertain to helping you track ROI? Those are the systems that need to be set up first so they can support you during the tough times of your business. Your systems will sustain your business and propel it forward.” ~ Sweta PatelSilicon Valley Startup Marketing

10. Find the Bottleneck and Fix It

“Pick the single biggest bottleneck in your company and start there. If you don’t know what this is, consider your activities and determine whether that activity yields the highest value and makes the best use of your time. If your time is wrapped up in a repetitive task, you can choose to delegate this responsibility, automate parts of the process or systematize it to make it as fluid as possible.” ~ David CiccarelliVoices.com

11. Take a Granular Approach

“Take a more granular approach and look for ways to streamline the smaller things involved with running a business. Maybe you find a way that your team can get customers taken care of more quickly and efficiently, as one brief example. Then, move on to the next operational point. That usually will give you the time to focus on all of the other items in the first few years.” ~ Andrew SchrageMoney Crashers Personal Finance

12. Keep Asking What You Don’t Need

“When you keep adding on, whether it’s staff, equipment or any type of tool or system, you’re making things more complicated. Sometimes this is necessary and beneficial, but streamlining requires you to do the opposite. In any process or project, ask what could be cut back and simplified. This often helps you save time and reduce costs. ” ~ Kalin KassabovProTexting

13. Do Constant Research

“Many people have attempted similar business ventures and operations with varying degrees of success. In order to capitalize on this, it’s important to study your peers, rivals and mentors. This is a great way to ascertain what aspects of operations can be streamlined without negative ramifications, almost like a form of A/B testing. If others have attempted similar strategies, learn from them.” ~ Bryce WelkerCPA Exam Guy

14. Start From Day One

“Streamlining and automation is not something you should “start someday,” it is a practice that is best applied when it is implemented from the very beginning and routinely exercised. Streamlining grows increasingly difficult the further you are in your business. Take simple steps to automate your business and make them a routine, you will thank yourself later for starting early in this process.” ~ Diego OrjuelaCables & Sensors

15. Outsource, Outsource, Outsource

“There will be many things that you’re not an expert in, and whether it’s accounting or IT, work with a consultant or agency that knows what they’re doing. You’ll be much more effective in organizing the operations of your business if you’re able to step back and manage several functions and their relative workflows, as opposed to actually learning about and doing all this work yourself. ” ~ Roger LeeCaptain401

 

Article on SmallBizTrends

How to Support an Employee during a Rough Patch: SmartBrief incl Rachel Beider

 Photo by Jeremy Bishop from Unsplash

Photo by Jeremy Bishop from Unsplash

Q: How can you show your support for an employee you notice going through a rough patch without overstepping your boundaries?

1. Make a kind gesture  

A kind gesture can go a long way towards showing an employee you care and want to support them. Having soup delivered when they are homesick or sending a quick video message to say hello or to make them laugh are simple, inexpensive ways to show that you’re thinking of them. -- Mark KrassnerExpectful

2. Create a safe space  

The work begins in culture setting before the rough patch ever begins. Have you created a culture of authenticity, vulnerability and a real human touch? With those in place, an employee going through a rough patch can know that it's a safe space, that you really care, and you're there for support. With a safe space, you can shift into listening and even coaching if it makes sense. -- Jonathan Gass, Nomad Financial

3. Acknowledge the situation

Sometimes the simple act of showing that you are listening and are there if they need you is all it takes. A simple acknowledgment of the situation, "Hey, I know you are going through a tough time," followed by, "let me know if there is anything I can do," is enough for that person to reach out if necessary without you overstepping your boundaries. -- Jen Brown, The Engaging Educator

4. Listen without judgment or trying to fix things

In business, we tend to be biased towards action and problem-solving. It can drive us nuts to be presented with a problem that seems to lacks a solution. Listening is the solution. Listening is the be-all and end-all. While listening, do your best to avoid judging or trying to fix things. Instead, focus on asking questions and summarizing what your employee is saying. -- Kevin TaoNeuEve

5. Let them know their job is secure

I don't want an employee to have to worry about losing their job during a difficult time. I let them know that I want them to take care of themselves and work through any issue they may be facing. I find that the act of standing by an employee during a hardship builds loyalty. -- Brian GreenbergTrue Blue Life Insurance

6. Be a human being

Talk to your employee, ask them how they are doing, tell them you notice they seem to be having a hard time and listen to them as a caring friend would. Ask if there’s anything they need or that you can do for them. Be kind and respectful, and make sure they know that you’re there for them. -- Rachel BeiderMassage Greenpoint, Massage Williamsburg

7. Offer flexibility  

Employees may not be able to share their problems with you, and that can make it hard to support them. But when it's obvious they're stressed, you can always discreetly help by allowing more flexibility in their schedule and on their projects. This will allow them to deal with their issue in their way. -- Adam SteeleLoganix

8. Take them to lunch

Sometimes removing the employee from the work environment will allow them to feel more comfortable and open up on their own. Just ask how they're doing and what is going on, but do not press if they want to talk as they will on their own terms. Even if they never actually express the rough time they are going through, the one-on-one time outside of the office can help them feel better. -- Stanley MeytinTrue Film Production

9. Prioritize their personal needs

Be a good listener when your colleague wants to talk. While you may have business to discuss during a one-on-one, when someone is going through a rough time, you need to demonstrate that work can wait. Show some humanity and defer the business talk for another time. By putting yourself in their shoes in that moment, you can get some understanding of their needs and help them best you can. -- David CiccarelliVoices.com

10. Ask what you can do  

While you can't necessarily ask them what's wrong, you can ask if there is anything you can provide or do that would help them. Offering assistance is a way to open the conversation and let them know you are there. That's enough. Then, it's up to them to share or ask for something so you know how you can help. -- Drew HendricksButtercup

Article on SmartBrief.com

Should businesses comment on politics? Here’s what eight entrepreneurs have to say.

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1. Don’t do it unless your business is directly involved in politics.

Unless your business is heavily and directly involved in the political industry, it’s wise to keep your thoughts to yourself. You risk alienating a percentage of your customer base. For what? To express your personal opinions via your professional platform? If you want to be outspoken about politics, do it via your own personal brand. – Ali MahvanSharebert

2. Choose your battles and avoid aligning with a party.

No company can afford to stay completely out of political issues. Many issues that are described as ‘political’ are in reality about equality, social justice and climate change. Staying on the sidelines has become the same as taking a side, and it’s one that could alienate your employees. However, companies should avoid aligning with specific political parties. – Amishi Takalkar, NAILBITER

3. Don’t cause unnecessary damage to your brand.

Companies should stay as much out of political issues as possible. There is no benefit to a business choosing a side. By going political you can only do damage, whether it’s be ostracizing customers who don’t agree, or it may be seen as opportunistic to use a political event as a chance to sell. Whatever the case, it can only do damage. – Baruch LabunskiRank Secure

4. If you do, test your messaging to avoid alienating your tribe.

There are some huge opportunities in political marketing, for those who are brave enough to seek them. Politics is expressing a desire to impact the world around us. That’s why it resonates with us. Audiences are very sensitive to phrasing and implications, so test your messaging out by sending it to a small base of friends you trust. Their feedback will help you avoid an unintentional firestorm. – Kevin TaoNeuEve

5. Take a moral stance, not a political one.

A company is not a person despite what your accountant or lawyer tells you. It’s a group of people that collectively make up an entity. Not every team member will agree politically, so don’t go out making claims that can potentially cause rifts internally. Remember, morals and politics are two different things. Take a moral stand, not a political stand. – Stanley MeytinTrue Film Production

6. Don’t comment unless the issue directly impacts your business.

My company’s server hosting customers understood that the end of net neutrality would hurt their businesses. We took a strong stand on that issue because the removal of net neutrality regulations affects our clients and the internet as a whole. Outside of unifying industry-relevant issues like net neutrality, entrepreneurs should think twice before addressing sensitive political issues. – Vik PatelFuture Hosting

7. Take social stances to be on the right side of history.

Companies can and should take a political stance in instances of bigotry, sexism, homophobia or any sort of prejudice. The best practice to follow is to be on the right side of history; have empathy and embrace what makes diversity beautiful. – Rachel BeiderMassage Greenpoint

8. Do what feels right.

Companies should never feel pressured to speak up simply because they feel like they should, but don’t feel too comfortable. These types of situations turn out badly when it’s based on an emotional whim. Freedom of speech is the freedom to speak or not speak. Reflect before choosing to make a statement (or not make one) and think through the outcome and fully understand why you’re doing it. – Cassie PetreyCrowd Surf

 

More on: https://thenextweb.com/contributors/2018/03/30/businesses-comment-politics-heres-eight-entrepreneurs-say/

Going With Your Gut: Why You Shouldn't Rush Into a Career - by: Rachel Beider for Forbes

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Many people don't have the clarity of knowing what they want to do after college, and so many just wing it. Today, more Americans have college degrees than ever before, with one-third holding a four-year degree, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Yet, the majority of college graduates do not find employment in their field. 

We frequently discuss and sometimes place blame on job market trends for how we fit into our changing world of work. But what is less often considered are the changes and fluctuations within ourselves that can drastically alter the course of our careers. Often this comes after a period of feeling stuck, overwhelmed or burned out.

Instead of rushing into a career, take the time to let it find you through self-exploration, travel and diverse immersive experiences. I know firsthand that life experiences can be the stepping stones that lead you to a career you are truly passionate about.

 

I earned a photography degree in 2005 and spent years in working every part-time photography job imaginable. To make ends meet, I also worked as a nanny, dog walker, server and bartender, as well as in retail shops and office jobs — all while hustling to get my own photography gigs. I was exhausted and work was inconsistent.

On a chilly day in March 2005, I helped an elderly man find his route on the subway. This simple act of kindness caught the attention of a tall, cute man in his twenties, who was heading in the same direction on the L train. I later learned his name was Danny. As I entered the train, I noticed Danny looking at me as I put my headphones in, smiling to myself. I took the opportunity during the ride to steal glimpses at him. I thought for a moment about speaking to him but reluctantly got off the train at my stop. He gave me a longing look, like he wanted to say something too.

As I walked home to my apartment in the East Village, I immediately regretted my decision to not be bolder and speak to him. Feeling frustrated, I decided to write a Missed Connections post on Craigslist. It was a long shot, but as a hopeless romantic, I felt I may as well give it a try. When he wrote back the same day, I was excited, nervous and overjoyed. After some back and forth emails, we quickly realized we were both the same age and has a lot in common. We spoke on the phone for a couple of hours and decided to meet at Yaffa Cafe on St. Marks. We stayed up late, locked in the kind of deep conversation rarely had with a stranger, talking about our lives, work, friends and families, and I felt immediately connected to him.

While my romantic relationship blossomed, professionally I felt extremely lost and depressed. The inconsistent work was exhausting and gave me anxiety. When Danny asked me to join him on a trip to India and Southeast Asia, I added shifts as a cocktail waitress to save for the trip, storing my pay in the remnants of old film development canisters that lined my book shelves.

Our trip was one adventure after the next, though physically quite taxing. After carrying a heavy backpack and sleeping in cheap hostels for months, I jumped at the chance to take a Thai massage class in Thailand. I had no idea I would fall in love with the flow and movement myself.

When we came home from our trip, I enrolled full-time at The Swedish Institute of Massage Therapy. My business and career that followed would not exist today if not for that Missed Connection post. While Danny and I ended up moving in different directions with our lives, meeting him carved the path to discovering a career I fell in love with instead.

That trip changed my life and opened me up to so many possibilities that were previously unimaginable. It took getting out of my comfort zone, taking a risk and admitting what was working and what wasn't working for me in my career. I discovered similarities between photography and massage, oddly enough. Certain qualities easily translated from one profession to the other. I love working with my hands, with people and not having a standard 9-to-5 desk job. The transition felt seamless, like it was meant to be.

Most successful entrepreneurs and individuals I've spoken to over the years didn't make a career change because they were excited or happy. It came from a place of frustration, annoyance, not feeling satisfied and wanting something to change. While listening to your inner voice to find your career, it's important to be open to new ideas and directions and have a willingness to take chances regardless of where you are. Let your career find you by staying open to opportunities as they arise. Your career path will likely change as you do.

Article Written by Rachel Beider as seen on Forbes.com

The Must-Have Traits of a COO: Rachel Beider in Forbes

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Hiring a chief operating officer (COO) can be a daunting task for any business. Much of the operations lean on their shoulders, and you need to have consummate trust in their abilities. You want someone who is professional, yet in touch with your customers as well as your employees. It can be overwhelming to choose.

Whether you are scanning the global market or looking locally for a COO, there are some innate traits that go into ensuring you hire the best. Although the costs of a bad hire are sometimes difficult to quantify, they are definitely hard to ignore in terms of staff morale, productivity, and ultimately, financial losses.

Below, leading members of Young Entrepreneur Council give some insight into what makes for a great COO, whether it’s experience, attention to detail, integrity or other essential traits.

Members of Young Entrepreneur Council share the top things every founder should look for in a COO.

1. Integrity And Honesty

Hire someone who has high integrity, honesty, and is hardworking and willing to learn rather than someone who has a ton of experience. I interviewed a few candidates for my COO position and ended up hiring someone who is extremely dependable, fair, honest, and interested in the success of my company. We have a great work dynamic and he truly compliments areas that I need help with. - Rachel BeiderMassage Greenpoint

2. Being Able To Cross The T's And Dot The I's

In general, founders are excited by big ideas. A COO should balance out that visionary tendency with practical follow-through. The perfect COO for a startup is someone who can take the ideas of plans of the CEO, break them down into actionable steps, and ensure that they're done efficiently. With the right balance of a grounded CEO and a practical-but-ambitious COO, startups can go far. - Brennan WhiteCortex

3. A Lover Of Systems

I've founded two companies, and in each, I have brought on a different COO. There are a few things they have in common that made them successful: They love details, they're meticulous, they do what they say they'll do, and they are lovers of creating systems to make the company operate better as a whole, whether it's with or without them. - Darrah BrusteinNetwork Under 40

4. A Drive For Data And Actionable Metrics

To make sure daily operations are running in the most optimal conditions, a COO should utilize strategies based on data-driven decisions and actionable metrics. A COO should never rely on vanity metrics that show nothing valuable, such as having 800 sign ups for a service but only a few paying customers. Actionable metrics are more work, but are the only way to effectively evaluate and set goals. - Kristopher JonesLSEO.com

5. A Strategic Vision

It helps to get a COO with considerable strategic vision because they provide the framework for your overall vision and put a definition to it along with actionable steps. They can find the people to achieve that strategy and oversee their execution. I've found that a COO with considerable experience helped to direct where I was headed with my startup and offered new insights. - John RamptonDue

6. The Visionary And Integrator Archetypes

In Rocket Fuel: The One Essential Combination That Will Get You More of What You Want from Your Business by Gino Wickman and Mark C. Winters, the case is made that a great business team requires a "visionary" and an "integrator." When these archetypes work together, they have effective synergy. Even if the founder isn't one of these, it’s good to notice what qualities they embody. Finding a COO who complements the founder means that the management team has a fuller, more diverse set of skills. - Peggy ShellCreative Alignments

7. The Right Mindset

As a venture studio partner, I see many startups focusing on skill set when hiring an appropriate operator, which often leads to major issues down the road, like conflict between mindsets. You have to make sure the attitude of your operator is aligned with the key strategic priorities and commercial impact of the decisions that are made by the business. - Artur KiulianColab

8. Experience Growing A Business

The one major skill you should look for in a COO is that he or she have experience with actually expanding and growing a small business or other venture. After all, that's going to be a major part of their work for you if you bring them on. They should have had previous experiences where they took an organization from its infancy to higher growth, and from medium success to over the top success. - Andrew SchrageMoney Crashers Personal Finance

9. A People Person

COOs are useless if they cannot connect with people. As enforcers and systems developers, they implement and create ways to operate more efficiently. If they cannot connect with the people whom these systems affect, the chances of success and ROI are very slim. Communication is paramount, and being a cheerleader is preferred. Everyone wants solutions that make a system run smoother with less effort. - Matthew CapalaSearch Decoder

 

10. Attention To Detail And Bluntness

I need a COO with close attention to detail. If he/she notices all the small issues, it frees me up to focus on the big picture. He/she can fix daily problems while I worry about where my company is going long-term. It's helpful to have a COO who tells it exactly like it is. If they're handling the gritty details of what's going on in my organization, I want them to come to me with total honesty. - Kevin ConnerBroadbandSearch

11. A Keen Understanding Of Your Own Limitations

A COO is an extension of your hands and the person who accomplishes what you cannot. They fill in your deficiencies, whatever they may be (sales, managerial, technical). You are hiring someone to fill the business needs created by the inescapable fact that you are an imperfect person and the business requires more than you can give. The one thing you must know when trying to hire a COO is yourself. - Matthew NederlandenSecurity Camera Warehouse

 

As seen in Forbes

How can I find my niche and define what is unique about my personal brand?

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1. Be Genuine But Be Different

People see right through fakers, so make sure your personal brand reflects who you really are. Find what the leading social influencers are doing and find something different to take a different segment of the market. I am in the fitness industry, which is full of individuals with no kids and disposable income. My personal brand is that of a family man who runs two successful companies and raises three kids. – Marc Lobliner, TigerFitness.com and MTS Nutrition

2. Find a Balance Between Passion, Knowledge, Profitability

Everyone is always talking about “niche marketing” like it’s the easiest thing in the world to figure out. Finding a niche is easy, but it’s not so easy to find one that you are interested in, knowledgeable in and also want to create a business around. Before jumping into your next niche focus, be sure it applies to those three factors and that it also shows off your expertise. – Zac Johnson, Blogger

3. Don’t Forget to Be Human

Marketers look around and see competition. Human beings look around and see other human beings. The best personal brands are the ones that make one-to-one connections from which to derive value. Thus, it’s less important to stand out and more beneficial to be human. – Logan Lenz, PartsMarket

4. Answer “What Would Happen If I Stopped Tomorrow?”

To identify what makes your brand unique, ask yourself the question: “If I stopped providing services tomorrow, what would customers miss the most about what I offer?” This is what makes you special and different from other brands. – Rachel Beider, Massage Greenpoint, Massage Williamsburg

5. Do Something You Would Do for Free

The only way to become an industry leader is to do something the very best. That’s easiest when you’re fully enthralled in and passionate about what you do. You’re passionate about snowboarding? Make snowboards. It may take 20 years for you to become successful, and it may never even happen. It sure won’t feel like you wasted 20 years if you spend it doing something you love. – Ali Mahvan, Sharebert

6. Pull Back the Curtain

Publicly share who you are and what you are passionate about as an individual. Demonstrate value surrounding a potential niche by exchanging stories and knowledge with others who are already in it. Learn from those experiences and test other variables before deciding if that is what you want to focus on. Most importantly, be yourself. Authenticity increases the value of every personal brand. – Kage Spatz, Spacetwin

7. Don’t Force It

The best way to find a niche is to simply do your job and isolate your strengths. Then expand on those. Don’t chase the latest news story and build your niche around it. Instead, find what interests you and what you have a track record of success doing, and become an expert and opinion leader. – Ryan Bradley, Koester & Bradley, LLP

8. Determine Your Value-Add

 

As an entrepreneur, there is something specific to the value you bring to your company, relationships and areas in which you serve. Identify your unique skills and attributes and expand upon them. Identity the “why” behind your “what” and you will quickly find that which makes your personal brand unique. – Jennifer Mellon, Trustify

9. Create Buyer Personas

It’s better to laser-focus and do an excellent job for a niche group of people than do a mediocre job for everyone. This creates loyal brand ambassadors for your product. A place to start is to create buyer personas for your customers. You don’t have to start from scratch; there are many free online templates that can guide you through the market research. – Syed Balkhi, OptinMonster

10. Know Who You Are and Bet on Yourself

Sometimes, we have to try different things to find our niche and what we’re really good at. Choose something you’re passionate about, already know or are skilled at, and continue to build based on that. Once you’ve found your niche you add your own sauce to it with your personality, which makes it unique. Now your personal brand is easily defined by who you are and what you do. – Daniel Griggs, ATX Web Designs, LLC

11. Talk to Friends, Family and Colleagues

In my experience, the best way to do this is to talk to your friends, colleagues or family members. Ask them what they think you’re good at. How would they describe you? What do they value in you as friends or family? Tell them to be brutally honest with you. I found that my friends and family were really able to give me insight on my personal brand and what I’m able to offer others. – Johnathan Solorzano, Solo Media Group

12. Make It Personal

If a brand is personal it is, by definition, unique: It is an expression of an individual’s interests, values, priorities and style of communication, among other things. If you do not introduce consumers and invite them to experience your world, there is nothing unique for them to witness or enjoy. Let the following rule govern your brand: Stand apart by standing out. – Alexander Westgarth, Westgarth Wines

13. Be True to Who You Are

Dr. Seuss had it right: “No one is youer than you.” Be true to who you are. Authenticity goes a long way in entrepreneurship, as customers and investors see straight through facades. Credibility establishes a strong foundation with others. No need to be a distraction to yourself while trying to be someone you’re not. – Jessica Gibson, Ariel Precision Medicine

14. Run a Competitive Analysis

Take a look at your competitors, compare topics and figure out the intersection between the topics they are talking about and the most popular questions online relating to your industry. Dive deeper into topics people aren’t diving that deeply into, and you’ll be able to find and develop a loyal niche for your personal brand. – Jared Atchison, WPForms

15. Create a Personal Brand Blueprint

Finding your niche can seem daunting but there is an exercise you can do that makes it much easier. Start by creating a three-circle Venn diagram: One lists your strongest skills/expertise, another your strongest passions, and the third lists the market’s strongest needs. Once the lists are done, pick the top choice from each and you now have the theme of your personal brand. – Dan San, Meural

Read more at https://www.business2community.com/branding/15-ways-define-makes-brand-unique-02028672