Check Yourself Before You Buy Exciting Tech You Don’t Really Need

Not every technology is right for your business.
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Everybody wants the new shiny thing. But in the world of business, the next hot piece of tech or game-shaking idea may not be what’s best for your company. While some projects can benefit nearly every company, the majority will only aid those who put the legwork into making them truly fit your organizational needs.

What often makes the difference between a failing company and a growing one is its management — and that means you. That’s not to say that running a successful business means starving yourself of innovative technologies. It’s just crucial that you do your homework, beta test, listen to what your peers are saying, and most importantly, check your intentions for wanting to implement the product or idea. If the answer is that your eyes are bigger than your company’s stomach (and needs), move on. Not every shiny new thing is right for your business, and jumping into something you’re unprepared for is a major risk that rarely pays off.

However, there is technology that has proven itself to be useful to most companies — big and burgeoning. Here are some worth considering.

Head in the clouds.

Data is everything, and there is more of it than ever. We are literally saturating our lives with data. Therefore, I’d venture that every business is using some sort of cloud computing. Whether it’s a small business owner who’s storing information on a free system or a larger company using a more robust system like Salesforce, everyone’s on a cloud.

If you’ve got any information that needs storing and accessing, you’ll want to keep it safe. Do your research, and pick the right service for you. Choosing the wrong one can be catastrophic — especially if you don’t want your company to appear incompetent or sloppy to your clients when what you need isn’t at your fingertips.

Bring your own device.

Freelancers now make up 35 percent of the workforce. In an effort to stay lean, many companies enroll a “bring your own device” (BYOD) system that allows remote, contract and full-time employees to use their personal devices for work purposes. But what businesses save on buying company devices for their staff, they risk in data breaches.

Enter mobile device management, or MDM. MDM is typically a security software used by large companies to secure the data of all devices used by the business — whether company-issued or staff-owned. Through on-premise or cloud-based methods, MDM software monitors and manages devices that include smartphones, tablet computers, laptops and desktop computers to secure emails, confidential documents and other assets owned by corporations.

Part of the reason MDM is one of the most popular technological trends in 2018 is that until recently, the costs for the services were prohibitive for small and medium-sized businesses. Now, with more affordable options for smaller companies, MDM is on the verge of becoming a staple for any business that stores data or uses computers, tablets, and smartphones — which is to say, every business.

Artificial productivity?

Deep learning is based on the idea that machines can learn, adapt and execute in intelligent ways. But is A.I. good for your company?

For businesses like finance or real estate, using machine learning to track trends and identify patterns can be more accurate than someone just crunching numbers. But if you’re a small business owner who owns a diner, a robot cashier may not be as appropriate. On the other hand, a POS (point of sale) system may do the trick for a lot less than a cyborg cashier.

Build relationships.

Don’t pack your bags and prepare for the coming of the machines just yet. There is still a lot artificial intelligence can’t do. Coming up with big ideas is one, and building authentic relationships with people is another.

We’re not just talking about activating sales or getting to know your clients’ need. Don’t forget the people who execute your mission statement. The most important people you should impress aren’t necessarily your clients. Your employees are the ones who take your big ideas and run with them. So, before you run out and buy a machine to fix whatever productivity and sales problems you’re having, do some deep learning of your own. Sometimes, the problems may exist within.

Technology won’t fix what’s wrong.

In other words, if you want to scale or transform a failing company, technology can’t fix internal problems. No cloud-based system, machine or gadget can fix bad management, bad hires and bad morale. Covering up failing infrastructure with pretty tech won’t heal what’s underneath. In fact, most sick companies can be fixed with some simple non-tech advances like taking accountability, making time to listen to your employees, offering them ways they can grow within the company and simply caring about who’s working for you in general.

Moral of this story? Know your company, inside and out. Before you try to expand or repair a failing business, know what you’re trying to do, and ask yourself what your intentions are for considering using a specific tech in your company. You may want to keep up, but you don’t want to fall down getting there.

This article was originally published on Entrepreneur

Grabbing Their Attention Is Great, But Holding Onto It Is Better For Business

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In the age of the internet, brands and businesses are more and more willing to stick their necks out to rise above the fray. The more clever and inventive of these plans have paid off in the form of high engagement and valuable publicity.

Whether it’s IHOP “changing” its name or Wendys offering a year’s supply of chicken nuggets to a Twitter-happy teen, even the most mainstream businesses have shown they aren’t above a headline-grabbing stunt to keep their names on people’s minds. If you’re creative enough to pull it off, you may well put your own business on the way to viral fame.

You might have read about the Manhattan luxury high-rise building offering tickets for a trip to space with the purchase of a penthouse condo. Well, that particular stunt was mine.

Those who read about our space trip offer not only learned about a real estate opportunity in New York that’s out of this world, but further info about my building’s other, more terrestrial units. That local news piece amounted to free publicity for my building, multiplying my visibility without costing me a dime.

That’s all well and good, but it means next to nothing if there’s no step two after you’ve earned people’s attention. You want more than a crowd of onlookers who will wander off when the next big headline hits the blogosphere (and this happens more quickly than you might think). When people look a little closer at you and what you’re about, your publicity projects can actually pay off in the form of lasting business and loyal customers, so long as you have a solid foundation already in place to deliver on your stunt, and the ability to convert that interest into actual sales.

Come From A Solid Foundation

When you do choose to grab people’s attention with something truly intriguing, it turns into a cheap stunt if you aren’t truly offering what you claim. My promise of a journey beyond the atmosphere was no stunt — I fully intend on helping my buyer get a ticket on a Virgin Galactic space trip when the time comes.

It might sound funny for an offer to go to space to be followed up with talk about integrity and solid grounding, but a long-established reputation is what lets people know you’re for real. Any nut can stand on a street corner selling wolf tickets. But if you say you’re going to send your customer to space, on your honor, that’s exactly what you will need to do.

Your building might not be able to offer up such voyages. But scaled all the way down to growing-entrepreneur-sized businesses, the lesson remains the same. Draw people in with promises only if you’re ready and able to back them up. If you can make an unbelievable promise become believable, you’re on the way to truly capturing hearts, minds and, hopefully, wallets.

Be Ready For Those Who Look Closer

Hunting for these kinds of viral opportunities shouldn’t be your primary marketing mission, but coupled with some solid fundamentals, they can be a gateway to larger real estate business. Never forget that no matter how great your strategy is, it’s useless if you don’t have that follow-up conversation ready to go. The attention drawn by this strategy often leads to meaningful discussions about what else you’re selling.

A good hook will get people’s attention, casting a wide net across the entertainment-loving masses both online and off. From that larger, intrigued group, only a fraction will actually follow through and consider what you’re selling. If your underlying model is good and reliable, you may well have some long-term business to show for your one-time viral stunt.

I wouldn’t advocate attention-grabbing, flashy promotions for every landlord. If your margins aren’t as large as those of a luxury high-rise, tailor your marketing budget accordingly, perhaps toward something a little more grounded. That’s not to say you shouldn’t aim high, just that you should stay within realistic means.

Ambition is often rewarded in the viral marketing era, but in a world where flashes in the pan come and go at lightning speed, such a promotion will be forgotten more quickly than it arose if you don’t have a real, formidable business to back it up.

This article was originally published on Forbes

Your Business’ Most Precious Asset is Your Reputation

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Making a splash, as a growing business, can give you a big leg up as you develop your reputation. A great publicity move can pay for itself many times over, especially if you’re starting with zero public awareness. But if you think the heavy lifting is over once you’ve gotten some eyeballs on you, that’s a grave mistake. Attention is great, but it should be the first step towards the real gains that won’t come from one spotlight-grabbing move alone.

A reputation is something built over years and years of consistent behavior. Delivering on business promises is a major aspect of it. The way you treat employees is another element. But of all the aspects that go into a reputation, the way you respond to challenges is perhaps its most visible manifestation. Call it gumption, call it grit, call it character, call it whatever you want, but make no mistake: this is the unshakeable foundation of any successful business.

A growing business’ leadership should be vigilantly aware of anything that could hurt their reputation, no matter how small. You may not think you’re big enough to worry about public relations yet, but PR has rapidly become one of the fundamental requirements for making a name in most markets. It’s not only for emergencies–a good PR plan will establish your company’s authority, help build your network, and help your sales and growth goals while you build. Play those cards right, and you’ll develop the kind of reputation that’s worth its weight in gold.

As the person in charge, you’ve got an extra layer of responsibility when it comes to reputation. Never forget that your own standing will always be tied directly to that of your company. In essence, you are the company, and as your reputation goes, so goes your organization. We all saw the major PR hit Uber took when former CEO Travis Kalanick was forced out after serious accusations of harassment and fraud made him toxic to his company’s brand. Now imagine the same happening without the massive user base and market penetration that Uber had at the time. Reputational damage, even at the lowest level, can sink a growing company before it truly takes off.

Of course, even if you make all the right moves as you build up, it won’t amount to anything if your business isn’t on solid ground to begin with. The story of Theranos is a great illustration of a company that made all the right connections, got some incredible VC money, and had the media eating out of their hands until it all fell apart because, well, their entire business model was constructed out of deceit.

That’s an extreme example, but it goes to show how quickly a reputation can vanish if the business isn’t sound. You don’t have to be a complete house of cards to lose your reputation in an instant: it happens when you or your company fails to live up to the expectations you’ve created.

Successful businesses arise from a real need being filled, but long-term survival is not always a matter of meeting the demands of the market. A solid business plan will get you out of the starting gate, but to beat out the competition you’ll need to run on more than words on paper. Your actions, in and out of the boardroom, will color perception of your business for the better, helping reach new heights that a context-free competitor won’t be able to touch. Because when it comes to you and your business’ good name, you won’t want anyone else’s fingerprints on it.

This article was originally published on ScoreNYC

Checking In on DeBlasio’s Homeless Outreach Overhaul

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Homelessness is not a new problem for New York City. But over the years, it has continued to rise, with the troubling trend of families and children being displaced in all corners of the five boroughs. Now, efforts from Mayor de Blasio and the city to overhaul homeless shelters and create affordable housing are underway. Just how effective are these plans, and what else can we do to meaningfully impact homelessness in NYC?

According to research by the Coalition for the Homeless, as of August 2018, there were 62,166 homeless people who slept in the city’s municipal shelter system, which included 15,189 homeless families with 22,511 children. Over the course of 2017, a total of 129,803 different homeless individuals slept in NYC’s municipal shelter system, and the amount of homeless New Yorkers sleeping in shelters has increased by 79 percent in 10 years.

The spread of homelessness in New York can be attributed to the lack of low-income housing, particularly among families, and due to several other factors such as eviction, overcrowded housing, domestic violence, job loss, and hazardous housing conditions.

That is why Mayor de Blasio enacted the “Turning the Tide on Homelessness” project, which aims to address homelessness throughout all five boroughs of New York City. They aim to achieve this through three approaches. First, by keeping people in their homes by making housing affordable and stopping illegal evictions. Second, by making operational reforms to better serve shelters and neighborhoods. And third, by creating new strategies for shelters: the plan will remove people from all cluster sites and commercial hotel facilities and aims to cut the number of homeless shelters, replacing these living areas with 90 better-organized shelters and more affordable housing.

The project is 18-months deep and behind schedule, but it has managed to open 15 of its planned shelters, with six more preparing to open soon. While the project’s goals seem achievable, it faces opposition. Some claim that despite the project’s aim to keep homeless people close to their neighborhoods, the overall decrease in shelters and potential displacement they cause means that homeless families will struggle to stay close to their original neighborhoods.

Other criticism comes from neighborhoods where the new shelters are implemented, as community members often express negativity about an increased homeless presence on “their” streets. Nevertheless, the shelters are making an impact on the homeless and communities are constantly working with community leaders to resolve issues and make their neighborhoods better for everyone.

But the city has also managed to make headway with affordable housing. In 2018, 32,116 affordable homes have already been built, an all-time record for affordable housing construction. 57 percent of those homes will be utilized by some of the lowest income families in NYC. This is a major turning point for homelessness in NYC, though there is still a long way to go.

So what are the other impactful ways we can combat homelessness in New York City? The Regional Plan Association (RPA) proposes repealing the FAR cap, an old housing law that limits the Floor Area Ratio on property lots. This was initially enacted to prevent vertical slums easily subject to health hazards, but since 1961 when the law was passed, urban health has improved dramatically, and overcrowding has overall decreased. By removing the FAR cap, the city can potentially create larger residential buildings for those in need of low-income housing

Another way to impact homelessness is through prevention and stability. While de Blasio’s efforts are meant to eventually focus on prevention, much of the attention has been diverted toward optimized shelters and affordable housing, and it is vital to ensure that families will not end up homeless again. Programs providing eviction-prevention grants, legal representation, and support services all work to maintain stability for low-income families and individuals who have dealt with homelessness.

It is clear that New York cares about its homeless, and the efforts that are already in place are forward-thinking, looking to make significant, permanent change to the issue in the long term. There is always more that can be done, but as it stands, New York City is taking major strides in supporting its disenfranchised, making the greatest city in the world that much better.

This article was originally published on 

Homeless, Hungry, and In College

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It’s nice to have a rosy view of the college years–a time of personal growth and learning. Bright-eyed young people are figuring out who they are or want to be in a world full of opportunities. We often imagine that the stress of college life ends at too much homework or roommate drama. However, for many students, this view is far from reality.

Not only are the more fortunate among the growing number of homeless students ascending into college, we’ve also seen a troubling trend of middle-class students who become poor only by dint of the fact that they are attending college. Loans, grants, part-time jobs, and parents who are mortgaged to the hilt are just not enough for many students to manage the expenses that come with pursuing higher education.

We’ve grown sadly familiar with stories of struggling people having to choose between two basic needs, like medication and food, paying the rent and keeping their car. What happens when the choice is between paying for college and paying for an apartment? Paying for textbooks or paying for nutritious food? The immediate needs must be addressed, and educational pursuits are cut tragically short.

Over a third of college students lack stable housing and don’t always have enough to eat, according to a survey published by researchers at Temple University and the Wisconsin HOPE Lab. According to the same study, 9 percent are homeless. These numbers are more extreme for students attending community colleges than private universities.

In fact, a survey of students at Bunker Hill Community College in Boston found that 13 percent of BHCC students are homeless. Housing instability can mean a student is often evicted, living in a shelter, “couch surfing”, or sleeping in vacant buildings on campus. Students are also facing food insecurity–skipping meals, or eating unhealthy foods to save money. Both situations are detrimental to a student’s ability to focus or excel in classes, thus benefiting from the college experience.

Due to rising education costs, and the fact that many states do not extend food stamps benefits or public assistance to students unless they are working full time, more students than ever are forced to pile on the existing pressure of college with these tough, life-altering choices. The squeeze is on, and the extraordinary pressure is insurmountable to some.

As this growing crisis comes to light, schools, aid organizations, and charitable advocates are starting to take action. Often the schools themselves will address the needs of homeless and hungry students through grassroots fundraising and volunteer programs such as food pantries, cafeteria vouchers, and programs to match students with host families. More schools have started to keep dorms open over holiday breaks so students can stay on campus if they have no place to go. However, how many colleges and universities can be expected to also be charitable organizations? Is that really the solution?

In the face of these challenges, homeless students bravely continue to weather financial uncertainty and unsafe living situations because they believe in a higher goal: in elevating their own station in life. This is exactly the kind of action that raises the station of the homeless in this country and deserves the proper attention from those in a position to help. These students, especially, need a helping hand so they don’t fall through the cracks–garnering academic rewards instead of anemic ones.

This article was originally published on

Forget Location — It’s Convenience, Convenience, Convenience

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It’s the classic real estate mantra, known as the guiding wisdom of our industry: location, location, location. Since at least 1926, this phrase has been a useful shorthand for what’s supposedly a concrete rule: that the immediate area where a property is situated is the overwhelming driver of its value.

I’ll never tell you that location isn’t a major asset when selling real estate, but its value is incredibly misunderstood by both the public at large and many in the industry. What it truly amounts to, in a practical sense, is a form of convenience. Conveniences, in the real estate business, are the little advantages that ultimately shape a buyer’s perception of what you’re selling. Location is a good thing, but it’s only one good thing among potentially many. It’s certainly not the only one, as the phrase implies.

A location can be convenient, as in centrally located and close to cultural centers, but convenience is also something you can cultivate no matter where you are. If the location of the house or apartment you’re selling isn’t particularly in your favor, there are countless ways you can still make it stand out. There’s a nearly unlimited amount of amenities that position your properties in a way that will be attractive to potential buyers, and the list is growing by the day.

If you’re not familiar with smart homes by now, you will be. It’s a revolution already underway, and savvy real estate leaders are already getting on board. This tech allows tenants and homeowners to manage all the comforts of home: lighting, appliances, even security with voice commands or remotely via Wi-Fi.

Scaling that idea upward, you’ll even find whole-house automation systemsthat provide the kind of futuristic home environment that existed only in the realm of science fiction not long ago, with HD touchscreens in every room and pre-programmed routines that promise a seamless way to live in comfort. Put yourself in a buyer’s shoes and imagine a house that you can control without lifting a finger. If that’s not convenience, I don’t know what is.

But cutting-edge tech isn’t the only useful accommodation that can boost a real estate listing. Intangible conveniences like expediting a closing or construction credits so the buyer can mold the unit to their liking both empower buyers and give them a reason to choose your offerings over those of the competition. Remember, the ultimate goal here is offering conveniences that make your properties distinctive, attractive and memorable.

There are a million and one ways to stand out in real estate. Believe me, as the seller of NYC’s most expensive condo with amenities aplenty, offering countless conveniences has proven a great attention-getter. You might not have the ability to send your buyer into space, but you can make convenience work for you and your customers in any location. Real estate agents in Melbourne have taken to hiring a feng shui expert to evaluate the property’s atmospheric character or “flow” — perhaps not the traditional form of convenience but a real aspect of it all the same. Part of convenience is the meeting of expectations in a subtle, barely noticeable way.

People often look at buying a home as an exciting but arduous process, one that’s costing them lots of money over a long period of time. They’re not necessarily wrong, but great conveniences or perks can soften any potentially negative feelings your customers may have, and get them excited about buying a new home or apartment. The quality of the experience goes a long way when selling real estate. That’s true whether you’re selling condos in Manhattan or ranch houses in Peoria.

I know what some of you may be thinking: It’s easy for someone in Manhattan real estate to claim that location is overrated. Yes, this island is home to some of the most attractive properties in the world, but having spent enough time in the luxury sector, I’ve seen plenty of big-time properties fall flat with potential buyers and lose out to buildings and homes with more added value than just an NYC zip code. Even the greatest location won’t find tenants if the amenities and conveniences that elevate a property aren’t there.

Don’t get me wrong: Location is important. But unless the most attractive area around is the size of a pinhead, customers will always have more options besides whatever you’re selling. Convenience takes many forms, and having it means more than having an impressive address. It means having something that people want to buy.

This article was originally published on Forbes 

Conflict Isn’t Rude, It’s Required

A disconcerting amount of young people today seem unwilling to ruffle feathers. On the one hand, this is perfectly understandable. When you’re an entrepreneur just starting to make your name, it can sometimes seem like any misstep will throw off your grand plans for success. If you’re worried about how you’re going to appear to potential employers, partners, or clients, never forget that success in business primarily comes not from making people happy, but from results. Achieving those concrete accomplishments and wins requires executing, not compromising, when it comes to your vision.

Conflict is inevitable when you’re building a successful business. It doesn’t mean blood feuds and high-tempered confrontations, but your interests will very rarely be 100% aligned with those of others around you and you need to be prepared for that. It’s all part of being a well-rounded business operator. An entrepreneur who’s never faced any kind of conflict or resistance is one that I’d rather not do business with, and I know I’m not alone.

Great as your ideas are, not everyone will necessarily see them that way. That doesn’t just mean your competitors, but also the people working alongside you, like business partners or investors who have seen and done more in the business world than you might have. Potential clients will even have some pressing questions before they decide to use your services. Navigating these and other inevitable conflicts can be intimidating at first, but it’s a necessity for every entrepreneur to at least have a willing and open attitude towards engaging in them.

It’s all about deploying your forthrightness and honest opinions in an intelligent and well-reasoned way. Disagreeing with someone, even someone more established than you are, doesn’t amount to disrespect if what you’re saying is logical and true. You best know the value of the product or service you’re selling, and if they don’t see that, it’s your job to communicate it thoughtfully.

The idea of resolving conflict with forthrightness and frankness has become a hot-button topic, exemplified with what former Google and Apple executive Kim Scott referred to in her 2017 book as radical candor. The idea of being completely candid about your thoughts, it seems, has become a revolutionary idea in a world where too many people are afraid of stepping on toes. Scott, also a CEO coach and multi-time entrepreneur herself, is part of the growing movement to build relationships through empathy and blunt honesty.

No matter your mission, the road to your goals is sure to present some obstacles. These take the form of people who may doubt your mission, are skeptical of your plans, or just simply aren’t pleasant to be around. These are big challenges, to be sure. Making your true feelings and goals known is a major part of overcoming them.

In the end, it boils down to your belief in yourself and what you’re doing. Never forget the reason you’re in that boardroom, office, wherever the venue. If you can demonstrate that your ideas are worth considering, that confidence needs to compel you to push back when your vision isn’t matching up with what others are offering you. There’s a balance to be struck between a pushover and a steamroller. Being ready and prepared for all the various challenges of entrepreneurship, including those coming from other people, is a necessity for business success. When you’re making big strides, it’s inevitable you’ll step on a couple of toes. When you realize this and are ready for it, you’ll be able to put your best foot forward.

This post was originally published on ScoreNYC