Lift Yourself Up With a Strong Peer Network

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Good teams are crucial to any expanding business, but employees are only part of the equation. Another oft-ignored set of compatriots are the people you might call competition — the peers in your field who’ve climbed the ladder alongside you. Many coworkers or friends who leap onto the entrepreneurial path see one another as obstacles to be overcome, gunning for the very same success that you’re reaching for.

In reality, seeing peers as confidants rather than competitors is crucial to a business’s success. The relationships like-minded entrepreneurs establish with each other can both inspire and help them both on their paths. No matter where you find them, forming strong connections with like-minded business leaders can help launch your company to the top.

Here are some of the most compelling reasons you’ll want to establish and nurture peer connections on your entrepreneurial journey.

A better education than school

Business school case studies can’t always teach you about what’s happening in the ‘now.’ Peers who share their experiences give an education that can’t be obtained in any classroom. Likewise, getting peer advice on your own problems in real-time is a highly valuable asset, one that often goes underappreciated.

Honest feedback

The boundaries between employers and employees can make it difficult for leadership to receive honest feedback from those who they work closest with. Confidants who understand the position you’re in can be a help in handling the most challenging parts of leadership and offer new insights into your most difficult problems. Constructive criticism from trustworthy peers can dramatically improve your leadership style, offering new ideas and refinement of your older ones.

Strengths to fill your weaknesses

The larger a business becomes, the less likely it is that one person can do all things equally well. Giving up control can be a great challenge, and that’s where peers come in. If you struggle with certain management tasks, the strengths of your peers can help supplement your own with advice and mentorship. Doing the same for them in your areas of proficiency similarly extends your network and strengthens that entrepreneurial bond. When peers bring skills that you lack and vice versa, it’s a win-win for everyone involved.

The best way to get new clients

Peer connections can improve more than just your internal operations. They can also be crucial to getting new business opportunities. Your peers’ connections are equally valuable, if not moreso, than the ones you establish on your own. Networking events can be great but not everyone always has the time to attend them, especially early stage entrepreneurs. Drawing on your personal network can yield much greater results than shuffling around a room full of strangers, so grow it any way that you can.

No matter what drives you to be an entrepreneur, forming positive peer relationships is a crucial element of your eventual success. How do you find peers that are a good fit? Previous professional experience, personal connections, and networking are a few ways. As with many things, it’s a matter of trusting your gut. Reach out to them like your success depends on it, because a great deal of it does.

This article was originally published on ScoreNYC

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First to Market Isn’t All It’s Cracked Up to Be

Being first to market always introduces a product but it doesn’t always getting it sold.
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Being a successful entrepreneur means standing above the competition. You want your product or service to be the one that people think of when they need what you’re selling. But being the first name people think of in your industry is much different than being the first one to hit the shelves. In fact, there are some serious disadvantages to being first to market before anyone else.

While it makes for great motivational speeches, achieving something before everyone else comes with its own complications. When you’re first to market, that’s simply not enough reason to immediately start scaling upwards. There are absolutely advantages to being first, but it’s not an instant ticket to success. There are many more variables that go into creating a successful product, and while novelty can be a benefit, it’s far from a major one. The research bears it out.

For those of us who aren’t business professors, there are plenty of illuminating examples of companies and products that didn’t thrive when they were first to market. Here are the major reasons to consider before rushing to be the first.

Refinement, not speed, makes for a good product.

For one thing, being first means all your cards are out on the table. Yes, you’ve got a product or service that nobody else has, but now that it’s in the market there’s nothing stopping your competition from replicating it, and even improving on what you’ve made.

Henry Ford didn’t make the first car — he made the one with the best manufacturing process and reliability. The iPod wasn’t the first mp3 player with a hard drive — it was the one with the best design, ease of use and marketing. Their predecessors failed to deliver the best form of the product, and did little more than provide proof of concept for a better plan to take over their market.

First was a novelty, but novelty won’t bring reliable sales. A great product will.

Innovation never ends.

Another thing to consider is that the cutting edge isn’t a finish line that you and your competition are running towards–it’s a constantly evolving state of being. Today’s groundbreaking development, no matter what it is, will end up being a jumping off point for something even better down the line.

And “down the line” may not be as far away as you’d think. Competitors can take your great idea, build on it and end up beating you at your own game. One example is the once-ubiquitous Palm Pilot. Palm, Inc., its manufacturer, owned the PDA (Personal Digital Assistant) game for several years. Their brand was synonymous with the product. Today, you might only find one in a landfill. Smartphones came around, utilizing all the abilities of the PDA plus much, much more. Only three years after the first iPhone was introduced, Palm was toast.

Jumping the gun can mean shooting yourself in the foot.

Even before the competition can improve on what you’re selling, you’ll need to ensure that it meets your own standards. Rushing it to market can fail for the same reason many rushed things do — it’s simply not ready. Your product or service isn’t a major musical composition — it needs to generate money from satisfied customers or your entire company will be in jeopardy.

You may not have heard of Scanadu, and there’s a reason for that. The health tech company’s smartphone-connected medical sensor was promoted as a revolutionary piece of equipment: a way for everyone to keep tabs on their vitals without making appointments or filling out doctor’s paperwork. The only issue? It didn’t work. When they failed to get FDA approval for their $200 Scout units, early adopters were left in the cold. The devices already sold were remotely deactivated by regulatory decree, and #ScanaduScam hit social media. Not an ideal product rollout.

In any industry, there are hazards to hitting the market first. That’s why many experts agree that you’re best off taking the time to ensure that your product is as good as it can be. Better to be a little late to the scene than to be here today and gone tomorrow. You want to capture imaginations, yes, but being the most-talked about without being the best-selling isn’t going to keep your business afloat. What matters more than being first? Being the best quality. And that doesn’t happen overnight.

Originally published on Entrepreneur 

Staying Calm Is the Best Response to a Down Market

Sometimes, the best you can do is just not making the situation worse.
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No matter how tightly you have control over what happens within your company, there are many outside factors that can take you in unwanted directions. Probably the biggest of these is the greater market you’re operating within: if it’s on an upswing, hopefully, you’re poised to take advantage. If it isn’t, you better know how to deal. The times when market conditions aren’t so favorable is when good leaders are separated from the rest. It’s all about how you choose to react.

A crucial part of leadership (some may argue the most important) is being able to handle problems as they arise. A down market is a special kind of problem in that you can’t take ownership of it, or correct it yourself: you can only respond to it. The way you choose to respond defines you as a leader and your business as a whole. What will you do?

Fortunately, there are ways to keep your head above water during major sea changes. It all comes down to your own response, and crafting the right one will ensure you and your business don’t sink.

Keep your head on straight

First and foremost — don’t panic! The greatest misstep you can make in these situations is acting on irrational impulses. Panicking in downturns can take many forms: drastic decisions, poorly thought-out layoffs and other actions that will likely hurt you more than they help. When your car pops a tire, do you throw your hands up and decide to start walking? Or do you pull over, get down in the grime and do the work to get moving again?

There will always be leaner times and fatter ones. Rather than a disaster, think of the tough times as an opportunity to make the most of the resources you already have: your experience, your team, your attitude and your principles. Even when times are good, shore up the strong foundation so that you’ll be able to lean upon it when things take a turn downward. Because they will.

Draw on your experience

For one, you can take stock of how you responded the last time it happened. Go through your records and really think critically about what you did during the previous downturn that you and your business survived. Did you just make it by the skin of your teeth, or did you come out nearly unscathed? There are lessons to be gleaned no matter what the result was.

Even if you’re pretty new to entrepreneurship, think back to any point in your life when the odds seemed stacked against you. Maybe in school you had tough classes and a packed schedule with deadlines looming. How did you respond? Just as we’re always learning, we’re always given opportunities to use what we’ve already learned.

Leverage your network

Another way to stay afloat is by reaching out to those you trust most. The importance of a strong professional network can never be overstated: it’s how you grow your business, bar none. Making connections isn’t just a growth requirement, either. In down times, your contacts in other industries may be doing just fine and can throw you some crucial business.

Friends and family members are always there to help if you need it as well. Don’t think of it as begging for charity — you’re making use of one of the best resources you have. There’s no shame in reaching out to others to help you and your business make it through the storm. For extra help, advice, or just a thoughtful ear to vent to, never underestimate those closest to you. They understand what you’re going through better than you might think.

Embrace the challenge

Successfully overcoming a downturn is all about how you choose to approach it. No matter what your business does, a steady hand goes a long way towards survival. Never lose sight of that attitude that you had starting out, the fearless mindset that every entrepreneur has. It takes guts to set out and build something new in an often unforgiving business world, and holding onto that fearlessness is how you’ll weather every subsequent challenge.

You need to embrace challenges, not shrink from them. Starting your company in the first place was a risk, and you had to know the dangers wouldn’t end there. That stress you feel from knowing the markets aren’t where you’d like them to be? Use it, harness it, let it sharpen your focus. It’s out of your hands, so there’s no use stressing over it and overreacting when you should instead be planning your next steps.

Panicking, losing sight of your principles, thinking you can take it all on your shoulders — these are the ways to lose sight of success when the market stumbles. If you can avoid panicking, you’ll make it through the troubling times into a better future. Once the ship rights itself, you’ll want to be ready to hop right back on.

This article was originally published on Entrepreneur

5 Things You Can Do Today to Help Stop Teen Suicide

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Teen suicide has reached almost epidemic proportions, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noting a 70 percent rise between 2006 and 2016, the most recent year statistics were available. Suicide is an issue with no easy answers; the reasons it happens can almost feel impossible to fully understand. But there are action steps any of us can take to help make sure the young people feeling isolated and depressed don’t make that terrible choice. Here are five actionable steps you can take today to help stop teen suicide.

Understand the depths of the problem

It’s not an exaggeration to say that suicide is a more crucial problem now than it’s ever been before. Recent studies have found that suicide is now the second leading cause of death among young people, more than cancer, heart disease, birth defects, AIDS, stroke, pneumonia, influenza and lung disease combined. Only automotive and other accidents take more young lives on a yearly basis. In short, it’s something to be taken extremely seriously. Taking it seriously means taking action when necessary, and knowing when to do so means being able to identify the early signs that a young person may be thinking about harming themselves.

Learn the warning signs

Whether it’s your own children or those you interact with through family or friends, there are frequently subtle and unsubtle warning signs that indicate the potential for self-harm. Sudden changes in personality, like a shift from friendliness to withdrawal may be a sign a teen is in danger. Risky behavior and isolation from society often foretell dire things as well. Mood swings and dispositional changes happen in many otherwise healthy teenagers, but once-happy young people who begin to dwell on negative thoughts and feelings of worthlessness are showing major red flags that may require action.

Volunteer at a local crisis center

Absent these kinds of warning signs in the teens in your life, there are still ways to personally help those afflicted with suicidal thoughts. The Suicide Prevention Lifeline consists of a national network of crisis centers, operating both the well-known suicide hotline and in-person counseling. You may not be a certified crisis counselor, but there is a multitude of ways the SPL can help empower you to get involved in fighting the good fight against teen suicide. Answering phone calls or texts is just one of the many support jobs you can do to help out. If you truly are interested in becoming a full-time counselor, there are many resources to learn about doing just that.

Reduce teens’ access to guns

While it’s not the only method through which teens end their lives, firearms account for 40 percent of such suicides, double the amount of gun-related homicides in the same age group. Without delving into a touchy political topic, it’s a proven fact that access to firearms increases the risk of being harmed by one. It’s also a fact that suicide attempts carried out by guns are more certain to be completed, putting a shattering certainty on the misguided choice to self-harm. It’s a simple choice that can save a life. If you’ve got guns, lock them up.

Talk openly with your children

For parents who have teens of their own, even ones who show no outward signs of depression or hopelessness, a candid conversation about suicide can help them better understand the futility of such an act. Even if it might not always seem like they’re listening, a serious talk can go a long way in letting them know that they’re not alone. Put their problems into perspective, and remind them that the weight of the world on one’s shoulders is lessened when we share it with those closest to us. The despondency of a suicidal mind can only be cured when they know they’re not alone. If the idea makes you uncomfortable, do it anyway. Their lives may depend on it.

This was originally published on DanNeiditch.org

Hungry for High-End Clients? Daniel Boulud Has the Answer

 

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French chef Daniel Boulud has brought an innovative take on both French and American cuisine to cities across the world, and has a fervent following among well-heeled gastronomes to show for it. It takes more than fancy food and high prices to garner such a reliable clientele, and a look at how Boulud operates reveals valuable insights for growing your business and grabbing the attention of high-end clients, no matter what industry you’re in.

Appealing to bigger clients is a vital step for any business owner, and is the difference between middling operations and top-tier industry leaders. Attaining a loftier class of customer is no simple task, but we can look to someone who’s reached the pinnacle of his profession for some five-star inspiration.

High Standards

Requiring perfection is one of the hallmarks of high achievement. To present the best to your clients, you need to have full faith in your product or service, and that means knowing that it’s the absolute best quality possible. As executive chef, Boulud has his (well-scrubbed) hands in the creation of every menu item, testing them to perfection before they reach the menu. Even design and music choices came from the top. He could easily delegate this job, but then the perfection that he and his restaurant guests demand would not be guaranteed.

When you refuse to take shortcuts in crafting your services, their quality will be apparent. High-end clients are used to the best, and that means any signs of sloppiness will serve as a huge red flag. Taking strict care of every detail while staying mindful of your organization’s needsensures that your personal stamp will mean something. When your name is synonymous with quality, you don’t just attract high-end clients, you keep them. Speaking of which…

The Value of Your Name

While there are certainly some drawbacks to making your name into your brand, when it’s done right you’ll be making your persona and, more importantly, your reputation a mark of distinction. There’s a reason Daniel’s name or initials adorn the majority of his NYC eateries. When his clientele see the Boulud name on the menu, they know the unmatched quality of the food they’re about to enjoy is a world-renowned fact.

When you put your name on the building, there’s no backing out. Demonstrating to your clients that you’re fully invested in what you’re offering them is a major risk. Any hit to your reputation, whether business-related or personal, could sink the entire operation. It can be a dangerous path, but when executed carefully and correctly, a high-end name brings in high-end clients by the bowlful.

Hitting the Mark with Consistency

Boulud’s biggest claim to fame may just be his take on an American classic: the hamburger. Incorporating foie gras, oxtail and an exclusive mix of beef varieties, his db Burger, served up at db Bistro Moderne, definitely deserves the title of the Rolls-Royce of burgers. This culinary artwork takes three days to prepare but still gets served at a clip of 120 per day. Not McDonald’s numbers, but of course that’s not what he’s after. It’s just about enough to keep his well-heeled customers satisfied.

Even though it’s much more than an assembly-line foodstuff, buyers know what they’re getting when they order Boulud’s specialty. Meticulous preparation ensures that every burger is worthy of the Boulud name. That consistency is rewarded with a loyal clientele, keeping his global fine dining empire on everyone’s lips. Great care goes into delivering consistency, and when you always make that effort, satisfied clients keep coming back for more.

Get Inspired

Great ideas can come from everywhere if you know how to look for them. The intersection of the world of high art and fine dining are certainly not lost on Daniel, who has written about the inspiration he’s drawn from friend and renowned artist Vik Muniz. While the chef is certainly creative in his own right, it’s fascinating to see how creativity can generate results for both visual art and the edible kind.

Part of the difficulty in attracting high-end clients is that they’ve seen it all before. It takes more than the usual pitch to draw them in; they need to see something that sparks their interest and holds it. Thinking differently can be a key element to grabbing clients’ attention, and as long as you’ve got the quality to back it up, your innovative ideas can lead to great things for you and your business.

Take the Time, Do It Right

While creating something great, whether a meal or a business, certainly does require harnessing some forward momentum, it can be a deadly mistake to let that momentum carry you too fast. You want to be sure your product or service is the best it can be, and that means taking the time to ensure the preparatory work is done correctly rather than quickly. A rushed product might grab some people’s attention, but cut corners always reveal themselves in time. To set yourself up for long-term success, you need to perfect your process.

The same principle is in place with some of Daniel’s signature dishes. When preparing his famed roasted chicken or the aforementioned db Burger, he or his chefs never serve these meals hot out of the oven. Letting the cooked item sit for about 20 minutes might sound counterintuitive, but the internal heat balance from this rest period makes for an exquisitely balanced flavor profile. Can you recall ever doing this in your home kitchen? Probably not, but your kitchen doesn’t have three Michelin stars. Accomodating the needs of those with highest standards, diners or clients, means taking the time to ensure you’re creating something great.

Daniel Boulud’s gastronomic empire currently stretches across New York City, to London, Miami, Singapore, and beyond. Even if you don’t share his global ambitions, you and your business can glean key insight from the way he’s built his. With a dedication to quality, consistency, pride and innovation, your business will be positioned to attract those high-end clients that line up outside of Daniel’s restaurants worldwide. For people with expensive taste, pedestrian simply won’t do.

This article was originally posted on ScoreNYC

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 DanielNeiditch.org