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

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