Under30CEO » GuestAuthor http://under30ceo.com Wed, 16 Apr 2014 17:00:36 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.6 Under30CEO interviews successful young entrepreneurs to hear about their story and journey while starting their company. These young founders have over a million dollars a year in revenues and have been through many ups and downs to get there. These stories are meant to inspire, educate and motivate more young people to take a leap and do what they are passionate about. Under30CEO clean Under30CEO jared@under30ceo.com jared@under30ceo.com (Under30CEO) Under30CEO Interviews with Young Entrepreneurs on Starting Businesses entrepreneur, business, interview, young entrepreneur, business advice, startup advice, founder interview, ceo Under30CEO » GuestAuthor http://under30ceo.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/u30logo300x250.png http://under30ceo.com Tension: The Silent Epidemic That’s Killing Your Company http://under30ceo.com/tension-silent-epidemic-thats-killing-company/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=tension-silent-epidemic-thats-killing-company http://under30ceo.com/tension-silent-epidemic-thats-killing-company/#comments Wed, 16 Apr 2014 15:00:54 +0000 GuestAuthor http://under30ceo.com/?p=38759 Did you hear the one about the stressed-out business executive who walked into the doctor’s office complaining about terrible nightmares? “It’s awful,” the exec tells his doctor. “Some nights, I imagine I’m a teepee facing incredibly strong winds, rain, and snow. I’m all alone on the edge of a cliff.” The exec continues, “Other times, […]

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tension

Did you hear the one about the stressed-out business executive who walked into the doctor’s office complaining about terrible nightmares?

“It’s awful,” the exec tells his doctor. “Some nights, I imagine I’m a teepee facing incredibly strong winds, rain, and snow. I’m all alone on the edge of a cliff.”

The exec continues, “Other times, I’m not a teepee, but a wigwam that’s about to get destroyed by a raging wildfire.” Then, he finally pleads, “I just don’t know what to do anymore, doc. Can you please help me?”

At this point, the doctor leans back and calmly replies, “The problem is that you need to learn how to relax. Clearly, you’re just two tents.”

Get it? No? Well, maybe you’re “too tense.”

But seriously, the problem of tension in the workplace has been around for generations, and it’s not going to disappear any time soon.

Any sociologist will tell you that when you gather a group of individuals together in the same place — each with their own beliefs, ambitions, talents, and insecurities — there’s bound to be some friction. Here are four common causes of workplace tension:

1. Timing Is Everything (Early Birds vs. Night Owls)

The time that co-workers spend in the office often becomes a source of animosity among employees. Here, perceptions become reality. Workers and managers who arrive before other employees and then leave right at 5 p.m. may be perceived as not pulling their weight. The same can be said for late workers who are seen as slackers for “coming in whenever they want.”

2. King of the Mountain (Co-worker vs. Co-worker)

Another common source of tension in organizations comes from power struggles between employees. These range from co-workers competing for the same promotion to those fighting for the opportunity to lead the same project to even those gunning for their boss’ job.

3. Who Gets the Credit? (Leadership vs. Team)

When employees feel like they’re not appreciated or recognized for contributing to the success of the company, their confidence in their own abilities often declines — while their distrust of management increases. Managers who routinely take credit for their teams’ successes often face difficulties motivating employees down the road. This self-serving management style can quickly destroy morale and lead to product or service quality issues.

4. The Battle of Us and Them (HR vs. Employees)

Although HR employees are generally perceived as the peacekeepers of an organization, they can sometimes be the root cause of a dysfunctional work environment. For example, tensions can rise if HR suddenly institutes cookie-cutter policies or changes procedures.

Is It Malice or Miscommunication?

In a very small number of cases, I encountered a corporate framework that was intentionally developed to create an atmosphere that encouraged internal competition, subtle and overt clashes, and ongoing confrontation between employees. These were generally hyper-aggressive, sales-driven businesses with high employee turnover and very little management support.

More often, tensions and feelings of mistrust fester and grow in organizations not as a result of some specific action or directive, but when company policies are ambiguous, outdated, or rarely enforced.

To establish a constructive working environment, business leaders and managers throughout the organization must provide a clear set of expectations for their employees. These should be consistent with the overall goals and objectives of the company.

Employees won’t follow the rules if they don’t understand them or if they feel like they’re counterproductive to achieving their own personal success.

Tension Is Everywhere — Deal With It

No matter the size or age of your company, the simple truth is that some amount of tension in the workplace is unavoidable.

We’re all human, and humans are far from perfect when working well with others. Look around: Do you see any of your employees singing, “I love you. You love me. We’re a happy family,” all day long? Probably not. And that’s OK.

The truth is that most companies can and do operate successfully somewhere in the middle.

Don’t Fight It — Direct It

The most important thing for managers and company executives to do is to first accept that tensions between employees will always be a part of an organization’s culture.

With this in mind, company leaders must be on the lookout for potential flashpoints within the organization and then take immediate action to diffuse those situations when they arise.

Moving forward, it’s important to create an atmosphere of trust and mutual respect by developing a progressive corporate structure. Establishing workflow, reporting processes, and channels of communication to limit the number of uncomfortable situations that occur in the first place is also an important step.

Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing

A model that I have successfully used for many years to help enhance team performance in organizations is a process that psychologist Bruce Tuckman first penned in his 1965 article, “Developmental Sequence in Small Groups.”

In the article, Tuckman outlined a process where members of a group achieve success by forming, storming, norming, and performing the necessary steps to complete the task at hand efficiently and with minimal friction within the group.

The key is to communicate a very clear set of objectives at the beginning of the task and allow the group to work through smaller issues as they come up.

When employees understand that they’re all working toward the same goal and will receive the same rewards as every other employee, they realize that more can be accomplished in a shorter amount of time when everyone works together.

And that’s no joke.

Ambrose Conroy is the founder of Seraph, as well as a member of its executive team. Seraph works with clients to transform, relocate, or restructure their business operations. Seraph consultants bring experience in exploiting emerging markets, wringing profit from troubled operations, and accelerating product development.  Ambrose is a hands-on management consultant and corporate problem solver who regularly works with leading international companies in the automotive, aerospace, energy infrastructure, and medical technology/device sectors. 

Image Credit: Shutterstock.com

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Dedication and Rewards: Why You Should Work for a Meritocracy http://under30ceo.com/dedication-rewards-work-meritocracy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=dedication-rewards-work-meritocracy http://under30ceo.com/dedication-rewards-work-meritocracy/#comments Wed, 12 Mar 2014 15:00:48 +0000 GuestAuthor http://under30ceo.com/?p=38331 What’s the main thing you’re looking for in your first job? A good salary? A big, established company to beef up your résumé? A relaxed work environment? Or are you willing to put in the hard work to get ahead as quickly as possible? If the latter fits you, then you should be looking for […]

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meritocracy

What’s the main thing you’re looking for in your first job? A good salary? A big, established company to beef up your résumé? A relaxed work environment? Or are you willing to put in the hard work to get ahead as quickly as possible? If the latter fits you, then you should be looking for a company that is a meritocracy.

The term “meritocracy” gets thrown around a lot, often in the wrong context. A meritocracy is a work culture in which the people who work hard to get ahead actually have the opportunity to be recognized and rewarded for their dedication. Not all work environments are meritocracies. In fact, most that fall prey to office politics, networking halos, and credentials are not.

If your first job out of college is at a company where people get automatic promotions every three years or their salary increases at a predetermined rate every year, you are not working in a meritocracy. Your first work experience can help shape how you view all future employers. Ask yourself what qualities you want to see in your environment and in your professional goals.

The Benefits of a Meritocracy

Dedication and hard work deserve to be rewarded. Here are four reasons why you should want to work at a meritocracy:

1. You will be rewarded faster.

If you’re looking for a place where you can prove yourself and be rewarded for your productivity, then finding a meritocracy should be your first priority in choosing a job. You will have greater potential to advance and contribute to a truly driven team within a meritocratic environment.

2. You will be promoted sooner.

You won’t have to determine who the influential employees are and suck up to them. You won’t have to play the organization’s brand of politics, game the promotional system, or float above the personal bickering. If you demonstrate a solid work ethic and get results, your bosses will reward you. Even more importantly, they won’t want to lose you — meritocratic workplaces tend to recognize the value of their best employees more than other companies do.

3. You will be working with the best.

Like you, your co-workers will deserve their positions and be among the best at what they do. This will benefit the quality of your work environment, but it will also have untold benefits for your professional development. You’ll constantly learn from your peers, and they will learn from you. Unfortunately, many companies rely heavily on only a few quality employees. In a meritocracy, the entire company will produce higher-quality work, and your skills will improve rapidly.

4. You will receive valuable feedback.

Some people can’t deal with direct, blunt feedback. They need any criticism to be surrounded by a cushion of praise. If this describes you, then a meritocracy might not be the best work environment for you because meritocracies tend to be direct.

This isn’t to say that there’s no praise at meritocracies, but they value honesty and directness. It’s important for employees to know where they stand and calibrate themselves properly to the environment in which they work. In a meritocracy, that means not wasting time and effort going in the wrong direction. Think of how quickly you matured and how much you learned in your first year at college. That’s the kind of development you should be looking for from your first year in your new position.

Questions for Your Future Employer

If you’ve decided a meritocracy is a priority for you, there are questions you can ask during an interview with a potential employer to determine whether that company is a meritocracy:

1. How are promotions determined?

Does everyone get promoted after a fixed interval, or are poor performers held back? What determines the quality of work and reasoning for a promotion?

2. Can you give me two examples of meritocratic instances at your company in the last six months?

If your contact has to think hard on this, then the company probably isn’t a meritocracy. Most companies that reward deserving employees can quickly respond with examples of praise for deserving employees.

3. Who is the most successful employee at your firm, and what was his path?

Pay careful attention to how this person was recognized. Was he given a few carrots but generally left on his own, or were doors opened up for him to rapidly advance?

Working at a company that prides itself on being a meritocracy is not for everyone. In fact, it could be a bad career move for those not dedicated enough. At AlphaSights, we don’t focus on applicants’ GPAs, past job titles, or even past achievements for previous employers. We look for those who can drive change and success for the future of our company. Promotions, ongoing education, and more responsibilities are given based on the person’s merit — not his tenure.

If you want to get ahead as quickly as possible, then working at a meritocracy should be your top priority. Rather than “serving time” to get recognition, you can strive to produce your best work and find an environment that supports your endeavors.

Stirling Cox is the managing director of AlphaSights USA, a company that connects today’s business leaders with the insight and expertise they need to prosper. The company assists a global client base, including private equity firms, asset managers, strategy consultancies, and corporate executives, in making more informed decisions.

Image Credit: Shutterstock.com

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6 Tips for Communicating Your Company’s Community Service Online http://under30ceo.com/6-tips-communicating-companys-community-service-online/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=6-tips-communicating-companys-community-service-online http://under30ceo.com/6-tips-communicating-companys-community-service-online/#comments Thu, 06 Mar 2014 18:00:22 +0000 GuestAuthor http://under30ceo.com/?p=38348 When it comes to community service, many companies are reluctant to share their good deeds with the public for fear they will be viewed as disingenuous or self-righteous. In reality, when businesses proactively inform the public of their outreach efforts, it can help those companies establish a positive presence in the community, boost employee morale, […]

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online presence

When it comes to community service, many companies are reluctant to share their good deeds with the public for fear they will be viewed as disingenuous or self-righteous.

In reality, when businesses proactively inform the public of their outreach efforts, it can help those companies establish a positive presence in the community, boost employee morale, and even increase sales.

Luckily, in today’s increasingly digital world, it’s easier than ever to get the word out and reach your audience in an effective, positive way. Here are a few reasons why you should be relaying your company’s community involvement to the public.

It Makes Customers Happy

Believe it or not, many consumers are highly conscious of which businesses are involved in community service, and they will go out of their way to patronize companies they perceive to be transparent and socially responsible.

In fact, one survey found that 56 percent of Americans are willing to travel an extra 10 minutes to purchase a product that supports a cause they care about, and 71 percent would even spend more on that product (at least $2.28 more for a $10 item).

Considering that information, it makes sense that research also shows a relationship between corporate giving and subsequent sales growth, particularly for firms in industries that are highly sensitive to consumer perception.

It Makes Employees Happy

In addition to building a positive reputation with consumers, sharing information about your company’s community involvement can also be beneficial to your employees’ morale and satisfaction, which in turn can benefit your business.

According to a Golin Harris study, employees’ views of a company’s corporate citizenship affect team member morale and pride, their trust in their employer, and their willingness to recommend their company as a good place to work.

Research has shown that the higher employees rate their organization’s corporate citizenship, the more committed they are to that organization. This results in a more positive work environment and better employee engagement and commitment.

Use Your Online Presence to Share Your Community Involvement

With all of these potential benefits in mind, why not make relaying your company’s good deeds to the public a part of your overall marketing strategy? Here are some tips for shouting your good news from the virtual rooftops.

1. Leverage your company blog or website to share and engage.

Use your blog to promote your efforts and encourage the community to get involved. Later, you can write a blog post highlighting your efforts and reflecting on the experience.

2. Create a web page dedicated to your outreach efforts.

Create a page on your company website to list your community outreach efforts and partnerships. This gives community members and customers a central place to find information about what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and how they can get involved or support your work.

3. Reach out and form partnerships.

Many local businesses benefit from having a partnership program with other businesses in the community. You can utilize such partnerships to spread the word, team up on a project, or even share discounts and coupons.

4. Use social media to share real-time updates on your community service efforts.

Did you just reach a fundraising goal? Tweet about it! Get some great pictures at an event? Share them on your Facebook page. This is an effective and accessible way to engage with your audience.

5. Work with community publications to share your efforts.

Every community has newspapers looking for stories that feature local businesses. Establish contacts at local publications, and reach out to share your good news. When they do write about your company, make sure you share the article like crazy.

6. Consider an email marketing campaign.

This is a good option for sharing the details of your next event and encouraging your employees and customers to participate.

Companies Doing It Right

All of this advice might sound great in theory, but what does it look like in practice?

The New York Yankees have a community section on their website devoted to sharing press releases and video highlights of events. The team uses its social media accounts to share updates on good deeds and highlight players who are individually involved in community and charitable events.

For jewelry company Alex and Ani, charitable giving is at the heart of what the company does. In fact, it features an entire product line dedicated to charity. The company continuously shares information through its blog and social media, and it gets publicity from its charitable partners.

Eyeglass retailer Warby Parker operates on the same one-for-one model as TOMS, and a section of its website is devoted to sharing its “do good” philosophy. It doesn’t just send glasses overseas as part of its “buy a pair, give a pair” model — the company also sponsors its local Little League team.

These companies all give back to their communities in a variety of ways, but by using best practices to showcase their efforts, they open the door for recognition without looking like they’re bragging.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, “Doing well is the result of doing good. That’s what capitalism is all about.” Your good deeds matter to your community, your customers, and your employees. Why not do well by showing the world that you’re doing good?

John Boudreau is the CEO and co-founder of Astonish, an insurance marketing and sales platform for local insurance agencies. Astonish collaborates with insurance agencies to provide an optimized online marketing presence, automate tasks with technology, and create an effective sales culture through hands-on coaching. Their platform drives growth in round-outs, retention, referrals, new opportunities, lead conversion, and team performance.

Image Credit: Shutterstock.com

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3 Reasons Why You Should Support Your Employees’ Hobbies http://under30ceo.com/3-reasons-support-employees-hobbies/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=3-reasons-support-employees-hobbies http://under30ceo.com/3-reasons-support-employees-hobbies/#comments Mon, 03 Mar 2014 16:00:00 +0000 GuestAuthor http://under30ceo.com/?p=38234 How well do you really know your employees? Beyond the basics of their spouses’ names, the ages of their children, and what they prefer to eat for lunch, most leaders don’t know much about how their employees spend their free time. Perhaps you have a karaoke star or a water polo champ among your ranks, […]

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support your employees

How well do you really know your employees? Beyond the basics of their spouses’ names, the ages of their children, and what they prefer to eat for lunch, most leaders don’t know much about how their employees spend their free time. Perhaps you have a karaoke star or a water polo champ among your ranks, but if you never take an interest in your employees’ hobbies, you’ll never know.

Some leaders prefer to take a hands-off approach when it comes to their employees’ personal lives, but, in fact, getting to know your employees outside of work and taking an active role in supporting their hobbies can benefit your company in several unexpected ways.

The ROI of Supporting Your Employees’ Hobbies

Besides having something to talk about beyond the weather and “The Bachelor,” there are lots of surprising benefits to taking an interest in your employees’ extracurricular activities.

1. Fulfilled workers are productive workers.

It’s a no-brainer that employees who have rich and fulfilling personal lives are bound to be happier individuals, and this satisfaction benefits all aspects of their lives. But research also shows that there’s a definite link between happiness and productivity.

One study found that employees who scored high in life satisfaction received much higher ratings from customers, and another found that employees who scored low in life satisfaction stayed at home, on average, 1.25 more days each month — equaling 15 lost days of productivity per year.

Other research has found that happiness increases sales by 37 percent and productivity by 31 percent. A happy team is something every leader wants, but when you quantify happiness with hard numbers, it becomes something your business needs.

2. Hobbies reveal hidden skills.

People are more than what they do at work on a daily basis. They have hidden passions and talents they may only get to utilize outside of work. But what if you could tap those talents?

Instead of pigeonholing employees in their assigned roles, take an interest in their hobbies. You’ll see another side of the people you spend half your waking hours around and learn what else drives them.

Perhaps an employee who organizes a charity 5K every year would be a great project manager. If she’s chosen a race venue, recruited volunteers, found sponsors, handled insurance waivers, and wrangled hundreds of people, she can probably handle your next big project with ease.

3. Hobbies bring your employees together.

Mutual interests can be a great way to get your employees to spend time together outside of work. These informal interactions, like tossing a ball around or going antiquing, build trust and camaraderie.

Tony Hsieh is a big proponent of hanging out with employees outside of work and encouraging employees to build friendships.

“Communication is better,” says Hsieh. “People are willing to do favors for each other because they are doing favors for friends instead of co-workers.”

Getting your employees to be friends is easy if you’ve built a more informal, horizontal organizational structure to begin with, but it can be more of a challenge in traditional corporate environments where there is a clear hierarchy.

As a leader, it’s your job to get the conversation started and let relationships blossom. Get a group together to do something fun after work to make it clear that there’s no harm in hanging out with co-workers — even “the boss.”

3 Ways to Support Your Employees’ Hobbies

Supporting employees’ hobbies is easy once you get that initial conversation started. Once you know what they enjoy, you can build a support structure that fits their needs.

1.     Plan regular company outings.

If one of your employees plays club hockey, that doesn’t mean you have to ask your employees to tie on skates and hit the ice every week. Spectating can be just as fun and provide a great bonding experience for everyone.

2.     Bring in outside experts.

Even if your employees aren’t big hobbyists, it’s worth bringing in a friend or an expert to teach employees new skills. Try bringing in someone to teach about improvisation, wine tasting, or even self-defense to help employees­­­­ gain useful knowledge.

3.     Allocate time or money for your employees’ hobbies.

There are a variety of ways to support employees’ hobbies in a more hands-off way. Some employers or their insurance providers offer health credits that employees can use toward gym memberships or fitness classes. You can also budget money for creative pursuits, such as pottery classes or cooking lessons.

If your company doesn’t have the budget to offer monetary support, try offering time instead. Let your team knock off two hours early on a Friday to team with a co-worker and do what they love.

It doesn’t matter how you choose to support your employees’ hobbies — just that you do. It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money or even involve forcing your employees to spend time together. There are a variety of ways to encourage activities outside of work.

When you invest in your employees’ happiness, it shows that you care. In turn, your employees are more likely to work effectively and stick around — meaning you’ll get to know each other even better.

Matthew Gordon is President and CEO of The Gordon Group, a holding company that primarily manages GraduationSource and Avanti Systems USA. Gordon strives to foster positive corporate culture and empower young minds.

Image Credit: Shutterstock.com

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6 Necessary Steps for Hiring a PR Firm http://under30ceo.com/6-necessary-steps-hiring-pr-firm/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=6-necessary-steps-hiring-pr-firm http://under30ceo.com/6-necessary-steps-hiring-pr-firm/#comments Mon, 24 Feb 2014 18:00:38 +0000 GuestAuthor http://under30ceo.com/?p=38116 It’s no secret that PR has left entrepreneurs and brands wanting more in terms of execution and results over the years. However, whether you’re a budding young entrepreneur or the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, the idea of nabbing press coverage, online visibility, and a platform of influence is not only appealing but necessary […]

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BC-PR-bollocks-pic

It’s no secret that PR has left entrepreneurs and brands wanting more in terms of execution and results over the years. However, whether you’re a budding young entrepreneur or the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, the idea of nabbing press coverage, online visibility, and a platform of influence is not only appealing but necessary for developing trust, credibility, and authority with potential clients.

To boost your chances of finding a PR agency you’re happy and successful with, you need to do some homework. Here are six things to do before handing over your business:

1.     Identify Company Goals

Oftentimes, companies assume they need PR because they’ve seen it work for other businesses. They believe it’s the natural progression in their business’s lifecycle to hire a PR firm to gain press coverage. Before you even start to converse with firms, sit down and consider what your company wants to accomplish through PR.

Are you looking to gain more promotion, or are you hoping to educate and gain credibility? Identifying your goals will enable you to better define the kind of outcomes you want and allow you to demand more objective results from the firm you choose.

2.     Identify Personal Goals

As a leader, there should be strategy backing the positions you’re creating for your company and yourself. By understanding and creating goals for your company and personal brands, you can align them to make sure they’re playing off each other to help grow the business.

If you value being viewed as an authority in your industry, you can easily utilize content you’ve produced to, in turn, gain authority and shed light on your company. Your brand is inextricably connected to your company’s; determine how you want one to define the other.

3.     Set Expectations for the Relationship

We’ve all heard horror stories of yearlong retainers with PR firms that lead you down a road of unrealistic expectations and limited quantifiable results. This happens when clear expectations aren’t set by either the PR agency or the client; without knowing what’s going to get accomplished, there’s no plan for the firm to execute.

As a decision maker, you have to communicate exactly what you’re looking for and challenge the firm you choose to not only meet these expectations, but involve you in the process. Yes, the point of outsourcing these efforts is to avoid 100 percent involvement, but just because you’re not 100 percent involved doesn’t mean you’re not invested. Understand that the relationship should foster a two-way street of communication to ensure that both sides are executing and implementing what they need to in order to achieve success.

4.     Identify a Firm That Knows Your Niche

A common misconception in PR is that you need to reach the most eyeballs possible. This couldn’t be further from the truth. No matter what your industry or niche is, you need to be educating and engaging your target market, not merely a large, general audience.

Identify and vet the firm you work with to ensure that it not only has experience in your niche specifically, but that it also has a firm grasp on how to help you engage with your market. The adage “No news is good news” doesn’t apply when you’re looking to invest time, money, and resources in return for results.

5.     Look for Skills and Processes You Don’t Have

When you’re looking for a firm to help take your business to the next level, make sure you hire one that can accomplish things you couldn’t do yourself. Decide what you’re looking for, and find a firm that specializes in executing that. A lot of businesses think they just need to hire a full-service PR or marketing firm and don’t see a true return on investment because the firm is spread too thin.

6.     Ask for Case Studies

Ask for case studies showing which reputable companies a firm has worked with, as well as what kind of success they showed their clients. Then, ask how the team plans to achieve that same success for you.

When it comes to outsourcing, particularly with public relations, you need to establish a carefully thought-out partnership. Hiring on a whim and hoping that everything goes well is a recipe for disappointment. As a company leader, you must clearly understand your needs, your goals for the hire, the skillset of the firm you’re hiring, and how it plans to execute for your company. Look past the façade, and you’ll never be left wanting more.

Ryan O’Connell is the Vice President at Influence & Co., a company that helps experts build their businesses through thought leadership and content marketing by producing high-quality content for reputable publications. You can reach out to Ryan on Twitter @Oconnellryan or on Google+.

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7 Under-the-Radar Areas Entrepreneurs Should Consider http://under30ceo.com/7-radar-areas-entrepreneurs-consider/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=7-radar-areas-entrepreneurs-consider http://under30ceo.com/7-radar-areas-entrepreneurs-consider/#comments Sat, 22 Feb 2014 16:00:22 +0000 GuestAuthor http://under30ceo.com/?p=38080 When most people think about the ideal place to launch their startup or expand their business, many instantly think of Silicon Valley, San Francisco, Los Angeles, or New York. However, those traditional entrepreneurship hubs aren’t the only areas offering opportunity, unique culture, and business advantages. Here are seven other areas you should consider for your […]

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When most people think about the ideal place to launch their startup or expand their business, many instantly think of Silicon Valley, San Francisco, Los Angeles, or New York. However, those traditional entrepreneurship hubs aren’t the only areas offering opportunity, unique culture, and business advantages.

Here are seven other areas you should consider for your next business venture, along with a word of advice from residents and business leaders in each place.

Las-Vegas-960-x-420

1. Las Vegas

When hearing the word “Vegas,” most picture a city full of blinding lights and noisy slot machines — few think of it as a place to begin their next business venture. But according to Ronald Arceo, co-founder of The Foodbox, said, “Vegas is a growing city, and it is the perfect place to test ideas and concepts. Metaphorically, Las Vegas is in its early teens in terms of entrepreneurship. We’re currently experiencing a great revitalization, largely in part due to the Downtown Project.”

2. Chicago Loop

While Chicago might already be on entrepreneurs’ radar, The Loop area specifically is an attractive place to look into. Mike Edwards, Executive Director of the Chicago Loop Alliance, explained, “The Loop enjoys high-performing economic drivers from real estate and education to tourism and the arts. This creates world-class opportunity for businesses, investors, and entrepreneurs alike.” The Loop hosts Chicago’s commercial core and is the seat of Cook County.

3. St. Louis

According to Josh Turner, founder of LinkedSelling, “The exploding tech and startup scenes (GlobalHack, Arch Grants, T-Rex), along with a low cost of living and elite universities like St. Louis University and Washington University in St. Louis, make St. Louis one of the best-kept secrets in the country.

“While many think we all look and talk like a ‘Duck Dynasty’ character, in reality, St. Louis offers a healthy blend of culture, community, and great opportunities for businesses of all sizes.”

4. Atlanta

Michael Mogill, President at Crisp Video Group, said, “Not only is it home to several Fortune 100 companies, like Coca-Cola and Home Depot, but Atlanta has a rich history of tech-related successes, such as MailChimp and Pardot.”

Atlanta also has a soft spot for less-established businesses, offering outlets for startups. “Organizations like the Atlanta Tech Village and Startup Atlanta support entrepreneurs and promote connections between talent, ideas, and capital,” Mogill added.

5. Orlando

The combination of enthusiasm, spirited cooperation, and drive from local people and universities is what makes Orlando a unique and exciting area for AKT Enterprises President Alex Tchekmeian. “With the wealth of youth and energy in town, Orlando exemplifies the evolution in the business world. Collaborative workspaces, industry meetups, and networking events have created an atmosphere of innovation for the entire city,” Tchekmeian stated.

6. Kansas City

According to Kyle Rogers, CEO of Knoda, the food — not just the barbecue! — is a great plus for anyone considering KC as a landing spot for their business. Rogers also said, “The energy coming from community and business leaders alike is refreshing and has the whole city moving in the right direction.” Some other exciting things to note in Kansas City include the Fiber House from Brad Feld, Think Big, Homes for Hackers, and the Kansas City Startup Village.

7. Dallas

Dallas is well-known for a variety of things already, but according to Flip Croft Caderao, Principal and Co-Founder of The Infinite Agency, “Dallas is rising in the ranks of the best cities in America. In addition to practical business advantages (major city, no state tax, right to work), Dallas is a vibrant city competing with Los Angeles style and New York fashion and culture. That mentality has — and will — continue to drive our culture to generate more opportunity for everyone.” Another fun fact: The Dallas metro area took spots six and seven on Forbes’ list of fastest-growing cities since the recession.

Break away from the norm and bring your great ideas to one of these cities. You just might find an opportunity you’d never have found anywhere else.

Joshua Johnson is Vice President at Influence & Co. a business that helps companies position key individuals as subject matter experts through thought leadership content. You can reach out to Josh on Twitter @JoshuaJohnsonT or on Google+.

Image Credit: www.jetblue.com 

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Achieving Growth without the Headaches of Hiring http://under30ceo.com/achieving-growth-without-headaches-hiring/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=achieving-growth-without-headaches-hiring http://under30ceo.com/achieving-growth-without-headaches-hiring/#comments Thu, 20 Feb 2014 18:00:39 +0000 GuestAuthor http://under30ceo.com/?p=37988 Whether you’re a cash-strapped entrepreneur or a Fortune 500 leader with a bevy of resources, attracting and hiring employees to run important aspects of your business can be a headache. One wrong hire, and all that time and money you spent on recruitment and training go straight down the drain. However, with a little creative […]

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hiring

Whether you’re a cash-strapped entrepreneur or a Fortune 500 leader with a bevy of resources, attracting and hiring employees to run important aspects of your business can be a headache. One wrong hire, and all that time and money you spent on recruitment and training go straight down the drain.

However, with a little creative planning and research, you can find quality employees without the frustration or crushing expenses commonly associated with growth.

The Headaches of Hiring

As an entrepreneur, you probably don’t have all the resources you’d like. Developing a dynamic team is difficult for any business, but it can be especially difficult for startups. You can’t afford to hire employees who may not perform as well as you’d predicted. You want to attract quality people, so you sometimes offer what you have: the promise of your ideas.

Unfortunately, early-stage entrepreneurs often make the mistake of giving away too much equity at the beginning to entice talented employees. This later leads to potential legal and financial headaches once the business achieves success or ground-floor employees pursue other opportunities. How do you strategically plan for practical growth?

Build Your Winning Team

While you want to build the World Series-winning Red Sox, sometimes you can only afford to hire minor league prospects. To build a championship-caliber team out of the talent you can afford, you’ll need to apply a little of Billy Beane’s logic from “Moneyball” to your hiring decisions. Here are a few things you’ll need to weigh when building your team:

1. Consider nontraditional employees.

Freelancers, interns, and other forms of temporary labor are ideal for many situations. You have the potential to gain expertise and energy without straining your funds. Technology and marketing are vital aspects of any business, and there’s currently no shortage of freelance and intern talent in tech and creative fields.

Even in operations, back-end processing, and other knowledge-based fields, you can connect with business schools to organize unpaid internships and independent study projects. These opportunities should provide real-world experience to students, not just grunt work. Most students actively seek possible career opportunities when choosing an internship, so you have the chance to develop your potential future team without exorbitant training costs.

Temporary workers are great for both creative and mundane tasks, and they help offset the costs associated with hiring and firing full-time employees. Seasonal temporary workers can assist you during overwhelming periods. If temporary workers show incredible skills and motivation during their time, they could potentially join your team permanently in the future.

2. Ask your friends.

Soliciting help from friends and family can be a great way to find new employees. You never know who’s at a point to make a change or believes in you enough to take a leap of faith. The benefit is you already know your friends’ personalities. However, this is something you seriously need to consider because, while loved ones want to be on board your ship, they’re also more difficult to throw overboard if necessary.

3. Know your limitations.

Theories and plans are great, but keep in mind that cash is what ultimately fuels the growth of your business. Don’t hire so many people that you can’t afford to pay them. No matter how much money you throw at marketing, it sometimes takes longer than you expect for an idea to gain traction.

It’s important that you strike a balance between hiring as many people as you need to perform the work and hiring so many that you can’t afford to pay them over the long haul. Job security is a two-way street when you’re first building your business.

4. Challenge your team.

Perhaps the most practical solution to growth is empowering your current team. Organize projects and roles that challenge your team to grow while still maintaining the capability to succeed. Obviously, overworking your employees is not going to boost morale. However, if you play to their strengths and then push them to investigate their potential, the experience can inject energy and momentum into your business.

Nobody likes being in a room full of strangers. We would all love to have a reliable, affordable, and enduring team, but this situation is rare for a startup. How fast and strong your company grows is directly tied to the quality of people on board and the training and direction you give them. Seeking alternative strategies to hiring can help develop employees ready for future growth opportunities and keep your costs low, allowing for even more potential as you establish your company.

However you choose to build your team, make sure you remember the fundamental of “Moneyball” — the only statistic that matters is how many bases you’ve covered.

Rob Biederman is the co-founder and CEO of HourlyNerd, a service that connects businesses to top MBA students and alumni to solve critical business problems at affordable prices. Connect with Rob on Twitter and Google+.

Image Credit: Shutterstock.com

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Letting Go of ‘Good Enough’ http://under30ceo.com/letting-go-good-enough/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=letting-go-good-enough http://under30ceo.com/letting-go-good-enough/#comments Tue, 11 Feb 2014 16:00:00 +0000 GuestAuthor http://under30ceo.com/?p=37951   Almost every business leader has a mental list of big, bold changes he wants to make. Unfortunately, more times than not, nothing seems to change. We get too caught up in everyone’s urgent requests and put off the ambitious decisions. We don’t have a manager to force us to take action, so that big […]

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 quote-don-t-lower-your-expectations-to-meet-your-performance-raise-your-level-of-performance-to-meet-ralph-marston-120366

Almost every business leader has a mental list of big, bold changes he wants to make. Unfortunately, more times than not, nothing seems to change. We get too caught up in everyone’s urgent requests and put off the ambitious decisions. We don’t have a manager to force us to take action, so that big change just stays uncrossed on our mental to-do list.

It’s time to bring those big ideas to the front burner and turn up the heat. Make 2014 the year you stop accepting the status quo and demand more from your company and yourself.

Here are four big changes you can’t afford to put off any longer.

1. Fire the ones who are really asking to be fired.

Ask, “If I knew this was the work they did for another company, would I want to hire them?” Would you look at a rival company with this team and be jealous of what they have or confident in what you have?

It’s way too easy for managers to become complacent with their current staff. You should be constantly asking yourself tough questions. If you don’t, you’re going to foster a “good enough” culture, where people work to maintain, rather than excel. I don’t mean you should fire people who genuinely work hard, contribute, and fit in with the culture but are falling a bit behind. I’m talking about the people who are lacking across the board.

Cull the staff, and use the money you save to reward those who work their tails off. A smaller staff with tighter cohesion and a greater sense that everyone’s contributing will be more successful than a larger staff that has people who are dragging.

2. Get your sales department in order.

Too many companies put up with lackluster salespeople, skimp on training, and neglect their alternate sales channels until it’s too late. Sales is the backbone of your company, so you absolutely must make it a top priority.

Start by hiring a great sales manager. A great sales manager is that rare individual who doesn’t make excuses, believes in accountability, dedicates himself to being an expert on your product, can recruit top salespeople, and isn’t afraid to fire people when necessary. You’re looking for a decision maker who can assert himself in any situation without seeming unreasonable.

These people are few and far between, but finding one is of utmost importance to your company’s success. Don’t be afraid to pay for the good ones — this is an investment that pays off tenfold. Not only will your revenue increase, but it will energize your entire organization.

Make your sales manager’s first task creating a sales playbook. Too often, one-off sales happen by chance or are the result of complete shots in the dark. Stop treating sales like a game of dice, and start treating it like a science. Document your process, capture best practices, and put a system in place to replicate success.

Finally, once your all-star team is in place, explore alternate channels to drive sales cost-effectively. This is an area you absolutely must keep up with; otherwise, all your other cost-cutting measures and efficiency improvements will be negated when you spend twice as much as your competition on sales tactics that aren’t effective.

3. Hire a kickass marketing manager.

It seems like everyone I know is ambivalent at best when they talk about their marketing department, often underwhelmed with its performance. Don’t let this be your company.

Your marketing manager should be someone who wants to kill the competition and earn the respect of the sales department. This isn’t the type of person who tries to justify her budget but is honestly searching for the best and most cost-effective methods. Her results should be tracked and transparent.

The top-notch manager should be current with the latest marketing and sales-related technology and understand how it integrates with other core functions. Everything should come together, and nobody should get too attached to any single method.

Find someone who doesn’t think the job consists solely of coming up with cool ideas. Find someone who understands marketing is equal parts creativity and execution. You’ll know you hired the right person when the manager is finishing your sentences after three months.

4. Write more to people who matter.

Stop sitting in front of your keyboard for 10-minute periods, thinking of the perfect way to begin an email. Most of the time, your idea after 10 minutes is no better than after the first minute.

Write to the people at your company. Don’t be the faceless, voiceless CEO. Be the inspiring business leader.

Write to your customers. Thank them, and find out how you can do more for them.

Write to potential investors. Let them know what breakthroughs you’re having and what opportunities you’re finding.

Write to yourself. Formalize your ambitions.

It’s time to stop procrastinating. These issues are not “someday” action items — they’re vital to your company’s success. Don’t know where to start? Just pick one of these areas that you know you can fix, and fix it. Publicly commit to it so you have no choice but to follow through. Focus on one, and get it done.

Steve Hays is CEO of Be Relevant Group, a company specializing in innovations for better execution in sales and marketing and the creators of insidesalesteam.com and lostleads.com.

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So You’re A Small Business Owner – What You Need to Know about Business Law http://under30ceo.com/youre-small-business-owner-need-know-business-law/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=youre-small-business-owner-need-know-business-law http://under30ceo.com/youre-small-business-owner-need-know-business-law/#comments Fri, 31 Jan 2014 18:00:34 +0000 GuestAuthor http://under30ceo.com/?p=37926 Starting a small business is a very exciting endeavor – it involves having a dream and working hard to make that vision into a reality. However, along with the thrilling parts of starting a business, there is also a lot of not-so-thrilling red tape that needs to be dealt with. When you start a business, […]

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Business Law

Starting a small business is a very exciting endeavor – it involves having a dream and working hard to make that vision into a reality. However, along with the thrilling parts of starting a business, there is also a lot of not-so-thrilling red tape that needs to be dealt with.

When you start a business, you will need to figure out the legal requirements that apply to your business and the laws that you need to adhere to. In Australia, a small business is defined as having fewer than 15 employees (as defined by the Fair Work Act of 2009).

Ignorance of the law is not an excuse – when you are a small business you will be required to follow the regulations and guidelines that are set out for you. If you are not sure of the legal requirements that apply to your small business, you might want to hire a legal professional who can help you with everything from registrations, licences, leases and contracts. There are law firms, such as Prime Lawyers, that specialize in small business law.

So what are some of the main areas of business law that you should be aware of when starting a new business?

Accounting and Records

Becoming a small business means no more scribbling down expenses on the back of a piece of scrap paper at the end of the month – you will need a professional system of accounting and records in order to adhere to the law and keep your finances organised.

Not only will you need to be able to keep track of your finances for the operation of the business, you will also need to be able to show your record when calculating your taxes and claiming any deductions.

Business Relationships

Your small business might work with a number of different contractors, sub-contractors, employees and freelancers in order to get the job done. There are a number of legal guidelines when it comes to managing these business relationships, which are put in place to protect both your company and the contractor. Make sure that you understand the details of these agreements before you enter into an agreement, so that you can follow them correctly.

Employment Issues

What is a legally acceptable reason to fire an employee and what isn’t? What are your minimum responsibilities when it comes to health and safety in the workplace? How can you ensure that your employees are not discriminated against or harassed in the workplace?

There are a lot of important issues that are related to employment law for small businesses. All business owners are responsible for adhering to these laws and creating a safe and fair working environment for their employees.

Insurance

Taking out insurance to protect yourself and the assets off the business against liabilities is a very important business practice. There are many different types of insurance that you could get for your business, so take your time and choose the option that best fits your particular needs. Make sure that your premiums are always paid and that your policies are renewed when they expire.

Of course, these are just a few examples of the important aspects of business law you should know about when starting a small business. You will also need to know about import/export issues, contracts, court processes, liability, environmental issues and so much more. With so many facets of the law to cover, this is why many small businesses benefit from the help of a specialist business lawyer who can offer them advice and guidance.

Image Credit: Shutterstock.com

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Home Renovation Nightmares and Lessons You Can Learn From http://under30ceo.com/home-renovation-nightmares-lessons-can-learn/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=home-renovation-nightmares-lessons-can-learn http://under30ceo.com/home-renovation-nightmares-lessons-can-learn/#comments Thu, 30 Jan 2014 17:00:00 +0000 GuestAuthor http://under30ceo.com/?p=37914 A home renovation is one of the riskiest financial ventures that most people will get involved in and there is a lot of potential for things to go wrong. When things go right during a renovation you will beautify and modernise your home in a cost efficient way, but when things go wrong it can […]

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home renovation

A home renovation is one of the riskiest financial ventures that most people will get involved in and there is a lot of potential for things to go wrong. When things go right during a renovation you will beautify and modernise your home in a cost efficient way, but when things go wrong it can cost you an unbelievable amount of money, time, stress and headaches.

So what are the most common nightmares that occur when homeowners undergo a large renovation project? Here are some examples of home renovation headaches and what you can learn from them:

Hiring Cheap Non-Professionals

Sometimes a home owner, in an attempt to save money on their renovation, will hire a non-professional who offers to do the work at a cheaper price. However, cutting corners in this way doesn’t usually work out in the long run. Think about it – the contractor can probably charge a cheap rate because they have unlicensed or inept workers or because they are scrimping on their materials. Too often, these non-professionals will short change the client by delivering poorly executed and incomplete work.  You might save money new, but it will cause you big problems in the future.

Usually, they will not have set out a written contract, so the home owner can’t really do anything about it. The lesson learned? Always hire a professional and complete a written contract.

When Sub-Contractors Let You Down

In some cases, when you hire a contractor they will hire sub-contractors to do some of the work. However, when the sub-contractor provides you with shoddy workmanship, the contractor will fail to hold them accountable. This means that you will be stuck with dealing with the problem and the extra cost of fixing the problem. Before you hire a contractor who will be sub-contracting the work out – clarify what happens if the sub-contractor’s work isn’t up to standard.

Misjudging Your Renovation Costs

One of the most common nightmares that happens during a home renovation is when your costs start to slowly creep up well beyond your original budget. Perhaps when you rip away the walls, you start to notice that your home needs all new wiring or that you need to reinforce the structure of the walls – a cost that you never anticipated.

Remember, there is always a chance that these renovation problems will manifest when you start working on your home – so you should expect from the beginning that your original budget won’t be enough. Always add at least 10-20% percent extra for unexpected surprises.

Reducing Your Home Equity too Much when Refinancing

Many home owners decide that their best option is to take out a home equity loan on their mortgage in order to fund the renovation. (visit NPBS to learn more about this option). While this can be a smart financial move, it’s important to do it properly.

Before the real estate bubble burst some home owners were refinancing their home based on property values that were overinflated and didn’t last. This meant that they took all the value away from their home when they refinanced then found that the investment didn’t pay back when they tried to sell later when property values were down. If you are planning to use your home equity to fund your renovations, make sure that you work with the professionals and do it the right way.

These are just a few examples of how home renovations can go very wrong and cause a lot of stress and turmoil – so try to refrain from making the same mistakes when you are fixing up your home.

Image Credit: Shutterstock.com

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