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- Follow the “extreme sport” of learning to code, by doing a bootcamp (GeneralAssemb.ly or Devbootcamp.com)
- Take the moderate approach, and use Codeacademy.com
- Sign up for continuous e-learning on-demand, with Lynda.com or Udemy.com
- If you are simply not ready and still recalcitrant, at least, take 5 minutes to see what is going on at Stackoverflow.com
- Test out tweeting a Google doc link on Twitter
- Take a second to reveal Mark Zuckerberg’s personal page
- Check out each employee that came on board Facebook by upping the counter, and seeing whom you get. You have now learned something about how a database works.
- Grab a friend and see Life of Pi at a theater. Some things simply cannot be appreciated on Hulu or Netflix. The gorgeous cinematography requires it.
- Think about what lesson from your childhood comes back to you on a regular basis, possibly even every day. Be aware of your “regurgitated” thinking. Self-awareness will inform why you reflexively respond as you do, and help you recalibrate to respond as you wish, instead of by rote.
- Get out and investigate one neighborhood that is rich in ethnic diversity. You will grow as a person and a colleague, when you do this.
- cultivating new business opportunities
- validating ideas for extensions to an existing product line
- turning up Influencers to pump up their network, or
- improving collaboration in a company of remote employees
- Look at the intersection between where your company wants to be and what you offer, and identify a few potential “lattice” moves.
- Regardless of what trends you identify, just dipping your hand into technology is one of your very best moves to ensure you are ready for the hottest jobs of the future: In all cases, they will require someone who is willing and able to learn and adapt.
- Explore the web-based tools that I have used to make this post. 1-I used Ecamm‘s Call Recorder for Skype with the user interface set like the illustration below; 2-I used Vimeo, as it allows faster uploads of higher-quality videos than what is possible on YouTube; 3-I used the Viper’s Video Quicktags plugin for WordPress.
- If you find it painful to try something new, learn to explore the various help forums tucked into these sites to troubleshoot. It is amazing what you can do, once you get started.
- Listen to the audiofile embedded in this post and then learn how to create an MP3 audiofile yourself, so you can do as I am doing … sharing your inspiration with others.
- Download Audacity, the free software for creating, editing and sharing audio files. I recommend downloading it on a PC, since it was a wee bit easier than downloading on a Mac, but there are versions for both. Then, you also need to download LAME in order to create files in an MP3 format … follow the instructions that pop up when you do File > Export.
- If you want to take it a step further, look on your smartphone for a voice recorder app, and experiment with it. A voice recorder app will allow you to make a recording of a conversation anywhere, any time; I have done so myself (when a car dealer tried to cheat me … and I recorded our conversation).
Looking around the room, a sparse, modern, white loft in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan, I realized I was 20 years older than everyone else. Thankfully, there came a man with salt and pepper whiskers and telltale gut bulge, and I was thrilled. “I am not the only middle-aged soul considering learning code,” I thought.
Little did I know that said fellow with facial hair and unruly belly was the instructor for the course in London, one of three instructors in the room and not another prospective student. (The instructors had been asked to attend the info session so that prospects could get their questions answered directly.)
Oops, I realized I was indeed the oldest prospect in the room. No matter. “It is not important when you get into the saddle, just that you do,” I told myself silently.
How I came to want to learn code, and give up my fantasy that you can get ahead without it
There were two inputs that propelled my thinking, and both reinforced the other.
First, I was reading Start-Up Nation, and it made me understand in a concrete way that the key to the future was going to be possessing certain technical skills that I didn’t yet know. Faking was no longer acceptable. The job growth of tomorrow is in the secret compartment of web developers today.
Go to http://www.code.org, move down the elevator, and take in the words of A-listers who urge us to create opportunities for our kids to learn code. If it’s good for our youth, isn’t it also good medicine for us?
Second, I realized that every time I had to reach out to a tech geek to sign off on the coding that I thought a client’s website needed, I was being choked. And that is not good. I would rather grab hold of the choke point, than be choked.
Not to mention that the techies were charging out at 2 to 3 times my rate, so the financial gain was sacrificed to someone who was more valuable.
I needed to squarely face something I had been avoiding like the plague …. I needed to learn code.
Enter the pivotal push: Reading about intensive workshops where you can learn to code
One lazy Sunday morning I picked up the newspaper and was startled to learn that there are hacker bootcamps that solve the jobless problem. That is, educational programs setting you on the path to a starting salary of $90K, if you could commit to a marathon of web immersion programming.
How does it grab you to know that Android developers have a negative 17% unemployment rate?
This is not made up. An HR exec told me once that if they need to fill a spot for a backend developer, they must poach from somewhere else. There are simply not enough skilled folks to catch.
Do you need to learn code regardless of your function or your role?
I’ll get away from wishy-washy advice and stir up controversy.
Ask yourself: If your firm needs to be innovative to compete in the future, how are you going to win if you shirk from learning what you need to know? You are like the dog that lies down, ready to take a beating.
The best entrepreneurial individuals will be those who know code.
I am spending a few hours a week online, learning coding for free at codeacademy.com. I urge you to do likewise.
I also spent 3 solid days doing a course of Programming for Non-Programmers, and it was awesome. (Link goes to the first day of the program.) I should have been on it years ago.
Even if you don’t mean to be the developer of a mobile app, even if it is not your thing to move into IT, simply knowing what is going on in the programming world and being able to communicate better with coders, or being able to envision where an app could enhance your offering, will make you (and your company) more innovative.
The person who can envision using technology to better serve customers is going to be the more valuable hire, or the most valuable (and promotable) employee.
Piloting your business’s future depends on your knowing the trends of today.
I’ll give you an example I garnered from the WSJ. Keith Brown is an arborist and owner of Austin Tree Experts, in Austin, Texas.
Normally, one might not think that tree experts need to know code. But Mr. Brown was smarter and more innovative. He imagined that with an app, his customers would be able to record tree ailments more precisely than they were currently able to, and his employees would then be empowered to better solve those issues when they got better data.
Drawing on resources ranging from an online app development tool to the Q&A site Stackoverflow [http://stackoverflow.com] and online tutorials at W3Schools.org and HTML5rocks.com, he brought his idea to fruition. I imagine that he probably had more hours of headaches than he would like to recall, but the point is that he had to IMAGINE how an app would take an uploaded photo of a problematic tree, mix it with geographic data pulled in from GPS along with other relevant notes and details, and point to specific remedies.
Diagnosing and solving the source of tree rot or bug infestation with greater accuracy or speed offers better customer service and, ultimately, competitive advantage over other arborist firms.
Think about it. What could you be doing that you are not now doing, to differentiate your company from others? What enhancements to your products or services rely on a technical understanding of the possibilities?
Do you see what I mean when I buttonhole you and tell you to learn code?
Now go do it. No more excuses.
Photo of the job boards taken at GeneralAssemb.ly, New York.
Share in the comments how you feel about learning code, and what I might do to help you overcome your reluctance.
Sometimes so much presses in on you that you need a one-minute pick-me-up. I can help you there. Do these one-minute jaunts on the web, to feel like you’re ahead of the game, instead of feeling eaten by life.
First tip: Use Twitter to get everyone onto the same page, instantaneously.
This tip works wonders when you have a group of people and need everyone to be viewing the same page in real time. Instead of emailing everyone with an attachment to open, you thought you had it covered by creating a Google doc and sharing it to all. But what if your “group” is 10 strong, or more? What if you are teaching a class of 30? I have the solution: Go onto Twitter and tweet the link to your Google doc, which is pre-set to be seen by those with the link (share -> anyone who has the link). See how Chris Castiglione did it, below:
Second tip: Get personal with the heavy honchos at Facebook.
Do you know how Mark Zuckerberg brags that Facebook is connecting the world? How about calling him on this and getting up close and personal with him.
On the back end of the Facebook platform is a regular old database where everyone’s record has one unique identifier. This numerical identifier is automatically assigned when you sign up for an account.
Think about the Stone Age, when Facebook was being developed. The first people who had their hands on the system started from 1, but if you type into the search bar www.facebook.com/1, you get nothing. They were “testers” and were erased at some point.
If you keep increasing the numbers, you hit upon High Highness himself, Mark Zuckerberg. Here is his Facebook page at number four. (Note that it automatically changes facebook.com/4 to facebook.com/zuck. That is because he has claimed his own vanity URL.)
Now you don’t need to pop a Xanax to allay anxiety, you can read up on Zuck’s posts and brag that you are up close and personal.
Eye tracking studies show readers close the window in as little as 1/20th of a second. Do you have any idea how fast that zips by, 1/20th of a second? And the top reasons don’t surprise me: 1-your page is ugly, 2-its organization is confusing, and 3-your writing is boring.
I appreciate that you struggle every day to sculpt relevant and interesting copy, but the fact is, on a regular basis, your writing is boring. You commit the mother of all sins: allowing readers who come to your page, to turn tail. And not buy your stuff.
The #1 fail-proof remedy for boring online writing that brings reader shutdown
Set your sights on becoming the Taylor Swift of online writers. She has a REAL firecracker voice and a memorable “edge.”
Which is why we call her an icon of pop culture. She is popular. Not complicated, is it?
Inasmuch as blogging is part of social media, its got to be social. If it sounds like it were written by academics or data scientists, that’s an egregious mistake.
But I’ve seen this mistake time and again. In fact, I once told my therapist that the blog of an SEO client of mine — I was NOT doing his writing – was pulled entirely from syndicated content tailored to his industry, and was boring. Even the therapist — who would normally hold herself back from chiming in — commented, “Yeah, I get an email from my accountant from time-to-time, and it is indeed boring. I skip through most of it.”
Yes, the accounting blog has a use; it gives valuable tax tips. But no, people don’t normally sit down for a big chunk of time to read tax tips.
So ask yourself, do you need to be boring when you write for the web? Is it getting you leads, is it bringing engagement?
If your answer is “not sure,” “no,” and “no,” then you are in an endless loop. Break out of it. The answer to the first question is “no” if the answer to the next two is “no.” You are doing yourself a disservice to stay in your risk-averse, old school ways.
People want tips and other free ideas, but even more they want to be part of a dialogue and to be given a chance to chime in. Can you have an interesting dialogue when you do all the talking yourself?
Can you have a genuine conversation when you are in straight-jacket-speak?
Loosen up. Get more descriptive. Take a chance. One online publisher found me when I was sharing my content to Google+. The thing that caught his eye was the fact that my writing wasn’t boring.
That’s why I am a big proponent: Either write your own blog, or hire a writer who knows how to talk in the language we speak online.
Web writing is not the same as sales collateral. In most cases (there are exceptions), a corporate blog can be fresher and more lively than the brochure the same firm produces.
Trifolds are not the same as text messages, are they?
So get away from stultifying, boring stuff.
If you want to polish your skills for web writing, the very best course out there (no surprise) is offered remotely, and given by the expert in web writing himself, Jon Morrow. You can sign up here.
I took the course myself and it helped improve my writing like working with a personal trainer made me drop 15 lbs. pronto. I went from being rather mediocre to stirring up a shitstorm of reader engagement.
The good news is that you can do it, too. You can make writing one of your core strengths, if you learn from the pro himself.
And now for those of you in corporate, whether large companies, middle market firms, or small start-ups: Think in terms of being lively and make yourself the strongest writer out there. Get away from the yawns, and pick up the tempo.
Become the Iron Man of online writers. If you don’t know how, Jon Morrow will show you.
How do you get creative and bring out ‘your inner soul sistah’ when you write? Tell us in the comments.
Here’s a free pass to play hooky from your work mid-afternoon, and go to a movie instead of chugging down your list of 200 contacts. You will have better insight if you do.
You can learn a ton from Life of Pi, which is exquisitely shot, lives in the realm of fantasy, and takes off from the saga of a shipwrecked Indian boy.
See it, and see what you can pick up from Pi to achieve greater self-awareness, because it is scientifically proven that greater self-awareness is positively correlated with success.
Here are my 6 takeaways from Life of Pi:
1. What makes a huge impression on a youngster, sticks for life. In the movie, the lesson was not to feed a tiger; it is a wild animal. The character Pi never forgets this lesson, which ultimately helps save his life.
2. Be open to your reality; you have more courage than you know.
3. Every day is a blessing, every new challenge will demand your creativity. Without creativity, you will wither in the struggle. That’s for sure.
4. Foreign cultures, sights, and sounds aren’t frou frou. They are part of the core of a cosmopolitan person. I spent 16 months in my twenties tramping around Asia; that experience not only resonates “back then,” it lives in my psyche now, too, and whets my appetite for new cultural experiences, midlife.
Like me, be a person who is interested in other cultures and the wider world. Not solely for your personal growth. This will help you in the good ol’ US of A, where 38 million people were born abroad.
5. Look for the parallels in what you are experiencing. It is not about your deadbeat Dad, your difficult boss, or your dysfunctional family. It is about you. As my coach says, a business that doesn’t work is about you who doesn’t work. Fix yourself on the psychological, spiritual, and physical levels. Then your professional work will level up.
6. You are beautiful at every age. How many actors played the main character, Piscine Molitor, over the years? The credits showed a whole bunch. And each persona was lovely at that very age.
Movie poster ™ and © Twentieth Century Fox.
What did you think of the movie? Please tell us in the comments.
“I know an old woman who lived in a shoe … ” goes the rhyme, but it was a digital shoe equipped with a mobile hotspot, so she was as connected as one could ever be. She could have watched the Inaugural Address of President Obama livestreamed to her smartphone, had she wanted to.
Which underscores how you never know whom you might pull in, when creating an online community.
Online communities are a phenomenon you cannot ignore
Have you heard of a website called Backyardchickens.com?
Probably not, but thanks to Richard Millington, I joined that online community to see what was happening, and OMG, hundreds of thousands of folks cover all angles of raising chickens in a backyard NOT just for goofs! There are more than 100,000 chicken enthusiasts who together have posted more than 7 million questions and comments about this topic.
If you didn’t know me, you might think this is a joke from Jay Leno. It’s not.
Why should you care? Because online communities are a growing phenomenon, and regardless of whether your work involves:
doing it online makes eminent sense.
About a year ago, Catherine Morgan and I used Google+ Hangouts to host a regular hangout for folks in mid-career transition. Beyond the fact that the experience was a hoot-and-a-half, we discovered this is a superb platform for creating an online community and making closer connections than is possible simply using conference calls or webinars.
When you can see each other in real-time, your connection feels more personal and dare I say — more trusting.
I urge you to explore Google+ Hangouts because there are so many ways it fits the bill. It has been used by politicians to hold town hall meetings with constituents or donors, it is well-suited for conversations between virtual teams of your vendors or customers, and it can help you connect to other professionals to share best practices.
For example, there is a regular Google+ Hangout for Community Managers that you can calendar and join every Friday at 2pm. Run by Tim McDonald (@MYCMGR), a Community Manager at the Huffington Post, this side gig makes Tim a Host of Community Managers. If you join this week, I’ll see you there!
Features of Google+ Hangout that help you succeed like a pro
Google+ Hangout lets you host a videoconference with up to 9 participants, where everyone can see and hear each other in real time. For free. Further, the videoconference is automatically recorded so you can save it and embed it into your website, upload to the cloud, or share it in any way you choose.
Moreover, you can livestream the Google+ Hangout to YouTube so that anyone who is not on Google+ can see it anyway.
It is super easy to host a Google+ Hangout, but if you are too sheepish to jump into the hot seat of being a “Host” at the moment, consider joining a Google+ Hangout as a participant first, so you get the feel of it.
How to know where and when Google+ Hangouts take place
I recommend a tool called Hangout Canopy because it gives a broad overview of what public hangouts are happening at the moment. Similar to what the ancient TV Guide used to do, for those old enough to remember it!
One caveat: you need to be using Chrome as your browser in order to use the Hangout Canopy extension.
1. While you are in Chrome (also free to download), go to http://www.hangoutcanopy.com, press the Google Chrome button, and the following pop-up appears. Make the ‘Add’ selection (as shown below).
3. At any time you wish to find people to chat with, tap that icon and view the burst showing real-time hangouts, illustrated below.
4. To join the hangout, click on the face of the host.
5. The pane switches, informing how many are on the hangout. Click the blue box that says “Hang out.”
6. Your webcam turns on (goes green). Click the blue box that says “Join.”
7. You’re in!
Be part of the online communities taking part at that moment. Get your mojo on. And get cozy comfy with your constituents, your virtual teammates, or your prospects.
Congratulations! You made it past the resolution-ready days of early January, and are sailing into prime time for your career ambitions.
To smooth that path, I have a video treat for you. My guest Joanne Cleaver, has an uber-impressive background as a writer for The Chicago Tribune, Working Woman, Entrepreneur, and other publications. She has just come out with a book,
The Career Lattice: Combat Brain Drain, Improve Company Culture, and Attract Top Talent. If you are expecting your career to sweep you off your feet in the coming year, then press “play” to hear our conversation.
FYI, underneath the video is a synopsis of our conversation, so don’t ditch me in the middle of watching if you prefer text. Following the transcript, I offer links to the digital candy that will enable you to implement the technology just as I have, to create split-screen videos and use web-based tools to self-publish.
Mojo40: What exactly do you mean by a career lattice? What is that concept?
Joanne Cleaver: We traditionally think of advancing your career as a straight upward trajectory like a ladder. However, in an era of slow growth and flattened organizations, you need to think about going over as well as going up. Strategic lateral moves will help you gain skills, broaden your experience, and expand your networks so you are positioned for several types of future jobs.
By getting several types of experiences while you are in your current position, you open up opportunities for different jobs in the next 6 to 18 months.
Mojo40: I loved your example of Ursula Burns, who became the first African-American woman CEO of a Fortune 500 company. She used this concept of a career lattice to transfer into different functions at Xerox, and eventually she had enough corporate mentors on her side to rise to CEO.
Mojo40: How can a person make a first move on the lattice, especially if the boss is clueless about one’s aspirations?
Joanne: Be very self-aware as you are making these steps, and track your progress so you can explain it to your current or future boss. Look at the trends and growth drivers for your industry over the next 6 to 12 months. Review what your top brass are telling the street and translate that back to your position. Look for an opportunity to join a team or a project – perhaps take the place of someone on short-term leave – and say you would like to run point for a while.
Remember, it is not just about you, it’s about you in the context of your company’s needs.
Keep a diary of your steps so you can explain how you got on a team, which will form your own case study for an interview or cover letter.
Mojo40: If you want to make a lateral move, how would you detect what’s a good move?
Joanne: Look at what you are naturally good at and the emerging trends that will frame up the demand for talent.
An example from my own life: I’ve been a business journalist who is transitioning to a communications consulting and coaching role. From my earlier work, I knew how hard it is to get a source to give you a concise quote. I saw an opportunity training clients to condense large research reports into concise talking points. I took additional training and gained technical skills for constructing and organizing webinars. Now I have a format for putting my IP (intellectual property) across in a way that I can sell to those who need this training.
A further example from the book: An accountant at a public accounting firm made a transition to marketing in the media and entertainment field. She condensed an array of options into a manageable number by answering the question, “Should I stay with my technical skills or pursue another industry as a generalist?”
Going for the latter option, she left the CPA firm and joined a media outfit on the basis of her accounting credential and technical skills. She was still an accountant, so it was a lateral move. But she got involved with an association, volunteering for marketing responsibilities.
She showed results with these projects, i.e., she could not only keep track of money but also make money.
She demonstrated business development skills, networking, and expanding the group’s sphere of influence.
Back at her day job, she joined a couple of projects, got to know folks in other departments, and two years after she started this process, the right job came up. Because she showed results and had taken small deliberate steps, she was able to move into that position.
Mojo40: I know someone who moved in the opposite direction, from marketing to being an entrepreneur insurance agent, but whichever path you are on, The Career Lattice should open your mind to the wisdom of planning your next career move with intention.
Drawing of the exiting brains via Creative Commons 2.0, theps.net.
What has worked for you in terms of expanding your network and gaining the visibility you need to move up in your career? Share in the comments.
This advice is offered to you in affiliation with Direct Line Group. Visit Direct Line Group’s Careers website for more interview tips, as well as all current insurance job vacancies across the UK.
Imagine you have been through three rounds of interviews, your HR contact has said you are clearly more experienced than their other candidate, and all that remains is a reference check. Your hopes are high, since you know that your former colleagues will vouch for you.
My girlfriend was in such a position, but then things went awry. The reference check was not perfunctory. It delivered a few twists, including a question: “On a sliding scale of 1 to 7, how would you rate this candidate in terms of executing the details of a plan?” One of her references responded with a “4,” which is respectable but not awesome.
In fact, it raised more questions than it settled.
And the job offer went to the other candidate.
The Takeaway: Consider carefully whom you choose to provide as your references, and make absolutely sure that you know what they will craft in response to questions about your strengths, your weaknesses, and your modus operandi.
Here are a few common FAQs about providing references, so this final step in the hiring process becomes an easy one (not your Achilles heel).
Is getting a more senior person to give me a reference better than getting someone who’s worked with me daily?
A very savvy recruiter says that the ideal reference is from a person who managed you, i.e., a former boss who can speak to your work habits, your work ethic, your work product, your demeanor while on the job, etc.
You can also broaden the net, especially if you’re in a situation where you do not want a specific employer to be aware of your search, or you’re unable to locate former supervisors. In cases such as these, thinking outside of your everyday sphere of operation, you can use trade references, vendors you work with regularly, or possibly a sales person you interface with frequently. Identify someone who’s not a peer, but has had occasion to work with you or to ask you to do something on a fairly regular basis.
The recruiter added, “I’ve never had a request for a peer reference. It’s not to say that it doesn’t happen, but in my personal experience, it hasn’t.”
If I worked with someone more than 3 (5 … 10) years back, is it too long ago to use that person as a reference?
It isn’t always true that a reference from a time long ago is stale, but you should make extra effort to “coach” them and “review” what your accomplishments were. This is especially true if you have not been in touch for awhile. Remind them concretely how you deployed a diverse set of skills to transform the work at hand, or whatever hat trick you wish to highlight. Put it in writing, so it is easy to play back.
After all, people are human; colleagues from long ago may have frayed memories of you.
One tip for avoiding this: As you go about your daily work, take time out at least once a year to collect written testimonies from others who can potentially illuminate your talents in a strategic way down the road.
When you complete a complex project with a clear beginning, middle, and end, that is a particularly auspicious time to ask key contacts to put in writing what skills and know-how they observed.
I’ve been working part-time and now want to re-launch my career in a bigger way. Who shall I use as a reference, since I’ve been outside a typical workplace?
There are quite a few variations on this question, including “I’ve been volunteering” … “I am changing fields.”
In all these cases, get creative and use someone who can speak to the specific skill sets transferable to the position you seek. For example, if presenting and persuading is an important part of the position you aspire to, think of cases where you analyzed a problem, presented the merits of alternatives, and lobbied for a particular path.
This kind of approach – asking yourself what you have done similar to what you will be doing, and in what ways it is similar – will reinforce in your own mind your potential to master the job. Then, speak with the person who saw how you gathered input and took specific steps to build support. Paint the picture you would like them to regurgitate – oops, I mean repeat – if the occasion arose. Then, politely ask if they would serve as a reference.
I don’t have work experience. Whom should I give as a reference?
If you’re looking for your first job, or even an entry-level position in a field where you have no experience, finding a reference can be baffling.
Look to teachers or lecturers you’ve studied under who perhaps work in relevant fields, or, if you’ve had part-time jobs, look to your boss or managers there. Unless you operated by stealth or made no impression at all, they should be able to tell future employers something about your work ethic, personality, and interests.
Give them “hints” in the form of the character traits that you would highlight, i.e., your incredible initiative, or your leadership talents that brought together a group of know-it-all’s to gel as a team.
Mojo40 in association with the Direct Line Group would like to take the agony out of your job search. If you can work in the UK, DLG can be a valuable partner in finding your next career move. Contact them to search and apply for a range of roles from customer service and sales, to marketing, HR and everything in between.
Karen Vasconi, who is a recruiter based in New York and is part of the author’s personal network, was an info source for this piece.
Photo courtesy of Creative Commons 2.0, Jane Starz.
Our guest contributor, Paul Herman, offers a summary of unintended mistakes for small-business owners to avoid.
As a CPA with 30 years’ experience, I’ve seen the lame mistakes of small businesses just as a pediatrician sees the “whole body” of their 7-year-old patient when he pulls off his clothes. I am telling you directly: if you take care of these problems from the get-go, they won’t cause your company to fall off the financial cliff. If you don’t, well, that’s a mistake.
1. No buy/sell agreement or no succession plan in place
If your business is set up as a partnership, you must have a plan in place for the possibility — which is really a probability — that something is going to send your lean, mean machine’s operations awry. Think that debt, disability, divorce, or retirement is too much to contemplate? Most likely, one of these will hit your screen or your partners’, and you will be caught in the jaws of a vice, needing to liquidate to buy them out.
2. Putting all your profits into your business and not developing a plan for retirement
An accountant has the unpleasant but necessary responsibility to let you know the true (staggering) cost of retirement. If you wouldn’t invite one to your “Chuck the ties for a fishing rod” party due to their sober demeanor, I understand. But if you keep plowing all your profits into the business, it’s like putting all your money into a single nest egg. That hardware business you got there, is it so secure that you can keep a Lowe’s at bay, if they locate down the block from you? Not likely. Consider buying your building. Or forking more over to your 401(k).
3. Not keeping up with an annual valuation for your business
If something suddenly happens to you or your key people, you will be screwed if your last valuation took place 5 years ago. As your business prospers, keep up to date. Know what your company is worth. Consult an accountant or analyst with deep experience in valuing businesses. Regular business appraisals will make it much easier to evaluate your present opportunities for growth, as well as valuing your estate in case …
4. Going into series A funding (or other form of venture capital) too soon, and giving too much equity away
I heard this conversation just the other day, in fact. “If we try to raise a million bucks now,
we will need to give away 40% of the firm. But if we go in for half that, and build out our distribution, down the road we can get more moolah for a lower stake.” Right on. Don’t feed the VCs. Let them just sample the appetizer.
5. Not creatively utilizing non-bank sources of funding
Nowadays with interest rates so low and lending to small business being as competitive as it is, consider non-bank sources of financing such as A/R financing, factoring, or even purchase order financing. There are many creative ways to access capital, so don’t be stuck in old mode when hungry players can offer you a better deal.
6. Not taking care of your most valuable key employees
If your Gal Friday jumps ship, can you replace her? Not if she is that crucial combo of smart, savvy, able to thin-slice (a la Malcolm Gladwell), and keeper of a business network garnered from 20 years of progressive pavement-pounding. So make sure that you check in frequently, to assess how happy she is. Ditto for every one of your key lieutenants. A sergeant without a sidekick is like a souffle without a pouf.
7. Not keeping a cash cushion for compliance
You want to be able to leverage your capital, but if you cut it too close, your properties can become like a case of toxic cleanup, infecting an entire site with a teensy bit of contamination. The unexpected happens. Piss comes with vinegar. Markets go haywire with little human error, and then suddenly you need to pull in cash for compliance. Don’t underestimate here; a controller’s job is to keep your ship safe. Be prudent.
8. Not hiring top-notch attorneys and best-in-class CPAs
If you are the kind of dude who recalls hearing your mom say, “Mind the pennies and the dollars will add up,” then you probably also recall the heyday of Lucille Ball. But no one else getting rich in this new economy refers to her as a comedienne. Just as the nature of comedy has changed, what constitutes professional advisory services has changed, and your key advisors need to be ahead of the game.
When it comes to covering your ass legally or in terms of filings and taxes, you need to hire the best. At some point, someone is going to sue you for something, or the government will hit you up in some way. You need an accountant and a lawyer that are worth their weight in gold, so you will not be bleeding green.
A dysfunctional life it ain’t, but it sure can seem stressful.
Here is a direct quote from a doc I sent the lawyers this week: I have 19 kid drop-offs/pick-ups per week and that is only counting Monday through Friday … and I just tipped my coffee as I went to grab the phone, spilling all of it into my printer and now need to buy a new one.
Here is what I discovered between waking three kids, prepping the dinner, tossing the dessert (a triple fudge cake) into the oven, bunking the dishes from last night, putting out the 10 bags for Big Brothers/Big Sisters pickup, making my own bag lunch (for munching at work), and trying to scoot my teenagers out the door before their bus drivers take off: the three eggs that should’ve gone into the cake. Sitting pretty on the countertop. While the cake is already 21 minutes “par-baked.”
Okay, take a minute and breathe.
Google lost $22 billion a few days ago, but I didn’t. My kids are with me, not in Afghanistan. Their health is good, and while mine is fair, I don’t need botox to look and feel 10 years younger. (I have a secret solution for that.) And finally, I can take care of my children as a devoted mom, build my career, develop support for an ailing octogenarian mother, and receive licks from my cat to heal my hurts. So all is copacetic.
And then I hear the words that awaken me to the fact that “ok” is not where it’s at. I am not a struggling Pilgrim in survival mode through a long, bitter cold winter. I hear the voice of my friend Dyana: You are too blessed to be stressed. She says it with conviction. A testimony to the power of her relationship with God.
Here is an audiofile so you can hear it too. Press recording_too_blessed_to_be_stressed of Dyana Nelson, a wonder woman who entered my life, I am sure, to coach me to count my blessings daily, as only an impassioned believer can.
You can feel this way, too. All you movers and shakers, you are likewise too blessed to be stressed. Place the words in the forefront of your thoughts: YOU ARE TOO BLESSED TO BE STRESSED.
Photo of the Audacity logo.
Those trade show bunnies will do nearly anything.
With apologies to the ladies who may be as smart as they are curvy, the results are self-evident regarding what really counts in the trade show sweepstakes. The top five ways to make a strong return on investment from your trade show experience have nothing to do with what your help looks like.
First, offer a few items — really pleasing giveaways — that serve as eye-catching promo goods to polish your brand image. Folks who pick up something delightful and useful at your booth will more likely remember you. Good choices range from imprinted stress balls for the stressed out exec, to custom USB drives for just about any business type.
Second, use a lead generation tool you own that will give you value over numerous trade shows. The one I like is made by LeadWizard, and can be purchased in several versions that feature a desktop card swiper, or run on an iPhone or iPad.
Third, take notes like crazy on that lead gen tool so that you can customize the follow-up email you send. I mean what I say — take notes like crazy. The more you show that you actually remember that person and the conversation, the less likely their eyes will glaze over in reading your message.
Which is why I am not a fan of any lead gen tool that makes taking notes a hassle.
Fourth, make sure that the assistants staffing your booth really know your product and service inside out. In my opinion, using your business partners is a little more expensive than local help, but their goals are aligned with yours, and in many cases, they can make a more forceful case for the benefits of your product or service.
In other words, this is one place where being articulate counts.
For example, I once worked a trade show for the North American sales arm of an Indian app developer. The best assistants in the booth were partners of the sales force. Trust me, they could not only answer questions, they could articulate how that product differed from competitors.
Fifth, have someone waiting in the wings to get those follow-up emails out ASAP. Don’t leave them sitting on your thumb drive. Every day counts! Keep a few templates in your CRM system that can be customized as needed. Although it becomes more labor intensive to do so, a well-written communication trumps the slinging spaghetti that often passes for follow-up, in my book.
Photo courtesy of Creative Commons 2.0, MotivatedModels.