Category Archives: Entrepreneur

Someone is going to regift your laptop…

This is a great reminder article, by Rene Shimada Siegal, in Inc.com:

Damn! I can’t believe it happened to me.

Someone strolled into our four-story, Class-A professional building, then into our second-floor office suite and stole my primary business computer — an Apple MacBook Air — right off my desk.

No one even saw the culprit. I was away from my desk for 15 minutes, just down the hall meeting with an employee in her office. Some of my team was out to lunch, but five employees were still heads-down, working hard. I came back to my desk and it was gone. The building surveillance video showed a man entering and exiting the building around this time. He had been in our building a total of 10 minutes.

I wish this story were a little less common.

Just the other day, a woman at a downtown San Francisco Starbucks had an iPad on her table. She turned to talk to her friend, and boom, the iPad was in a young thief’s hands, out the door, across the street and into an alley before anyone figured out what happened. And, of course, most patrons, including me, were focused on our own digital devices. No one saw him coming.

There’s a perfect storm here: Everyone’s got their eyes glued to their devices, and there’s a high resale value for iPhones, iPads and MacBooks. What do we get? Theft. It happens all the time on city streets, buses, trains, and cafés. But I hardly expected someone to waltz into my second-floor office suite at 1:00 PM and nab it off my desk with employees only steps away.

Thankfully, I had backed up my laptop in triplicate: one hard drive and two cloud-based systems. Then I used Apple’s iCloud to remotely erase the stolen laptop, changed all the passwords and filed a police report. Our business insurance also covers the loss with a $500 deductible. Whew

Let my loss be your gain today. How can you minimize downtime when the unthinkable happens to you?

Physical security. We’ve previously had strangers walk into our suite with bogus excuses (“I’m just looking for the elevator”), so we lock the door every day. In a stroke of bad timing, we had cubicle installers moving equipment, and when they left, we forgot to lock the door again. (Yes, my laptop was still there after they left.) We are now installing a keypad access system so the door will automatically lock. Always.

Electronic security. Make sure you have all security options enabled on your devices. Track and regularly update passwords. The Apple “Find My iPhone” application allowed me to remotely lock and erase my stolen computer as soon as anyone connected it to the internet. Very cool. You can even set a message to appear on the screen when it’s accessed. I resisted the urge to tell the thieves what I really wanted to say…

Use the cloud. All my critical business info is cloud-based and secure. Thankfully. We migrated our customer and project data to the cloud last year and use Gmail for web-based email communication. I’m also grateful for my automatic backups via Apple Time Machine, Mozy and iCloud. I was livid and inconvenienced, but the hit to my productivity and critical data was minimal.

Use another machine. Have a second computer as a backup. If you run your business from a computer — and who doesn’t? — why would you not have a backup in case your computer dies, needs to go to the shop for repairs, or walks off your desk like mine did? I copy critical documents and reports from my laptop to my home Mac on occasion, just for a little extra peace of mind.

Heads up. Always check your surroundings. Keep devices in your bag or pocket, and don’t leave purses or backpacks on the floor or hanging on your chair. Thieves don’t slink around suspiciously. They’re bold and friendly and act like they work there. Then when nobody is paying close attention, they’ll grab your device and be gone before you know it.

Location, location. Don’t sit near doors in public places. The unfortunate woman who had her iPad plucked off the table was seated near the cafe’s front door. My office building is on a major street located within easy access of two major highways, giving thieves a quick getaway. This may be why we’ve heard that bank robberies are also common in this area.

While none of this is really news, I hope my brush with crime serves as a reminder for every reader. No business is 100% immune to theft. And no executive or entrepreneur can afford downtime or data loss.

With the holidays approaching, even more desperate souls will be lurking, ready to take advantage of distracted device owners. Don’t let your critical business device become part of the holiday re-gifting tradition!

3 reasons success isn’t all its cracked up to be

Entrepreneur Magazine BY | October 17, 2013

Success is something every entrepreneur is chasing day and night. And while it can be amazing to see your goals and dreams manifest themselves into reality, there’s a hidden side to the world of success that newbie entrepreneurs and success-seekers should be aware of.

In less than three years I went from being broke and living on my sister’s couch to creating a multimillion-dollar business which continues to grow each day. The lessons I’ve learned along the way have given me an appreciation and love for entrepreneurship, but they have also taught me that success is not easy. If success were easy we’d see more people with multimillion-dollar companies on autopilot.

This is the road less traveled.

Here are three things you’ll need to prepare yourself for on the road to leading and growing your company, and to capturing your success:

1. Be prepared to reinvent yourself.
My childhood dream was to become a professional athlete. But after shattering my wrist during my first season in the AFL (Arena Football League), I realized that I was going to need a new dream. That’s how I became an entrepreneur.

Whatever your business may be, and no matter how successful you are today, there may come a time when you’ll need to let it go and start over. Every successful business and entrepreneur needs to reinvent itself from time to time. The trick is to remember that success is not tied to a single goal, destination or even a title. Your success is what you choose to make of your circumstances, talents and limitations. Anyone can start exactly where they are and exactly with what they have.

2. Sacrifices are required.
Everything has its price, and the price of success will require you to sacrifice your comforts.

It’s easy to read about entrepreneurship or watch a TED talk on YouTube and feel inspired. But there’s a huge difference between the person who feels inspired and the person who actually gets down to work. As my mentor once told me, “There’s no such thing as million-dollar ideas. There are only million-dollar executions.”

Stop worrying about someone stealing your great idea, or waiting until you get your logo just right. Get up early, stay up late and kick your vices to the curb. Your only preoccupation is to serve your customers with excellence and value.

Related: Warning Signs That Your Startup Is Ruining Your Life

3. You’re going to attract haters.
It’s impossible to achieve any level of success in business, or even your personal life, without attracting haters. For whatever reason, the moment you begin to achieve any level of success and momentum you’ll suddenly find that people will want to share their opinion about you and your success. And if you’re not careful, just one negative comment or e-mail from these naysayers can easily ruin your day — if you let it.

The trick is learning how to put these statements in context. Ask yourself, “Is this person a customer or just someone with an opinion?” A lot of times people will watch your business from the sideline and offer their opinion. As a responsible entrepreneur, you get to acknowledge not only where it’s coming from, but also the intention.

Or maybe the person is a client of yours and for whatever reason he or she has become disgruntled. Do what you can to make things right, but don’t allow one negative review or email to overshadow all of the positive work you’ve done. Remember, it’s impossible to become all things to all people. The moment you try to please everyone, you’ll no longer have a business that stands out.

Quarterly Economic Update

THE QUARTER IN BRIEF
U.S. stocks rollercoastered in Q3 2013, but the S&P 500 ultimately gained 4.69% in three months and celebrated another record close on September 18 (1,725.52). The Federal Reserve refrained from tapering its stimulus effort, a move cheered in financial markets worldwide. Global investors sighed with relief as diplomacy headed off a major geopolitical crisis in Syria, and sighed with frustration as bipartisan sparring threatened to shut down parts of the U.S. government and threaten its ability to pay debt. Assumptions of higher mortgage rates didn’t exactly reduce demand for homes; foreign stock benchmarks rose, and so did prices of precious metals.1,2

 

DOMESTIC ECONOMIC HEALTH
Mirroring Q3 2012, the big economic move of Q3 2013 came in mid-September. A year after rolling out QE3, the Fed unexpectedly announced it would hold off on reducing the amount of its monthly bond purchases. Fed chairman Ben Bernanke mentioned that the central bank could be open to a taper later in the year; Kansas City Fed president James Bullard thought it might happen in October.3.4

 

Turning from Wall Street to Main Street, the jobless rate fell to 7.3% in August, down 0.3% from June and down 0.8% in 12 months. Even so, 37.9% of those unemployed in August had been out of work for 27 weeks or longer. Consumer inflation – as gauged by the headline Consumer Price Index – was minor, increasing 0.2% in July and 0.1% in August. The University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment index hit a 6-year peak of 85.1 in July, but slipped to 82.1 in August and 77.5 in September. In June, the Conference Board’s consumer confidence index was at 82.1, the highest in 5½ years; in August, it was 81.8, but in September it fell to 79.7.5,6,7,8

 

Consumer spending increased 0.2% for July and 0.3% for August; consumer incomes increased 0.2% and 0.4% in those respective months. Retail sales figures were similarly decent: up 0.4% in July, 0.2% for August. In September, the Bureau of Economic Analysis made its final estimate of Q2 GDP – 2.5%.9,10

 

On the factory front, the Institute for Supply Management’s manufacturing PMI chronicled a healthy expansion during the quarter, averaging 55.8 (55.4 in July, 55.7 in August, and 56.2 in September). ISM’s non-manufacturing index also reached impressive heights, coming in at 56.0 in July and 58.6 in August. Overall hard goods orders slid 8.1% in July, but managed a 0.1% gain in August; minus transportation orders, they fell 0.5% in July and 0.1% in August. The Producer Price Index settled: after June’s 0.8% rise, it was flat for July and up 0.3% in August, when annualized wholesale inflation was running at 1.4%.9,11,12,13

 

Wall Street and Main Street tracked many other news developments in the quarter. In July, the Obama administration chose to delay one part of the implementation of the Affordable Care Act; the requirement for businesses with 50 or more employees to furnish health insurance plans was pushed back until 2015. Still, online health care exchanges for uninsured individuals opened on October 1 as scheduled. In August, President Obama called for the phase-out of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, proposing to replace them with a new system reliant on private sector purchases of mortgages from lenders, with private capital bearing the bulk of any losses. The quarter ended with a partial shutdown of the federal government looming due to an impasse over the federal budget – a partisan dispute that resulted in the first such shutdown since late 1995.14,15,16

 

GLOBAL ECONOMIC HEALTH
When Secretary of State John Kerry stated that Syria’s government had used chemical weapons against its own people in late August, the threat of American military intervention in the conflict between rebels and pro-Assad forces rocked global stock, bond and commodity markets. President Obama said the U.S. would only intervene with the approval of Congress; before that vote could take place, Russia offered a plan to disarm Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles, one the U.S. accepted. While that conflict eased, global investors certainly had plenty of other headlines to consider.17,18,19

 

Manufacturing growth appeared to be sputtering in both China and India. HSBC’s factory sector PMI for China was but 50.2 in August, and 50.1 in July. India’s HSBC PMI was 49.6 in August; it had been 48.5 in July. The Asia Development Bank estimated China’s 2013 GDP would be 7.6%, and India’s just 4.7%.20,21

 

In better news, the eurozone recession was over: its economy had grown for the second straight quarter in Q2 (0.3%), albeit with the euro area jobless rate averaging 12.0% by August. Unfortunately, Italy’s fractious coalition government threatened to come undone at the end of Q3 when five ministers belonging to former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s center-right party quit their posts over a tax hike. This left analysts wondering if Italy would face a credit downgrade, and possibly an emergency election.22,23

 

WORLD MARKETS
Gains were prevalent in the quarter, boosted further by the mid-September announcement that the Fed would not yet taper. Some notable Q3 advances: Shanghai Composite, 9.88%; Hang Seng, 9.89%; Nikkei 225, 5.69%; Asia Dow, 4.33%; Kospi, 7.17%; Europe Dow, 15.56%; STOXX 600, 8.93%; CAC 40, 10.82%; DAX, 7.98%; FTSE 100, 3.97%; TSX Composite, 5,43%; Bovespa, 10.29% … and lapping the field, more or less, Argentina’s MERVAL rose an astonishing 60.73%. Among the big global indices, the Global Dow gained 9.57%, the MSCI World Index 7.68% and the MSCI Emerging Markets Index 5.01%. The Jakarta Composite lost 10.43% in Q3, the IPC All-Share 1.08% and the Sensex 0.08%.1,24

 

COMMODITIES MARKETS
After a disastrous Q2, precious metals rebounded on the COMEX in Q3: gold gained 8.4%, silver 11.5%, platinum 5.4% and palladium 10.1%. Oil futures rose 6.0% in Q3; natural gas was nearly flat for the quarter, RBOB gasoline lost 3.0%, and heating oil rose 3.9%. This has not been a good year for key crops so far: the worst quarter for corn in 17 years and the worst quarter for soybeans in four put those respective futures at -36.8% and -9.6% YTD. Wheat was down 12.8% YTD at the end of the quarter; at least rice stood at +1.8% YTD.25,26,27,28

 

REAL ESTATE
Existing home sales were still up 1.7% in August, the National Association of Realtors noted, with buyers scrambling to lock in rates after a 6.5% gain for July. New home sales fluctuated – down 14.1% in July, but back up 7.9% a month later. As for new residential construction, it was hard to spot a trend – the Census Bureau reported housing starts up 0.9% in August, and building permits down 3.8% (although permits for single-family construction were up 3% in August to the highest level in 5½ years). Pending home sales fell 1.4% for July and another 1.6% for August. Home values – as measured by the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index – had risen 12.4% in a year by July. 9,29,30,31

 

Contrary to the assumption of many, mortgage rates actually declined in the quarter. Eyeing Freddie Mac’s June 27 and September 26 Primary Mortgage Market Surveys, we see the following descents: 30-year FRM, 4.46% to 4.32%; 15-year FRM, 3.50% to 3.37%; 5/1-year ARM, 3.08% to 3.07%; 1-year ARM, 2.66% to 2.63%.32

 

LOOKING BACK…LOOKING FORWARD
The S&P 500 ended Q3 at 1,681.55, the NASDAQ at 3,771.48 and the DJIA at 15,129.67, finishes that lead to the impressive Q3 and YTD numbers seen on the following chart. The Russell 2000 closed at a new all-time high of 1,078.41 on September 26, rising 9.85% for Q3 to end September at 1,073.79; the CBOE VIX fell 1.54% in Q3 and ended the quarter at 16.60.1,2

4 Ways McDonald’s Just Sucked the Fun Out of Its Brand

In an utterly baffling branding move, McDonald’s tries to kick out teen customers who brought their own tablecloth and wine glasses.

 

By Minda Zetlin, Inc.com

 

A pair of London teenagers decided to have a fun night out: They brought tablecloths, plates, cutlery, and wine glasses to a local McDonald’s for a special dining experience. It was very silly, very imaginative, and very public–they also brought a friend along to document the experience and share pictures on Twitter.

There were lots of ways marketers at Mickey D’s could have responded and perhaps built this into a promotional opportunity, if they had had the smarts to do so. They could have retweeted the pix of the kids with their elegant table. They could have sponsored a promotion for couples to tweet their own romantic McDonald’s dinners. They at least could have offered the teenagers a free beverage. Instead, the teenagers were told to leave. Why? No one has explained, although one of the teens tweeted a hypothesis: “It was just the standard knives and forks. Clearly we were planning to take over the whole of McDonald’s, so they had to stop that.”

Thanks to the company’s humorless, wooden response, the teenagers and their night out have become an international news item–and not one that reflects well on McDonald’s. There’s a lesson here–actually several lessons–on how not to do social marketing:

1. Expect complete control over social media.

I’d guess everyone reading this piece has already learned that you can’t control social media, though apparently McDonald’s hasn’t. The company wanted today’s conversation to be about its new wings. To make sure, it held an event yesterday complete with famous DJs and models and tweeted more than 50 tweets using the hashtag #MightyWings. Nevertheless, a glance at Twitter today shows more tweets about the teenagers’ fine dining experiment than about the wings. In a Google News search of McDonald’s this story comes up, at least at the moment. The wings are nowhere to be found.

2. Display no sense of humor at all.

To the chain’s credit, the store relented and allowed the teenagers to stay after other diners protested their banishment. That was also an opportunity for McDonald’s to gently laugh at itself and engage with the teenagers or the Twitterverse in some light-hearted way. Instead, the chain had this to say: “We are aware of the two customers who dined at our Kingston restaurant on Saturday night and are pleased that we were able to offer them an affordable treat.” The spokesperson went on to explain that McDonald’s offers its own plastic cutlery and that any diners who bring their own should take it away with them when they’re done. Snooze.

3. Insult a vocal constituency.

The two teenagers who brought the tablecloth were Cameron Ford and Adam Welland–both boys. “Cheers to my beautiful boyfriend on our special night. Love you Adam,” Cameron tweeted with a picture of the two clinking glasses (filled with what looks like soda and a milkshake, respectively).

Today, they’re saying on Twitter that they aren’t gay. But whether they were play-acting or not, they certainly appeared to be a same-sex couple, and indeed, the gay press has been all over the event. So far, this hasn’t led to gay protests or boycotting of McDonald’s, but it certainly could.

4. Don’t let customers have fun with your product.

Here’s what McDonald’s has to say about its brand: “Our worldwide operations are aligned around a global strategy called the Plan to Win, which center on an exceptional customer experience–People, Products, Place, Price and Promotion.” Besides being ungrammatical and terminally vague, McDonald’s mission statement seems designed to ensure that no one could possibly think there’s a chance of having fun at one of its restaurants.

But… if Mickey D doesn’t want diners to have fun, why the DJs, models, and game-day parties? It reminds me of the “Big Bang Theory” episode where Sheldon invites friends over and they promptly fire up a karaoke machine. “I had to leave,” he laments. “They were having fun wrong.”

 

Want a Better Business? Start By Being a Better Person

Every business is a reflection of its owner–and if you’re not careful, your company can develop the same character flaws as you.

 

By Andrew Griffiths, Inc.com

Over the years, I have coached numerous business owners, and the one thing that has always had the greatest impact has been showing the relationship between how we live and act as a person dramatically impacts the success of their business and the quality of their life.

I remember a client who was worth many millions of dollars. He had a wonderful family, a fabulous house, and travelled the world on a regular basis. He also was the most miserable sod I had ever met. To him, everything was terrible: the government, the economy, the city officials, and more. Finally, I’d had enough of his moaning. We jumped into his luxury sports car and unbeknown to him, headed to the local shelter for battered and homeless women.

This may sound a little clichéd, but the visit had a profound affect on him. Talking to these women made him realize the ridiculousness of his negativity. An extraordinarily philanthropic man emerged from the miserable, self obsessed individual I knew before. But what changed the most, along with his attitude, was his business. He had been successful before, but with his newfound humanity, he became far more successful. Indeed, every aspect of his life improved dramatically.

The place to start is to develop out your own personal code to live by. The following six strategies form the basis of my personal code that I work towards every day:

1. Treat everyone you encounter with the utmost respect. This is an attitude that great leaders share. They treat every single person that they encounter with enormous respect and they do it in a very genuine and humble way. From the cleaning person to the CEO, all are treated equally.

2. Be ridiculously polite. The old adage that manners maketh the man is more relevant than ever. Being polite really reinforces the concept of respect and humility towards others. It shows that you can focus on other people instead of yourself. People notice manners; more significantly, people notice the lack of manners.

3. Small gestures make a big difference. Taking a genuine interest in a photo on a desk, giving someone a sincere compliment, forwarding an email that you might think relevant to a customer… There are many small ways to show that you care and the more you incorporate these into your daily life, the more people realize you do actually care.

4. Look for the win/win in every situation. There is a perception that to be successful you need to be tough, one step ahead of the other guy, willing to do whatever is necessary to win. From my experience, the most successful people have figured out that if you aim for a true win/win situation, you end up being far more successful. Win/win scenarios they know outcome will be positive and fair.

5. Put yourself in the other guy’s shoes. Empathy is a powerful self-development tool. Learning to look at every situation from the other person’s perspective, whether a customer, employee, supplier, or spouse, results in a much better decisions.

6. Be generous. Nothing drives me crazier than a mean business owner–someone who spends nothing on the company, the staff, the customers, or the community. I believe that the more you give the more you get. I am not telling you to spend wildly; but I am saying that it is important to be generous in spirit with everyone involved in your business in any capacity.

 

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Reeve Conover is a Registered Representative. Securities offered through Cambridge Investment Research, Inc., a Broker/dealer member FINRA/SPIC. Cambridge and Conover Consulting are not affiliated. Licensed in SC, NC, NY, CT, NJ, and CA.
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