With in-person supports off the table, Baltimore accelerators must guide startups in new ways – Baltimore Business Journal

With in-person supports off the table, Baltimore accelerators must guide startups in new ways  Baltimore Business Journal
“startups when:1d” – Google News

What are creative ways to use Google search to research my competition?

Hello all, I recently read about a creative way one person used Google to research competition.

This article showed how to do a Google search that returns all webpages that talk about the company being searched for, minus any pages on the company’s site. The theory is to then contact those websites with a press release about a new product in that same industry.

Are there any other similar searches out there that help in this same manner?

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Startups – Rapid Growth and Innovation is in Our Very Nature!

Feels like I’m managing my co-founder. (Q: What ways do you effectively communicate your vision, and motivate your team?)

I'm starting a digital film distribution company with a friend-turned-business-partner. We're in our early-20s, we met in Business school. And this is our first venture.

I'm running into a common issue: co-founder not putting in as much time/effort as is needed.

Longer version: One a recent project, we had 2 weeks to complete our work. I took on the larger job of crafting branded video templates and forming the key relationships needed for the video campaigns. Her job was to create our new landing page. In two weeks time, I had almost a dozen highly-produced template options to show, but she had only mocked up a blank, generic Squarespace website template.

I've been he lead in crafting our strategic plan, so I take responsibility for about 90% of why her work was so underwhelming. I don't think I clearly communicated what I was expecting from her. So the 1st question to y'all: How have you been able to clearly communicate your vision to your team?

The other question is: Should it feel like I'm having to "manage" my co-founder? (I guess I thought she was supposed to be more of a co-leader with me, not a follower of my instruction.)

Context: We both work full-time jobs right now (me: mid-level Data Analyst, her: entry-level Marketing Specialist). She's been quite stressed with her job, and life lately. And while I'm able to pick up some of her slack, there is absolutely a lot of strategies she's not employing (in terms of time management, goal-setting, discipline, general self-improvement things.) If this were an employee-employer relationship, I'd know what to do: Tell her to get it together. But as co-founders, aren't we supposed to be building together, not one having to train and manage the other?

Open to advice or thoughts!

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Startups – Rapid Growth and Innovation is in Our Very Nature!

6 Ways To Make Customers Remember You As Exceptional

ecstatic-customersFor decades, efforts to satisfy customers have been built around demographics – capitalizing on race, ethnicity, gender, income, and other attributes. Today, in this age of pervasive social media and two-way communication, the focus needs to get beyond demographics into personalities. Customer personalities define customer experience, and sets what they love, and what they hate.

Even businesses with highly specialized market segments will find it more effective and simpler to focus on who customers are as people, rather than the “what” of their demographic attributes. Customers today expect highly personalized and exceptional experiences to stay loyal and become advocates, rather than just conventionally “satisfied.” Satisfied is far from memorable.

The challenge for every entrepreneur and every business is to understand the pragmatics of identifying and reacting to what their customers love and what they hate. I found some excellent guidance on the specifics in the classic book, “What Customers Crave,” by Nicholas J. Webb. As a popular strategist in the areas of customer experience design and innovation, Webb knows.

He outlines six key steps in your journey from yesterday’s customer service to today’s required delivery of exceptional customer experiences:

  1. Define the whole customer experience versus service. Traditional customer service, focused on fixing bad transactions, is too little, too late. The total customer experience includes identifying with your company culture, the shopping experience, the customer-facing team and social media interaction, as well as resolution of any transaction glitches.
  1. Add the extra mile to make the experience exceptional. There is no one set of exceptional experiences that will work for all customers. That’s where you must know the personalities of your customers, to know what they love and what they hate. Ideally, you need to convince each customer that you have personalized the experience just for them.
  1. Display real customer value feedback versus value claims. Customers react poorly when they hear your value claims for them, and see more value to you (bottled water in your hotel room at a high price as a “convenience” to you). Customer value statements must come from customer feedback to other customers, rather than from your marketing.
  1. Build blended digital and non-digital experiences. Some businesses excel in customer-facing people, but have poor digital interfaces for feedback, shopping, or communication. Others have delivery silos, where one fragmented deficiency can override all other positives. Integrate and blend all elements of your customer experience.
  1. Train customer-facing team to collaborate with customers. Internal training and policies are not adequate to create great customer experiences. Employees must learn to develop relationships with real customers, and engage these customers to understand what each customer expects, and how to get customers to engage other customers.
  1. Assure exceptional commitment within your customer-facing team. Commitment means signing up willingly, showing up mentally, standing up for the customer, and never ever giving up. To get this, you need to find the best people for each role, give them the latitude to do their job, and reward them publicly and privately for achieving results.

Many business leaders still believe that exceptional experiences cost too much, and reduce profit margins and growth. In fact, just the opposite is true today, since more and more customers expect good feedback from others before they consider you, and decline to return if they don’t get a great first experience. The result is that an average business can spiral quickly into the ground.

If you are looking for a lasting competitive advantage, I recommend that you follow the steps outlined here to create experiences that your customers crave. It’s not only good for your business, but it will add meaning and joy to your customers, and will also enhance your personal satisfaction and well-being. That’s a win-win-win opportunity you can’t afford to miss.

Marty Zwilling

Startup Professionals Musings

12 Ways to Encourage Your Team to Speak Up

Communication is a skill that all successful leaders need to acquire and maintain — not just in business, but also life. Having the ability to speak in a calm, concise, and clear manner will help your team be able to do likewise. Sharing your vision, goals, and expectations is only one piece of the puzzle. It takes an accomplished communicator to encourage a team to speak up. After all, excellent communication helps strengthen relationships, allows the exchange of ideas, and assists your organization in overcoming barriers. There are 12 ways to encourage your team to speak up.

Unfortunately, a study from VitalSmarts shows that “one percent of employees feel “extremely confident” when it comes to voicing their concerns in the workplace at critical moments.” Additionally, “a third of employees say their organizations do not promote or support holding crucial conversations.”

How can you change these types of statistics? Start by implementing the following 12 techniques.

1. Get to the root of the problem.

The absolute first step you need to take is identifying why people aren’t raising their hands. If you don’t know why, then how can you fix the problem? It’s like if your car doesn’t start when you leave in the morning. You can’t repair a problem unless you know precisely what’s wrong in the first place.

You could interview your team or conduct focus groups. Someone other than you should do this interviewing, as they’re probably afraid to tell you why they don’t raise their hands. You could also issue surveys to get to the bottom of what’s going on. The issue may be because they’re afraid of being criticized by others on the team, or being overlooked for a promotion. Or, they may not understand what you expect from them.

In short, you need to find out what’s holding people from voicing their opinions. Then you can find ways to correct the course.

2. Don’t overwhelm your team.

Let’s say that you have everyone gathered for a team meeting. Without even giving attendees a chance to get settled, you bombard them with way too much information. Even worse, what if the assignments you’re throwing at them are abstract, complex, or even utterly boring.

If every member of your team has their head spinning, or they’re yawning, then they’re not going to be engaged. How can they ask questions or provide input when they don’t know exactly what’s happening? Or, they don’t even have the opportunity to participate because as the CEO, manager, or boss — we’re jumping from topic to topic too quickly.

Whenever presenting information, keep it as simple as possible. Skip the jargon and only focus on the top one or two issues. Remember, you don’t need to cover everything right now. Save the less critical stuff for another time.

3. Apply radical candor.

Kim Scott, a former executive at Google, coined the phrase “radical candor.” It may sound like a complex system. But, in reality, it’s merely creating a bs-free zone.

“Radical candor is clarity offered in the spirit of genuine support, where people feel it’s their responsibility to point out one another’s weaknesses to give them a hand up to the next level,” explains Grainne Forde on Teamwork.com. “Scott illustrates radical candor with an example in which her very inconsiderate boss told her she had a lousy speaking habit.

Scott was saying, ‘um’ too often. In front of the group, he told her that “um” made her sound unintelligent — and then offered to pay for a speaking coach to improve the problem.” Some would consider this a bit harsh, “her directness compelled her to take the feedback seriously and improve.”

I’ve found the degree of “radical candor,” Scott is talking about, should be saved for a one on one. Then after your “radical candor,” hand out a little extra encouragement. With one small compliment, your employee doesn’t consider you an enemy.

To achieve radical candor, both leaders and employees need to realize that feedback is constructive because it allows for growth and development. Additionally, there needs to be transparency. It’s the only way you’ll be able to assist them in working through their weaknesses.

4. Reward people for speaking up.

I vividly remember the first year I went away to a summer camp. The first couple of hours, I was fine. But, I became incredibly homesick later that night. After a couple of days, I was over my bout with homesickness and had no problem enjoying myself.

Towards the end of the week, the other kids in my group began discussing who would receive an award along the lines of, “camper of the week.” I suggested that maybe I would get nominated. This lead to the camp leading asking, “Why? You were homesick and didn’t say anything for a couple of days — and now you talk?”

Some people might think that he was out of line. But, he was right. Sure, I was engaged and did my best to be an ideal camper. But, that didn’t mean I deserved an award. At the same time, the person who did receive this award mentioned that they were proud of me. Now, that recognition was an awesome feeling.

My point is this. You don’t need to throw a party for an employee who asked a question during a meeting. But, you can still show them that you appreciate their contribution when they offer a comment. For example, if they make a high point during a meeting, genuinely thank them for participating. A genuine thank you can be two words. Thank you!

Hemant Kakkar and Subra Tangirala write in the Harvard Business Review, “[I]f you want your employees to be more vocal and contribute ideas and opinions, you should actively encourage this behavior and reward those who do it.”

5. Make meetings more engaging.

Meetings can be a serious time-waster. They can also crush productivity and morale when not when properly. However, there times when meetings are necessary. That’s why making them more effective should be a priority.

While there a multitude of ways for you to improve meetings, making sure that they’re engaging should be at the top of your list. You can achieve meetings worth showing up for, by:

  • Kicking things off with an icebreaker like telling a story or playing a fun game or activity.
  • Not using industry slang or terminology.
  • Asking invitees to leave their phones somewhere else.
  • Saving handouts until the conclusion of the event to avoid distractions.
  • Leaving time for a Q&A at the end.
  • Sending out an agenda in advance so that no one is surprised. Also, this gives invitees an opportunity to review any relevant information and prepare their questions or concerns.

6. Stop dominating the conversation and listen.

While I wouldn’t say this trait is part of all entrepreneurs — I do think that some of us have such a healthy ego that we love hearing ourselves talk. The problem is that if you’re always dominating the conversation, others won’t even bother chiming in. What’s the point when they know there’s hardly a chance to be a part of the discussion.

While there are times when you need to speak, work on talking less and listening more. It may take some practice. But, this is probably one of the most straightforward strategies to get your team to speak up more often.

7. Be aware of body language and power cues.

Body language and power cues are probably not something on the top of your mind. But, your nonverbal communication most definitely impacts the people around you. Think of it this way. How likely would you be to “willing” share your thoughts with a leader who is continuously frowning and standing there with their arms crossed? Probably very unlikely.

But, what if they smiled, made eye contact, and stood in a relaxed, upright posture? You wouldn’t feel as intimidated. A quick couple of words about mastering your body language — soften power cues. For example, leave the expensive wardrobe at home and wear something that doesn’t intimidate your employees. Consider replacing your office’s rectangle desk with an oval one so that you can sit next to them.

8. Boost teamwork.

“When employees work in teams, they actively practice sharing their thoughts and speaking up to accomplish tasks as a group,” writes Eric Friedman over at eSkill. “This gets them used to talking about their work, whether it’s sharing new ideas or concerns, and can be applied on a wider scale to the entire company.”

Fridman adds, “Teamwork also works on a psychological level by bringing employees closer together, helping them form bonds to each other and the work, which will help them feel more confident to speak their minds.”

9. Accept different types of feedback.

When you need to collect feedback, use a variety of methods to do so. Allow your team to express themselves; however, they’re most comfortable. If they have no problem speaking, then don’t force them to write down their thoughts. If they don’t want to discuss a sensitive issue out in the open, block out time for a one-on-one or place a suggestion box in the office.

10. Explain the consequences of participating.

Explaining the consequences of participating does not mean retaliating against employees whenever they share their thoughts. Nor does it indicate that you’ll punish those who aren’t contributing to the conversation. Instead, a consequence in this setting means letting your team know the importance of speaking up.

For example, what if an employee isn’t crystal clear on a task that was assigned to them during a meeting? They might be embarrassed about asking for more details in a meeting. But, by not raising their hand, they aren’t able to complete this responsibility, and likely there were a few others that didn’t get the information. As a result, this can impact not only their career, but also this action can put the rest of the team and organization in jeopardy.

11. Encourage them to take a public speaking class.

In the early days of my career, I was terrified about speaking in public. But, this was a fear I had to overcome. So, I took a public speaking class. Not only did it improve my speaking skills, but it also made me feel more at ease in front of a crowd.

If there are members of your organization, why have nightmares about public speaking, recommend that they also take such a class. It could be online, at a community college, or through an organization like Toastmasters. Here: 7 Powerful Public Speaking Tips From One of the Most-Watched TED Talks Speakers

12. Lead by example.

Do you think that your team will feel comfortable enough to speak their minds when you aren’t? Of course not. It may sound off a vibe that this isn’t an environment where people can openly share thoughts and ask questions.

While you should certainly listen to what others are saying, the other part of being a great communicator is clearly expressing your expectations. It’s also asking precise questions and not being shy when it comes to public speaking.

Moreover, don’t hide in your office all day. Walk around and chat with your team. Check-in with them to see how they’re doing and if there’s anything you can help them with. Go to lunch. These connections may not seem like a biggie, but the relationship shows that this is a workplace where people can comfortably speak up.

12 Ways to Encourage Your Team to Speak Up was originally published on Calendar by .

The post 12 Ways to Encourage Your Team to Speak Up appeared first on KillerStartups.

KillerStartups

4 Ways to Encourage Online Calendar Courtesy

What’s the only tool I couldn’t live without? That’s a no-brainer. My Calendar.

From my experience, the online Calendar helps me succeed in all aspects of my life. My Calendar keeps track of all appointments and deadlines. In turn, having this information at my fingertips has helped me earn a reputation as someone who is dependable and always honors their commitments.

Outside of work, my Calendar helps me maintain a healthy work-life balance. Besides helping avoid getting burned-out, my calendar has helped me maintain important relationships. If I have family time scheduled — then I’m not going to accept a work-related meetings during that time.

But, the beneficial productivity has been possible because I not only live by my calendar, I’ve also made calendar civility and forward-thinking a priority. And, I’ve encouraged online calendar protocol by following the four strategies.

1. Use the right calendaring tools.

Have you ever wondered why we share things with others? Well, Jonah Berger, author of a study published in Psychological Science, says that it’s driven in part by arousal. In particular, it evokes positive and negative emotions.

“People’s behavior is heavily influenced by what others say and do,” explains Berger. “Whether you are a company trying to get people to talk more about your brand, or a public health organization trying to get people to spread your healthy eating message, these results provide insight into how to design more effective messages and communication strategies.”

Moreover, New York Times report found that the five sharing motivations are:

  • Bringing valuable and entertaining content to others
  • Defining ourselves to others
  • Growing and nourishing relationships
  • Self-fulfillment
  • Getting the word out about causes and brands

While this research focused on content, can this also be applied when sharing your calendar? Absolutely. In particular, when it comes to adding a title or description.

For example, maybe you meet a new lead or land a high-profile client. In order to follow-up or begin a project, you need to meet with your team. You quickly share your calendar containing a message sharing the good news, as well as where and when you’ll have a team meeting.

However, for communication to be effective — you’ll need the right tools. At the minimum, you need an online calendar that works across multiple platforms. Having tools that cross boundary’s means if you’re an Apple user, but everyone else on your squad uses Android, your apple Calendar isn’t going to cut it. You’ve got to have something that integrates and plays well with others.

Use tools that integrate seamlessly with your calendar. For instance, Calendar syncs with Google, Outlook, and Apple calendars. Because of this, it can be used to quickly schedule meetings and organize teamwork — regardless of what calendar your team members are using.

2. Step-up your scheduling game.

If you want to encourage online calendar etiquette with others, then set an example by creating a user-friendly scheduling experience. And, you can achieve that lofty goal by:

  • Responding to invites. No one wants to be left hanging — especially when it comes to protecting their valuable. As such, always respond to calendar invites in a timely manner.
  • Include the location. Whenever scheduling a meeting or location, don’t forget to include the location. It makes life easier for the other party — even if it’s a VA or secretary. If it’s a physical location, you should also include a map so that it prevents tardiness. For virtual events, make sure to attach the phone number or meeting ID.
  • Compose a descriptive title. You don’t need to overstuff the title. But, you shouldn’t be vague either. After all, titling the event only as “Meeting” says nothing. However, “Meeting With Jane to Discuss Dinner Party” lets the attendees know exactly what to expect.
  • Add notes in the description. Just like with titles, you don’t need to go overboard here. But, you should include relevance notes and attachments, like the agenda. Why? It will give the invitees the opportunity to prepare.

And, most importantly, don’t schedule back-to-back events. You need to have buffers in-between events. When you do, participants have a chance to wind down, recharge, and prepare for the next event.

3. It’s okay to say “no.”

I’m going to blunt. Just because you received a calendar invite doesn’t mean you have to accept it. In fact, there are plenty of times when you have to say “no.”

One example would be a meeting request when the topic could be addressed over email. Another would be a meeting that takes place when you’re “off-the-clock.” And, yet another would be if the request doesn’t serve a purpose or has little-to-no value.

Of course, you don’t want to be a brute either. Instead, if you opt to decline an invite, by honest and polite. I mean how would you feel if someone rejected your meeting invite with a reply like, “No way! Stop wasting my time!”? I’m sure that would make you feel crummy.

With that in mind, pay the same respect to others. If your calendar is already full, let them know that. You may also suggest an alternative meeting date or a quick phone call instead. The easiest solution though would be sharing your calendar so that they can see when you are available.

4. Live by the golden rule.

I’m sure that you’re aware of the old adage “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” More simply known as the “golden rule,” it means treating others with fairness and respect.

“There is a lot of good, if emerging, scientific work suggesting people have an innate sense of fairness built into them and that the golden rule captures much of that innate moral sense,” says Kristen Monroe, director of the University of California Irvine Interdisciplinary Center for the Scientific Study of Ethics and Morality. “A lot of people instinctively follow it.”

“I don’t like to be kept waiting, so I try not to be late,” adds Monroe. “I don’t like to be lied to or deceived so I try not to do it, even if it might be more convenient to be just a few minutes late or tell a white lie occasionally.”

While there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach, there are simple ways to follow this rule when sharing your calendar.

  • Show-up on time. If a meeting starts at 1 PM, then you must be their on-time. To ensure this happens, set a reminder in your calendar. I would also avoid scheduling before the event either in case it goes over the allotted time.
  • Don’t make last-minute changes. Things happen. That’s just life. But, unless it’s a life or death situation, never make a last-minute change. If you must cancel or reschedule a calendar entry, give some sort of notice in advance.
  • Don’t micromanage. Why use a calendar if you remind attendees every day that there’s a meeting or deadline due next week? There’s nothing wrong with checking-in or sending the occasional gentle follow-up. But, don’t be a nuisance.

What if someone won’t respect your calendar? While frustrating, try to be empathetic. A great reply if someone bows out of an appointment is, “Hey, we’ve all been there — no hard feelings.” A kind reply will help the other person play their best game and you’ll be on top of yours.

If skipping meetings is a frequent problem with this person — then you can adjust your strategy. If it’s a teammates, try to help them diagnose the problem so that it doesn’t keep happening. Someone else, you need not prioritize your schedule with them.

4 Ways to Encourage Online Calendar Courtesy was originally published on Calendar by .

The post 4 Ways to Encourage Online Calendar Courtesy appeared first on KillerStartups.

KillerStartups

3 Ways Thriving Entrepreneurs Structure Their Morning Routines

Ever wonder what Bill Gates eats for breakfast? Or what Oprah’s favorite meditation is?

Developing a unique routine that works for you is much more important than copying someone else’s habits to a tee. Different things work for different people. The faster we can accept that our individual preferences and needs have value, we can let go of constructing the “perfect” morning and do what actually works for us.

With that said, there seem to be some common threads in what makes a morning routine work. Specifically, they are: having a regular sleep cycle, getting some form of exercise in, and finding a way to declutter your mind.


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Lasso your sleep cycle

Is your sleep schedule totally wild and out of control? Do you wake up exhausted and always feel like you’re running behind? Time for an intervention!

Being able to wake up at about the same time every morning is paramount for a steady morning routine. Staying up too late or having a sleep cycle that doesn’t mesh with an early morning routine is a surefire ticket to failure.

How can you take back control of your evenings? Aside from the usual suggestions like turning off all screens by 9 p.m. (yes, do that too), consider what activities can be cut from your day. This is especially useful if your schedule is packed. Are all of these things worth the time you spend on them? Can anything be cut down or reduced so that only the most urgent tasks are handled each day?

(If you need some extra motivation, check out some of these statistics that separate early birds from night owls. Hint: Early risers tend to make out better in several areas of life).


Related: Q&A with Christine Hansen on How to Sleep Like a Boss

Pick a movement

In the 2013 book, “What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast,” by Laura Vanderkam, exercise is revealed as the second most common occurrence in CEO morning routines (behind waking up early).

Even those who detest exercise can challenge themselves to find one thing that works for them, like stretching, running, doing some yoga, hitting the gym or talking a walk. Different exercises work for different personalities, so don’t force yourself to do what you hate. As long as you pick a movement and stick with it, you’re good to go. (If the thought of early-morning movement makes you cringe, download the 7-Minute Workout app and just plow through it!)

Centering the mind

Another common theme in entrepreneurial morning routines is mental organization, or some form of decluttering or expanding the mind. The method through which this is achieved seemed to vary pretty vastly. For example, some entrepreneurs cited meditation, while others read from carefully selected books. Others laid out their to-do lists, wrote in journals or worked on specific projects.

Letting your mental activity settle in just one or two areas of focus is a good way to find silence and productivity, especially in the early hours when the world is still asleep.


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Tips and tools to stay on track with your morning routine

What are some other things you can do to ensure your morning routine stays focused, regular and relaxed?

Many professionals swear by avoiding their email inbox until later in the day. This gives you a chance to get your head on straight before any confusing or stressful situations are introduced. Another common citing was the popular app, Headspace, which offers 10-minute meditations that anyone can do. If you’re looking to adopt some sort of writing practice, the 5 Minute Journal might be a good place to start. What about the busy entrepreneur who simply has no time for such luxuries as a morning routine? Try the 24-minute morning routine to get all of your significant tasks completed in under a half hour. Simple as that!

What’s your morning routine secret to success? Let us know in the comments, below.

The post 3 Ways Thriving Entrepreneurs Structure Their Morning Routines appeared first on StartupNation.

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