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Cinépolis owes more than 27 billion pesos and seeks to restructure its debt

The Mexican cinema chain will negotiate payment options with BBVA, HSBC, Santander and Bancomext, among others.
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January 7, 2021 3 min read

This article was translated from our Spanish edition using AI technologies. Errors may exist due to this process.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
One of the sectors hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 was entertainment, especially movie theaters. With a debt of more than 1,350 million dollars, Cinépólis is seeking a bank restructuring agreement.
The largest chain of cinemas in the country accumulates a debt of more than a billion dollars in credits. This as reported to Bloomberg by sources close to the negotiations, who requested anonymity because the details are private.
Cinépolis hired financial advisory and asset management firm Lazard to initiate discussions with creditor banks. These include BBVA , HSBC , Santander and the National Foreign Trade Bank (Bancomext) , the sources said.
For their part, the banks chose FTI Consulting as their advisor in the talks, which began in early December.
This is how Cinépolis’s debt is composed
The debt includes a loan of 382 million dollars (7.5 billion Mexican pesos), which expires in 2023. To this is added a revolving loan of 200 million dollars (4 billion MXN) maturing in 2024. In addition, they obtained a fixed-term loan of MXN 9,750 million maturing in 2026.
To these credits are added obligations related to operations in India, Brazil and the Middle East. In total, the talks cover $ 1.35 billion (about MXN 27 billion) of debt in at least 17 banks, one of the informants revealed.

Founded in Morelia, Michoacán, Alejandro Ramírez’s company has 862 complexes in 17 countries such as the United States, Spain, India and Brazil . Only in Mexico City and the State of Mexico, which remain at a red light from December 19 until next January 10, the company maintains 111 closed complexes.
The beginning of the application of vaccines in different countries, including Mexico, makes banks more willing to help companies like Cinépolis survive, explains Bloomberg.

Crafting The Best Public Relations Strategy For Your Business

An FYI on PR that works for Y-O-U.
Entrepreneur’s New Year’s Guide
Let the business resources in our guide inspire you and help you achieve your goals in 2021.

January 7, 2021 3 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Bill Gates (supposedly) once said: “If I was down to my last dollar, I’d spend it on public relations.”
Publicity can help you reach a new audience of people and attract new leads for your business.
Ever wonder how companies land media placements on major publications, podcasts and television programs when they only have a limited amount of marketing dollars?
Happily, there are a myriad of ways you can get optimum publicity completely on your own…
Defining your purpose for the right placement
Before we pitch ourselves to The Today Show, we need to be clear on the reasons why we’re implementing a PR strategy for our business in the first place. Ask yourself the following questions:

What are your overall goals for the next six months to a year?

How do media placements support these goals?

What do you want to accomplish by investing time into going after publicity?

What products, services or programs are you looking to get more eyes on?

Answering these queries helps you hone in on why you would spend time sourcing media opportunities. If the reason isn’t in support of your strategy, it might not make sense to invest your time and energy into seeking publicity for your business.
Related: Is It Time to Hibernate or Accelerate Your PR Efforts?
Identify your key messaging
Messaging is key when it comes to implementing a plan.

What are the topics that you are an expert on or can speak about? 

What makes your story newsworthy?

Why should people care about what you’re pitching?

How does your messaging relate to what’s currently happening in the world?

A well thought out plan keeps two things in mind at all times: relevance and timeliness.
Your message needs to relate to the outlets you are pitching and they also need to be topical. 
Look to see what’s being reported by the media and the outlets you want to pursue. What are they talking about? What’s missing? How can you serve their audience with what you can talk about?
Find the right places to pitch
One of journalists’ top pet peeves is getting pitched content that is not relevant to their beat. You need to find the right places to pitch your message to.
Do some research on your target audience and see what podcasts they listen to, what publications they read and what shows they watch.
Knowledge is power and knowing exactly where your ideal audience spends their time will help you improve your success rate with outreach. 
Related: 3 Reasons to Prioritize PR Over the Holiday Season
Put it into your calendar
All of the above is great but if you aren’t actually implementing the plan you won’t get anywhere. 
Outreach to the media does take time but even just spending a couple of hours a week pitching yourself for opportunities, following up when you haven’t heard back (but not too much!), and building real relationships with reporters and producers will significantly help you in achieving a high success rate with your strategy.
Related: Why PR Is Fundamental in Scaling Your Business Rapidly

5 Questions You Need To Ask For A Strong Relationship With Your VC

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Together, a company and its venture capital backers should make a strong, unified team
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Much has been written about how to secure venture capital funding, but far less about whether a founder should sign a term sheet and say ‘yes’. 
Like all industries, there are great funds, good funds, average funds – you get the idea. 
For founders thinking about whether to accept an offer from a fund, here are five key questions they should ask themselves. 
Do you like them?
The world of finance has a cut-throat reputation, but early-stage venture capital is very different. As a founder, the decision to take investment from a fund is one of the biggest you will make and sets up a relationship that will last for many years.

Asking whether you like the people who are about to become a significant part of your life is entirely valid. This is not naive, but sound business judgment – relationships based on trust, mutual respect, and shared values will outperform.
 What will they do?
VCs are not shy about claiming that they are adding value – if in doubt, check out @VCBrags – but founders’ and investors’ expectations can differ significantly.

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In one recent real-world example, two funds who had written equal-sized checks were helping a newly invested portfolio company scale up their team after a seed round.
Fund A’s involvement included defining a full hiring process, writing and reviewing job specifications, screening hundreds of resumes, conducting dozens of interviews, and handholding the CEO and CTO to close candidates.
Fund B’s approach was to provide emailed comments on resumes without taking any calls with the candidates – since the comments lacked any context from the full process, they were of little use.
This contrasting approach can apply to the myriad other areas where investors provide support, such as sales or product strategy, or fundraising, and founders should ask their prospective VC firm how involved they expect to be post-closing of the round.
Do they have the capacity to deliver?
Venture capital funds are lean operations and the team has to split their time across multiple investments. It is, therefore, important to figure out and get comfortable with who within the fund will be taking the board (or observer) seat and supporting you on your journey. 
As a general rule, you want to be operating in the ‘sweet spot’ for the fund to get the maximum amount of time and attention. This means that the check they are writing into your company fits their fund strategy and is meaningful for them.
Founders are most often disappointed when larger funds move down the capital structure to write smaller checks and then cannot offer hands-on support because they have many other larger companies to look after. 
Do they have a good reputation?
A fund’s reputation has two dimensions – how they treat their founders and how they are perceived in the market. As a founder, you must ensure that you validate both.
The former is important for the smooth running of your company and your mental wellbeing; the latter for the positive signal it sends to the market when you go out to raise a follow-on round of funding. 
Taking references from portfolio companies suggested by the fund is fine. There are likely valid reasons they want you to speak to founders they have been working with closely in recent months or perhaps are in the same or similar sectors. But make sure you also ask to speak to several other portfolio companies of your choice and look at independent resources such as Landscape for the full picture.
Are they aligned on the exit plan?
Once you have agreed to take investment from a venture capital fund, you have agreed to an exit.
The two variables you need to be concerned with are – when and how much. Mis-alignment on these can give rise to significant heartache.
Of course, nothing is guaranteed, but agreeing conceptually with your investor a timeline over which they would expect to see a return and whether they are only looking for unicorns or invest for lower returns is essential to make sure you are on the same page.

How To Immediately Improve Your Lead Generation In Three Steps

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By Kara Brown, CEO, LeadCoverage.

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Every day, I witness businesses (or the marketing agencies they work with) overcomplicating their lead generation process with unnecessary jargon or some fancy formula. 
It doesn’t have to be that hard. 
After years in the industry, I’m an expert, and I think it’s pretty simple. Lead gen equals the sum of three steps:
1. Share good news.

2. Track who’s interested.
3. Follow up.
That’s it.
Yet what I see most often is that midmarket, small and midsize businesses, and business-to-business companies have missed one of these crucial steps. Though simple, the equation requires all three components, and you can’t weigh one more than another.

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Let’s break down each of those lead gen steps further.
1. Share good news.
By “good news,” I mean anything interesting to your ideal customer. This could be industry recognition, favorable public relations mentions, a new offering, or a testimonial and customer success case study demonstrating how you helped that client.
It’s important to note here that the good news you share needs to be hyper-targeted to active, potential customers. It’s far better to send something focused to a small, segmented group than it is to send something general en masse to your entire network.
It should also be something that your existing and prospective customers (not just you) would deem valuable. Telling someone how great your company is isn’t enough; you need to help them understand how you can make their life or business better.
Be strategic and intentional with what you choose to share and with whom. Remember, this is lead gen, not your holiday newsletter.
2. Track who’s interested.
If the road to revenue is paved with buying signals, it not only makes sense to track them, it’s essential. And today, that’s easier to do than ever.
Before the pandemic, we used to go to trade shows and collect 100 business cards. Then we’d follow up and hope to close with five. But now, one-hour webinars have replaced three-day in-person events. The silver lining of the pivot to a fully digital experience is that everyone is leaving a trail of breadcrumbs everywhere they go. And that digital footprint makes it much easier (and faster) to understand who’s interested.
Kudos to Salesforce’s Marc Benioff and others in the customer relationship management world for giving companies a way to see how existing and potential customers have been communicated with, what piqued their interest and their purchase history. Combined with marketing tools like ActiveCampaign, Hyperspots and others, the democratization of intent data allows even the smallest of companies to track the response to their services and offerings.
3. Follow up.
Once you’ve shared your good news and tracked who’s interested, you must now follow up. Though it seems straightforward, this is the stage where things tend to fall apart.
In the enterprise world, this is often referred to as “sales and marketing alignment.” In the small and medium-sized businesses, it’s even simpler: “Get and close deals.” Regardless, everyone needs to be marching to the same beat and understand that A + B + C = revenue. It’s a big challenge when companies try to separate this piece from the rest of the process. 
However, even if you have a team of salespeople, they’re often pulled into account management roles, away from their strength: closing deals. Very few companies have utilized virtual call centers to assist them. In the days before Covid-19, this was fine, but this is a liability in a pandemic. As in-person selling and closing opportunities have vanished, many companies’ sales have suffered. Shifting to a digital model and having a virtual team of sales development and business development representatives can help your company think differently about this crucial step in the lead gen process. The digital environment is here to stay, and those who see this as an opportunity will win.
Let’s stop calling it the “sales team” and start referring to it as the “follow-up team.” After all, there is no sales versus marketing; we’re all one team with one goal: revenue.

The Economic Recovery Of Women Entrepreneurs Will Take More Than PPP Loans

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Shavon Marley of Marley Trucking who received a CDFI loan from Carolina Small Business Development … [+] Fund. CNote provides funding to Carolina Small Business Development Fund.
MARLEY TRUCKING
Ensuring PPP Loans Go To The Businesses That Need Them The Most
While the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) was intended to help small businesses hit hardest by the Covid-19 crisis—those owned by women and people of color—it failed to deliver on its promise. From the beginning of the program on April 3 to the end on August 8, struggling minority owners received aid later than their white counterparts, according to an analysis of the program’s data by the Associated Press. 
ZIP code data with the greatest proportions of white residents received loans at twice the rate of areas with the smallest proportions of whites. Data by gender is not available, but because women are more likely to be nonemployer firms and in sectors most impacted by the pandemic—personal services, retail, and restaurant—it is expected they would have experienced a similar pattern as ZIP codes with a lower concentration of whites. “Almost 60% of women business owners state they don’t have the same access to capital that men have,” said Candace Waterman, president and CEO of Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP). It is the largest nonpartisan advocacy organization for women and minority entrepreneurs. 
In response to criticism, the pattern did improve in the final four weeks. Banks began approving loans to smaller businesses and the pool of providers was expanded to include more Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) and fintechs, which are more likely to have lending relationships with women and people of color. CDFIs were created to lend to groups that banks deem risky.

But still, more could have been done. 
The program was not clear about the terms of loan forgiveness and the documentation required. “The smallest businesses often don’t have the same kinds of systems and documentation that large businesses do,” said Joyce Klein, director of the Business Ownership Initiative at the Aspen Institute. It conducts research and advocates on behalf of micro and small business owners. “There are very few [struggling] businesses that want to take on debt when they are uncertain they will have the revenues to repay it. Anything that the government can do to get something that’s like grants in the hands of very small businesses is critical.” 
“The other challenge of PPP is that it ran largely through banks, particularly at the beginning,” said Klein. CDFIs and fintech lenders need to be an integral part of PPP loan distribution. “If you create a program that’s run largely through the banks, you’re going to miss large numbers of business owners who just typically don’t have lending relationships with banks.”

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Funding Beyond Relief Aid
“When we come out of the crisis, who is going to be lending to businesses that are owned by women and people of color?” asks Klein. Banks have tightened their credit standards and it will take a while before they return to previous levels. The Federal government has approved $12 billion in funding to CDFIs and Minority Designated Institutions (MDIs) as part of its $900 billion COVID-19 emergency stimulus funding package. This includes $3 billion in emergency support through the CDFI Fund to provide grants and other financial and technical assistance and a $9 billion Emergency Capital Investment Program administered by the Department of Treasury to provide low-cost, long-term capital investments to MDIs and CDFI depositories. 
“Free up liquidity for those companies that are holding small business loans,” said Klein. The loans were good loans when they first originated. “Let’s get those loans off their balance sheet.” 
“Create a facility where banks (or other entities, like foundations or corporations) would sell to the Fed Equity Equivalent Investments (EQ2 ).* It’s an investment vehicle that expands sources of equity capital for CDFIs. Unlike for-profit corporations that can raise equity by issuing stock, nonprofits have traditionally built their capital base through contributions, philanthropic sources, or through the accumulation of retained earnings. An EQ2 is a long-term, deeply subordinated loan with features that make it function like equity. The new stimulus plan doesn’t include funding for Treasury that would make it easier for the Fed to do this (because Treasury would cover any losses).**  
In response to the inequalities exposed by the pandemic and the Black Live Matter movement, banks increased their funding to CDFIs. Fintech startup, CNote, developed a fully insured cash management product that enables corporations to earn market-rate returns while doing social good. Mastercard and the Mastercard Impact Fund are collectively deploying $20 million into CNotes’ Promise Accounts. The accounts provide recovery and growth funding to small businesses in underserved communities via CDFIs and Low-Income Designated credit unions. CNote will be making more corporate announcements. 
If we are going to close the gap in funding to minority- and women-owned business, CDFIs not only need more funding but underestimated entrepreneurs need to know about this affordable source of capital.
Don’t Make Women Choose Between Access To Capital And Access To Markets
Access to markets is critical to all businesses. Having customers who spend billions on goods and services, such as the Fortune 1000 or government agencies, increases your chances for high growth. Whether it’s corporate or local, state, or federal government contracts, business owners who are part of communities that have been historically marginalized—such as women and people of color—are not receiving contracts on par with white men. Becoming certified as 51% minority- or women-owned opens doors to business development opportunities and training.
When minority- and women-owned businesses seek equity investment to fund growth, if investor ownership exceeds 49%, these businesses lose their socioeconomic status. “Senators Marco Rubio and Maria Cantwell introduced the Women and Minority Equity Investment Act. It allows women-owned businesses to take investment from women-owned equity firms and still meet the obligation of being unconditionally owned,” said Waterman. When she was vice president and chief staff of WBENC, Waterman implemented that rule for them. This organization oversees the women-owned business certification program for corporations.
Both WIPP and The National Women’s Business Council (NWBC) strongly support this act. NWBC is a federal advisory committee established to serve as an independent source of advice and policy recommendations for the President, the US Congress, and the US Small Business Administration (SBA) on issues of importance to women business owners and entrepreneurs. Waterman is optimistic that it will pass this year.
Ensuring Equal Access To Credit Requires Accountability
Klein is working with the Responsible Business Lending Coalition (RBLC) on the need for data showing who is getting capital, by product, and at what price.  RBLC is a network of nonprofit and for-profit lenders, investors, and small business advocates that share a commitment to innovation in small business lending while ensuring responsible lending practices. Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act was approved in 2010. However, section 1071 requiring financial institutions to report demographic on small business loans has yet to be implement.*** Economic disparity highlighted by the pandemic, as well as Black Matter and MeToo movements, make it more critical than ever before that section 1071 gets authorized.
What government policy changes do you think are needed to help women-owned businesses?
*Quote update to reflect banks not CDFIs make loans.
** Updated to mention that the new stimulus plan doesn’t include funding for Treasury that would make it easier for the Fed to do this (because Treasury would cover any losses).** 
*** Updated to reflect that Section 1071 of Dodd-Frank has been authorized. It has yet to be implemented.

How To Survive An Economic Downturn Using Video Ads

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By Jacob Tanur, founder and creative director at Click Play Films, a video production company specializing in premium branded content. 

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In addition to the many unexpected trials plaguing the U.S. this year, 2020 has brought about the fourth global economic downturn in the 21st century. Though the most obvious response for any business may be to cut costs, an economic downturn is not the time to reduce your ad spend. In fact, ads may be essential for your survival.
Right now, consumers are desperate for stability. They’re looking for someone to trust, and regardless of whether they have the money to spend now, they want to know that the brands they’ve always counted on will be there when the country regains its footing. This is where your business comes in.

Why Video Ads Are A Smart Investment During An Economic Downturn
1. You’ll see a long-lasting boost in sales and market share.
Brands that stop advertising on television during this year’s crisis may experience a 39% reduction in brand awareness, according to one estimate. A recovering economy cannot undo this damage. By increasing or maintaining your ad spend, you will not only remain relevant in the eyes of consumers during and after the economic downturn, but you are also likely to see boosts in sales.

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But why should you invest in video ads specifically?
During a turbulent time like the one we’re experiencing now, Americans are more likely to spend time on social media, if not to keep up with friends and family, then to keep up with current events. This means more time on smartphones. A study from YouTube found that smartphone users are more likely to watch and share ads compared to those viewing on a desktop computer or television. Video ads are perfect for smartphone viewing because they offer a quick way for consumers to get an overview of the product, making them more likely to purchase and leading to an increase in sales.
2. There’s less competition.
In 2020, one Q2 analysis saw traditional ad spend decrease by 39% and digital ads decrease by 33%. Some may look at these statistics and think the best course of action is to follow suit, but those striving to survive and thrive during an economic downturn will see an opportunity.
Ad sales decreasing means there’s that much less competition on digital platforms, and this is an effect that could last well beyond the economy’s recovery. After the 2008 recession, it took four years for ad spend to return to what it was in 2007, and many ad buyers expect there to be an even more significant impact due to this year’s recession. By taking advantage now, you are potentially setting yourself up for years of success in a less competitive market.
3. Videos are more eye-catching, and people process the information better.
During an economic downturn, the most important thing to consider is what ad format will give you the best ROI. According to a recent survey, 87% of business owners are satisfied with the ROI of video marketing and 66% think that video content is the most impactful type of content.
Video ads not only have a better click-through rate than articles and images; they are also processed far faster. People process visual media like video 60,000 times faster than text, meaning much more can be communicated via video in a short amount of time. Many consumers have a short attention span, so they are more likely to ultimately choose your product or service if they learn about it through video because they are more likely to have processed the information.
How To Successfully Use Video Ads During An Economic Downturn
1. Streamline your products.
Consumers will inevitably become pickier with what they spend money on during an economic downturn. When it comes to your ads, you want to focus on the products that make the most sense for consumers at the time. Simply put, what is essential, and what is expendable?
It also is important to stress the value of your product. Right now, customers aren’t looking for what is flashy and customizable. They’re looking for simple. They want to get the most out of their money and know that what you’re selling is of good quality and good value.
2. Focus on affordability.
If there was ever a time when consumers were hunting for good deals, it’s during an economic downturn. Use your advertisements to highlight short-term price reductions, fee forgiveness policies or installment plans.
However, be cognizant of consumers’ perception of cost. If they become too used to reduced prices, when the economy recovers, they may leave your brand to seek out the lower prices they enjoyed during the downturn. One way to avoid this may be by coming out with a lower-priced version of your product, accounting for the need for affordability while avoiding associating your typical products with lower prices.
3. Be empathetic.
More than anything, consumers want to know you’re there for them. Use your video ads to show how you can help consumers’ daily lives and highlight your efforts to address the current situation.
Take Zillow’s “The Real Value of Home” ad, for example. This ad not only emphasizes the value of home and everyday moments in a person’s life but shows that Zillow understands the struggle experienced by people shut at home because of the pandemic and are there to help.
Conclusion
An economic downturn isn’t the time to pull back on your ad spend; it’s the time to strike. Allot more of your ad spend to increasing or maintaining video ads during a downturn, and make sure to tailor your ads to the situation and to your consumers’ needs. Not only will you stand out above your competitors and build trust with current and potential consumers, but you may see an increase in ROI.

Digitally Transform Your Business With Web-Based Virtual Reality

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By Chris Stegner, CEO and co-founder at Very Big Things, a leading digital product agency focused on digital transformation and disruption.

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Once commonly thought of as just a gaming tool or a means for entertainment, virtual reality platforms are now ushering in a completely new age of business. A recent PwC report predicts that worldwide, almost 23.5 million jobs could be using augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) by 2030. Uses could include meetings, training, customer service and more.
It doesn’t stop there, though, as the spread of Covid-19 has accelerated AR and VR adoption at a rapid pace. According to 2020 research published by CommereNext and Exponea, more than 20% of U.S. retailers plan to invest in AR or VR for their company’s online store, up from just 8% six months earlier.

Traditional VR headsets, however, have a high barrier of entry for consumers and are not widely available across the globe. So how can brands take advantage of the powerfully immersive VR experience but not be limited by cost, physical availability or the need for consumers to download additional software? 
Organizations should look to leverage web-based VR and AR systems.
How WebVR Works

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The end result of a web-based VR (WebVR) experience will look and feel just like an experience on a traditional VR headset. In layman’s terms, end users are presented with specific images for the left and the right eyes. The combination of these 2D images gives off the perception of 3D depth to the brain. Add to that a few JavaScript libraries and the power of WebGL, and front-end developers can create the VR experience directly through a web browser, allowing users to immerse themselves without downloading additional software or buying expensive equipment.
Industries Utilizing WebVR Today
WebVR has found a home in several industries, including real estate, education, conferences and more.
Real Estate
The real estate industry has been completely transformed with the advancements of XR (VR + AR) technology. According to Coldwell Banker’s 2018 Smart Home Marketplace survey, 77% of homebuyers would like to experience virtual reality tours before seeing a prospective listing in person. Another 68% would like to use AR technology to see how their current furniture would look in a new home. XR is saving buyers time and opens up the potential market to a wider audience.
Little Workshop’s WebVR Showroom is a perfect example of how real estate companies can showcase their properties virtually. Potential buyers can easily log on and explore their spaces in a 360-degree format without ever leaving the comfort of their own homes, allowing for a more convenient and time-saving experience. With engaging features like the ability to change displayed furniture, potential buyers can emotionally connect to these spaces in ways they never could have before.
Another great example is the Lennar Corporation, which is one of the largest real estate and home construction companies in the United States. Lennar notably entered this space in 2019 in partnership with SkyNav, an immersive technology company that claims to have helped its partners in the real estate industry increase overall engagement by 45% using WebVR.
Education
Another industry being transformed by VR is education. Recent statistics show students remember 90% of material learned through experience versus remembering just 30% of what is heard. Furthermore, IEEE recently conducted a study that found students who took part in using WebVR demonstrated a high level of creativity and problem-solving skills, debunking any myths that VR is distracting to learners. 
Both in-person and online educators are using VR as a means to democratize learning across the globe. WebVR is opening up avenues for students that were never present in the past. Our client Certify-ED is one online provider enabling students to take part in interactive VR classes using just a computer or tablet. It offers award-winning courses in areas like nursing, tae kwon do, biotechnology, fundamentals of robotics, drones and medical assistance. It’s also expanding and planning to release courses in computer programming, digital media, HVAC and more. 
Conferences
It is no question that the pandemic forced rapid adoption of VR by the event industry, and we’ve already seen many companies leverage this technology to hold conferences virtually. HTC was one of the first when it moved its Vive Ecosystem Conference fully online in March, allowing attendees to take part via a VR headset or through a desktop monitor.
This approach allows companies to safely hold their events while also removing geographical boundaries to potential audience members. No longer are potential attendees bound by location or the need for expensive travel arrangements. 
More organizations should implement web-based VR conference abilities. WebVR truly democratizes the event industry because it allows audience members from all over the world to take part without the need for expensive equipment or to download additional software.
Regardless of your industry, WebVR experiences can help take your company to new heights, especially in a pandemic and post-pandemic world. As I see it, the accessibility, ease of use and overall engagement simply cannot be matched by any other technology.

You Can Be A Successful CEO And A High School Dropout

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By Brandon Ginsberg, CEO at ApparelMagic, an ERP solution designed for fashion companies.

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Richard Branson. Walt Disney. David Karp. Mike Hudack. What do all these prominent figures have in common? The obvious is that they’re masterminds behind multimillion and billion-dollar companies and have built lasting legacies within their industries. The not-so-obvious is that they’re all high school dropouts.
Not all dropouts will obtain this degree of success, but an Ivy League education isn’t necessarily a guarantee of success, either. But when a high school dropout carves a path of affluence, it pokes a hole in the mythos that formal education is mandatory for a lucrative career. It’s true in these examples and true of my own experience as well.

I dropped out of high school when I was seventeen to work full time building the next generation of software for a company. I never pursued a college education or any formal business training. I had my craft, my passion and an eagerness to learn. Now, I’m the CEO, and thousands of customers are using our product. I was never a C-suite executive. I didn’t know a lot about the industry initially. But I believed in what I was doing and was ambitious to continue to take on more responsibilities within the company. 
This path hasn’t been easy, of course. I’ve had to work hard to get to where I am today — and still do. That’s not to say that I worked harder than most, as every professional has their own set of unique challenges, but dropping out of high school taught me some crucial lessons about success. Here are a few:

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Dedicate yourself to your passion, and success will follow.
I did technical support for my company after school and used my software skills for real-world applications. When approached about becoming a full-time employee, I remember mulling over the decision for a while. Do I give up my last year of high school or risk missing out on an opportunity many college grads don’t even get? But I saw an opportunity worth fighting for, where my skills could help build the next generation of the company’s flagship software. I knew then that I had to trust myself and carve myself a different path. 
Obviously, I went with the employment offer. I saw an opportunity, so it became a pretty easy decision. But this decision came with footnotes. I had to be ruthless in my dedication to success. I had to adapt to the ebbs and flows of navigating a position and industry that weren’t initially in my wheelhouse. I had to do whatever it took to prove my skill set and set myself apart. Where I brought prowess and hunger to the table, other people brought a piece of paper that said they were experts in the field. I couldn’t just rely on the skills my boss saw in me at the time; I had to prove I could learn, and learn quickly.
There’s a popular saying: “Do what you love, and the money will follow.” But I would lengthen that statement a bit more. If you do what you love and relentlessly dedicate yourself to your passion, then money will follow. 
You always need to have a plan, but it doesn’t have to be perfect.
You can’t be an executive who waits for the “perfect plan” before you make a move. If leaders are honest with themselves, everyone knows the perfect plan doesn’t exist anyway. But if you wait until you feel completely ready before you act, it’s likely because you’re afraid to fail. Yet failure usually precedes success.
Just look at James Dyson’s story. He had a vision to create the next big vacuum cleaner. He created over 5,126 prototypes that failed miserably. If he had abandoned his vision and never made that 5,127th model, Dyson vacuums wouldn’t exist today.
You always need a plan to see your vision through, but that plan can never be set in stone. You need to be prepared to adapt and change course at a moment’s notice. You have to think through all the possible outcomes of a plan. How will you stay on course? What will you do if things start going wrong? 
Always having a plan ensures that when you take risks, they’re calculated and not just compulsory. 
When you need support, reach out for help.
The pursuit of success is a long, arduous road. One day you can feel on top of the world, and the next it can feel like you’re drowning. This is just the inevitability of leadership.
But you don’t have to be superhuman. Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, and being vulnerable shouldn’t be embarrassing. Every leader should be surrounded by a good support system. The most successful leaders know this and don’t even think twice about calling on others for guidance or encouragement. 
Having people in your corner during difficult times is invaluable and shouldn’t be taken for granted. No one gets to the top alone. Pay attention to the people who answer your call when you’re struggling, and keep them close. Not everyone will be there like you think they will, and those aren’t the people who have your best interests in mind.
Nothing is impossible if you’re willing to work for it. Whether you’re a high school dropout or a college graduate, you can’t just rely on your skill set or degree to set yourself apart. You have to carve out your own path, no matter what it takes.

Overnight Success? Nine Effective Tips To Scale Your Business Fast

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While it’s not a common thing, some businesses do explode into popularity overnight. For the companies that do, it can be a completely new landscape to navigate. Suddenly, consumers want your product and they can’t get enough of it. Your supply lines and logistics may not be able to handle the traffic at its new demanding level.
Successful businesses always prepare for the possibility of growth. Still, so much expansion in such a small span of time can leave a company reeling and result in unsatisfied customers. So how should a company approach newfound success? Below, nine leaders from Young Entrepreneur Council discuss how a company can scale up to meet demand following sudden success that thrusts the business into the spotlight.

Young Entrepreneur Council members share tips for scaling your business quickly.
Photos courtesy of the individual members.
1. Have Repeatable, Predictable Processes
At Virti we scaled up by over 1,000% in an eight-month period. This was exciting, but keeping up with demand meant we had to scale our team, processes and infrastructure in a short amount of time. The best piece of advice I received on scaling was to ensure all processes were in place, were repeatable and were predictable before aggressively scaling up teams. At early-stage companies it can be difficult to find the time to write down your processes in an easy-to-understand way. If you are explaining things more than once, you need a process that is documented and driven by data, and sitting in team playbooks or your company knowledge area. – Alexander Young, Virti

2. Be Aware Of Your Limits As A Company
I would go with being self-aware of your limits as a company. How many additional staff can you hire while maintaining product cost and quality? What is the manufacturing capacity of your product and how much demand can it accommodate before costs spiral out of control? What are your logistical options? These are questions you must answer before you make a decision on how to approach buyers. But regardless of what you find, be honest with customers. Many times, they understand there has been a sudden surge in demand for your goods and services. It’s much better to lower their expectations to meet the reality on the ground instead of making a promise and failing to deliver. There’s potential to scale—you just don’t want to be on the wrong side of it. – Samuel Thimothy, OneIMS
3. Outsource And Build A Team
When your company starts to grow rapidly and you need to quickly scale, it is important to do two things: outsource and build a team. You can outsource certain tasks or products and at the same time start to build a team. Financially, it is usually cheaper to outsource short term and it can be done faster. Building a team is important, but not something that you want to rush. You want to make sure you have the right people on your team. Once you have more people involved, you can produce products or services and provide customer service at a much faster pace. This will allow you to grow your company in a short amount of time. – Lisa Collum, Top Score Writing

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4. Check Your Finances And Update Your Goals
It’s important to ensure that your finances are healthy before you start scaling your business. If they aren’t, try finding an investor. You can also change your focus to match your new goals. For example, if you’ve been focused on generating new customers, you can change your goal to retaining your customers and building your brand. Your business is growing and you won’t need to focus as much on bringing in new customers; therefore, you can utilize the marketing funds to retain your customers instead. – Thomas Griffin, OptinMonster
5. Leverage Your Partnerships
Managing growth can be one of the most difficult hurdles for a startup, and viral growth makes this more complicated. Startups should focus on leveraging their partnerships as much as possible. This can apply to all parts of company operations, from raw materials procurement to order fulfillment, and can extend to digital marketing and customer service, among other things. Startup teams need to remember that things such as “make versus buy” decisions can evolve over time. What’s most important is that your company is able to withstand supply chain stress caused by demand and deliver consistent quality to your growing customer base. By focusing on what your startup does best and empowering your supply chain partners, you’ll be in the best position possible to respond to viral growth. – Charles Bogoian, Kenai Sports
6. Network With Notable Industry Figures
Becoming a viral success is a bit like getting struck by lightning: it’s rare and often leaves you motionless. To capitalize on a surge of popularity and attention, I recommend networking with notable figures in your industry quickly. Try and reach out to them when you’re at the height of your popularity and the chances of them responding will also be at their highest. Once you’ve got your foot in the door, it’s a great way to maintain your momentum and potentially set up further growth opportunities after your viral success starts to wear off and people jump on a new trend. – Bryce Welker, CPA Exam Guy
7. Automate Your Processes
Automation is the mother of scalability. A streamlined approach to your operational process doesn’t hurt either. The more time you spend ironing out the kinks of your internal structure, the easier it will be to 10x your business. An overlooked aspect to scaling quickly is hiring and training your employees. This can be a significant drawback when a specialization is required or when employees need to learn how to operate highly technical equipment or machinery. Many times, digital media can help, like video tutorials or carefully structured employee onboarding experiences. Whatever the scenario, a business gone viral is an entrepreneurial dream, so have no fear and just push forward to “MacGyver” the problem the best you can. – Terry Tateossian, Socialfix Media
8. Focus On Your Core Competencies
The best way to quickly scale your business is to focus on the core competencies. This will help you keep up with the growing demand in the market. Don’t be afraid of embracing new technologies. Instead of randomly hiring too many people, find out if things can be handled without going on a hiring spree right away. It’s also important to have available resources before you start scaling your business. – Josh Kohlbach, Wholesale Suite
9. Partner Up With Your Competitors
Partner with other brands in your industry. Competitors don’t necessarily need to be adversarial. Many are willing to lend a hand knowing that you’ll be in a better position to return the favor later. They may offer introductions to new vendors, suggestions for optimizing your supply chain or even advice on how to handle customer service during this unexpected spike in sales. Ultimately, you’ll want to remember that there are plenty of resources available so you don’t have to struggle through this unexpected growth spurt alone. – Firas Kittaneh, Zoma Mattress