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4 Outdated Rules Every Business Owner Needs to Ditch

October 19, 2020 7 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Whether you like it or not, things have changed. The traditional “rules” of work simply don’t apply to a majority of jobs anymore, and that can be a hard truth to hear. Many of us are already overwhelmed with the sheer volume of tough decisions, changes, and new responsibilities we have to juggle, but — in order to do what’s best for our businesses — it’s critical to take a hard look at how things used to be, what’s changed since then, and, most important, how we must respond to those changes. 
Old Rule: Traditional office hoursNew Rule: Active hours
For many industries, the introduction of remote work created a major shake-up that, if we’re honest, not everyone was completely prepared for. However, as working from home continues to change how we do business, it’s important for us employers to realize that we can’t change the entire work format and enforce the same rules. “This is how we’ve always done it” is irrelevant. Circumstances have changed, and it’s time for business owners to adapt. 
Sorry folks, but the traditional Monday-through-Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. schedule is officially dead, and it’s time for business owners to make the leap. Instead of keeping with an outdated format that, let’s be honest, was never actually great for productivity, don’t be afraid to rethink things. 
Replace your traditional work hours with predefined “active hours” that work for you, your employees, and your business. That might be 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. every day (or some other chunk of time that makes sense), and encourage your employees to be available and/or on call during these hours. 
Don’t forget to ask your employees for input on what works best for them — and it doesn’t necessarily need to be the same active hours for each employee each day of the week. Whether they’re working from 5 a.m. to 7 a.m., 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., or 8 p.m. to 11 p.m., when they’re working matters significantly less than whether or not the work is getting done.
Related: Do You Trust Your Employees? Your Office Might Be Telling Them Otherwise
Old Rule: Standard 40-hour work weekNew Rule: Flexible scheduling
I love reminding people that the eight-hour workday is over 200 years old. Robert Owens, a Welsh labor rights activist, is credited with coining the phrase “Eight hours labor, eight hours recreation, eight hours rest” back in 1817, and it’s a concept that quickly made its way to America. By the early 1920s, the idea of the eight-hour workday hit the mainstream, and we’ve relied on that structure ever since. 
Obviously, a lot of things have changed over the last two hundred years — so why are we still clinging to a concept that is literally centuries old? Research proves that shorter workdays (and shorter work weeks) are both fantastic ways to improve both quality of life and quality of work for your employees. We know that employees who are happier (and more productive) help improve the bottom line, so why aren’t we making the switch? 
As a business owner, you need to take a critical look at whether or not the eight-hour workday actually works for your business. Resist the urge to make decisions based on what you’re comfortable with. You might love the eight-hour workday because it makes it easier for you to keep tabs on your employees — but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s best for your business. Instead, maybe you need to focus on hiring employees you trust so you don’t need to keep tabs on them every single day.
Studies show that employees work better in concentrated periods — and when they’re in control of their own schedules — and boosting your employees’ well-being pays off. Businesses that introduce more flexibility into their work week can see increases in productivity, employee health and wellness, and profitability. Clinging to a rigid work schedule might be hurting your bottom line more than it’s helping your peace of mind. 
Related: Why Business Owners Need to Show Employees It’s Okay Not to Be Okay
Old Rule: Too much (or too little) oversightNew Rule: Accountability
One of the reasons why many business owners resist introducing flexible schedules or work-from-home options is because they’re worried it’s going to be difficult to oversee employees if they aren’t in the office or logged in at the same time. 
While these new ways of doing work can require a fair amount of trust in your employees to actually get things done instead of watching Netflix on the company dime, it’s all about creating a structure where you get what you need while allowing your employees to thrive. Accountability is critical, and it allows your employees to have a clear understanding of responsibilities and expectations, giving them the freedom to flourish in a nontraditional work environment while creating enough structure for you to make sure work is being accomplished. 
Unfortunately, if you don’t know what your employees are up to on a daily basis, that’s not always a “them” problem. If your employees don’t have clear expectations of what they should be doing (and how they should be doing it), it’s harder for them to give you the reassurance you need that things are getting done. 
Instead of being disconnected from your team — or, on the opposite end, becoming a dreaded micromanager — try to be a touch point, not a bottleneck. Want to keep your team on track? Establish a few key metrics, and then introduce weekly check-ins where employees can tell you the top three items they’re working on that week. You can do a quick check-in throughout the week via Slack or email, but, for the most part, it’s about learning to trust the people you’ve hired to do great work. 
Related: Leading By Accountability Is Contagious
Old Rule: Be a good managerNew Rule: Be a great leader
When it comes to being a business owner, one of the most important things you can learn is the difference between a manager and a leader. Anyone can manage a team (with varying degrees of success), but it involves a lot of time, energy, and effort that you probably don’t have at your disposal right now. 
Instead of viewing your role as if you’re managing a team of employees, focus on learning how to be a fantastic leader as well. Be creative and flexible. Instead of pointing fingers at your employees (or the pandemic), learn how to be proactive instead of reactive. What can you do better as a leader? Where can your team improve? Learn how to empower your team to function autonomously and at a high level. 
Remember, this isn’t just about doing what’s best or most comfortable for you. It takes practice, but eventually you’ll find a solution that’s best for your customers, your employees and your bottom line. 
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5 Ways To Promote Team Wellness This Winter

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Work team laughing in meeting.
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Winter can be a dreary time for everyone. Add in the stressful events of 2020, and the debilitating effects of the winter months become all the more deadly. Seasonal depression is very real and can have a huge effect on your employees if you’re not careful.
The good news is that you don’t have to be at winter’s mercy every year. There are plenty of steps you can take to keep the winter blues at bay for yourself and your team. Both mental health and productivity will greatly benefit from an active effort.
Need some tips on how to encourage team wellness this winter? This list will help you get started on your way to cheery hearts and blue skies:
1. Add Helpful Resources to Benefits Packages
The first thing your company can do is reevaluate the benefits it offers to employees. What can be added to help encourage team wellness throughout the winter and the year as a whole? Even small additions can make a big difference.

For example, you can provide gym memberships as part of your employee benefits packages. If your employees are leery of going to a gym during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, offer subscriptions to online workout programs instead. Either approach will help promote activity, a huge motivator during the cold winter months. Not only will exercise help improve your employees’ physical health, it releases endorphins that can lift spirits even during the darkest of times.
You can also look at making counseling available to your team members. Having a company therapist on hand or on call will provide employees with easy access to the help and direction they need to get out of a seasonal funk.

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2. Allow Time to Unwind
Work can compound the stress and anxiety that seasonal depression and plain old winter blues may bring on your employees. What they need is some extra time to unwind guilt-free. Enabling more personal time will give your team a chance to reenergize before coming back in to work and putting their pedal to the metal.
Got an employee who loves skiing? Approach them this week and tell them they can take off early next Friday for an afternoon on the slopes. You’ll feel like Santa Claus seeing them light up at your suggestion and the permission to take some extra time off during a difficult winter.
Each employee will have different needs and desires. Some may even prefer to keep working as an escape from the world’s current woes. Look for ways to help each one of them unwind in one way or another. Bottling up their stress for too long won’t just affect their productivity now, it might cause them to melt down later.
3. Organize Group Activities
Some team bonding never hurts, no matter the weather. Getting your team together—at a safe social distance—for activities inside and outside of work will help them see that they can rely on each other in good times and bad. Co-workers may even be reminded that others are relying on them, encouraging them to step up their game. 
Group activities can be as simple as a team lunch or a short walk to get some air (be sure to bundle up for this one). Less frequent activities can include volunteer work, sporting events, or other recreational activities that will create great memories for your team and send them home with a smile on their face.
In this year of Covid-19, virtual teams have popped up across the country. Pulling off group activities with remote teams is a bit trickier, but it’s still possible and very beneficial. With videoconferencing technology, you can host a company happy hour, game night or even a talent show to bring everyone together.
4. Provide Needed Tools and Wellness Gear
A woodsman can cut down a lot more trees in a day with a sharp axe than with a dull one. Equipping your team with effective tools will help improve their wellness even without other changes. Eliminating daily task frustrations and workarounds with the right tools will reduce your team’s stress level all on its own.
That doesn’t mean you can’t get wellness-specific, however. For example, a huge aspect of both physical and mental wellness, not to mention survival, is hydration. Giving your team members a company-logoed water bottle to keep at their desks will serve as a constant reminder to stay hydrated. Even during the winter, hydration is key for keeping a person’s brain and body active and strong.
A bigger-picture approach would include taking a look at the ergonomics of your office. Good posture not only helps eliminate the aches and pains of a long work day, it can get employees in a better mindset while they’re focusing on what’s in front of them. Ergonomic desk chairs, keyboards and even standing desks can all make a subtle but noticeable difference in your team’s wellness. 
5. Focus on the Positive
While exterior elements are easier to control, true wellness comes from within. Trying to boost team wellness from the inside out is much more difficult, but it’s more effective and long-lasting. Luckily, there are some tips for increasing your team’s wellness by focusing on the positive.
Start with some goal setting. Guide employees through the goal-setting process, making sure they establish objectives for both their professional and personal lives. Then celebrate each and every victory. Supporting each other through their achievements will carry your team heroically through the winter.
You can also set up a wellness wall in your office. On this wall, employees can share their goals along with quotes, jokes and the company vision. Encourage them to express themselves and use this “vision board” to propel them through the winter.
Team wellness should always be a top priority. Use this guide to help you start lifting up all your employees. Their productivity will rise along with your company, and you’ll find joy in taking care of the people who do so much to move your business forward.

How To Refresh Your Business Ideas In The New Year

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Forget an extravagant fireworks show or a ball drop in New York—if anything ushered in 2021, it was a collective sigh of relief. While many of us are excited to see 2020 in the rearview mirror, that doesn’t mean we can get complacent about the future. The new year is an excellent time for entrepreneurs to reflect on their businesses and think about how they can improve and excel in the months and years to come.
As you take a moment to review your endeavors, it’s worth looking at what your peers have on their minds. I connected with seven entrepreneurs and business leaders to find out what they’ve resolved to refresh in 2021.
1. Gather a wealth of input: Steve Willis, managing director of milliCare
Steve Willis recognizes that the pace of change has never been faster: “Even without a global pandemic or economic crisis, it’s important to reflect and refresh your business ideas each year. Market trends change, demographics change, and most importantly, our customers’ needs change.”
To stay on top of those changes, Willis looks to three different sources: “Soliciting feedback from key customers, hearing new ideas from team members, and looking at the overall industry shift helps us to stay current and advance our business.”

Plenty of organizations think they know what their customers want, but the only way to truly know is to ask. Once you’ve gathered information and planned how to meet a need, Willis says to test your idea to ensure it meshes with established products, processes, and procedures.
2. Keep your focus tight: Tom O’Neill, CEO and founder of Parallax
As Parallax builds an SaaS platform powering profitable growth of professional services organizations, Tom O’Neill has made a conscious effort to limit the company’s focus.

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“Like most entrepreneurs, we’re passionate about our product,” O’Neill said. “It’s tough to fight the urge to pursue every opportunity presented, including those outside our core.”
Still, that focus is what helped the company grow. In the new year, O’Neill plans to scale that growth: “Remember that there is a difference between growing and scaling a business. When you started your company, it was natural to orient toward growth and try different things to achieve a product-market fit.”
Scaling, on the other hand, requires clear objectives and data-driven decision-making. O’Neill explains that these allow your team to deliver consistently and efficiently in your established market while still investing in your new market.
3. Take time to reflect: Haman Sharma, founder of ReviewNPrep
Haman Sharma is adamant about the importance of reflection, and he recommends entrepreneurs spend time thinking about the course their business is charting.
“If you are not consistently reinventing your business, you will eventually have no business,” Sharma said. “It all starts with a problem and an idea on how to address that problem. Keep track of these ideas in a journal, and take time out of your busy schedule to revisit them at least once a month.”
At the same time, Sharma recognizes that you can’t implement every idea you have: “It is important to step back and think about the list of ideas you have and see if they are still relevant based on your current state of business affairs. I’ve personally come across these crucial junctions in my entrepreneurial journey, where I had ideas but no data to support them.”
Collecting data can help validate hypotheses and ensure that you’re putting more of your good ideas into practice more often.
4. Surround yourself with people who push you: Dr. Rachel Hamel, founder of Dr. Rachel Hamel, DC
Dr. Hamel knows that we’re a product of the people we surround ourselves with, so she suggests being mindful of these relationships and making sure we’re getting as much growth out of them as possible. As she makes progress toward finishing a book that’s been in the works for two years, she’s drawn inspiration from her network—and credits them for her initiative.
“My number one tip is to get in a mastermind group or get a mentor,” Dr. Hamel said. “Seeing people do big things or constantly work on projects and ideas will inspire you. It will cause you to level up and get fired up to finish your own projects and ideas. It’s also a great opportunity to get feedback. If the circle you’re in doesn’t push you, then find one that does.”
5. Learn from successes and mistakes: Kara Hertzog, president of Innovative Employee Solutions
Kara Hertzog believes reflecting on the company’s performance is the most critical job of any business leader: “What worked, what didn’t work, and how you can keep improving and evolving as a company? When you’re not continually questioning, you risk stagnation. Don’t leave out the areas where your company excels, because even these may one day require a refresh.”
Because of the current tumultuous business climate, many companies are rethinking how they do business. Hertzog’s advice? Look to your peers for inspiration.
“Everyone has had to get more creative this year,” she said. “As we research new and innovative online engagement tools, we’re taking a hard look at how other businesses have made these kinds of shifts.”
Learn from those who have gone before, and you’ll make fewer mistakes of your own along the way.
6. Leverage tools to overcome new obstacles: Laura Boccanfuso, CEO of Vän Robotics, Inc.
Laura Boccanfuso doesn’t need a new year to reflect on how she can improve her business. Instead, she explains, “I continually think about two major goals. First, I want to build an incredible company that people want to work for, and second, I want to build fantastic products that people want to own. When you get the first objective right, the second becomes much easier.”
Before COVID-19, her company’s software use was strictly supplemental. To support the teams at Vän Robotics, Inc. in 2021, she’s looking to leverage tools specifically designed to facilitate remote project management that will also provide a strong foundation for her expanding team. Because software on its own can add complexity instead of removing it, Boccanfuso will also empower team leads with online resources and training.
7. Don’t be afraid to rock the boat: Scott Schoenberger, managing partner at Bluewater
The team at Bluewater had dabbled in remote work, but the resulting success after fully embracing it this year caused Scott Schoenberger to wonder what else the company was missing.
“It can be easy for companies to become complacent when things are moving along OK,” he said. “Instead of rocking the boat to gain faster traction and better growth, we often double down on exactly what we have done before.”
Remote work gave employees valuable flexibility, and it helped the company hire from a much larger talent pool. To ensure that Bluewater continues to tap into new sources of innovation, Schoenberger says his company is working through a formal process for intaking ideas, vetting them, and assigning resources to test them.
For companies that want to find their own sources of innovation, his advice is simple: “Try to reset your expectations of the ‘right’ way to do things while revisiting business ideas. Letting go of existing notions may open your eyes to new approaches that can dramatically improve your business.”
People around the world have entered 2021 with a sense of relief—but that doesn’t mean entrepreneurs can sit by and hope this year will be easier than the last. A new year is a time for reflection, and that reflection should result in action. Follow the advice of the above leaders, and you’ll be well on your way to a standout year for your own business.