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Find Your Niche in No Time

Finding your niche is easier than you think with our simple guide. Learn to get inspiration from your daily life and test your niche’s profitability. 
Sandra Kenrick

When you’re itching to start a business and just don’t know where to start, it’s time to harness your inner Max and Caroline (a la Two Broke Girls). 

No, we’re not saying start a cupcake emporium (unless you’re great at it, of course!).
What we are saying is, find your niche. 
TL;DR: To find your niche, think of an idea that will make you money, and whittle it down to the bare bones. Then, start layering the value adds and your unique selling points. Tada! Think of a product or service you’re already buying and how you can apply your skills to get paid for a similar product or service. Learn to focus on your moneymakers and stop stressing about those niggly smaller details that don’t mean a thing to your bottom line. By following a few simple steps, you’ll have an income-generating niche in no time.
How to find your niche: the basics 
We all know that one person who seems to come up with new business ventures every couple of years. Whatever they put their hands on just seems to blow up into the next best thing. Every single dang time. How the hell do they do it? 
They’ve cracked the code of unlocking goods and services that people will pay for. It’s as simple as that, but let’s unpack that a little further. Ramit gives us a few simple steps to identify a niche: 
Step 1: Finding the “what” 
It’s a lot easier to come up with a money-making idea than you think. In fact, you probably have a few ideas mulling about in your head right now. The problem for many, however, is turning their thoughts into a small business. 
So how do you do it? 
You start with 3 to 5 items or services you already pay for. If you’re paying for it, it’s likely that someone else will too. 
Step 2: Combine Step 1 with your current skillset 
Use your skills. If you’re getting paid to do something, it might just work as a business idea. It might also be something you’re doing in your free time or received training for before. 
Ask yourself this: What skills do I have and how can they make me more money? Whether you have mad carpentry skills or you’re known for your aesthetically pleasing knack for paint selection, there’s an opportunity to monetize. 
Step 3: Harness your hidden talents 
This is the part where you gather all your friends around the fire pit for some marshmallows and ‘Kumbaya.’ They need to tell you about things they think you’re good at. Ramit says look for things like “You give really good relationship advice.” Check out our case study where Cassie turns her unique skills into a $75-per-hour business idea. 
It might also be a little more subtle than that. If you’re the person in the family that teaches everyone how to do their taxes or organize their garage, you might want to look up a few courses and monetize your skills. 
Step 4: Test for profitability
The only way you’re going to guarantee yourself a payday by marketing your skill set is by testing the odds that someone will pay you for your service. 
Ramit calls this test the Pay Certainty Technique. 
Who is your ideal customer? 
Would they have the ability to pay? 
Would they have the willingness to pay? 
You’ll need to harness your people skills and ask your target market those questions.
For instance, a high-powered executive will have the willingness and ability to pay for a mobile tailor. A recent graduate, on the other hand, might have the willingness but not the ability. Making sure your idea is profitable is the key to find your niche. 
Step 5: Understand your niche’s Demand Matrix 
It’s not always possible to know where your particular product or service will land before you’ve actually entered the market, but a little research will go a long way. 
Sometimes, you might even have to put it out there before you know whether your chosen target audience has the ability and willingness to pay for it. 
Ramit puts it this way. Your business will fall into one of four quadrants on the Demand Matrix.
High-End: High price and few customers. Think luxury brands. 
Golden Goose: High prices and lots of potential customers in this category. Think expensive gadgets that are must-haves to millions of customers across the globe. 
Mass Market: Low prices and lots of customers. Millions of products and services fall within this category such as everyday items and even groceries. 
Labor of Love: Low prices and few customers. No! No! No! Get the heck outta Dodge! You will not make money with this. If you’ve already started, stop.
Step 6: Separate yourself from the competition 
You already have an idea, but the idea is not what’s going to get you customers. It’s your unique selling point. This means value adds that will convince your future customer base why they should use your product or service, and better yet, why they should pay good money for it. Think intuitive apps, personalized gifting ideas, heck, anything that will make your product or service pop. Here’s a hint: think of value adds that will get you giddy with excitement. 
Get super specific about who your market is and what you offer that no one else does. Perhaps you love pet sitting. There are many other pet sitters out there, so how do you set yourself apart? Tell your target market that you provide pet sitting with daily updates and pictures, details on noted behaviors, and that you’re certified in animal CPR. Your target market will get smaller, but the price you can charge is higher.  
Finding your niche really is easier than you think 
As long as you don’t get caught up in the small details like printing out business cards and setting up the right font for your branding, you’re off to a good start. Don’t get us wrong, those things will matter at a later stage. For now, focus on the moneymakers such as getting your first three clients. 
If you’re ready to find your niche and start living your rich life, why not sign up for our Earnable course? Whether you’re conceptualizing business ideas or looking to scale existing ones, the course has over 42,000 paying customers as a testament to its reach. 

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Is Your Small Business on the Wrong Side of the Digital Divide?

Has your small business crossed the digital divide yet? While there’s been a focus on enterprise businesses digitally transforming, not all small businesses kept pace.
Taking a slower evolutionary approach to going digital may have sufficed two or so years ago. But 2020 changed everything. According to Salesforce’s State of the Connected Customer report, 68 percent of customers surveyed say the coronavirus pandemic “raised their expectations for businesses’ digital capabilities,” and they EXPECT seamless digital experiences.
What does this digital divide mean for your small business? In short, you need to digitize now. The 2020 Small Business Digital Maturity Study from IDC and Cisco showed half of U.S. businesses are in stage 2 (out of 4), otherwise known as “digital observers” (companies whose digital efforts have started to cross the digital divide, but remain tactile and in bite-sized initiatives).
That’s not good enough to operate successfully in 2021. As Daniel-Zoe Jimenez, AVP, head digital transformation & SMB research at IDC, says, “The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the digital divide that was already present in the small business market, and it is forcing companies to accelerate their digitalization. Small businesses are realizing that digitalization is no longer an option, but a matter of survival.”
Start thinking digital-first. Once you digitize, you’ll have more time to focus on your growth strategies.
Crossing the Digital Divide: Working in the Cloud
No longer a mysterious technology reserved for hard-core geeks, cloud technology is an accepted, acclaimed, and superior tool for businesses of all sizes. Cloud-based solutions not only simplify operations, but they help companies save money, compete on a bigger scale, and secure critical data. For small businesses in particular, cloud-based solutions are essential if you want to operate efficiently, increase productivity, scale your operations, improve your profits and cross the digital divide. If you use the cloud proficiently, it can boost your small business to the next level.
There are numerous cloud-based applications on the market, addressing specific tasks and job functions. Here are three components of your business that can benefit from adopting cloud-based solutions.
1. Project Management
Running a small business takes teamwork, and productive teamwork takes exceptional organization and collaboration. Fortunately, there are many excellent project management tools available to help get your team on the same page, whether for specific projects or running your business remotely.
Using project management tools, you can:
Assign specific tasks and responsibilities to team members
Check progress on assigned projects
Budget and create timelines for projects
Schedule deadlines
Make it easy for team members to communicate
Store and share files seamlessly
Collaborate on files
Secure data
Access projects from anywhere
Most cloud-based project management solutions are subscription-based, and the costs vary, depending on the number of users and the specific tools you need. You can always start small with a free application such as Google Drive, but that offers limited storage and tools. Be sure to establish cybersecurity protocols as you cross the digital divide with your staff so company information is not inadvertently put at risk.
2. Marketing
After a year of uncertainty, what consumers want more than anything is to be remembered and appreciated. That means businesses need to do all they can to give their customers a personalized customer experience. Personalization works, according to The Rise of Personalized Commerce study. Results showed 70% of companies using advanced personalization in their marketing helped them earn a 200% return on investment (ROI).
It’s relatively easy to provide your customers with personalized offers and experiences; you just need to look at the relevant data, which you’ve hopefully collected and stored in the cloud. Gather the following information:
The products/service offerings your customers browsed on your website
The products/services they’ve purchased (if any)
The actions they’ve taken on your social media channels
The coupons, promotions, and special offers they’ve responded to
Armed with this information, you can learn which marketing messages will likely resonate with specific customers and target them with the appropriate messaging.
You can also create customer loyalty programs using cloud-based solutions, making them easier for you to administer and for the customer to use.
When shopping for a cloud-based marketing application, don’t over complicate things. Your new tool should work with, or adapt to the systems you already have in place, to cross the digital divide smoothly.
For example, if you run a retail business, look for a solution that works with your inventory program. You also need a solution that’s easy for you and your team to use, with a user-friendly interface and minimal data input involved. Ask other business owners or your trade association for referrals and look for programs that offer free trials.
3. Accounting
Like cloud-based project management and marketing, a cloud-based accounting system helps your small business by consolidating necessary tasks that would otherwise take hours to complete if you had to work on them separately. Online accounting enables you to access real-time data and allows for instant collaboration, whether with in-house personnel or your accountant. Also, the benefits multiply when you also use the add-on services available for cloud accounting platforms.
There are cloud-based accounting applications that let you tackle specific tasks, such as payroll, bookkeeping, and keeping track of expenses. The more accounting tasks you can digitize and put in the cloud, the more efficient your company will be as you cross the digital divide.
For example, a program like Bill.com helps you manage your payment processing, from creating and sending invoices to paying your bills. Using Bill.com, you can automate your invoicing, which the company says will help you get paid twice as fast. And since it’s cloud-based, you, your CFO, or your accountant can check on your receivables and payables at any time of the day, from anywhere there’s an internet connection.
The application also manages your accounts payable, making sure your payments are on-time and delivered securely. If you do business internationally, Bill.com can pay your vendors in a variety of currencies.
Other advantages of using a digital, cloud-based account like Bill.com include:
No more cutting paper checks. Today, most vendors prefer to be paid online. Using an automated system eliminates the chances of human error. And you’re saving money since you’re not printing and sending checks by mail.
Decreases fraud. Paper checks compromise your company’s security. Employees and criminals can no longer steal routing and account numbers. Electronic payments allow only authorized individuals to initiate payment via ACH, eChecks, credit cards, or wire transfer.
Automation. Cloud-based accounting systems automate time-intensive tasks such as manually entering customer and vendor information and remind clients about payment.
Collaboration. Accounting often involves multiple reviews and approvals. Having the information available and accessible in the cloud makes the process quicker and more secure.
You no longer have a choice—small businesses cannot afford not to embrace the cloud and cross the digital divide. Thinking digital-first will make your company more efficient. Especially during the coronavirus pandemic, when many companies are operating remotely, adopting digital processes ensures your financial transactions are secure.
You need to find a system with an easy learning curve that integrates with your other financial systems. Bill.com can help you pay bills, invoice, get paid, and manage your payments process, plus it integrates seamlessly with QuickBooks, Sage Intacct, Xero, and Oracle NetSuite. Give Bill.com a risk-free try today!
Image: Depositphotos.com

You Can Now Request Starlink, Elon Musk's Internet, in Mexico

In this way you can pre-register to obtain the service.
Grow Your Business, Not Your Inbox
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February 10, 2021 2 min read

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

Elon Musk’s Starlink satellite Internet project will be available in Mexico. To do this, you must carry out a pre-registration, with which the company will verify if your area is within those that its service will cover.
When entering the official Starlink page, placing an email and selecting the area, in this case Mexico City, a form is displayed to pre-order the Internet.
Image: Capture via Starlink.com
Likewise, a message appears advising that the company will cover this area (Mexico City) at the end of 2021 and that availability is limited.
“Starlink is targeting coverage in your area by the end of 2021. Availability is limited. Orders will be processed on a first-come, first-served basis, ”the page reads.
On the other hand, the cost that appears on the website is $ 99 (approximately 1,986 Mexican pesos). The company also specifies that by making the payment the user accepts its deposit terms and Starlink privacy policy.
Image: capture via Satarlink.com
Similarly, he explains that making the deposit does not guarantee the service and that the $ 99 is fully refundable.

How to Prove You're Actively Listening While Video Conferencing With Your Team

February 10, 2021 6 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
The past year has led to many difficult conversations, and difficult conversations often lead people to subconsciously put their humanity and empathy aside to make it through unscathed. We are surrounded by job loss, sickness, death, civil unrest and heightened depression and anxiety — in our current reality, compassion is more necessary than ever before.
As a neonatologist, I’ve learned a lot about conveying compassion and navigating through even the most difficult conversations with patients and their loved ones. I’ve now taken what I have learned as an intensive care physician and applied them to the workplace. In medicine and in business, strong communication skills are generally not inherent: Some of the most talented, well-meaning individuals struggle to convey empathy when faced with difficult situations, which makes it even more important to actively take steps to improve.
Even before the pandemic, businesses were beginning to recognize that empathy, a key part of emotional intelligence, significantly impacts organizational performance. Studies have shown that empathetic leaders can increase employee engagement, boost productivity and collaboration, fuel creativity and innovation and increase employee retention. A 2019 study by Businessolver found that 78% of surveyed employees would work longer hours for a more empathetic employer and 82% of employees would consider leaving their job for a more empathetic organization.
The rapid shift to remote work and the overwhelming disruption to every aspect of life has elevated the need for compassionate leadership. As work-from-home policies become more and more mainstream, leaders and managers need to not only prioritize empathetic leadership but learn how to convey it while working remotely.  
The following skills will help you demonstrate empathy, even when it’s through a screen.
Active listening
Active listening is defined as the ability to fully concentrate on a speaker, understanding what is being said and thoughtfully responding. Active listening, a key part of demonstrating empathy, is a skill set that also doesn’t always come naturally — it’s learned and developed with practice.
To practice active listening, avoid interrupting, rushing the conversation or changing the subject when meeting with an employee. Suppose a meeting is over a Zoom call. In that case, try to avoid multitasking like simultaneously checking an email or text. To mitigate temptations and distractions, close out of your emails and messaging platforms and turn off desktop notifications before a Zoom call. Treat remote calls with as much respect as you would an in-person, one-on-one meeting.
Active listening helps leaders better connect with and understand their employees and foster an environment of open communication that builds trust and rapport. This component of empathetic leadership allows you to more clearly see things from the employee’s perspective and establish a stronger emotional connection.
Related: Running Out of Things to Say On Zoom? This Communication Expert Wants to Help.
Pay close attention to nonverbal language
Empathy often requires a fair amount of reading between the lines. This skill involves not only understanding what is being said but understanding the emotions and nonverbal cues such as body language and tone of voice that accompany the words. This can be even harder to read over video, so pay close attention to employees’ facial reactions.
UCLA psychology professor Albert Mehrabian determined how much weight a group of listeners placed on the spoken word, tone of voice and body language. Professor Mehrabian found that only 7% of a message was derived from words, 38% from the tone and 55% from body language.
This underscores the importance of using nonverbal cues to better understand what an employee is feeling. Also think about your own presence on your next video call. Consider your expressions, the way you’re sitting, or even how your eye contact might be sending a message. People can tell if you are engaged and looking at their eyes, even on a remote call.
Ask questions
Asking questions is another way to demonstrate empathy. Intentional questions about an employee’s thoughts and feelings can help facilitate conversations and encourage employees to be more transparent about how they’re coping. A simple “How are you doing?” or “Is there anything you need or how can I help?” carries more weight in this current environment than it may have before. Be careful not to interrupt. Open-ended questions often reveal the most information and convey empathy.
Implementing these types of questions into interactions with employees, especially while remote, can go a long way in terms of creating and demonstrating a more compassionate leadership style. 
Related: 5 Games to Play on Your Next Virtual Happy Hour
Be fully present
A key part of demonstrating empathy is to be fully present when connecting with employees. Virtual connection does not automatically transfer to human connection: You have to make an active effort. While this can be more difficult to convey while working from home, you can still prioritize a fully present demeanor when you’re remote. Touch base with your team members often and avoid only communicating through messaging platforms. Instead, jump on a call or video, even if it’s for a quick question. Make it clear you’re still there for support, resources, feedback, etc. — not just as a manager, but as a human.
A lot of understanding can be gained when workers feel their leader is accessible and someone they can turn to while working from home.
Establish areas of commonality
One of the best ways to genuinely connect with someone, both inside and outside work, is by finding common ground. In the Covid-19 environment, everyone is experiencing disruptions in almost all aspects of life. By sharing some of the challenges you are experiencing in your own life, you can build a strong connection with team members who are likely facing the same challenges. This technique can open the lines of communication with the employee and increase their comfort level by making leadership seem more approachable.
Employees need empathetic leaders to cope with the uncertainty that has become the new normal. The Businessolver annual workplace empathy study noted that year over year, more than 90% of surveyed employees say empathy at their organizations is important. Still, in early 2020, there was a 10-point decline in how many people say their organization was empathic over the last two years.
This points to a need for business leaders to make empathy part of their DNA. With training that includes role playing and feedback, you can develop the empathetic behaviors that are now imperative. Talent firm Mercer summed this up by saying, “Only an empathetic culture can keep employees energized amidst so much uncertainty, enhancing the stability and agility organizations seek in these tumultuous times.”

How to Merge Two Companies? Do It Like It's a Relationship.

February 10, 2021 9 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.
Aristotle would say that humans “are social beings by nature” and as a consequence of this characteristic we tend to create relationships of different types that go from loving, friendly and family to great business connections.
Ecomsur is a company of fullcommerce , which arose from a merger between a Chilean company with the same name and a Mexican one called Ingnite . The history of this firm will help us to review some steps that may be useful if you find yourself in a moment of union with potential partners.
As a process of “spontaneous generation” Ecomsur was born in Chile in 2011 with the focus of being able to help companies in the development of their sales strategies in the digital world.
“Either with supporting the complete outsourcing of (ecommerce) services or helping them with some of these services such as: implementation of the e-commerce store, day-to-day operation, digital marketing, logistics and fulfillment, customer service , customer experience, reporting and information issues, systems integration until reaching the omnichannel path ”, Rodrigo Cerda, deputy manager of business development at Ecomsur México , explains in an interview for Entrepreneur in Spanish.
As the company grew and made a name for itself in its native country, it found the structure and investors to better develop the fullcommerce model, which refers to the “management of digital channels in a comprehensive manner, that is, a set of tools and services that are needed for a high performance ecommerce management and implementation ”.
In 2017, several renowned companies or business groups such as Samsonite began to ask for operations in other Latin American countries and it was time to grow. Likewise, “one of the founders of Ecomsur named Mario Miranda began to realize that there was indeed an opportunity in other countries and he wanted to replicate the model. So, we saw a safe operation in quotation marks, which was to be able to establish in Peru, Colombia and perhaps in Mexico the start of the extension with the clients we had in Chile ”, explains Cerda.
For its part, in Mexico in 2015, Ingnite would be born, a company founded by Jorge Fernández-Gallardo and that would largely coincide with the purpose for which its predecessor was created.
Image: Chris Liverani via Unsplash
The beginning of a relationship
Fernández-Gallardo founded Ingnite in January 2015, and after meeting Mario Miranda in 2018 and sharing “war stories” they realized that they started the same company without knowing of each other’s existence. “They were mirror companies with a couple of minor differences,” says Jorge Fernández-Gallardo, CEO of Ecomsur for Latin America North.
“The painting that we saw in the market was exactly the same … Long story short we founded the ‘same’ company, except that I founded it in Mexico in 2015 and we did not know each other, we knew absolutely nothing about each other”, explains Fernández-Gallardo .
Both companies were particularly focused on retailers and shopping center stores, “which have a hard time making the jump to operate e-commerce,” according to the Mexican businessman.
Both Ingnite and Ecomsur started with small clients, family businesses that had a hard time scaling their digital sales system and as they grew in the size of their users, a Brazilian player knocked on the door.
“As we tested ourselves and made a name, increasing in the size of clients that we could serve, a third partner began to knock on both of us at the same time, which is the Brazilian partner we have, a company called Synapcom,” he says. Fernández-Gallardo.
Brazilian entrepreneurs had realized that being able to provide the same service to brands in different countries was important and that they could not do it alone.
“They had realized that they couldn’t do it alone. A Brazilian coming to Mexico or going to Chile does not necessarily know the local ecosystem, he understands the retailers, the market and the consumer. That is why it was very important to have that local strength, and we got to know and partner with Ecomsur on the one hand with Synapcom and Ingnite on the other with Synapcom ”, he says.
Ingnite would enter Colombia absorbing the operation of a local company that provided it with knowledgeable personnel of the market in the South American country, while Ecomsur expanded through Peru.
“Pre-pandemic we realized that no one was going to be able to do this extraordinarily well without having local support and without really coming together in one block… you can be very good at what you do, but I think you also have to have the humility to understand how far you can go and then that by getting together with other people you can be more powerful and that equation of one plus one, when they are the right people, does not give two, gives three, gives four, gives five, when that one alone could not reach two ”, explains Fernández-Gallardo.
The relationship
The founders met in 2018 and in mid-2019 they had their “first date” of companies that could possibly reach a merger or the closest thing to a marriage.
“In mid-2019 we got together again to talk and said: ‘Let’s see this makes all the sense in the world, we like each other very well, we believe in principle that we have the same history, very similar companies and that we see the world in a similar way Let’s get to know each other a little more. ‘ So we consciously decided to undertake a stage like dating before getting married and I think that is very important when we talk about company mergers, ”says Fernández-Gallardo.
According to the Mexican businessman, company mergers are ‘ tricky’ (difficult) and sometimes they go wrong, “joining two companies is not something trivial” especially when they come from different cultures. If the right synergies don’t exist it can become destructive rather than constructive.
“What we decided was to get to know each other first and the correct way to do that was to become boyfriends, then start living together, and if it worked then it would be very natural for this to culminate in a marriage, in a formal merger”, explains Fernández-Gallardo .
Give the ring
In the dating stage, the founder of Ingnite and his team realized that due to the years of advantage that Ecomsur had given them they had more volume, which meant that they had also been able to invest more.
“When we saw the software they had, we realized that it was more advanced than ours and very interesting, we also realized that the technology development plan that we had was practically what they already had,” says Fernández-Gallardo.
To begin with, they placed an operation of the Mexican company in the Chilean company’s system.
“There we took the next step, that is, we had our largest implementation of 2019 which was the Carter’s store, the baby clothes. We decided to put it in the hands of Ecomsur and so that if it was a more intense step, it was like giving the ring because it was our most important client, it had taken us almost a year and a half to win that client, and since we were implementing it we decided to do it in the Ecomsur system ”, he comments.
The project went “extraordinarily well” and created the perfect opportunity for “the couple” to meet each other’s families. Part of the Ingnite team had the opportunity to travel to Chile and the Ecomsur team to come to Mexico to work hand in hand.
“That implementation was crazy, that is, in numbers of hours and work and what it achieved was that we all knew each other, that many people from Chile traveled to Mexico and worked hand in hand with us and that several of us traveled to Chile to get to know them ”, says the CEO.
Marriage
At the end of this test the companies were already committed and ready for a merger. “At the end of that project we said: ‘this makes sense, we agreed on a price, a start date, which was January 1, 2020, to start operating together and we signed the merger agreement before November 2019. This is how at the beginning of January of last year (2020) we began to operate as Ecomsur México and Ecomsur Colombia ”.
Image: Ecomsur via YouTube.
Today the company has operations in four countries: Chile, Mexico, Colombia and Peru. “It is a single infrastructure, a single backbone, but with a super-powerful tropicalization and execution in each of the countries with local teams and local partners.”
And now that?
“Nobody expected 2020 as it was.” Last year, electronic commerce grew exponentially, according to reports from the Mexican Association of Online Sales (AMVO), e-commerce developed by 94 percent.
In terms of sales, according to the final results of the Hot Sale 2020 in Mexico, historical sales were recorded by exceeding 20 billion pesos with a participation of 12 million Mexicans, a figure higher than the 2019 edition, which had total sales of 11 billion pesos. In addition, in the last edition, there was a 58% increase in new customers.
“I think that in that sense, the truth is that I consider myself very lucky and I know that Mario also considers himself very lucky with the timing with which things happened because although we had worked very hard and had put certain elements in place for this it could be very successful in the future, we never imagined how fast we were going to have a tail wind as big as the one that 2020 gave us at the industry level, which has made us grow a lot with all the clients we already had and has helped us a lot with acquiring new ones, ”says Fernández-Gallardo.
“With the pandemic (ecommerce) became the number one priority … And the most beautiful thing about all this is that we realized that our infrastructure and our systems support much more volume and growth than even we believed,” he concludes.

Why Keeping Top Talent Should Be Your Top Priority in 2021

February 10, 2021 5 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
The economic crisis has forced companies to make tough decisions regarding staffing. With the future up in the air, leaders and human resources departments have been forced to implement furloughs or even let go of people in certain roles. More than 22 million jobs disappeared in 2020, and 10 million of those positions never came back.
Now that the economy is starting to recover, retaining top talent should be your no. 1 priority for 2021. Why? Many companies showed their true colors during the pandemic — for better or worse. If you sidelined employee needs during the global health crisis, you need to reaffirm dedication to your staff. After all, businesses rely on their talent to function at an optimal level. You have to invest in the employees who make up the foundation of your team.
Related: Investing in Your Employees Is the Smartest Business Decision You Can Make
Many leaders say they want employees who are lifelong learners, but they never follow through on their end of the bargain. You need to own your leadership role and invest in the development of your employees. Figure out what’s standing in their way, brainstorming solutions to any existing barriers. If employees don’t have enough time, for example, then you could block off days for individuals’ improvement.
People won’t put up with workplaces that don’t care about keeping them around or believe in their potential. That’s why it’s essential to invest in the development of your workforce. The more you educate and engage your employees, the more value they will bring to your customers and business. Here’s how you can improve retention and create lifelong learners:
1. Start with a solid onboarding structure
Structured onboarding is crucial to employee development and retention. A good onboarding process can improve employee retention by 82 percent, according to a report from Glassdoor and Brandon Hall Group. Too many companies park their new hires at a desk, hand them a laptop and give them a loose “training” schedule that involves meeting with random team members throughout the week. That poor experience signals to the new employee that development is not a priority at your company.
Instead, develop a consistent system for onboarding. There will undoubtedly be some nuances for specific roles and departments, but the main standardized process should tell employees about your business, culture and goals. Then, put team members on specific development tracks to gain the training, education and knowledge necessary for success. Be sure to outline development paths and future opportunities for growth. This shows employees that you value their contributions and potential from the outset.
Related: 10 Must-Follow Company-Onboarding Techniques
2. Demonstrate commitment to learning
Employees want to work on their personal and professional skills, and they want employers who care about the same things. The more you invest in your employees, the most trust and rapport you build. When people find workplaces that support them, they work hard to support those businesses. BetterUp’s research shows that employees who feel like they belong to a company perform better and stay longer. High belonging ratings were linked to a 56 percent boost in job performance, a 50 percent drop in turnover rates and a 75 percent decrease in sick days taken.
Allow employees to learn in their day-to-day roles by creating an active learning environment. Ask questions while challenging everyone. Use memorable experiences to reinforce business concepts or objectives. Also, make sure managers understand the importance of passing down their knowledge and skills to their direct reports. You can empower them to do so by providing training materials or documents to keep track of responsibilities, job hacks, client information, etc.
3. Teach employees that it’s okay to fail
One of the most important lessons your employees can learn is how to fail — how to fail fast and fail forward, as they say. No one is perfect, and errors will happen. Teach your employees how to handle feedback so that they know how to improve their performance for the next time they’re in a similar situation. Help them understand how to do postmortems on their projects to evaluate what went well and what went wrong.
Another way to do this is to be vocal about how you embrace failure. As a leader, your employees put a lot of stock in what you say. When you admit you’re not perfect, it tells them that they won’t be penalized for trying. Leaders at 3M regularly admit when they mess up, like when former CEO L.D. Desimone attempted to prevent the company from producing Thinsulate, which would become one of the company’s bestselling products.
By sharing a personal example from your development journey, you can encourage team members to take leaps and learn from their mistakes. Depending on your culture, you can broach this discussion in a company wide meeting, roundtable, email or video message.
Related: Why Embracing Failure Is Good for Business
People want to feel like they belong and that their leaders recognize their potential. There’s no better way to show you care about your employees than by investing in their development. If you can prove that you care about employees’ learning opportunities from their first day of onboarding, you’ll build rapport and trust for life. Just don’t forget to share how important development has been in your career — even if it involves an embarrassing story about failure.
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CRISPR Offers the Potential to Live Forever, But to What End?

Chinese scientists have successfully prolonged the lives of mice by using CRISPR.
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February 10, 2021 4 min read
This story originally appeared on ValueWalk
Due to the unique consequences of the pandemic, we are able to catch a glimpse of a potential future. One where we sit, plugged into our computers, devoid of physical human connection. What will society look like after the pandemic? Will we continue to stay isolated? Surely advancements in technology have played key roles in prolonging our lives, allowing us to continue to “work” and “socialise,” but to what end? With these newly emerging technologies are we destined to live forever, in a suspended state, in front of the glow of our 4k computer screens? Will gene editing technologies be used to keep us alive forever so that we can binge watch infinite Netflix shows, send meaningless emails and scroll through social media feeds?
Living a healthier and longer life 
The Institute of Zoology of the China Academy of Science has successfully prolonged the lives of mice by using CRISPR/Cas 9. CRISPR has become a relatively simple and popular way to edit strands of DNA. The CRISPR/Cas 9 study found a gene tied to cellular senescence (which tells cells to stop growing) and also, that CRISPR/Cas9 treatment can make partially dormant the aging process. CRISPR/Cas9 treatment allowed mice to live 25% longer and be physically stronger. Biologists see these results being relatively easy to reproduce on humans in a clinical setting.
Existing in a world where individuals are able to receive treatment to live longer borders dystopian science fiction. The treatment can reduce the need for medical attention by potentially reducing injuries, heart attacks, and organ failures.
In part, due to breakthroughs in the tech and science industries, life expectancy in the 21st century is projected to steadily increase. In a study published in the Lancet, average life expectancy is predicted to rise in 35 industrialized countries by 4.4 years in men and women by 2030.
Life expectancy will likely increase as we migrate away from laborer positions. Currently, the National Center for Health Statistics puts unintentional accidents, primarily happening within labor positions, as the third leading cause of death in the U.S. Many industrialized countries, like the U.S., have been witness to a slow disappearance of the labor class, but the pandemic has made that increasingly more apparent. Businesses are shifting towards automated technology to replace physical human interactions to curb the spread of Covid-19. Even within agriculture and farming industries, already abundant with machine automation, companies are pushing even further away from human labor in an effort to reduce virus rates.
Becoming the perfect machine
Simultaneously, we are witness to the emergence of new and remote jobs and work settings. Homes are new sites for schooling, work, and entertainment. Before the pandemic, there was already a struggle to maintain a separation between home and work identities. The pandemic has exacerbated this problem. How do we find rest and recuperation when we are living within the office space? Time on the job stretches on forever as we receive work emails while watching Netflix with our families. If life expectancy in humans gets extended by using CRISPR/Cas 9 are we just creating our own version of purgatory? Is our future one where our time working stretches on seemingly infinitely while we simultaneously cease to age? Are we becoming the perfect machine, one that is held together by technological advancements that inadvertently disembody and dehumanize us?
Was society slowly transitioning toward isolation before the pandemic? Is isolation a byproduct of neoliberalism? Gated communities, mass incarceration, office cubicles, segregation in neighborhoods, retirement homes, hospitals, national borders and private properties all verify how neoliberalism operates. Now we are being asked to isolate ourselves within the confines of our homes. When the pandemic is over, will people continue to order food, work, shop, and socialize from isolated and often virtual spaces or will we be able to shift back into the more public and physical? Will the last remaining physical laborers, those that are delivering goods to doorsteps, be replaced by driverless vehicles?

How Covid-19 Is Driving Business Technology Spend In 2021

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Business tech spend is set to soar this year
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One sector that has weathered the Covid-19 storm remarkably well is technology, which is hardly surprising given the wholesale move to remote working that relied so heavily on digital solutions. But the pandemic has also prompted many businesses to invest in new IT projects and digital transformation as they plan for growth in 2021, according to new research from London-based digital agency Studio Graphene.
The survey of U.K. business leaders found that 70% of companies expect their IT spend to grow this year, with 69% planning to launch new digital projects, tools, or initiatives, and 65% intending to invest in a new field of technology, including artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), big data, and cybersecurity.
Cloud technologies are also on the radar, where 64% of businesses are planning to invest this year. Similar numbers are looking to enhance their customers’ digital experience (68%), while 67% intend to purchase new collaboration tools for staff.

Almost half (49%) of those surveyed said that Covid-19 had exposed weaknesses within their IT infrastructure, with a similar number (48%) having eliminated software that since the onset of the pandemic was no longer fit for purpose.
Ritam Gandhi, founder and director of Studio Graphene, says: “2021 is set to be a huge year for digital transformation within businesses and it is heartening to see firms responding positively to the challenges of the past 12 months by making bold commitments to invest in and embrace new technologies as part of their long-term vision for survival and growth.”

Tech firms themselves are taking their investment plans to a new level, including simplebuilding, which applies machine learning and automation to the manual processes involved in managing large blocks of apartments.
The company was founded by Sam Taylor, who is also a partner at CMU Insights, a research and insights agency specializing in music copyright and the streaming ecosystem, and who works as a consultant delivering marketing and growth advice to startups.
He says, “Although Covid-19 hit our revenues and impacted on some aspects of our business plan it also forced me to adapt quickly, while the drop in work gave us some space to focus on business improvement.”
Investment in technology has been key. Over the past year, Taylor has invested in automation, machine learning, and ‘no-code’ development to simplify and automate more and more parts of his businesses that were previously manual.
He describes the ‘no-code’ or ‘low-code’ development as the real game-changer that has enabled him to build the prototype of simplebuilding.io without hiring a developer or writing more than a few lines of code.
“Even a couple of years ago I would not have been able to build something of this complexity without investing tens of thousands of pounds in software engineers,” he says.
Following several small-scale implementations in 2020, he now expects to triple investment in this area across 2021, and has already attracted new consultancy clients as a result.
“I’m using IT to automate and streamline as many things as possible. In an age where there is a vast array of APIs for services it’s now relatively simple to get data from A to B and create sophisticated internal projects, or entirely new businesses, by tying different APIs together.”
Another tech company that will be increasing its tech spend in 2021 is Soffos, an AI-powered, SaaS learning platform for corporations. Founded in January 2018, its corporate knowledgebot provides a solution for professional training and development.
CEO Nikolas Kairinos believes it is vital for employees and employers alike to take advantage of the huge potential offered by sophisticated edtech solutions.
“As such we are continuing to invest heavily in developing novel applications of AI,” he says. “In particular, we are focusing on subsets like natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning (ML) to help deliver effective and hyper-personalized workplace training as the global remote working experiment continues.”
This year Soffos will be focusing on an emerging concept that is gaining popularity among educational technologists; the ability to quantify intellectual capital, through a new initiative Wisdom Quotient. This will enable organizations to measure their intellectual capital in a similar way to how an individual’s IQ is measured, but with greater reliance on big data and AI to drive the results.
“Complex algorithms will determine the WQ as a performance barometer, which ranges between 50 (poor) and 150 (stellar),” explains Kairinos. “The measure effectively balances the overall amount of knowledge held, accessibility, collective workforce skills, and how this knowledge is transferred between individuals and departments, all of which determine the strength of a company’s WQ. This will enable businesses to assess their progress when it comes to strengthening their internal training and development efforts.”
However, while the pandemic has inspired, and in many cases forced, businesses to reorient, adapt, and now make digital transformation a priority, the key to success lies in investment in the right technologies. efforts at the heart of their operations.
Ritam Gandhi says, “From collaborative software for staff to customer-facing platforms, off-the-shelf products to bespoke tools, any digital project needs to be carefully planned and thoroughly researched if companies are to make savvy tech decisions in 2021.”

How Busy Entrepreneurs Can Stay In Shape

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Entrepreneurs are just as eager as everyone else to get (or stay) in shape this year. The trouble is, their personal New Year’s resolutions tend to take a backseat to business ones. 
Founders only have so much energy to give each day. For obvious reasons, they tend to invest it first in building their businesses. What many forget is that the best way to grow that bandwidth is to get fit. 

Staying in shape as an entrepreneur is as simple as making the time and putting in the effort.
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Personal priorities should be just that for entrepreneurs: priorities. Here’s how they can make time for fitness, no matter what’s going on at work:
Mix Up Your Commute
Try riding your bike to work if your office is within range. An electric bicycle can help you handle the hills until you’ve built up your leg muscles. If you live really close to your business, you might even be able to walk to and from work. 

What if you work from home? Working out during your commute is difficult if you don’t have one. Consider taking a walk outside whenever you take a call in order to get some steps in. Or, sneak in a set of pushups at the top of each hour. 
The Worldwide Health Organization recommends you get between 150 and 300 minutes of exercise each week. Working out before, after or during downtime at work might be enough to meet your quota. 

Get Up Earlier
The early bird gets the worm, and the early entrepreneur gets the gains. Getting up a little bit earlier in the morning gives you enough time to fit in a workout before the day begins.
Figure out the right morning routine for you. Maybe a yoga session is in order before breakfast. Perhaps you’d prefer to do a calisthenic routine. Just make sure you still have time for breakfast and a shower before it’s time to buckle down on work.
What if you struggle to pull yourself out of bed some days? Get an accountability partner. Encourage your spouse to get up and work out with you. Find a friend who’d be up for a remote Peloton session each morning. 
If nothing else, get an alarm clock and place it across the room from your bed. Once you get up to shut off your alarm, the rest is gravy. 
Get a Standing Desk
Simply standing instead of sitting at work can do wonders for your fitness goals. For one, standing burns more calories than sitting. But standing also strengthens your back and core, which can improve your posture and reduce back pain. 
Don’t feel the need to stand all day. If your knees or neck start to hurt, sit down. Set a timer to get yourself back up at 30-minute intervals. 
If you don’t want to switch desks all day, consider investing in a convertible desk. Hybrid desks are not cheap, admittedly, but your health is worth it. 
Pick Up Golf
Networking is an important part of entrepreneurship. Connecting with investors and suppliers is essential for the growth of any new business. Nowhere are more business deals discussed than over a round of golf. 
While golf isn’t exactly strenuous, there are still ways to get in a workout on the green. Ditch the cart. Carry your own clubs. By the time you get around to that ninth hole, you’ll be surprised at how sore you are. 
Gamify Your Goals
Gamification is the act of borrowing techniques from sports and games to help you reach your goals. Using a scoreboard to keep track of each month’s star salesperson is a great example. 
How can you apply gamification to your fitness goals? By giving yourself small rewards for reaching benchmarks or tackling tough workouts. 
Say you have a tendency to eat junk food and watch The Bachelor in order to wind down for the night. This is a fun tradition, but it doesn’t do much in the fitness department. Instead, treat yourself to a bag of popcorn and an episode only after your Fitbit shows you hit your 10,000 steps for the day. 
The specific rewards and triggers aren’t important. What matters is that you find ways to keep yourself motivated through thick and thin. 
Let Guilt Go
If you miss a workout because of an incredibly busy day, is your fitness journey over? Of course not. In fact, your body needs the occasional rest day.
Don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good. Getting coffee with a friend on a Friday morning, when you’d normally be on the treadmill, is perfectly OK. Your life is full of priorities beyond your workout, as it should be. 
Staying in shape as an entrepreneur is as simple as making the time and putting in the effort. Use these tips to start incorporating fitness goals into your 2021 plans and you’ll see what a difference it makes.