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4 Critical Considerations Before Taking Your Company Public

April
25, 2021

7 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Over the years, I have been in situations where I have had to counsel entrepreneurs away from an IPO, I have also watched in sadness as some brilliant startups have lost heavily in their attempt to go public. Becoming a publicly-traded company often comes with a seductive prestige that draws entrepreneurs towards the concept. and while this can indeed be the key to exponential growth for your business, it is not something to walk into casually. Every business decision requires some deep thought and considerations but considering the long-term effects of going public and the rapid way in which it changes your business, it requires a little more thought and wisdom. Here are a few considerations for you to have before getting into an IPO.Related: Go Public or Stay Private? What’s The Right Move For You?Can you afford an IPO?The process of going public can be very rewarding in the long term, but in the short term, it is in fact expensive and lengthy. An IPO is rarely ever completed in less than one year and the heavy costs don’t become apparent until you are knee-deep. The IPO filing and accounting processes alone range from between $200k to a million dollars. When you factor in marketing, the underwriter’s (investment bank) percentage, and the cost of preparing your company to operate as a public company, amongst other things, few IPO’s are completed without expenditures rising to at least $25 million. This still doesn’t take into account the incremental costs of being public.  The money question is the first and most important consideration because it is needed to start the process, complete it and sustain it, but it is also important because it is a test of maturity. The main reason for an IPO is to raise capital for expansion and to give liquidity to your investors, but in order to do that, you have to first prove to already be financially stable by affording an IPO.If you find that your business can indeed afford an IPO from its own coffers, it suggests that your business is growing at a steady or rapid rate, and that its final valuation is likely to be favorable to you when shares are made public. This is one indication that an IPO may be a great choice for you.Is the timing right for an IPO?If your industry as a whole is in a slump, it might not be a good time to go public. An industry slump will affect both your valuation and Investor confidence. Similarly, it would probably be a great time to go public if your financials are spot on and your industry is in a boom. Take the healthcare industry as an example.In 2020, due to the pandemic, the health sector was an industry leader in terms of startups. There were startups in every medical area and even adjacent industries, like the cannabis Industry, experienced massive booms, resulting in a number of them executing successful IPOs.  The most graphic example of a company going public at the right time was Cybin, a Canadian mental healthcare company. Cybin went public in 2020 by raising C$88 million, even though it was only started in 2018, a timeframe that is considerably short for most companies. However, a large contributing factor to being able to go public so fast was how relevant and revolutionary their solution for mental health was in a year where mental health concerns were at an all-time high due to the pandemic.  Timing is a vital key when going public, ignoring this would be to your own peril. You should always have this at the back of your mind; the entire direction of your industry is relevant to the success of your IPO. Related: To Be IPO Ready, You Need to Prepare for These 5 Potential PitfallsDo you have the right executive team in place?In 2019, WeWork had to postpone its initial attempt at an IPO because its inflated valuation of itself backfired. This was triggered by the realization that the Chief Executive had been a cause for concern to investors for some time. Its debt was deemed ‘distressed’ and its liability to property owners was in excess of $47 billion. Apparently, venture capitalist injections into the business had been squandered and an IPO had only been sought as a new investment package, similar to what had occurred with Enron a few years ago. Enron had formerly been named “America’s Most Innovative Company” by Fortune Magazine. Any number of entrepreneurs can play ‘co-founder’ in a private business, but going public is a totally different ball game. Your executive team and board become exposed to greater scrutiny and public opinion. In the age of Twitter, this can affect the success of your IPO and the valuation of your company. It is pertinent that you set up a world-beating team in your C-suite and even throughout your company before considering an IPO. Do you have public company experience in your C-suite? What is the business record of your executive team? What is the criminal record like? These questions must be answered in the positive before you consider going public. Thomas Farey, former President of NYSE, also suggests that private companies should build an investor relations (IR) team and increase their accounting and finance staff before considering an IPO. Your team is extremely critical to the process, where it can make or mar your IPO. How predictable are your finances?Every business has great times, average times, and bad times, however, your ability to accurately predict your financial performance and to meet your financial goals over a considerable period of time imbues your company with a relevant index necessary for an IPO; predictability.Investors require limited risk before investing and this is why an IPO would require extensive disclosure of your financial records.  For an IPO to succeed, your company needs to have proven over time that it can predict its financial growth. Hence, one focus you must have as a private company is to develop accurate budgeting and forecasting functions. An IPO depends on how much room your company still has to grow and how large your market still is. Investors expect their shares to grow in value and not to just inch forward slowly.  Accurate forecasting shows that you are in tune with your reality as a business. The ability to meet or exceed your growth expectations creates very healthy enthusiasm around your company as it goes public.If your private company is doing great as it is, you may not even require an IPO. The prestige comes with a price. However, if you are looking to make reasonable expansions, invest in R&D, or expand your markets, an IPO might be a great choice, but only if it works. Going public can grow you or expose you, and it all depends on the work you have done in private before going public.   Related: 5 Essential Steps to Prepare for an IPO

We Need to Fight Unfair Conditions for Women in Tech

April
25, 2021

6 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

There has been a lot of talk about “the glass ceiling” ever since it was coined in 1978 by Marilyn Loden. As we’ve all come to know through pop culture, metaphor refers to the invisible barrier that prevents women (and minorities) from being promoted to leadership positions within organizations. It is also used to describe the difficulties faced during their climb. Opinions on the source of the barriers themselves vary. Some claim it’s society at large, while others feel it is more of an individual barrier. In many cases, it is clearly an organizational barrier tied to corporate culture, which gets even more complicated when globalization is thrown into the mix.›One of the most common grievances across all industries includes the gender pay gap. In the U.S., the national pay gap in 2021 stands at 18 percent on average for women, and that is after steady improvement since 1979. The smallest pay gap for women is in retail and fast food, which is just two percent. The gap becomes significantly larger for women in legal occupations (45 percent) and real estate and sales (69 percent). Many other alarming issues are faced by women across all industries, such as the lack of access to career-making roles, non-inclusive workplaces, and sexual harassment. The existence of such disparities, especially for skilled workers, continues to set back the feminist movement.While the tech space may appear trendy and futuristic for what it is, the women that work behind the scenes still face their own unique challenges. Even the most recognized names aren’t exempt from injustices. For example, there was an intense backlash against Marissa Mayer when she was appointed to be the CEO of Yahoo in 2012 while pregnant. The backlash continued when she returned to work two weeks after giving birth to her first child. There was even more backlash when she got pregnant the second time around and returned to work. By comparison, Mark Zuckerberg decided to go on paid paternity leave for two months following the birth of his daughter, and his decision was applauded by the public and media outlets. Here are some additional adversities faced by women in tech, with suggestions on how leaders can spark positive change.Related: Debunking Three Myths About Women in TechImposter syndrome in techImposter syndrome can arguably be felt by anyone and everyone. It is not uncommon for achievers to feel a sense of self-doubt and a persistent feeling that their accomplishments are not valid or deserved. These feelings can lead to a lack of confidence, which leads to a lack in productivity. This is extremely detrimental for women. Ingrid Toppelberg, the CPO of global cyber education training company Cybint Solutions, experienced this during her own climb to the top through the course of her career. After noticing the positive work environment in Cybint, which employs almost 50 percent women, Toppelberg recommends support systems for women in the workplace. Toppelberg insists that having a support system of women brings more diverse perspectives in meetings and creates a more welcoming and dynamic work environment for men and women alike. “I think what holds women back the most in life and work is our own self-deprecating thoughts,” says Toppelberg. “Having a community of supportive women helps keep them in check.” Related: Women in Tech: How Do We Stop the Drop Unconscious bias and gender discriminationSusan Wojcicki, the CEO of YouTube, experienced more than her fair share of adversities—despite her status and accomplishments. “Time and again, I’ve faced the slights that come with that question,” she wrote in a column for Fortune. “I’ve had my abilities and commitment to my job questioned. I’ve been left out of key industry events and social gatherings. I’ve had meetings with external leaders where they primarily addressed the more junior male colleagues. I’ve had my comments frequently interrupted and my ideas ignored until men rephrased them. No matter how often this all happened, it still hurt.”To remedy this situation, leaders would need to be open to honest feedback and be quick to act against harmful behavior. Silence makes leaders complicit. Inequities need to be confronted through new organization-wide practices.Related: 5-Point Advice to Women Tech Entrepreneurs Paving the way forwardThe playing field is not even in the tech scene, but no one can deny that women are working wonders in tech. They often need to hustle harder to get the recognition they deserve and overcompensate by demonstrating extreme versatility within the organization itself. Whitney Wolfe, the Founder and CEO of Bumble, recently made headlines for being the youngest female self-made billionaire. She previously held a VP role in Tinder and was behind fueling its popularity on college campuses and growing its user base. She was also behind the logo and naming of the app. Despite her vast contributions, she had to leave the company due to growing tensions with company executives, which led to a settlement of over $1M.Natali Tshuva, the CEO of IoT cybersecurity company Sternum, started her career doing extensive technical work in the field of cyber, having served in the Israeli Defense Forces’s 8200 elite technology unit. When she made her leap out of the trenches of technical cyber work to found her own company, she had to learn every other aspect of business, from leading business sales to strategy, and fast. She didn’t, however, see that struggle as unique to female executives.“I always had a keen interest in different business and strategy aspects beyond the technical, but taking it to the next level was a huge step forward,” says Tshuva. “I think that’s a challenge every tech CEO can relate to, whether man or woman.”It’s refreshing to see such attitudes becoming more prevalent. Still, however, there is much that needs to be done for women in the workforce. It starts with a top-down approach, with leaders demonstrating inclusive behaviors. Each organization is created differently. Some may need organization-wide diversity and inclusion training, while others implement ground rules for conversation flow. Regardless of the industry, the appointment of highly qualified women to executive teams, corporate boards, C-suite, and/or CEO positions is crucial for internal development, team satisfaction, and of course—equality.

Golf Indoors and Clean Up Your Short Game with This Award-Winning Putting Simulator

Exputt goes well beyond a regular old putting mat.

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April
25, 2021

2 min read

Disclosure: Our goal is to feature products and services that we think you’ll find interesting and useful. If you purchase them, Entrepreneur may get a small share of the revenue from the sale from our commerce partners.

The weather is getting nicer and, pretty soon, you’ll be back to doing business on the golf course. But after a long, dark winter away from the course, you don’t want to rush into anything and make a fool of yourself — especially on the green. Three-putting every hole is not a good look when you’re trying to close a deal. Shore up your short game in the comfort of your home with the Exputt: Real-Time Putting Simulator.[embedded content]Exputt is a cost-effective putting simulator that goes above and beyond standard mats. Simply connect the Exputt camera to your TV, lay out the small, portable mat, and start putting on a virtual green. The tech-forward system tracks putter path trajectory, impact angles, and incorporates other elements on virtual holes like breaks, slopes, green speeds, speed of the ball after impact, and distance with extreme accuracy. It’s like putting on an actual putting green from your living room.With four seasonal and play modes, you can improve your putts, face off against competition, and more while you iron out the holes in your game. The low elastic stopper brings the ball back to you and keeps the game quiet so you won’t run around chasing your ball all afternoon. Thanks to precise metrics, Exputt can analyze the putter’s direction, club face angle, and the entire putting path to help you improve your consistency and take your game to the next level. Everything is fully adjustable so you’ll always play greens and slopes that feel like a real green in all kinds of conditions.It’s no surprise that the Exputt: Real-Time Putting Simulator has been honored by MyGolfSpy’s 59 Awards. Start shoring up your short game with the Exputt, on sale for a limited time for 20% off at $319.20 when you use site-wide coupon code WELOVEMOM at checkout for a limitied time.Prices subject to change.

Why The 21st Century Cures Act is an Innovators Dream

April
25, 2021

5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Designed largely to accelerate medical product development and get new medications and treatments through the development process faster, the 21st Century Cures Act is a significant piece of legislation that Congress passed in 2016. Some of its provisions are also meant to empower patients with more information about their own health. The ONC Cures Act Final Rule in particular — which will go into effect in April of this year — says that providers must make patients’ electronic health records (EHRs) available to them.This means that data is unequivocally going to be in the hands of patients. It means better care for patients, but it also means that a whole new set of services and innovations will be possible.Here are 4 things you should know about how this final rule in the 21st Century Cures Act can impact your personal healthcare and should drive your innovation planning:1. Patients will automatically get digital access to their electronic medical records at no cost.73% of healthcare consumers indicated they wanted all of their healthcare data to be accessible through a website or mobile device – and yet, 1 in 3 patients still cannot easily access all of their medical records, according to a study of over 1,100 healthcare consumers my company Ambra Health conducted. That’s about to change. Want to see those CT scans that you just had done last week? Curious about the results of that blood test your primary care doctor recently ordered? Want to read the actual notes that the doctors took when ordering these tests and examining the results? Many people have avoided seeking out these things in the past because they didn’t want to deal with the trouble of hunting down their doctor or make an unnecessary visit back to the radiology department to pick up a CD with their imaging scans (and who even has a CD-ROM drive to view these anymore, anyway?).But now, it is the provider’s responsibility to make this information available to people digitally. Many of them have already begun offering patient portals that do just this, but some have only provided a limited amount of the health information or used portals primarily for appointment scheduling, bill paying, and prescription refills. The new rule will ensure that the entire electronic health record is easily accessible, including diagnostic imaging.Related:5 Digital Health Trends Here to Stay for 20212. Healthcare will finally enter the 21st century by enabling patients to get their medical data through health apps.This ruling on the Cures Act spells opportunity for entrepreneurial app developers, new and old alike. Existing patient portals require the patient to log in to a website to access their health information. But the Cures Act has specifically mandated that the information also be accessible through third-party health applications. This means you can have your provider transmit information in your electronic record to a digital health app that uses an open API.Innovative apps are popping up every day that fulfill different healthcare-related needs, from allowing you to conduct virtual visits with doctors to help you track and manage your personal health goals. The ability to instruct your provider to transmit your medical data to these apps can make them easier and more popular to use. Not only that, but existing apps should see more uptake with this added functionality. Data-related experience in science, engineering and analysis, graphic design, and other skills will grow in demand. Timing is good for those entrepreneurs waiting for a prime moment to delve into the $3.8 trillion healthcare industry.  Related: These 5 Careers Could Be the Future of Healthcare3. Patients have the right to have their personal health information sent to another party if they submit a signed request.There are many instances where you might want to share your health information with a third party, whether it’s with a family member who is assisting you in managing your medical treatment or with another provider who is part of your care team. Fortunately, the Cures Act also enables you to do this by simply submitting a signed request, which most typically will be possible to do online through the patient portal.With barriers to sharing reduced, innovators can make a real impact on digital and virtual care. Related: The Future of Healthcare Is in the Cloud4. Just because your health information is available doesn’t mean it’s easy to interpret. Patients will still need to consult with their doctors in many cases.Ease of access isn’t everything. Certainly, this provision in the Cures Act is a huge step forward in patient empowerment, considering the long history of the medical establishment, often making it difficult for patients to obtain their own health information. The Cures Act has also ensured that most healthcare providers’ notes will also be included, which could offer some assistance in interpreting your health data.Of course, doctor notes will not always be able to tell you what you want to know. A Google search or two might help you better understand some of your lab results, but simply having instant access to the information is not a substitute for the knowledge and clarity that an experienced healthcare professional can supply. This may be the greatest innovation of all. If you had to pick one thing that is plaguing the healthcare industry today, it is burnout. Caregivers spend too much time buried in bureaucracy and not enough time with patients. Once data starts to flow freely, you make it possible to streamline it and make it reveal its secrets. Once this happens, we empower caregivers in a way we have always hoped but never quite dared!

What is a Thematic ETF?

April
25, 2021

5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

There is no need to remind our readers about the tremendous growth in recent years of ETFs (Exchange Traded Funds), which are (mostly) passively managed and traded on a stock exchange. In 2020, the asset flow of ETFs exceeded $7,000 billion for the first time and represented one-third of total assets managed by funds. According to Moody’s, ETFs could soon surpass the combined size of traditional mutual funds. Initially, ETFs replicated well-known country or regional equity indices like the S&P 500, with, for example, the famous SPDR or QQQ replicating the Nasdaq 100. A few years ago, trackers on specific sectors were in vogue.A ‘‘Clean Tech’’ ETF can invest in the entire value chain.More recently, thematic ETFs have started to gain in popularity. They allow investors to invest via a single instrument in a basket of stocks exposed to a specific theme, such as electric cars, cannabis, cybersecurity, clean energy, or vegan products. While the composition of sector ETFs mostly follows a classification and hierarchy defined by an existing index, thematic ETFs are exposed to several different sectors.For example, the Global X Robotics & Artificial Intelligence ETF is invested in semiconductors, industrial stocks, software, and medical devices. A Clean Tech ETF can invest in the entire value chain, from engineering to marketing to end buyers. Companies as different as Marvell, Plug Power or First Solar can be found. What do they have in common? Their exposure to the same theme.Related: Why New Investors Should Start With Some Allocation to ETFs As They Build Their Portfolio A growing successCurrently, thematic ETFs represent no less than 800 instruments with more than $180 billion in assets under management. Their leader is Ark Invest, founded by Catherine Wood, the new “star” of Wall Street. In just a few years, the New York-based company has become the 7th largest ETF asset manager with over $300 billion in assets under management. Their “secret sauce”: themes that speak to investors (innovation, genomics, robotics, fintech, etc.) but also exceptional performance (105% on average over the year 2020). Ark Invest’s success is such that it is inspiring a new investment strategy on Wall Street: copy or even anticipate Catherine Wood’s investment decisions.But beware! Ark Invest’s exceptional success is shadowed with failures, too. More than half of the thematic ETFs launched in the last ten years have disappeared. Indeed, these trackers are often launched based on purely commercial logic, i.e., to attract assets as quickly as possible to maximize management fees. Often, it is not a matter of selecting securities according to a proven index or based on certain fundamental factors, but rather of “manufacturing” a story that will appeal to retail investors. However, when performance is not forthcoming, the ETF’s assets fall to levels insufficient to cover operating costs, forcing asset managers to close the ETF in question. Among the thematic ETFs that have closed 2020 are SLIM and DIET (nutrition).Related: Exchange Traded vs. Index Funds Thematic ETF’s: advantages and disadvantagesFor many investors, building a portfolio is not always an easy task. When the markets have risen sharply, the fear of an imminent correction dampens the enthusiasm of novices. On the other hand, a market downturn is often accompanied by bad news on the macroeconomic level – which is not conducive to a “big jump” into the financial markets. First-time investors will more easily take the plunge by identifying with a theme on which they have a personal conviction. For example, many of us are convinced that innovative companies have great potential. Therefore, an ETF labeled “Innovation” is more likely to “pull money out of your pocket” than a “Balanced Risk Profile” type fund.At the end of the day, thematic ETFs offer little diversification to investors.Thematic ETFs allow investors to invest in convictions in a diversified way, with low initial investment and low management costs (even if they remain higher than for “classic” ETFs). As far as theme exposure is concerned, managers use complex quantitative tools, sometimes based on artificial intelligence.  However, there are pitfalls to avoid. For example, thematic ETFs offer little diversification to investors. For example, the cannabis theme has had its ups and downs. As the stocks are highly correlated with each other, the volatility of cannabis ETFs is not very far from that of the underlying assets. Another disadvantage – and a significant one – is performance.  A recent study conducted at Fisher College in Ohio shows that thematic ETFs have recorded below-average risk-adjusted-performance. This performance is also correlated to fund flows. Thematic ETFs are often marketed when the theme has already performed very well. But when the trend turns around, investors decide to sell their ETFs, creating a vicious circle of negative flows and poor performance. The same study also found that the underlying assets were overvalued when the ETF was created. On average, thematic ETFs generate a negative alpha of -4% per year and therefore do not add any value for investors.Related: 3 Sector ETFs to Buy NowConclusionAre thematic ETFs to be avoided? Not necessarily. As with any investment, it is important to thoroughly analyze the fundamentals of the underlying instruments (valuation, growth prospects, etc.), the diversification properties of the basket, but also the technical aspects such as the prospectus or the solidity of the issuer. Generally speaking, this type of instrument can be useful on the periphery of a portfolio diversified across the main asset classes.

Utilize This 'Fast-Growing' Cloud Platform by Mastering Microsoft Azure

Work toward a Microsoft Azure certification with the help of this bundle.

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April
25, 2021

2 min read

Disclosure: Our goal is to feature products and services that we think you’ll find interesting and useful. If you purchase them, Entrepreneur may get a small share of the revenue from the sale from our commerce partners.

Cloud services are absolutely essential for modern business. With so much information (and money) flowing online, cloud services give businesses the resources to secure data and operate seamlessly. Today, Microsoft Azure is said to be one of the fastest-growing cloud platforms in the world. As such, it’s also a skill that’s in high demand in today’s marketplace.Whether you’re a technical founder who wants to have a greater hand in your company’s cloud deployments or you’d like to learn a valuable consulting skill, The Complete 2021 Microsoft Azure Certification Prep Bundle will prepare you to work with this leading platform like a pro.This ten-course bundle is taught by Scott Duffy, a certified Azure developer and architect who has been working with Microsoft technologies for 20 years. In these courses, Duffy will teach you how to manage the Azure cloud with ARM templates, manage storage and disks in the cloud, analyze data with Azure Stream Analytics, and even how to process datasets using machine learning models in the cloud. These advanced skills will help you better understand the cloud and work more efficiently with data.Additionally, Duffy will also prepare you for five important Azure certification exams: AZ-103, AZ-203, AZ-300, AZ-301, and AZ-900. With these study guides, you’ll be able to pass each exam on your first try and get on track to working professionally with Microsoft Azure.Get up to speed with one of today’s most important cloud technologies. Right now, The Complete 2021 Microsoft Azure Certification Prep Bundle is on sale for just $39.Prices subject to change.

How To Practice Proactive Leadership

Being proactive as a leader is one of the best things you can do for your team. The more leaders can stay current with their team, their business, and their competitors, the better they can help their employees plan and implement new strategies. Passive leadership does not generate the productivity and development your company needs to grow and thrive.

When talking about proactive leadership, I like to break it down into two categories: internal and external. Stay proactive in both areas, and you’ll be empowered to lead your business further than you might have thought possible.
Internal Proactive Leadership
Internal leadership, obviously, corresponds to everything going on within your organization. There are three key components to proactive internal leadership that all tie together. 
Trust
Instilling trust in any organization starts at the top. If a leader doesn’t consistently demonstrate trust in employees, how can that individual expect to be trusted in return? To develop a culture of trust in your own company, be proactive with your approach.

Start by assuming the trustworthiness and good intentions of each team member—at least until an individual proves otherwise. Hasty assumptions and finger-pointing will quickly dissolve any trust you’ve cultivated with your team. In case you do hit a snag, develop feedback mechanisms that will provide the perspective you need to approach each situation in a clear-sighted way.

There’s another practice that can seriously undermine trust between you and your team: micromanagement. When you micromanage, even if you’re just trying to help, your employees will conclude that you don’t trust them to do their jobs. Replace micromanagement with a culture of autonomy, taking the steps necessary to empower your team members to take ownership of their work.

Respect 
Trust goes hand-in-hand with respect. The way most people are built, you first have to show respect before you will ever fully gain someone’s trust.
Respect your team’s time by being clear and efficient when communicating deadlines and expectations. Respect their needs by providing benefits that include insurance coverage and flexible time off for those can’t-miss family events. These are the types of actions that demonstrate respect. Your employees will reciprocate with dedication and loyalty to the organization. 
Performance Evaluation
Respect, in turn, depends on each team member pulling their own weight. One-on-one meetings with your employees will allow you to dig deeper into both their performance and your leadership skills. Prepare written notes on performance changes in each of your team members — positive or negative — and share them openly in your meeting. Your one-to-one meetings need to deliver clear objectives and a framework for any needed changes, providing an opportunity for each employee to fulfill their potential.
Keeping track of key performance metrics for your entire team will help you provide meaningful feedback. Knowing, for example, that your sales team is struggling to generate leads gives you something concrete to work on with them. If you’re not addressing specific issues, your leadership efforts will end up being little more than a shot in the dark.
External Proactive Leadership
There are always external forces at play affecting the health of your business. How you navigate the storms surrounding your company will determine whether you make it through or begin to sink. Any sailor can tell you that passive sailing isn’t going to get you where you want to go.
Sales Performance
Keep an eye on your company’s sales across several years and note any deviations your team might expect at different times of the year. These insights can help team members take action to prevent a slow sales season. Passing on the knowledge you’ve gained in your years of heading the organization will prevent employees from having to learn lessons the hard way.
For example, say your historical data shows that your sales numbers tend to go down in the winter. What can you do to proactively lead your company during those months? You might put together an annual office sales competition or try out a new lead-generation strategy to help counteract an otherwise slow time of year. 
Business Trends
Effective leaders should be aware of industry trends that will impact their company, regardless of their internal efforts. You can’t reasonably expect all of your employees to stay on top of every Forbes article addressing your company’s niche or all the new strategies being implemented by your competitors. That’s your job. With your connections and experience, you must take the lead in capitalizing on changing business trends.
My friend and business partner John Rampton is a great example to me when it comes to scoping out business trends. He specializes in search engine optimization, something I’m not as well versed in. Rampton does a fantastic job of keeping me and my team up-to-date on new developments in the SEO world so that we can implement changes more effectively. 
Lead Generation
Be on the lookout for new opportunities, such as conferences and speaking engagements, to seek potential leads. As the face of your business, your outreach efforts will likely have a much greater impact than those of your employees. It’s your responsibility to direct the brand and put your team in a position to grow.
Say you get invited to an exclusive conference where you’ll be chatting with the movers and shakers in your industry. Seize the opportunity to connect with these people, who tend to be the decision-makers for their respective firms. A short conversation between you and a new contact can set up employees on both ends to get some B2B sales going in a reduced amount of time.
What changes do you need to make in order to lead more proactively? Start by looking for ways to be more attentive, receptive, and open-minded when leading your team. When you’re proactive, you’ll look to find solutions before they’re desperately needed and spearhead innovation without allowing your business to miss a beat.

How Small Businesses Can Attract In-Person Visitors Once More

Research by McKinsey revealed that customers still crave a return to out-of-home activities, but online retail will continue to be their comfort zone.With vaccination availability increasing countrywide, owners—specifically small business owners—need to refocus their efforts on bringing shoppers back into stores. And with this being Get to Know Your Customers Day, it’s an opportune time to explore that topic.

Here are some tips other business leaders and entrepreneurs think can effectively boost in-store traffic in the coming months:
1. Focus on personalization. It no longer makes sense to target personas and demographics—it’s best to market toward people.
To do this, Inspira Marketing Chief Inspiration Officer Jeff Snyder believes companies need to personalize outreach to appeal to consumers’ desire to invest in a company’s products and its values.

“Marketing is no longer transactional; it’s relationship-building,” Snyder said. “Marketers need to demonstrate long-term value and strengthen brand loyalty. Today, consumers have unlimited choices at their fingertips, so the experience they have with your brand must be as personalized as possible.”

According to data from Forrester Research, 36% of shoppers wish brands prioritized personalization more. Focus on individual customers by initiating a two-way dialogue throughout the buyer journey. Bring this mindset into stores to get customers excited about in-person interactions.

2. Make authenticity a priority. Brands spent the past year preaching authenticity through a flood of customer emails, digital ads, and other from-a-distance tactics. In TBGA CEO Christine Alemany’s opinion, businesses need to bring that same energy to in-person interactions. According to Stackla, 86% of shoppers value authenticity in their brands of choice.
“If your business can give customers the ability to connect with your brand by being open and vulnerable—and by seeing them as people instead of dollar signs—you will provide them with something to look forward to when visiting your store in person,” Alemany said.
Ask questions and incorporate that feedback into your in-store experience. It’ll show your commitment to being a brand that values buyer preferences.
3. Align innovation with intent. Businesses get caught up in implementing solutions before finding out how they’ll benefit buyers. As customers come back to stores, try to link technology with purpose.
“It’s important for businesses to remember that, while the tools now available to consumers to navigate their shopping journey have evolved dramatically, the underlying motivations for that journey have never changed,” said DeAnn Campbell, former Harbor Retail’s VP of retail strategy and insights.
To connect innovation and intent, businesses can pair in-person with digital approaches to ramp up interactions with customers and ease the transition back into stores. Think pop-up-style events centered around lifestyle. This approach keeps some distance while bringing out-of-box, engaging interactions to stores.
4. Tap into senses and sensibilities. Customers are happy to get out from behind their screens and in front of people. To that end, Verdania Fields co-founder Pamela Moffat thinks in-person experiences that engage multiple senses will resonate.
“After a year of limited contact, a balance of safety and sensuality is needed,” Moffat said. “(That includes) using outdoor spaces where possible, continuing to require masks in stores, but also making room for celebration and excitement.”
Create an enhanced customer experience by elevating your environment with locally made decor, playing music, and using flowers for visual cheeriness. These touches can help cultivate an immersive in-store vibe.
5. Add mobile to the in-store journey. Mobile technology is a tool numerous brands leverage. About 71% of marketers call it core to their outreach efforts, meaning small businesses need it as another touchpoint to help bring customers who are unsure about in-person shopping back to stores.
“Engaging customers through either a mobile phone or television screen should be a key aspect for local businesses, even as more people start to go out more,” said Simon Bray, CEO of Streaming Television Inc.
Businesses can create excitement around their brands by creating short-form videos that spotlight their products and key features while addressing consumers’ worries and desires. Leaders should also review their mobile engagement to make sure it reflects current services while showing they’re willing and ready to reconnect with consumers.
It feels a bit foreign after more than a year of isolation and social distancing, but it’s clear we want to meet people again and have in-person experiences with the brands we love. Small businesses must take the time now to decide how they’re going to welcome consumers back into their not-so-metaphorical arms.