You might think that enjoying your last cup of joe in the late afternoon is enough to avoid adverse sleep effects, but science says otherwise.
3 min read
If you’re like most Americans, you start your morning by reaching for the hot cup of coffee — or several — that gives you the energy boost necessary to get through the day; 62% of people in the U.S. drink some form of the beverage every day, with consumption increasing in the younger demographic, according to Reuters.
You’ve probably heard that caffeine can disrupt your sleep, but many people think that downing their last cup in the late afternoon, or even in the early evening, is early enough to avoid any adverse effects come bedtime. Unfortunately, the science says otherwise: Independent cites research suggesting that you should hold off on the magical bean brew once 2 p.m. rolls around, or at least seven hours before you plan to go to bed.
Related: 5 Ways That Coffee Affects Productivity
In a study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, consuming caffeine in the six hours before bed won’t necessarily keep you awake, but it will reduce your quality of sleep. It also wreaks havoc on your body’s internal clock, mimicking the effect of jet lag. According to another study published in Science Translational Medicine, enjoying a double espresso three hours before bed (or its equivalent, approximately 60-100mg of caffeine) can wind your body’s clock back by nearly an hour.
When it comes to how many cups you should be drinking per day, the Mayo Clinic recommends about four, which should approximate 400mg of caffeine.
Soda- and energy drink-lovers should take note of these findings too — caffeine is caffeine, which means that the suggested 2 p.m. cutoff also applies.
What’s the big deal? Disrupting the body’s clock does more than leave you feeling groggy the next day; it’s also been linked to heart disease and neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s.
It’s not all bad news though: As long as you get your java fill between 10 a.m and noon — the window of time when that rush of caffeine is most needed and most effective — you can reap the rewards of your daily habit without worrying about the costs.
Related: Do You Drink More Coffee Than Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg and Other Creative Leaders?
Covid-19 forced businesses to create a more empathetic and flexible environment. Continuing these new practices will help create a more inviting and enjoyable workplace.
4 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
For years, professionals have asserted that the ability to adapt and be flexible would determine whether businesses sank or swam. The Covid-19 pandemic, however, put that ability to the absolute test in 2020. We’ve learned some major lessons through the crisis that, fortunately, hold the potential to help company leaders and teams build back stronger than ever before.
1. Providing better health and wellness resources
During the pandemic, people faced a slew of new stresses and disruptions to their everyday life. Many individuals struggled to do things like make doctor appointments or eat right. Personally, I struggled with being unable to sleep well — my home and work life blurred so much that my mind simply wouldn’t shut down.
Companies discovered that they had to face these issues head-on during the crisis, both to maintain productivity and to ensure that workers felt cared for. We learned the necessity of total wellness resources, including mental health, financial health and various other kinds of support. We expanded existing programs and came up with new tools to support employees and their families.
The expansion of telehealth services is a good example. At my workplace, one of our Prescription Digital Therapeutics (PDT) products helps people who struggle with chronic insomnia. We offered this as an added resource for employees in our comprehensive benefit program. In using it, I had the opportunity to learn the importance of sleep, and it helped me create healthier behaviors and habits. It was life changing for me, and I am forever grateful. It’s the small things that companies don’t always think about that can make the biggest difference in our team members’ lives.
Related: A Year of Pandemic: Learning for Entrepreneurs and SMEs
2. Rallying around empathy
Before the pandemic, employers and employees interacted with a relatively limited degree of vulnerability. They couldn’t really understand what the home lives of others were like. With so many people working from home, it leveled the playing field. Both workers and leaders had to show their realities and deal with interruptions from pets, kids and significant others. Many learned to be more empathetic and accepting of the personal circumstances people had.
Overall, this lesson has helped many companies, including my own, shape more grateful, caring and compassionate cultures, where people are free to speak up on topics other than work. My company encouraged managers to check in regularly in order to understand how they were feeling, not just about their jobs, but also about issues like civil unrest, the presidential race or their home life. We asked employees and managers to demonstrate “unified empathy,” put themselves in the other person’s shoes and offer more conscientiousness.
Related: Why an Adaptive Mindset Matters for Entrepreneurs
3. The clock doesn’t have to rule productivity
In the early days of the pandemic, the big worry for employers was how to keep workers motivated and productive from afar. It was almost impossible for many employees to keep their regular schedules, and it only got more difficult once homeschooling began. Businesses had to accommodate more unusual work hours and be flexible based on case-by-case situations. They learned that workers still got their tasks done even without face-to-face supervision or a traditional daily schedule.
4. Leveraging communication tools matters
Even though workers had digital communication tools like email before the pandemic hit, most teams still relied heavily on in-person collaboration. But once businesses had to work remotely, they had to collaborate more through tools like Trello, Slack and Zoom. They learned that they could still achieve effective communication through these options and that leveraging them could help maintain or even improve results. Even so, tools are only as good as the users that are using them. Companies have to encourage consistency and build good habits in the way they use these solutions and include strategies to ensure that people easily navigate and find value in whatever tool they select.
Related: The 4 Best Tools for Internal Business Communication
With the pandemic now coming under control in the United States, businesses are starting to end their remote journeys and go back to the office. They can apply all of what they have learned to make the post-pandemic work environment more inviting. Even so, the past year has been a roller coaster. Ideally, we need to give employees time to acclimate. Take small steps, such as easing your way back in slowly with just one or two days at the office per week to start. With a little patience, you can adapt, get your footing and walk a road with a new perspective that brings even more success.
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Many startups (like ours) don’t have outside investors. We have chosen to self-fund our business, which has its pros and cons. While we are maintaining control (a good thing), one of the biggest challenges is funding marketing, which as we all know, is necessary to grow. The good news is that there are many scrappy marketing tactics and channels you can deploy to build momentum without spending your hard-earned cash.
Here are five tips that we’ve used over the past year that have worked for us.
There are always podcasts looking for guests to speak on every topic under the sun. We have been on over 75 podcasts in the past year, covering a range of topics: female founders, marketing, startup life, DTC, clean beauty, mompreneurs and more. Find your areas of expertise (everyone has them), then you can pitch yourself.
There are a number of “Find a Guest, Be a Guest” podcast groups on Facebook, including one I like by Poddit that you can join. From there, you can browse through the “asks” and apply to podcasts that are relevant to you. The beauty of podcasts is that the majority do not charge anything to be a guest; they are evergreen, and most of the time, you get to tell a holistic story about your journey and your business. Plus, an extra bonus is that you’ll have content you can share out and repurpose.
Related: Top 25 Business Podcasts for Entrepreneurs
Another great way to grow your customer base and audience is to partner with like-minded brands. We have had a lot of success in finding new customers by partnering with brands that share our values. For us, that tends to be indie clean beauty, fashion and jewelry brands who care about sustainability, diversity and quality.
From giveaways to gift with purchases to creating content together (like blogs, IG Live or video interviews), there’s a ton you can do to promote each other. And chances are if your customers like your brand, they may like a related brand with similar values. The key is to make sure everyone is aligned on the requirements for each brand so no one brand feels like it contributed more than another.
Creating a blog section on your website can help with a number of things. First, it can drive traffic to your site (assuming you have baked in some SEO). Second, it can make you an authority in your area of expertise or industry. And third, blogs provide a place to tell a deeper story. We often blog about our interviews with other founders, but we also use our blog to educate around Mekabu, our hero ingredient, share hair tips, talk about clean beauty and more. This gives you another opportuity to share out content — and you can pull out quotes or soundbites for social media so you’re not always reinventing the wheel.
Related: 3 Ways to Create More Content (and Views) From Your Blogs
We are active on a number of livestreaming platforms including talkshoplive, Shop LIT Live and Spin. Most of the platforms are free to join and will take a portion of revenue from sales, making it a very low risk proposition for brands. If you sell a product, these platforms provide a great place for you to share your story in an engaging way (video) and to get creative. You’ll need to be comfortable on camera and get your story down, but the beauty of these platforms is that you can do most of them regularly (every week if you want), so you’ll find yourself getting into a groove pretty easily and figuring out what works for you. The key is to have good lighting (a ring light) and an engaging set up.
5. Social media
Of course, we can’t forget the power of social media. Much of the above content can be disseminated via Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, Tik Tok and even LinkedIn. Actively working to create engaging content will help grow your audience organically (although it takes effort and time), so you shouldn’t have to pay for followers. You will also have higher quality and more engaged followers this way. Ultimately, if you can cut down some of your longer form content into soundbites, you’ll have plenty for social — most of it free.
We are very opportunistic about taking photos of our products in interesting spaces (and will often have a set of products with us just in case), which enables us to get beautiful imagery without needing to hire a photographer. Of course, there are times when a professional photographer is much better, but for a lot of the “blocking and tackling” content, you can find ways to get the imagery that you need (and don’t forget about sites like Unsplash where you can download royalty-free photography).
Related: 10 Laws of Social-Media Marketing
So ultimately, in order to get momentum without money, you’ll have to be a bit more hands-on and disciplined, but it’s actually quite doable. And you’ll find that many times, the different tactics feed off each other, so it gets easier over time.
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
As a founder, I spent my fair share of years starting companies, growing them to a certain point and getting stuck.
We kept hitting the invisible growth barrier.
I sold my companies, but I never quite achieved my dream sale. It wasn’t until my third company that I figured out how to go from $1 million to $2 million (and then keep going).
Every business goes through some very predictable stages.
You start off with your business partner or first employee, and maybe a client or two. Your charisma and sheer force of will get you to $1 million in annual sales. This is the first break point. It’s almost a rest stop; you regain your balance, reevaluate your surroundings, make some brave (expensive) hiring decisions, take a deep breath and push forward.
Related: You Cannot Cut Your Way to Growth
Sometimes businesses fail at this point. In fact, it can take a long time to get past the plateau that hits at your first million. There are several factors at play.
You may simply have hit the demand limit for your product or service, and you may need to redesign it to suit a broader audience. In my earliest businesses, I could find a dozen clients who would pay under a hundred grand for a website, but couldn’t find very many that would pay double that without a significant increase in sophistication.
This meant retraining our team and coming up with higher value products.
It requires a big change in the way you do business — hiring, training, management, project management, quality assurance, account management and sales.
When your business is turning over around a million, you might have ten or a dozen people on your team. You’re all super-aware of what’s going on. You will work nights to get a big order out or prepare for a big pitch. You read each other’s minds and jump in to help. To some degree, you are all capable of doing each other’s jobs in a pinch.
North of this first million, and it starts to become important that you have specialists, and sometimes specialist teams. That means new management and new processes. Sometimes you will find there is an inner circle (the original team) and everyone else.
Caliber of staff
At this stage of growth, you begin to need more experienced staff to manage teams and bring in workflows and practices that they have seen work well elsewhere. In other words, you need more senior people.
Except you can’t afford the really experienced ones yet. Up to the first million, you were training great people you worked well with to deliver what was in your head. Now, you need to hire people with expertise. They are expensive. Perhaps you need to do without a few junior staff. Or sacrifice your own salary. Or give away shares.
This is where it gets seriously frustrating. It’s not so much that you come unstuck, it’s the opposite. You grind to a halt. You stall. Your business just stops growing.
Related: Why Employees Are an Entrepreneur’s Best Investment
It is utterly predictable, but only after you’ve seen it from the other side a number of times. I had six companies of my own and was then CEO of a group. I taught MBAs. Then I created a growth-acceleration program that’s now gone global. So I’ve seen exactly what happens at each business plateau.
The one that happens at around two million can be particularly disheartening. As I said, it took me three attempts (and ten years) to figure it out. Stressful? Check. Frustrating? Check. Depressing? Hell yes, and not just for me. Everyone I see gets to this point, gets stuck, can even start going backwards. Your own morale takes a hit, and no matter how much of a brave face you put on it, your team knows. Your best team member reads the writing on the wall and gets a better job with a bigger competitor.
So how do you break through the growth barrier?
If you look at it as a chance to take a breath, some things become obvious.
The first is that what got you here is unlikely to get you to four, five or ten million. It’s a very different version of what happened at a million. You need to redesign some important things. You need scalable processes, covering things like marketing, delivery, customer retention and hiring — things that can work really well even when they are delegated.
To scale, you will need new processes. You need smarter tools so your smartest people can focus on growth, not handling repetitive tasks.
Yet change is really hard to enact, especially from the inside. Your senior people have spent the past couple of years accelerating from your million-dollar pit stop. They have built great processes, relationships, sometimes fiefdoms. It is incredibly difficult for them as individuals to ditch what has worked so far and create brand new, untested, scalable processes. They will be reluctant to mess with the status quo.
And this is why you are stuck: You cannot grow because you are optimized for the level you are at.
The only way to do it reliably is to use a systematic approach and involve the people who are going to be the future of the business.
At 2Y3X, the frameworks we use are based on the work of Edwin Locke (goal-setting theory), Kaplan and Norton (Balanced Scorecard) and others. I wrote a book about it — Scale at Speed — which sets out in detail all of the individual tasks and best practice processes.
It’s going to require you to get your most important people involved. And by that I don’t mean your most senior people — many of them have entrenched interests and do not want anything to change.
But change you must.
Assemble a team called the “Growth Lab Team.” They are your future stars, people who really fit your values, who want to see progress and can envisage a stellar future. You will work with them to define your goals. We work with three-year goals, usually something like “triple revenue.” Then, work backwards from the end of the third year and figure out what you will need to be doing during year three.
Then, you take another step back and look at what you will need to do in year two to be prepared for year three. Finally, you look at the coming year. What do you need to change, design or implement today?
We break this down into different focus areas, and we make each task manageably deliverable in a quarter. For example, sorting out reliable inbound marketing will take three months. So will developing a system to keep every single employee on track and 100% effective. And so on.
Related: How to Grow Your Company Without Losing Its Culture
As an entrepreneur, you have been successful in starting a company — in surviving, creating products and services clients are willing to pay for, and building a team that really wants to do good work.
What isn’t so easy is taking this amazing business platform and growing it to the point where you can make a fantastic sale and realize your dreams. The secret is that you just need to look at it from a different perspective. Realize that there are stages, and that you need to change at each stage.
What will the result be? Well, in my case, it would have saved ten years, and I would have been seriously successful much, much faster.
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
The concept of data literacy didn’t exist when I started my career in marketing in the mid-1990s. We had few marketing channels, all of which were offline, and we had to track them manually in spreadsheets. We distributed leads to our sales team on a floppy disk. We sent coupons to prospects, and every day I had to go to the mailbox to see which coupons came back filled out. As scarce as it was, data was still extremely important back then.
Today, marketers have access to a massive amount of data through multiple channels, both offline and online. New channels are constantly emerging, and each becomes its own data track. However, all of that data goes into different applications and systems, making it very difficult to get a complete picture of what is really going on. We are all striving to reach a real-time, 360-degree view of customers. This is the foundation for personalization, timing and relevance: How do you send the right offer to the right prospect at the right time?
The more you can master the timing and the relevance, the greater impact you’re going to have with your marketing investments. With inaccurate or incomplete data, you get a skewed picture of potential consumers. If you create the wrong offers at the wrong time, all of your marketing will go to waste. Researchers Rex Briggs and Greg Stuart looked at more than $1 billion of marketing spend by 30 major corporations, and found that 47% of the advertising campaigns didn’t work. That’s 53% of marketing spend wasted.
So how do you reduce the waste and increase the return? It comes down to data literacy — how well you can read, work with, scrutinize and communicate with data. If you have access to all of the data, and the ability to analyze and make smart decisions based on it, then your marketing efforts will likely succeed.
Related: How to Use Real-Time Data to Fine-Tune Your Business Decisions
The challenge of fragmented data
In a recent survey, 36% of company leaders said that of all of their departments, sales/marketing showed the best performance in utilizing data-driven insights for strategic purposes.
But over the past two decades, marketers have faced an uphill battle in trying to be data-driven. A proliferation of marketing tools are now used to engage customers over complex customer journeys. Customers expect to have a seamless experience across an ever-expanding set of channels. And organizations face an explosion of data, all stored in silos, that need to be integrated in order to derive insight and smart decisions.
All of these trends have created fragmented data, which is a major barrier to data-driven insights. In a 2020 report, 47% of executives surveyed said their top digital customer experience challenge was “siloed systems and/or fragmented customer data.”
Thanks to recent developments in cloud and advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence, we’re finally entering an age of integrated data. We can now access and analyze all of the relevant data available to gain a complete view of customers and tie our marketing investments to business outcomes. This represents the biggest transformational moment for marketers since the birth of digital marketing in the 1990s. It’s a bigger step-change than social media.
While technology tools in 2021 allow marketers to connect with customers and prospects with 10 times the precision and business impact, the art of applying these new tools is what separates good companies from great companies. Over the past five years, I’ve been able to use data to do things I couldn’t previously imagine. I’ve also had the opportunity to advise CMOs at customer organizations about how to use data to transform their marketing organizations and businesses. Here’s my advice to others:
Establish clear marketing objectives and metrics.
It’s important to create a strong foundation for all stakeholders to build upon. In marketing, that entails setting goals and tracking progress. One of our key objectives at Snowflake is to become the industry’s most insights-driven marketing team. We developed two key metrics to measure our results: predictable pipeline generation and growth efficiency. Our goal is to build scalable tools and models to drive efficient growth and proactive actions. To support this, we put a lot of work into predicting real-time return on investment to optimize our marketing programs and disrupt aged B2B marketing analytics practices.
Develop a complete picture of your customer
Tear down your data silos to understand your full range of customer data. Take DoorDash, which broke down data silos to generate a 360-degree view of all of their customers, powering their marketing analytics and allowing them to provide a more personalized experience. Prioritize access to the most strategic data sets available for your business. With real-time, granular insights into product sales and customer demographics, marketers can graduate from stale, weeks-old reports to instant intelligence on customers.
Related: The Insane Amounts of Data We’re Using Every Minute (Infographic)
Turn your love/hate relationship with IT into a winning partnership
To align objectives and priorities around being data-driven, marketing needs to establish close relationships with IT and business stakeholders. This needs to be a strategic objective, like a mandate. Otherwise, it’s not going to work. All teams need to follow a clear roadmap to drive the execution, and communicate regularly. At PepsiCo, IT took time to understand the objectives of marketing, then created an advertising ROI Engine which turned 60-plus data across marketing, sales and third-party entities into market insights and predictive models that could be shared frequently, internally and externally.
Become a master of the data
Marketers also need to know how to gain control of the data to amplify their own efforts. Marketing is a big investment, and marketers need to be able to demonstrate how that investment is turning into profit for the company. Success is based on how effectively you support the growth of your company, and the only way you can prove that is through data. So having the mastery of data in your skill set is vital for marketers.
Once you establish and track your objectives, eliminate data silos, bring all of your data together and develop the competencies needed to access it, analyze it and achieve insights, you can reach a holistic view of customers and deliver a tailored 360-degree customer experience. You can develop a clear picture of attribution and marketing spend ROI. You can activate data in real time to create highly targeted, effective campaigns. And eventually, you can unleash the power of data science products using machine learning and artificial intelligence to optimize your campaigns. At that point, your data literacy will become a data superpower.
Related: Why Data is the World’s Most Valuable Resource Today
Biden has proposed to nearly double the capital gains rate to 39.6% for those earning more than $1 million.
3 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Small businesses play a vital role in America’s economy given the fact that they make up 99.9% of all businesses according to the Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy. However, the importance of small businesses has been diminished by President Biden’s capital gains tax proposal which, if passed, would make America’s rate nearly the highest in the world. With many small businesses still working to get back on their feet following the hardship created by the pandemic, this proposal could decimate small businesses across the U.S.
What’s being proposed?
Currently, the long-term capital gains tax rate is 20% for single households with more than $445,850 in taxable income in 2021. Biden has proposed to nearly double the capital gains rate to 39.6% for those earning more than $1 million. In addition to the new tax rate, businesses must pay a 3.8% Medicare surtax bringing the rate to 43.4% before local and states taxes are factored in.
Businesses lose big
So, what does this look like for business owners? For examples sake, let’s say a California business owner has a $100 million company that they’d like to sell keeping in mind that $11.7 million isn’t subject to estate tax. Under Biden’s proposal, the business owner would owe $43.3 million in federal income tax (capital gains and Obamacare tax), $13.3 million in state tax and $35.3 million in estate tax. In the end, this leaves this business owner with $8.1 million, effectively reducing their wealth by over 90% after taxes are paid.
Second-generation businesses will struggle to survive
In addition to increasing the capital gains tax, Biden has also proposed to remove the step-up in basis and instead carry over an asset’s tax basis from the decedent to the next generation. This means that if you own a business when you die, your inheritors must pay income taxes regardless of whether or not they sell the business, saddling them with a huge tax bill that currently doesn’t exist under today’s policies. For example, let’s say a parent owns a $10 million small business and passes it on to their child when they die. If Biden’s proposal is passed, the child would now owe nearly $4 million in capital gains taxes that they likely can’t afford as it’s nearly half of the value of the business. If they can’t afford the capital gains taxes they’ll have to sell, but who can afford to buy the business? Big corporations. So rather than the family business continuing on and passed on for generations, larger corporations win in the end.
Related: Cryptocurrency and Taxes: What You Need to Know
When it comes to initiatives posed in Biden’s tax proposals, big businesses continue to receive a majority of the benefits. Why is that the case? We’ll discuss why capital gains from real estate entrepreneurs and small businesses get hammered while big businesses can acquire companies without capital gains in my next article.
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Some say luck is all around us and all we have do is look. Those of us who are luckier than most understand that is true; however, we have to do more than look. We also have to work at it. When we hear the word “luck,” things that might come to mind could be winning the lottery, finding a $20 bill on the ground or even getting the first parking spot at the front of the full lot.
If the definition of luck is “a form of success brought by chance,” then the above would, in fact, be correct examples of luck. That is one literal definition of luck: good fortune brought about by chance rather than one’s own actions. However, what if we had the ability to increase our chances and make better choices? Wouldn’t we be luckier? Yes, and because of that, there are two types of luck I have come to find in life: unreliable luck and reliable luck.
Unreliable luck fits the traditional definition: success resulting from chance. But reliable luck involves increasing your chances by making strategic choices.
Related: How You Can Learn to Have Lucky Genes
Here are three reliable choices I have found that have increased my luck over the years.
Take more success-driven actions
There are some people who believe when they focus and spend time envisioning a certain outcome or possession they desire, all they have to do is will it, and it will come to them. Then, there are some of us who know that when we increase our actions in a strategic way, we increase our chances of getting what we want.
You can think about getting a new job, or you can do something to get a new job. You can think about making more money, or you can do something that will make you more money. You can think about falling in love, or you can go out and put yourself out there more. I am not saying we get what we want every time we take action. I am saying we get luckier with every action we take.
Build critical relationships
Several people have told me who we surround ourselves with is who we become. I agree with this; however, we are in charge of who we spend time with and who we don’t. Who are three people you need to stop hanging out with? And more importantly, who are three people you need to start hanging out with that will better your chances for success?
When selecting these people, don’t confuse someone who is on the journey with you with someone who has already been where you want to go. Having support is necessary; having insight in terms of getting lucky is better! Spend time with people who have already finished the race you have set out to start. These people can give you insight, feedback and, more importantly, connections to get you to where you want to go faster.
Related: How Cultivating Relationships Helps You (and Your Company) Thrive
Decrease the physical distance between you and your goals
While in New York City, I sat next to a stranger while eating lunch on a bench in Central Park. We both gave the smile of approval to sit beside each other as we ate our sandwiches, and after a bit, we started talking. She shared with me her big dream is to be on SNL one day as a cast member. I then found out she lives in a small town in the Midwest and travels to New York once a year to get a feel for the city and check out comedy clubs where she hopes to get lucky and be discovered.
When I explained that her odds of getting on SNL would be better if she moved to New York or a place where they scouted for new talent, her response was, “If it is supposed to happen, it will happen!” Maybe. But that’s unreliable luck! When it comes to my dream and desires, I would rather invest in reliable luck. Instead of thinking it will happen, make it happen. We can do that by being in a place that we can get the experience more often than once a year. If you want to be a tennis player, but are hanging out on a football field, it’s unlikely you’re going to be the best tennis player in the world.
There are some people who glance at my success and consider me lucky. I am lucky — very lucky — because I invest in reliable luck. I take actions every day toward the goals I have set. I build relationships with people who can take me to where I want to go. I put myself in places that help me excel in my profession. I am not waiting for things to happen. I am making things happen. I am increasing my chances.
When we want to be luckier in life, we should look to increase our opportunities, not leave everything up to pure chance. Yes, there are some people who go from having nothing to having everything because of unreliable luck, or they believe they willed it to happen. We can sit around and wait for that unlikely turn of events to happen for us, or we can go out and make our chances increase.
Related: The Secret of Entrepreneurial ‘Luck’ in 3 Simple Steps
When we invest in reliable luck by taking action, building better relationships and decreasing the physical distance between us and our goals, we will inevitably get luckier. Don’t leave reliable luck to chance, and chances are you will have more luck.
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
In September of 2019, the PRB (Population Reference Bureau) announced that fertility in the United States was at it lowest level in recorded history. For the last 40 years, the fertility rate in the United States has hovered around two or just below it (two being an important benchmark as it is the level needed for a country’s population to remain stable). But in 2019, the average number of births per woman was 1.7. The continued decline of the fertility rate will have huge ramifications on the demographics and economics of the U.S.
Why are Americans choosing to have fewer children? For many, the obvious answer lies in the effects that rampant capitalism has had on our society.
If the measure of success for a species is population growth, then we, homo sapiens, are without a doubt the most successful species in Earth’s history. And it’s remarkable how fast we have grown in just the last few hundred years. In 1800, the world population was around 1 billion — it has since exploded to 7.7 billion in 2021. Indeed, the concern among policy experts and economists has traditionally been focused on overpopulation.
The conversation around declining fertility rate has shifted somewhat significantly in recent years. The fertility rate across the globe has been dropping considerably in the last 70 years, and it hasn’t been driven exclusively by developed countries either. The fertility rate in two of the world’s most populous nations — India and China — has decreased massively, showing that these population trends are also prevalent in developing nations.
Related: More People in the U.S. Are Dying Than Being Born, According to the CDC
The U.S. is one of the wealthiest nations on the planet. One would imagine that of all the countries a couple would like to have the opportunity to raise a child, the U.S. would be one of the most attractive options. And yet the data shows that Americans are choosing to have fewer children. The data shows a downward trend in fertility rates over the last several decades up until 2015 — it actually excludes the most recent data points, which show a sharp tick lower to 1.7 in 2019, a significant drop from 1.87 in 2015.
Some think Americans are making this choice because of the unfettered rise of capitalism and its impacts on our society. Capitalism in 21st-century America has led to historic inequality, enormous healthcare costs and a culture that values work and productivity over personal leisure.
The economic system in which we operate has created the highest levels of inequality that we have seen for generations. In 2018, the bottom 50% of Americans owned just 1% of the nation’s wealth, down from 3% in 1989. Joblessness and stagnating real wages have led many people in poorer communities to question if they can afford to have children. The costs of parenthood have risen so much that many people feel like they woudn’t be able to support several children financially. Many would rather devote their resources to one child so that they can give him or her the best opportunity to succeed in life.
Related: 4 Ways Entrepreneurs Can Practice ‘Conscious Capitalism’
However, it is not just the cost of raising a child that’s so prohibitive, but also the cost of actually giving birth. The heavily privatized healthcare system in the U.S. has made us one of the most expensive places in the world to give birth. And it disproportionately impacts the poorest members of our society. According to a study in 2013, the average cost for an “uncomplicated” birth was $32,093. The costs rise significantly if there are complications. Insurance, if you have it, can cover a lot of these costs, but it still leaves families with thousands of dollars in hospital bills.
A lack of work-life balance
The capitalist society has also contributed to a culture of “workism,” which has certainly impacted people’s desire to have children. In a working environment that discourages leisure time and vacation, it is no wonder that fewer people are ending up married. And even for those couples that have managed to balance a work and dating life, the prospect of having a child is often viewed through the lens of the negative impact that it would have on their careers, particularly for women.
Finally, it would be irresponsible to not mention capitalism’s impact on the planet and the environment. Climate change has been caused by humans’ greed and relentless pursuit of profit over anything else. In our capitalist society, the interests of large oil and gas companies have been given preference over the interests of the millions of Americans who warn about the damage we are doing to the planet. This has caused some adults to feel it is irresponsible and immoral to bear a child in the world that we as humans are actually destroying.
Related: What’s Missing From the Conversation About Work-Life Balance
In the 1960s, the typical nuclear family in America contained a working husband, a stay-at-home mom and three or four children. Today, that typical family is rapidly shrinking. Many will argue, quite justifiably, that it points to a vast improvement in women’s equality and freedom to choose their own destiny and career path. While this is certainly true, it masks many of the economic factors that are dissuading women from having children.
The decline in the fertility rate is certainly not a predictor of guaranteed economic disaster, but with a rapidly aging population and fewer young workers to support them, it is a challenge that will be hard to overcome.
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At any point in time, one in three companies requires a turnaround. That’s what research by Boston Consulting Group has found. And while you may not be able to predict whether you’ll be one of those companies, you’ll surely recognize the signs of distress: If your long-running business model collapses, your leaders lose focus of the company’s mission, and your key talent starts to leave, then you’ll be facing an existential crisis. It’s turnaround time!
Given how common this is, you might assume that most experienced entrepreneurs and CEOs are adept at managing it. That is, unfortunately, not the case. The same research highlights that 75 percent of turnaround attempts fail to improve performance over the long term.
Part of the problem is a lack of foresight. By the time a company’s leaders realize something has gone wrong, it is usually too late. That holds especially true for tech companies, which regularly deal with a winner-takes-all dynamic, where a competitor ends up dominating a whole industry versus just a part of it. But it can be true anywhere else, too. When you lose ground, it can be hard to regain it.
Related: These entrepreneurs had to change their business model in the middle of the pandemic. They did so successfully.
But there are solutions available, even when a situation looks dire. It starts with leadership. When attempting a turnaround, most leaders focus on their finances — viewing a troubled organization as a profit-and-loss sheet that needs to “lose fat,” for example. When these leaders spend, they often do it in the form of bonuses to incentivize their team’s better performance. That makes sense; when a leader focuses on finances, they’re hoping to find certainty in an otherwise uncertain situation. But they miss something in the process: culture.
When a leader plays the numbers game, they lose track of the culture of their business — and that blind spot can result in failure.
1. Learn from religion.
Turnarounds, at their core, are about establishing a new way of working. As a result, old ways of working are often criticized and rapidly abolished. That may be necessary, but leaders often forget how much it leaves key employees feeling vulnerable and ostracized. In my consulting practice, I’ve had C-level executives break down while describing how their teams push back against change programs. The teams may understand the logic of the change, but they’re angry and resistant to it anyway — and the executives can’t understand why.
The answer to this problem can be found in the history of religion. Most large religions, in their early days, start off as a small group of contrarians led by a charismatic leader. Such a group also includes a handful of influential people from the incumbent religion who convert to this new way of life publicly. Slowly but surely, the group becomes the face of the movement and each success of the group increases the religion’s following.
The same holds true for turnarounds. The protagonist of the turnaround cannot be a maverick CEO making dramatic moves — it must be the turnaround group that they put together to execute the change. The choice of whom to include in this key group can make or break a turnaround program. Leaders need a healthy mix of new and incumbent talent who all believe in the new mission. They can help inspire the entire organization to follow along.
2. Innovation is everyone’s problem.
Vision alone cannot save a company, of course. A turnaround team needs to tackle both bloated costs and shrinking revenues, usually simultaneously. Reducing costs is the easier of the two problems to solve; it’s a matter of dropping unprofitable clients and laying off redundant employees. The second problem, bringing revenue growth back, is a different beast. It requires a deep understanding of customer pain points as well as a coherent vision of where the industry is headed — which then justify the risk of creating new products, policies, and procedures. This process in a nutshell is called innovation.
Related: Small Business Adaptations That Will Likely Last Post-Pandemic
Innovation can be a hard problem to solve, especially for failing organizations, which are running short on both cash and inspiration. Perhaps that is why I’ve seen many CEOs make the same exact mistake: They treat innovation like a special, separate project.
Here’s how the error often happens. Once CEOs establish their turnaround group, they then create an entirely new team, often called the “product” or “innovation” team, to deal with declining revenues. This new team, with little empowerment or vision, ends up doing a smorgasbord of small experiments that do not move the needle on revenues or customer sentiment. Over time, the group disbands as senior management and team members lose interest, and the company continues to languish in mediocrity.
Innovation cannot be containerized like this. Boards and CEOs should strive to clearly understand and measure the problems plaguing their customers and then use scientific methods to build a vision of a future they want to aim toward. That vision should be repeatedly shared with the entire organization, with employees being empowered and rewarded to execute toward it. The turnaround group must be a big part of this, balancing their responsibilities between championing innovation and reducing costs.
3. Prevention is still the best medicine.
Turnarounds may not come naturally to most CEOs and entrepreneurs. After all, leaders are often celebrated for their long-term vision — and turnarounds come with tremendous short-term pressure. In my consulting practice, I have found that during a turnaround CEOs struggle to plan more than two years ahead.
As a result, almost all turnarounds end up with a promising start and a disappointing end. Costs decrease materially in the first year, and a new product or business model takes off by the second year. The company starts to feel like a newly renovated home, and financial results improve; as a result, leaders high-five each other on a job well done. Then, by the third year, the company’s change movement loses steam. Inertia starts creeping in. Soon the company needs another turnaround to make itself relevant again.
Related: 5 Businesses That Almost Failed and Showed Us Why It Pays to Keep Going
Top leaders and boards can prevent this — but once again, it requires focusing on the business’s culture instead of just the numbers. Everyone has to believe that a turnaround is not a short-term fix. It is instead a long-term change movement that must continue in spirit, if not in methods, long after a company improves.
In other words, a turnaround is not just a prescription for the current ailments plaguing a company. It’s also a preventive method through which future ailments can be avoided (or at least avoided for the same reasons that started the current one). Without this worldview, victory can be declared too soon — and have catastrophic results. Change must be knit into the very fabric of the newly reborn organization, and everything else must follow.
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
More often than not, loans are perceived negatively. The mention of debt is often accompanied by horror stories of bankruptcy and other theaters of financial distress. It’s no wonder, then, that people tend to consider loans as last-ditch efforts at paying for emergency expenses. But is this bad rep justified? After all, if a loan can save a dying business, and in turn, help secure a profit, it’s a savvy and often indispensable move. Of course, there are also instances in which borrowers are faced with not being able to pay off a loan, but as long as liabilities and forecasts are carefully planned, good debt can be a lifeline, and can be used additionally for investment organizing.
When you “leverage” debt to maximize a return on an investment, you are, put succinctly, using borrowings at a lower rate to fuel a return at a higher rate. Though there is a risk of losing capital, using debt to gain profit is an often underrated means of making money. Once you review your risk appetite and perhaps change preconceived notions regarding loans, it’s possible to turn debt into profit-making investment instruments. Five relatively safe ideas to get you started:
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1. Flip a House
A tactic that typically applies to the buying and selling of homes, flipping can also be done with rented units. The idea is simple: find apartments below market rate, make improvements and sublet them at a higher rate, and the difference between the rent and the sublet price becomes profit. If you find the perfect apartment to flip but need urgent funds to seal the deal, it can make sense to get a loan.
You can, of course, apply for one at a retail banking institution, but that process can be tedious and time consuming. A quicker alternative can be a home improvement loan from an online lender. With these funds, you can do everything from whole-unit renovations, to repurposing an existing unused space or a spare bedroom in your apartment (then sublet it), to turning your garage into a rentable music studio or co-working space. You could also use a quick loan to buy furniture and other essentials that might be on limited-time discount. The goal is making money from the sublet sooner, which offsets interest paid on the loan.
Related: #10 Simple Steps to Get a Business Loan
2. Invest in Precious Metals
Prices of commodities like gold and silver typically fluctuate according to the economy, and are frequently directly proportional to it. For example, mid-2020 gold prices reached record highs due to economic uncertainties, even though the stock markets were crashing. This is, in part, why gold and silver are considered reliable investments. The trick, not surprisingly, is to buy on a dip and sell atop a surge. Based on past evidence, a post-dip turnaround typically takes just a few months, and those who routinely invest in precious metals for profit are quickly able to predict changes with a good level of accuracy.
Given this investment’s inherent time sensitivity, you need to have money ready for deployment. In this case, depending on how much profit you expect, it might be a good idea to get a quick (preferably same-day) loan and pounce on an opportunity. Delay can cost you substantially, eating away profit and defeating the whole purpose of the loan.
3. Buy Cryptocurrency
Bitcoin, Binance, Ethereum, Dogecoin and many more cryptocurrencies are competing for investors’ attention and money — offering occasionally head-spinning (if wildly unpredictable) profit margins in the bargain. Again, the principle remains the same: buy low and sell high. If you’ve been good at investing in the stock market, predicting how geopolitical events will affect the economy or simply identifying trends, you can apply corollary skills to trade cryptocurrency effectively.
This, too, is a time-sensitive affair, with the slightest delays amounting to massive declines in profit. So, a loan at the right time can propel a bank balance like few other investments of the moment. That said, retail banks might not be the right channel to get loans for this purpose, due to the urgent nature of the investment and the inherent caution with which they analyze it. But, a credible lender that can process short-term loans quickly might be the difference between a massive profit or an underwhelming transaction.
Similar to cryptocurrency trading, you could also invest loan funds into forex trading or stock trading.
Related: Learn Profitable Stock Trading Strategies in Just Two Hours
4. Grow Your Company
If you are a small business owner, you know this all too well: to make money, you need to invest in the enterprise. To grow at scale, reach more customers and sell more products or services, your company might need a quick and well-timed cash-induced boost. This injection could be used to hire better talent, change brand identity, go digital, expand office space or double down on a marketing effort.
Most of these actions are short-term, in that they will yield results fairly quickly. Such limited-impact, short-term actions can benefit from small business loans from traditional banking or finance institutions, government bodies that promote small businesses or legitimate online lenders. A suitable percentage increase in sales or employee output can pay for itself in a few months, making the loan a profit-making undertaking.
Related: 5 Best and Fast Small-Business Loans (Some of Which You’ve Never Heard of)
5. Learn a Skill
One of the most underrated investments is up-skilling yourself. The job market is volatile, and requirements keep changing. To keep relevant, broadening skillsets is essential. Now, getting a loan to learn a new skill might not sound appealing at first, but such a move can open avenues for a higher paying job or promotion at a current one — a relatively quick and enduring return on investment.
The key is to learn skills that are of genuine interest. When you truly enjoy doing something, you are more likely to become good at it, then monetize it. Though computer programming might be a lucrative career choice, if you don’t enjoy it, you will be miserable, impacting productivity in the process.
You could also use this trick to start a side gig — freelance projects like selling art or handicrafts from home. For instance, you could learn to crochet or whittle, then make unique and financially viable products in your free time.
In all these scenarios, take care to learn all loan terms and conditions, only borrow from a trusted source, have realistic expectations when it comes to profit and plan for a worst-case scenario; even if you are unable to make a profit, you should still be able to repay the loan.