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Preparation, by definition, is making ready for a specific future event, such as packing for a trip or studying for a test. Consequently, the key to adequate preparation is correctly predicting this “future event.” Packing winter clothes for a projected skiing weekend would be a wasted effort for a stay at a Caribbean beach resort. The value of preparation depends on the anticipatory skills of a principal, whether investor or entrepreneur.

The reliability of decisions to buy, hold or sell an investment correlates to the anticipatory skill of the investor. Similarly, to establish a successful business, an entrepreneur must accurately predict consumers’ wants and needs, including features, price, and competitive offerings. Anticipation is a learned skill and most people have some innate sense of how to anticipate general events, but it often takes exceptional knowledge of the terrain one walks, especially in business, for anticipation to be met with above-average reward. 

When Australopithecus Afarensis came down from the trees to walk on the grasslands 4 million years ago, in that early version of entrepreneurship, there were dangers to be had. Those who learned from the experience of others were able to internalize and anticipate the dangers of hidden predators and became the progenitors of homo sapiens. Those who failed to anticipate did not survive.

Research indicates that our brains naturally anticipate the probability of a future event, and we are more successful in that estimation proportional to the quantity of relevant information and shorter periods between now and the predicted future. Nonetheless, absolute certainty is not possible. The possibility of an unexpected outcome is always present, so preparation for accurate anticipation of an event, and success in your entrepreneurial goals, must be entered into through the following phases. 

Information collection

While the amount of information one has is important, its relevance to outcomes is most critical. Anyone beginning a new business should consider, at a minimum, current and future economic conditions, potential customers for the new company’s products and services, and the probable reaction of existing competitors. 

An investor should be similarly concerned about the drivers in the future value of an investment. Stock market analysts agree that future prices are determined by a company’s fundamentals, including financial and economic measures and trends of revenues, costs and earnings, cash flow, capital structure, industry conditions, and interest rates. 

A company with publicly traded stock typically has several firms that provide this type of analysis for little or no expense to the would-be investor, whose sentiment is the less measurable aspect of stock analysis that attempts to identify the likely investment actions of potential and current investors. 

While fundamental factors ultimately determine future prices, the number of buyers and sellers in the market at any given time drives share prices in the short term, so investors must balance the time and cost of collecting information with the impact and immutability of a decision’s consequence. 

Related: Competitive Matrix Definition

Interpretation of data

Data is only useful if relevant to the task at hand. For example, one must know how a change in a company’s management affects profits, and how other investors will react to that change, or how climate change legislation affects a company. The initial step of analysis is identifying factors that are likely to impact the future significantly, but correctly gauging their impact on the future is difficult. 

For that reason, scenario-planning various ideas and possible realities to better understand probability is paramount to any professional endeavor. The value of the interpretation lies in accurate identification of possible factors and their impact on future outcomes. This awareness improves anticipation and promotes strategic agility.

Decision making

Thoughtful data analysis improves the probability of accurate forecasts and enhances accurate anticipation of an individual’s or company’s ability to cope with difficult circumstances and maximize benefits, minimizing losses. The purchase of insurance is an anticipatory action to mitigate loss, just as establishing a line of credit before rises in interest rates is a smart, anticipatory action.

Anticipation promotes “pivoting,” and because change is constant and no future environment is assured, anticipation enables individuals and companies to prepare for the worst in their decision-making, so that they can move forward, rather than being paralyzed in shock, in the event of what others might see as catastrophic. For example, a person whose research determines that a company will not be affected by a downturn in investor sentiment might use the drop as an opportunity to acquire more shares, or car dealers who anticipated the full measure of the Covid pandemic would reduce new car production and aggressively build used car inventory.

Successful anticipation leads to success

Successful anticipation requires the ability to look ahead to see things others don’t see and then developing solutions or gaining leverage needed for success. The rewards of life are most available to those thoughtful beings who can see into the future and are prepared to act when their moment of good fortune appears. Those who anticipate future events are prepared to exploit the waves of good fortune, moving quickly and decisively to take advantage. 

Related: How to Use Net Present Value Analysis

 

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After nearly two years of working from home, the modern office and work life has evolved.

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Now, organizations are starting to welcome staff back into the office, setting up hybrid work environments, or allowing employees to work from home indefinitely. Moving in 2022, it’s all about keeping your teams productive and creative regardless of their office space.

In this post, you’ll discover top tips to keep your hybrid workforce delivering on projects and maintaining a positive work culture. After all, with 63% of high-growth companies embracing a hybrid culture, fostering the right environment gives you a competitive advantage when recruiting new talent.

Ready to get started? Let’s dive in!

Key Takeaways

  • Many companies are turning to hybrid work environments to increase productivity and allow employees the flexibility they desire.
  • Hybrid workforces enable businesses to reduce overhead costs, improve recruitment efforts, and increase work-life balance.
  • Successful hybrid environments include in-person collaborations, equitable review sessions, and asynchronous collaborations for all team members.

Why Do Employees Want a Hybrid Work Environment?

Shifting to a hybrid work model allows organizations to reshape the traditional office landscape and open up the talent pool to create a more inclusive environment.

Hybrid work typically involves allowing your employees the flexibility to work on-site and remote a few times during the week. In fact, 74% of employees would choose to spend at least one day in the office, and 30% prefer working remotely two to three days per week.

More popular among employees aged 18-34, the hybrid model allows employees the flexibility to remain collaborative with team members and work in an environment where they feel the most productive. With 47% of employees saying they wouldn’t want to work for an employer that doesn’t offer a hybrid model, it’s clear that workers desire an environment that fits their needs.

To build a hybrid work model, consider taking the following steps:

  • Survey employees to understand their needs and pain points
  • Create employee personas to understand how hybrid would feel in real-time
  • Invest in technologies that allow your infrastructure to scale
  • Develop an equitable company culture for all employees
  • Continuously gather feedback to keep optimizing your process
Creative in Hybrid Work Environments

Creative in Hybrid Work Environments — Source: Envoy  Chart that States 47% of Employees Would Change Jobs If Not Offered Hybrid Work

Benefits of Offering Hybrid Work Collaboration

If you’re considering bringing your staff back into the office full-time, you might want to take a pause and consider how your employees have been working for almost two years. Many may feel anxious about their safety being back in an office environment or have just found their groove working remotely.

With 57% of employees saying their current organization accepts hybrid work, a mixed environment combines the best of both worlds by giving your employees the control and flexibility they need to outperform. Here are a few additional benefits of a hybrid work environment:

  • Enables more work-life balance
  • Reduces exposure to illness and fewer sick days
  • Cuts overhead and facility expenses
  • Offers the ability to hire top talent across the country and globe
Providing flexible work options

The Chart States that 57% of Organizations Provide Flexible Work Options.   Source: Qatalog

4 Ways Teams Stay Productive and Creative While Working in a Hybrid Culture

In a hybrid work model, workers are no longer constrained to the typical 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. work model, and instead, can work during the hours they are the most productive. If you want to maximize your employee’s productivity and human potential, follow these tips:

1.  Coordinate In-Office Time for the Whole Team

Culture is an essential building block to any company’s success. As an organization, you can structure your hybrid environment by designating specific days for employees to come in or letting them set their schedules. However, if someone decides to commute when the rest of the team stays in, your organization misses a face-to-face opportunity.

Instead, consider proposing regular in-person meetings for the team to collaborate openly and house open work sessions when a high-level project arises. You can also organize monthly or bi-monthly sessions over two or three days where the entire team comes into the office. Maximize this time together by organizing:

  • Team bonding activities
  • Training sessions or lunch and learns
  • Performance and project reviews
Creative in Hybrid Work Environments

2.  Develop Equitable Performance Reviews

Your employees might be concerned that those who work in the office are more likely to receive career advancements and promotions than those who prefer the hybrid approach. While you can have more impromptu conversations on-site that lead to more face time, organizations need to create a feedback process to ensure your entire staff feels appreciated and awarded.

To get started, consider categorizing reviews in three ways: the individual job performance, the individual’s ability to work on a team, and how they demonstrate company values. This process allows managers to reward employees creatively instead of only focusing on the output.

Since productivity doesn’t always equal high performance and vice versa, the proper review process enables your employees to focus on developing innovative solutions to your customer’s problems that make a more significant business impact.

3.  Utilize Video for All Meetings

While you might be over attending virtual happy hours, hybrid work environments should still default to video usage in conference meetings. Using video not only makes you feel closer to coworkers but also allows your sessions to be less interrupted and more productive.

With fewer interruptions, your team is more likely to chime in and participate, providing more perspectives and opportunities for those innovative sparks to fly. To avoid extreme “Zoom doom” with hybrid team members, consider having fewer meetings and making the ones you hold more productive with an agenda, topics, and action items.

4.  Rely on Asynchronous Collaborations

Instead of scheduling endless meetings, democratize conversations to help unlock creativity through better brainstorms. To be successful, allow employees to document brainstorms and enable colleagues to review, reflect, and respond when they feel the sharpest.

Use these before a meeting to intake initial feedback and better understand the next steps. Not only will this allow more people to participate, but it helps guarantee more productive meetings and innovative solutions.

Kickstart Team Productivity Regardless of the Office Setup

Hybrid workforces are the future for organizations looking to optimize employee productivity, performance, and creativity. Since it’s a relatively new territory for businesses, it’s essential to continue to ask for feedback so you can finetune your infrastructure and policies.

Your whole team will need to adjust to new technology, schedules, and coordination, so ensure that you provide the right support and resources to help everyone succeed.

If you’re ready to implement a hybrid culture, get in touch with me today!

Image Credit: Anna Shvets; Pexels; Thank you!

The post 4 Ways Teams Can Stay Productive and Creative in Hybrid Work Environments appeared first on Calendar.

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Cyber attacks on small businesses were on the rise in 2021 and expect to only increase in 2022. Nearly half of small businesses experienced a cyber attack this year, and if your business wasn’t one of them, you can count yourself lucky. But luck runs out, and if you haven’t thought through your security, now is a good time to get the kind of cybersecurity education that can help protect your business. The 2022 Masters in Cyber Security Certification Bundle can give you just that. It’s on sale for just $39.99 (reg. $1800). 

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This nine-course bundle includes training from leading experts like Joe Parys (4.4/5 instructor rating), Atul Tiwari (4.3/5 rating), Integrity Training (4.2/5 rating), and others.

Over these courses, you’ll learn how to master ethical hacking and cybersecurity from scratch. Starting with beginner-friendly content, you’ll work your way up towards advanced ethical hacking skills. You’ll learn how to conduct penetration tests to analyze your network security using Kali Linux, the most used distribution by real-world pen-testers. You’ll learn how to configure and use threat detection tools, perform data analysis, interpret the results to identify vulnerabilities and threats to an organization, and more. There are also courses on ethical hacking using Metasploit, scanning networks using Nmap, network security fundamentals, and much more.

Want to go pro in cybersecurity? You can also study to pass the CompTIA CSA+ certification exam on your first attempt, as well as scour study materials for CISSP, CISM, and CISA. 

Take your cybersecurity skills up a notch with this comprehensive bundle, on sale for a limited time. Right now, you can get The 2022 Masters in Cyber Security Certification Bundle for just $39.99. That’s a small price to pay to become the kind of cybersecurity expert that can avert threats to your business.

Prices are subject to change.

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It’s been 35 years since Ralphie declared that all he wanted for Christmas was a Red Ryder BB gun in the holiday classic A Christmas Story, and as every fan knows, the only thing he dreaded more than hearing, “You’ll shoot your eye out!” was running into his nemesis — the yellow-eyed, raccoon-hat wearing town bully, Scut Farkus.

MGM & Bobby Quillard

Fortunately for actor Zack Ward, the days of grabbing people’s arms and forcing them to say uncle are far behind him. As the CEO of the Global Finance Sports Financial Exchange, the world’s first stock market of sports teams, he helps lead a platform that allows fans to invest in their favorite teams and earn money each time they win.

Related: From Rock God to Master Rosé Winemaker: a Conversation With Jon Bon Jovi

How did the 49-year-old actor go from iconic bully to big-time CEO? It’s all about wanting to tell a story.

First question: Do you still have the raccoon hat?

No, because that would mean that my head had not grown in the last 35 years, which would make me a pinhead.

So maybe you don’t wear it, but do you have it?

No. You know what’s funny is that whole movie took place before anybody cared about movie nostalgia, as far as I was aware. So no, I never kept anything. Apparently the hat is in a museum in Cleveland.

Can you believe it’s been 35 years?

It’s so strange, because I’m only 27 years old. [Laughs] It’s really freakish how I live outside of time. Yeah, it’s constantly bizarre to be that guy.

I bet! What’s your most vivid memory of the shoot?

It was winter, and it was cold.

Were you actually a bully in those days?

Nope. I went to eight different schools before junior high. My name was Zack. I didn’t have a dad. I had a miniature poodle named Tinker Bell. I got my ass beat all the time, so I was on the other side of that process. 

Are you still in touch with Yano Anaya, who played Farkus’ pint-sized toadie, Grover?

Yup.

Do you guys ever hit the town together and mess with people?

He lives in Atlanta, so not on a daily basis, but when we do charity fundraisers, it’s cute to watch people’s eyes get big when they recognize us.

Related: 11 Habits of Truly Happy People

You’ve made quite a journey from playing this iconic character to being a CEO. Tell us about the Global Finance Sports Financial Exchange?

It’s the West Coast division of AllSportsMarket, which is the world’s first and only stock market of sports teams.

How does that work?

Throughout the entire length, width and breadth of human history, the only way for sports and money to interact is gambling. So you have a favorite team and I have a team, and I put $100 down and you put $100 down, and you win and I lose all my money, or I win and you lose all your money. Now, if you buy shares in your team, and I buy shares in my team, your team wins and my shares may depreciate pennies, but I keep all my shares, I don’t lose all my shares. And there’s more than one game a year. So instead of being in it to lose it, you’re in it for the long term. 

Right.

So the question is this: If you had a $1,000 in 1987, and you had the gift of hindsight, would you have rather gone to Vegas with your $1,000, or would you have rather have bought Apple stock?

Apple stock.

So you’re telling me that you would rather buy stock in Apple in 1987 than go to Vegas and get get a free drink and see a pretty girl and maybe catch a show? Because if you put $1,000 into Apple in 1987 you’d have $287,000. If you spent $1,000 in Vegas, you’d have sweet fuck all. So the question is, do you like being a broke joke, or do you like putting money in your pocket? Because we both know the answer to these questions. The answer is always the same: Don’t be a fucking moron. Stop acting like a child. Put your money in your future and not in somebody else’s pocket. However, the only way for money and sports to interact for the last 10,000 years is gambling. Which is what morons do. Do you like to gamble? Enjoy. Have fun with it. That’s why there’s a Caesars Palace. There’s not a “your” palace, there’s not a “my” palace, because everything goes to Caesar. 

Totally. 

If you would like to be part of something that is a brand-new concept that has been in the works for the last 17 years, is walking through the governmental process to make sure that everything is legalized, has been abiding by the rules and regulations, and is an alternative to throwing your money down somebody’s friggin’ toilet, then check out out allsportsmarket.com. It’s free. You can start up with $2,500 on the learning market — so it’s basically like play money because you’re not spending anything — and you can buy shares in your favorite teams. You can short, you can sell, you can buy, you can trade, and you can see how it works for free, you risk absolutely nothing. And then if you feel confident, you can put in up to $2,500 in real capital and trade with people from more than 90 countries around the world who are doing this and love it. 

Related: Need a Business Idea? Here are 55

How did you pivot from playing a bully to becoming CEO of this company?

About five or six years ago, one of my best friends and my producing partner — a guy named Ace Underhill — told me about this thing that he’d been working on for the last decade and a half. I got interested in helping him out when it came to promotion, advertising and writing angles. Then, through that process, they asked me to come on board as the West Coast division CEO.

Are there any skills that you take from acting, or the world of Hollywood in general, that translate to your CEO gig?

Absolutely, because the whole thing is communicating a story. If you give somebody the numbers on something, it’s very dry. Instead, you need to communicate a concept that resonates with people, especially when you’re trying to change the course of the Titanic that’s heading for an iceberg. You need people to understand that it’s visceral, that it affects them, and that they are involved. It’s like getting people out the fucking boat. They have to be led with passion, and there has to be a story attached that they look at and go, “Yeah, that’s me!” So that is Hollywood.

Finally, what’s your second favorite Christmas movie?

Die Hard.

So you’re in the camp that considers Die Hard a Christmas movie? Because there’s a lot of debate about that. 

How can there be debate about it? If you watch it during Christmas, it’s your Christmas movie.

That’s fair.

I just saw this bullcrap that came out on Yahoo which was like, “Why A Christmas Story Is a Horrible Film for Christmas.” Obviously it’s just troll clickbait.

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Latin America is fast becoming the world’s model for how cryptocurrency will permeate the daily lives of citizens in years to come. All heads have turned towards El Salvador –– as they will toward any country that adopts a cryptocurrency as legal tender –– to see how its economy and the quality of life of its citizens will be affected by it. What happens there will influence how other countries decide to proceed with regard to crypto.

Why has this begun in Latin America?

Latin America is the ideal region for Bitcoin adoption for a multitude of reasons, many of which revolve around increasing financial inclusion for citizens and promoting financial stability.

For example, remittances are very common in Latin American countries, and they provide a perfect use case for cryptocurrency. In the beginning of 2021, these international transfers accounted for 20% of El Salvador’s and Honduras’s GDPs and 11% of Mexico’s. But while they contribute a significant portion to Latin American nations’ GDP, remittances also involve high commissions (on average around 10% of the remittance amount) and long wait times (on average 2.4 days from the U.S. to other countries). Individuals who have left their home countries with the goal of sending money to their families back home are forced to pay debilitatingly high transfer fees only to have their families wait days or weeks to receive the funds. Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies offer the ideal solution: Individuals can send money back to their families much more quickly and with minimal transaction fees.

Likewise, many Latin American countries also have volatile currencies, due to high inflation rates and political factors. This is the case for Venezuela and Argentina, which have seen rates as high as 1,575% and 69.5%, respectively. Even though cryptocurrencies are considered volatile, they remain more stable alternatives to some Latin American currencies. Indeed, while the latter have experienced hyperinflation, Bitcoin and Ether have dramatically increased in value despite their volatility. This appreciation adds to the case for implementing these currencies in countries experiencing inflation with regard to their own native currency.

Another reason Latin Americans feel crypto is safer than their fiat currencies is that it is decentralized and does not depend upon government-controlled institutions, banks or other third parties. With cryptocurrencies, Latin American citizens do not need to place trust in their governments, in which they often place very little trust, or third-party entities that may act in their own self interest. Instead, they can take advantage of the trustless nature of the blockchain. 

Finally, possibly the most common argument for Latin American countries to adopt cryptocurrencies as legal tender is based on the number of Latin American unbanked citizens. In Brazil alone in May 2021, there were over 16.3 million unbanked citizens. Because so many Latin American citizens find themselves without bank accounts, they lack access to important financial services, such as the ability to take out loans, build wealth, earn interest and save money securely.

Related: Why Small Businesses Should Consider Bitcoin

One result of the Covid-19 pandemic in Latin America has been a dramatic increase in online banking participation. The new emphasis on e-payments pushed many unbanked citizens to open accounts at banks or on fintech platforms. For example, the banked population grew by 26% in Colombia and 13% in Mexico. While these impressive figures indicate that Latin American countries are moving towards increased financial inclusion for their citizens, crypto has the potential to close the gap that still remains.

Why Bitcoin in Latin America when there are alternative cryptocurrencies?

Bitcoin in particular is very attractive to Latin American countries because it is the oldest cryptocurrency and the most widely adopted as a store of value and means of exchange. In this respect it is akin to gold. Other cryptocurrencies don’t have the history or security Bitcoin has achieved. Even Ethereum, the second largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization, doesn’t have the universal appeal that Bitcoin does. Though it offers significant benefits as a platform for the decentralized applications that will form the basis for Web3, Ethereum does not offer the same simple solution that Bitcoin does for payments and saving. For countries looking to adopt a cryptocurrency as legal tender, Bitcoin offers a more ready and reliable solution than anything else that currently exists.

Bitcoin has a maximum supply of 21 million coins, which appeals to people who fear inflation in traditional sovereign-issued currencies. Its reputation as “sound money” with a hard supply limit is the antithesis of some fiat currencies whose value has been imperiled by the monetary and fiscal policies of the countries that issued them. Bitcoin also compares favorably on this score to other cryptocurrencies, such as Ether, which don’t have its hard cap on supply.

El Salvador has ignited Latin America’s cryptocurrency adoption

El Salvador was the first country to implement wholesale adoption of crypto with its acceptance of Bitcoin as legal tender, but it won’t be the last by any means, and there are many things we expect to see from others in the region. Other countries will slowly begin enacting similar legislation, especially now that Bitcoin has stood the test of time. Already, Paraguay, Argentina, Panama and Cuba have started considering adopting cryptocurrencies as official legal tender. 

As more countries move toward crypto, there will be increased focus on creating the infrastructure and services to support these decisions. More hackathons such as the ones hosted at Labitconf and the Bitcoin Bankathon will be organized to fuel innovation in the region, allowing for a more seamless transition to Bitcoin adoption and widespread usage. These new applications will also promote financial inclusivity as they provide a new array of services to the unbanked and banked alike. 

Related: How to Buy, Sell, and Manage Bitcoin | PCMag

New opportunities will arise for merchants who accept Bitcoin as payment for their goods and may open them up to more customers than before, especially those who embrace Bitcoin and who previously did not have access to the goods and services they offered. Transactions will also be more secure and verifiable, an added benefit to merchants and customers alike. 

Additionally, Bitcoin adoption will likely empower women to be more in control of their finances and feel confident in making financial decisions. This becomes true as developers find creative ways to educate women on financial matters and provide them with access to funds through dApps targeted towards them. Already, women around the world have felt more empowered and financially independent, thanks to crypto. The possibilities that Bitcoin or crypto adoption could engender for women and any disadvantaged groups are endless.

Bitcoin is part of a larger movement to democratize finance

Bitcoin and decentralized finance (DeFi) will open up a new array of services to Latin American citizens, not only in their respective countries, but also in the entire world. Many of the people who are going to transition to using Bitcoin to send and receive payments previously relied on cash and did not have bank accounts, meaning they were unable to take advantage of the global connectivity we have come to enjoy. Individuals who were once unable to purchase goods and services existing in other countries will soon be able to thanks to cryptocurrency adoption in the region. In an increasingly global world, it is crucial to have systems that work across borders, which Bitcoin does. The world will soon realize the positive economic impact Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have and implement them into their existing financial systems.

In fact, last week I visited El Salvador for the world’s first state-sponsored Bitcoin Bankathon. I was able to buy just about everything with Bitcoin. At El Zonte (Bitcoin Beach), I bought plantains from a cart vendor — using my mobile phone! In San Salvador, I sent Bitcoin to an ATM at the mall and immediately received the equivalent amount in U.S. Dollars. I can’t do any of these things yet in the U.S.

Related: Bitcoin Is Now Legal Tender in El Salvador

Everyone should have access to financial tools, irrespective of origin, class or bank status. Bitcoin will allow for a greater democratization of finance in Latin America and empower individuals to make important financial decisions in ways they haven’t been able to before. Latin America is the first region to take the step towards mainstream adoption, and El Salvador has led the way, but soon other countries will follow suit in order to provide their citizens with the same global and financial connectivity and resources.

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Voice-user interfaces (VUIs) allow users to interact with machines using voice alone. They use speech recognition and natural-language processing to enable users to complete some tasks. VUIs have been a part of sci-fi movies for a long time, but recent progress in this field has made those interfaces a daily reality. 

Here are seven essential design recommendations that the Milkinside team follows when designing voice-user interfaces. 

1. Define key user tasks

Why will people want to use your product? What tasks do they want to accomplish using it? Those are two fundamental questions that you need to answer prior to creating your product. 

The ultimate goal of VUI design is to create a product that will be integrated meaningfully into users’ lives. That’s why you need to invest in user research early on in the design process to learn the needs of your target audience. You can conduct user interviews and participant observation to learn user behavior — understand how users interact with your product right now and identify a set of tasks that can be good for voice interactions. 

Related: Creating a Visual Language for Innovative Products

2. Understand the context of use

Not only how but also where users will interact with your product is important. Will it be a private space like a living room or a public space like a hotel hall? The factors like sound quality (which is a combination of quality of the microphone, distance from a device and background noise) and user-privacy aspects (users are less likely to share private information when they speak in public places) will affect your product-design decisions. 

3. Design a dialog flow

A dialog flow is a script that illustrates the conversation between the user and the voice-based product in the context of the user’s particular task. A dialog flow is typically visualized in a format of a tree that outlines all branches that represent all situations where the conversation could go. Dialog flow will likely affect your development, so you should specify it right at the early stages of product design. 

The design of a dialog flow should always start with outlining a sample dialog. This dialog typically visualizes a happy path interaction with a system (when everything goes as planned and users achieve their goal successfully) and doesn’t contain any branches or back-and-forth cases. Introduce more branches as you learn more conditions for your dialog. 

4. Design for eyes-free interactions

Voice-user interfaces are primarily designed for people whose eyes and hands are busy doing other things. Imagine a man who’s cooking dinner and has his hands dirty. He activates voice UI to learn a recipe. Or a woman driving on a busy street who wants to know where the nearest parking spot is. Even when a voice-based product has a screen, you should try to design an app that doesn’t require a glance at the screen. 

Related: The 10 Obstacles Keeping You From Great Product Design

5. Design for how people actually talk

Interaction with a voice-user interface shouldn’t feel like a conversation with a robot. The more natural conversation is, the better the user experience will be because users don’t need to learn anything new to interact with a system. 

Here are a few things that can help you design more human conversations:

  • Design for user vocabulary. Learn as much as you can about the language your users use in their daily conversation and use this language in your product.

  • Consider all possible variations of utterance (how the user phrases a command). The number of different ways people can ask for something can be impressive. For example, when we want to know the weather, some users ask, “How is the weather today?” while another user might ask, “Is it cold outside?”

  • Make pauses between questions and options. When a system asks users a question and offers some options to choose from, it should pause for half a second after asking a question and only after that vocalize options to choose from. This helps users comprehend information. 

6. Be clear and concise

Comparing graphical-user interfaces (GUI) and voice-user interfaces (VUI), you will see a vast difference — GUI supports multitasking while VUI is strictly linear. When users interact with VUI, they can’t skip some UI sections; they have to listen to the information the system provides. Plus, users have to keep information they hear from VUI in their memory, and the more information the system offers, the more cognitive load a user will have. But designers can make users’ life better by optimizing the information users receive from the system. 

It’s essential to reduce the amount of information the system provides to the user without sacrificing the meaning. For example, when a user asks, “What is the weather today?” The system can respond with “The weather in your region, San Francisco, California, today, 20 Dec 2021, is 12 Celsius, sunny, wind 3 km/h,” or say “12 Celsius, it’s a bit cold and windy outside, wear a coat.” The second response is more concise and clear for users. 

Related: What the Future of Logo Design Will Look Like

7. Design brand persona

The tone of voice you use in voice-user interfaces has a tremendous impact on user experience. When users start interacting with VUI, they intuit likeability in the first seconds of hearing a voice. It’s something people do unconsciously. A brand persona is a combination of personality traits and attitudes that your brand conveys to users. If you don’t design a brand persona, your users will do it for you, and the persona they create might not be the same as the one you want to portray. 

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No matter what your goals are in life, if you want to succeed in achieving them, then proper planning is a must. After all, like Benjamin Franklin, once said, “If You Fail to Plan, You Are Planning to Fail.”

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Even though there’s actually little evidence that Franklin coined the adage, over the years there have been three popular versions using “plan” and “prepare;”

  • Failing to plan is planning to fail.
  • The person who fails to plan plans to fail.
  • By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail.

Whatever the origins of this saying, success does not happen by chance. Knowing where one is going and how they’ll get there requires planning. And, this is escipically true if you don’t have a plan for finances in an uncertain future.

What is financial planning?

In order to accomplish one’s life goals, one must create a financial plan. How? Because a financial plan acts as a guide as you navigate your way through life.

Specifically, a financial plan lets you take back control of income, as well expenses and investments. Since you’ve taken the reigns, you can properly manage your hard-earned money so that you can actually attain your goals.

The importance of financial planning.

Still not convinced about the importance of a financial plan? Here are seven practical benefits that should change your mind.

  • Gets you closer to achieving your life’s goals. Owning a house, purchasing a family car, or providing for your children’s education and marriage are some common examples.
  • Cash flow and wealth growth. Income growth leads to increased cash flows. Also, this helps you track your income source so that it can be grown further.
  • Enjoy a better standard of living. If you have a good financial plan, you won’t have to compromise your lifestyle. In fact, you can achieve your goals and live comfortably at the same time.
  • Asset creation. A financial plan can provide insights on asset creation and ensures that it won’t become a burden. As a result, you’ll have peace of mind.
  • Optimizes your savings and investments. You gain an in-depth understanding of your income and expenses through the creation of a financial plan. You can track and cut down your expenses proactively. Eventually, this will increase your savings. A good financial plan also takes into account your personal situation, risk appetite, and future goals so that you’ll pick the right investments.
  • Helps you tackle inflation. One of the main causes of the decline in purchasing power is inflation. For this reason, it is important to plan your finances for the future. In the coming years, as you age, you are better prepared to deal with the rising inflation thanks to acute financial planning.
  • Be prepared for the unexpected. Having an emergency fund is a crucial part of financial planning. You should have a fund equivalent to at least 6 months of your salary here. When a family emergency or a job loss occurs, you won’t have to worry about paying for the essentials.

The key components of a financial plan.

While it may seem like an over-exaggeration, financial planning is one of the most important aspects of our lives. But, for a financial plan to be effective, it should contain the following ten components.

1. Goal identification.

To achieve your goals and desires, you need to understand and identify them. When your goals are crystal clear and have meaning, your plan will be more effective More importantly, you’ll be more motivated to follow through with your financial plan.

Also, you might find it helpful to write down your goals. “Vividly describing your goals in written form is strongly associated with goal success,” Mark Murphy wrote in Forbes. “And people who very vividly describe or picture their goals are anywhere from 1.2 to 1.4 times more likely to successfully accomplish their goals than people who don’t.”

It’s recommended that you divide your goals into the following three categories;

  • Short-term. These are goals that you hope to achieve in the next five years. For example, paying off previous debts or purchasing a new vehicle.
  • Medium-term. Establishing yourself as an entrepreneur or purchasing property are just two examples of medium-term goals. Often, these objectives take between 5-10 years to become a reality.
  • Long-term goals. Goals considered long-term are those with a duration of more than 10 years. Some basic long-term goals are retirement and education for your children.

To make goals seem more achievable, specify a dollar amount and a deadline for each goal. “The more specific your goals, the easier it is to measure your progress toward them,” says Rob Williams, vice president of financial planning at the Schwab Center for Financial Research.

2. Net worth statement.

“Every plan needs a baseline, so next you should determine your net worth,” states the folks over at Charles Schwab. List all your assets (bank accounts, investment properties, valuable personal properties) and debt (credit cards, mortgages, student loans). Then, deduct your assets from your liabilities to determine your net worth.

“Don’t be discouraged if your liabilities outweigh your assets,” Rob says. “That’s not uncommon when you’re just starting out—especially if you have a mortgage and student loans.”

3. Become aware of income and expenses, aka your budget.

Personally, I’m not a fan of budgets that are too rigid. Despite this, I’m still aware of where my money is going and take steps to prevent living above my means.

What’s more, when it comes to budgeting, there’s no right or wrong way. It’s all about choosing the method that works best for you, such as the following six types of budgets;

  • Line-item budget. Perhaps the most well-known type where you list each of your expenses by category in Excel or some other spreadsheet
  • The 50/30/20 budget. Here you break down your income into the following categories; 50% (necessities), 30% (wants), and 20% (savings and debt repayment).
  • The envelope system. With this system, you divide your income into different spending categories, like bills, groceries, and gas. Then you would only pay the bills or buy the things within that category with the money you have in that envelope.
  • Pay yourself first. A reverse budgeting strategy is a way of setting aside a portion of your income for goals, such as retirement, before you spend it on food, utilities, or discretionary items. A predetermined amount is set aside, and it is automatically transferred into the appropriate savings account(s).
  • The zero-based budget. With zero-based budgeting, you subtract your expenses from your income to arrive at zero. You must ensure that your income matches each month’s expenses when you use a zero-based budget. This way, every dollar that comes in has a purpose.
  • Hybrid budget. You can create a more personalized budget by combing the features of the budgets listed above.

Regardless of the method, your number one priority should be becoming aware of your income and expenses. Once you are, you can trim the fat when necessary to apply those savings to your goals.

4. Acceptable risk.

Often called “risk tolerance,” this describes how you balance the risk of loss with the potential for bigger rewards. A professional might ask you questions such as;

  • “What would you do if your portfolio lost 20 percent of its value?”
  • “Sell everything?”
  • “Hang on?”
  • “Invest more?”

“The gauge for acceptable risk should be the acceptable level of decline in your investments,” says Evan Tarver, investments analyst at FitSmallBusiness.com, “For example, many investments will have the ability to grow by 10 percent or decline by 10 percent in a given year. If a 10 percent short-term decline is acceptable to you, then the risk is therefore acceptable.”

5. Make sure emergencies don’t become disasters.

Based on Bankrate’s July 2021 Emergency Savings Survey, 25% of Americans (or 1 in 4) report having no emergency fund at all, up from 21% in 2020. Why is this concerning? Let’s say that you need $300 to repair your car or appliance. You’ll have to put this expense on your credit card, which can prevent you from being free of debt.

With that in mind, even a small emergency fund of $500 can make a world of difference. After you’ve accomplished that goal, bump this up to $1,000. Following that focus on one month’s living expenses and so forth.

Your budget can also be shock-proofed by building credit. A good credit score gives you options when you need them, like getting a decent interest rate on a car loan or credit card. By taking advantage of it, you can also save on insurance rates and potentially bypass utility deposits.

6. Purchase the right type of insurance.

“Insurance is an essential part of any sound financial plan,” notes Brian Collins for Hippo. “Being prepared for the unexpected will ensure that you can still reach your goals after facing a financial crisis.” Additionally, insurance can keep your emergency fund from being depleted.

As a result of an accident, becoming ill or disabled, or passing away, insurance can protect your loved ones financially. If you do not have coverage, certain situations can be expensive, so make sure you purchase the policy that’s right for you. In fact, experts suggest you that insure yourself before investing serious money.

But, what type of policy do you need? Well, that depends on your particular situation. For example, if you own an automobile or home, then auto and homeowner’s insurance are a must.

Moreover, if you have people who depend on you financially, like a spouse or children, you should secure a life insurance policy. Are you nearing retirement? It might be worth exploring long-term care insurance. And, if you’re a business owner, you can protect yourself legally with liability insurance.

7. Tackle high-interest debt.

An important step in all financial plans is to pay off high-interest debt. Examples include credit card balances, payday loans, title loans, and rent-to-own payments. Because the interest rates on these are so high you wind up paying back twice as much as what you borrowed!

Several expenses can be bundled into one monthly bill using a debt consolidation loan or debt management plan if you have revolving debt. If that’s not an option, consider contacting the lender and asking for a more affordable interest rate. You could also implement strategies like the snowball method to pay off your smallest debt first and work your way up.

8. Invest to build your savings.

Despite our misconceptions, you don’t have to be Elon Musk-rich to invest. In reality, anyone can invest their money in order to bolster their savings.

A 401(k) plan or an account with a brokerage firm can make investing as frictionless as possible. Even better is that most don’t require a minimum account balance to open. Another easy way to embark on your investing journey is to utilize robo-advisors.

Furthermore, investing for retirement, a house, or a college often requires a variety of financial planning tools, like

  • Employer-sponsored retirement plans. Contribute gradually toward the IRS limit of $19,500 if you have a 401(k), 403(b), or similar plan. The limit goes up to $26,000 if you’re over 50.
  • Traditional or Roth IRA. Investing in tax-advantaged investment accounts can further increase retirement savings by as much as $6,000 a year (or $7,000 for those over 50).
  • 529 college savings plans. The funds can be withdrawn and invested tax-free for qualified education expenses under these state-sponsored plans.

9. Plan for retirement (and taxes).

To have the lifestyle you want during your golden years, you have to plan accordingly. Taking inflation into consideration, this involves calculating how much you’ll need to retire, and how you’ll plan to save and invest for the future.

Taking steps toward retirement may seem like a lifetime away, but it’s never too early to begin. But, it’s necessary if you want to have a comfortable and stress-free retirement. Your future self will thank you.

In addition to retirement, you also need to factor in taxes. While taxes may be irritating, they are just as inevitable as Thanos. As such, you’ll want to include taxes in your long-term income projection. After all, failing to do so can negatively impact your cash flow.

Furthermore, you should look into tax savings investment options and learn about any possible tax deductions you can apply to reduce your tax bill. But, you should still consult a tax accountant or financial planner to ensure you have an adequate tax plan.

10. Create an estate plan.

The topic of estate planning isn’t something most of us wish to discuss. But, it’s important. By using this, you can determine exactly what happens to your assets when you pass away.

What exactly doesn’t an estate plan entail? Usually, it just involves listing all your assets. Next, you would create a will, and make it accessible to key stakeholders, like an estate lawyer and beneficiaries.

Final words of advice.

I’ll be honest with you. Even with a finanical plan in tow, there will be turbulent days, weeks, or months. Don’t let that being you down tough. Schedule monthly check-ins to track your progress and make necessary adjustments as needed.

The post Top 10 Components of a Financial Plan appeared first on Due.

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If you cringe every time you see a headline about a massive data breach, fasten your seatbelt. It’s going to get much worse before it gets better. For most companies, it’s a question of when not if they’re going to have a data breach. The bigger question is how big the blast radius is going to be and what can you do preemptively to avert or contain it.

The facts are sobering: The average annual cost of a data-security breach for a company that misuses or loses data is $4.24 million, according to a recent IBM security survey, nearly 10% higher than it was before the pandemic. And that’s just the initial price tag. The real cost of a data breach cuts much deeper and can be existential: 60% of small- and medium-size businesses go bust within six months of a massive data breach.

Sadly, despite these statistics, most companies still don’t view data security as a top priority. If your company uses, collects, stores or relies on first-party data (and what successful company these days doesn’t?), you face all kinds of security-related risks that can make that $4.24 million seem like a bargain.

Related: Hackers Are Flooding Businesses’ Receipt Printers With ‘Anti-Work’ Messages

Here are eight ways a data breach could take out your company in a hurry.

1. Someone misuses the data you collect

Here’s a shocker: One in four data breaches is caused by employees rather than outside attackers. That’s important because your company is not just on the hook for securing data you collect; you also need to secure how it’s used. Thanks to the EU’s GDPR and California’s CCPA privacy laws, if someone in your company (or one of your partners) misuses your data, you face steep fines. And if you are fined 4% of the topline for simple data misuse, it could bankrupt your whole company.

2. Your data breach gets media attention

A data snafu at scale is a PR disaster. It erodes consumer trust in your brand and customers’ trust in your relationship. A recent PwC report found that 69% of consumers believe that the companies they use are vulnerable to being hacked, and 87% of consumers are even willing to walk away if a data breach occurs. And that doesn’t even factor in the pricey marketing costs of rebuilding a damaged reputation.

3. Data mishandling exposes you to regulatory action

That’s right, misusing data can open you up to a whole new universe of penalties, fines, sanctions and legal costs, which can be enormous and go on for years. You could easily spend a billion dollars addressing your case — just ask Facebook about that one.

4. A data breach costs you deals

This one hits you directly in the wallet. Once you have a security situation, current business customers can shut off deals. At the very least, you’ll spend countless hours documenting your processes and reassuring partners their data and reputation are safe. And if a data-security issue leads to a court action or some regulatory action, all your business customers now have reasonable cause to back out too. Which leads to this next one …

5. Or it can cost you your entire business model

If the world decides that it just can’t afford to do things the way you’re doing them, you’ll have to change your whole model (we’re looking at you, Ashley Madison). The pivot can be an expensive and existential threat.

Related: 6 Essential Questions to Ask While Facing a Security Breach

6. Lax security locks you out of the deal flow

Once you’re caught in a security disaster, you can be labeled as a business risk in an ecosystem. And that basically cuts you out of a marketplace.

7. Security snafus are a massive time suck

All the time and suffering a security problem demands, especially the attention of key people in the organization, can be a massive operational setback. Plus, who wants to work for a company with a bad rap? Suddenly you can’t attract or retain the most mobile and valuable talent.

8. Data breaches devalue your business

If you can’t secure your data, you won’t be able to do all the good things that can be done today with the secure application of data. And that’s the risk of not doing the right thing for the business — and not realizing your company’s full potential and upside. And that might be the biggest risk of all.

Managing all this risk isn’t easy, and there are lots of stakeholders to wrangle. But nobody’s got their eye on all the data — and all the ways data breaches could bite your company.

But there is one way to mitigate all these risks: Deploy technology that prevents risk from even being created, rather than just tools to clean up better after a breach or violation.

You want technology that does three things well:

  • Enables the creation and enforcement of a digital version of the sharing agreement or contract.
  • Allows the data to be processed inside a shared enclave.
  • Documents every transaction and communicates to the relevant parties, so only agreed-upon recipients receive the insights from processing.

You’ll save money on legal fees and improve productivity since only the most necessary approvals will be required by expensive attorneys. And since you can now trust your data-sharing partnerships, your insights will soar along with accompanying revenues from such projects. You owe it to yourself to have a fully automated security solution that’s got your back.

Your company’s survival depends on it.

Related: How Artificial Intelligence Is Changing Cyber Security Landscape and Preventing Cyber Attacks

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Rarely do I come across inspiring quotes from mathematicians, but this one, from the late Morris Kline, has been echoing in my brain for weeks: “The most fertile source of insight is hindsight.”

Startups are often urged to keep driving forward; to hit new targets, build more and grow faster, bigger, better. As Jotform recently turned 15 and unveiled our first new brand in over a decade, I’ve been inspired to pause and look back in the rearview mirror.    

Related: The Best Leadership Advice We Heard in 2021

I launched the company in 2006, driven by a vision to create simple web forms (and fueled by gallons of Starbucks coffee). So much has changed since those early days. We’ve added hundreds of staff, opened three offices on two continents and built a product with 10 million users. And we still haven’t taken any outside funding.

I list these milestones not to brag, but to reinforce what’s possible when you take your time and pursue a single, evolving goal. No one would ever call Jotform an overnight success — and that’s the point. We’ve done it our way, and I’ve learned what feels like a thousand lessons over the years. So, I wanted to gather up my very best advice in one place. This is what I would tell myself as I prepared to launch the company. I hope it helps and reassures you, wherever you are on your startup journey.  

1. Getting started

Don’t try to brainstorm your way into business

It’s nearly impossible to conjure a great business idea from thin air. The most successful startups spring directly from need, frustration, incomplete experience or the burning desire to do something better. When I worked for a media company, I was constantly coding forms for the editors — and it was boring, tedious work. One day I thought, maybe should build a product that makes this easy. That’s how Jotform was born.

You (really) don’t need a co-founder

Experts often advise entrepreneurs to pair up, but there’s so much freedom in going it alone. If you’re worried that you don’t have all the necessary skills, read books, attend conferences, listen to podcasts and do everything you can to patch those gaps. And if your business succeeds, you can hire brilliant people to fill in where you struggle.  

Harness your loneliness

Starting a company can be isolating, but know that this feeling is temporary. Don’t let loneliness knock you off course. Use quiet times to think and scheme and learn as much as you can. Eventually, you’ll have a team to keep you company — and there’s a good chance you’ll miss those quiet, distraction-free days.

Don’t quit your job cold turkey

It’s infinitely easier to start a business while you’re employed. The trade-off? It takes longer to hit cruising altitude. I created my first product in 1998, while I was a college student. I continued to sell it while finishing my degree, serving in the military and working full-time. By the time I left my job, that product replaced my salary and gave me an infinite runway to build Jotform. If you don’t have another revenue stream, build the free version of your offering while you’re still employed. Don’t quit until you release the paid version and establish a solid subscription base. 

Define your own vision of success

No one else can (or should) tell you what success looks like. Don’t waste time worrying about those media-darling founders or what your MBA classmates have done. If you’ve gained even a little traction, that’s success. A handful of customers or a few sales means you’re on the right track. Don’t rush. Get the core product right, and keep going.

Waiting is risky  

Get your work in front of real people as early as possible. It’s the best way to see if they’ll use and pay for what you’ve built. The longer you wait, the greater the chance you’re building in the wrong direction — and that can be dangerous. Release fast, ask questions and apply the feedback to keep improving. It sounds simple, but it’s amazing how many founders are afraid to take this critical leap. 

Find your best angle

You can’t launch a business and wait for customers to show up like trick-or-treaters on Halloween. They need a reason to care; something that’s unique, intriguing, fresh or surprising. Jotform used drag-and-drop technology before it was a thing. That was our angle, and I applied it to pitch news sites, write blog posts and develop PR plans. Consider what people care about most, and emphasize how your startup supports their busy lives.

Related: To Become a Top Executive, Take Control of Your Personal Brand Today

2. Growing and scaling your startup

Pamper your first 1,000 users

Treat these people like family. After all, they’ve taken a chance on you. Learn as much about them as you can: What do they want? What do they want to avoid? What features do they need? What’s confusing? Enterprise products might have smaller numbers, but the same logic applies. Provide exceptional support and earn their loyalty.

Improve, grow, improve, grow

Building a product means creating something people want and need, and then continually making it better. Growth requires marketing and sales. In the early days, you need to switch back and forth between the two. Improve your work. Then share helpful, valuable content to grow your platform — whether that’s posting on social media, writing a blog, recording a podcast or whatever works for you.

Chase customer-funded growth

Even if you’re backed by VCs, angels, private equity or your grandmother (no shame), every dollar you get from real customers is a dollar you’ve truly earned. Pursuing anything else can be a waste of time when you’re starting out, because it’s more important to get the basics right. Of course, there are exceptions. You might need financial support if you have fast-growing competitors, you’re in a land grab, or you need physical infrastructure. Almost everything else? You can start slowly and fund your growth with profits.

Scaling a business requires constant reorientation

Every new stage brings different challenges — and growing a startup is like cell division. At first, you have a big, amorphous company with overlapping roles and responsibilities. As you add more people, the work becomes increasingly granular. For example, HR splits into HR and recruiting, then recruiting splits to focus on different roles or geographical areas, and so on.   

Set and measure the right metrics

We track all kinds of data, but two targets matter more than anything: Are people using our product? Do our employees love (and feel proud of) working here? All the page views and bounce rates mean nothing if people aren’t actively using what you provide, and if your teams are loath to show up for work each day. Focus on what matters.

Related: Are You Really Listening to Your Customers? Probably Not, But You Should.

3. Building a great team

Hire to ease your bottlenecks

Signing your first employee is a big step. You might need an office. This right person should also be well-rounded, so they can handle lots of different tasks. But look for someone who can eliminate the biggest roadblocks in your business. And it has to be someone you actually like, because you’re going to spend a lot of time together. Would you enjoy having lunch with this person? No? It’s probably not going to work out. Choose wisely.

Consider where you want to work

In 2021, do you need an office, or can everyone work remotely? Your initial decision sets a course for the future. If you launch without a physical space, you’ll probably need to continue that way. I feel strongly about working from an office (assuming it’s safe), because startups are a group sport. Otherwise, it’s like assembling a basketball team that plays remotely. So much happens in the margins of a workday to deepen relationships and help people work together more effectively.

Feather your nest

If you do have an office, make it feel like a second home. Don’t skimp. Give people ergonomic chairs, big tables, standing desk options, fresh air, natural light and plants. These details show your employees that you care about their comfort and productivity. And make sure your teams have more than snack machines and stale coffee to stay fueled.

Build a foundation with your first five hires

The first five people on your team are essential. At Jotform, they created the prototype for our entire company. We had a designer, growth specialist, front-end and back-end developers and a UX pro. That combination was so successful that we set the whole company up in similar, cross-functional teams. Watch for what works in your business, and apply that model as you grow.

Strong teams are happy teams

I always tell our new interns, “we’re going to teach you how to work as a team.” In school, team projects are usually terrible, but we ensure our interns have a satisfying, collaborative experience. You can see it’s working when they form bonds. They go to lunch together, share credit for wins and losses and thank each other for their contributions. You can’t fake genuine respect.

Grow slowly to protect your culture

Massive hiring sprees lead to mass confusion. If you hire a whole team of people all at once, you can’t spend time with them or get to know them. Even if your business is already established, adding too many people in one shot prevents current employees from sharing your systems and best practices — both formally and informally. Going slowly is the best way to avoid cultural breakdown.  

Steer clear of gossips

If someone bad-mouths or divulges inside stories from their previous company, there’s a good chance they’ll eventually do the same to you. Look for people with character; people who don’t enter with their egos and who truly want to collaborate.

Nurture your star employees

Passionate, excited people are worth their weight in gold. Ensure they’re happy, and help them grow. If someone is driven, listen closely to where they want to go and map a plan to help them get there. Check in regularly and track their progress — and don’t force creative people into a box. Stay open and let them change course if necessary. Your whole business will be stronger for it.

Related: Want Customers To Stick Around? Get Their Feedback From Day 1 (and Keep Doing It)

4. Leadership

Take a page from parenting books

If you can lead children, you can manage employees — and I say this without a hint of sarcasm or disrespect. We all need both security and independence. If kids don’t feel secure, they shut down and stop playing. With strong attachments, they’ll begin to thrive. Kids also need space to explore. When I need my kids to do something, like put on their shoes, I describe how they need shoes to go to the park. They choose the shoes they want and put them on independently; I just set the parameters. All these lessons scale to team members and employees.

Culture is encoded behavior

You can’t design company culture. It’s not something you can write down and say, “this is our culture.” Instead, culture is simply a shorthand for how your company functions. For example, junior employees watch how senior team members work, and then follow their lead. If you want something done a certain way, clearly set those standards and expectations. Encode it in daily operations.  

Instill a sense of “nationalism” among your team

As a kid, I wasn’t a leader. I was a follower who observed and participated. Stirring people’s emotions doesn’t come naturally to me, but it’s my responsibility. That’s why I give a short speech before each Friday’s Demo Day. Communicating your excitement about the work is contagious. People hear and feel it, and it strengthens your tribe.

You can be a good presenter, even if you’re shy

You don’t have to be an extroverted salesperson to give good speeches. Clarify your thoughts, prepare what you want to say, and use notes instead of reading or memorizing. Every talk will help you improve, and all that practice adds up over time. If you feel a little jittery, remember that the point is to connect with people, not to impress them.

The more you delegate, the more you’ll succeed

It’s an indisputable truth, like the law of gravity: You can be great at some things, but you can’t be great at everything. But if you delegate your less-proficient tasks to others, you can dedicate more time to your best work. Start with small projects. Let people learn and develop confidence, and don’t expect them to improve instantly.

Don’t wait for people to fail

Once you delegate, check back often and provide consistent feedback. That way, the other person (or team) has the information they need to succeed, and you’re free to focus, knowing the task is well underway. And give people time and space to find their rhythm — especially in the beginning.

Superheroes are vastly overrated

Doing everything yourself will inevitably backfire. You might have to cover multiple roles in the early days of your startup, but that’s not sustainable for the long-term. It all comes down to trust: People who refuse to delegate don’t think someone else will do the job as well as they can. The fix lies in communicating vision and context along with the assignment. When someone understands why they’re undertaking a task, there’s a good chance they’ll do a great (and even better) job than you.  

5. Staying happy, healthy, creative and motivated

Clarity requires preparation

Whenever you write anything — a document, report, presentation or even an important email — draft it and set it aside. Come back and read it later. Cut extra words, make it shorter, and get to the point faster. Clarity not only eliminates confusion, but it also conveys confidence and momentum. It matters more than we think.

Desire fuels motivation

If you really want something, you’ll put in the necessary time and effort. Struggling to get motivated can indicate that you’re not on the right path – and that’s fine. Just be honest with yourself. If everything checks out, but you’re still struggling, try reading about successful companies in your industry. Work from an office instead of your home. Rest on the weekends to avoid burnout. Create systems and routines that replace the need for motivation.

Get help sooner than later

Filters and automation can only take you so far. If you’re drowning in emails, communication, administrative tasks and everyday details, it’s time to get some help. I just hired a fantastic personal assistant after 15 years in business. I probably should have taken this step 10 years ago. Don’t wait until you’re slipping further underwater.

Believe in something bigger than today

Motivation is about meaning. When you believe in something, you have the drive to pursue that goal. As the French author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry wrote, “If you wish to build a ship, do not divide the men into teams and send them to the forest to cut wood. Instead, teach them to long for the vast and endless sea.”

Progress is inspiring

Research shows that nothing boosts emotion, perception and motivation more than making progress in meaningful work — no matter how small each step may be. If you’re working on five products or projects at once, it’s tough to get people excited about all of them. A singular focus ensures everyone’s on the same team; rowing toward the same destination. Each person can see how their direct contribution moves the whole group forward.

Find solutions on your bookshelves

If you’re stuck in a slump or trying to untangle a head-throbbing problem, turn to books. Find the title that’s most applicable to your situation, and start reading. After a few pages, the fog usually lifts and your head begins to clear. Soon enough, you’ll be reaching for a notepad and feeling excited again.

This mistake is not the end of the world

Errors, slipups, public mistakes and disappointments can feel devastating. Do everything you can to address the problem, and then let it go. Learn from the situation, prepare for next time and create contingency plans to minimize your worries. For example, we just hired our first general counsel. This step alone takes so much weight off my shoulders and helps me sleep better at night.

Know the difference between profile and platform

I don’t care about being a public figure. I never have. The thought of being recognized at the playground while I’m swinging with my kids, seems bizarre. However, I’ve built a platform by writing about entrepreneurship. A platform enables you to authentically share and promote your business, while public notoriety is often quite empty — and it’s almost always temporary.

Take care of your whole self

Hit the gym, play pickup basketball with your team, climb the monkey bars with your kids or do whatever makes you feel alive and joyful. This matters just as much (or more) than the quarterly earnings report. Try not to work after 10 p/m. Wind down before you go to bed, and let go of anything unfinished. Tomorrow’s a new day. 

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Entrepreneurial types tend to be relentless in the pursuit of their dreams. Many bring a single-minded focus to getting their business up and running. They spend every waking moment (and even some of their sleep time) thinking up new ways to innovate, improve, and outfox. This type of person is often so preoccupied that he or she skips meals unintentionally.

Due – Due

It’s little wonder, then, that many entrepreneurs and small business owners don’t pause long enough in their frenzied development efforts to consider the various ways in which they should take out insurance policies on their physical facilities, intellectual property, and sometimes even their very lives. Developing a new piece of lifesaving medical technology or scaling up a Mom-and-Pop restaurant into a franchise is fun and exciting. Taking out insurance policies is decidedly less sexy.

Regardless, the responsible move for every business owner and visionary is to pause long enough to do the right thing by themselves and the people they work with. In many instances, business insurance is required by law, but most forms are required by common sense. The past few years, if nothing else, have amply demonstrated the inescapable fact that “business as usual” can be wiped out by health scares, the introduction of new regulations, and civil unrest. Business insurance doesn’t cost…it pays.

Your first step is to acknowledge the need and set aside time and a portion of your budget to make it happen. But how much insurance does your business really need? What do most business owners say is the best business insurance? To help answer those questions, it may help to outline the most common types of policies.

General Liability Insurance

We’ve all heard stories about how a business was sued after, for example, a passerby slipped on the sidewalk and suffered serious injuries. In our increasingly litigious society, there are people looking for reasons to sue successful businesses as some sort of easy payday. You owe it to yourself to protect yourself and your employees.

A general liability policy will cover your business against claims that involve physical injuries and property damage that can in any way be attributed to your products or services. Whether a legal claim against your business is frivolous or not is entirely beside the point. You simply cannot count on your good intentions alone.

Commercial Property Insurance

The loss of property in a fire or as a result of theft and vandalism is a category of business insurance you need to be thinking about. If your business is located in a northern temperate zone, you probably know someone who suffered distressing property damage when a water pipe froze or burst.

Commercial property insurance policies can protect your assets in all of these circumstances and more. When disaster strikes, it typically does not announce itself weeks in advance. Making sure you are covered in this category can help you stay in business, relocating if need be, in the event of the unforeseen.

Home-Based Business Insurance

When offices began shutting down in March of 2020, many workers transitioned to their home offices. Caught unprepared, many had to repurpose various portions of their homes to accommodate office work. Over time, supporting equipment — printers, computers, displays, etc. — came into the home piece by piece. As pandemic-related restrictions began to lift, many workers decided to stay put and keep working out of their homes. Some started home-based businesses.

What many home-based workers did not do, given all the frenetic activity, was take the time to give their insurance agent a call. If you took company-owned equipment home during the pandemic, will insurance come to the rescue should someone break in and steal it? Will your employer stand behind you if data is stolen or lost at home? Questions such as these need to have clear, unambiguous answers. If you’re not sure, talk to your agent about home-based business insurance as soon as possible.

Product Liability Insurance

If your business sells a customer a product that is subsequently found to be toxic or cause serious injuries, are you liable? The best legal minds are likely to say “Maybe.” By now, we are all familiar with the story of the lawsuit (and multimillion-dollar award) which led McDonald’s to begin helpfully informing its customers that the coffee they were about to enjoy was “hot.”

People can sue your business for any reason. Once a claim is lodged, anyone within 100 miles of the incident might find their name on a summons. Your products might be the safest, the most reliable, and the best value on planet Earth, but someone will figure out a way to hurt themselves with it. Make sure your business is fully covered against such claims, whether they have merit or not.

Professional Liability Insurance

Similarly, lawsuits can be initiated against businesses that provide professional services. The range of services is quite wide. The company that collects and launders uniforms looks a lot different from the wood-paneled conference room of a financial advisor, but both companies are providing a service that can yield unexpected or unpleasant results. The uniforms get lost in transit. The stock market tanks. Unhappy customers call their attorneys.

Again, your good intentions coupled with a willingness to set things right are not enough. As good and admirable as those values are, your business still needs to take out sufficient coverage in the event that a customer proves to be especially stubborn and unwilling to forgive or compromise. Get your agent to help you assess areas of exposure you may not be seeing.

Business Income Insurance

Business income insurance is similar in structure to a commercial property policy. The primary difference is that a BIC policy views your monthly income as a tangible asset that can be lost through any number of means. As a recent example, many businesses suffered a serious slowdown or total work stoppage once the pandemic of 2020 took hold. Companies that had BIC coverage may not have fully weathered the storm, but they did far better than those who never thought they would need this type of insurance.

When asking about this type of coverage, be sure to get written details on the duration of coverage. Keep the rallying cry of “Two weeks to flatten the curve!” top of mind as you work with your agent to determine how much coverage you will need and (perhaps most importantly) what period of time will be covered under the policy.

6 Practical Steps When Acquiring Business Insurance

Now let’s talk about how you go about deciding what’s right for you.

1. Seek advice from a qualified professional.

It’s entirely possible that you are that rare mix of go-getter entrepreneur and actuarial table master, but most people are not. A seasoned business owner knows when to rely on the expertise of others. Given the downside to encountering circumstances for which you are not covered, it only makes sense to seek out input from insurance experts. You can Google information to begin to educate yourself as to risks, exposure, and appropriate levels of coverage, but business insurance is too important to not schedule at least one face-to-face meeting with your agent.

2. Get at least two opinions as to your risk level.

Let’s assume your agent is a top-notch performer who really knows their stuff. That’s great, but you should still seek out at least one other opinion when it comes to the topic of risk assessment. Think of business insurance as if you were gathering information and picking a doctor prior to open-heart surgery. Lawsuits, natural disasters, pandemics, and the like are capable of performing unwanted “surgery” on your business at a moment’s notice. Make sure you are selecting coverage based on empirical data that will hold up during a claim.

3. Be clear on your geographic service area.

If someone calls your business from a neighboring state and acts on the advice they receive from one of your employees, are you liable should that advice yield damaging results? Both you and your staff need to be 100% clear on the geographic area you serve, whether it’s “friendly neighborhood” level or worldwide. If your company is not insured to conduct its business in an adjacent county, don’t give in to any quick-sale temptations, either.

4. Know your local employment insurance laws.

The downside to not knowing what you don’t know can be huge. Lawsuits from current or former employees can be crippling in terms of time and money even when you win! We all know that ignorance of the law is not a workable defense, so be sure that you and/or your agent are well-versed on requirements before you make your first hire. Regulations change, of course, so make sure someone stays current here.

5. Budget for premium costs.

Most business owners like to spend money on upgrades to their facilities, handing out bonuses, or any number of other things they can see with their eyes. Paying insurance premiums, to many, feels like money down the drain simply because they see no tangible benefit. For those who begrudge this line item in their budgets, it might actually be helpful to post photos of destroyed businesses next to the desk or computer screen where you pay bills. You are buying something, and that something is peace of mind in the face of disaster.

6. Review, review, and review.

Many (perhaps most) business owners and entrepreneurs sign off on their policies, pay the premiums, and shove the paperwork in a dark corner of their facilities. Taking a “one and done” attitude toward business insurance, though, is a serious mistake. We all know that circumstances change rapidly, company value goes up and down, and the only constant is change. Carve out time to regularly review your coverage and make adjustments as needed.

The post Which Types of Business Insurance Should You Purchase? appeared first on Due.

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