Posts Tagged "Project Report"

Learn how to transform pressure into productivity.


5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


“The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.” — William James

In the early days of building my company, the pressure from every direction felt suffocating, and unrelenting. I struggled to stay calm while getting all my work done, and making myself available to my team.

It was a juggling act, and I was perpetually on the verge of dropping the ball. Everything seemed to require my immediate attention, and there just weren’t enough hours in the day. I worried constantly, asking myself, Was I present enough for my staff today? Were last week’s decisions the right ones? Should I be doing even more?

Unsurprisingly, this endless loop of anxiety gave way to moments of panic that hurt my daily performance. Feeling like I wasn’t capable of managing it all became a self-fulfilling prophecy — the more I fretted, the less I accomplished, and so on.

You might assume it’s just tough at the beginning, when you’re starting out. But I can tell you that throughout the years — as we’ve grown from a small startup to a business with over 140 employees and millions of global users —the pressure hasn’t eased up. What has changed is how I react to these demands. I’ve learned that pressure will always be a part of our daily lives, but it doesn’t have to paralyze us. And by harnessing it for good, we can make it work to our advantage.

Related: It’s Called ‘Stress Management’ for a Reason

Pressure is not stress

“To change ourselves effectively, we first had to change our perceptions.” — Stephen R. Covey

We often use stress and pressure interchangeably. But as Nicholas Petrie illustrates perfectly in a story for Harvard Business Review, it’s our perception of stress that matters. “Pressure is not stress,” Petrie writes. “But the former is converted to the latter when you add one ingredient: rumination, the tendency to keep rethinking past or future events, while attaching negative emotion to those thoughts.”In other words, our tendency to overthink is a habit that can easily lead to feelings of overwhelm. When we feel we have too much on our plate, it affects our cognitive abilities because our stress response is always dialed up. It also makes us more prone to getting sick.

But if we can demote our stress to productive pressure, we can find more opportunities to come up with creative ideas, improve our performance, and to adjust our plans in innovative ways. To harness its potential, however, we need to train ourselves to view challenges from a new angle.

Here are some techniques I’ve used over the years to stop the worry cycle.

Adjust your perspective

Many leaders often catastrophize minor setbacks, but it’s important to keep in mind that most of the problems you face today may not matter in three years time, or even next week. When you feel yourself spiraling into negativity, remind yourself of all the ways you’ve resolved difficulties in the past. Even better: Write them down. Listing out your track record of how you’ve overcome challenges can give you the confidence to take action.

Stop living on autopilot

According to Petrie: “Since all rumination happens during this state, the first step is to break out of it.” Taking time to clear out the mental chatter by engaging your senses can help redirect your attention back to “now”and make you feel more in control. Move your body by taking a brisk walk, clap your hands, or concentrate on what you can hear, touch, and smell in the present. The point is to stay mindful of your surroundings.

Decide what’s most important

If you make mountains out of molehills, as the saying goes, you’re classifying small inconveniences as super-important and depleting your emotional resources. Clarity can help us be more productive, and when we can focus our attention on a single task, our mind isn’t racing and can conserve more energy for coming up with solutions. 

Give yourself permission to disconnect

American author Anne Lamott wisely noted, “Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes… Including you.” Any kind of pressure can quickly snowball into stress when you’re bombarded by interruptions. Whether you take time off to go olive-picking in Turkey, as I have — or just switch off all your devices for a few hours each day — taking time to disconnect is vital for your mental wellbeing and overall productivity.

Related: How a Digital Detox Saved My Career

Peace of mind should be your highest goal

Indiegogo founder, Slava Rubin, told The Observer, “To me, my equivalent of meditation is freeing your mind from the overthinking of everyday.”

“If I get turned down by a VC, I shouldn’t let that bother me. It wasn’t a big deal. None of that really matters. You just keep moving forward and look to be a good person and try to improve the world.”

Like Rubin, over two decades of entrepreneurship have taught me many lessons, but one of the most important ones is this: Riding the rollercoaster of worries and demands won’t lead to success. All it will lead to is burnout. 

Instead, build your life and your business around doing good, spending time with loved ones, and living free of fear. Let the rest take care of itself. Or as Sonia Ricotte puts it: “Surrender to what is. Let go of what was. Have faith in what will be.”

Related: How to Manage Stress and Anxiety as an Entrepreneur

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Take the next big step in launching or scaling your consulting business.


9 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


In my previous article How to Start a Consulting Business: Get Ready to Launch I detailed the need to get clear on who you want to help, and exactly how you’ll do so. Soon, we’ll answer the (hopefully) million-dollar questions: “How much should I charge?” When I first started my consulting business in 2015, nearly every prospect I talked to signed on to work with me. Why? Because I wasn’t charging enough. One client literally said, “I’ll gladly pay that rate”. Now, people shouldn’t hate paying you, but that was certainly a red flag on my end. 

But before determining your consulting rate, you need to establish your business model. In his book, The New, New Thing, financial journalist Michael Lewis eloquently describes what a business model is: “All it really meant was how you planned to make money.” I remember a few more details picked up while attending business school at the University at Buffalo, but that sounds about right. 

As a consultant, you have a number of options. I’ll explain these while also discussing the pros and cons of each. Take your time with this. We’ll get to pricing soon, but you need to establish a solid business strategy first. 

Related: Writing Flexibility Into Your Business Model Can Save Your Company

The time-based model

This one is pretty common and straightforward. Your rate and scope of work are determined at the outset. You can choose to have an hourly rate or a day rate, which is often referred to as a per diem. 

Pros

You get paid for each hour of actual work. In the other models we’ll discuss, a fixed rate is established, no matter how long it takes you. It can sometimes be challenging to predict the amount of time it will take to address your client’s needs, so this model protects you from underbidding. 

Cons

However, this also requires detailed record-keeping. At my previous job, I had to detail my work in 15-minute increments. This was tedious and time-consuming since I had to write it in a way that my clients would understand. Beyond that, clients may ask why something took so long. You may end up explaining why you had to research one thing or another before coming to a conclusion, which eats up even more of your time. Lastly, you may feel like you always need to be doing something. Otherwise, you’re not making money. This can easily make you feel anxious while also causing you to neglect your health and personal interests. 

Another drawback is the challenges associated with projecting revenue. When doing hourly work your revenue is more likely to fluctuate since you don’t have locked-in agreements. This can result in you constantly feeling like you need to attract more business. 

For example, let’s say you want to make $100k/yr before taxes. If you charge $100/hr, you need to book 1,000 per year, or roughly 20 billable hours per week. That doesn’t leave much time for prospecting, administrative work, eating lunch or taking care of yourself in general. 

As you’ve probably guessed by now, I’m not a fan of hourly work. However, I do suggest offering this as an option for people who want your services on a one-off basis. I just wouldn’t plan on having the bulk of my revenue come from this model. If you choose to offer remote consulting at an hourly rate, consider using a platform like Yondo, which allows clients to book and pay for your time. This is the platform used for Entrepreneur’s Ask an Expert platform. 

Related: Business Transformation: Here’s How Remote Working is Transforming the Work Environment

The project-based model

With a project-based model, you agree to perform a specific type of work for a predetermined amount of money. Before starting, the details of all deliverables will be agreed upon by both parties. 

Pros

An advantage of this approach is that you can focus on providing value as opposed to watching the clock. You’ll also have more predictable income since this revenue is more or less locked in once the contract is signed. Let’s say your average project brings in $5,000. If you wanted to make $100,000 per year before taxes, you only need to obtain 20 clients per year or five per quarter. 

Cons

One of the drawbacks is underestimating the amount of time it will take to complete a project. Years ago, a project I worked on took way longer than expected because the client couldn’t remember the password to one of their accounts, and the recovery email was associated with an intern who was no longer with the company. Apparently the intern was turned down for a job at this company so things got really awkward, really quick. 

Another drawback is “scope creep”. This is when a client keeps adding more tasks that weren’t outlined in the original contract. This often happens unintentionally. As clients learn more about you and your work, they may discover add-ons that didn’t come to mind during the original scoping conversation. Over time, you’ll get better at protecting yourself from this by creating more detailed contracts. When scope creep does come up, just inform your client this would be an extra line item which comes with additional charges. 

Related: 4 Product Management Mistakes That Will Drive You Crazy

The retainer-based model

This involves providing ongoing or as-needed service over a set period of time. Unlike the project model, this approach doesn’t necessarily involve a specific deliverable. 

I often work on a retainer model for clients who want to have access to me in case anything comes up. For example, a particularly challenging business opportunity, or a second set of eyes on a proposal. I’ve also received calls and texts that need an immediate answer. I’m happy to be that go-to resource but it would be challenging to individually charge for a text that took me 30 seconds to send. 

Pros

For the client, a retainer model is almost like a safety net. At any given moment, they know there’s a knowledgeable resource available who already has background information on their company. For consultants, retainers provide a predictable source of income, which may be passive during slower periods. This allows you to focus more on business development and other areas of impact. 

Cons

One drawback is not being able to charge as much as you would for a defined project. You may also feel awkward getting paid when you clearly haven’t done much that month. When this happens, resist the urge to manually adjust your fees based on how much work you’ve done during that time period. You may quickly end up charging hourly rates instead. Inversely, you’ll still have to keep an eye out for scope creep and make adjustments as needed. For example, determining what days/times you’re available to respond.  

Related: This Payment Model Will Keep Clients Satisfied and Bank Accounts Full

The consulting firm model

Another option is to go with a consulting firm model. In this situation, you hire freelancers or employees to complete work on your behalf. You still own the relationship with the client, but you have a team that handles some or all of the work. 

Anna Vatuone, a personal branding strategist, helps entrepreneurs and executives build their brands. To properly achieve this goal, many of her clients need a website built for them. Anna initially provided this service as well before hiring and training an employee to complete this process. Although she still drives the strategy and content creation, she can leave the nuts and bolts work to a trusted professional. This allows her to spend more one on one time with her clients, while still meeting their needs.  

Pros

The consulting firm model gives you a great deal of leverage. You can charge a client $2,000 for a project, then pay a team member $1,000 to complete a large portion of it. This model also allows you to expand the scope of your offering.

Cons

The downside, you need to make sure you’re still profitable after paying your employees. Imagine an unexpected hiccup occurs and the team member you were going to pay $1,000 to complete that task now needs $1,500? You’ll need to be highly skilled at project management to avoid these fiascos. Beyond that, your reputation is on the line so you want to make anyone representing you delivers on your promises. It can be challenging not to micromanage, which can have a negative impact on morale. 

If you became an independent consultant to avoid the challenges associated with managing others, this may not be the right option for you. 

Related: 8 Mistakes to Avoid When Naming Your Business

Next steps

Determine your business model. Research other professionals who are offering the same or similar service. This will also help you get a head start on determining your fee, which we’ll cover next week. Also, consider the model most aligned with your personal preferences and lifestyle. While a consulting firm model allows you to scale, you’ll also need to spend more time with management and administrative-related duties. Take advantage of this opportunity to build your business around your life, as opposed to the other way around. 

If you need any help, I’m available for remote consulting on Entrepreneur’s Ask an Expert platform. Be sure to follow along on Instagram as well. 



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The newest release from Apple continues to redefine true wireless listening and on sale.


2 min read

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


If you feel like you see those little white wireless earbuds in people’s ears everywhere you go, you’re right. Apple’s AirPods revolutionized wireless listening tech and they’ve inspired a glut of imitations and high-quality competitors. However, with the release of the upgraded AirPods Pro, Apple has once again vaulted ahead of the pack in the wireless listening game.

For busy entrepreneurs who are always on the go, you can’t do much better than AirPods Pro. To sweeten your decision, they are currently price dropped on Amazon

Active Noise Cancellation

Active Noise Cancellation

Image credit:
Amazon

A new feature in the AirPods Pro, active noise cancellation helps set them apart from competitors. Whether you’re listening to your favorite business podcast while on the train or taking an important call while walking to the office, active noise cancellation ensures all distractions are blocked out so you can focus on your audio. Nobody wants to be the person who asks clients to constantly repeat themselves and, with noise cancellation, you won’t have to be.

Water-Resistant

Water-Resistant

Image credit:
Amazon

You may be used to controlling all aspects of your business but you can’t control the weather. AirPods Pro are water-resistant, making them suitable for all weather wear so you don’t have to disconnect while you’re walking in the rain. That also makes them great for using at the gym.

Siri-Enabled

Siri-Enabled

Image credit:
Amazon

While your personal assistant may do a lot for you, you can’t have him or her with you all the time. You do have Siri, however, and with the AirPods Pro, you can ask Siri to add events to your calendar, issue reminders, make calls on your iPhone, and much more just by saying her name. You don’t even have to take the AirPods out of your ears.

AirPods Pro are redefining the true wireless listening game and are a great asset for busy entrepreneurs. Grab a pair today price dropped on Amazon!

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2 min read


This story originally appeared on Endgadget

Toyota just invested $349 million in the flying taxi startup Joby Aviation. The two companies say they will work together, Joby sharing its all-electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) expertise and Toyota lending its knowledge of manufacturing, quality and cost controls to the development and production of Joby’s future aircraft.

“Air transportation has been a long-term goal for Toyota, and while we continue our work in the automobile business, this agreement sets our sights to the sky,” Toyota Motor Corporation President and CEO Akio Toyoda said in a press release. As part of the deal, Toyota Motor Corp. Executive Vice President Shigeki Tomoyama will join Joby’s board of directors.

Toyota’s investment was part of a Series C financing round, in which Joby raised $590 million. Past investors have included Intel Capital, JetBlue Technology Ventures and Toyota AI Ventures.

Toyota isn’t the only automaker eyeing the skies. Hyundai is working on a flying taxi concept with Uber and has hired a NASA engineer to run its “flying car” division. Geely (the Chinese automotive group which manufactures Volvo and Lotus cars) and Daimler have both invested in Volocopter, and Rolls-Royce has its own eVTOL concept.

Joby’s aircraft is a piloted, five-seat eVTOL, with a max speed of 200 miles per hour and a range of over 150 miles on a single charge. According to the company, it is 100 times quieter than conventional aircraft during takeoff and landing and “near-silent” when flying overhead. Additional details about the prototype aircraft and production plans will be announced later, Joby and Toyota said today.

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Get familiar with the world’s leading photo editing software for less than the cost of a movie ticket.


2 min read

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


Looking for a creative career change? Graphic designers are in greater demand than ever as brands get more creative to differentiate themselves in a supersaturated market. As such, designers and photographers enjoy unparalleled flexibility while still commanding a great paycheck.

Joining their ranks doesn’t mean enrolling in art school, though—you just have to learn the tools of the trade. The Photoshop Master: From Beginner to Photoshop Pro can get you started, and it will only cost you about as much as your usual lunch order, just $11.99 today.

This four-hour course takes you on a deep dive into the world’s leading photo editing software, Adobe Photoshop. It’s a step-by-step guide to mastering the most important tools and functions so you can edit photos, design layouts, create designs for web pages, and much more. You’ll discover how to customize the program’s layout and feel comfortable navigating through the Photoshop interface before graduating into a basic retouching section. From there, you’ll delve into more advanced concepts like creating web files, cutting objects, and working with functions and other advanced tools.

It’s an A-to-Z guide to working with the world’s leading photo editor boiled down into just four hours of instruction. Normally $200, Photoshop Master: From Beginner to Photoshop Pro is on sale now for just $11.99.

While making important decision of your business, Don’t take a chance. Trust only expert.

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Kate Volman outlines two methods to strengthen your creation and pursuit of goals.


2 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


In this video, Entrepreneur Network partner Kate Volman explains how to achieve your goals. It’s often easy to articulate dream up big goals, but it is harder to achieve them. It is common for people to hold onto one particular goal for years just because they did not have the time and focus to tackle it.

Drawing upon the book, The Culture Solution by Matthew Kelly, Volman points to two problems that make it difficult to achieve our goals. They are:

  1. Lack of clearly defined goals. In the face of unclear timelines and expectations, any well-intentioned goal has no chance. Make sure your goals are thoughtful and measured against some sort of timely deadline. 
  2. No accountability partner. Without an individual to keep you focused and striving, your goals will fall to the wayside. Consider reaching out to a trusted friend, mentor or hired coach to help you stay productive. 

Click the video to hear more about achieving goals from Kate Volman. 

Related: What Seth Meyers’ Teamwork Skills Can Teach You About Being a Leader

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2 min read


This story originally appeared on Engadget

Seems like everybody’s getting into the AI and robotics game — at least the companies and research institutions that can afford to build their platforms from the ground up are. France’s Pollen Robotics, on the other hand, aims to kickstart the robotics revolution with its open-source system, Reachy.

We took a look at Reachy during the Unveiled event at CES 2020, where I challenged — and beat — the robot at a game of tic-tac-toe. However, the robot, being open-source, is capable of so much more. Developers can use Python to create myriad applications for the system, while the robot’s modular nature allows for any number of applications whether that’s food service, customer service, demonstrations or good old fashioned research and development. The system comes with built-in AI which should help developers jump straight into the meat of their research without first having to train up the machine learning component.

Related: What Every Entrepreneur Must Know About Artificial Intelligence

Reachy’s arms are biologically inspired with 7 degrees freedom of movement and can be equipped with a number of manipulators from grabby clamps to five-fingered humanoid hands. The company forewent a Wall-E-esque emotive display in favor of a specialized neck joint that allows the robot’s head to swivel, pan and tilt in a surprisingly human manner.

But even though Reachy is open source, its price tag puts it well out of reach of most hobbyists’ budgets. The basic single-arm version will set you back $9,000 while the top-of-the-line double-arm-and-a-head version will cost around $17,000. The company hopes to have its first batch of Reachy’s (all 15 of them) ready to ship in the near future.

While making important decision of your business, Don’t take a chance. Trust only expert.

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Perfect your posture to increase your focus and strengthen your core.


1 min read

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


When you spend all day at a desk, chances are your posture will suffer. Unfortunately, that can cause myriad problems, from back pain to decreased focus. You may not think about it actively, but your posture is crucially important to your mental and physical health. Don’t let it slip, train yourself for better posture with UPRIGHT GO 2™

UPRIGHT GO 2™ is a tiny smart trainer that fits comfortably on your spine and vibrates when you slouch, reminding you to correct your posture. It’s a simple, painless solution that helps you straighten up and stay that way. With the free companion app, you can track how frequently you slouch and build a personalized posture plan based on your progress. Whether you choose to attach the device to your skin or connected to the separate necklace, you’ll hardly even notice you’re wearing it until you begin to slouch. Thanks to the 30-hour battery life, you can train your muscles over time while building upper back and core strength to perfect your posture and keep it perfect.

Straighten up! Normally $99.95, the UPRIGHT GO 2™ is on sale for 10 percent off now at just $89.

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The Entrepreneur staff share their favorite books of the year.


5 min read


Here are some of the best books that kept our staffers informed and entertained this year. If you’re looking for a new way to think about business — or an escape from thinking about business! — here are some great recommendations.

‘Alchemy: The Dark Art and Curious Science of Creating Magic in Brands, Business, and Life’ by Rory Sutherland

Rory Sutherland, the legendary Vice Chairman of Ogilvy, uses his decades of experience to dissect human spending behavior in an insanely entertaining way. Alchemy combines scientific research with hilarious stories and case studies of campaigns for AmEx, Microsoft and the like. This is a must-read for entrepreneurs who are hoping to connect with an audience.

— Andrea Hardalo, Social Media Editor

‘Very Modern Mantras: Daily Affirmations for Daily Aggravations’ by Dan Zevin

If other people’s fabulous Instagram accounts kind of make you hope the amazing dessert they just posted gives them food poisoning, this might be the book for you. Humor writer Dan Zevin’s Very Modern Mantras: Daily Affirmations for Daily Aggravations is a hilarious guide for navigating all of the things in life that make us batty — from cracked phones to co-workers who come to work no matter how sick they are to food deliveries of ice-cold pizza. This made me laugh and relieved to know I’m not the only person barely hanging onto my sanity.

— Dan Bova, Digital Editorial Director

​​​​​​​’Bored, Lonely, Angry, Stupid’ by Luke Fernandez and Susan J. Matt

We take some things for granted today—that selfies make us narcissistic, that social media can make us lonely, and so on. This book adds much-needed historical perspective to these knee-jerk fears, by examining how our emotions have been expressed over time, and how they’ve been impacted by new technologies along the way. For example: Long before Twitter, people gathered in rooms for “indignation meetings” to vent their anger! Long before selfies, mirrors and handwritten letters changed the way we talked about vanity! (I interviewed the authors about that for this podcast.) The truth is, we aren’t witnessing massive change today: We’re just seeing the next stage of a constant evolution. Bored, Lonely, Angry, Stupid is a must-read for entrepreneurs—because entrepreneurs are agents of change, and cannot succumb to fear of the new.

—Jason Feifer, Editor in Chief

‘Thick’ by Tressie McMillan Cottom

If you aren’t following Dr. Tressie McMillan Cottom on social media, you should be. As a noted professor of sociology, she speaks truth to power on issues of race, gender, capitalism and how they all intersect, overlap and inform how we move through the world. Thick magically combines personal narrative, humor, candor and research to create the perfect storm of essays. This book demands your attention to the lived experience of black women while inviting you to explore your own place in the systems we contribute to and often benefit from. As entrepreneurs who help craft the consumer landscape, that’s an important discussion we should listen to, take part in and not shy away from — and Thick should be required reading.

—Jennifer Dorsey, Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Press

‘The Making of a Manager’ by Julie Zheng

This was a wonderful book that really was more of a conversation and less of a how-to. Zhuo shares her own experiences (both pitfalls and successes) at a major company with readers who may be struggling with their management role. The biggest takeaway for me was the “do this, not that” or reframing of communication with team members. I recommend this book to anyone who’s just been promoted to managing people. Because, real talk, it is hard and there is no such thing as a natural-born manager. (Prove me wrong, I’ll wait.)

— Vanessa Campos, Sales and Marketing Director of Entrepreneur Press

‘Catch and Kill’ by Ronan Farrow

I’ve been reading Ronan Farrow’s Catch and Kill, a riveting look about the reporting that exposed Harvey Weinstein and the system that tried to stop it. It’s gripping, and it’s an important read for anyone in this day and age. Plus, it’s an example of great writing that takes you on a journey. 

— Hayden Field, Associate Editor

‘Age of Legend’ by Michael J. Sullivan and ‘The Burning White’ by Brent Weeks

These are fantasy books, not business books, and I can’t say the plot or characters will teach you much about how to grow your startup or improve your social media following. However, I’m fascinated with the work it takes to complete a massive project like writing a novel, and the contrasting stories behind how these books were made can offer lessons on creating a workflow. 

Sullivan’s book is part of a larger and, importantly, pre-written series. He had drafts of all six books in the series before he published the first one, and the next two already have announced publication dates. Weeks, meanwhile, clearly didn’t have it all figured out to start — what was originally meant to be a trilogy eventually became a five-book series, unfolding over the entirety of the 2010s. 

Regardless, both authors eventually reached their goals. The Burning White was the finale in Weeks’s epic series, and Sullivan’s will conclude in 2020. So, whether you’re a planner or more of a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants type, you can finish that big project of yours, too.

— Matt McCreary, Associate Editor



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JAKK Media Managing Partner Kenny Kline shares the process behind his versatility and profitability.


4 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


Because success in one industry doesn’t necessarily translate to success in another, it’s unusual when founders like JAKK Media’s Managing Partner Kenny Kline find it in four. His company is involved in running media brands in niches ranging from physical health to home security. Between all of its platforms, his company’s content reaches millions of people each month.

To learn about how he and his team established their various footholds, I spoke with Kline to discuss his approach to business and what strategies he finds to be most useful in engaging users. Here are four principles that Kline has leveraged to make it all work.

1. Focus on sustainability.

There’s no easy path to profitability — no shortcuts to the finish line. The best method of securing your company’s future is by prioritizing value creation. In doing this, you have to invest in the quality of your products, rather than chasing the promise of increased traction for a given month. While a growth hack might give you a taste of short-term success, focusing on your company’s sustainability will protect its future. This is to say that businesses have to survive in perpetuity, and a viable business strategy must consider how best to achieve long-term sustainability.  

Related: How These Entrepreneurs Under 20 Are Changing Industries

According to Kline, “There are always changes in algorithms, changes in consumer behavior, changes in platform.” Because this makes various growth hacks unreliable in the long run, providing the most value to customers is what best increases your chances of success. When thinking about web traffic, Kline describes Google’s algorithm as volatile, but says what makes a more significant difference than any SEO tactics is putting out content that people actually value.

2. Invest in building communities.

In thinking about how the Google algorithm has changed over time, Kline developed a particular interest in his brand’s digital ecosystem. Noting the decreasing organic reach of sites like Facebook and Instagram, he began to reconsider how best to cultivate a community around his business. 

For him, this involved two things. The first is having, as he puts it, a “focus on mobile experience.” For JAKK media, the majority of web traffic comes via mobile devices, and so not only does this mean there is a great importance in “making sure that your [mobile] site is fast”, says Kline, but moreover that the integration of share buttons for any social-media platform can significantly increase your business’s reach. And, if applicable, your chances at virality.

Giving users the opportunity to participate in expanding your company’s reach through their own organic networks can be an effective way of reaching individuals who would not have otherwise come across it. Moreover, giving users the chance to engage with your company on social media — or simply advocate for it — develops a sense of loyalty integral to creating an online community.

3. Humanize your business.

In conducting business, Kline has adopted an outlook that focuses on people. A dedication to responsiveness and an aim for interactivity and engagement is the foundation for the online community he’s trying to cultivate. As Kline sees it, businesses should “respond to comments, engage on social, respond to emails and create a dialogue on platforms where readers and viewers are already interacting with your content.” Aside from helping “users feel like there are real people behind brands,” Kline says that these kinds of interactions build trust and bring about what he calls “super readers” who, in enjoying JAKK media’s content, “feel especially looped into it.”

This focus on people, however, is more than external. In the context of dealing with internal issues, partners and contractors, Kline says that, whenever possible, businesses should aim “to be kind and reasonable.”

Related: How to Diversify Your Customer Base and Grow Your Business

4. Ask your customers what they want.

Kline’s people-focused approach to conducting business involves an often-underutilized tactic to finding out what his customers want: asking them directly. Keeping an open line to your consumers and seeking out the platforms they use is the most effective way of finding out what they want first-hand. 

More than anything else, if you want your consumers to develop brand loyalty and advocate for you online, there has to be a degree of mutualism. By actively seeking to give consumers the content or products they desire, you can sustain your value proposition while actively involving your consumer base in your company’s output process.

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