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Monthly Archives: August 2013

13 Inspiring Business Travel Destinations

Q. What’s the most inspiring place you have ever traveled to or resided in for business and why?

The following answers are provided by the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.

1. Sedona

The Red Rocks in Sedona, Ariz. are breathtakingly beautiful, but unlike other high desert areas, it’s lush, green, and you can always go and dip your toes in the creek running through the town. Sedona is peaceful and relaxing, and the physical space equals mental space. It gives me room to breathe and plot out the next steps for my companies.

2. China

When I first came to China in 2008, I realized why more and more people were interested in this country. It felt like the USA in the 1950s and ’60s. My entrepreneurial spirit was inspired by talking to the locals about business and how they came from nothing to selling anything they could to provide a better lifestyle for their family. It was the perfect place to inspire me.
– Derek CapoNext Step China

3. Tanzania

There are a lot of great cities in which entrepreneurs should hang out, and each place inspires me in a different way. Visiting Tanzania stands out in my mind because it changed my perspective on running my business. It taught me that creativity is more valuable than any currency and that throwing money at problems simply doesn’t work.
– Natalie MacNeilShe Takes on the World

4. Sagres

In the 1400s, Sagres, Portugal was believed to be the end point of the world. I got inspiration from Sagres when looking out into the endless blue sea. I thought of how people back then believed that the world was flat, and you’d die if you sailed beyond a certain point. Then, one day, an explorer ventured beyond that point and discovered the rest of the world. That’s entrepreneurship.
– Brett FarmiloeDigital Marketing Agency

5. Macau

The culture in Macau is diverse, and the people have an amazing sense of practicality, survival and ingenuity. My time there was truly an inspirational experience.
– Andrew SchrageMoney Crashers Personal Finance

6. New York City

The business hustle and creativity in the city is astounding. From the Garment District to Williamsburg to Startup Alley to Wall Street, all the art, fashion, entertainment, technology and culture in New York City inspires me. Every day there are opportunities to take and passionate people who are working hard to make dreams into realities.
– Doreen BlochPoshly Inc.

7. Cambodia

There were a lot of dirt roads, open space and bare land. There was also a lot of poverty there, but every person was working extremely hard to create his own success. It was extremely inspiring.
– Michael PatakTopstepTrader

8. The Bay Area

I know it’s cliché, but for me, the Bay Area (Silicon Valley and San Francisco) is just so inspiring. There are a ton of new potential startup hubs popping up (D.C. is one of the best, according to Forbes), and that’s great to see. But there’s just something in the water of the Bay, where you can’t help but overhear entrepreneurs planning new startups and global domination. I love it.
– Danny BoiceSpeek

9. South Africa

I traveled to South Africa with Richard Branson and a group of extremely successful entrepreneurs. We masterminded with each other, mentored budding entrepreneurs in Johannesburg, visited local nonprofits and even got to stay in Richard’s high-end game reserve to go on safari. It was life-changing to be able to learn firsthand from one of the most innovative business minds in the world.
– Laura RoederLKR Social Media

10. Paris

The city of lights just lights me up. It’s not a business hub in the same way that the Silicon Valley is, but that’s not why I go there. I don’t visit Paris to network with other entrepreneurs; I go to be inspired and awed by its beauty, history, culture and endless French allure. When I leave, I take this light with me and use it to inspire my work back home.
– David EhrenbergEarly Growth Financial Services

11. Singapore

Business inspiration comes when you’re challenged by new or different problems than you would face in your own culture. Helping companies with talent strategies in the States is completely different from Singapore, where unemployment is 1.5 percent and leave notice isn’t two weeks — it’s two months. It forces our business to think about how to solve client problems differently.
– Susan Strayer LaMotteexaqueo

12. Taiwan

Everyone’s an entrepreneur in Taiwan. Malls and chain restaurants are still a relatively new concept there. They still have mom and pop shops and restaurants on every corner. It’s inspiring to see how hard people work on their small businesses. Taiwanese people are incredibly creative and hardworking. It’s doesn’t hurt that the economy (and food) are both excellent.
– Mitch GordonGo Overseas

13. Zürich

Nestled amid the Alps, it’s hard to deny the efficiency and sophistication of this Swiss city. With prestigious universities such as ETH Zürich, which draw the likes of Disney’s Imagineering’s Research and Development group, Zürich is innovative and savvy.
– Melissa PickeringiCreate to Educate

Close Facebook & Get Back to Work: 4 Tips To Increase Productivity

Life gets busy. Really busy. For the past 3 months I have graduated from College, worked as a Marketing Intern at PepsiCo, and grown as co- founder of a social-networking startup called Hinow, with already a 1st place in a startup contest. Oh, and I got engaged (yes, she is the most beautiful woman in the world). For 3 months, I have been busy for 14 hours a day, 6 days a week. Enough of “me, myself and I” and let’s read how you can improve your productivity and conquer the world. Reading this article will not make you better. Putting it into action everyday, will.

1. Organize your calendar

It all starts with knowing where you are, scheduling your agenda and always structuring time allocation. Your personal and professional commitments, deadlines, projects, follow- ups and everything else should be well registered. Also take in consideration the tasks that arise, either small or big, and keep track of them. My main example on this subject is my father: ask him what he did in the first weekend of March 1985. He will go straight into the garage, pick up the 1985 notebook and describe what happened that day. Amazing.

– tech-savy crowd: set up a Google or iCloud calendar across your smartphone and laptop and always rely on your agenda and reminders apps
– paper-savy crowd: buy a good notebook with weekly calendar and reminder section
– update and refresh your calendar constantly so to release your mind to what matters
– do not over-organize with multiple apps or too many records to keep, as that will be counterproductive. It is the so-called false-productivity trap. Keep it simple

2. Work is work, cognac is cognac

(Portuguese expression that settles the difference between work and fun. Really good to impress white-collar circles)

Every single person has its own work flow and balance between working hours and break- taking. I have recently watched the film “The Internship” and it proved my point. Even in a workspace like Google, where free-time, having fun, creating relationships and napping are encouraged, people work really hard. Take my advice and clearly separate work from everything else. When working be working. Dedicate your whole self to it and do not let social networking, NBA free agency nor fashion blogs interrupt you. This way, you will be more productive when you are on the clock and relax more on spare times.

– focus on what you are doing
– close those non-related tabs, don’t let your mind travel – reward yourself with pleasant free time
– install Pocket and save interesting articles for later

3. Post-it it

Take good note of the I-will-not-forget-this-so-no-need-to-write-down variety. Remember that epic scene from “Bruce Almighty” where he handled worldwide prayers with post-its? Copy that. Life is made of details, small pieces of information that make a huge difference. Don’t assume you can remember everything you hear – you can’t. Small tips from your boss, tasks from colleagues, sudden thoughts and messages may be really useful, and the way you handle them will affect your productivity. Deeply.

– tech-savy crowd: Reminders App, Evernote, Wunderlist, Notability… – paper-savy friends: p-o-s-t-i-t!
– write the present to future memory
– pay attention to details

4. Do not procrastinate. Never. Ever. Ever. Ever.

Answer to emails. Handle tough clients. Right away. Don’t let problems and tasks pile up. Be ready to do things you don’t like first and then enjoy doing the ones you love. Start tasks earlier, create a habit of finishing projects sooner, invest quality time in projects, allow your full potential to be unleashed. Take advantage of working hours to be really productive. Learn to say ‘yes’ when your mind says ‘no’.

– answer to emails, do small tasks as soon as they arrive as long as they are useful or mandatory
– start from the tasks you dislike
– invest quality time in projects
– get used to finish before the deadline
– build a culture of excellence, where you expect more from you than anyone else

May you follow the small tips and the mindset-changing advices above-mentioned. Be bold, work hard, invest and dedicate time to projects and tasks that matter and are relevant. Don’t waste work time over-organizing, surfing the web nor performing useless tasks.

I’m cheering for you. If you need any further tip or best practice, do not hesitate on contacting me through twitter or comment below. Feedback on the article would be much appreciated.

Francisco Cabral is a co-founder of the Lisbon-native location-based social network startup hinow, Marketing Trainee at PepsicCo and student of Management at NOVA School of Business & Economics. You can follow him on twitter @francicocabral

5 Lessons Learned From Firing My First Client

Earlier this year, I had the displeasure of having to part ways with a client. While it cost me some money, the lessons I learned from letting the client go are priceless. This was the first and only client that I ever made the decision to stop working with, and I’m hoping that I never have to do it again. I won’t reveal the name of the client for obvious reasons. For the purposes of this article, I’ll just refer to them as Company X.

1: Don’t underestimate your value

When I initially started off as a freelance writer, I wrote for next to nothing. I figured I had to earn my stripes and build up my reputation before I could start charging the prices I actually deserved. Also, I had always done freelance writing in addition to a regular 9-5 so the money wasn’t a huge issue in the beginning.

However, after I began working with Company X, I soon realized that the value I was bringing to the table far outweighed the amount of money I was charging. Now before I take on a job or quote a price, I thoroughly examine the value I am contributing. When you know how much value you offer and can clearly explain it to a client, they should have no problem paying what you’re worth. Company X didn’t see it that way, which is one of the reasons I had to let them go.

10 Innovators Who Did More Drugs Than You Read

Stephen King

With certain writers it can be a little obvious, I’m sure right now you’re saying, “really?”, but if we take a look at the numbers its not all that surprising. King has published 50 novels and almost 200 short stories  which includes novellas, poetry, and screenplays. The publishing of his works started when he was 12 years old with a short story entitled, “Land of 1,000,000 Years Ago”. If we do the math that means completing the publication process for about 5 pieces every year; it doesn’t sound like a lot but publishing is far from a fast process. This kind of productivity can only be explained by one thing and one thing only, cocaine! King was so coked out that he acknowledged in On Writing in 2000, that he can barely recall writing Cujo.  But of course to counteract his extreme cocaine usage, King dabbled in some downers as well like Xanax and Valium.


John C. Lily

Lily was a pioneer in the field of interspecies communication between dolphins and humans and contributed heavily to the notion that they possess a nonhuman intelligence. He created an isolation tank to test the hypothesis that if all stimuli are cut off from the brain, then the brain would go to sleep. Through experiments in the isolation tank, Lily delved into the realm of the human consciousness and all that can be achieved through a deep meditative state. In order to dive deeper into his consciousness Lily used the help of everybody’s favorite hallucinogen, LSD, relatively frequently during his experiments in the isolation tank and during his work with dolphins. But he claims to only have dropped acid (and the occasional ketamine dose) during his experiments that took place before the illegalization of those drugs; sure John, we believe you.


Sigmund Freud

The father of psychoanalysis and tons of other psychological concepts that are commonplace in our society, would have been a different man if it weren’t for a heavy coke habit. Freud regularly self-medicated, taking small doses of blow to manage his indigestion and depression. Freud even wrote essentially an ode to cocaine in his essay “Über Coca”, where he hoped that through this essay’s explanations, he would help the drug win a place in therapeutics with the likes of morphine and other widely used drugs at the time.

You Might Be Looking For Success If…

This post will help you lead, identify with, or better market to these small business owners. And hey if you’re an entrepreneur yourself…well you totally get it!

You Might Be Looking For Success If…

• You can’t stop checking your phone even if it requires waking up in the middle of night
• You attend networking events on a weekly basis
• Working out is a part of your daily regimen

• You become addicted to coffee and Red bull gives you wings
• Pulling all-nighters becomes a habit
• Traveling becomes a part of your lifestyle
• Doing what YOU want is your #1 priority
• Everything you own fits in a suitcase

• You have more ideas then time
• You have more social media accounts then you can possibly update
• You’re willing to sacrifice your relationships to build a business
• You always negotiate the price
• You outsource your to-do-list

The ABCs of Blogging: 26 Tips To Inspire Your Best Post


Grab the attention of readers by crafting a thoughtful (and even witty) title for your posts. The best titles are those written after the post has already been written.

Break Out

As long as you continue looking within the blogosphere for ideas and creativity, you’re limiting yourself. The best posts are inspired from real life. Read magazines, talk to friends, see a movie, get out in the real world and live. You’ll be surprised by what sparks your best ideas.


Find creative ways to reinforce your point, whether its through the use of analogies, metaphors, imagery, or supplemented with images or infographics.


Show, don’t tell. People are attracted to posts that show you’ve done something or that you can provide testimonials and first-hand experience on something. They can’t, however, relate to a person who’s never been sky-diving to tell you why you should go sky-diving.

4 Strategies for Learning Anything in 20 Hours or Less

How long does it take to learn a new skill? Not as long as you probably think.

Most people have heard of the “10,000 hour rule” – popularized by Malcolm Gladwell in the book Outliers – the idea that it takes at least 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to master a skill. Based on research by Dr. K. Anders Ericsson, the “rule” is valid, as far as it goes. If you want to step on a golf course and seriously compete with Tiger Woods, that’s what you’re in for.

Here’s the problem with the “10,000 hour rule”: it doesn’t apply to the types of skill acquisition most people undertake. Aside from competitors in very narrow, ultra-competitive performance fields like sports, chess, and music, it’s way more common for people to decide to learn something for certain benefits: business success, personal interest, or enjoyment. You and I are playing a different game, so we can play by different rules.

In my new book, The First 20 Hours: How to Learn Anything Fast, I explain how you can learn any new skill in less than 20 hours of deliberate practice – that’s around 45 minutes a day for about a month. Here are a few tips for how to structure those 20 hours:

Decide What You Want

Most people have a very fuzzy idea of what they want to be able to do. Setting a “target performance level” helps you focus on practicing in a way that will help you get better results immediately. Targets like “learn to speak Italian” aren’t enough: think “book hotels and order meals in Italian while traveling” instead. The more specific and concrete your target is, the more useful it will be.


Most of skills we think of are actually comprised of smaller skills. For maximum efficiency, break the new skill apart and practice the most important sub-skills first. For example, you can learn to play hundreds of chords on a guitar or piano, but you can play the most of songs using only 3-6 common chords, so learn the most-often-used chords first.


As a society, we are excellent at filling our days with distractions. Between phones, computers, television, and the internet, it’s difficult to find time and attention to concentrate. Use a bit of willpower to eliminate these barriers to practice and you’ll greatly increase the likelihood of actually sitting down and dedicating focused time to practicing. Make a conscious effort to turn off your phone, close the computer, and focus singularly on the skill in front of you.


A bit of research will help you to identify and correct missteps as you practice, As you practice, you’ll get better at noticing when you’re making a mistake, allowing you to correct it. Find 3 to 5 resources about what you want to learn, and browse them quickly, looking for important ideas, terms, and techniques. But be wary; research can quickly become a sneaky form of procrastination. Research just enough to jump in and get your hands dirty, then sit down to practice.

Practice For At Least 20 Hours

The biggest barrier to skill acquisition is emotional, not psychological. By setting an attainable goal of 20 hours, you are committing to pushing through any initial feelings of frustration or incompetence. Pre-committing before you start makes it more likely you’ll persist long enough to get results.

There’s no substitute for focused, deliberate practice, but these principles can help you get the best results from the time you invest. Decide what you want to be able to do, do a bit of research, remove barriers, make time for practice, and jump in.

You’ll be good before you know it.

To find out more about how to learn new skills quickly, check out my book, The First 20 Hours, and tune in to my creativeLIVE workshop, The Personal MBA: Getting Results.

Josh Kaufman is a business professor, advisor, and best-selling author of The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business and theThe First 20 Hours: Mastering the Toughest Part of Learning Anything.

Host a Conference, No Matter Your Budget or Size

Venue. Speakers. Catering. Drink tickets. Hosting a conference comes with a price, and many business leaders make the mistake of thinking their companies are too small or too new to benefit from hosting an industry event.

However, a conference can provide value for companies of all sizes and in all stages. Customers will have the opportunity to meet you, interact, understand your personality, and establish a personal relationship with your company. This fosters retention and longevity, as well as a sense of trust and legitimacy.

The trick to throwing a successful conference that provides a valuable return to your business is identifying what you want your conference to accomplish and taking the steps necessary to make that happen — without getting caught up in the details.

Hosting an Event on Any Budget

When it comes to conferences, quality is more important than the size or price tag of your event. No one will remember if you went overboard on a gourmet food spread, but they will remember if your speakers and content weren’t high-quality. Here’s how to make it count:

  • Have a planning powwow. Gather your event’s stakeholders, whether those include HR reps, the CEO, or salespeople. Ask them about their goals for the event, and host a brainstorming session. Then, take the best ideas to an operational person in your company who can execute them. There are a lot of moving parts, so be sure to choose a detail-oriented individual to ensure a flawless event.
  • Cut the fireworks. You might think your conference needs to happen in a big ballroom with top-of-the-line AV equipment and other bells and whistles. But that’s not necessarily the case. In fact, I recently attended a small-show conference that took place in an enclosed hotel lounge. There were no slides, AV, or audio. The speakers could talk to attendees in a casual, informative manner that felt hands-on. It was a great event, and all the attendees found value in it.
  • Be smart about splurges. If you decide your conference does require a feature that threatens to tip the scale of your budget, then it’s time to think outside the box. In the first year of my company’s event, we spent about 20 percent of the cost that many bigger firms would have spent on an event of the same size. That’s because we did it in a theater that had all the sound and AV equipment we needed, and the venue itself was quite inexpensive.
  • Spotlight your speakers. Many professionals will come for free just to get the experience for their résumés. You can also ask your best client or a particularly eloquent, experienced staff member to speak.
  • Make it fun. Conference attendees want to feel like they’re engaged. Make your event interactive with a hashtag, ice breaker, or social media feed. Try Splash, which creates live event feeds based on attendees’ contributions.
  • Shake some hands. I’ve been to a number of events where the host and speaker were locked away in the green room and didn’t interact with anyone. Don’t miss the opportunity to put a face to your brand and network with attendees. Shake hands, talk to people, and set up networking opportunities.
  • Make your money work for you. You don’t have to throw down the funds for a fancy dinner spread or buffet. Last year, my company did a happy hour on a hotel rooftop and gave our attendees a certain number of drink tickets. Attendees understood they needed to pay cash once they used their tickets, but they still had incentive to relax, network, and engage with other attendees.

The Time Is Now

Conferences create leads and spread the word about your business and your brand. When the clients who believe in your products and have paid money for your services are in the same room with people who aren’t yet customers, they’ll sell your product for you without any effort on your part.

My company recently held an event that offered our clients a slightly discounted price for services. Many non-client attendees came simply to hear the speakers. Our clients sold the non-clients on our products without any prodding on our part. If you do good work, your clients help create leads for you.

When it comes to conferences, there’s no better time to host than the present. If your business can provide value to clients — both current and potential — through a conference, it’s worth having. Plus, you’ll build your brand, increase visibility, build rapport with clients, and gain new leads. Shelling out for a few drink tickets is worth the ROI.

Lena Requist established herself as a powerful force in business before joining ONTRAPORT as COO in 2009. Her background in corporate finance and successful business building has helped to grow the ONTRAPORT organization 5,000 percent, landing ONTRAPORT at No. 102 on the 2012 Inc. 500 list. Lena has a passion for helping female entrepreneurs and is the founder of a virtual Women in Business group, where empowered women can share their strengths, struggles, and triumphs with each other. Connect with Lena on Google+ or Twitter.

Why Your Lawyer Might Be Wrong For Your Business…

Any of you that have ever hired a lawyer know that if you really want to screw up one of your business deals, a potential litigation issue or the future planning of your business, all you need to do is hire the wrong lawyer.

Too many entrepreneurs go into the selection process with the wrong pre-conceived notions and set of qualifications for the next critical member of their team. The decision to hire the correct lawyer should be considered carefully and using realist criteria.

Here are four of the biggest mistakes entrepreneurs make when choosing a lawyer:

1. Hiring a Jack of all trades. This is a mistake that even the experienced business owner will make. As many of us know, there are all sorts of specialists in the medical profession and the same thing applies to the law. If you are doing business or tax planning, use a business lawyer and get your CPA in the mix as well. If you have a fight brewing, consult with a litigation attorney. A general attorney or advisor can play ‘’quarterback’’ and give you sound advice, but when it’’s time to get into the details, use a specialist.

2. Choosing the cheapest lawyer you can find. This is a classic strategy that will ultimately cost you more in the long run after you find the right attorney. You may think you are saving money in the first or second meeting with that low hourly rate or a flat fee promise that rivals an online service with unlimited legal consulting. But this attorney will cost you a lot more with misdirection, and wasted time and money. Remember the old adage: “You get what you pay for”. This applies with the law as well.

3. Paying a big retainer up front without a second opinion. This is a dangerous mistake and can be very difficult to undo and get your money back. A lot of entrepreneurs never get a second opinion and out of fear or intimidation, make a rash decision. There are many honest and skilled lawyers out there who can take a smaller retainer up front and bill as they go. If the amount they are asking for makes you feel uncomfortable, heed that prompting and interview some other lawyers before making a decision.

4. If it sound too good to be true, it probably is. We’d all rather hear how incredible our case or project is and how it’s the “perfect slam dunk.” However, nothing is always clear-cut and if a lawyer is sugar coating it you should be able to tell. Be careful when your lawyer doesn’t speak realistically about your own situation and the mistakes and problems you are facing. Don’t let yourself get pummeled in court. Lawyers can overpromise and under-deliver.

Consider taking recommendations from others who have already found affordable lawyers specializing in your area of expertise.

If you have a bad experience hiring the wrong lawyer, don’t give up interviewing and networking with others to find the right advisor. Just like in every profession, there are winners and losers. Sometimes it take a little work to find the winners, but it is certainly worth it in the end.

Having a plan for your business plan

No business plan survives first contact with a customer.
—Steve Blank, Silicon Valley–based retired serial entrepreneur.

After conjuring up a brilliant business idea, I would immediately start writing a business plan. Like a skilled magician, I could make a marvelous business plan appear before your eyes in just a few days. It would be complete with colorful graphs, in-depth market research, and detailed financials. The plan would be ready to execute. And I was sure it had as many pages as possible. Why? I once heard an investor say that he only considers investing in companies with plans that make a thump when you drop them on a table. After years of practical business experience, I realized that I didn’t make a good magician and  I was only fooling myself. Now I know better.

Experience has taught me that when I get a new business idea, working on the business plan is one of the last things to do. The three crucial steps I follow before even thinking of writing a business plan will work for you, too. First, examine the competitive landscape to see what companies are already there.What do they do poorly? What can you do differently to create a competitive advantage? Second, discuss the idea with potential customers, asking basic questions that determine how much they would value your product or service, which is perhaps the most important preliminary step to writing the business plan. Third, develop a sketch or basic prototype of the product. If it’s a service, map out vital steps and describe customer experiences.

By the way, when you are finally ready to write the business plan, make sure that you find professional help in areas that aren’t your expertise. If you don’t understand how to project cash flow for the next five years, don’t attempt it. Likewise, if you don’t know anything about marketing, which is likely the most important part of your plan, you shouldn’t be writing that section. A business plan should be a collaboration, not a solo endeavor. As a well-respected serial entrepreneur once told me, investors are skeptical of any business plan written by one person.

Even the academic world, known for resisting change, is reassessing the importance of the business plan. Candida Brush, chair of the entrepreneurship division and director of the Arthur M. Blank Center for Entrepreneurship at Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts, put it best in a recent interview withEntrepreneur magazine:

Students come in here saying they want to write a business plan, but that’s the last thing they need to do. The only way to get to a point where you have a truly entrepreneurial idea is to use a creative approach. Observe. Reflect. Do mini experiments, as opposed to sitting in the library reading case studies. . . . And for us, even that plan is about the process, not creating a 50-page action plan. If you get married to a bad idea, a business plan means nothing.

Babson students are encouraged to do three feasibility studies before moving forward with an idea or writing a business plan. The studies are similar to the steps I mentioned above. More universities and entrepreneurs should adopt this approach.

In short, too much emphasis is still placed on writing a business plan when you have an idea. There is an epidemic of “Frankenplans,” business plans that are a sloppy amalgamation of various business plans or templates; having the document itself seems more important than the quality of the actual plan. Instead of rushing to finish the document, make sure you take the crucial preliminary steps before you begin writing. If done thoroughly, these steps make your business plan stronger and greatly improve your chances of success and funding.