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Monthly Archives: September 2013

Why You Shouldn’t Hire Family to Work at Your Start-Up

I’m going to make a statement that will surely make me the most unpopular person at my next family reunion: whatever you do, don’t hire your family to work at your start-up. Managing a start-up is a rewarding experience, and the workplace might even come to feel like your second home—which is exactly why you shouldn’t factor family into the equation. While guiding your company through thick and thin, you’ll see some huge successes, and you’ll also have to traverse some rocky terrain. Often times, tapping family for help might seem like an easy solution, especially because they no doubt understand how excited you are about what you do. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you should involve them. Here’s why:

Are your family members the most qualified for the job, and best positioned to help grow your company? Probably not.

To run a successful startup that can scale quickly, you need to hire a staff with complementary skill sets and approaches to business. The people you hire should be specialists in their field and capable of moving your business forward in ways that you can’t. If hiring family is on your mind, then you likely won’t be open to bringing in the true best candidate for the job. While you might have nothing but the best intentions at heart, don’t put yourself in an awkward situation by hiring a family member who’s not quite the right fit over a more qualified candidate. As your company might not initially have a large staff on its payroll, everyone involved has to be an asset. That being said, be sure that each and every employee has a vested interested in your company for reasons beyond bloodline.

Keep your business well-defined.

Another derisive issue is the potential for favoritism, whether it’s real or perceived. More importantly, family involvement may undermine lines of authority already set within your company. Don’t put yourself in the position of favoring a family member over your other employees, and remember that you have to keep all of your employees in mind. If you hire family, you run the risk of muddying the workplace water by upsetting the chemistry of your staff. Furthermore, your employees might become irritated if your family member naturally reports to you rather than their manager, which will breed discontent.

Really, it’s simple: unless there’s compelling business reason to do so, don’t partner with family members. Hiring them could not only strain your business relationships, but also your personal relationship with them.

Lastly, you deserve some time off once in a while, Mr. (or Ms.) CEO. The start-up lifestyle is all-consuming. You already know that. But when you finally do get the chance to take a breather, you want to enjoy it. It might be hard to take a true, refreshing break if a family member you often see is also your employee.

How will family members factor into adversity at your start-up?

It’s not abnormal for an entrepreneur to go through several start-ups before finding success. Adversity is commonplace – and sometimes, even failure. If there’s a key kernel of entrepreneurship advice that you should remember, it’s this: your personal identity isn’t tied to your business, even if it feels otherwise. The business world is only one sphere of life, with the other sphere containing everything else, including family. If your family is involved in or close to your venture’s failure, it could cause undue stress on your relationships, and will likely make it harder to move on. Further, if your company faces a bout of adversity, you want your family’s support, not their involvement.

Don’t move unnecessary mountains.

Family in the workplace inevitably comes with baggage that you don’t necessarily want to carry – especially when your mind has to be a million other places. In order to make the best decisions for your company, eliminate variables that might cloud your judgment and expertise. After all, if you have family on the brain then your business mind might become clouded, and like good weather, it’s best when clear.

Having been on both sides of the start-up investment scene—seeking investment for his ventures and as an angel investor himself—Alan Lobock recently launched Worthworm to solve one of the biggest challenges young companies and their prospective investors face: pre-money valuation. Alan co-founded SkyMall in 1990, the company whose shopping catalog is found in the seat-back pockets of almost all U.S. commercial aircraft.

Be a Quitter! 9 Things That Will Teach You to Quit

How many times have you told someone or yourself to ‘never give up’? I know that I’ve done it many, many times. As I cycled 450km through one of the world’s toughest mountain bike trails, I told myself hourly not to quit. But there are times where you just NEED to quit!

I remember sitting in the office knowing that I shouldn’t be there. I wanted to quit! I knew there was more for me out there: the places I needed to be, the people I needed to meet and the experiences I needed to have.

BUT my aunt’s words stuck with me. She said “You are young. It will look bad on your resume if you quit and you will be labelled as a quitter, a job hopper.”

Does that label really matter? Was I the only one with a head heavy on my pillow? Was I the only one dragging to get myself to work? Would quitting be the end of my career?

But, I wasn’t a quitter, I am the overachiever with tons of things off my bucket list.

I was happy to find out that according to recent “Life After College” survey, the statistics show that Gen Y are expected to leave their jobs within two years. A more interesting statistic by Harvard Business Review is that 95% of over achievers under 30 spend less than three years at a job and are always looking out for new opportunities.

So obviously I wasn’t the only one. Here are “9 Reasons to Quit”:

10 Easy Money Saving Tips for Students

As a student, you are probably prepared to learn a lot of new things. Saving money is one of them! The words ‘college’ and ‘broke’ often go hand in hand, but it is never pleasant to not be able to pay for your coffee. Full time students, who come from average-income families, are often on a very tight budget. When everyday expenses come into the picture, the students themselves are responsible and they have to learn how to manage them properly.

Whining about your situation won’t get you anywhere, so the first step towards improving your life is learning how to save money. This article has got you covered with ten easy tips that can literally change your quality of living.

1. Forget about the expensive habits

Drinking expensive coffee, hitting the bar on the weekends and smoking are habits that add up quickly and have a huge impact on your budget. I’m sure that your day starts better with a gourmet coffee from a fancy coffeehouse, but that eats at your income with $100 a month; and it’s just coffee. If you make your own coffee at home, you will only spend around $10 a month and you can still choose high-quality coffee. Don’t let me start on smoking, because it is ridiculous to waste your money on cigarettes and find yourself in a tight budget situation when it comes to the really necessary things.

The Startup Europe Manifesto: A plan for a more entrepreneur-friendly EU

Teach children entrepreneurship, roll out a pan-European Startup Visa and make it easier for high-growth companies to go public – those are just three recommendations from a 22-point plan that a group of leading European tech entrepreneurs have put forward to the European Commission in a manifestopublished today. Now they’re looking for you, the startup community, to support it.

The Startup Europe Leaders Club is an independent group of entrepreneurs assembled by Vice-President of the European Commission, Neelie Kroes to act as a steering group of sorts for policies relating to entrepreneurship and the Internet economy.

As we reported at the time of its launch, the Club is made up of Spotify’s Daniel Ek, Rovio’s Kaj Hed, TCIO’s Joanna Shields, Seedcamp’s Reshma Sohoni, Tuenti’s Zaryn Dentzel, Atomico’s Niklas Zennström, Hackfwd’s Lars Hinrichs and The Next Web’s co-founder, Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten.

The 22 recommendations are divided into seven themes: Education & Skills; Access to Talent; Access to Capital; Data Policy, Protection & Privacy, and Thought Leadership. The Leaders Club worked with the Founders Forum in London to formulate the plan.

Can Freelance Professionals Benefit From The Affordable Care Act?

In light of the major healthcare reforms that have been under way since 2010, many Americans are wondering how their occupation will affect their future access to healthcare.

Freelance professionals are among the most unique of these groups, since freelancing and consulting work spans nearly all disciplines and income levels. In this regard, a freelance designer who makes next to nothing is in the same boat as a well-paid, freelance architect.

And it’s not just because neither of these individuals has a salaried job.

Give New Hires the Best Chance for Success

It’s Monday morning and the first day for a new management trainee. The understandably apprehensive newbie walks into the building and immediately doesn’t know how to get to the work station. After asking a few employees, who happen to be strangers, the new employee sits down and wonders how to log on to the computer or what button to press on the telephone to get an outside line.

And these are the simple tasks. Even for the most confident person, the first day on a new job can seem pretty overwhelming. Now only does the new employee worry about making a good first impression socially, that person is faced with putting a skill set into a new environment and making it work. However, it’s really up to the company to help the new employee get acclimated and really feel “on board.”

That’s when onboarding comes into play. Good preparation for a new hire is essential. And it goes beyond introducing that new hire to cubicle mates and making sure there are enough paper clips on the newbie’s desk.

Getting Started

Properly acclimating a new employee requires innovative thinking that goes beyond showing where the bathrooms are located. The company has an obligation to make a good impression on the new employee. GuideStar suggests assigning a mentor to act an as immediate resource, and to give the employee an idea about the organizational goals and culture.

Getting a head start is crucial, and that means paying attention to the period between the new employee accepting the job and starting the job, Forbes says. Conversations with a boss, team members, assistants, and key clients is important. Talking with a human resources contact is a good way to identify who should be involved in these conversations.

The basics should be covered, of course, which includes stocking the work space with paper, pens, business cards, a computer, and phone, and that means making sure voicemail and email accounts are set up. It’s a waste of time for the employee to wait until someone from the IT Department goes through numerous steps to make sure the employee can even log on to the company’s home page.

Once the basics are handled, a staff member can greet the new hire and provide an office tour to meet the staff and learn where the copy machine, mailboxes, etc. are located.

Forbes has a list of mistakes leaders tend to make with new employees on the first day. A leader should avoid:

  • Talking about a former company.
  • Talking negatively about employees in the current company.
  • Revealing too much personal information.
  • Telling anything but the mildest joke.

Later in the week, the new hire can learn about how decisions are made and the specifics of expectations However, that meeting shouldn’t be too intimidating. For example, Bob Parsons, founder of GoDaddy, tells Entrepreneur that business is imperfect, with flawed people providing service to other flawed people. Since there are always things in business that can be improved, he likes to see people step up to make corrections.

It’s a good lesson that can be taught to the new employee: If something can be done better, let the proper person know. It’s a good and productive way for the employee to believe he or she really belongs and can make a difference.

GuideStar recommends the new employee create a marketing opportunity for the company by notifying professional and personal contacts of his or her new job. Within the first month, the employee also should meet with board members, partners and other important people connected with the organization.

Moving Forward

Good employee onboarding goes beyond the first week. The company should continue to find ways to integrate the new employee into the organization. After 90 days, a supervisor can give formal feedback and, just as important, ask for feedback from the employee. The company can benefit from new ideas from fresh eyes, after all.

Forbes stresses strong teamwork during the first 100 days. This involves jump-starting organizational and strategic processes, as well as a workshop. An effective strategy is identifying and investing in an early “victory” during the first six months. When this victory is accomplished, it should be celebrated publicly to boost confidence. What new employee wouldn’t want to be honored in front of peers?

Forbes notes new employee failure almost always can be attributed to not accomplishing what needed to be accomplished, or they are a poor fit. Blame comes from both sides. However, if everyone paid attention to onboarding basics, Forbes says, the failure rate would go down. Simply getting a head start, managing the message, and building the team are effective onboarding strategies that executives shouldn’t ignore.

Not engaging in good onboarding practices leads to higher turnover and more energy wasted on training new employees over and over. By learning how to onboard, leaders can build a stronger company with more long-term and experienced employees.

What onboarding tips do you have to share?

Nathan Barton is a business adviser for a medium-sized tech company. He has traveled all around the world speaking at various business conferences, but he believes that freelancing is the best way to spread his knowledge.

5 Tips to Launch Your Workday the Right Way

Of all the challenges we face during a busy workweek, getting up ready to take on the day is sometimes the toughest of them all. Many of us don’t have a natural, chipper bounce in our step in the morning, so we rely on coffee, protein bars and/or cold showers to shock our senses into work mode. But there has to be a better way, right?

While we encourage the healthy consumption of your favorite morning blend, there are some other things you can do to get yourself going in the morning.

Plan ahead.

Before kicking off your bunny slippers and hopping into bed, take a quick look at the calendar to see what’s on tap for tomorrow. Knowing whether you have a major meeting with your boss first thing in the morning, or if the day is fairly clear sailing, will help you sleep easier and stay organized. It will also give you a chance to make sure you’ve got everything you need next to the door so that if you’re running late, you won’t leave any important or necessary paperwork sitting on the kitchen table.

Set the alarm…across the room.

Some of us wake up at the drop of a pin, but a lot of people sleep through alarms, hit snooze just plain sleep through the loud dinging of even the most obnoxious alarm. If you’re using your phone as your alarm, plug it in across the room, turn up the volume and head to bed. (This will also keep you from the temptation of opening up Words with Friends in the middle of the night at the first inkling that a restless night is upon you.) If all else fails, you might have to take desperate measures by investing in the alarm clock that runs away.

Eat breakfast.

Your mom, the bus driver, significant other and everyone under the sun has pestered you about this for years, but it’s time to start listening (and eating). Studies have shown that although 93% of Americans think breakfast is the most important meal of the day, only 44% actually eat it daily. Skipping breakfast will not only kill your productivity, but chances are it will have you consuming more sweet and salty snacks throughout the day, making you feel sluggish and tired.

Dress the part.

This might come as a huge disappointment, but research has shown that dress-down days decrease productivity and quality of work. So whether your office is a Hawaiian shirt kind of place or suits and ties only, go the extra mile to dress your best so you’ll feel like taking on the day inside and out. If you usually sport flip-flops, considering busting out those dress shoes to see how snazzy and inspired you feel at work. Test the waters and give it a try!

Get to work early.

The thought of showing up to work before everyone else might seem a bit daunting, but consider the benefits. Not only will you avoid a rough commute, but chances are you’ll get the first cup of coffee, your to-do list mapped out without distraction, and even send a few emails sent off and tasks completed before your coworkers infringe on your productivity.

Nobody said getting up and skipping into work was easy or fun, but there are plenty of ways to make it a little bit easier on you and anyone else who might have to interact with you during those early hours of the day. If you get started right, the rest of the day will fly by with productivity and creativity in tow.

Sam Brandes is a FastUpFront Blog contributor and business author. FastUpFront helps your small business grow. Click for more information or to visit our site.

Why Entrepreneurs Are Afraid of the Truth

Have you ever heard the saying, Nobody will tell you your baby is ugly?  It’s true!

When you’re a parent, you think that your baby is the cutest damned baby in the entire world – a Gerber baby at his best.  But what do other’s think?  Have you ever looked at a baby and said – wow, that baby is ugly!  It looks smushed and jaundiced – and it has a ton of hair going everywhere!  I know you’ve thought it before – but I also know that you’ve never said ANYTHING!

The same is true with entrepreneurship.  I’ve watched and seen too many entrepreneurs crash and burn because they were afraid to admit the truth – their baby was ugly.  And, just like with babies, nobody wants to tell them that their idea is terrible!


Why The Truth is Scary

The trouble is, the truth can be scary.  For an entrepreneur, their idea is something that they have been chasing for a long time.  Chances are, they have their heart and soul in the idea.  To hear that their idea is ugly would be crushing.  As a result, a lot of entrepreneurs put on blinders to the truth.  They could ignore facts, be ignorant to user feedback, and as a result, they fail.

In some cases, the truth is scary simply because it’s unknown.  It doesn’t necessarily mean that your idea is bad, but you could be going into an undeveloped market and you’ll need to plan accordingly.  But, if you don’t take the cotton out of your ears and put it in your mouth, you’ll never listen to true facts.

Why Everyone Will Have to Become an Entrepreneur (Infographic)

It used to be that entrepreneurs were the renegade cowboys out in Silicon Valley. Nowadays, you have to be an entrepreneur just to get and hold a job.

Consultants and freelancers are cheaper than full-time staffers with benefits, software developers overseas cost a fraction of what they cost in the U.S. and, by 2030, robots will be able to perform most manual labor, according to an infographic (below) from San Francisco-based startup organization Funders and Founders. Even employees who are employed in large corporations are encouraged to be “intrapreneurs,” meaning that they are in many cases given company time to come up with disruptive ways of thinking about corporate organization and practices.