Enter [what’s been on my mind]

relationshipsA recent NY Times article asked, “Is marriage headed for an overhaul?”  The author was responding to what experts are saying, that “there is a need to rethink an institution that so often fails.”  Some even suggest that short-term marriage contracts may be the answer.  But does favoring till awhile do us part versus till death do us part offer an answer to the marriage dilemma?  Or does our culture simply misunderstand compatibility?

Blink [see a new perspective]

Maybe marriage’s fatality rate doesn’t stem from commitment issues, but compatibility issues. We have no problem committing to people that we are in love with. But what happens when that love changes? The root of the matter is, for better or worse, can you commit to being compatible with the same person 10 years from now? 20 years from now? Forever? Stanley Hauerwas, an Ethics Professor at Duke University, comes to a similar conclusion:

“Destructive to marriage is the self-fulfillment ethic that assumes marriage and the family are primarily institutions of personal fulfillment, necessary for us to become ‘whole’ and happy. The assumption is that there is someone just right for us to marry and that if we look closely enough we will find the right person. This moral assumption overlooks a crucial aspect to marriage. It fails to appreciate the fact that we always marry the wrong person. We never know whom we marry; we just think we do. Or even if we first marry the right person, just give it a while and he or she will change. For marriage, being [the enormous thing it is] means we are not the same person after we have entered it. The primary challenge of marriage is learning how to love and care for the stranger to whom you find yourself married.”

Shift [try it out]

As busy people, we make commitments all the time. Whether it involves a project, a job, or a person, there are various levels of commitment: informed, interested, highly motivated, as well as uninformed, uninterested, and unmotivated. The bottom line is this: what you commit to matters and how you commit matters. Contracts might be realistic for some matters, but relational contracts might not be the best idea. When it comes to any kind of relationship, commitment and compatibility must be at the forefront of your mind. After a commitment is made, the relational chemistry will most likely shift. Marriage is an excellent example of this, but other relationships – i.e. business partners, clients, customers, friends – change, too. The challenge with commitments is continuing to be aware and intentional with the dynamics within the relationship. People are not contracts, and they must be treated with care. Imagine if you spent the same amount of time and energy that you do with your career as you do with your husband or wife. That kind of devotion could change everything. In any relationship where you go above and beyond, people are bound to notice. And in turn, they will notice if you aren’t going above and beyond.

Listen [hear from our community]

I met my wife in college. When you marry a person it’s not about being perfect and compatible for each other forever. It’s about making a commitment to each other to take that life journey together for the rest of your lives. The stage that we met at in college is way different than the early working years while starting a career. That stage is completely different than the stage when we started to have a family. It’s always changing and people are always changing. The key thing is relationships; it’s about total commitment and putting the energy into the relationship. If you think you just have to put the energy in at the beginning to win the person’s heart you’re wrong. In business, it’s all about relationships. A co-founder  an employee, a customer. A customer doesn’t do business with a company, it’s a person doing business with another person. Once you recognize that it’s all about people you understand it’s all about relationships. Once it’s about the relationship there isn’t anything that I wouldn’t do for a co-founder, employee, or customer as long as there is a relationship. Once it becomes unconditional it becomes special and that’s where the magic is.  

-Peter Chee, CEO and founder of Thinkspace 

Enter [what’s been on my mind]

Lead from the middle box of crayonsLeadership is important, and among the ever-changing workplace, a new kind of leadership has emerged.  The traditional model of hierarchical top-down leadership is effective, but this different type of leadership includes people from the bottom up.  Empowering people to lead gives them more than just another responsibility – it gives them authority and assures them of their value.

Blink [see a new perspective]

Leadership is not positional.  Some business models have adapted the servant leadership approach, acknowledging that leadership is more about relationships and influence than it is about control.  Some even argue that leadership comes more from the middle of an organization than it does from the top.  Fast Company posted a recent article which states that organizations need not one, but multiple leaders in order to “steer their companies, and modern business, toward more sophisticated models.”

Shift [try it out]

Even if you’re not the head of an organization, you can still influence those that you work for, those that work with, and those that work for you.  Leading from the middle is not only effective, but necessary.

Listen [hear from our community]

I’ve observed a lot about leadership over the years; some by being led, some by successfully leading and some by failing. What is clear to me is that there is no single way to lead. Sometimes leadership is so transparent and effusive that everyone is inspired and magically moves as a group in the “right” direction. Other times the leadership is overt – giving strong and obvious directions that everyone must follow, in a silent single-file-hand-to-shoulder-march in order to be brought safely out of harms way.  A good leader knows how to fit the leadership style to the circumstance. 

-Howard Mahran, CEO and Founder of Deep Domain

Tis the season for parties, too much shopping, sweet treats…and the dreaded choice between taking the time to spend with friends and family and getting through that one last project. America is known as the “no-vacation vacation,” as most employees only get a few weeks off per year to take a break and some employers give even less.

But taking a break from work is actually critical to doing well professionally – especially if you’re the entrepreneur type and rarely even take weekends off. There is something to be said for work-life integration – I can’t even remember that last time I took more than 24 hours without doing some sort of “work” – but a true vacation can be critical to our professional and personal health.

According to CNN, stepping away from work can help inspire new creativity. “Detaching from a familiar environment can help get new perspectives on everyday life,” says Adam Galinsky, professor at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to travel across the world to find new sources of motivation – though CNN highly recommends it. Instead, simply unplugging from work and hitting the slopes – or even just heading outside – can be incredibly beneficial.

A true vacation can also help prevent burnout, which entreupreners experience all too often as they work 80+ hour weeks. In a report by Psychology Today, 76 billing and accounting workers were surveyed about their exhaustion levels before, during and after a two-week vacation. Burnout dropped sharply during the break, according to the report. Psychology Today also noted that previous studies have shown that vacations boost performance and curb absenteeism – which could also translate to increased motivation for those who work for themselves.

As the holidays are quickly approaching, now may never be a better time to unplug for a few days so you can de-stress and personally recharge for the new year.

Did you take a vacation this year (or are you planning to?) Let us know why or why not in the comments!

Young startups are especially vulnerable to the negative impact a bad decision has on the future of a company. A large corporation might have a bad product and recover just fine, but a startup depends on every action it takes being a positive step in the right direction.

In a world where saying “no” is looked down upon, it’s important to remember that the future of a business depends on turning down opportunities when the risk is just too great. This doesn’t mean you should avoid any and all risk, but you should be doing everything you can early on to maximize every minute spent working on the startup.

So, what are the kinds of things it’s ok to say “no” to?

Cheap Gigs

There’s nothing worse than taking on a gig out of desperation only to find out that a job you really do stand to get ahead with was right around the corner. Your company can easily become tied up in a bad deal only to have to turn down better jobs as a result.

Feel free to say “no” to cheap gigs. Your startup’s time is valuable and this value needs to be established early on to avoid limiting your potential earnings later on.

When you start out working for small amounts, you can easily miss out on more substantial pay days. Remember, other companies are used to paying a fair market price for services. If you undercut the competition, you’re undercutting yourself and setting a precedent that will be hard to shake when word gets out.

Cheap Solutions

Being frugal and going with off the shelf products to solve business challenges is a popular solution for startups wanting to just get up and running without the hassle of planning before any actual work gets done. This sounds great on paper, and speed is indeed important. Unfortunately, those cheap quick-fix solutions end up costing you more in the long run.

Manny Ruiz of Intelligent IT recently offered Business Insider this advice, “When you have limited funds, people do two things. An operations person does the tech work, or a sales person does it, and you feel your way through. Don’t do that.”

Branded Swag

Buying tons of branded swag with the intention of getting the name out about your startup is a time-honored tradition businesses love to take part in. Giving out branded keychains, mugs, water bottles, and t-shirts might be all the rage on conference floors, but this extra cost really does little to market your business. The money you spend on branded clothing to give out at conferences could better be spent making demo units available to actual influencers.

Mark Cuban listed this as one of his 12 rules for startups in Entrepeneur.com. He mentioned, “A sure sign of failure for a startup is when someone sends me logo-embroidered polo shirts.”

Contracts that Lock You Down for a Set Period of Time

Locking your startup into a long-term contract can hinder your ability to grow in the future. Even something as simple as an extended lease might end up costing your business a lot should it outgrow the facility you start in.

Overnight successes are a rare occurrence, but they do happen. Getting out of a lease isn’t always easy, or cheap. The alternative is to build on to the space you have leased (if the contract permits it) only to hand the space back over once the term has ended.

This rule would also apply to contracts with clients that tie up your staff and restricts their ability to take on new, higher paying gigs.

Anything that Restricts Your Ability to Pivot

Being able to pivot is essential for any startup. This could mean giving your company the wiggle room it needs to shift its primary business focus or something as simple as giving yourself an out should a client decide to go with another vendor.

Pivoting around shifts in the industry is vital to the success and longevity of any modern business. Things change very quickly, and how well you can adapt could make all the difference in the world to your business.

Even established businesses suffer due to inability to change. Apple is a prime example of this type of situation. It faced an uncertain fate in the late ‘90s as Microsoft continued to evolve and Apple’s products remained largely unchanged for years. It wasn’t until Steve Jobs returned and change the way the company ran from the top down that Apple was capable of becoming the company it is today.

People Who Don’t Add Value

People will come along throughout the early stages of your startup that will promise the moon but fail to deliver. This is a fact of life for any entrepreneur, and many companies suffer through costly missteps that threaten to close the business.

It’s hard for a lot of first-time entrepreneurs to get used to saying “no” to bad deals. Either out of politeness or a misplaced sense of trust, saying “yes” too quickly could cause you to miss major milestones in the company’s development.

Startups value every minute the team spends. Even the closest and most tight-knit teams could benefit from the shedding of extra weight when it becomes apparent that a member is doing little to add value to the company. Your staff will appreciate an honest and stern approach to decision making as they realize it’s those types of decisions that keeps the doors open on your business.

Oh, and one last thing. If you plan on offering a sweet treat to your employees, don’t be afraid to say “no” to Twinkie knock-offs. You really do get what you pay for with those.