New Passion Project!

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I’ll be taking a break from my career/business posts for a bit so I can put my focus towards a new venture launching in a few months! UX Palate is a gourmet artisan subscription experience going live in Mid-September and shipping in November.

It’s a combination of two things I love and always wanted to combine:

Food & the Subscription Model

I encourage all of you to join me on my next adventure by clicking here to be e-mailed updates!

My First Startup – Educational Comic Book For Kids

Move over Shark Tank: Comic book teaches kids entrepreneurship

We live in the age of innovation, of companies started by young entrepreneurs – from Apple to SpaceX. Every year, the founders get younger and younger. Yet, entrepreneurial education has not kept up. Children have spending money before they learn about financial literacy. They are given “perfect career” tests before they’re even aware that working for someone else’s dream is not the only way – that every one of us can create real value pursuing own dreams.

In comes a comic book, My First Startup, that lets children (especially 8-12 y.o.) learn entrepreneurship on their own terms, in a fun and non-patronizing way. Without telling them what they must do, My First Startup helps kids develop problem solving skills, creative thinking, time-management, work-life balance (it’s never too early for that one), mathematical and analytical skills, and so much more.

Created by a Brooklyn-based custom comic book company, Your Comic Story, My First Startup helps parents teach kids an alternative to the 9-5 career, as well as a reasonable response to “buy me more presents” (Want that new game console – earn the money for it.) Ultimately, it’s helping parents raise kids who feel empowered and comfortable in the world where running your own business is as welcomed and rewarding as having a traditional job.

My First Startup was just launched through Kickstarter to let the people decide if teaching entrepreneurial thinking to children is important. To make the comic book especially useful to budding entrepreneurs, its creators brought in some key business service providers, including Shopify, Instapage, Jukebox Printing, SendInBlue and Shippo.

Learn more about the Kickstarter project and pledge your support here.

 

3 Reasons Why Parenthood Is A Great Time To Start A Business

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At first glance the title is perplexing, but starting two separate businesses while each of our children were born gives me some credibility to speak on this subject. The timing seems illogical, but if you’re an action-oriented person like myself, ideas only become reality if executed quickly. Here are my thoughts why juggling a newborn and a startup makes sense:

1) Efficiency – Time is fleeting as a new parent. Newborns need their parents to install routines even though initially they resist them. Transition to entrepreneurship and you can never have enough time in the day to accomplish your dreams. As a new parent you could be working on your business plan in the dark while baby is sleeping. Since you’re up from the crying it’s a perfect time to research and e-mail on your mobile phone. Meetings are a perfect excuse to find extra help so you can make progress on your business while gaining some rest and sanity from your little one at home. Parenthood forces you to be creative when it comes to spending your time. The lack of free time means you’re wiser with the little you have. Nothing makes you hyper-focused more than the fear of your baby waking up from a nap.

2) Parallels to Learning on the Fly – The most unprepared you’ll feel as a parent is when you arrive home from the hospital. The most unprepared you’ll feel during launching a business is when you start. Both responsibilities can be studied, but nothing is a substitute for experience. Parenting is about trial and error and you only get better by doing it. That’s very similar to the success rate of starting a business. First time owners have a less than 30% chance for success, but if you keep trying your chances increase on the next business. The message here isn’t to have 5+ kids, but to understand that both parenthood and entrepreneurship are about adapting and pivoting accordingly. The more rigid you are in your thinking, the harder it will be to thrive in today’s changing market. Commit to a learning mentality and you’ll figure out what to do next.

3) Teaches Kids Entrepreneurship  – When my kids get older I’m going to tell them we started a business when they were born. Whether it’s a success or failure isn’t as important as following your dreams. Skill sets such as: sales, networking and communication aren’t taught in school. They are taught in the “streets.” We are moving towards an economy where it will be mandatory to have a side hustle, so age shouldn’t be a factor when experiencing entrepreneurship. My wife and I have talked several times about giving our children their “college fund” for school or starting their own business. As college graduates, we don’t de-value education, but we also believe it doesn’t guarantee you anything either. What our kids decide to do when they grow up is their decision. We just feel our job is to provide them with choices.

Becoming  a new parent may be the most inopportune time to launch a business, but then again…you’ll never know until you try.

Why Seniority Is A Terrible Qualifier

career-path

Work your way up the corporate ladder is what you were told. Hard work does pay off, but it’s not enough. When you get promoted into a leadership or executive role, it may not be the best move for you. Here’s why:

Think of 3 different levels in an organization.

The foundation is the technical worker(s) a.k.a. the widget maker.

The middle layer is leadership, also known as management.

On the top is the executive team, otherwise known as the C-Suite.  

Historically managers are promoted because of tenure on the job, but the skill set needed to lead is much different than dealing with customers. I’ve witnessed older managers get promoted because of their loyalty to the company, but once elevated the proverbial wheels fell off. Just because you were great as sales, production, service, etc. doesn’t mean it will translate well at the next level (it has little to do with age, much more to do with mindset).

The same happens for middle management. Leaders are focused on managing people, but with an upgrade to the executive team, now you have to forecast growth. Thinking strategically is not the same as relationally. As a CEO, CTO or CFO you’ll spend most of your time in meetings and researching data. The additional money is nice, but you’ll soon find out if it’s the right fit for you.

This comes back to self-awareness. Knowing what you can and can’t do. Higher pay is always nice, but nowadays people quit their jobs much quicker if they don’t love and thrive in their position. Climbing the corporate ladder isn’t what it used to be. And although entrepreneurship may be sexier it’s also not for everyone. When it comes to your career path, figure out your direction before you start traveling. Pursue a role where you can make the biggest impact, learn the most and utilize your God-given abilities. Otherwise you’re just driving without a destination in mind.

Social Media: All About Generational Preference

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Today technology represents communication. Simply put, social media platforms come down to style and preference. Of course there are exceptions to the rule, but to quote George Clooney in the movie Up In The Air, for brevity purposes we’ll stereotype here, it’s faster.

Facebook: All (news source), Baby Boomers are fastest growing population

Pinterest: Moms (who are into fashion/crafts)

LinkedIn/Twitter/YouTube/Yelp: Millennials/Gen X

Instagram/Snapchat/Periscope/Vine: Millennials/Gen Z (all about selfies)

Google+/Tumblr: N/A

For marketing purposes, it doesn’t matter which platform you like best, it’s choosing the one(s) your customers use most frequently.

For example, I use Twitter the most because it’s “real time” breaking news. As a die-hard Lakers fan, I communicate with my peers daily on rumors, discussions and recent stories. I use it as a conversational piece and it’s done well to spread my sports blog posts to a larger audience of people I would have never of met otherwise. On the other hand, I enjoy looking at Instagram, Snapchat and Periscope because they are visual and engaging. I don’t post as much as the people I follow, but it keeps me up to date on what’s current. Professionally LinkedIn is my favorite. It’s one of the most focused social networks where there’s a reason to connect with people while acting as a “live resume” especially to recruiters.

What’s cool and popular isn’t as important as which one(s) you need to spend time on. I’ve cut down my Facebook visits because I found myself wasting a lot of time on there looking at useless updates. So even though Facebook continues to dominate the social media space, I’ve decreased my participation based on needs. Most of my customers find me on LinkedIn and Yelp, so I make sure to stay active on those. And since I engage with Millennials more than any other generation Instagram, Snapchat and Periscope reveal what’s trendy.

The best advice I’ve heard is stop trying to be active on all platforms. There’s no crime having an account on each stage, but focus on one at a time and learn how to master it. Social media is about communicating. The question is: who are you talking to and why?  

How The NBA Free Agency Mirrors Corporate America

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Professional athletes are in the prime of their career in their 20’s, but as they reach their 30’s priorities change. It’s no different with Millennials in the workplace except their best career years may be ahead of them.

During the NBA free agency period players without contracts have the opportunity to strike it rich with their current or new team through signing a multi-year deal. Most NBA players want 3 things:

1) To win now

2) Be the “man”

3) Max money

Assuming an athlete has been in the league for a couple of years and excelled, the bidding wars begin. As a fan I found myself making parallels towards Corporate America this summer. Take the 3 wishes of basketball players and they can be translated to young professionals:

1) To make a difference/impact (winning)

2) Be valued as an important contributor (the “man/woman”)

3) Make as much money as possible

What’s interesting is the shift in values over generations.

Millennials care more about lifestyle than paycheck.

Purpose in work is greater than titles.

Promotions only feel “real” when accompanied by personal growth.

This NBA free agency period marked the first time top players chose small markets (San Antonio & Milwaukee) over large ones (Los Angeles & New York). The playing field has been leveled and location no longer is an important criteria. It is if you care about nightlife, housing costs and distance from family, but otherwise it’s an afterthought. It’s a reason why growing startups can steal top talent from established corporations.

I’ve always believed that Millennials are Millennials no matter what they are doing. “Perks” are popular because they show employers care about their wants. Sometimes perks are used as a recruiting and retaining factor. Understanding what Millennials want in their career reveals how they can “fit” in your organization. My point is people are people no matter what they are doing. Generations share certain core values that resonate amongst them. Tap into those values and their pulse reveals what matters. Cater to the heart.

 

Meet The Jaclyn Of All Trades

Jaclyn Mullen Headshot

Jaclyn and I met through a mutual friend a while back and during our first meeting in person guess who showed up? Conan O’Brien. We didn’t bother him at the time, but from that point I knew the star power that Jaclyn could reel in. I’ve never seen someone so committed to her work and since I follow her on several platforms, there’s rarely a day I don’t see an update from her. I didn’t think you could be in multiple places at once, but Jaclyn proved that theory wrong. She truly is the Jaclyn of all trades and I hope you’re able to gain some insight from this interview with her:

1) Briefly tell us how your career evolved into being an entrepreneur/consultant for social media, marketing, branding, etc.

I was studying Music Business at the University of Miami when the industry transitioned from CD’s to Mp3’s. I had always been in some form of guerrilla marketing (thank you DECA in high school). I always understood HOW to get a product into people’s hands and have them share it via word of mouth. But all of the sudden, the Internet allowed us to share an intangible product, in this case music, and still generate word of mouth plus, we could TRACK the impact and read people’s responses. From there, I started using Myspace personally then Facebook, Constant Contact and eventually LinkedIn and Twitter. Year after year, the Internet became more and more a part of my life from using it to create my own personal brand to find a job to using to to connect with customers when I was in business development/branding and the blogging space to lastly, over the years, teaching business owners and other professionals how to use it to engage with their audiences.

2) What do you consider your biggest strength as an entrepreneur?

Being outgoing. That strength allows me to meet a lot of people which in turn means I can connect a lot of people and bring them together. Plus, talking to people also serves as market research for me since so much of the social space deals with psychology, content creation and human behavior.

3) What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?

Dealing with unforeseen life circumstances/family emergencies while trying to grow my company. I managed to overcome them thanks to a healthy client roster & being SUPER organized however, it’s important for service based business owners (myself included) to think about and work towards scalability/generating some passive income. If something happens to you, and you’re the business, the business shuts down unless you have another revenue stream or a team in place.

4) How would you describe your style/ personal brand?

Fun, Polished, Inviting. I fit in with my peers but can talk shop with the industry thought leaders too. I know how to balance between being an expert, being engaging and creating experiences for my people too.

5) What advice would you give other entrepreneurs trying to build/grow their brand?

Leverage the power of strategic alliances. Look for people to cross promo with and set up multi-channel cross promo campaigns, i.e email newsletter, blog posts, Twitter to start. Most people only rely on one channel for cross promos and you won’t get the full impact of exposure. Also, focus on quality vs quantity. Engage the people who like or share your stuff day to day. Thank them! In due time, THEY will help you grow those numbers and acquire more people. Rounding this out, you have the potential to talk to A LOT of people online but that doesn’t mean those people are the right audience for you. Segment your audience, i.e know where you need/want people to be located as an example so you can hone in and find the people who are likely to need your products/services/advice.

Want to access more marketing insights and support from Jaclyn? She’s creating an MIY Guide (Market It Yourself) featuring advice from brand managers at charity: water, Yes 2 Carrots and more. Sign up to learn more: www.jaclynmullen.com

How Etsy Paid Her Way Through College

LEILEI_SECOR

About a month ago, I saw an article on Entrepreneur Magazine about a Teen who is paying her way through college through opening an Etsy shop. I was so impressed that I reached out to her via Twitter to ask her more questions. Entrepreneurship has no age limit, so if you have an idea, the difference between being a dreamer and doer is taking action. That’s what LeiLei Secor did and here’s how you can learn from her story:

1) Briefly share how you got started as an entrepreneur

Like many 16 year olds, I was looking for a summer job. I didn’t get hired anywhere I applied to so I thought to myself, “Maybe I could sell the jewelry I make”. At the time, I made macrame and beaded bracelets but once my shop opened I taught myself how to make wire wrap jewelry. On July 27th, I opened my Etsy shop and a week later I received my first sale. From then on, I received them daily.

2) What do you consider your biggest strength as an entrepreneur?

I think my biggest strength was my determination. Whenever I start something that really interests me, I immerse myself in it. I would sit online for hours researching what worked and what didn’t. I spent a lot of time on Etsy’s forums reading what other sellers had to say. To this day, I will spend a good amount of time time on Etsy’s forums reading the general chitchat and sentiments of other sellers. 

3) What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?

One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced so far is keeping up with the trends and changing search engine of Etsy. As one of the most competitive markets on Etsy, jewelry sellers have to work on differentiating their product from the thousands of others out there. An important part of Etsy is keeping up with titles and keywords that will keep your listings relevant in the search engine. It’s challenging to try to figure out what will make your listing show up in the first few pages of listings.

4) How would you describe your style/personal brand so far?

I would describe my personal brand to be simplistic and young. I try to create simple pieces that would appeal to multiple age groups and compliment any style outfit.

5) What advice would you give aspiring entrepreneurs from your journey?

My best advice to aspiring entrepreneurs would be to just go for it and immerse yourself in whatever it is you are passionate about. I think if you put your all into something, you will surely get something out of it.

The Bottom Line Starts At The Top

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When it comes to business everything funnels back to the bottom line. Financials matter, but shows like The Profit emphasize that if your people aren’t the right fit, it may not matter what your product or service is. The traditional organizational chart is slowly being replaced by a more “flat” model, but since decisions need to be made quickly most companies still rely on an ultimate point person.

If you are the CEO, the pressure’s on, but for the majority of people who aren’t you have to manage up. If you’re in direct contact with the owner or main power player great, but if you’re not you still can influence the company if you’re intentional about it.

The heart of an organization usually lies with the sales force because without profit, you don’t have a business. Numbers talk, but even if you’re not in sales your “voice” becomes louder with results. So regardless of position, hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard. If you want to be heard more, do something that makes noise so others notice you. If you put your head down, do your work and duck out you’ll never move up (as far as you’d like). It takes a shift from “me” to “we” in order to climb the ladder. That means when you start taking ownership for your responsibilities and realizing where it fits into the bigger part of the organization it starts to click.

At this point is where you start to take pride in your work. If a job is just a job, it’s only a matter of when, not if you leave. Looking at your position from the boss’ perspective changes everything. Like a well-oiled machine you start to see how each maneuver affects the other parts. The different layers of management start being more crucial to the overall success of the company. How decisions from the top trickle-down to the frontline: the customer-employee transaction. Now you understand how the top affects the bottom. Because you imagined how to run the company like it was your own.

It’s usually at this point where employees leave current positions to start their own business. You’ve learned an industry, witnessed a process that works and have ideas of how to make it more efficient. Thinking top-down doesn’t mean you should become an entrepreneur, but it should be your goal to at least think like one. So no matter where you are in your career, don’t forget: if you really want to affect the bottom line, start at the top.

The Secret To Unleashing Your Productivity

Distractions

There are plenty of myths surrounding productivity, but most of them are false because they’re centered on being more focused or giving perks. Managers would love to find the magical whip they can use to micromanage workers, but that stuff doesn’t work in the post-industrial days. Productivity is getting in a “flow” similar to when an athlete gets in the “zone.” It’s not as simple as snapping your fingers and you’re there. Instead it’s about controlling your surroundings and tuning out the noise that distracts us in a technologically driven world.

Rationally thinking becoming hyper-focused is the key, but it’s not. It’s like when you’re having a hard time falling asleep, the more you try the worse it gets. Actually when you “turn off your brain” is when you naturally dose off. I found as working as a Millennial Coach, the key lies with removing distractions. This can be as simple as venting to someone else. Imagine entering a room frustrated, then leaving refreshed. Work isn’t even discussed, but you feel ready to conquer the world walking out. Companies such as Zappos and Google are forward-thinking enough to provide the optimal environments to enhance productivity. Back to the analogy of the micromanaging boss, in order to unleash your optimal performance trust must be given freely. It is not without consequences, but a person should be innocent until proven guilty, not the other way around. Leaders empower productivity, they don’t control it.

The next time you’re watching a sporting event, watch how athletes prepare before the game. Most have headphones on and are listening to their favorite music. Why? Besides possibly being sponsored to wear a certain brand, it’s a pre-ritual to help calm their mind and body. The term corporate wellness gets thrown around a lot these days, but essentially its function is to counter the daily stress with an outlet of release or relaxation. Most people wake up, grab coffee and stumble into work wondering why they’re not in the mood to produce at a high level. You may not be able to listen to music by yourself during work, but you can go for a morning workout, eat a healthy breakfast or listen to music that calms or motivates you in the car during your commute.

Lastly, I can’t emphasize how crucial to your success coping is. That means being able to deal with curveballs thrown at you frequently. You can’t control what happens to you, but you can control how you respond to it. Re-framing situations from negative to positive is merely turning that frown upside down. Your mind has the ability to pause in situations that don’t feel right and choose to focus on something else. For example, if you’re given a new assignment that has a hard deadline soon instead of complaining about it, stop, re-prioritize and drop what you’re currently doing to work on what’s more urgent. A split second is all it takes to catch yourself from going down a hole of despair to re-framing to what’s more positive.

So the next time you’re having a problem getting focused, think about your environment. Experiment with what’s conducive to your optimal performance and tinker with it constantly like a game. There are some factors, like meetings or an annoying co-worker, that you can’t control, but you’d be surprised to know a lot of your performance has to do with what you decide to tune out.