Musings about Work, Equality, Social Justice and Capitalism: Human Capitalism

This is a Guest blog post from Jeff Cherry, Founder and Managing Partner of The Conscious Venture Fund and Founding Partner of The Laudato Si Startup Challenge. He is a tech CEO and mentor, investor, philanthropist, and community builder.

 

What comes next?

I recently listened to a thought-provoking episode of the TED Radio Hour on NPR entitled What We Value. Its premise was that this economic and societal crisis in which we find ourselves is accelerating the move towards a new set of values when it comes to the practice of capitalism. Those of us in the social impact and Conscious Capitalism space are heartened to see this discussion gaining momentum, but the question remains: How will capitalism change now that the unhealthy state of business and our major societal institutions have been laid bare?

There are many indications that this shift was in the offing far before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. Although late to the game, the statement released by the Business Roundtable in August 2019 signaled a transformative move away from the outdated notion of shareholder primacy and towards a more human and effective form of business. It certainly garnered the attention of the press. And others in the business mainstream who had been either unaware or hostile to the market forces driving this change, are now finding it hard to ignore discussions of stakeholder management and whether business should have a broader role in society.

These ever-expanding discussions about the purpose of business in society are now taking place in the context of what does a return to “normal” look like in the economy. And a growing sentiment that the normal we were experiencing — where greed, inequity, declining living standards, crony capitalism, rent-seeking, regulatory capture, share buy-backs, corporate welfare and environmental depletion were the norm — isn’t in fact normal. Nor a state of being for which we should collectively yearn. As you might imagine, I agree.

The challenge we face now then, is how do we actually execute on this new idea? Many people talk about business for good and changing the purpose of the firm. But in the real world of competitive advantage, pricing models, customer needs, shareholder demands, supplier, employee and community relationships, knowing what to do is hard. We speak to entrepreneurs all the time who are philosophically aligned with a new narrative about business. They can cite anecdotes about others who have been successful, and they lack a cognitive frame that they can use to build an organization that embodies this day-in and day-out.

I’ve written at length about why I believe a focus on stakeholders in business and capitalism needs to replace the old story. In this article, the first of a two-part series, I’ll describe a framework to begin the journey to business as an institute of societal well-being: Or Human Capitalism.

Photo by Koushik Chowdavarapu on Unsplash

The New Narrative of Business in Society: Human Capitalism
What does a new story about the practice of business and capitalism look like in practical terms?

In order to fully bring this new narrative to life, I believe we need to re-define the purpose of business as a societal institution. Then, we need to translate that definition into tools that real entrepreneurs and executives can use every day to guide how they formulate strategy, individual decision making and implementation.

When a new cohort of the Conscious Venture Lab convenes, I ask a question to frame the work we’ll be doing over the ensuing 16-weeks: “What kind of world could we create if investors, executives and entrepreneurs cared as much about people as they care about profit?” It isn’t a question I expect any of the teams to answer outright. It’s a rhetorical challenge to think about how these ideas impact their businesses and the broader society.

Over the last few months, I’ve reframed that question: What kind of world could we create if we decided our first duty in business was to simply care for each other? This is the essence of Human Capitalism.

This version of the question doesn’t pit people against profit, which I believe is a false construct. Instead, it captures the meaning we’re all experiencing in this moment: can we be a complete society if the overarching purpose of business is only to increase profits and not primarily to improve the human condition? Both of these questions are variations of the age-old investigation of “What is a business for?” Academics, economists, politicians, social scientists and businesspeople have been asking this question for decades, if not longer.

Liesel Pritzker Simmons, co-founder of the impact investing firm Bluehaven Initiative, has said, “A crisis gives us an excuse to have conviction earlier.” What we are experiencing in this moment has emphasized how interconnected we are as a society and as a world. It has emphasized the importance of health as a public imperative. The importance of economic, community and personal resiliency as interdependent societal imperatives to which individuals and all societal institutions, even businesses, need to contribute. This crisis is bringing along those who may not have reached a level of conviction to move to a more human form of capitalism had things stayed … normal.

In this new reality it’s clear that the question about what type of world we want to create can no longer remain abstract or rhetorical. The coronavirus pandemic has exposed the truth, that a focus on our interdependent well-being is necessary for society’s survival. Succeed together or fail together the choice is ours, but we can no longer hide behind a narrative that separates individual financial self-interest from our mutual survival.

In the post-COVID world, the new narrative of business in society is a narrative about authentic caring, societal resilience and collective well-being.

Practical Ways to Integrate Human Capitalism
Herb Kelleher, the legendary founder of Southwest Airlines, once said, “The business of business is people — yesterday, today and forever….” But what does it actually mean to structure your business around people? What can you do tomorrow to transform the structure of your business, respond to this new reality and become the type of leader that society needs?


Caring is Job 1:
Above all there is one thing leaders must do first in order to be successful in this new world: They must actually care! To be clear, leaders who embrace the idea of caring for stakeholders as a core value and primary motivation for running a business will be well-positioned to succeed in this new world. They’ll be more able to execute on the ideas described later in this article and more likely to attract talent, customers and investors in a post-COVID world of business as a vital instrument of society.

At first this seems obvious and perhaps, some would say, no different than the status quo. But the nuance of authentically treating employees, suppliers, customers and communities as individuals deserving of your care for their own sake, as opposed to primarily as fodder for creating returns is critically important. Not only to how your company will be perceived, but authentic caring — or the lack thereof — will have a tremendous impact on your competitive performance. People understand instinctively if you are treating them fairly simply as a form of manipulation for other ends. And, unless you’ve created a true culture of caring in your organization, you’ll be tempted to abandon that care when it comes into conflict with your “real goals.” The best leaders however will understand this simple truth: how we think about creating financial value is now, more than ever, clearly tied to the way we create societal value. Authentically caring is a key component of this new narrative.

What wins in the marketplace is that you are responsible for taking care of everyone who encounters your organization” Tom Gardner: CEO and Co-Founder, The Motley Fool

With that as our foundation, there are two things that every leader can do to build caring into the operational DNA of their business:

First, adopt a specific set of guiding principals about what it means to care for each other in service of societal well-being. And second,

Institute a practical business operating system that provides a framework for living into those guiding principals.

Here in Part-1, I’ll discuss a set of guiding principles we’ve created at the Conscious Venture Lab to help entrepreneurs execute upon these cultures of caring.


Guiding Principles: The Five Promises of Collective Well-Being
In order to seed this new culture of caring into the DNA of your operations, it is crucially important that you articulate and codify a set of guiding principles that the entire company can use to organize your thought processes and create operating norms, policies, procedures and metrics that will keep your culture on track in good times and in challenging times…like during a pandemic.

Companies that will lead us into a more effective model of capitalism and a future of broadly-shared prosperity have structured their business to deliver on what I call The Five Promises of Collective Well-Being, through which we vow to use business to make the world:

  • More just,
  • More joyous,
  • More equitable,
  • More sustainable and
  • More prosperous for all.

Let’s examine each principle:

Business as a path to a More Just society:
Leaders who are best at this will work to create social justice by structuring their organizations to level the playing field and authentically create access to opportunity for all those in their ecosystem who want to contribute.

Conscious Venture Lab and SHIFT Ventures portfolio companies Hungry Harvest and R3 Score have built this promise into their business models, which drives impact and returns.

Hungry Harvest creates a more just world by providing fresh food to communities that wouldn’t otherwise have access to it and dignified work opportunities to people in need. As a result, they create scores of “Harvest Heroes” who loyally buy wholesome food from the company that otherwise would have gone to waste. In the process they have increase sales by more than 34,000% over the last 4 years.

R3Score creates a more just world by providing a dignified return to civil society for millions of formerly incarcerated Americans and allowing banks a way to engage with people they would otherwise ignore. Thereby expanding the banks’ customer base, putting financial assets to work that would otherwise lay fallow and giving the 1-in-3 Americans with a criminal record the opportunity to build a new life.

Business as a path to a More Joyous life:
Leaders who bring more joy into the world will do so by focusing on a combination of the quality of the human interactions in their operations, eliminating misery as a core aspect of their business and/or creating products that bring authentic joy to more lives.

One of my personal favorite companies, Union Square Hospitality Group, uses a culture of caring and enlightened hospitality to bring joy to employees, customers and suppliers alike.

Startup Aqus Water, that was a part of the Vatican Laudato Si Challenge in 2017, has created a product that puts “three years of clean water in the palm of (the) hand(s)” of people in places where lack of clean water has been causing extreme hardship for centuries. With more than 780 MM people in the world lacking access to clean water, bringing joy will undoubtedly bring prosperity to many.

Business as a path to More Equitable communities:
When leaders focus on creating a mutual exchange of value between all stakeholders, they move their organizations away from the negative consequences of shareholder primacy and create more equitable communities for everyone. Paradoxically, an equitable approach to business, or removing the shareholder blinders, often creates new paths to greater value for shareholders.

Greyston Bakery in Yonkers New York is a pioneer of open hiring. They create a more equitable world by focusing not on the tyranny of weeding people out in the hiring process but by providing the dignity of work to anyone who wants it.

Here in Baltimore, Jacob Hsu and his company Catalyte have created an entirely new way of identifying undervalued individuals who have the aptitude to become exceptional engineers. Creating new paths to equity and unleashing massive financial potential for communities, his clients and the company.

Business as a path to a More Sustainable world:
The winning leaders of the new narrative think and plan for the long-term. They understand that sustainability in every sense is the key to enduring organizational health. They establish a circle of growth for the planet, the people who serve or are served by the organization and the organization itself.

Billion-dollar clothing company Patagonia has rejected the world of “fast fashion” by creating high quality, long-lasting products and offering a repair and reuse program to discourage customers from buying things they don’t need.

Orsted, a $9BB energy company based in Denmark was named the Most Sustainable Company in the World by Corporate Knights in 2020. The company has transformed itself from a fossil fuel company to a total green energy juggernaut, significantly outperforming its peers, the European stock indices and returning over 42% ROI over the last 12 months.

Business as a path to a More Prosperous existence for us all:
The best leaders view value creation with a polarity, or both/and mindset. They actively look to create real wealth for employees, customers, communities, suppliers and shareholders. They work to manage the polarity of creating value for all stakeholders by asking themselves questions like: “How do we simultaneously achieve the upside of paying our employees as much as possible, and, the upside of creating great returns for shareholders?” This is in contrast to shareholder value leaders who see all stakeholder relationships as tradeoffs that need to be solved for the benefit of shareholders.

Starbucks has fed more than 10 million people through its FoodShare program, redoubled its commitment to eliminate gender pay equity gaps, and committed to becoming “… resource positive — storing more carbon than we emit, eliminating waste and providing more clean fresh water than we use …” — all while rewarding shareholders handsomely — even during the coronavirus pandemic.


Why Human CAPITALISM?
In Part-2 of this series I will discuss how the tenets of Conscious Capitalism and stakeholder management will allow organizations to clear the clutter and build these principles into everyday operations.

For now, a note before we end to my main audience: The Skeptics:

I spend the majority of every waking hour thinking about how to support entrepreneurs who have previously been neglected and who are creating world changing companies despite the immense hurdles they face. I also spend a majority of that time thinking about how to invest on behalf of my limited partners in a way that will create exceptional returns. I am a capitalist who believes capitalism can and should be practiced in a way that unleashes its power to elevate all humanity. That we can create a more humane form of commerce and human cooperation. What I am suggesting is that capitalism, like any man-made system, must evolve as society evolves. To paraphrase my friend and mentor Ed Freeman, professor at the Darden School at The University of Virginia, the alternative to capitalism as we know it today is not socialism, but a better, more human form of capitalism.

For those who would push back on these ideas as leaving shareholders behind and giving away profits I would simply ask you to suspend disbelief for a bit. Take a few minutes to think not about what you might lose, but about what you might gain. What kind of world could we create if we decided our first duty in business was to care for each other? Look around…I think that time has come.

 

Jeff Cherry, is CEO and Managing Partner of SHIFT Ventures, and Founder & Executive Director of Conscious Venture Lab, an award-winning and internationally recognized early stage accelerator. He is also Founder and Managing Partner of The Conscious Venture Fund and Founding Partner of The Laudato Si Startup Challenge. Jeff is a pioneer in conscious capitalism and double bottom-line investing. He can be reached at jcherry@consciousventurelab.com.

The Success Formula: Success = BD+GM+F+C+P

5 Ways to Overcome Obstacles and Achieve Success | EHS Today

Almost 9 years ago, I published this, my first Blog post on WINNING IDEAS. As I work with students, mentees, and other business colleagues of late, I find myself reverting to various “Fundamentals” in our conversations, this one perhaps being the most important of all.  Please enjoy and let me know what you think!

What does it take to be Successful? Everyone has an opinion on this for sure.

The Success Iceberg - Uncovering What Success Really Looks Like

Success is Winning, and everyone loves Winning.

Having been a student and analyst of the subject of Success for over 40 years, I think I have boiled down the formula of what creates Success:

SUCCESS = BURNING DESIRE + GOAL MANAGEMENT + FOCUS + COURAGE + PERSISTENCE

Each of the great thinkers and each successful person has their own personal take on what it takes to achieve success, but these are the 5 essential elements.

 

7 ways to position IT for success in 2020 | CIO

Of course, I left out a couple of other important elements like Serendipity, Luck, Sacrifice, Hard Work, and others, but I believe that these “sub elements” are a part of one of these 5 essential ingredients.  For example, if you have a Burning Desire (passion), then you will make the sacrifices and work hard.  Goal Setting includes goal review, and is the roadmap to the destination.

Courage in Business – Vividcomm

Courage is an interesting one and we don’t hear it mentioned often, but to me, Courage is all about taking action, and stepping up and going outside your comfort zone to make things happen.  Without Courage, thought cannot easily be transformed into Action.

And what about luck?  Well, the more persistent you are, the luckier you get.  By never giving up and hanging in there, opportunities will inevitably come your way.

Napoleon Hill Quote: “Failure cannot cope with persistence.” (12 ...

Persistence is my favorite, and I conclude this, my first ever Blog Post with my favorite quote:

“Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never–in nothing, great or small, large or petty–never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”   – Winston Churchill

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 years as an entrepreneur | Advice on how you can build your own business throughout this pandemic

This is a Guest blog post from Thomas Ma, an awesome up and coming entrepreneur whom I have had the pleasure of watching grow these past few years. He is the LA-based Co-Founder of Sapphire Apps Media.  This is great reading for any young person or aspiring entrepreneur.  Lots of lessons learned. Enjoy!!

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I still remember it like it was yesterday. I was heading home from my last final of the semester to wrap up my junior year in college.

I had no internships lined up, and no idea what I wanted to do with my life. All of my friends had internships and it seemed they had their professional career figured out.

Nope not me. No one called me back. Since it was the last day, I decided to take one final stop at the college career center to see if they could help me out.

This is when I bumped into one of my friend at the career center and we started talking. Suddenly I started to get all these ideas in my head.

From that moment, I went back to my apartment, and continued to carve out my idea. I didn’t stop. I put 100% into it from that day. Of course it started out slowly. I had a lot to learn.

One Fun Fact:

It took me from May 9, 2015 — April 2017 before I had my own company bank account. That’s nearly 2 years!

In light of this 5 year mark, I wanted to put time and share what I would do today especially in this pandemic. My hope is to get other people to progress with their own journey. This advice is good for any type of industry.

Chapters:

1. Marketing yourself on upwork.com

2. Building out your network

3. Be vulnerable and share your journey

4. Learning a New Skill

5. Tools that you should know about

6. Outsourcing Talent

7. Digital Marketing

8. Building your digital brand

1. Create an upwork.com account to market yourself

Study other people in your industry. If you are into consulting, you look up consulting on upwork.com

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Look at the following:

Hourly rate, $ they’ve earned, success rate, and country their from.

In this case, Kim has a great profile. He has a high success rate and over 6 figures earned.

Here’s his profile:

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Look at is his hourly rate, title and what he is putting in his summary. It’s clear that he’s getting reached a lot.

Below his profile is his work history. Study how much he has earned and how much people are paying him.

Do this for 5–10 of the top earners int his category. This is the benchmark.

Try your best to optimize your profile so that it matches up with some of the best on Upwork. When you apply, at least you will stand out.

As you build your account in the beginning, it’s going to be tough. You’re going to have to be relentless. This means applying to as many jobs as you can. It may even mean not making a lot of $ to build up your profile.

Review and job success rate is critical to standing out as an applicant.

2. Build out your network

When starting out, it’s critical that you have a network. In order to thrive in what you do, you have to surround yourself with like minded people. These are the people who you will hang out with the most and learn from. You will also progress with these people and it’s amazing to celebrate milestones together and also being there for one another when things don’t go as planned.

If you don’t have a business network, it’s okay 🙂 I will share some of the things that I would recommend.

Before you build your network:
Make sure to optimize your social media profile with what you do. That includes Instagram, Facebook, Linkedin, etc…

This way people get a sense of what you do when you connect with you.

Here are a few places you can find events or meet people:

The strategy applies to all the platforms below: When you join the platform, go to the search bar and enter keywords that relate to your niche. If you were in fitness, you could try wellness, health, fitness, coaching etc.

Facebook Group:

Eventbrite (Tons of free online events)

Meetup:

Linkedin

Instagram DM (search out hashtags in your industry and engage with people)

If you join a new group, read what members are posting. Engage with their post if you like it, and add them as a friend.

If they accept you as a friend, shoot them a compliment and let them know you liked their post. If they respond, ask if they are interested in connecting with you via zoom.

While on zoom, spend time genuinely getting to know the person.

Things you can talk about:
How covid has impacted you

Your background on how you started

Sharing what you’re passionate about

Favorite books

Why you started

The purpose of this is to build your own network. If people genuinely get to know you, they’ll support you. You never know who they know.

After you connect, you continue to stay in touch with them and invite them to events that you hear about.

As you continue to evolve your network, you will have access to more events.

This strategy can even be applied to zoom hangouts. To engage on zoom, you can send them a private message and use the same strategy.

In the space of creating your own brand, showing up is half the battle. You have to show up and build your network every day. Make it a goal to fill up your entire calendar with zoom events and zoom meetings.

Things to avoid at networking events:

1. Don’t ask the “what do you do” question. That’s straight to the point of what they do and it shows you don’t even want to get to know them for who they are

2. To be efficient with your time, you can state that you have 30 minutes or whatever at the beginning.

3. Don’t talk too much about yourself unless people ask you questions. If you talk a lot, you’ll never be able to learn about the other person. You have to make the other person feel special that you are talking to.

A small recap on networking:

If you are starting out, you can do the following to ensure you progress every week.

  1. Start off by booking one event per day on your calendar
  2. Make a goal of how many zoom connect meetings you want to take. Maybe in the beginning, make a goal to meet 5 people per week and then scale up.
  3. If you meet someone and share common interest, offer to collaborate with them. You can collaborate by co hosting a happy hour with your joint network. This way you meet more people and so does your new friend.
  4. If you are able to host events, you become the go to person for that event. People will get to hear you. This way you expand your network at a faster pace.
  5. If you host great events, make sure to do it on a weekly bases. As you host more events, people will bring their own network.

3. Be vulnerable and share your journey

When I started, I used to take a selfie photo everyday of my Starbucks cup or wherever I was at in the world. I’d post most of the stories on Linkedin.

I wanted to show people what the journey was like. Overtime, I was able to build more followers because people liked hearing my story.

The reason for doing this is because it builds your digital brand. The more people know about you, the more they can potentially help you.

One networking tip here is to connect with people who like your post. Right away you have something in common.

4. Continue to learn

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One of my favorite podcast to listen to is NPR how I built this by Guy Raz. It has stories from some of the great entrepreneurs in the world.

It’s nice to hear how someone started and made traction.

Read articles on medium.com especially the entrepreneurship articles

Stay active in the reddit entrepreneur community. A lot of people post insightful advice on there, and it’s an easy way to connect with a small group

5.) Tools/Sites you should know about

http://www.hemingwayapp.com : Spell checker you can use before you post or email someone

https://unsplash.com: Website with great stock images you can find

https://clipchamp.com/en/video-compressor/ : Compress large files

https://www.squarespace.com : Easy website builder. When you make your website make sure it’s optimized for mobile

https://hunter.io : Tool that lets you find emails from brands you are trying to reach

https://apps.apple.com/us/app/inshot-video-editor/id997362197 : App that lets you edit videos. You can put around a white border and text over your content

6. Outsourcing Talent

What does this mean? It means you are hiring someone remotely to complete the work for you. They can be from anywhere in the world!

Talent you can hire for: video editing, graphic design, app development, website, basically anything you can think of is on there.

As you expand, you are going to need help. Upwork is the best place to find remote talent.

If you want to save cost, I would highlight recommend looking for talent in Philippines, India, and Ukraine.

When you have your job list up, you can filter for people in those countries and invite them to your job.

I highly recommend upwork.com

Here are some tips to hiring talent:

When you make your job listing, you want to have the following:

-Catchy Header (study other people)

  • Clear instructions on exactly what you want and keeping it short and brief
  • Follow up questions that the applicant should respond to

Here are some I recommend:
What is your hourly rate

What is your working hours
Have you read the instruction? If so, how much and how long would it take to complete

Do you have a portfolio?

All the questions above help filter out who is a good candidate and who isn’t.

If you like their answers, you can give them a small paid tester. If they pass it, you can give them a larger project.

Always let people know if they do good work that you will have more projects for them.

When you find someone you like, you can add them to your roster.

If you master the ability to outsource, you can scale a creative agency. This means you can find clients who need a service. An example is if you had a bunch of designers you liked, you can market yourself as a creative agency who does graphics.

Add your creators work to your portfolio. Show people your work. Find clients who are willing to pay.

Once you find clients who are willing to pay, you give the work to the person you liked.

Recap for Agency via Outsourcing

  1. Find talent
  2. Test talent. If their good, add them to your roster
  3. Show case their work
  4. Find clients who are in need
  5. If client is in need, then they will pay you for the services.
  6. Give the project to the remote person. Make sure they meet your deadlines

7. Digital Marketing:

Learn how to run paid media ads on Facebook.

Steps I would suggest:

  1. Start to do a deep dive on free courses that they offer online

Free Resources that I like:

Tristan’s Facebook Ads Course: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC_Ic8HZSPfIW9TES3jPgpCg

Once you learn one platform, you can figure out other platforms such as Snapchat etc..

A few advice:

Start small when you run Facebook ads campaigns. Learn how to track your ROI (return on investment)

At the end of the day, your goal should be to make profit.

Study your competitors advertisement through the Facebook tool. You can look up every single company and what ads they run.

8. Building your digital brand

I never envisioned myself as a live fitness coach, but I found a new passion.

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What started out as an opportunity to learn turned into something that I look forward to every week.

I had no idea what it was like to coach. I wanted to change that. To build a great brand, I wanted to learn everything. The coaches are important. They are the ones leading the tribe for ~1 hour.

My first class had 4 people. My second class had 4 people.

Week 2: Started to get 10–15 people for my two class

Week 3: Averaged 30 people for my two classes. This time people are referring their friends and family to join.

I love this because it’s so fun to see people enjoying something that I teach and having them bring their friends.

Take a look at the Eventbrite photo. Eventbrite drove over 100 users to my listing.

Eventbrite drove over 100 email sign ups to my fitness class. Facebook drove ~30 and I spent about $150.

Here’s how you can build out your digital brand throughout this pandemic

List your events on the following platforms:

Meetup (Yes you have to pay $30 group fee, but you will gain users over time. Study other groups in your niche and optimize your group title)

List your events on all the builtin websites. They have cities in Austin, NYC, Chicago, etc. It’s FREE!

List your event on Facebook Events. Make a page. This is the group I made:

Facebook

Log into Facebook to start sharing and connecting with your friends, family, and people you know.

List your event on Linkedin Events. Invite all your network. Yes it’s tedious, but you have to hustle when you’re building something new.

DM people on Instagram. Find hashtags that relate to your target demo. In my case, it’d be #fitness #peloton #soulcycle #boxing

Find people commenting in fitness related post.

LIST ON EVENTBRITE. YES IT’S BOLDED FOR A REASON.

OPTIMIZE the keywords. They give you 10 for a reason. Think of words people would search if it was someone looking to attend your online class.

Leverage all the keywords in the main title

State the time, timezone, day, and date in the header

Find a clear stock photo that stands out. I use Unsplash.

Add questions they have to answer. In my eventbrite, I ask people where they come from. I also suggest they join my Facebook fitness community.

Facebook Groups are key! It reaches more people. If you post an event, you are able to invite every single member in the group.

Nurturing your audience:

Engage with people before class. Ask them where they are from

Throughout your class find a way to get users to engage. In my fitness class we do virtual high fives and fist bumps

Bring people together after the event. At my events, we take a group photo online

Reach out to people who attended your class and thank them. They’ll appreciate it

Remember people’s first name. Especially if they come back.

Livestream your events. This way more people have access.

Why you should build out a digital brand:

People can learn about you. If they like what you do, they will come back. If they continue to come back, they will bring friends to join them. Overtime, this is your fan base that supports you. It’s important that you are able to identify your super fans.

My hope is that this will give you the small push to get you started.

No matter what happens, be proud of what you do. Do things because you want to. Don’t do it because of someone else telling you what they want for you. It’s your journey. Make sure you can smile and have fun with your choice.

If you are looking for a good community to join, this is the one I created:

Sapphire Stories: A Community of Passionate Doers

Community of Doers who are pursuing their passion. Our goal is to connect and inspire you with your own journey. Follow…

If you’d like to stay connected with me, you can always reach out @boredwithtom on Instagram

 

 

Pandemic-Proof Your Funding Pitch Deck

 

See the source image

 

This is a Guest blog post from Ines LeBow.

Pandemic-Proof Your Funding Pitch Deck

Demonstrating to investors that your business model is sustainable, especially in times of uncertainty or jarring disruption, like we’re facing now with the Coronavirus pandemic, can give you the edge you need to get funded. In my previous article, “Now’s the Time to Get Your Business Funded: Coronavirus Edition,” I highlighted the fact that savvy investors are still looking for great investment opportunities. Those great opportunities include investing in both the idea and the one with whom the idea originated.

Pitch Sustainability In Any Market

As part of your funding story and pitch deck, it is important in today’s environment to present the ways in which you can navigate operating the business and even excelling despite quarantines and partial lockdowns being in place. Some sustainability concepts to consider include:

  • Business Model – Where does your business reside along the industry vertical or value chain?
  • Sales Model – How do you interact with and sell to customers (i.e., brick-and-mortar, direct sales, e-commerce)
  • Organization Model – What is the composition of your workforce? Do you require staff to be on premises? Are you dependent on contractors or outsourced partners?
  • Product or Service Offering – Is your offering something that will be of value during a major disruptive social or economic event?
  • Materials Supply – Will shutdowns like we are experiencing now impact your ability to obtain the raw materials, inputs, and supplies required to deliver your product to market?
  • Expertise – Who on your leadership team or advisory board has the experience and expertise in helping organizations navigate through crises and times of instability?
  • Finances and Cost Structure – Do you have a lean enough cost structure and a good enough understanding of the financials to ensure a proper runway for funding to growth?
  • Employee and Customer Sentiment – Do you have a clear understanding of the mindset your target customer has during “regular” times versus during a crisis like we’re facing today? What about your employees…do you know how a crisis will impact their ability to effectively deliver for your customers?
  • New Marketing or Channel Opportunities – Have you explored changes you can make to your product offering, pricing, payment terms, customer segments, delivery methods, marketing strategies, partnerships, and co-branding initiatives that would better meet the needs of the market during a crisis?

Investors want to invest in people with great ideas, but even more so with those who understand how to bring those great ideas to the market, whatever condition that market is in, successfully. Show them that you and your team have that expertise as part of your funding story and pitch deck. Now is the time, because if not now, when?

For the fundamentals of getting your business funded, check out some of my other articles, including a Blueprint on How to Open Doors to Start-Up and Next-Stage Growth Funding and a companion piece on Telling an Epic Fundraising Story, Starting with the Value Proposition.

To learn more on how to create an epic fundraising story for digital presentations to investors, contact me for a complimentary consultation by phone at 314-578-0958 or by email at ilebow@transformationsolutions.pro.

Ines LeBow is the CEO, Transformation Executive for ETS. She is a known catalyst for business operations, bringing 30+ years of hands-on experience. Ines has a long history of being recruited into senior executive roles to improve the execution of business operations and to drive revenue growth. You can see her LinkedIn Profile at http://www.linkedin.com/in/ineslebow, view the ETS website at http://www.transformationsolutions.pro, or email her directly at ilebow@transformationsolutions.pro.

10 Ways to Leverage Snapchat for Business

For sure we are in the very early days of “Snapchat for business.” I presented an award a few days ago at the Institute for Excellence in Sales annual awards program. I asked the audience of 250+ B2B and B2G (business to government) sales execs who was on Snapchat, and only 4–5 hands were raised.

I was very surprised because Snapchat is currently the fastest growing mobile social media platform in the world, and has now become one of the largest. This favorite social media app of teens and millennials has over 200 million users, of whom 100 million are “active daily” users who are viewing 10 billion photos and videos from their smartphones every day. This past week, Snapchat surpassed Instagram and is now the number 2 app among US iPhone users behind Facebook, as ranked by time spent in the app: 

Screen Shot 2016 06 09 at 8.16.31 AM

Credit: App Annie and Business Insider

If you’re not thinking about how Snapchat can help your business, then you’re ignoring these stats at your peril. Yes, the demographic is young right now, but I remember when I joined Facebook 9 years ago, college students and recent grads were the vast majority of users. Eventually Facebook attracted older demos, which is inevitably what will happen with Snapchat.

Here are 10 ways you can use Snapchat for business:

  1. Sell. According to comScore, 60% of US 13–34 year old smartphone users are on Snapchat. If this is your target market, you have their attention right now, and properly crafted offers, discount coupons, contests, etc. can drive revenue. If your target market is older, you may as well get a head start on Snapchat now before older users join.
  2. Community building. With Snapchat “stories” (the killer app), you can now build and engage your audience in a unique way, by posting a series of 10-second snippets that aggregate into a “story.” This can be done with video and photos, and in creative and interesting ways. Stories only last 24 hours, so your community has a particular urgency in “tuning in” to your channel every day since the content is perishable.
  3. Business development. Snapchat also offers you 1 to 1 engagement opportunities because of its private chat capabilities, so you can reach out to prospects, potential partners, vendors, consultants, etc.
  4. PR and branding. Brands like T-Mobile, Taco Bell, and Acura are using a variety of techniques on Snapchat to brand their companies and products, through their own stories, partnering with “influencers,” offering coupons, buying custom filters, showing “sneak peaks” of new products, and other creative ways. Snapchat is an ideal B2C platform, but I am seeing successful B2B branding also being done.
  5. Personal branding. Celebs, social media stars, business leaders, and even politicians (Bernie Sanders and DC Mayor Muriel Bowser) are using the platform to brand themselves by giving fans a glimpse into their day to day lives. You can also cross promote other social media platforms and websites for greater visibility and discoverability overall.
  6. Customer service. Like you can on Twitter, you can have direct conversations with customers, and answer questions and concerns. You can incorporate announcements, new product offerings and features via stories, and sending group snaps. With Snapchat, you can also solicit feedback, conduct surveys, take polls, and play “games” with customers.
  7. Recruit talent. If you want to hire recent grads, you have to go where their attention is focused. Today, Snapchat is the perfect vehicle to convey to potential employees and contractors a feel for your company’s vibe and a behind the scenes look at your operations and team.
  8. Find opportunities. Justin Kan (follow him at justinkan), a partner at Y Combinator is using Snapchat to find new investment opportunities. Interested startups apply to be selected to take over his Snapchat account, which they would then use to pitch their ideas via his story.
  9. Learn. I’ve learned a ton about a variety of highly applicable and interesting things from people I follow, including Saba Sedighi (sabasedighi), Brian Park (brianbpark), Erica Blair (theericablair), and many others.
  10. Teach. Mark Suster (msuster), a VC at Upfront Ventures uses the platform to teach. His daily “snap storms” offer a wealth of great business and investment information. Likewise, Suzanne Nguyen (stringstory) does an excellent job teaching different aspects of technology and social media, and Justin Wu (hackapreneur) shares his vast knowledge about “growth hacking.” By the way, Suster has solved the 24-hour perishability problem by saving his stories and then reposting them onto a permanent website: snapstorms.com. Others repost their stories onto YouTube.

OK, so how can you get started?

Step 1: Download the Snapchat app onto your smartphone and sign up.

Step 2: Add friends. From the app itself, plus you can find other friends and people to follow by downloading and using GhostCodes, a discovery app for finding Snappers with mutual interests. Because Snapchat has limited native discovery functionality, Snappers create profiles on GhostCodes, listing their short bios, areas of interest, and links to other social media accounts including LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

Step 3: Jump in by following stories, creating stories, snapping your friends, experimenting and having fun with it.

Step 4: Get some Snapchat hacks from your or your friends’ Gen Z and millennial kids, as well as by watching YouTube tutorials and videos.

Step 5: Figure out the best way to leverage the platform for your business, and execute!

So there you have it: 10 ways to boost your business using Snapchat, and 5 easy steps to get started. Please follow me on Snapchat at stienwong or via the Snapcode below, and let’s snap about how your business is benefitting from Snapchat.

Tien Snapcode

Thanks for reading. If you found this post helpful, please subscribe to this Blog and share with folks who may also like it. I’d greatly appreciate it.  Thanks!

Note: this piece was adapted from an article I wrote entitled “You should be on Snapchat. No, really” which was published on June 3, 2016 in the Washington Business Journal.

Magic Johnson – WINNING on the Court and in the Boardroom

Magic Johnson 1

Seeing Magic Johnson speak was one of the highlights of my week in Nashville at the SiriusDecisions 2015 Summit a few weeks ago.

He was funny, engaging, and inspiring, and also had some sound business wisdom for the crowd of 3000 or so sales and marketing executives in attendance. Everyone knows Magic Johnson as one of the all-time NBA greats, but his business resume would seem to qualify him also as one of America’s top entrepreneurs.

He’s a true Unicorn, a rare individual who has reached the pinnacle in sport as well as in business. He spoke about how he made the transition, and how he started winning in business.

CAREER HIGHLIGHTS

CEO of Magic Johnson Enterprises, which reportedly has a net worth of $700 million

Part owner of the LA Dodgers, Major League Baseball team

Former minority owner of the LA Lakers, National Basketball Association team

Owner of Magic Theaters

Partner in the $500 million Yucaipa/Magic private equity fund

First franchisee of Starbucks ever, built a chain of 125 stores in urban locations, sold the chain back to Starbucks corporate

Co-owner of the Dayton Dragons (minor league baseball) and the LA Sparks (WNBA)

Founder, Magic Johnson Foundation

MAGIC’S KEYS TO WINNING

  1. Play to win, and work with Winners
  1. Know your customer – an example he cited was his knowledge of the “Urban customer”, and how he replacing scones w sweet potato pie at Starbucks, and adding more flavored drinks to the menu in order to cater to his customers
  1. Over-deliver – “the key to business success and the key to retention”
  1. Work with great partners
  1. Sell at the right time – Johnson sold his stake in Starbucks and the L.A. Lakers NBA team as valuations started to rise.

OTHER INTERESTING FACTS AND THOUGHTS

He does an annual SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis of all of his companies AND himself.

Magic’s All Time starting 5 lineup – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Larry Bird, Tim Duncan, Michael Jordan and himself.

His number one, top rival on the court: Larry Bird

Mentors – Magic has a network of 20+ CEOs who mentor him. He built this network after retirement from basketball by obtaining a list of the Lakers’ VIP season ticket holders and cold calling them one by one.

His biggest failure – Magic 32 sporting goods stores, which failed after only one year.

Magic, on the handful of traits which makes him a success in business (he said he brought these skills he learned as an athlete to his business ventures) – desire to WIN, perfectionism, preparation, focus, discipline, professionalism, and his ability to motivate his team and those around him to reach their full potential.

I’ve never met Magic Johnson, nor have I seen him speak at this length, but here are my main impressions of him, garnered from his 50 minute talk:

Burning desire to WIN. He hates to lose – “underperforming is not winning the Championship

Supremely confident – he KNOWS he’s going to win

His “game plan” is simple. He sticks to the basics (customer focus, over-delivering, good teams, good partners, etc.)

Coachable (he spoke extensively about soliciting and absorbing good advice from his network of 20 CEO “coaches”)

Magic Johnson 2

It was quite inspiring and refreshing to hear from an entertaining, motivational speaker who backs up his thoughts with relevant stories and sound business advice. Always a fan of him as a basketball player, I am now a fan of Magic Johnson as an entrepreneur.

Internet Legend Doug Humphrey and Sid Banerjee, CEO of Clarabridge Featured at Big Idea CONNECTpreneur Fall, 2014 Forum

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The next Big Idea CONNECTpreneur FORUM is coming up this Thursday, September 11, 2014 in Tysons Corner, Virginia.
 
Doug Humphrey, CEO of JETCO Research and Founder of DIGEX and Cidera, will moderate the Panel of Venture Capitalists and Angel Investors.
 
Sid Banerjee, Founder and CEO of Clarabridge, will talk about his company’s story, growth, and bright prospects for the future.
 
The Big Idea CONNECTpreneur Forums are quarterly gatherings of 300+ of the DC Region’s TOP Entrepreneurs, Business Leaders, CXOs, Angels, and VCs.
 

The event is regarded by many as “The Best Networking Event in DC.” InTheCapital calls CONNECTpreneur a “NETWORKING JACKPOT” of the DC Region’s TOP Entrepreneurs, Business Leaders, CXOs, Angels, and VCs.

CONNECTpreneur events are “essentially the be-all-end-all of networking events in the city” 

The “premier networking event in DC tech and investing”, CONNECTpreneur is “networking on steroids”

The Big Idea CONNECTpreneur Forum is a “Networking Jackpot.”

Presented by appnetic, Tech 2000 and LORE Systems, this UNIQUE EVENT is like NONE OTHER in our region, because of the high quality of its attendees, speakers and presenters.

And YES, the networking is unprecedented!

 
 
Program Highlights:
 
  • We expect 300 business leaders, includng 175+ CEOs & Founders, as well as 60+ angels & VCs
  • Conversation with Sid Banerjee, Co-Founder and CEO of CLARABRIDGE
  • All-Star Panel of INVESTORS
  • SHOWCASE of Emerging tech companies
  • Heavy NETWORKING before, during, and after the event
 
The venue is the Tysons Corner Marriott in Tyson’s Corner, Virginia.  A plated breakfast is included.  CONNECTpreneur is a quarterly networking mashup, which has been attended by over 2500 business leaders in the past 3 years. We expect another SELL OUT crowd, so there will be no on-site registration.
 
All attendees MUST BE pre-registered.  Register now!
 
 
And visit our Website.
 
 
DATE:  SEPTEMBER 11, 2014
 
AGENDA
 
7:00–8:15 am – REGISTRATION / NETWORKING
 
8:15 – 8:20 am – WELCOME
 
8:25 – 9:15 am – FIRESIDE CHAT with SID BANERJEE,Co-Founder and CEO of Clarabridge
 
9:15 – 10:15 am  –  COMPANY SHOWCASE
 

10:15 – 11:15 am –  ALL STAR INVESTOR PANEL:  LATEST TRENDS IN VENTURE CAPITAL AND EARLY STAGE FINANCING

 
Introductions: JEFF REID, Founding Director, Georgetown Entrepreneurship Initiative
 
Moderator:  DOUG HUMPHREY, Serial Entrepreneur, Angel Investor, Internet Pioneer, President of JETCO Research; Founder and CEO of DIGEX and CIDERA.
 
JOHN BURKE, General Partner, True Ventures
JIM PASTORIZA, Managing Partner, TDF Ventures
 
11:15 am – NETWORKING
 
 
EXPECTED INVESTOR PARTICIPANTS (partial list):
 
We expect 65+ angel and VC investors including Core Capital, Grotech, Novak Biddle, New Atlantic Ventures, Revolution Ventures, True Ventures, Edison Ventures, Amplifier Venture Partners, SWaN & Legend Venture Partners, RLMcCall Capital Partners, Multiplier Capital, Updata, Saratoga Investment Corp., DFW Capital Partners, Farragut Capital, NextGen Angels, CIT GAP Funds, New Markets Venture Partners, BluVenture Investors, Leeds Novamark, Maryland Venture Fund, TEDCO, 1776 / K Street Capital, Fortify Ventures, Acceleprise, US Boston, VentureCross Partners, Berman Enterprises, Dingman Center Angels, Neuberger & Co. Ventures, McLean Capital, Angel Venture Forum, Exhilirator, National Capital Companies, Enhanced Capital, MTECH Ventures, Mosaic Capital, Opus8, Starise Ventures, Blue Heron Capital, Duncaster Investments, Private Capital Network, Next-Stage Development Group, Lancaster Angel Network, Harrell Partners, Stanford Venture Advisors, MD Center for Entrepreneurship, Conscious Venture Labs, Great Falls Capital, Hafezi Capital, and Keiretsu Forum.
 
 
EVENT PARTNERS: