At the young age of 33, I had a stroke. Shocking, I know!
It came completely out of the blue and utterly rocked my world. I wasn’t overly stressed or overweight. I played college football and considered myself to be a healthy person. The doctors discovered that I was born with a defective heart valve which lead to a large aneurysm in my aorta. Ultimately, I needed open heart surgery to replace my valve and aorta.
That’s when I realized two things: I’m not invincible, and my life would never be same. While it was an absolutely horrifying event for me and my family, it came with a silver lining: I realized I was doing business all wrong.
Growing up in a family of hard-working contractors, I was raised on the job-site with everybody digging ditches and swinging hammers. My family owned a small company, and everybody worked with a first-in, last-out mentality. When I started Global Disposal Reduction Services, Inc. a decade ago with my business partners, I took the same approach. This led to a problem…the company centered around me. This is a common problem many business owners face.
In 2012, I bought out my partners, and the company was definitely spinning on my axis. All of that changed in the fall of 2013. While driving to a sales appointment, I had a stroke. Not only did this moment change my life, but it revolutionized how I was running my business.
I’d spent the past five years pouring my everything into this business. When I wasn’t physically at work, my mental energy was spent planning and strategizing. In this defining moment of extreme vulnerability, I had an epiphany: I hadn’t planned for something like this. Nowhere in my projections, goals and company outlines had I accommodated for having a stroke and open heart surgery. This wasn’t even on my radar, and why would it be? After all, I was a perfectly healthy 33 year old (or so I thought).
As I was lying in the hospital bed, unsure of the future, my focus shifted. I began asking myself very tough questions. “What happens to the company if I’m gone?” “How can I protect my family and my employees?” I immediately implemented changes across the board, so the company could grow into a business capable of sustaining itself whether I was there to run it or not.
The three biggest changes I made:
I got help improving operations.
I hired somebody to organize and systematize the company and define every position’s job description, especially mine. I had her work through all my core positions in the company so that she had a clear understanding of how everything functioned together. This helped create a step-by-step manual on how to complete each job in that division. Once she became familiar with each position, she was able to attack issues head-on with complete understanding of how a particular decision at one end of the business could affect matters at the other end.
I shifted focus onto employee success.
I started focusing my energy on making sure the employees had everything they needed to succeed. I realized there were unnecessary redundancies hindering job performance. I discovered my company had duplicative processes that created nothing but added confusion and frustration. From this, I simplified tasks and cut down on the number of people involved in a particular issue.
I let my team do more and they like it.
I gave up control and quickly found many of the people I was working with had talents that far surpassed mine and were eager to take on new challenges. Looking back, I now see that the stop-gaps and issues with performance were directly related to the inefficiency in my company. So many times I thought I was the only person qualified to speak with a client. What I was doing was cutting out my employees from the process and keeping them in dark.
The outcome of these changes had an astronomical effect on my business and left me with three important takeaways on how I view my company and employees.
Don’t wait for an emergency.
Don’t wait for an extreme circumstance to start your company on the path toward self-sufficiency. You can take steps now to ensure you are building something that is capable of operating with or without you or anybody else in your company. Everybody should think about what they are doing as if somebody else was going to have to do it tomorrow.
Set your goals and make a plan.
Set clear goals for both the company and each employee and identify how you will achieve those goals. Many companies set arbitrary goals but fail to effectively chart a path toward success for each and every employee. Owners must let go of the fear that they are the only ones who can achieve these goals for their companies. If one of your employees is consistently overachieving, then continue to increase his/her responsibilities and challenge him/her with new projects. You will never really know what your employees are capable of until you let go of the reins.
Stop underestimating your team.
Look for talent within your company, and empower your people to succeed. Make sure the company is focused on the customer, and you are focused on the company. A really cool tool I started to implement is the CliftonStrengths talent assessment. This is an awesome opportunity to identify what your employees do best and build upon their talents. The online test takes about 45 minutes and is a way to put your employees in the best position possible to succeed.
My life and business today are much different than they were four years ago. I have more time to spend enjoying life and my family. My business doesn’t depend on my every waking second because I’ve structured it that way. My employees are happier and feel more ownership of their jobs as they now have a clear sense of direction and can see how their contributions directly impact the overall health of the company. Their renewed sense of vigor fuels me as I strive to fulfill my role in growing and expanding the company to new heights.
I’m at peace knowing that if circumstances pull me away from my business for an extended period of time or even permanently, my business will continue to flourish. My employees will continue to have a secure job, and my family will continue to benefit from the years of blood, sweat and tears I poured into this business because it now thrives with or without me.
Unilever Turns Up the Heat on Facebook & Google Over Tech’s ‘Unintended Consequences’
Unilever has issued a stern warning to digital platforms including Facebook, Google, and YouTube: do more to improve transparency and clean up the “swamp” of fake news, exploitative, and socially divisive content, or be cut off from its multi-billion dollar digital advertising budget.
CMO Keith Weed recently spoke at the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s annual leadership meeting held in Palm Desert, Calif. CNBC quotes him as saying, “We need to redefine what is responsible business in the digital age because for all of the good the tech companies are doing, there’s some unintended consequences that now need addressing.”
Two of the most important consequences being referred to include the threatening of safety of users, especially young children, and loss of trust by consumers and companies at large.
While it’s unlikely that Unilever will turn its back on the two largest digital platforms, Weed’s words matter because of the sheer amount of ad budget Unilever holds across its portfolio brands. MediaPost reports that in 2017, the company spent approximately $9.8 billion on marketing and advertising, a quarter of which went to digital.
Beyond the public denouncements, Unilever is also working with IBM to develop a blockchain with which the company can more effectively reduce ad fraud via a record of what media is purchased and how it is delivered.
A separate MediaPost article shares YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki’s response to Weeds comments on Monday. In her own statement at Recode’s Code Media conference, she assured,
“We want to do the right set of things to build [Unilever’s] trust. They are building brands on YouTube, and we want to be sure that our brand is the right place to build their brand.”
Recent efforts we’ve seen in support of this include significant updates to its Creator Program policy. Further, in light of the recent Logan Paul controversy involving a video in which a suicide victim was filmed inside a Japanese forest, the company has suspended running ads on his channel, per Ad Age.
While brand safety is a concern on the minds of many marketers, Unilever’s public comments this week indicate that brands are viewing the issue with a much broader lens, and seriously questioning the role these platforms play in people’s everyday lives, beyond the world of advertising. In this important cultural moment, people are looking to brands and platforms to assume responsibility and be proactive to keep their spaces safe, trustworthy, and suitable for communities.
To further explore the overarching question of how technology, including digital platform giants, can be used to bring us closer together versus further apart, join us at SMWNYC April 24-27. Register today and save 20%.
Facebook’s Next Step in Building Community: $10M in Grants
Facebook has made several important announcements as of late the support its mission to create more “meaningful communities.” The latest? Investment in a newly announced Community Leadership program designed to support its community-building leaders through a variety of residency and fellowship opportunities that offer training, support, and funding.
Here’s how it will work: Facebook will name five “community leaders in residence” and provide up to $1 million each to fund their proposals, in addition to providing them with the opportunity to attend a customized leadership development training session.
Moreover, Facebook will select 100 individuals to join its fellowship program and receive up to $50,000 each for a “specific community initiative.” They’ll also participate in four in-person gatherings during which they will have the chance to meet and collaborate with other fellows.
Another key initiative in the works? Expanding Facebook’s “engineering team for community safety,” which is headquartered in London. In particular, the company hopes to double the number of employees focused on such efforts including detecting and stopping fake accounts, protecting people from harm (e.g harassment and scams), and making it easier to report content, by the end of 2018.
Further, Facebook outlined new tools for group admins, including page personalization options (e.g. color and the ability to pin announcements to the top of the page), the ability to create and share group rules; and more features to monitor Group Insights.
Outside of its Communities Summit, but along the theme of ensuring time on the platform is time well spent, the company also confirmed last week it was testing a downvote button that would allow users to provide feedback on comments in particular. The downvote button is being tested within a limited group of U.S. users for the time being.
This is not to be confused with a “dislike” button, but rather a more “lightweight way for people to provide a signal to Facebook that a comment is inappropriate, uncivil, or misleading”—this according to a Facebook spokesperson quoted in TechCrunch.
Here is what the button looks like in action:
As the screenshot depicts, the user will have the ability to select whether the post was found to be “offensive,” “misleading,” or “off topic,” the choices aimed to help guide Facebook’s course of action with respect to the particular piece of feedback.
Forbes adds that, the downvote option in its test mode only applies to public posts as opposed to Group posts or the Pages of public figures. It also doesn’t affect the ranking of the post and the number of downvotes a post gets won’t be publicly shared.
These initiatives by Facebook to reverse some of the negative perceptions of its role in society come at a critical time as brands and citizens alike are putting more and more pressure on the world’s leading tech platforms to course-correct their products for the safety of their users. Just this week, Unilever threatened to yank ad dollars from Facebook and Google due to the company’s growing dissatisfaction with their overall impact on society.
“We cannot have an environment where our consumers don’t trust what they see online,” stated Unilever CMO, Keith Weed, to the BBC.
Learn about Facebook’s increasingly complex role in society by joining SMWNYC April 24-27. The conference will offer multiple sessions designed to explore where brands and platforms fit into tech’s future in our world. Register today to secure your pass.
5 Ways Cryptocurrency Can Help Entrepreneurs in 2018
Cryptocurrency has revolutionized the way we transact value, invest our savings and raise capital with its decentralised digital cash system. Blockchain technology is a once-in-a-lifetime invention; never before in history have we been presented with such a breakthrough in financial technology. In 2018, entrepreneurs are well positioned to become early adopters of blockchain technology.
1. Raising capital
Cryptocurrency has disrupted the way early stage companies raise capital. With initial coin offerings, startups around the world can raise money quickly and cheaply from a wide pool of global investors. The valuation of a company is almost immediately reflected by the market, a process that has traditionally been challenging for early stage businesses. Shares are issued as tokens and tradable almost immediately, bringing large amounts of liquidity to the company.
This new approach to raising capital has changed the world and enabled the best technical talent to build their companies at high speed. In 2014, a teenager from Canada called Vitalik Buterin raised money for his startup, Ethereum, through an initial coin offering. He wanted to improve on Bitcoin’s blockchain and create a platform for people to build unstoppable applications. With just a whitepaper and a vision, he was able to successfully raise $18 million for his new blockchain, which was valued at over $100 billion as of January 2018.
2. Transacting value
Cryptocurrency enables us to transact value between peers without a centralized authority. It provides a cheaper, faster and more efficient alternative to traditional payment networks. As a company, accepting cryptocurrency payments is becoming increasingly efficient, saving on fees and bringing faster settlement. Soon, startups will no longer need to go through the long process of setting up a business bank account to receive and distribute funds. In 2014, Overstock.com became the first retailer to accept bitcoin, receiving over 800 orders worth $126,000 in bitcoin in the first 22 hours. It has since amassed a $403,000 portfolio of cryptocurrency.
3. Investing for the future
For entrepreneurs, cryptocurrency may be the investment opportunity of a lifetime. Never before in history have retail investors had investment access to high growth early stage companies. Traditionally, venture capital funds and private angel investors have held monopolies on access to investment in the world’s best technical talent. Cryptocurrency provides a gateway for anyone in the world to invest in the world’s most exciting technology, allowing retail investors to own a basket of high growth companies. For example, through the decentralized method of blockchain investment, teenager Erik Finnman was able to invest in Bitcoin in 2011, becoming a Bitcoin millionaire at age 18. These types of investment stories would not be possible with traditional private venture capital fundraising.
4. Developing on the blockchain
The blockchain offers powerful infrastructure for companies to run their technology and create entirely new business models in a trusted way without a centralized authority. Blockchain technology is already revolutionizing the way startups create value. The Ethereum platform allows companies to build unstoppable blockchain applications quickly and for free. One example of a company leveraging the Ethereum blockchain is OmiseGO, a payments company that is using blockchain to provide banking services for the world’s 2 billion unbanked population. Blockchain technology is a cost-efficient way of building decentralized applications that can scale to a global population.
5. Joining the blockchain community
The blockchain community offers access to some of the world’s best entrepreneurs, who are actively investing, advising and building upon the blockchain. Telegram, Facebook, WeChat, Slack and WhatsApp groups have proved popular in building communities of decentralized blockchain investors who can communicate with each other on a daily basis. Many large investments in early stage technology companies can be coordinated within minutes, a process that would traditionally take months in traditional venture capital. For example, in 2017, Brave’s Basic Attention Token sale sold out of its $35 million offering within 30 seconds. The blockchain community offers a strong sense of purpose with all members committed to a common goal of advancing blockchain technology to global adoption.
Cryptocurrency provides a platform for entrepreneurs to raise capital quickly, cheaply and efficiently. Entrepreneurs can transact value through the blockchain at high speed with limited setup costs and invest in high growth technology companies at an early stage. Platforms like Ethereum allow entrepreneurs to build decentralized applications to a global audience for free. The blockchain community offers access to some of the top entrepreneurs, engineers and investors in the world and in 2018, cryptocurrency will continue to provide a viable means for entrepreneurs to create value in the world.
7 Ways to Get Recruiters and Job Offers to Come to You
“You are your own brand, and you need to build that brand and promote it as much as possible. It is important that you start building your brand online, because this is where employers are going to be looking for potential employees,” suggests Dima Midon, an expert from TrafficBox. Use all of the online tools at your disposal, particularly LinkedIn, which is a professional network that allows you to really promote yourself as a professional, and someone who is an expert in your field. This is a great tool for job seekers. Make sure that you keep your profile up to date, especially when it comes to contact information, so when an employer searches you, they will be able to contact you if they are interested in learning more.
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