Posted by & filed under STYLE.

5 Strategies for College Success This Fall

When Stephen Covey wrote his best-selling book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, many years ago, I read it chiefly because one of the editors here at BLACK ENTERPRISE was also reading it.

“Begin with the end in mind” is one of Covey’s seven recommended habits. And, if I could distill the message of the article excerpted below that I recently read on Gallup.com (yes, these are the same folks that do the polls), I would say that this is its gist, as well.

The article states that students who employ these five strategies can help ensure their success at school:

  1. Invite someone at your college to mentor you.
  2. Become the candidate that hiring managers want.
  3. Finish your degree.
  4. Avoid debt.
  5. Find the right fit.

 

 First Lady Michelle Obama participates in the Tuskegee University Class of 2015 Commencement ceremony in Tuskegee, Alabama, Saturday, May 9, 2015. (Image: Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

 

I wish I could say my husband and I were so forward thinking when we began the college hunt with our children, but we weren’t. Having that kind of “begin with the end in mind” perspective would have been helpful to our adult children even now.

Read the following excerpt from Gallup.com below:

Many students don’t know enough about the important decisions to make and factors to weigh when selecting a college, which costs them time and money and can even take a toll on their well being. My oldest son graduated from high school this year, and every aspect of the college selection and enrollment process is more complex than it was when I went to school.

Selecting an institution of higher learning, financing an education, and learning technology systems are all daunting tasks. Below are five strategies that soon-to-be college students can employ to successfully navigate the terrain of the college experience, avoid getting lost in the higher ed shuffle, and maximize the return on their higher education investment.

  1. Invite someone at your college to mentor you. Your mentor should help you reflect on your talents and accomplishments, and should encourage your success in school and in life. Mentoring is a key college experience that can help you feel more prepared for life after college.
  2. Become the candidate that hiring managers want. Set up interviews with hiring managers in your field while you are a college student, and learn what they want from their new hires while you still have the opportunity to shape your college experience. A college transcript is an indicator of what you know, but business leaders also want to know what you can do in a real-world environment. Many business leaders say college graduates don’t have the skills their business needs. So, get the experience that hiring managers want while you are still in school, and be prepared to discuss that experience when you interview for a job.
  3. Follow my dad’s advice: Finish your degree. Completion yields choices. You may hold many jobs over the course of your lifetime—a recent report indicated that, among baby boomers, the lifetime average is 12 jobs—and completing your degree could increase the chances of finding and crafting the job of your dreams. If the maze of courses and requirements for your program is confusing, ask your higher education institution for help, because it is expensive to speculate about the right way to navigate these requirements alone. Find someone who will help you map your path to degree completion.

 

Posted by & filed under STYLE.

Black Folks Taking Over: Nigeria’s Population to Surpass America’s

The World Population Prospects 2017 / United Nations

Nigeria’s population will become the third most populated country, overtaking the United States of America, by 2050 according to a report released by the United Nations. Currently coming in at number seven on the world’s most populated country list, this drastic position change will be attributed to a population boom driven by high fertility rates and the cultural value placed on big families. The country is home to four of the fasting growing cities in the world and has been called an economic powerhouse.

However, Nigeria will not be the only country on the African continent to experience this large population growth spurt. The United Nation also estimates that half of the world’s population growth is likely to happen in Africa over the next few decades. The Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Uganda are all projected to add millions of people to their population size in years to come.

The World Population Prospects 2017/ United Nations

Amongst these, Nigeria’s population, currently the seventh largest in the world, is growing the most rapidly. Consequently, the population of Nigeria is projected to surpass that of the United States shortly before 2050, at which point it would become the third largest country in the world. In 2050, the populations in six of the ten largest countries are expected to exceed 300 million: China, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Pakistan, and United
States of America (in alphabetical order).

Though population growth is exciting, it isn’t necessarily all good news. For some of these countries, larger populations can spell trouble, stretching resources even thinner and possibly putting a strain on already fragile infrastructure. In the years to come, it will be revealed how Africa deals with these growing pains.

Posted by & filed under HEALTH.

Four Proven Ways Entrepreneurs Can Achieve a Healthy Work-Life Balance

In today’s society, it seems many entrepreneurs feel it has become tougher to balance their work-life—but why? It could be many things, pressure to complete projects and meet deadlines can have you pulling all-nighters in front of your computer or perhaps taking out your phone while you have dinner with family. In the past, if someone wanted to get work done on the weekends or work late, they would either have to stay in the office until they got their tasks done, or drag themselves into the office on the weekend.

With the endless amounts of technology that you gorge yourself in, it seems impossible to escape from work and focus on your well-being. Fortunately, I am here to save you from the endless amounts of emails and pdf documents that your smartphone is berating you with even as you read this.

Creating a healthy work-life balance can take time, but it’s worthwhile knowing you can reserve time just for work and time to enjoy being alone and with friends and family.

 

  (Image: iStock.com/Ridofranz)

1. Put Down the Phone

 

You heard me, put down the phone and step away! By having your smartphone on all the time, you aren’t giving yourself the necessary time to turn “off.” The endless notifications you look at during the day only increases your stress levels. According to The Telegraph, the Future Work Centre reported that constant access to email is associated with higher levels of stress. There comes a point in the day where you need to step away from the constant notifications your phone is sounding off and focus on things that matter most to you—whether it’s your dog, recreational activities, a television show, or your family, you need time to de-stress from work and focus on something that brings you joy.

Start today by following the rule of “no phones at the dinner table” and enjoy some precious time with your loved ones.

 


 

   (Image: iStock.com/PeopleImages)

2. Exercise and Meditate

 

Whether it’s running out in the open, playing a game of basketball, or doing yoga, find an activity to burn off some steam. Work can be a very stressful environment, so it’s important for you to find time to implement exercise into your day. According to the American Psychological Association and the Stress in America survey report, 37% of adults report exercising less than once a week or not at all. Furthermore, only 17% of adult’s report exercising daily. Many people associate their lack of exercise due to the levels of stress they face, yet 43% of adults who exercise to manage stress levels say they have skipped exercising in the past month due to stress levels. With that being said, 53% of adults say they feel better about themselves after they exercise.

Yoga, for example, is a great way to keep your stress levels down. It gives a place to relieve yourself of the work environment and lets you have an hour to yourself to think, de-stress, and rejuvenate. You’ll notice quickly how scheduling one hour of exercise every day will bring a tremendous change to your mind and body, thus making you a more mindful business owner.


 

    Image/Credit: svetikd

3. Don’t Shut Yourself In

 

Do you often find yourself coming up with excuses to stay in when you’re stressed, rather than go out and socialize? Although it’s important to have down time and create time for yourself, it isn’t healthy to be alone and locked inside your home or apartment every night. Make time throughout the week to go out and experience something fun—whether it’s a concert, a movie or just going out to dinner. Your business is like a child and it’s understandable that you want to take care of it and be available as often as possible, but it’s not a living, breathing being, you can (and should) walk away at the end of the work day and go out and enjoy yourself or spend time with people you love.


     (Image: iStock)

4. Don’t Burn Yourself Out

 

This is way easier said than done, right? Although a strong work ethic is important, you need to keep realistic expectations for yourself so you don’t burn out and fizzle. You want your work to showcase your abilities, so if you take on too much work at once the quality of your work might decrease. Another important aspect of not burning yourself out is to not working extremely late into the night. It’s OK if you have one or two late nights a month, because life is full of unexpected events, but it’s important not to constantly play catch-up with your work. While in the office, it’s imperative you stay focused and on task so you don’t constantly have to bring work home. By staying on task, you can keep your work life at work and your personal life separate.

 

At the end of the day, the work and personal life should never constantly intermix. At times, it will be necessary to make sacrifices for work, but it’s extremely important for your health to maintain a healthy work-life balance. These four tips will help you start your path to a more balanced life, but don’t be afraid to branch out and try other techniques that will make you happier and less stressed. Every entrepreneur is different in their own way, that’s why you should start by identifying what’s bogging you down and create a game plan to correct it so that you can enjoy life a little more.

 

 

Posted by & filed under BLOG.

If Your Startup Doesn’t Have These 5 Ingredients…

Running a startup company is one of the most demanding jobs out there, but is nonetheless the very essence of the American dream; millions of Americans fantasize about being their own bosses, coming up with an unbeatable idea or product, and raking in the big money.

However, even for those entrepreneurs with the audacity to found their own companies, the sad fact is that three out of every four startups fail altogether.

It takes much more than hard work or determination alone to succeed with a new business venture. Here are five things every startup needs in order to survive, and eventually thrive.

 

An Unbeatable Team

 

The key premise of any startup is that you are delivering the solution to a problem better than existing firms. You can expect that the competition and pressure will be brutal from the start, and you are going to need a core of highly competent people who can thrive in a challenging environment. Not only will your team have to deal with intense pressure and competition, but they will also have to do so by remaining talented and adaptable, to ensure you get that unique product or service to market.

Having an unbeatable team, therefore, is one of the most important components of any successful startup. Entrepreneurs should choose core team members wisely, and ensure they have the right attributes.

Beyond the founding members of the startup, entrepreneurs should seek out adaptable people who possess intense, intuitive talents in the startup company’s particular field; prior experience in running a successful startup is often helpful as well. Core team members should be dedicated and loyal to the company, and must be ready to put the company as the priority in their lives.

Finally, you should ensure that each core team member is a good “fit” within the company, and doesn’t distract from the synergy or camaraderie you are working to instill.

 

Laser-Like Focus

 

If your all-star team is not focused, then your start-up will likely get into trouble, and fast. Your core startup team has been assembled to provide the solution to a complex problem better than current competitors can; if they lose sight of that, your company will almost certainly fail to deliver on its promises.

Keep your core team heavily focused on the mission essential task, and do not let administrative or other requirements prove to be a fatal distraction.

Consider outsourcing less critical tasks to freelancers or other contractors, so that your core team can stay on target; leveraging technology to automate and simplify mundane tasks and communication can be helpful, too. Additionally, ensure that the problem itself does not morph or grow into something that is drastically different from the original premise (but see below on adaptability), leaving your startup incapable of delivering a product on an acceptable timeline.

As the leader, one of the entrepreneur’s most important tasks is to exercise good judgment as to whether the startup team is sufficiently focused, and that the product is still viable and clearly defined. Keep the big picture in mind, and never let the team stray too far afield from it.

 

A Customer Base

 

If your startup is going to succeed, your product or service has to satisfy the demand of a market in a way that your soon-to-be competitors cannot. Before investing heavily in personnel or infrastructure, ensure that your startup’s product is something that people actually want.

Surveys and other market research can be extremely helpful here. Once you are actually in business it is also imperative, especially early on, that you maintain excellent relationships with your first customers, so they keep coming back for more.

Remember, repeat customers account for 55 to 70 percent of total sales for most companies, so ensure you cultivate a loyal customer base. Additionally, customers can be some of your best (and cheapest) advertising. Work hard to facilitate positive word-of-mouth from early sales, and provide venues in social media where customers can share their experiences. This feedback can also help you relate better to your current or future customers, and assist you in improving your startup’s product as well.

Finally, continue working hard to build your customer base at all times; make every sale counts.

 

Flexibility

 

Adapt or die is not a cliché when it comes to startups. If your business is going to endure and ultimately thrive, then it will almost certainly have to be extremely flexible. An effective company will adapt rapidly to change, and seize fleeting opportunities faster than the competition can.

Your core team can never rest on its laurels and simply be satisfied; it must always be thinking about improving the product, or introducing new, better ones.

In some cases, it may be necessary for the startup to pivot dramatically away from its original core service or product. Many highly successful contemporary companies pivoted dramatically from how the were originally envisioned as startups.

YouTube, for example, originally had lowly beginnings as Tune In Hook Up, a video-dating site.  The image-hosting giant Flickr, on the other hand, was originally an online game.

Again, one of the most critical leadership tasks of the entrepreneur is exercising the judgment to determine if changes need to be made, risks taken, or if the company needs to dramatically alter its plans.

 

Cash Flow

 

All of the attributes above are critical to the success of a startup, but they are also intangible; the one critical, and tangible, element your startup needs on day one is a solid cash flow.

Once you are in business, you are going to need to meet payroll, pay vendors, satisfy your landlord and keep the lights on. All of that requires cash.  If you do not anticipate making money initially, ensure that you secure sufficient capital to meet your requirements until you anticipate making money. Be as efficient as possible in the early days, and make every single dollar count.

 

Final Thoughts

 

Succeeding as a startup is extremely challenging. Entrepreneurs who want to make it must build an effective, highly adaptable team, cultivate and grow a loyal customer base, and stay focused; they also need the judgment to know when it is time to make dramatic changes. Finally, startups need a sufficient cash flow, especially in the early days as they are getting established.

While nothing in life or business is certain, ensuring your startup has these five attributes will put you in the best possible place to begin.

 

This post was written by   and originally appeared on DUE.com.


William Lipovsky owns the personal finance website First Quarter Finance. His most embarrassing moment was telling a Microsoft executive, “I’ll just Google it.”

Posted by & filed under BLOG.

Before Doubting Your Produce/Service, See How To Improve Your Marketing Team

Marketing is one of the most critical elements of your business. If you get marketing right, you can drive sales, increase brand recognition, and establish a foundation of enduring success; get it wrong and your company is probably in trouble. They key to every business, improve your marketing.

Your marketing team’s effectiveness, therefore, is extremely important. Companies that build motivated, highly competent marketing teams can achieve significant advantages over their rivals, leading to more sales and increased profitability.

However, good marketing teams, like anything else, require a substantial investment of time and effort. Here are some proven ways you can improve your marketing staff, and add to your company’s bottom line today.

 

Hire and Keep the Right People

 

One of the best ways to ensure you have an optimal marketing team is to hire the right people from the start, and ensure everyone on the team is value added. You should seek out experienced sales representatives with a demonstrated track record, preferably in your company’s line of business.

While training and education are extremely important (see below), your company will get a greater return on investment if the sales representatives you hire are already competent to start with.

You should also look for people who have the skills to market effectively in today’s business environment, too. Since so many leads and sales are generated through online marketing these days, for example, knowledge on managing social media presence, placing online ads, and search engine optimization (SEO) are essential skills for your sales staff.

So take the time to review resumes, ask the right questions, and ensure any potential hires have what it takes to make a difference on your sales team.

Also, managers or small business owners should always look carefully at the performance of marketing team members, and be willing to make hard choices when it comes to staff that aren’t cutting it. Recent studies indicate that managers spend far too much time attempting to coax a better performance out of the bottom 20 percent of their marketing staff.

 

Invest In Your Marketing Team

 

Hiring talented sales staff is the foundation of building an effective marketing team, but it isn’t enough; you must continue to invest in each marketing team member, and the team itself, in order to gain and maintain a competitive advantage over your competitors.

Consider establishing an orientation program for new marketing hires, so they understand all aspects of your company; this will make them much more effective when designing marketing content like ads, or when they interact with potential clients.

Also, consider having your marketing staff members attend training conferences, workshops or classes, so that they develop new skills to be more effective. If your company has the resources, consider funding advanced education opportunities for marketing team members with the most potential, so they can contribute even more to the company after earning advanced degrees and certifications.

Investing in your marketing staff won’t only improve their skill level, either; it can also lead to increased employee motivation, performance, and loyalty.

 

Help Improve Your Marketing Teams Collaboration

 

One of the best ways to ensure your marketing team is as effective as possible is to make certain that they are a team in the first place. Help set conditions so that everyone on your marketing team can work together, collaborate, develop a shared vision, and ultimately are in the best position to achieve your company’s marketing objectives.

The marketing team should have sufficient workspace to meet, collaborate on projects, and share ideas; an open office environment may be a particularly effective way to instill a shared mission and team spirit for your marketing staff.

Additionally, you should ensure your marketing team has the right tools to collaborate effectively as well.  Virtual meeting applications, such as Skype are critical for the team to share information, even when team members aren’t in the same location.

Software that allows your marketing staff to share files and collaborate on projects, such as Dropbox or Evernote, is extremely important as well. Mobile devices that help your employees leverage collaborative tools like these are also investments worth your consideration.

Finally, remember to consider low-tech collaborative tools when working to improve your marketing team; for example, simply adding whiteboards in your marketing staff’s office spaces can increase creativity, and foster a shared sense of mission when it comes to problem solving.

 

Monitor, Measure, and Postmortem Everything

 

As important as hiring the right people and investing in them is, keeping track of their performance is equally critical. Your company needs to monitor the performance of the marketing team as a whole, as well as individuals. You should track lead development, sales, and effective marketing campaign contributions closely.

Doing so can help you make critical decisions about your marketing staff, and your overall marketing strategy itself. Additionally, following any major marketing effort such as a sale, a new ad campaign, or a venture into online content and social media, you should ruthlessly postmortem the event.

A postmortem is essentially an after action review of the event, to determine the overall intent of the marketing activity, whether it achieved the intent, what worked well and what didn’t. Postmortems can help you make decisions about future events, and will also help improve your marketing team, so they are even more effective in future endeavors.

Keeping easily accessible files on sale activity, marketing performance, and postmortems can help to further educate new team members during orientation, and will aid in overall company transparency as well.

 

Final Thoughts on Effective Marketing Teams

 

A competent, cohesive, highly skilled marketing team is critical to developing the attributes your business needs to grow and prosper.

Managers, particularly those in small businesses with limited resources, need to take the time and effort to build marketing teams that can truly make a return on their investment. Hire the right people with the right skills, invest in their training, and give them the tools to collaborate more effectively as a team. Monitor everything that your marketing team does, and always seek to improve the team’s efficiency and effectiveness.

Your investment in a competent marketing team today will drive future sales and profits, and ensure your company’s success over the long term.

 

This post was written by  and originally appeared on DUE.com.


William Lipovsky owns the personal finance website First Quarter Finance. His most embarrassing moment was telling a Microsoft executive, “I’ll just Google it.”