How Good is Your Business at Innovation? Try the Sophistication Index. By Paul Sloane

How can you assess how innovative your business is? The Innovation Sophistication Index is a list of just 24 statements. For each statement you score one point if you fully agree with it for your organization. Please see the list below. How many do you agree with?

If your score is less than six then you are probably at Stage 1. This is the Launch phase where the need for innovation is recognised but not much has been achieved so far. Many public sector bodies and staid companies are at this stage. They believe that they need to be more innovative but are so busy meeting the needs of customers that they have not made innovation a priority not allocated the necessary resources and commitment to make it happen.

If you score between 7 and 12 you are most likely in Stage 2 – Progress. You are taking serious steps to change the corporate culture and practices in order to generate and implement more ideas. Most companies are probably at this level.

A result between 13 and 18 indicates that you are at Stage 3 – Acceleration. Things are really happening with innovation and you are starting to see real results and improvements in performance. You are implementing modern concepts of Open Innovation and the Minimum Viable Product. Innovation can now become a serious competitive advantage for you.

If you score over 18 then congratulations. You have reached Stage 4 – Achievement. You are in the Premier League and playing with the big boys. You are reaping the rewards, revenues and recognition that befit an innovation leader. This is where Apple, Google, Amazon and others appear. You are among the sophisticated innovation elite.

The Innovation Sophistication List of Statements

A. Launch

1. Leaders recognize and communicate the need for innovation.
2. There is an agreed vision statement for a better future.
3. You have carried out an innovation audit to assess the current barriers to innovation.
4. A budget is allocated for innovation training and initiatives.
5. Entrepreneurship, empowerment, diversity and risk taking are seen as core values in the desired corporate culture.
6. Innovation ambassadors are appointed in different departments to co-ordinate and stimulate innovation initiatives.

B. Progress

7. Targets are set for key metrics including number of ideas submitted and implemented and for revenue projected and achieved from innovation projects.
8. Training is carried out for the senior executive team and for innovation ambassadors.
9. An internal suggestions scheme is in place with adequate resources to evaluate ideas and implement the best.
10. Regular brainstorm meetings are held with diverse teams, clear objectives and expert facilitation. Resulting ideas are implemented.
11. Innovation goals are included in people’s objectives and appraisals.
12. Innovation successes are broadcast and celebrated.

C. Acceleration

13. An Open Innovation strategy is agreed and initiated.
14. An Innovation Incubator Unit is established.
15. Approval processes have been streamlined to speed implementation.
16. More than 2 suggestions/employee/year are implemented.
17. Blame culture has been replaced with openness and challenge.
18. The Minimum Viable Product concept is fully adopted.

D. Achievement

19. An Open Innovation program is fully implemented and integrated. A significant proportion of innovations originate from outside.
20. New products and services represent a major portion of revenues.
21. Employees are empowered to try new initiatives and they do so.
22. Risks are encouraged, failure is allowed and lessons shared.
23. More than 5 suggestions/employee/year are implemented.
24. You are recognized as an industry leader in innovation and as a dynamic and rewarding place to work.

via Technology & Innovation Articles on Business 2 Community http://bit.ly/2th4hE0

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4 Cybersecurity Concerns SMEs Have to Take Seriously By Chris Pentago

To say that cybersecurity has been thrown into the public domain over the last couple of years would be an understatement. This is a topic which the media love to talk about and in truth, it’s for good reason. There have been countless cases of individual data being leaked and getting into the wrong hands, and this is a news story that is subsequently in the public interest.

For the SME, the world has got scarier because of this. The public have become more informed about their data and as such, any blip can result in significant unwanted publicity.

As such, security for your SME should be at the top of your priorities. We will now take a look at four of the biggest cybersecurity concerns that can impact your business, and advice on how to avoid them.

Threat #1 – A lack of basic security knowledge

The first threat we are going to talk about isn’t overly technical, but the damage it can do to a business is significant.

In short, some employees just don’t have sufficient security knowledge when it comes to assessing possible methods of attack. For example, they might think that every email which hits their inbox is completely innocent – until it is too late. It’s these phishing emails which can cause some of the most damage to companies, as we’ve seen in the news numerous times over the last year or so.

Following on from this, make sure all of your staff know exactly what to look out for when it comes to possible security breaches.

Threat #2 – Outdated systems

From a more technical perspective, another key problem facing SMEs is outdated systems. Quite a lot of companies are unwilling to invest in upgrading their systems to the latest version, for the simple reason that it costs money to do so.

Unfortunately, by not doing this you are opening yourself up to a whole host of potential security problems. Usually, these platforms are updated because of a security hole. In other words, someone has found something which can be exploited, and the patch is released to fix the loophole.

Sure, you’ll save money by not investing in these upgrades initially, but over time it could cost you a lot more.

Threat #3 – DDos attacks

Out of everything we will look at today, there’s no doubt that DDos attacks are the most technical. They also tend to be one of the most historic – they have seemingly been around since the beginning of the internet.

In short, this is a Distributed Denial of Service. It refers to the process of a large number of hosts attacking a single site. While you might think that a lot of websites have systems which are able to prevent these, the fact that Twitter and Reddit have been victims in the past suggests this isn’t the case.

The only way to overcome one of these attacks is to block IPs but considering the sheer number that can be hitting your server at a given time, this is easier said than done. As such, some attacks can last up to a day and cause companies serious problems.

Threat #4 – Employees using their own devices

In some ways, the thought of an employee using their own device for work activities is a dream scenario for a company. After all, they are not using up valuable company technology.

From a cybersecurity point of view, this is a nightmare though. Now, a lot of larger corporations simply do not allow employees to use their own devices to access company systems. This is because the IT teams at these companies have absolutely no control on what is being allowed on the phone. In other words, some devices won’t have any security on them, and this means that they could be open to all sorts of attacks which results in the loss of data.

This means that webmail services are proving to be more popular than ever before. As these are not installed on a device, but rather on the company’s server, there is a greater level of control and organizations can therefore take precautionary steps to lessen the risk of something untoward occurring.

via Technology & Innovation Articles on Business 2 Community http://bit.ly/2tib3sV

Lead Generation and the Robot Takeover By Oliver Turner

We’re all aware of the impending robot takeover. Machine-learning is changing life as we know it. It seems like just yesterday I was on MSN talking to Smarterchild, back in the day when AI couldn’t do much more than craft a playlist. Fast forward a few years and cashiers are facing competition from self-checkouts. Roomba’s are cleaning the carpets. It’s not exactly the takeover I was imagining.

For a second, it felt like the AI uprising was gonna take awhile. But then Google did this:

So do you think the future will be more like the Matrix or iRobot?

How amazing is that!? Not only could this talk me into getting a haircut, but it could be the next evolutionary step in conversational marketing.

So what is conversational marketing?

At its core, conversational marketing is a one-to-one sales conversation between businesses and leads. It is defined as a feedback-oriented approach used to drive engagement and develop customer loyalty. It’s also the area of marketing most currently poised to be redefined by AI.

Say you head to the Apple Store to grab an iPad. The second you walk in, you’re approached by some sales associate named Mark, who probably can’t help you, but directs you to someone who can. You side-step customers and wonder, “How is it always this busy?” before finding Garrett near the Genius Bar.

“Nice to meet you, Oliver,” he says, somehow knowing your name. “Why are you interested in an iPad over a MacBook?”

Garrett doesn’t try to sell as much as he tries to listen. He asks questions to put himself in your shoes and empathize with your situation. It’s a personal, one-on-one communication built to not only inform, but establish rapport.

Conversational marketing – AI style

With advancements in AI technology, these sorts of Apple Store conversations can be brought to your website. With improvements in chatbot intelligence, platforms like Drift’s LeadBot and Intercom’s Operator Bot are allowing companies to instantly engage with traffic and triage leads. This means you can say goodbye to Mark. When it comes to online communications, we’ll use a chatbot to qualify shoppers before sending them to Garrett in iPads.

As it stands, sales teams have about 5 minutes to effectively engage a new lead. Through Drift’s LeadBot, visitors are immediately addressed and filtered using AI and preconfigured playbooks to determine next steps. Based on the customer’s answers, LeadBot can sign them up for a webinar, direct them to a case study, or connect them with the appropriate human sales rep.

Through instant engagement with traffic and the resulting triage of vetted leads, we see the real benefits of these tools.

Guide your leads

I’ve already explained how a chatbot can act as your first point of contact with web leads, guiding users to resources and pages based on their answer to a few playbook questions. It sounds great, but does it work?

You can check out Drift’s Rapidminer case study and see for yourself. They show nearly two thirds of the Rapidminer’s 1000 monthly inquiries were managed by Drift’s LeadBot. The remaining one third were vetted and transferred to a member of the sales team. Furthermore, Rapidminder saw increased engagement metrics across the board.

We call that a smooth lead flow. Think about it the next time tech support transfers you four times. Think about it the next time you’re on hold for a half hour with your phone provider. Think about it the next time you get disconnected from your phone provider because of bad signal – the very reason you were calling in the first place!

These sorts of customer service pitfalls add up and make for a brutal user experience. Through the use of a chatbot, you’ll help leads get where they need to go.

Quality over quantity

When I was in sales, a huge part of my time was spent eliminating bad leads from the funnel. Even when the marketing team gave me qualified leads, I’d find myself questioning what the “Q” in MQL stood for. Between the tire-kickers and spam clicks, I’d finish the day with a handful of promising leads and a lot of dead ends.

Sure, the marketing team was using the tools they had to qualify leads before handing them off, but they were painting with a broad brush. The alternative – personally vetting each lead – is a time management nightmare. For Rapidminer, LeadBot was the two-birds-with-one-stone solution, using AI to “personally” qualify each lead without taking time away from the sales team. Not only did it take the heavy lifting off sales, but it redefined the “Q” in MQL – no tire kickers allowed.

Shooting fish in a barrel

For those in sales, imagine starting each day with a list of warm leads? It’s like listening to a greatest hits album, just banger after banger with no filler or skipping. By trusting your chatbot to vet users and warm leads, you’re giving sales more time to do what they do best – close.

Not only did MongoDB’s chatbot increase net new leads by 70%, but it helped sales generate 170% more opportunities. The SalesRabbit sales team was 84% more productive thanks to their chatbot. These are real businesses showing real benefits and there are plenty more success stories out there.

Get in on the conversation

If you’re in the business of increasing leads, sales, and saving time and resources, it’s time to embrace the robot takeover. Sure, Skynet is still on the table, but for now, AI is on our side. Check out Drift and the other bots out there and find out which is best for you.

via Technology & Innovation Articles on Business 2 Community http://bit.ly/2lfj3Yf

Lead Generation and the Robot Takeover By Oliver Turner

We’re all aware of the impending robot takeover. Machine-learning is changing life as we know it. It seems like just yesterday I was on MSN talking to Smarterchild, back in the day when AI couldn’t do much more than craft a playlist. Fast forward a few years and cashiers are facing competition from self-checkouts. Roomba’s are cleaning the carpets. It’s not exactly the takeover I was imagining.

For a second, it felt like the AI uprising was gonna take awhile. But then Google did this:

So do you think the future will be more like the Matrix or iRobot?

How amazing is that!? Not only could this talk me into getting a haircut, but it could be the next evolutionary step in conversational marketing.

So what is conversational marketing?

At its core, conversational marketing is a one-to-one sales conversation between businesses and leads. It is defined as a feedback-oriented approach used to drive engagement and develop customer loyalty. It’s also the area of marketing most currently poised to be redefined by AI.

Say you head to the Apple Store to grab an iPad. The second you walk in, you’re approached by some sales associate named Mark, who probably can’t help you, but directs you to someone who can. You side-step customers and wonder, “How is it always this busy?” before finding Garrett near the Genius Bar.

“Nice to meet you, Oliver,” he says, somehow knowing your name. “Why are you interested in an iPad over a MacBook?”

Garrett doesn’t try to sell as much as he tries to listen. He asks questions to put himself in your shoes and empathize with your situation. It’s a personal, one-on-one communication built to not only inform, but establish rapport.

Conversational marketing – AI style

With advancements in AI technology, these sorts of Apple Store conversations can be brought to your website. With improvements in chatbot intelligence, platforms like Drift’s LeadBot and Intercom’s Operator Bot are allowing companies to instantly engage with traffic and triage leads. This means you can say goodbye to Mark. When it comes to online communications, we’ll use a chatbot to qualify shoppers before sending them to Garrett in iPads.

As it stands, sales teams have about 5 minutes to effectively engage a new lead. Through Drift’s LeadBot, visitors are immediately addressed and filtered using AI and preconfigured playbooks to determine next steps. Based on the customer’s answers, LeadBot can sign them up for a webinar, direct them to a case study, or connect them with the appropriate human sales rep.

Through instant engagement with traffic and the resulting triage of vetted leads, we see the real benefits of these tools.

Guide your leads

I’ve already explained how a chatbot can act as your first point of contact with web leads, guiding users to resources and pages based on their answer to a few playbook questions. It sounds great, but does it work?

You can check out Drift’s Rapidminer case study and see for yourself. They show nearly two thirds of the Rapidminer’s 1000 monthly inquiries were managed by Drift’s LeadBot. The remaining one third were vetted and transferred to a member of the sales team. Furthermore, Rapidminder saw increased engagement metrics across the board.

We call that a smooth lead flow. Think about it the next time tech support transfers you four times. Think about it the next time you’re on hold for a half hour with your phone provider. Think about it the next time you get disconnected from your phone provider because of bad signal – the very reason you were calling in the first place!

These sorts of customer service pitfalls add up and make for a brutal user experience. Through the use of a chatbot, you’ll help leads get where they need to go.

Quality over quantity

When I was in sales, a huge part of my time was spent eliminating bad leads from the funnel. Even when the marketing team gave me qualified leads, I’d find myself questioning what the “Q” in MQL stood for. Between the tire-kickers and spam clicks, I’d finish the day with a handful of promising leads and a lot of dead ends.

Sure, the marketing team was using the tools they had to qualify leads before handing them off, but they were painting with a broad brush. The alternative – personally vetting each lead – is a time management nightmare. For Rapidminer, LeadBot was the two-birds-with-one-stone solution, using AI to “personally” qualify each lead without taking time away from the sales team. Not only did it take the heavy lifting off sales, but it redefined the “Q” in MQL – no tire kickers allowed.

Shooting fish in a barrel

For those in sales, imagine starting each day with a list of warm leads? It’s like listening to a greatest hits album, just banger after banger with no filler or skipping. By trusting your chatbot to vet users and warm leads, you’re giving sales more time to do what they do best – close.

Not only did MongoDB’s chatbot increase net new leads by 70%, but it helped sales generate 170% more opportunities. The SalesRabbit sales team was 84% more productive thanks to their chatbot. These are real businesses showing real benefits and there are plenty more success stories out there.

Get in on the conversation

If you’re in the business of increasing leads, sales, and saving time and resources, it’s time to embrace the robot takeover. Sure, Skynet is still on the table, but for now, AI is on our side. Check out Drift and the other bots out there and find out which is best for you.

via Technology & Innovation Articles on Business 2 Community http://bit.ly/2lfj3Yf

Is AI Coming for Your Job? By Zach Heller

automate.jpg

When you read anything about artificial intelligence or machine learning these days, you can sort it into one of two buckets: either it’s the greatest innovation ever and will make all of your dreams come true, or it’s the end of work as we know it.

The truth is, it’s probably a little bit of both, and a little bit of neither.

We already wrote a few months back about how machine learning will impact marketers from a process and performance standpoint. But what about jobs? Everyone wants to know – is AI going to make me obsolete?

Like so many other things, the answer is that it depends.

It depends on what role(s) you are playing in your company today. It depends what systems or processes you use. It depends how willing you are to learn and to grow your skillset. And it depends how willing your company will be to invest in both the technology and your career.

Let’s break those each down a bit further.

Your Role(s)

AI and machine learning have the potential to do many of the tasks that human beings do today. And depending on who you ask, that potential is either right around the corner or a decade or two away. Both scenarios are scary, because it means that the tasks we train for today might not exist in ten years’ time.

So the key to understanding how to proceed is to learn as much as you can about what role AI will play. We already know that computers can do simple tasks better than we can, whether it be straightforward data entry, normal mathematical calculations, etc. AI and machine learning will quickly become good at more complex processes, like statistical analysis and prediction.

In the marketing world, roles like media planning and buying, campaign management, pricing, promotions, content, and more will be threatened. If nothing else, the nature of those roles will change.

Human beings will still be necessary, at least in the near term, for strategic planning, as well as the development, installation, and maintenance of those systems that will be set up to improve marketing processes.

Systems and Processes

The roles that are most likely to be eliminated in your organization depend a lot on the types of systems that get developed. Until marketing programs are designed and trained on how to take over your role, your role is safe. And unless you work at a large organization with a huge R&D budget, odds are you are going to have to wait for another company to create the systems that your company will end up adopting.

So the reality is, the smaller your company, the less likely it is that AI is coming for your job anytime soon. Because the systems that get created in these early days of AI adoption are likely to be more expensive, and more complex than what will come later.

Learn and Grow

Either way, the time to adapt is now. Stop thinking about your job, and start thinking about your role. Each of our jobs is made up of a number of different tasks. AI will eliminate certain tasks, but it will also create new ones.

Start training now for the new tasks that your company is going to need you to work on. You can make yourself indispensable by learning the skills that no one else in your company is capable of.

Learn how to work with and manage data. Learn how to design the formulas and train the programs that are going to be used to implement these new technologies. And learn soft skills like people management, strategy, and communication that will always be in demand.

Your Company

Much of what comes next will rely as much on your company as it will on you. Some companies will invest in new technology early because they feel that it will give them a competitive advantage. Others will wait for the technology to prove its effects before they take the time to deploy it themselves.

Similarly, some companies will invest in retraining and preparing their workforce for the coming change. Others will be eager to downsize their teams and take advantage of the promised savings and efficiency that the next technology revolution will bring.

You can get a head start on that future reality by talking to your manager today about what it will mean for your organization. And the choice will be yours to either take the necessary steps to solidify your role in your current organization or prepare for a new role at the next organization.

via Technology & Innovation Articles on Business 2 Community http://bit.ly/2I0xbNQ

22 Business Mistakes You Have No Excuse for Making By Ben Mulholland

Business Mistakes

Starting and running a business is hard enough without making the same business mistakes as everyone else.

After all, managing a team and keeping the business on track is hard enough without having to worry about running yourself into the ground through hiring too quickly, targeting a bad niche, or just plain overspending until the bank cracks.

That’s why we have scoured the advice of experts such as Paul Graham, Joel Gascoigne, and Sam Altman to highlight the business mistakes you should avoid, and how to do that without tearing your hair out.

Let’s get stuck in!

1. Growing your team too quickly

While it’s tempting to grow your team rapidly in an attempt to scale your success while the going is good, it’s vital that resources aren’t stretched too thin by hiring too many people at once. It’s a delicate balance, but one that needs to be carefully considered, as the business’ long-term health should almost always rank above a short-term growth spurt.

Hiring too quickly weakens a business by limiting their cash flow which, in turn, can prevent the funds being available to buy other (potentially more useful) resources such as training courses and better materials.

Buffer found this out the hard way in 2016 when, after growing the company from 34 to 94 team members over a year, they found that they had to fire 10 employees in order to stay afloat.

“We moved into a house that we couldn’t afford with our monthly paycheck.” – Joel Gascoigne, Tough News: We’ve Made 10 Layoffs

buffer team growth

(Source)

Even if you can afford to support a massive team expansion, that doesn’t always mean that you should. Larger teams encourage a different kind of culture to grow – one that is much more detached and professional – which can be damaging to morale your team was previously a small, tight-knit unit.

… most of your people will be employees rather than founders. They won’t be as committed…” – Paul Graham, The 18 Mistakes That Kill Startups

Combined with the time and money wasted by hiring and onboarding employees you can’t afford to keep, and you have a recipe for a massive blow to any business looking to grow their ranks.

It’s much better to instead grow your team according to your regular cash flow and what you can reasonably afford than to attempt to kickstart your growth with new employees and make up the difference that way.

2. Hiring for expense instead of expertise

It should go without saying, but hiring employees based on their pay grade rather than their expertise, experience or attitude is a surefire way to nuke your capabilities.

Yes, hiring cheaper might let you get twice as many people on board for the same price, but if those hires don’t have the motivation or dedication required to hit their targets then the whole process will be a waste of time.

Think about it this way; replacing a staff member can cost upwards of $40,000, so it’s best to hire staff who will be with you for the long-haul. In order to do that you need to get people who buy into your business’ mission and values and who are valuable enough to keep around for that long.

3. Raising salaries instead of equity

equity mistakes

(Source)

Tying into the “get employees who will stick around” idea is the ability to give equity. Now, this is obviously a rather limited practice, and will only really affect your initial team members and/or long-term employees, but a great way to cut costs is to offer equity instead of raising salaries.

This fulfills two purposes, both of which are useful at any stage but are vital when starting out.

First, it cuts some of the biggest ongoing costs in business; employee pay. This frees up a greater cash flow which, in turn, allows the money to be spent on other resources to train employees further, provide better technology, outsource busy work, and so on.

Second, it creates long-lasting ties to your business by giving your employees a stake in its success. This can double up by boosting their motivation, as any successes they have (roughly speaking) make their stake worth more.

4. Going for niches instead of great ideas

When starting a new business it’s tempting to aim for a niche with very little competition using a slight variation on a more widely successful product or structure. The trouble with doing this is that you’re intentionally limiting the scope of the business, leaving very little room to grow and expand into different areas.

It might seem easier to take advantage of an untapped niche, but unless you’re doing so with a truly great idea then you’ll be left behind by the competition which appears further down the line.

Now, this isn’t to say that it’s always a bad idea to target a small niche market. However, it pays to put the pursuit of a great idea before the desire to target something where there is currently little competition.

Basically, think of the long-term prospect of the business, whether your idea will be able to live up to the opportunity, and then consider the competition (or lack thereof).

5. Starting in a bad location

startup location

(Source)

Location isn’t vitally important to every business. Online businesses in particular are much more flexible when it comes to physical location, especially when hiring remote team members and cutting out the need for a set office space.

However, without at least considering the location which you’re launching in it’s entirely possible to miss out on great opportunities to get your name recognized, get better deals on resources, have greater access to promising employees, and so on.

The ideal location really depends on the business, its target, what it’s selling, and the team structure, but a little research can go a long way towards identifying the hub areas of your chosen niche.

For example, Silicon Valley is a great location for startups due to the close proximity to investors and other startups, ingrained startup culture, and general reputation among highly qualified employees. It’s far from guaranteed that starting in Silicon Valley will cause a startup to succeed (or vice versa) but it will certainly give you a head start.

6. Refusing to pivot

It’s easy to get lost in an idea for a perfect product or business, but things practically never work out the way they were initially intended. Point being, if you aren’t prepared to listen to feedback and pivot if something isn’t working, the business is doomed to fail.

This is especially true when the problem your business solves isn’t easily (or specifically) defined. Startups, for example, often don’t know what problem they’re solving when they first start out. Most success stories shift multiple times as they develop.

One of the best ways to analyze the need to pivot is to talk to your users or customers. These are the people who are buying into your business, and if they aren’t excited about a new direction you want to take, chances are that it won’t be very successful.

Also, try not to start from scratch every time. Extreme pivots might require a lot of rebuilding, but they should ideally follow a progression which lets you reuse most of what you already have.

7. Having only short or long-term goals

business goals

(Source)

Yes, it’s a basic tip, but having short and long-term goals is the only way to make sure that you know what direction the business should be going in. Without both of these there’s very little hope for creating a coherent approach to your operations, as there won’t be anything to center your efforts around.

The same could be said of any project, task, hobby or job; having a long-term goal gives meaning and direction to your actions, while short-term goals let you create a plan of attack to achieve those aims.

Your goals don’t have to be anything fancy in order to work. If nothing else, try defining where you want your business to be (or what you want to do with it) in 5 years time, then work out how to reach that goal and plan out your time and efforts accordingly.

At the very least it beats stumbling through and relying on luck for your successes.

8. Lacking accountability

“Accountability” is a term often thrown around without any real sense of what it means or how to encourage it in a business. Most know that it’s a way to measure how accountable your employees are for their decisions and actions, but it’s much more difficult to know how to measure or enforce it.

Nevertheless, when it is lacking it becomes all too easy for deadlines to be missed and projects to fall apart.

Everyone should know exactly what they are expected to do, when it is due for, who they will be relying on to get work done, and who is relying on them in turn. By taking the time to do this in team meetings, you make sure that everyone feels the weight of the work they’re assigned to, and feels the pressure of being identified as a potential bottleneck.

Not to mention that knowing who is relying on their work will smooth out the process of dealing with delays, as those further down the workflow can be notified long before the original deadline.

… if you have a specific accountability appointment with a person you’ve committed, you will increase your chance of success by up to 95%” – Thomas Oppong, This is How to Increase The Odds of Reaching Your Goals by 95%

9. Having one founder

While this more applies to startups seeking investors, it can be a negative to have only one founder to a business’ name. Paul Graham makes the case for this very convincingly, saying that very few successful startups have only one founder.

paul graham

(Source)

From an investor’s point of view, having a single founder can be seen as a kind of vote of no confidence, since the founder has not been able to convince even their friends to join their endeavor. Not only that, but it sets alarm bells ringing from the sheer amount of work involved – there’s realistically too much for one person to shoulder when starting a business.

Graham also notes the mental strain of founding a business, stating that co-founders can help keep each other sane and motivated (if only to not let the others down) when times get hard.

It’s not impossible to start a business by yourself, but not having a co-founder is a business mistake which puts you at an immediate disadvantage.

10. Not setting boundaries with co-founders/partners

Co-founders are important, but can quickly become a problem if boundaries aren’t set to make sure that you each know what kind of relationship you both will have to the business.

This is as much for the founders’ sake as it is for the employees; by having set areas of expertise and jurisdiction, you can avoid overwriting each-others’ opinions and orders and thus avoid confusing or annoying your team.

Not to mention that this lets you play on the strengths of each founder and buoy up their weaknesses. For example, if one founder is a gifted programmer while the other excels at management, it only makes sense to assign the former as the CTO and the latter as the CEO.

Whatever the decision as to the relationship, make sure that it’s clearly documented and signed by all parties. That way there should be no confusion – the document or agreement can always be iterated on later with the appropriate permission anyway.

11. Launching too slowly

release date

(Source)

Yes, you want to have everything planned and sorted before you launch your business. No, the world won’t wait for you to do so with the final version of your product.

Most businesses evolve over time, and the only way to make reliable progress is to iterate on your design. To do that there’s no way around the need to just launch your business or product already.

I’m not saying that you should rush towards launch so quickly that you don’t have time to get all of your marketing material together or troubleshoot core bugs out of your software. However, you should commit to a date in order to enforce a deadline.

Not only that, but your product or service should be the minimum of being useful on its own, but with the ability to be expanded. That way the launch will still be significant and you can begin to grow an actual customer base, but you launch quick enough to avoid losing momentum.

12. Not documenting (and maintaining) processes

In a 2016 survey, Łukasz Tartanus found that 69% of companies had documented, repeatable processes but only 4% measured and managed them. This is alarming, especially when considering what having documented processes does for your business.

Processes are the lifeblood of a consistent business. Without recording your tasks into a checklist which can be executed by anyone at any time and with a high level of accuracy, you leave the success of practically any and all operations to the whims of human error.

The best way to do this is to use process documentation software, such as Process Street. Create a free account and import one of our premade templates to get started.

Check out our free business process management guide for more information.

13. Doing everything yourself

While it should be fairly evident, it’s a very bad idea to try and do everything yourself, whether you’re looking to start up a new business, create a new project, or micromanage your team. Trying to do so will only lead to burnout and frustration, not to mention a lackluster performance.

Overworking yourself will only make everything you do less effective as you wear yourself out.

Instead, use outsourcing or business process automation to take care of the tasks which either aren’t in your field of expertise or aren’t realistically worth your time.

That is to say, you need to analyze your tasks and assess which of them have to be done by you, and which could be completed by someone else.

If someone else can do the task, hand it off.

14. Sacrificing quality for action speed

acting fast

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I’ve already mentioned the need to act fast (eg, not launching slowly) but it’s just as, if not more, important to make sure that said speed does not come at the expense of execution quality.

No matter how fast your business is running and iterating, if everything you do blows up in your customers’ faces, they won’t be sticking around for you to clean up shop.

Again, it’s all about finding the balance. Moving quickly is important (momentum is hard to generate and even more difficult to re-ignite) but doing so beyond your team’s capability to produce quality results will do far more harm than good.

15. Having no specific audience in mind

Sometimes it’s difficult to know who your audience is, but that doesn’t mean you can afford to go without having at least a couple of rough personas in mind when forging ahead. This gives you a framework to see what the most valuable next step to take could be, and what your business could stand to cut in order to save resources for more lucrative actions.

This business mistake crosses over with building for yourself in mind. Yes, that technically gives you a user persona to work with (one which you know very well, in fact), but the issue comes with the lack of context that brings. It’s hard to tell how widespread opinion will stand on a change when the persona you’re using is so close to home.

If you already have customers, this issue can be easily solved – just talk to them. Get an idea of who is using your business, what they’re using it for, what they value, and what they feel about potential changes.

16. Ignoring the competition

 

Burying your head in the sand and ignoring competition doesn’t do you any favors. If anything, it helps them by a significant degree.

Now, it’s true that aping your competitions’ every move is a bad play, for the same reasons that being derivative is. Reacting to their plan will always leave you one step behind.

Instead, it pays to keep an eye out for your competition, analyze what they do well and how they sell themselves, and then adjust your approach accordingly. If you fulfill the same qualities as them, only better, then it might be worth targeting their market in the same way. If not, figure out what you have over them and how you can use it to your advantage.

17. Losing momentum

This is a simple business mistake which can be solved with an old proverb; strike while the iron is hot.

There’s little worse than putting all of your effort into a feature or product launch, only to fumble the delivery and let potentially useful influencers and partners know about it too late to affect the launch’s success. You put in all the effort, but leaving time between your opportunities and following up on them stops any momentum you could have gained dead in its tracks.

Thankfully, with a little consistent diligence and a single question, this is a reasonably easy problem to solve (or, at least, address).

When making a decision, be it releasing a blog post, creating an ebook, designing a new product, or signing up a new partner, take the time to ask yourself (and your team) whether you could be getting more out of it.

Have you reached out to influencers in your market to spread the news? Could you add a content upgrade to increase conversions? Is there a way to repurpose your content to get more bang for your buck?

18. Burning cash too quickly

Spending too much money is a fairly obvious problem and overlaps with many other issues in this post. For example, one of the key reasons it’s a bad idea to grow your team at a rapid pace is because of the ongoing costs this infers.

However, it’s also true that sometimes you’ll need to spend a significant portion in order to complete a project or kickstart your growth in some other manner. The key is to not go too far.

As a basic rule, you shouldn’t be spending more money than you can comfortably support with your current monthly income. This is less true for young startups which don’t have that consistent cash flow as of yet, but in this case it’s paramount to make those funds last as long as possible while still making significant progress.

19. Not paying for expert advice

consultants

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Yes, yes, I know that I just said that it’s vital to not spend too much money. However, paying for quality expert advice early on can save a massive headache further down the line.

Whether you’re reaching out to discuss a business plan, get advice in terms of your marketing funnel, or just straight-up hiring a consultant to help structure your business, it’s worth paying to take advantage of their expertise. You get what you pay for, so don’t expect quality advice to come cheap, but when the alternative is losing 10x more money than you spent to correct fundamental flaws later down the line, it’s a small price to pay.

Research which experts are experienced with the type of business and tasks you need help with, then make a judgment on their pricing and relative merits.

20. Lacking transparency

Whether it’s with your employees, users, or stakeholders, transparency is never a bad thing. In fact, a lack of it can be a crippling business mistake, especially if whatever you’re not disclosing comes to light in a negative manner.

On the other hand, having a more transparent business setup is a draw for employees and customers alike. That’s because transparency inspires trust – you’re not hiding or obscuring anything, so people know exactly what to expect.

It also helps to reduce any confusion surrounding your business both internally and externally. Employees know what their mission is and what the company values are, and customers can clearly see those values in their interactions and have clear information about aspects like your pricing plan.

21. Avoiding NDAs

NDA

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No matter how good an idea is, it pays to have a second (and third) opinion from those close to you. Even if you’re just spit-balling different approaches, having a second voice to weigh in on the discussion can rapidly help you sift through the trash to find those golden decisions.

However, when doing this (and carrying out business in general) you need to first ensure your safety with an NDA. This should be drawn up by an experienced lawyer to make sure that the agreement is binding and doesn’t contain any nasty loopholes.

By getting your team to sign an NDA you can freely make suggestions and pitch ideas for feedback without fear of being beaten to the punch or (worse still) having your intellectual property stolen and patented before you get around to doing so.

Speaking of which…

22. Not using patents and trademarks

NDAs are a kind of guardian for what could eventually turn into material that’s worth patenting or trademarking. Doing one without the other, therefore, is at best a wasted opportunity, and at worse a glaring security error.

Patents and trademarks have their flaws (heck, patent trolls exist for a reason) but they ultimately exist to protect your intellectual property. By using these, you can legally prevent anyone from using (or copying) your logo, products, and so on, without permission.

This is especially important if you’re going into a field with a lot of established competition or if your success is causing competitors to crop up. Still, the earlier your property is protected, the better, and you’ll once again want to hire an experienced lawyer to help with this process.

Don’t fall prey to these business mistakes

Running a successful business isn’t easy, but by avoiding the 22 business mistakes outlined above you can put your best foot forward and avoid the more common pitfalls that swallow many small businesses.

While this won’t necessarily guarantee your success (you still need a solid idea, business plan, marketing, sales, and so on), all of these are reasonably easy aspects to keep in mind and will serve to keep your business on track through its vital formative years.

So, get out there, lawyer up, track your competition, create a sustainable growth rate, and above all else make sure that you document your processes! After all, how will you know what you’re doing right and what’s going wrong without consistently carrying out your tasks and tracking the results?

Do you have any business tips of your own that you’d like to share? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

via Technology & Innovation Articles on Business 2 Community http://bit.ly/2Mut9RA

MyHeritage Confirms 92 Million Breached By John Burcham

What happened?

Genealogy and DNA testing service MyHeritage confirmed a recent breach affecting more than 92 million customers. According to reports, email addresses and hashed passwords were impacted by this breach.

The Israeli-based company has nearly 100 million users from all over the world – with offices in North America, Israel and Europe. MyHeritage consists of both genealogy networking and DNA testing services similar to AncestryDNA, 23andMe and Family Tree Now.

A security researcher discovered a file containing email addresses and hashed passwords on a private server not associated with MyHeritage databases, the company said. Password hashing scrambles a user’s true password when it is stored by a company, adding an extra layer of protection to passwords if they fall into the wrong hands.

Company response

While there is a small risk that hashed passwords could still be misused, it’s very unlikely. But as an added precaution, the company will begin to expire all user passwords related to MyHeritage in response to this breach.

MyHeritage has also shared its plans to add two-step authentication, which requires a user to pass additional verification to access user accounts. MyHeritage is also encouraging users to visit the Help Center page for more information about changing emails and passwords.


“Users whose passwords were expired are forced to set a new password and will not be able to access their account and data on MyHeritage until they complete this. This procedure can only be done through an email sent to their account’s email address at MyHeritage. This will make it more difficult for any unauthorized person, even someone who knows the user’s password, to access the account. We plan to complete the process of expiring all the passwords in the next few days, at which point all the affected passwords will no longer be usable to access accounts and data on MyHeritage.”

MyHeritage, June 5-6 Update


What should I do?

If you started using MyHeritage services on or after Oct. 26, 2017, use these tips below to help secure your information immediately following this breach:

  • Address the problem areas. Even if MyHeritage hashes customer passwords, your password may still be at risk if you use it for other online accounts. Update your MyHeritage password and avoid using the same password for multiple accounts.
  • Watch for common post-breach risks. When email addresses are breached, phishing scams and other spam messages often follow. Update your email account password just to be safe and be wary of targeted scam messages meant to capture more sensitive information.
  • Think ahead. MyHeritage’s genealogy services are meant to reconnect long-lost family members. However, family information is often used in security questions and verification processes (i.e. mother’s maiden name, birth place, etc.). This information can also be used by fraudsters to carry out more convincing social engineering scams. Avoid using family-related information in security questions and do an audit of your social media pages for publicly-viewable family information.

Continue following Fighting Identity Crimes for more on this story, other breach and scam updates & ID protection tips from our industry experts.

via Technology & Innovation Articles on Business 2 Community http://bit.ly/2JXXt8M